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revisions

State of the Book (and Arm) – February Edition

Blog news, Book news, Life Stuff

Time for another State of the Book!

The first draft of Soul Cavern 2 is almost done (I know, I’ve been saying that for weeks!). It’s so close to being done, I’ve already started revising the first part and sending it out to beta readers. I’m still hoping to get it out in April.

I’m also getting ready to commission the cover art for SC2 and SC3 before the end of the month, so should have something to show for that in the coming weeks, as well!

Obviously, I’ve done this surgery thing before…

My overall production schedule is going to slow down, though, as I am having rotator cuff surgery on 2/13. I’ve been dealing with pain since June, but more aggravated pain since November. The MRI I had last month showed a 5mm tear in one of the muscles (or tendons? Dunno) in my rotator cuff. So… surgery.

My arm will basically be immobilized for 3-4 weeks, then 4 weeks of movement therapy, and then 4 weeks of strength therapy. So, yeah, 3 months. Whee. I am not entirely sure how the immobilization is going to affect writing. I’ll be doing some work with Google Docs and their free voice to text function, but I don’t really know how well I’ll do with dictation. We’ll see.

The last couple weeks I’ve been working on a website redesign (mostly randomly) and that only takes my mouse hand, for the most part, so perhaps I’ll do more work on that! I’m really excited about it, because it’s going to be gorgeous! 🙂

And I’m set to start outlining Soul Cavern 3 this month also. ALL THE THINGS!

So there’s the State of the Book for February! Thanks for hanging with me 🙂

Venessa’s State of the Book! December 2018

Free Fiction Friday, State of the Book, Writing

Happy Boxing Day! I hope you had a lovely holiday yesterday, if you celebrate. If you don’t, then Happy Random Day Off Work Day! 😀

I’ve decided it would be fun to give periodic updates as to what’s going on in my writing life, so you know when you can expect goodies! So here’s my very first State of the Book Address!

Jivaja begins 2019 with a sale!

I’ve got a week-long promo from January 1 through January 7 where you can snag Jivaja on Amazon for .99! Make sure you bookmark the Amazon page! (Don’t worry; I’ll post a reminder next week!)

In the meantime, if you’re not familiar with Jivaja, you can check it out here!

Blue-Edged Soul to be released in mid-January!

Blue-Edged Soul, or BES as I like to affectionately call it, is almost done — ie, it’s being formatted right now! — and is slated for release around January 15!

BES features Ken, David’s brother, in London where he’s been sent to protect Carolyn and Jenny Barron. This short story runs concurrently with the climactic scene in Jivaja.

And there are BIG REVEALS!

If you’ve already read Jivaja and would like BES for free, make sure you’ve signed up to get your copy (and updates).

Get your free book!

Soul Cavern 2

Yep. It still doesn’t have a proper title. I’m almost done with the first draft. Hoping to finish it this week so that I can jump into revisions in the new year! Publication time frame is mid-April. Really excited to get this one out there!

Sad news for Free Fiction Friday

Jivaja is currently enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (yes, that means you can read for free with your subscription!). The unfortunate thing is that it also means I must suspend Free Fiction Friday until my KU term is over (in April). KU requires an exclusive distribution license, so I cannot offer Jivaja anywhere else, including my own site.

This Friday will be the last FFF for Jivaja. *sadface*

Around January 15th, I will be taking down all the sections of Jivaja after Chapter 5. The first five chapters will remain up so people can still read a free sample. (That’s allowed.)

I’m kicking around the idea of putting up a few shorts stories I’ve had done for awhile that are just sitting around, gathering electronic dust. They’re about the MSA — Magical Security Agency. ooOOoo 😉  But that wouldn’t be a weekly thing. Likely monthly. I’ll decide after the first of the year. Let me know if you’re interested!

So that’s the December 2018 State of the Book! 🙂

I hope you all have a lovely remainder to the holiday season and I will see you in the new year!

Tool Time Tuesday: ProWritingAid

Tool Time Tuesday

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

Today’s Tool: ProWritingAid

Platform: Browser, Windows, Mac, pretty much everything

Cost: Free web version; Premium version available ($50/yr, price breaks available for multiple years; $175/lifetime; discounts for edu folks & bulk purchasing)

What it does: Wow. When I found this a couple years ago, I was astounded and fell in love all at the same time! While it can’t tell you whether your story is a good story, it can tell you how to improve your actual craft.

This is what Word’s Grammar check aspires to be! I use this on all my work before it goes to a professional editor (or acquisitions editor/agent if I’m submitting). I cannot accurately convey the depth of my love for this little program!

Okay, Venessa, enough praise. Show me!

So you can choose to use the free web version and do a section of your work at a time. If you can’t afford the premium version, this is a perfectly good way to do it. It will take longer, because you’ll be doing a lot of copying and pasting, but you’ll get the full functionality of the program, just a piece at a time.

If you upgrade, you can download the software to your computer (there’s even a 2-week free trial!). But here’s the brilliant part: you can use the software with the program you write in, whether it’s Word, Google Docs, Open Office. I use Scrivener for Windows. Here’s what ProWritingAid looks like when I open my novel, Soul Cavern, in it:

ProWritingAid

Sorry, you don’t get to see the text! Check out FreeFictionFriday later this week, if you want to read it 🙂

As you can see, it shows me all of my writing, in the Scrivener structure, and lets me work on it piece by piece. I use this for every story I write.

Check out all the features across the top. Style, Grammar, Overused words (it’s worth the price for just these three things alone!), Readability, Cliches, Sticky sentences (these are unnecessary words/sentences that slow your reader down), Diction, Repeats, Echoes, and Sentence lengths. The More tab has a dozen other tools like Thesaurus, Pacing, Pronouns, and, of course, more.

This month's #ToolTimeTuesday, featuring @ProWritingAid: It shows me all of my writing, in the Scrivener structure, and lets me work on it piece by piece. I use this for every story I write. Click To Tweet

 

You can also choose, on the Tools option at the menu on the top, what sort of writing you’re doing: academic, creative, business, etc, so that the suggestions are geared toward your particular work.

Photo courtesy of ProWritingAid.

I wouldn’t recommend solely relying on any digital tool for final editing, but I 100% recommend using ProWritingAid before sending any work to an editor. If you’re working with a professional freelance editor (like me!), running your manuscript through ProWritingAid will likely cut down on the cost of your edits, as it can help you make your manuscript much cleaner for your human editor. This will allow her or him more time and effort to focus on the story itself and less on the mechanics of the writing.

Also, a program like this is a great learning tool as well. ProWritingAid not only suggests corrections, but will often explain why the thing needs to be corrected. This is a fantastic way for newer writers to learn.

Where to get it:

Writing Improvement Software

I really do strongly recommend this software. I probably put it as #2 right after Scrivener out of all the Tool Time Tuesdays I’ve done.

Have you tried ProWritingAid? How has it helped with your writing?

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!

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

Also, links in this blog post may be affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something, I will get a small percentage of it, though it does not increase your cost in any way. I appreciate you using my links 🙂

Quick Edits: A Look at “Show Don’t Tell”

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.

Show Don’t Tell

In my capacity as an editor, I’ve written “This is telling. I want to experience this with the character, not be told about it,” countless times. And the soundbite is “Show, don’t tell.” We’ve all heard it.

But the problem with soundbites is they’re meant to be short, so if we embrace them as rules, rather than guidelines, we lose the nuance.

“Never use adverbs.”
“Don’t use passive verbs.”
“Don’t use exclamation points.”

All of those items that are verboten by soundbites are valid, useful parts of speech. The issue the soundbite is trying to address is that they’re all overused, so the general guideline is not to use them at all. The guideline is really to keep us from overusing them (or using them wrongly, which is usually the case with adverbs) and to make us think about the instances when we do choose to use them.

“Show don’t tell,” is similar. Authors should mostly show. But it doesn’t mean authors should never tell. The “show don’t tell” soundbite drops all the nuance and all the reasoning of why authors should show, rather than tell. And because of this skipped nuance, many authors, particularly novices, adhere to the soundbite as if it is set in stone.

It isn’t.

Below is a list of instances where telling could be appropriate, where you can and sometimes should violate “show don’t tell.” Note that you don’t always have to tell in these instances, and sometimes shouldn’t. As writers improve, they learn when each is appropriate. Generally guideline is still: if you’re unsure, go with showing.

When to Tell

  • when transitioning from one scene to another – often Telling can happen at the beginning of a chapter or a scene when setting up for the action to come
  • when the action doesn’t matter – if your character is traveling from one place to another and nothing happens during the travel, the reader doesn’t need to know every turn and stop the character makes
  • when there is repetition – if a character has to tell another character about something the reader has already heard or experienced, Telling the reader that the character conveys the story is better than rehashing everything the reader already knows (an exception to this is if the character is misrepresenting or misunderstood what happened; that can be important for the reader to know)
  • when time passes – similar to above, if time is passing and nothing important happens, you don’t need to Show us that
  • in short stories – because short stories have a word limit, Telling is often necessary to summarize events that may not be as important to the plot as others.

There are also some instances in which you should rarely Tell. Obviously things that are the opposite of the list above. For example, any time the action does matter, it should be Shown and not Told. Another instance is action scenes. Action scenes should always be shown.

So there you go! A quick guide on when not to use Show Don’t Tell. Can you think of other times when you should Tell rather than Show?

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

Keep writing,

Quick Edits: Don’t Blink

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.

Don’t Blink

We’ve all read it. Some of us have probably written it.

Some surprising thing happens. And, in response, a character blinks.

This is a problem. Why?

Because blinking is not an indicator of surprise. If it were, we would be indicating surprise more than twenty five thousand times in a day. Blinking is a mostly involuntary bodily action. It happens all the time.

In face-to-face life, it isn’t blinking that shows a person’s surprise. It can be wide eyes, a shocked expression, raised eyebrows, a flinch, a mouth agape. There are any number of things that actually show surprise. Blinking is never one of them — unless it’s a melodramatic blink for effect. And even then, I’d argue that’s deliberate, not as a result of a surprise.

Blinking, like breathing, is a natural thing that the body does over and over again each day. In order to justify mentioning it on the page, there should be something special about that particular blink. So I find blinking to be acceptable when there’s something in the character’s, eye or when he’s trying to hold back tears.

As an editor, I see the use of blinking as an indicator of surprise to be a wasted opportunity. There is so much more that could be described to really push the surprise across to the reader to make it vividly drawn in her mind. Using blinking seems lazy.

So don’t blink.

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

Keep writing,

Quick Edits: Action Scenes

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.

Let’s talk about writing action!

What Is Action and What Makes a Good Scene?

Action scenes are any scenes that require high tension and lots of movement by the characters. Obvious sorts of action scenes are fights and chases, but they’re not the only types of action scenes. Sex scenes are also action scenes.

Clarity and high tension are the hallmarks of an effective action scene. The reader should have absolutely no opportunity to put the book down. She should be grabbed and pulled through the scene with so much need that turning the page takes too long.

Action Scene Toolbox

Clarity

The reader must understand exactly what’s happening in the scene, so clarity of language is very important. You don’t ever want him to have to stop and reread things in order to envision who is doing what.

You want to use concise and vivid words. No wishy-washy descriptors, like “fast” or “large.” Instead, use “breakneck” or “colossal.” While a thesaurus will be useful in the case of substituting a word, don’t limit yourself to that. Consider whether rewording the sentence altogether would make for a more exciting and memorable description. Stretch yourself. Don’t take the easy way out.

Active and evocative verbs are your friend, but don’t go overboard and use so many or so unusual words that the pacing of the scene gets bogged down.

High tension

Writers have much more in their tool boxes than just words. One of the most effective tools for getting readers to feel what you want them to feel is sentence structure. When writing action scenes, you want to use shorter, punchy sentences. Simple noun-verb-object structures with the occasional phrase at the beginning or end.

Why? Because shorter, simple sentences are very easy to parse, and we can read them faster. Complex sentences make us slow down to make sure we understand what’s being said. In an action scene, you want the reader to read faster and not have to slow down. This serves the purpose of raising the tension. Used in conjunction with your actual writing — ie, how you describe what’s happening and the words you use — you get a bonus on top of the natural tension of the scene.

As a writer, you should use all the tools at your disposal to get the reader to feel what you want him to feel. 🙂

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

Keep writing,

Quick Edits: Distancing

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.

Distancing is when you are using 3rd person limited or 1st person point of view and then use language, usually in descriptions, that distances the reader from that POV. Here’s an example:

She watched Thomas get out of the car.

If we are firmly in our character’s POV, we don’t need to be told that she’s watching. All we need is:

Thomas got out of the car.

We will know she watched that happen, because if we’re in her head and she didn’t watch him getting out of the car, we wouldn’t even get the action at all.

Another example:

As he closed the car door, he felt the chill of the metal on his palm.

Instead, consider:

As he closed the car door, the metal chilled his palm.

The first sentence is the author telling the reader what the character is feeling. Do you notice how we are pulled out of the character’s head? It puts a degree of separation between the reader and the character that you, as the author, may not want. In the second sentence, we are invited to experience the feeling along with the character, which, in my experience as reader and a writer, is infinitely preferable.

Words you can search your manuscript for that might identify distancing sentences:

  • Saw
  • Watched
  • Heard
  • Felt

There are others, but that is a start. Now, of course, not every instance of these words will need to be removed, but they should each be evaluated individually. Push yourself to think outside the box, to think about how a sentence can be phrased differently.

Pulling these words out of your writing encourages you to create better, more vivid and interesting sentences. This will make you a better writer.

And isn’t that the point? 🙂

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

Keep writing,

Writing Groups, Critique Groups, & Masterminds, Oh My!

Writing

A couple weeks ago, I attended a new writing group. Not just new-to-me, but brand spanking, first meeting kind of new. Granted, I know all of the folks involved and call them all friend, but this configuration, this purpose, was new.

I’m always a little apprehensive of getting involved with writing groups or critique groups, because I’m often the one giving a lot more than I’m getting, simply because I’ve been working in publishing for a decade. But my challenges aren’t what I wanted to write about.

It used to be that the only way you really connected with other writers was by going to writing conferences or taking writing classes. And if you wanted to put together a support or critique group, you had to find a few people local to you. And just finding those people didn’t mean you’d have a good, quality group. There were still other obstacles, such as skill levels, personalities, scheduling, etc. It was easier just to find one writer and mail pages to each other.

But obviously now, things are a lot easier. There’s still the struggle of skill levels, personalities, and scheduling, but getting together as writing groups is a lot easier, because there are many different ways to “get together.”

Great Technology

I currently run a group called The Writing Tribe on Facebook (feel free to join, if you’re a writer who’s serious about your career 🙂 ). They don’t know this, but one of the things I want to do in 2018 is start a monthly chat (probably by video), where we teach each other things and have focused discussions and learnings about different aspects of writing.

And that leads us to one really powerful aspect of technology: the ability to communicate in real time over great distances. We no longer have to rely on whomever is in our area for writing groups. We can pick and choose the people we really want to work with, having regular online meetings and chats.

Not only can we get the support and camaraderie, but we can do critiques electronically, as well. And, really, electronic critiques and edits are the standard now, versus paper critiques. I don’t really know anyone who does paper critiques anymore.

How do you organize your group?

First, decide how often to meet. Once a week? Once a month? In person? Online? Some mix of cyber and meatspace?

Next, figure out what you want to do with the group. Will you just get together to work in the same room, everyone writing together and then taking short breaks to chat, get coffee, etc? Is it a focused critique group, where each person turns in pages well before the meeting and everyone critiques those pages? Is it a mashup with a little of both?

Our new writing group has decided that we will meet monthly and critique 2 people each meeting, and then use the rest of the time to write. However you choose to do it in your group is fine, so long as everyone is getting something they need out of the group. There’s no right way to do this.

What I’m kicking around for TWT is to have monthly online meetings and then planning a weekend retreat where people come in from all over and we learn, work, and play together. (This is all still in the very early stages of brainstorming, so don’t hold me to it! 😉 )

The biggest benefit to writing groups, whether they’re work groups, support groups, critique groups, or masterminds, is that it keeps us writing. It’s more difficult to “do it later” when we have a critique deadline coming up. We get inspiration from others of our tribe, which keeps us at the keyboard. The biggest benefit of a writing group is simply being among other writers. The automatic outcome is that we write more, we write better, and we achieve our goals.

In the end, how the writing group is structured matters less than the idea that everyone involved is getting what they need out of it.

Are you involved in any writing groups? How does it work for you and your peers?

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

Quick Edits: Word Echoes

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.

This week we’re looking at word echoes. Word echoes can be used as a writing device to emphasize some aspect of the scene, character, or plot. Therefore, you don’t want accidental word echoes. You always want echoes to be a deliberate choice.

There are a couple different types of word echoes.

One type is crutch words. These are words that, as a writer, you lean on heavily, usually in first drafts. I keep a list of my crutch words (which includes “actually” and “smile,” also “so,” among others) and when I finish a first draft, I search on each of the words to see where I can change them up. Notice I didn’t say “find a different word.” We’ll talk about word choices in a minute.

A second type is words that commonly connect with each other in some way. This is an echo I began to recognize as I edited professionally. Words that have a natural opposite, like “up” and “down,” “in” and “out,” often find their opposites within a few lines. In my experience, it’s very common that if I see “on” somewhere in a sentence, “off” shows up, usually within three lines of it (and vice versa). And that pairing is usually repeated two more times within the next page or two.

A third type is simply when we use the same word too many times in too short a span. I find that I do this most often when I’m not in the zone of writing and just trying to get the words down on paper. I will usually mark it and come back to it later.

But the bigger issue is when we don’t see those echoes on the page. This is where beta readers can come in. I wrote a post on how to best utilize beta readers. One of my suggestions is to give beta readers specific things to watch for or comment on. So you can task one of your beta readers with watching for echoes. That is probably the easiest way to catch them. If you hire a professional editor, they will definitely catch those echoes. (If they don’t, you need a new editor 😉 )

A word about word choices

See what I did there? 🙂

When looking at word echoes and deciding how to fix them, don’t always go for a synonym to substitute for the offending word. Look at the entire sentence. When we echo, it’s a good indication of sloppy writing. Not necessarily bad writing, but when we wrote, we went for the easy words, the expected words. That’s why we echoed.

If you look at the sentence and can work out a way to revise the sentence itself so that the echoed word is no longer necessary, I will bet that the sentence you come up with is much better than the original sentence.

Why? Because the sentence was built with intent, rather than just tossed together in the midst of a writing sprint. Intentional writing is almost always better than off the cuff writing.

My advice: try not to think in terms of synonyms. Think in terms of recreating the sentence to get rid of the echo.

~

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

Keep writing,

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.