10 things to help you get your manuscript ready for submission

Hi, peeps!

So here we are in a new year and I know for a fact that bunches of you are working on manuscripts and once you’re done with your draft, you’re going to hopefully get it submission-ready. That is, you’re going to prep it in hopes that a publisher will think it’s awesome and sexy.

First things first. Not all houses accept a full manuscript for a read. They might just want the first few chapters. Or maybe the first few chapters and the last few. That’s fine. The point is, if you have a full manuscript that’s ready to go, you can easily extract the chapters or first 50 pages or whatever it is the potential publisher may want to see. And you want those to be clean and ready for viewing. So here are 10 things you can do to help you get it that way.

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Some reminder writing tip posts

Hey, all!

Damn. Been a while. But you can always find me over at Women and Words, on Twitter, or Facebook.

I’m working on several see-krit projects at the moment. A not see-krit project is the fanfic I’m doing over at Archive of Our Own. It’s a Clexa piece, and it’s over 180K words, now. Still going. Basically, I rebooted season 3. You’re welcome. 😀

Anyway! Here are some writing tips just for you, in a few different (oldies but goodies) blogs that I wrote. I still get requests for these, so here they are again:

On writing dialogue

On Point-of-view (POV)

On headhopping

“As you know, Bob…” (part of the writer’s adage, show-don’t-tell)

Participial Phrases

Get your write on!

Happy Tuesday.

Link round-up: helpful posts for writing

Hi, all! I just finished up a short (for me) novel and I’m getting it ready to send to a potential publisher. While I’m pondering that, I thought I’d do a round-up of hopefully helpful posts I’ve done that will provide some helpful info for those of you racing around writing.

HERE!

10 things to do when you finish a manuscript.

On point-of-view.

On headhopping.

On dialogue.

On why craft is important.

On maintaining effective plotlines and arcs.

On participial phrases.

On creating characters.

On info-dumping and “As you know, Bob.”

And if you’ve got links to help with specifics about writing, post ’em in the comments. Share the luv!

Thanks, all!

Happy Monday.

“It was a dark and stormy night”: on openers

Howdy, peeps!

So a couple of folks expressed interest in how to write an effective opener for a novel.

To which I say, “good luck.”

Heh.

And then I supply links LIKE THIS, which have the alleged “100 best first lines from novels”, posted by the American Book Review site. I must say, Iain M. Banks’ line from The Crow Road is a grabber: “It was the day my grandmother exploded.”

Hit that link at Amazon and you’ll be able to read the first few pages to determine what that’s about.

At any rate, what makes a great opening line? Well, I’d say that’s a topic up for debate, depending on a reader’s taste. But overall, let’s try to dissect what makes a great first line in terms of writing craft. Here are five things to think about.

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10 things to do when you “finish” a manuscript

Hi, peeps!

By now some of you are no doubt lamenting the Super Bowl. Others are celebrating. And still others are thinking, “Oh, the Super Bowl was on? Huh.”

And then there are many others who have been working on writing projects. Some of you may actually have FINISHED a project! Glory! Hallelujah! So…what now?

There are actually any number of things to do when you complete a manuscript, but the point here is to start with a basic list and then you tailor it to your own specs and hopefully, you’ll then have this little ingrained checklist in your skull that becomes some kind of sick ritualized habit that you engage in when you finish a manuscript. Heh. That’s the idea, friends! Start making good habits now, so you incorporate them into your world.

Okay. So you finished your story/novel! GO, YOU! How much awesome are you carrying around because of that? LOTS! Go ahead and pour yourself a tall glass of awesome juice, because you earned it. So what now? Short of posting your glorious news all over social media? Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 3.44.41 PM

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Get yer write on

Hello, darlings!

I do hope that 2015 has started off awesomely for you. And before you ask, no. I don’t make “resolutions” in the classic sense. Rather, I have “schedules.” That is, things I will be working on, and those usually involve making adjustments to my daily regimens and organizing writing and editing projects.

At any rate, this year I’m going to be doing some writing in genres that I’m not known for (including paranormal). I think it’s important to stretch as a writer, and try new things in order to get a sense of how your style and voice work across genres and what kinds of adjustments to make to write effectively no matter what you’re working on.

I’ve also got a lot of other writing things I’m up to, including romance and sci fi and I’m working on New Mexico things. So don’t worry. You’ll see things from me this year, too. 🙂

And speaking of working, I’ve been reading some “how to” and “how not to” books because I like to check in on my own techniques and continue working on my craft. I recently read this gem of irreverence, called How Not to Write a Novel, by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark, both writers.

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The book is indeed filled with 200 examples of bad writing in an attempt to get other authors thinking about what constitutes bad writing and how to recognize it. The examples are often raunchy, hilarious, and in some cases NOT SAFE FOR WORK. So you probably don’t want to share this with teens or ‘tweens.

From the book’s website (linked above):

Many writing books offer sound advice on how to write well. This is not one of those books. On the contrary, this is a collection of terrible, awkward, and laughably unreadable excerpts that will teach you what to avoid at all costs if you ever want your novel published.

The book walks you through things not to do when you’re setting up your plots, writing characters, dealing with perspective and voice, learning about mechanics, and world-building. The examples can be over-the-top, yes, but the authors will tell you after the bad writing what’s wrong and why it doesn’t work (readers might also find the book interesting because it’ll get you thinking about the parts of a book and why some things work and why they don’t).

From the book’s intro (which will give you a sense of the approach):

We do not presume to tell you how or what to write. We are merely telling you the things that editors are too busy rejecting your novel to tell you themselves, pointing out the mistakes they recognize instantly because they see them again and again in novels they do not buy.

We do not propose any rules; we offer observations. ‘No right on red’ is a rule. ‘Driving at high speed toward a brick wall usually ends badly’ is an observation.

Hundreds of unpublished and unpublishable novels have passed across our desks, so we have been standing here by the side of the road for a very long time. Had you been standing here with us, you would have seen the same preventable tragedies occurring over and over, and you would have made the same observations.

Do not think of us as traffic cops, or even driving instructors. Think of us instead as your onboard navigation system, available day or night a friendly voice to turn to whenever you look up, lost and afraid, and think ‘How the fuck did I end up here?’

Sometimes, dear writers, you need to see what absolutely does not work to get a sense of what to look for in your own writing. Most (if not all) of the examples in this book I have done, the vast majority when I was just starting out as a fiction writer.

Part of developing as a writer is finding your own voice and style within the rubric of solid writing craft. And that involves comparing all kinds of writing as you’re working to figure out who you are as a writer. Which is why I think having really bad examples can be helpful, along with the reasons that the writing is “bad.” You’ll also find tips in this guide that hopefully help you fix the bad so you can apply them in your own manuscripts.

So writers, if you’re looking for a funny and useful guide to hone your writing skills, give this a look (here’s the Amazon link; more purchasing links at the site). If you’re a beginning writer pounding away on your first novel, definitely give this book a spin. And if you’re a reader curious about what bad writing might look like and how writers might address it, you might enjoy this, too.

So let’s get crackin’ this new year and hit the manuscripts!

Happy Wednesday!

Let’s write about…SEX!

Hiya, peeps!

I’ve been working on a scene in my latest romance that’s been really difficult for me to write. Why?

BECAUSE IT’S GOT SEX IN IT.

Now, before you freak out and think I’m all kinda prudey or something, chill, friends. Not the case. The sitch is, writing sex scenes is difficult. Let me amend that. Writing GOOD sex scenes is difficult. Or perhaps I might even mean EFFECTIVE sex scenes.

And this scene has been a pain to work on because it involves a lot more than just a “do me now” kind of scenario. These characters have a history, and it’s a hell of a lot more than just sex that’s involved in this scene. There’s a lot of emotional stuff going on, and some unpacking of baggage. Not all sex, obviously, is like that in romance or erotica. Which got me thinking about the different types of sex scenes and how to approach them as a writer.


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So I came up with some questions to ask yourself when you’re writing a sex scene or thinking about writing one (and no offense to M/F or M/M writers; some of this is a little more F/F specific).

(Heh. Read on to see the questions)

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People and places

Hi, all —

I’ve been thinking more about characters, and how to inject authentic regionalisms into yours. That is, how to make a character sound and act like he or she is a product of a specific place and culture.

To that end, I read journalist/writer/speaker/all around awesome woman Caitlin Kelly’s blog today, and it seemed to resonate with what I’ve been mulling. Her latest blog is about defining “New York-ism.” That is, what defines someone as a New Yorker? And then she lists several things that New Yorkers might say and do, and the reasons behind them. Go have a look. See what you think.

And keep reading, if you want to see where the hell I’m going with this. 😀

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Writing builds character.

Hi, peeps!

If you’re headed to the Left Coast Lesfic Conference, I’ll see you there!

I’m slated to do a workshop on character. That is, developing them. Making them groovy for sexy-time reading. Making readers WANT to follow your characters and find out where they go, whether they grow, or even if they fall.

So I’ve spent some time thinking about how to create and convey character, how to capture it, and how to hold on to it and make it arc logically and effectively. And we’ll talk about that in the workshop. But for those of you who can’t make it, here are some things to think about when you’re embarking on a writing journey.

I’m one of those writers who thinks that setting is absolutely key to your story. For me, characters and story can emerge from a setting. Characters are products of a setting, its history, its culture, and regional flavor. Alternatively, a character from somewhere else entering a new setting will be bringing his or her own background and context into that new place. You’ll need to think about how that plays out in the story arc and the character arc.

If you’ve decided on a setting for your story, and you’ve got a rough idea of a plot and some rough ideas about characters, then start fleshing out your main character. You’ll need to figure out what makes this person tick in order to make your readers care about his/her trip through your pages. So if you choose to read on, you’ll find 10 tips from Auntie Andi to help you think about characters, and how to flesh ’em out.

The big, existential question is always: Who is this person?

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So let’s dissect that.

1) Name? Some writers don’t care about names, and they’ll take the first one that comes along and slap it onto a character. Or they’ll name a character something unconventional, thinking it’s oh, so cool that their main character, a corporate lawyer, is named Talyn Tigerfoot. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially if you can actually make that work for the character. But if you can’t, it ends up being jarring for a reader. At any rate, I’m not that writer. I spend some time thinking about names and what the sound of it conveys to a reader and whether it “matches” a character. If you’re not quite sure what I’m getting at, try the tips HERE.

2) Where does your character live and is that going to be the main setting of your story? If so, think about regional quirks — how certain communities do things, what sorts of things they do, and how those are going to find expression in your character.

3) Place of origin? (if, say, he or she is a stranger in your setting or grew up somewhere else). Where a person is from determines a few things like expressions he or she might use in speaking, and things like recreation and hobbies. Growing up on a coast is very different than growing up in a mountain community, for example.

4) Age? Yeah, obvious, right? But think about that. A character’s age is going to determine a lot of personality quirks. Older people might not be all into the smartphone thing, might prefer books to ereaders, and are definitely going to speak differently than younger. And they’ll have a lot of pop culture references that younger characters don’t, and vice versa.

5) Background? That is, did your character struggle in rural poverty for her formative years, for example? Or has she always struggled? Would you classify her as working class or middle? Or is she from a wealthy family? These determine how your character might react in different situations. If your character is from a rural agricultural community, she might be extremely uncomfortable in cities. If she’s from a poor family, she might have some issues around people who come from money. Likewise if your character was unable to go to college but ends up in a situation where she has to deal with other characters who did go to college, and who move in very different circles.

6) Occupation? This depends on age, too. If you’re writing young adult fiction and your main character is a young adult, then ask yourself about the school your character attends and what his or her favorite subjects are and what their activities are.

7) Personality traits? Think about 3-5 of these. For example, is your character easygoing or uptight? What sorts of things push his or her buttons and what are those buttons? What is something that’s been bugging her since childhood that she’s still working through? What’s that chip on his shoulder? How does your character deal with change or crisis? Things like this can also drive the arcs for your characters, and will be an integral part of the story.

8 ) Who else is in your character’s life? No one lives in a vacuum, after all. Even if your character is currently alone, shipwrecked on an island, she’ll be thinking about her friends and relatives. And a character can also have relationships with memories and people who are no longer alive. People who have died in your character’s life will have an effect on how that character reacts to things, and might trigger memories that will enrich or add tension to your story. So yes, dead people in a person’s past do count as being in your character’s life.

9) What does your character look like? Sex, age, ethnic background, race? These all play a role in how your character perceives herself and how the world and other characters are going to perceive him or her. A character’s sexual orientation and gender identity will play a role, too, especially if your character is a sexual minority. All of these will help determine what your character looks like, how she dresses, and how she presents herself to the world. I tend to know what my characters look like physically, but I generally don’t try to convey that exactly in my work, because I’d like readers to develop their own sense of how that character appears and how he or she negotiates the world. I’d much rather a reader come to know the character through his or her way of speaking, their friends and relatives, some of the things they like to wear, what they like to drink or eat, and what they think about, as well as how other characters react to him or her. But it depends on a writer’s personal style as to how he or she approaches this. All that said, it’s a good idea to have in your own mind an idea of what your character looks like, because physical appearance can and does play a role in fictional life as well as in real life.

10) Habits/quirks? Does your character smoke? Does she drink to excess? Or is she a little uptight about booze because she grew up in an alcoholic household? Does she like dogs or cats? Both? Does she have any kind of animal in her life? Does she like camping? Or maybe she’s into bowling. Be careful, though, and don’t go overboard with habits/quirks, because that might get in the way of your character arc. But it helps me develop a better sense of my characters if there’s something they do or say that makes them stand out from other characters. It doesn’t have to be flashy and it doesn’t even have to be something that’s intrinsic to that character. It can be something a character does habitually in relation to somebody else. For example, in my short story “Dinner Party,” when Shay goes to her neighbor Brisa’s dinners, Shay generally helps clean up. It’s an unspoken sort of agreement the two characters have. But it’s a habit, and it tells a reader something about these two characters and the level of intimacy they may or may not have.

Final thought on that? Balance. Don’t make your character one big quirk with nothing beyond that. So be careful with your quirks. If your character is eccentric and has a lot of quirks, don’t forget there’s a person underneath all that. Get to know that person and then layer the quirks in as you get more familiar with your character.

With that in mind, it might prove helpful for you to use a questionnaire to get your characters’ backgrounds sketched out. Gotham City workshops have a pretty extensive one. Check it out.

A few other links to help you think about writing characters:

Writing Room
Sophie Novak at The Write Practice
Darci Patterson has bunches of writing character tips. Start here.
Brian Klems at Writers Digest with a nice character arc/character discussion.

Go forth and write! And read! And have fun doing it!
Happy Wednesday.