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Venessa

Tool Time Tuesday: 2018 Revision & Writing Tracker

Tool Time Tuesday

Once a month, we talk about different tools available for writers to make life easier (theoretically 😉 ).

Today’s Tool: 2018 Writing & Revision Tracker

Platform: Any spreadsheet program

Cost: $10

What it does:

It’s a writing tracker! 🙂 If you’re a reader of this blog, and especially of TTT, you might recognize that I did a post very similar to this one about a year ago. There’s a new version of the writing tracker spreadsheet, so I felt that warranted a new Tool Time Tuesday!

As you might know from the post last year, I am a huge fan of this writing tracker. Not only does it allow you to track words of your first draft, but you can also track revision pages. And since revision is the biggest part of writing, being able to keep see how much you’ve done is critical to realizing your productivity. I’m not going to break down all the individual features, since I’ve done that already. But I will share a bit of how I use it.

Click to enlarge

New Stuff

Jamie has added the ability to track ten different projects within the spreadsheet over the course of the year, each with a column for writing and for revision.

I currently have seven of the projects labeled. I am tracking my blog posts, my pre-writing (for any and all stories), a pair of short stories (which I’m counting as one project, since they’re related), and four novels (one of which I’m only going to track revision pages of). I made my pre-writing a separate project, because I want to track how many words I create when I’m prepping to write my stories. I don’t necessarily need to track the pre-writing by story.

And that’s what makes this writing tracker so great. You can use it in whatever way works best for you.

Jamie even created a video to show how the tracker works. Check it out:

Motivation is created by action. When you look at what you’ve accomplished, it can help light a fire under your butt to get going. I’m writing this post on Jan 8, and (not counting this one), I’ve already written over 7000 words of blog posts and pre-writing. I haven’t even starting actually writing on the short stories yet (which are my first active project this year). I already feel incredibly accomplished and it makes me want to keep going.

The Writing & Revision Tracker is a big part of my writing process. You should check it out!

Where to get it: Jamie Raintree’s website

Have you tried the 2018 Writing & Revision tracker? Did you use the old writing tracker? Let me know what you think!

Do you have a writing tool that you absolutely can’t live without? Drop a line to me down below and tell me about it!

 

Keep writing!

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are courtesy of Jamie Raintree.

Doing What We Do (Rough Draft Writing – Part Two)

Craft of Writing

Last week, I wrote Part One of this two-parter, so if you missed it, you might want to pop back and have a peek.

I talked about writing character sketches and setting sketches before I even begin writing the beats. And all of this is done before I start working on the actual story.

Once I’ve gotten through the characters and the settings, I’m ready to get started on the beats. I think of the beats as notes to myself about the story. I definitely don’t think of doing it as outlining. It’s more like me telling myself the story. Not as it will eventually be written — a novel or short story — but as if I’m sitting next to myself, literally, telling myself about the story.

The beat listing begins as just a bunch of bullet points. This happens. Then this happens. Then this other thing happens. And I just list things out, as far as I know them, all the way through to the end, if I can. Sometimes, I only know the beats for the first third or half. And that’s okay. I often get the rest as I’m working on the ones I do have, so I have the entire story out in beats before I begin writing for real.

Once I have my bullet points — I’ve usually already divided them into chapters at this point, but not everyone does it this way, of course — I start at the beginning. I take the first bullet point, which might look like this:

  • Jacob awkwardly asks Sophie out

Okay, that’s actually a bullet point from my YA post-apocalyptic novel Hovel Rats, and it’s not the first bullet point, but about halfway in. You get what I mean though.

So now I take that bullet point and expand on it. You know how in writing, people always say, “Show, don’t tell”? In this case, it’s all about the telling. I just write down a few sentences about what is to happen in the scene. I also might make notes to myself on things to remember to try to convey. Here’s the above bullet point as a beat:

Out scavenging, Jacob starts talking about missing dates. Not the asking so much as the anticipation and getting to know someone. He knows that sounds a little lame, but it’s part of the “normal” that he misses.
Sophie thinks about how she hadn’t ever been out on a date before “normal” ended.

After a bit a hemming and hawing, which Sophie doesn’t recognize as Jacob being nervous, he asks if she would like to have dinner with him. Sophie is confused. They have dinner together every night. She finally gets that he’s “asking her out.” Make sure to convey her blushing and her feeling a little dumb for not getting it. Also, her excitement.

They make plans to have dinner on the patio by the roses.

 

That’s it. Simple.

A couple paragraphs, just so I know what’s going on and who’s feeling what. The scene I wrote from that beat was about 1200 words, but only half of it was the actual awkward asking-out part. The rest of it was the “out scavenging” part that is just two words at the beginning of that beat. Generally speaking, a beat will be about 10-20% of the length of the actual scene that will be written from it.

One of my issues with traditional outlining is that it didn’t seem to leave room for creativity. It felt very draconian. In doing the beats, I have more than one opportunity for creativity. I found that when writing the beats themselves, that’s when my plotting muse kicks into gear.

I play with the plot at this level, almost exclusively. This is where I learn exactly where my story is going. It’s much more efficient than learning in the writing phase, because if something doesn’t work, I know much sooner and after much less effort. I’ve only written a couple hundred words versus a couple thousand or more. I can pivot and adapt more easily and quickly.

Once I’ve done my beats, either all of them (preferable) or as far as I have in my head, it’s time to sit down and start writing. I use Scrivener for pretty much everything writing-related (including this blog post!) and Scrivener has a split-screen feature. Word also allows you to have two files open and split the screen, so if you’re still using Word, this is workable for you too.

I usually have the beat on the bottom and my writing space on the top (because I like it more or less eye level). Then, I simply start writing as I would have any other time, but use the beats as guidance. What I’ve found is that I’m much more focused and I can belt out words a lot faster.

If I’m in the zone, in general, I can write about 2000 words an hour. Note, I said in the zone. If I’m not in the zone and if I’m trying to decide on things as I write and I’m trying to think about how whatever I’m writing is going to affect what I’ve already written and what I’ve yet to write, then I have a much lower word count per hour.

Write or Die helps me to keep up with how fast I can write. He’s releasing a WoD 3, but it’s pretty ugly, so I stick with version 2 🙂

Because I’ve written the beats and I’ve worked out, mostly, how everything relates together, I don’t have to think about any of that. I can just focus on creating great description or natural dialogue. I can focus on creative ways of bringing the emotion out of the characters and onto the page.

And I can write faster.

You’ll notice that there’s tons of creativity in this stage, too. Obviously, to create a striking description requires it. To bring the characters to life on the page requires it. So creativity isn’t stifled at all using this method. I’d say it’s just organized differently.

Instead of the creativity being in a great big jumble as I write, instead, I’m carving the plotting aspect out and doing it separately. I’m doing the character and setting descriptions separately. There is still room in the writing for all of these, but the heavy lifting of them is already done. So whatever I still fiddle with in the writing itself is smaller, less pressure.

So that’s my system! Instead of just writing by the seat of my pants or rigidly creating an outline I must adhere to, I mesh the two. I create an environment where I have the guidance of an outline, but the creative openness of writing by the seat of my pants. And this works for me.

Let me know if you decide to try this way; tell me how it works for you!

What’s your process? Do you do a lot of planning or pre-writing? Or are you a write-what-you’re-inspired-to-write sort of person? Drop a comment below!

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

Doing What We Do (Rough Draft Writing – Part One)

Craft of Writing

I mentioned in my New Year post that 2018 is going to be dedicated to writing. I’m refocusing on the words.

I thought it might be interesting to post about how I actually do that. What my “process” is, so to speak. Fair warning: this is going to be a two-parter. This is mainly because as I wrote, it got really, really long! So you’ll get a bit here and you’ll get a bit next week too 🙂

Back before I got into publishing, before I’d even taken one course about writing, I was a dyed-in-the-wool pantser. I came up with an idea for a character or a situation and I’d just sit down and start writing, without any idea where I was going.

This is a perfectly valid way to write. Lots of people do it successfully this way. For me, what I found is that it was really inefficient. I spent a lot of time meandering around, not really sure where I was going. I strongly resisted any suggestion I do anything like outlining, because the story was in charge, not me. I had to go where the story took me.

As I connected with other writers and also worked through my graduate program at Seton Hill, I realized what my problem was and it was inherent in the way I was writing.

My husband is Dutch. When his mom came over to the US to visit us the first time, one of the things she really wanted to do was go to a grocery store.

I know. That seems weird. But in the Netherlands, grocery stores are small, neighborhood businesses. They don’t have sprawling jungles of produce and glaciers of frozen foods.

So she wanted to see a grocery store here in the US. We obliged, of course. We let her loose in a Kroger (I think… maybe it was Publix) and I went around, gathering what I needed from various sections. A little while later, I got to the dairy section and I found my soon-to-be mom-in-law standing in front of a dairy case. This older woman, just frozen there, staring at the butter.

Why do you need so many different kinds of cream cheese?

You know… that wall of butter that is generally four feet wide and six feet tall. She was just standing there, looking a bit dumbfounded. I went up to her and asked her if she was okay. She turned to me, her eyebrows furrowed.

“Why do you need so many different kinds of butter?”

Too Much Butter

I realized that, in having literally no path for my writing, I had way too much butter to choose from. There was too much I could do. Too many paths I could take. And having that much choice, having to make that many decisions (this, but not that; those, but not these) froze me up more than it freed me.

I had so many places I could go, I had no idea where I should go.

Several years ago, I started playing with other ways to write, other processes. I tried out different methods that other people use. Some are pretty well-know, like the Snowflake Method. Others are just systems that writers have devised for themselves. I’m still exploring, but I feel like I’ve found a method that works for me. Not only does it keep me focused on where I need to go for the story, but it also greatly speeds up my actual writing, so I get things done much more quickly. (When I, yknow, actually focus on my writing.)

Writing Like a Hybrid

To give credit where it’s due, I completely ganked this method from Sterling & Stone, which is a trio of writers who not only publish books, but also produce a great podcast on self-publishing that I recommend to anyone interested in that avenue (among many other podcasts).

The method involves creating “beats” for the story as a method of pre-writing. It’s not outlining, so much as it’s note-taking for the story.

How It Works for Me

First, before I do anything else, I make character sketches. For each major character, I fill out a worksheet which details what the character looks like, their background, etc. I don’t necessarily know all the things about them at this point. I leave a lot of stuff blank to be filled in later, as I write. But I get the major stuff down now, early.

Once I’ve got the sheet filled out, then I write a page or so about the character in relation to the story. What is their goal in the story? How do they change? What is their overall attitude to what is happening? How do they feel about the other characters? How do they connect?

I don’t get into details about the story itself here, just the general implications on and attitudes of the character I’m working on. I’ll also note down how the character’s background might affect their reactions to the general plot or other characters. For example, if a character had an abusive girlfriend, maybe that character is wary of women, in general, and so holds the main character at arm’s length and doesn’t trust her.

I do this worksheet and write-up for all the major characters. For minor characters, I will do a more sparse version of the worksheet and maybe write a few lines about who they are within the story and why they are in the story. (I find it’s important for supporting characters to be in the story for their own reasons, rather than my needing them in the story.)

That done, I’ll do something similar for any major settings. I’ll write a few paragraphs with the description of the place, any general significance, and then significance to soecific characters and/or plot.

Westminster Abbey ~ London
An awesome setting 🙂 Photo by Aja.

These worksheets and write-ups are important to do ahead of time for a couple reasons. First, it allows me not to have to worry about figuring out what someone or something looks like when I’m in the flow of writing. I’ve already worked out how they look.

Second, it brings me closer to the characters (and the settings) before I’m actually writing. I get to learn about them as separate entities from the story itself, which, I think, helps make them more realistic. I don’t want characters who didn’t exist before the story and only exist now because of the story. If I connect with the before-story characters, then I will convey them much more richly within the story itself.

Okay! That might seem like a lot of pre-writing, and it is! But it’s not the main pre-writing. This was the pre-pre-writing. But don’t be intimidated. It seems like a lot of work on the front end and putting off the fun of the writing itself. But what I’ve found is that when I do this (and the beats, which I’ll talk about next week), the writing is much easier and goes faster. Honestly, the writing comes 3x+ quicker if I do this stuff first.

And even besides those good outcomes, I’ve also found that because I don’t have to focus on creating all these details when I’m writing, my first draft comes out much more polished. This is because I’m able to focus on the writing itself — the scenes, the plots — rather than the details of the characters or deciding what a place looks like. It cuts down on the decision fatigue happening during the actual creation process.

Next week, I’ll talk a lot more about writing the actual beats: how and why.

What do you think of the pre-pre- writing so far? Do you do something similar? Entirely different?

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

Happy Freaking New Year! :)

Blog news, Writing

Happy 2018!

Are you ready for the new year? I am getting back on track after the tail end of 2017 laid me out a bit. I had to have surgery in November and, man, it hit me a lot harder than I was expecting. I was pretty much in bed for a month. But I’m doing much better and getting back on track. This year, I’m going to be focusing on a few different things, but only a few.

My Writing

I’ve been editing for almost ten years now and one of the things I’ve noticed is that my writing skill has declined with the lack of practice. So 2018 is going to be the year of getting back to the words.

I’m going to be cutting back drastically on editorial clients (but I will still take some, so if you’re looking, be sure to check out my editing page) and will be focusing almost exclusively on my writing.

What will you be working on, Venessa?

Thanks for asking! 🙂 Some folks know, but most don’t, that in addition to speculative fiction, I also write smut under a pen name. I call it “smut” affectionately; it’s mainly erotic romance. The publisher has decided to close its doors, so I will be spending the first quarter of 2018 self publishing a few things in that genre.

The second quarter of 2018, I will be working on my speculative fiction stuff. Here’s what’s what:

1. Soul Cavern – This is a supernatural thriller that I plan to serialize right here on this website! I’ll be releasing it weekly, in small chunks, but will also self-publish for those who don’t want to wait or who just want to support the author. 🙂

2. Hovel Rats 1 & 2 – I accidentally wrote most of the second book before realizing it was a second book. Then I had to write the first. Both of these are currently in the rough draft phase and about 75-80% complete. They’re set in a post-apocalyptic world where all the adults have gone crazy — regressed to almost animalistic tendencies. Kids have to learn to fend for themselves and figure out how to survive. At least, until they start going crazy too.

I’ll be finishing up the first one…well, first. I’ll also be looking for some beta readers for this, so keep an eye out here come the spring if you’re interested in reading. Ultimately, I think I’ll be submitting this one around to agents and hopefully going the traditional route.

3. Short stories – I really want to kick out a few short stories this year, as I haven’t written any in a long time. These will likely be horror, since that seems to be what most my shorts end up being. 😉

I’ve got a number of other things in various stages of done-ness, but I think that’s going to be more than enough to take up three months!

So that’s what’s on deck for the first half of the year! Think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew? That might be the case!

I definitely want to get back to writing regularly here again too, so expect more blog posts! I might even post about things I’m reading, since that’s going to be another habit I want to get back into. I haven’t read for pleasure regularly in ages and I really, really miss it.

Oh and I’ll be hanging out a lot at The Writing Tribe. If you haven’t joined yet, you should! We’re a small group of writers supporting each other. 🙂

How about you? What are your writing-related goals this year?

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

BackSpacing: Pulling myself up by my bra straps

Life Stuff, Writing

No Tool Time Tuesday this week. We’ll get back into it next week!

BackSpacing posts will be personal posts, just as a warning. Consider it me going, “Whoa. Backspace. Let’s figure some stuff out.”

I have been very bad about writing lately. I keep putting it off or finding other things to do that are “more important.” They’re not really more important, of course. They’re just a convenient excuse. But this is also why the blog has gotten off track.

Last year, I spent most of the year in a different state being one of the primary caregivers for my grandmother, who’d broken her neck the November before. Being a caregiver is a lot harder than you realize when you sign up. Not necessarily physically harder (though sometimes that), but definitely psychologically harder.

I spent two to three weeks of every month with her. I wouldn’t change that decision if I had to do it again. I would make the exact same choice. It was absolutely worth it. But the consequence of being away that long is that much of my life at home fell away. Drifted. My relationship with my husband is rock solid, so it wasn’t that. But it was more that my socialness suffered while I was away. And my ability to be social, the energy it takes for me to do that, suffered.

Generally, I’m a very outgoing and social person. But after last year, I found I had fewer spoons for socialness. (If you’re unfamiliar with Spoon Theory, check it out. It’s a very clever way of explaining energy.) My grandmother passed away just before Christmas and so this year has been about rebuilding my life here at home.

What does this have to do with my writing? Well, I’ve found that in times of high stress, I have a lot of trouble focusing on getting words on the page. I have little motivation to do it. And that makes getting anything done very difficult.

National Novel Writing Month is coming up. (We’re prepping at The Writing Tribe, if you want to join us!) So I need to get my crap together. This year I’ve decided that I’m going to be doing short stories, rather than a novel. My reasoning is that I need some quick wins. I have a number of novel projects in varying stages of completeness; I don’t need another novel right now.

What I do need is something that gives me a sense of accomplishment. Writing a series of short stories totally 50,000 words will also give me several pieces that I can submit to markets right away. I can get some wins under my belt. Because forward progress always creates motivation. I am in dire need of both right now.

So I’m planning my stories for NaNo and hoping for a few wins! How are you getting ready for Nano?

Okay, I lied! One quick post…

Writing

I know I said I wasn’t going to post til next week, but I just wanted to take a second to mention NaNoWriMo prep! If you’re going to be participating in National Novel Writing Month this year, come join us at The Writing Tribe for NaNo prep!

We just got started today. We’re talking about figuring out what we’re going to be writing and there will be a bunch of prep exercises in the coming weeks to get us poised to win NaNo in November.

So come join your tribe! 🙂

Blog break! But gearing up for National Novel Writing Month!

Blog news

I’m gonna take a bit of a break from the blog for about two weeks. I’ll get back to posting on October 9th and we’ll have a new Tool Time Tuesday that week as well!

I’m still around on social media, in general. I’m on Twitter: @troilee.

Also, if you haven’t yet checked out The Writing Tribe group on Facebook, now’s your chance. I’ll be posting Gear Up for Nano posts all through October and we can get Nano prep done together! It’s 100% free, so come on out and join your Tribe!

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

Tool Time Tuesday: Merriam Webster

Tool Time Tuesday

Every other Tuesday, we talk about the different tools available for writers to make life easier (theoretically 😉 ).

Today’s Tool: Merriam Webster

Platform: browser, Android, iOS

Cost: FREE

What it does:

You likely know Merriam Webster as a dictionary. As a writer, you should know Merriam Webster as a dictionary!

Words have meanings and MW can give you those meanings. It’s important for writers of all kinds to have a good working vocabulary and an extended writing vocabulary. Now, this doesn’t mean you should use a $50 word every time you could use a ten cent word. But we, as writers, should use the most correct word that will be understood in order to convey the idea we want the reader to have.

So having access to a dictionary is a no-brainer. And Merriam Webster is one of the longest-lived dictionaries in the US, having been around for almost 200 years.

Now, if you haven’t been to Merriam Webster’s website yet, you might be surprised. It’s for more than just looking up words!

You can see trending words that are being looked up, as well as the Word of the Day (as I write this, it’s “hebetude;” if you want to know what that means, I encourage you to look it up 😉 ). You can watch videos about different word-related topics. These are short, interesting little snippets of knowledge about English as a language, as well as grammar and correct word usage. Again, as I write this, the video for today is Words of the Year: 1066, which I also encourage you to watch!

Not only does MW offer lots of knowledge and word education, but there are word games available, such as the Time Traveler Quiz: Which Came First? and Typeshift, a mashup of anagrams and word searches. These and other games can help you burn a couple minutes of your day when you need a break and have the added benefit of making you smarter 🙂

As a writer, all of these tools can be beneficial to me. It’s not just about looking things up!

Where to get it: You can go to their website, or go to your mobile store and download the Android app or the iPhone app!

Do you have a writing tool that you absolutely can’t live without? Drop a line to me down below and tell me about it!

 

Keep writing!

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

My Top 5 Most Useful Books About Fiction Writing

Craft of Writing, Writing

Let’s face it, writing a good story is hard. It’s entirely different from telling your best friend the story about what happened Friday night. Face to face stories are easier, because you have tone of voice and inflections, as well as body language, to help convey your meaning. With a novel or short story, you only have the words.

I am an addict. I admit it. I have more books on the craft of writing than my local library does, I’d bet. I use these books for my writing, of course, but also for when I’m editing or teaching other writers. I learn a lot from reading the stories of authors, but there’s also a place for an educational slant — for having an explanation of why something works.

To that end, I’m listing my Top 5 craft of fiction writing books. These books sit on the shelf right beside my desk. They’re always right there.

Now, these are the top 5, but they’re not in any specific order. You can’t really say that a book about creating character is better (or worse) than a book about writing a synopsis. They’re about different things. So while this is a Top 5 post, it’s not a ranked top 5.

Also, a while back, I wrote a post about my two favorite books on revision. Since I’ve already mentioned those, I’m not going to include them here.

And with all that said, here we go!

Writing the Breakout Novel

by Donald Maass

I got this book relatively early on in my fiction writing journey and it really opened my eyes to the idea that a book can be planned. Not in an outlining sort of way (which it can, of course, and which I was highly resistant to doing at the time), but in a larger-scale sort of way. From a 30,000 foot view, so to speak.

The purpose of the book is to write a novel that pushes past the mid-list and becomes a breakout seller. Think Harry Potter, The Martian, 50 Shades of Grey. A book that captures the minds of millions of people, rather than thousands or hundreds.

Donald Maass, who is a very successful agent who owns his own agency, identifies the things that he observes as pillars of a breakout novel. With section headings like Premise, Stakes, Time and Place, Characters, etc, this is a high-level view of story creation that every author can benefit from.

Beginnings, Middles & Ends

by Nancy Kress

What author hasn’t struggling with slogging through the middle of their novel? We’ve lost the bright, shiny feeling of the beginning and we’re not yet at the exciting, climactic end. There’s a reason many novels are abandoned in the middle. Fiction writing isn’t always easy.

Nancy Kress addresses all these things — the bright, shiny, the exciting, climactic, and the slogging — in her book. She gives authors tools on how to stay on track in their fiction writing, especially in the middle, which is arguably the longest part of a novel.

Each chapter ends with exercises designed to give writers practice in implementing the author’s suggestions. Some of the exercises involve reading and identifying things she’s discussed (such as reader expectations after the beginning), some involve writing, both new and assessment of current writing.

If you have trouble finishing your stories, you might find this book especially helpful.

Writing the Fiction Synopsis: A step by step approach

by Pam McCutcheon

If you’ve ever struggled with creating a synopsis, this book will be your savior! There are actually very few books on writing a good synopsis (compared to other writing topics). Mostly, writers are just expected to figure it out, maybe from talking to other writers, maybe by osmosis. In recent years, there have been a few more books (but only a few), yet this one, written almost twenty years ago and for most of that time the only book on synopsis writing, is still the gold standard.

McCutcheon takes you through the steps of writing a synopsis using three relatively well-known movies as her test subjects. She provides a number of worksheets to help you along, but that are also useful in the writing process, as well. She focuses not just on what should be in the synopsis, but also on tone and voice, as well.

This book also has exercises at the end of each chapter, but the result, if you do them all, is that you’ll have a synopsis by the time you’ve finished the book.

Characters & Viewpoint

by Orson Scott Card

This is probably one of my most recommended books. A lot of newer writers don’t understand the difference between omniscient point of view and 3rd person limited point of view, and so I often see a lot of what is called head-hopping: jumping from different points of view within the same scene, paragraph, or even sentence. This book explains those points of view very clearly, using a camera lens as illustration. I’ve seen more than one writer have an “Ah-ha!” moment after reading the section on viewpoint.


The guidance about character creation is also valuable, especially in conjunction with the character creation advice in the other books on this page. Card gives information about where characters come from and what makes for a good fictional characters. And then goes into more in-depth things, such as how the reader should feel about the character, what the stakes are for the character within the story, and transformations.

This is one of those books that I believe should be on every writer’s shelf!

Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction

edited by Michael A. Arnzen & Heidi Ruby Miller

I’m a bit biased about this book, I admit, because I have an article in it called, “Demystifying What Editors Want.” However, even if I didn’t have work in it, I would still have this book by my desk.


It’s a collection of over eighty essays about everything about writing popular fiction, from craft topics to life balance topics to promoting and marketing. Contributors include authors from all over the genre spectrum, from smaller published authors to mid-list authors to heavy hitters like David Morrell (First Blood [Rambo] and others), Tom Monteleone (Borderland Books), Nancy Kress (her name should look familiar 😉 ), and Tess Gerritson (Harvest and others). I’ll sometimes pick it up and just choose an essay to read when I’ve got 5 minutes. There’s always something to learn.

I often joke that this is my MFA program in a $30 book (the Kindle version is only $10!). 🙂 This is a really comprehensive collection of experiences and advice from authors and editors working within the commercial fiction publishing industry.

Okay, so those are my Top 5 books for fiction writing. I’ve tried to choose books that run the gamut of information that authors need to know about, from character creation, to doing the writing, to stuff needed to get published.

What fiction writing books do you find indispensable? Drop a line down in the comments!

Keep writing!

Quick Edits: Pronouns

Craft of Writing, Quick Edits, Writing

Quick Edits is a short feature where I give quick editing advice on how to handle common problems in fiction writing.

Pronouns

If you have two or more people of the same gender in the same scene, it’s easy to use pronouns in a confusing way. (I’ll be using male/female pronouns in these examples, but neutral and non-gendered pronouns are also subject to this issue.)

Say Tina enters a room and sees her sister, Marcy, who has been missing since the day before.

She ran over and gripped her in a bear hug, and her bag fell onto the floor.

We might assume that the subject (she) is Tina herself. And that the first “her” is Marcy. But think for a moment. Couldn’t the subject (she) also be Marcy? The sentence works that way too. And then the first “her” would be Tina. And we have no idea, either way, which of them dropped their bag. See how that can be confusing?

I generally advise, at the very least on the sentence level, but it’s probably even more effective on the paragraph level, to choose one character for whom you’ll substitute pronouns.

So pick either Tina or Marcy as being the one that can have the pronouns. And the other, you’ll use her name. This doesn’t mean you can only use pronouns for that character.  You can still use the pronoun character’s name. Just don’t use pronouns for the non-pronoun character.

So the sentence could be changed to look something like this:

Marcy ran over and gripped her in a bear hug, and Tina’s bag fell onto the floor.

Or this:

Tina ran over and gripped her in a bear hug, and Tina’s bag fell onto the floor.

Or this:

Tina ran over and gripped her in a bear hug, and Marcy’s bag fell onto the floor.

See how the same sentence with ambiguous pronouns could be clarified to mean a lot of different things? We should shoot for clarity in our writing, and this is one that is really easy to flub up! But it’s a pretty simple fix, as you can see.

Are there any editing issues you run into that you’d like covered in the Quick Edits series? Drop a comment below!

Keep writing,