Death, My Darling

Hello, all!

Don’t worry. This blog post won’t be as violent as the title suggests. It’s only metaphorical murder that I speak of.

Lol.

There’s a saying most writers have heard, possibly coined by Stephen King, though I think he was actually quoting William Faulkner.

Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings.

I don’t know if that’s the original phrasing, or not, but the meaning remains the same.

As writers, we tend to get attached to particular characters, chapters, paragraphs. Perhaps, a specific turn of phrase catches our fancy, or makes us feel clever.

All of these things, all of these parts of our stories, are parts of us. They’re things that we created, things we literally pulled out of thin air, and, somehow, shaped so that meaning and images and thoughts and worlds and entire people can be put into the minds of others in the way that we imagined them.

It’s a powerful thing.

As such, there is the potential for fixation. This lends itself to the thought that any one thing, if removed from the manuscript, could drastically, and catastrophically, impact the overall story.

So, we hoard our creations, holding fast against the eroding tide of editing.

We get stingy, whether unwittingly or by stoutly refusing to adapt depends on the person. Which, in the end, proves far more detrimental to our writing than the changes we resist.

It keeps us from seeing our flaws. It holds us back from seeing the entirety of the world we’ve created, because this one particular phrase needs defended with every single scrap of attention we can spare.

And, sometimes, changing a manuscript is just downright scary.

Now, as you all know if you’ve been following my blog, I’m in the process of rewriting one of my WIPs (works in progress). It had problems. Plot holes large enough to swallow a double decker bus. Forced romance where it shouldn’t have been. Jarring cut-off points.

In the process of rewriting this week…I had to cut an entire chapter.

Which hurt.

A lot.

That chapter provided a nice bit of humor and a touch of background information for a character that was rather central. It also introduced other characters, which did nothing but hinder the plot. They play no pivotal role, and quickly became loose ends that I would have had to scramble to tie up at the end.

Not to mention…The character whose background we were gaining…has been downgraded.

So, a brief conversation was added later to cover all the vital information, and the entire chapter was killed.

Sort-of.

I saved it in another document, so it’s more like it’s been…locked in a far far far away tower, never to see the light of day. Lol.

In it’s place, there is a much better chapter which highlights a character whose role has been elevated significantly.

And I love the new chapter. Far more than the original.

FAR more.

So, my point is, for all the writers reading this, writing is a mess. Embrace that. Kill your darlings, when you need to. Save them in a separate document, just in case the original was better than the new version, but often times…you won’t need that backup, won’t want it.

For all the readers reading this, writing is a mess. Embrace the polished works wrapped up in gorgeous covers with bows and shiny bookmarks for your pleasure. Because it’s a long road, getting the story to you in a nice, cohesive, easily comprehended, pretty package.

Love them, as we writers have loved them.

We pour our souls into our books. Our time, our thoughts, our tears (yes, seriously, I cry when I write sad scenes), our joy (sometimes to the point where our fingers move too quickly over the keyboard, producing gibberish, as we rush forward, too excited to slow down), our hearts…It all goes in.

One way or another, bits of ourselves find their way into our books. Whether we intend it or not.

We just have to pick and choose which parts to send forward to the readers.

Sometimes, we have to kill our darlings.

But we end up so much better off.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough. Thank you all for coming, for taking the time out of your day to read what I’ve had to say. Thank you for reading my books, if you have. If not, they’re here, on my website. *shameless plug*

Aaaaanywhoo…lol. (Don’t worry, I won’t do that again.)

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing tips? Who the hell am I to give writing tips?

Hello, all!

I recently got an audio book version of one of my favorite books (I won’t say which, because I’m about to shit on it a bit. Figuratively, of course. Lol.) I put it on my phone, and have been listening to it while at work, and….it’s just stunning. It really is a perfect story, even if the writing could stand a few improvements, at least in the beginning of the book.

It has aliens and futuristic technology, primitive survival and humans on the brink of extinction, other worlds and a new vision of our world, drama and tension. Multiple romances, even a love triangle, though in this case it’s more like a square with one side collapsed so that two corners collide.

In short, the story has nearly everything that I like to read.

But hearing it spoken aloud brings writing flaws to attention. There’s a reason that one very common tip mentioned in writing groups is to read your work aloud.

Which brings me to the topic of discussion today: passive voice and copula spiders.

Basically, they’ll fuck your shit up.

Too many make your story drag on, racking up the word count without adding to the plot, or moving it forward, at all. I know how comforting a higher word count can be, believe me, but if it’s all going to be cut out in editing, it doesn’t help in the end.

Passive voice example:

The apple was eaten by Tom. (passive as hell)
Tom ate the apple. (much better)

The second sentence actually shows someone doing something. It’s active. It’s more interesting, and doesn’t pack your story with useless words. (A tip I saw in a meme recently said that if you can insert “by zombies” after your verb, you’re using passive voice. The apple was eaten…by zombies.)

Now, for copula spiders. Basically, if you search for the word “is,” or some other conjugation of the word “be,” in your manuscript, and can find more than 8 on a page, that’s a copula spider. If it’s printed, circle one, and then circle the others, connecting them all to one in the center. It’ll kinda look like a spider.

Is, am, were, was, be, been.

Look into it. They’re vicious soul suckers, and slow the story down. Don’t believe me? Here you go:

The apple is red. It is shining. The sunlight is bouncing off it.
The red apple shines brilliantly in the sunlight.

Which would you rather read?

Hell, I was able to add another word (“brilliantly”) for impact, and the second version was still shorter. Concise writing vastly improves story quality.

Let’s combine the two flaws, because they tend to go hand in hand. How about we raise the stakes while we’re at it, really drive the point home?

The gun is loaded. It is pointed at me by Tom.
Tom points the loaded gun at me.

Sweet (in theory, not in the practice of pointing guns at people), simple, and to the point (pun intended).

It just flows, so much better.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times where this can be used for emphasis. Perhaps, Tom wants to assure us that the gun is loaded. Perhaps, someone is colorblind, and has confused a fuji apple for a granny smith. They need corrected, lest they put the wrong type of apple in their pie, and someone says, “It is red.”

Similarly, passive voice can be used to emphasize parts of the sentence, and, let’s face it, people love to really drive their points home, any way they can. So, dialogue becomes a free-for-all, to a degree.

In a similar vein, first person-present tense can use these things quite effectively, if the story is written as if it were the character’s thoughts. Even then, it has to be done well.

Not to mention the potential for a troublesome character who tends to over-explain, thus limiting any possibility for concise language.

So, every rule has its exceptions.

But, for the most part, passive voice and copula spiders hinder storytelling. Burdensome and ineffectual, they slow the reader, transforming a potentially page-turning novel into a sluggish read.

That’s not exactly something most writers want.

Some stories are strong enough to pull their weight, regardless of a few extra words. The one I’ve been listening to, for example.

But not every story can bear that kind of burden.

Do yourself, your editor (and thus your wallet), and your readers a favor. Be wary of these things. When you employ them in your story, do them with great purpose, and make sure it’s obvious that you meant to do it.

We can tell when it’s an accident.

*steps down from the soap box*

*prepares to use the hell out of copulas, because at this point, I’m just talking*

On a more personal note, I want to say that rewrites are exhausting. Lol. I worked through about seven chapters of Salt and Silver, and was frustrated the whole time. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I just knew that it wasn’t working.

Then, I realized I was holding on too tightly. To sentences. To phrases. To chapters.

To a character.

So much stuff must be cut to make room for the things I have to work in. I was trying too hard to adjust things, rather than eliminating them. But if a character’s role in the story changes…naturally the amount of time they’re given in the limelight should change, as well.

So, I head into this week’s revisions with a clearer idea of what I must do.

Wish me luck. Lol.

For now, though…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

My Writing Process

Clutter. Crossed wires. Messy. Tangled wires on a telephone pole.

Hello, all!

This was a week of decision making. At least, as far as one of my WIPs (works in progress) is concerned.

Now, I’ just about done editing/reacquainting myself with what I have written of The Regonia Chronicles. Book one is edited (first sweep, I’ll do more later before submissions), and four of the…seven or eight chapters I’ve already written of book two are edited.

As such, I’ll be diving back into writing that one very soon. Which I’m looking forward to. There’s a lot to be written, and I’m pretty pleased with how one of the character arcs is turning out.

Salt and Silver, though…

I finished writing the first novella and even the scene which connects it to the second novella. but I hate this wonky format, and the shift in perspective forced upon me by the ending of the first novella makes the whole story fall flat.

Now, before I say much more on the subject, I should probably tell you a bit about how I write.

Some authors are incredibly organized. Some even use the “snowflake method,” which, I believe, goes as follows:
1. Write a sentence containing the story you wish to tell.
2. Expand that one sentence summary into a paragraph with all main plot points.
3. Come up with basic info for your main characters.
4. Turn that single paragraph mentioned above into a page.
5. Do a thing called character bibles and character synopses, which entails writing a full page about each main character (background, personality traits, appearance, etc.) and half a page per minor character.
6. Use everything from steps 1-5 to make a four page synopsis and scene list (EVERY SCENE!!).

THEN, you start your first draft.

Some people spend YEARS just planning their novel. Which is fine. If it works for you, keep doing it.

But to me, quite frankly, that sounds exhausting, and extremely confining. Such a restrictive, planned method seems…suffocating.

I don’t do any of that stuff from the snowflake method.

At all.

There are a few names for my writing style. Discovery, exploratory, organic. I prefer pantser (flying by the seat of my pants).

I get an idea, and start writing.

Period.

Then, I just figure out the details, and build the world and the characters as I go. Usually, i have a vague idea of how the story will end, with a few scenes I know I want to include, though everything is subject to change, at any point in time.

I keep a separate document for important information, like character or world description, a basic timeline (established/filled in as I go), things like that. But aside from main characters, I rarely know the appearance or background before starting. Sometimes, all I know of my main characters is there appearance and a single defining trait. I just make sure to put details in the other document as I come across them, so I can reference that, and avoid continuity errors.

Basically, I make it all up as I go, letting the characters and the details of the story reveal themselves to me as I write. It’s just more fun for me that way.

Only about 20% is ever really planned before I start writing.

Salt and Silver had about 2% planned. If that.

I had the opening scene, which has been revised several times over to incorporate details which eliminate plot holes later on. I had the aesthetics and names of two main characters, but only because they’re in that scene.

Nothing else.

By far, this has been my least organized WIP to date.

(Side note: My writing style frustrates my husband. Lol. He likes to see the process, and pictures me with a room with notes tacked to the wall with strings tied from one pin to another, making a huge mess. But I keep all that in my head. Lol.)

But now, I’ve hit a snag.

Those of you who follow my blog might remember a little mention of a song which sparked an idea for this story a couple weeks ago. I resisted, stupidly enough, and came up with the janky novella-scene-novella format to “solve” the issues.

I was already almost done with the first novella, and didn’t want to rewrite nearly 40,000 words. But the final scene, the one where the couple finally gets together, was such a chore to write, and I didn’t know why. Usually, I love writing that scene to wrap up a book.

But the story was broken.

And now…I have to rewrite. There’s no way around it.

I thought I was going to have to kill off a couple characters, too. But, a few days of agonizing over it while at work helped me figure out a way to use those characters (alive) to drive the story forward. Monotonous, labor intensive factory work is great for working through writer’s block. Seriously.

They now have the ability to pull their own weight in the story, creating all kinds of extra tension and conflict for a prolonged amount of time, rather than just, “BAM! They’re dead! Everyone’s sad. Ope, time to move on.”

Yay, torture! Lol.

Jk.

But seriously, that’s the best advice I’ve ever heard about writing. Find out what your character wants (sometimes it takes a while to figure it out), and then do everything you can think of to keep them from getting it.

Long story short, I’ve solved the problem. I just have to rewrite/reshape 40,000 words to implement the solution… I’ve already started, though, and it flows so much better.

Since I’ll be doing a major overhaul of Salt and Silver at the same time as writing The Regonia Chronicles, I should probably try to maintain a schedule. Sunday night/Monday afternoon will be blog time. Monday night will be Salt and Silver. Tuesday night will be Regonia. Wednesday night will be submissions and/or whichever story is calling to me.

By the way, if you couldn’t tell, I’m a night time writer.

The rest of the week is all work, though. Actually, Sunday is a 12 hour shift at the factory, but I normally start my blog after work, regardless.

Anyway, though, I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m genuinely excited about all of it. Salt and Silver will be so much better for it.

So, for now…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Using Social Anxiety as a Shield

Hi, everyone!

Yet another unproductive week. Only about 1400 words typed. I polished off a chapter, and started another. I have the rest of that one written out (just not typed yet), which officially brings Salt and Silver to a close.

Which is pretty exciting.

I began the scene that will connect it to the next novella in the series as well, and made it halfway through that (also handwritten). The format of this series is odd, though. I get the feeling that finding a publisher or agent willing to look at it will be difficult…Most places don’t want novellas, let alone novellas connected by single scenes…

It may have to be another self-published work.

At any rate, I still have a long way to go on the rest of the series, and have to decide now which series to give my writing time to, as I’m just about done editing Awakening, Book one of the Regonia Chronicles.

Now, then.

The reason I typed so little this week…

I was social.

That’s a rare thing for me. I went out with friends twice last week, in addition to going to the gym with my husband and one of our friends.

(Don’t worry, I’m not going to start talking health stuff, and talking your ear off about meal prepping. I’m only doing this gym stuff because I’m tired of the crease in my side. The top of my hourglass is holding hands with the bottom half, and I don’t like that. Lol. Some women can pull off that look, but I’m not one of them.)

But I digress. Back to the socializing thing.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m…not a people person. I never have been. And I mean NEVER. I found out recently from my mom that the reason I was in preschool for two years (started a year early) was to help me socialize. Even then, I apparently didn’t talk to the teachers for the first year and a half. Then, when it came time for kindergarten placement testing, I refused to talk to them, and they thought I needed special ed. Mom asked me the questions, I passed, and went on to standard kindergarten…where I refused to talk to the teacher for the first 3/4 of the year. Lmao.

I did fine with my school work. I just…wouldn’t talk.

And then, I just kinda…stayed that way. Sort of.

I’m better about it, now, at the ripe old age of 28. I talk to people when they ask me questions. But I still don’t start conversations with strangers. People I’m comfortable with, sure, I’ll talk to them somewhat easily, so long as no one else is present. Though, it takes a while for me to get comfortable, and usually that puts people off, chasing them away before I actually open up.

Social anxiety has been a plague for most of my life, as have a few other anxiety disorders, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, though that one was triggered by trauma.

You see, being blatantly unsocial as a child made me an easy target. For a lot of things, really. Bullying being one of them. The people who did that are completely different people, now though, as am I, and we actually get along. Which is not something I ever, ever expected.

But the thing that brought on crippling (yes, I mean crippling) OCD is that I was molested as a child. It feels a bit weird to just lay that out there like this, but I mention being sexually abused in the afterword of my novella, Annabelle. So…it’s kinda already out there for the world to see.

After it happened, I didn’t tell anyone for years. Because I couldn’t. I couldn’t talk to people about normal stuff without feeling like a disappointment, let alone something so…disastrous. I couldn’t explain why I couldn’t stomach being touched, or why I immediately had to wash. I couldn’t explain why I spiraled into a fit of incoherent, rage-fueled tears if I couldn’t get to a sink or get my hands on some antibacterial wipes or lotion or whatever.

I couldn’t explain why my hands were so dry that the knuckles cracked open, and bled, or why I couldn’t stop washing them, knowing it would make it worse. I couldn’t explain why I opened doors with my wrists, or refused to touch remotes (which is why I never watched tv or movies, or played video games until college/after college).

I couldn’t explain why I was so tired, because no one knew I laid awake in bed, waiting for everyone else to fall asleep so I could get up, wash my bed clothes because the cat or dog brushed the blanket with their tail, get a shower, step onto a clean towel, put on socks before stepping off said towel, sanitize the tv remotes, wait for the sheets and blankets to be dry while curled up in a ball on a clean towel in the living room floor (with the socks removed as I stepped onto this new clean towel) watching reruns of The Nanny and (ironically) The Cosby Show, until I could finally make my bed, and get some sleep. The fact that my hands would have been washed at least once after or during each step of that process also went unnoticed.

Sadly enough, the part of it all that makes it so terrible (my young age), also helped me. Had I been older, had I needed to hold down a job, I wouldn’t have been able to. No one wants a cashier who can’t touch money, or who screams/cries when she can’t wash her hands.

But I could be a good student. No one else touched my pencils, or my paper, or my books.

And since people assume that good grades are an indicator of good coping abilities, my straight A’s joined forces with my previously established anti-social nature to keep me under the radar for years. No one ever suspects that straight A’s might mean that a person who finds school to be easy is using that very misconception of good coping mechanisms to hide, or that maybe they’re just terrified of getting a B because they’d feel like a horrific disappointment if they did get one, even if they know, rationally, that B’s aren’t bad grades.

But OCD and social anxiety don’t give a damn about rational.

So, I kept my grades up, kept my head down, and drifted along, secretly drowning.

Eventually, I got tired of the OCD, and got tired of being miserable and wanting to die every day for years, and did something drastic. There’s this technique for dealing with OCD and phobias called flooding. I didn’t know what I was doing back then, but I put myself through it. It’s definitely not a best case scenario. Essentially, I touched a bunch of things my OCD determined to be dirty, and then touched everything in my room, effectively ruining my sanctuary.

This, obviously, has the potential to backfire, and result in panic and massive anxiety, followed by hysterical cleaning.

But I got through it, and started dealing with the OCD. A while later (a couple years) I actually started telling people (after someone else confessed to me that they’d been abused, which told me that I wasn’t alone), and I got into counselling.

It’s been an unbelievably long journey to get to where I am, and there’s still so far left to go…

But I’m trying.

So, this past week, I was social.

I didn’t do as much typing as I probably should have. But it was for the best.

Sometimes, you just have to step away from the computer, get out of your sanctuary, and be with people. Even if it’s difficult.

And sometimes, you have to talk. Typing this up has been….difficult. The internet provides a nice little barrier, though. A bit of anonymity, if you will, even if this is on my website, with my name clearly printed atop it. Because I’m not saying all of this to someone in person, I’m not staring into someone’s eyes while I lay everything out there. I don’t know who will read this, or how many people will see it. It could be no one, it could be one person, maybe hundreds of people.

But if one person sees this, and thinks, “I’m not alone…”

If one person finds strength in these words…

Then, it’s worth the lump in my throat, the butterflies in my stomach, and the knots in my shoulders as I pour my heart out, or, rather, type it out.

*sigh*

Anyway, I don’t know how productive I’ll be this coming week, given that some of my family is visiting from Texas, and of course, I have work and overtime. But, I’ll keep you guys posted.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. It’s been a much more revealing post than usual…I just hope someone comes away from it with that little bit of strength that they need.

Because, it doesn’t stay terrible forever.

Even if it feels that way sometimes.

For now, though, I’ll be signing off.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

just Keep GOING

Hello, all.

It’s been an okay week, as far as writing goes. I pulled off 3500 words in Salt and Silver, plus some handwritten stuff. And I’ve decided, for sure, that I’ll be doing a follow-up novella to round out the story, with vague ideas of how it will go. I just have to finish off Salt and Silver, first.

Now, I’m not gonna lie to you. I didn’t do a damn thing with The Regonia Chronicles. Lol. I feel a bit shitty about that, too, since I’m so close to being done with the edit of Book one, Awakening.

But it’ll be fine. It’s not like I have a deadline for it…

Lol.

See, that’s funny, because publishers typically won’t look at series that aren’t complete. Unless, perhaps it was written by an author who’s already very successful. And, well, I still work in a tire factory to pay my bills, if that’s any indicator. Lol. So, me having a deadline for it is impossible.

And that paragraph gives you an idea of where my head has been for a while, now. Rejection is such a big part of writing, and the publishing world demands thick skin. The odds are never in favor of authors.

Small presses receive hundreds of submissions per month, and publish 5 to 10 books a year. Big publishers get thousands of submissions a month, and maybe publish 50 books a years.

Being that ONE that gets accepted…

You kinda just have to throw out an absolute fuck ton of submissions, and hope one sticks. Sort of like jokes in a lot of comedy shows, now. Tell a million jokes and someone will laugh.

So, in the interest of finding that one laugh, I’ve been submitting the three novels I have which are ready for submissions absolutely everywhere that wants their genres. As such, I got 12 to 15 rejections last month.

Some of these places, I’d submitted to months before, and their responses just happened to fall in the same time frame as the ones that only kept me waiting a couple weeks.

The first few, I shrugged off. The next few…stung. The next couple genuinely hurt. By the end of the three or four week span, it felt like the entire publishing industry was telling me to fuck off.

It sucked.

A lot.

But.

This is what I want to do with my life. This is who I am. Writing is in my bones. Hell, when I can’t sleep, I tell myself stories to relax my mind, which, incidentally, is where the opening scene for Salt and Silver came from. Several sleepless nights saw the entire first scene mapped out.

I am here to tell stories that make people feel.

It’s so easy to let all the stuff around us desensitize us. Being numb just happens sometimes.

Sometimes you just need to feel.

Yeah, sometimes my stories hurt. But they also bring joy.

And I can’t see myself pursuing any other career.

For so much of my life, my only dreams for myself were to avoid being a disappointment, be financially stable, and to end up in a relationship that didn’t consist of constant fighting. I didn’t dare to ask the universe for more, and I certainly didn’t see myself as being worth any more than those very simple requests.

It wasn’t until I was 24 that I had the courage and self esteem to dream of being an author. Sure, I wrote before that, but I never took it seriously as anything more than just venting my emotions. It took a couple years more to get the guts to stop dragging my feet, and seriously start pursuing writing professionally.

But now that I have that dream, now that I’ve started trying, I can’t back down.

So, as bad as last month hurt, I’m going to keep moving forward. I’ll be sending out more submissions in the coming weeks, and, above all, I’m going to keep writing.

Because this is just…me.

So, to all of you facing rejection, just stay true to who you are. Do what you need to do to get to where you want to be in life. It hurts, and there are times when it feels absolutely impossible.

But it isn’t going to happen if you don’t try.

And with that, I’ll be signing off.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Perseverance. Always keep trying. Move forward. It's never impossible. Be the little spout that grows up in the middle of the pavement.

Journey of the Mind

For those of you who don’t know me, I thought I’d take a moment to tell you a little about myself.

Writing is something I’ve enjoyed for a long time, and though I’ve only recently garnered the confidence to pursue it professionally. Throughout my life, I’ve come across so many stumbling blocks, that even the thought of counting them up is exhausting. Now, I’m determined to use all hardships, funneling them into my books.

When not writing, I indulge in a great many hobbies. Everything from reading to archery, from video games and Dungeons and Dragons to learning survival tactics. I even have my very own project car, though I still need a great deal of help doing anything with it. By and large, I have more hobbies than I have time for, especially since I also work full time in a factory.

My husband and I have an abundance of pets, some indoor, some outdoor. While I love our dog like a son, I find that, when it comes to any other animal, I am definitely a cat person. (A fact which, I’m sure, will be greeted with mixed reviews.) I prefer tea over coffee, any day of the week, another controversial fact, and I have an unbelievably insatiable sweet tooth.

Now, to bring it back around to the whole point of this website: my writing.

I LOVE writing. I genuinely enjoy getting to know my characters, and building the worlds they live in. I even sometimes feel guilty for the great tragedies I inflict upon them, of which there are many. For added realism, I tend to pick qualities I possess or experiences from my own life to build characters around. (I’ll let you all try to determine which are from my personal experience.) It’s fun for me to exaggerate these traits, and set them up against each other on the page. 

More importantly, it pulls the words off the page, shaping them into actual people. It makes the world I build with two-dimensional words that much more real for me, and, hopefully, for you, too.