2013 Goals + Early Birds


sunrise

Photo Credit: Kristin Nador

It’s good to return to the blogosphere! I’ve missed connecting with my readers, though I did visit a few of you during my hiatus. I noticed many of you are setting goals for the new year, some more challenging than others. 2013 promises to be a busy, and hopefully exciting, year for me.

With that in mind, here are some of my 2013 goals:

  • Blog revamp. I like the look of my blog, but I’m ready to take it up a notch. Luckily, my critique group is right there with me, and we all plan to create new websites. We will learn together.
  • Interviews & Guest Posts. As part of the revamping, I plan to interview my readers and host guest posts by people in various stages of the writing journey – newbie, experienced, published, etc. I’ll have more details later. If you think you might be interested, I’m starting an early bird interview & guest post sign up list. 
  • Writer’s Retreat. Every year, my group takes a time out from family, friends, cyberspace, etc. and focuses solely on writing. I always look forward to this bonding opportunity.
  • Join the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I can already put a check mark by this one (I’m #292). The first Wednesday of every month IWSG creates a safe haven where writers can express their doubts and concerns, as well as offer support and guidance to each other. I have a feeling I’m going to need this group.
  • Book release Blog Tour. I’m both excited and nervous about the upcoming (06.06.13) release of Edge Of Truth. Thanks again to everyone who participated in the cover reveal. Now, I’m recruiting a team to help with the book blog tour from June 6 to June 27. If you’re interested, here’s the early bird Edge of Truth blog tour sign up form.
  • Start a Newsletter so readers can stay up to date on contest, giveaways, tours, appearances, my next book etc. If you’re interested, please fill in the early bird Newsletter sign up form.
  • Last, but not least, something my critique group calls a pleasure goal. This is something that has nothing to do with writing. I plan to master baking gooseberry pie between now and December 2013. This was one of my mama’s favorite pies. I baked one for Christmas 2012. My siblings were kind enough to eat it and not make faces. I’m determined to do better next year, and welcome any tips.

How about you? What are some of your goals for 2013?

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The Voices Told Me To Write It


 

If other writers are anything like me, they write what characters tell them to write and don’t always immediately understand why things unfold the way they do. This happened with my current adult paranormal WIP, which is 87% complete. I knew my human heroine possessed otherworldly abilities, yet I didn’t know where those powers stemmed from, only the cost she paid for using them. I also knew her fate was tied to the immortal hero’s and that their first encounter would change both of them fundamentally.

It wasn’t until my critique partners (CPs) Dawn Allen and L.L. McKinney sent a tidal wave through my WIP that I fully understood how deep the characters’ connection ran. Immortals have a lot of history to sift through. Sometimes, its tough to decide which part of their past is pertinent to the current plot. I knew something major in my hero’s past was coming back for him and that it was somehow connected to the heroine. My CPs helped me dig deeper with the hero to learn how his actions in the past could affect the heroine centuries later.

The fun part? The foundation for our discovery was there all along. The new information we uncovered fell into place like lost puzzle pieces.

I LOVE my CPs, which includes Nicole MacLaughlin who meets with us once a month. They are my girls and without them, I don’t know where my writing would be. They challenge me to push harder, dig deeper, stay true to my characters, etc.  We don’t always agree with one another, but when we do…magic! And goosebumps.

Have you experienced and “AH!” moment in your writing? Do you push yourself to dig deeper? How do you know when you’ve gone deep enough? Do you have awesome CPs you want to give a shout out to?

 

The Ripple Effect


It’s been a while since I started a blog chain and what more appropriate post than this one about the ripple effect to start one. I’m kicking off this chain with the following question:

Has your manuscript (WIP or completed) experienced a ripple effect, where one change affected the manuscript from beginning to end? If so, how?

The premise behind the blog chain idea is for you to write this question at the top of a post, link it back to the person whose blog you read it on, answer the question, and invite others (consider this your formal invitation) to participate. Last, post a link to participant(s) who link back to your blog to complete the chain.

Photo Credit: jeuxsansfrontieres

The other day during my critique group, we discussed how making changes to a story can have ripple effects. Sometimes, those ripples are small. For example, during one of many revisions to my YA dark paranormal EDGE OF TRUTH, where I’ve created a futuristic, dystopian world I realized my characters spent a lot of time outside without eye protection from their too bright sun. Everyone running around with sunglasses was too Agent Smith from the Matrix so instead, I added something more durable and literally flexible: sun hats. OMG, Rena’s (the MC) love interest Nevan looks so hot in a his hat.

As I moved through the manuscript finding scenes where hats were needed, I discovered how much something so simple enriched the world building. It gave my characters something to hide their face behind when embarrassed or angry, it gave them something to hold for comfort, it gave them something to wring in worry. Plus, something so normal helped make them feel real.

I’ve had stronger ripples as well, especially when I brought in a new character who I had to seamlessly work throughout the entire manuscript.

The movie Butterfly Effect is an extreme example of how one change can affect the future.

I’m interested in hearing whether you’ve experienced the ripple effect in your work and if so, how? If you decide to participate in this blog chain, please let me know so I can include a link. If you just want to leave your comments below, that works for me, too. Note: There’s no timeline on this, so link whenever you want.

Please visit these blogger(s) too to see how they answered the question:

∞ Dawn Allen at Write On
Consider yourself linked:

Balancing Critique Feedback


I have multiple critique partners. Four I meet with in person, one via Skype, and three online. They have varying backgrounds and critique methods. Getting feedback from so many people can get overwhelming. For me, the best way to digest input is to search for common denominators. Chances are if multiple people say the same thing doesn’t work for them, it needs revision. Sometimes, the critiques contradict one another. In those cases, I ask clarifying questions of my partners to figure out why they made a certain comment and weigh their answer against what I was trying to accomplish in the scene.

Right now, my partners are reviewing my YA paranormal dystopia Edge of Truth. It’s new to some of them, others have seen many drafts already. I think the recent version below is fun and shows Rena’s (Main Character) personality.

The first page then:

With a grip on a gnarled stick, Rena Moon trampled across the rocky terrain. The mountain’s shadow offered no relief from the afternoon heat, nor did the slight breeze. Sweat dampened clothes clung to her back and frizz sprang up along her hairline.

“Maybe I should change my last name to Canyu. Rena can you get water? Rena can you help the twins…? Rena can you…can you…can you…” She spun to face her best friend, Blaze. “And if Anata thinks she’s going to make me go to Solstice after what happened last year?”

“I know, but can you slow down a little?” Blaze slipped on a rock, but caught her balance before she fell.

Rena slowed. “I told you to pick up a walking stick. It’s not breaking a Conservation Law if the branch is already dead on the ground.”

“Keep it down,” Blaze whispered. “It’s bad enough we already broke one law today. I don’t know why I let you talk me into this.”

“We’re at least eight miles from the cities. The Synbots don’t patrol here.” The thought of the synthetically created robots in the Badlands made Rena cringe. She needed a break from the confines of the stupid laws they enforced every minute of the day.

“I don’t want to miss curfew. How long will it take to get home?” Blaze asked.

“I’m never going back to Dumpden.”

Blaze staggered. “Well, there’s nowhere else for people like us to go. Are you sure they can’t track us here?”

After compiling feedback from my critique partners, I found a few common denominators. The first line is descriptive and not much of a hook and the MC’s BFF sounded a little whiny. Also, having so many critique partners gives me the opportunity to learn from them as well. Often times, we are able to identify issues with each other’s work which we can turn around and apply to our own.

For example, one of my partners was working on a YA paranormal, only nothing supernatural happened in the first chapter. Even though my main character demonstrates her power by page four, I wanted to work it in sooner. Plus, I had a long talk with myself about why I liked the second half of the book better than the first. The answer was simple: Nevan. So, I revised the opening to demonstrate Rena’s paranormal ability quicker, bring in her love interest sooner, and introduce her BFF in a more likable light.

The first page now:

Rena Moon wished she could swap places with the water bottle, held tight and pressed to Nevan’s lips. Or even the sunlight peeking through the trees, tracing the contours of his face.

“Come on,” she said to her best friend Blaze. “Let’s move closer.”

“Why are you whispering?  It’s not like he can hear us from here.”

“Habit.”

“We’ll have a better vantage point from over there.” Blaze pointed to a shaded spot five trees to the left. “It’s just outside his peripheral vision, which means we can stand closer to him. Maybe even within hearing range.”

“Loving your attention to detail.” She tucked her fingers beneath her rucksack strap and strolled toward the tree, all the while stealing glances at Nevan.

“Sweet Mother Earth,” Blaze nudged Rena’s shoulder, nearly knocking her off balance in excitement. “They’re gonna do it again. He’s picking up the spoons.”

“Wha…?” Transfixed, she watched his biceps flex as he shifted and rested his forearms against the table edge.

After a quick glance down both sides of the bench, he nodded, once, twice, three times. Someone tapped a set of cups against the table, creating a deep, resonant beat. Nevan joined in, drumming the spoons and knocking his wrist in perfect rhythm to bring the music alive. The combined sounds pulsated through the ground. Rena honed her ability on the vibrations Nevan produced. Every tap thrummed through her, uniting her with his song on a level no one else knew about or could even understand. They tugged her toward him, as if he’d attached a melodic tether to her and was intent on reeling her in.

Reaching out to other writers for help and sharing knowledge about the craft can be an enriching experience. Our job as writers, is to examine the feedback we receive, decide what fits with our goals for our story, and put in the time to make the revisions.

Do you have more than one critique partner? How do you balance the feedback?

Like It Belongs to Someone Else


I’m putting my YA paranormal fantasy through another round of edits. I still have fond memories of writing the first draft. How the words just seemed to flow in some places and how hard I struggled to get others to reveal themselves. In the first round of edits I checked for grammar and spelling errors. The next round, I honed the manuscript  to get rid of the weak words and make every sentence, every paragraph stronger. The content for the most part stayed the same.

Since then, I’ve read multiple writing craft books and have continued to get feedback from critique partners. I’ve forgotten which draft I’m on. All I know is I’m editing like it belongs to someone else. I’m letting go of scenes I love because they don’t make the plot stronger. I’ve revised the opening to make the main character’s goal less subtle and to highlight the impending conflict. I’ve made dramatic improvements in the world building which also adds tension. My writer’s pride is on the shelf and my inner editor isn’t shy with her red pen. Pretending someone else wrote this story and forgetting how hard I worked for the words on the page makes it easier to see the mistakes.

How do you get in touch with your inner editor? Is it easy for you to step out of the way? How do you know when to fight and when to let go?

Critique Groups: Safe house or Slaughter-house?


I love my critique group, Novel Clique. We are a group  of professional writers which gives craft related presentations, attends conferences/workshops (we’ll be at OWFI in May), we even have an annual writers retreat, which is a whole other post. We meet once a week, bring 10-20 pages of our WIPs, and take turns reading them out loud. This helps us hear the voice of the piece and allows us to hear mistakes we’d otherwise miss.

Afterward, we give on the spots critiques, which is my favorite part. I love being able to ask my critique partners clarifying questions about what they intended to convey in a certain paragraph or scene, or give suggestions on how to take the optimal advantage of already existing conflict. And even though it might be considered cheating, I sometimes ask about foreshadowed events and red herrings, cause I’m curious like that. I also like having the chance to ask them whether something I wrote is clear, if it’s too much or too little, or confusing.

The feedback, encouragement, and let’s be honest, group therapy I get from my partners is priceless. I was lucky enough to stumble upon them during a writing class at a local community college and have stuck with them ever since.

Are you part of a critique group? How did you find it? What’s your favorite part? Is it a safe house or a slaughter-house? And if you don’t belong to one, is there a reason you decided not to join one?

What is your opinion on critique groups?
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First Crusade Challenge answer: I HATE exercise.

Congrats to everyone who guessed! This challenge was a blast and I’m half tempted to add a MacGirlver page to my blog to offer people fun solutions to everyday problems.