Archive | July 2013

Why I Edit as I Write… Gaffes – did I really write that?

reallyThere’s an ongoing question authors ask each other about writing. “Do you edit as you write, or just write?” Me? I write, then edit, then edit, then write some more, then edit. Why? Because as I’m writing I have a tendency to add, or change things and I need to reread for consistency. It’s the way I self edit myself and it works for me.

The problem is, sometimes my issues have nothing to do with consistencies at all and have to do with gaffes. You know, those editing nightmares as you’re reading a book and the character in one paragraph is eating pancakes and two paragraphs later they’re staring into their cereal bowl? (this actually happened in book #4 in an extremely popular YA series that ended up being produced into 5 films. I’ll let you figure out which one – hint: think vampires…)

I had one of those gaffes in my new WIP and it was a doozy. My characters are in Egypt. There is an Englishman, an Italian, a Frenchman and an American in the bunch. I have my characters running from bad guys. The Englishman is saying all these sayings like gawd blimey, and bloody hell, and stuff (I was researching English phrases to get it right) and to get away from the bad guys, I have my people escape into the Underground. You know, the equivalent of the NYC subway system, but in London? I continued the chapter where they got off at their stop, queued up in line to get a taxi, and then were dropped off on a quaint country road.

Did you catch the gaffe yet? My characters are in Egypt, not London! Why in the world would they be in the Underground and what in the heck was I thinking as I wrote this chapter? I do remember thinking, “Wow, this is moving smoothly, the words are flowing easily.” Sure they were, because I WAS IN THE WRONG PLACE. When I reread what I wrote, because I always go back and reread what I did the session before, and noticed this, I stared at the screen in disbelief.

I love when I gaffe a description of a character as well. My protagonist stared into her boyfriend’s “beautiful amber eyes, flecked with yellow making them seem to sparkle and shine.” Nice, but the guy has blue-green eyes in book #1 of the series. Funny how in book #2 his eye color changed – and it wasn’t from contact lenses.

I know for a fact that I’m not the only author to experience something like this, so this week I asked authors Sara Barnard and Diane Rapp to chime in on this topic.

Question #1) Do you edit when you write, and why?

Sara Barnard: The more I write and the more I learn, the more I edit as I go. Not only does it save time when the manuscript goes to my totally awesome editor, but it has become habit. I like to think it makes me a better, more efficient, scribe. Writing a sentence or a paragraph then going back through and quickly reading, looking for errors or omissions helps keep me on track, too. But as a lesson, I also let it sit before sending it in and read through it at least one more time. It’s amazing the mistakes you’ll find when you let it rest then go back to it later.

Diane: I’m a “stream of consciousness writer.” I think about a scene and how the characters interact before I fall asleep each night, and my subconscious works on it. When I’m ready to write the scene, I type as fast as my fingers will move to put it into the computer.

After I write the newest scene, I wait a day and read through everything with a critical eye. At that point then the editing process starts. The first draft of the book is flexible, so I make changes and fix problems along the way. Sometimes I redo a scene three or four times until I’m satisfied, at other times I’m surprised that I already like what I created. It’s that sneaky subconscious doing a good job.

After the first draft of the book is complete, I reread everything straight through. That’s when I hope to spot inconsistencies and major errors. I also take time to check a thesaurus for more effective words. The third time through, I concentrate on punctuation, grammar, and incorrect words. This is the most boring part of the editing process, so I find myself daydreaming. I can’t count how many times I speed along, enjoying my own narrative, when I realize I’ve stopped paying attention to editing.

Question #2) What is the most major gaffe you found editing?

Sara: I’ve found numerous mistakes in my self-edits. One was in A HEART ON HOLD … Charlotte’s horse, Achilles, was written to be a gelding. Well, later, I had him as a stallion. That may not seem like much, but it was certainly important to Achilles! In my forthcoming Amish romance Rebekah’s Quilt, I had my heroine’s little brothers named something different in almost every chapter!

Diane: My worst mistake was using the wrong name for my heroine in a full chapter of a first draft. It was understandable. I just finished writing a Mystery with a heroine named Kayla, and the character in the new Science/Fantasy is named Krystal. My brain got mixed up, or maybe it was my fingers. Suddenly Kayla appeared on the planet Drako to confront an evil villain. The worst part was that I didn’t notice the error at first. One of my Beta readers sent me an e-mail asking, “Who is Kayla?” She had not read my mystery, so she didn’t understand the mistake. I was so embarrassed. At that point I realized many of my characters had similar sounding names. I reconsidered the character names and made major changes. I discovered that characters behaved differently after I changed their names. It’s true. I got in a few arguments with those characters, but they won in the end. Darn!

Ladies, thank you both so much! I think everyone can relate to the gaffes above – I know I do! I think I’ve done all of them at one point or another, as well.

If you’d like to learn more about Sara and Diane, please check out their links below:

Sara is the mother of four small children and wife to an awesome and supportive husband. Now that her husband is out of the Army and she is done following him around to various military bases around the world, they’ve settled down in their shared hometown in west Texas. Sara’s debut historical romance series, An Everlasting Heart, consists of four books: bestseller and 2012 RONE award finalist for Best American Historical Fiction A Heart on Hold, A Heart Broken, A Heart at Home, and the forthcoming final book in the series A Heart Forever Wild. Her debut Amish historical romance, Rebekah’s Quilt, will be released November 16th, 2013. All of these are from 5 Prince Publishing. Sara also writes children’s books: Chunky Sugars was her debut children’s book from 5 Prince Kids, with Little Spoon coming in September 2013. Sara independently publishes a nonfiction children’s line as well, all of which have remained on Amazon’s bestseller lists since being released. Those titles are: The ABC’s of Oklahoma Plants, The ABC’s of Texas Plants, and The Big Bad Wolf Really Isn’t So Big and Bad. She can be reached at twitter at @TheSaraBarnard, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sarabarnardbooks, her website at http://www.sarabarnardbooks.com and lastly, her blog at sarathreesuns.BlogSpot.com

Diane Rapp is a split-personality author, who writes a Mystery series and a Science/Fantasy series. She particularly enjoys works by Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Agatha Christie, and Arthur Conan Doyle. As an animal lover, she always includes animals such as telepathic wolves, flying dragons, or poison dart frogs (as a murder weapon) in her novels. For more information about both series, visit her website at http://www.quicksilvernovels.com. You can also reach her at her author’s FB page at: http://www.facebook.com/quicksilvernovels and on twitter at @DianeRapp

How I Turned into Supermom on Friday…

benandmeI have spent the past few weeks focussing this blog on writing, but by my subtitle, my blog is really about “Musings of a Type “A” Mom.” As much as I’d love to spend my life writing and cooking, a big part of my world is, of course, my children.

Here was my FB post Friday: DONE! Within 13 hours of deciding Ben was not going back to Camp Kehilla, I interviewed 5 camp directors, went to his old camp to settle things AND get my reimbursement, got medical forms, filled out paperwork, went to his new camp to meet the team, and now he is OFFICIALLY starting Luhi’s Computer program, with swimming, on Monday Morning. BooYa! I should really do this stuff for a living.

Let me explain. My 11 year old son has Asperger’s and camp (and most things) are not his thing. If he had his way, he’d be on the computer for his entire life playing Minecraft or watching crazy youtube videos that range from Team Fortress 2 vignettes to My Little Pony movies. For the past few years, he’s been going to a mainstream camp, but they suddenly closed. We looked at other mainstream camps, but they weren’t good fits (either too much sports, no real supervision, etc) so I selected a special needs camp where all the kids were on the spectrum. I was assured that his group would all be high functioning because my son gets very upset if he believes he’s in a group for kids with needs – especially if they’re lower functioning.

It’s been 3 weeks and needless to say, camp was a disaster. He was upset at the long bus ride, upset at some of the kids who would verbally stim for hours on end, upset that he was bored, not challenged and it was too chaotic. It got to a point that he was begging us not to take him to camp and he started having meltdowns to the point where he’d hurt himself. Camp simply shouldn’t be that way. I don’t blame the camp. We tried, it didn’t work out. My fault would have been to simply leave him there, because it was easy. But this mom doesn’t play that way.

I woke up at 6:00 am Friday morning, July 19th. Called in to work that I was taking off and started my emails. By 9:00 am I had started talking to directors at various camps, made appts at doctors to pick up medical forms for the camps, started downloading forms and started Facebooking about my plans. By noon I had it down to 3 camps. By 1:00 I chose one (one I had not even known about at noon and a FB friend mentioned!) and then dashed out to my son’s camp to let them know he wasn’t coming back, get reimbursement and take him home. (all nicely – I really don’t fault them).

By 4:30 I was at the new camp delivering payment, forms, getting the bus set up and talking to the Director. So, on Monday – only 3 days later on July 22nd, he’ll be starting a new camp, a computer based video gaming development program that “he thinks looks very cool” – there’s food he’ll eat, swimming and sports (hmmm), but they’re aware of his needs and the head of the camp believes he’ll be fine. My son has promised that he “will try” to control his behaviors. I’m hoping he’s motivated because he really wants to be there.

So, now I’m trying to breathe. Most of the time I’m a very tired, confused mess, but where my kids are concerned, I seriously feel like I have some sort of “reserve well” deep inside and have the ability to turn into supermommy when I need to. I mean, what other choice did I have?

Let’s cross our fingers, eyes, toes and whatever other disjointed body parts we have. The good news is, it’s only a 2 week program (I could re-up) but now I also have 2 other camps I can reach out to as well.

Wish us luck!

Do You Have Unfinished Manuscripts?

unfinishedHow many of us have unfinished works in our computers? I bet a lot. Sometimes we get an amazing idea for a story, we furiously write it down, come up with characters, develop and plot and after feverishly working on it for days and weeks at a time…. it fizzles. Why does this happen? I can blame writer’s block, lack of time, computer problems, but that’s usually not it. You can always come up with some excuse, but for me, the real reason is that I probably got bored. And if “I” get bored with my own story, you can imagine how readers might feel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and it doesn’t mean I’m not capable of finishing a book… just maybe not this one.

The question begs, what do you do with these stories? Especially those that are halfway, to three-quarters of the way, written? Can they be saved? Do you even want to save them? Should you finish them as an exercise and put them in a special “where the sun don’t shine” file, or do you occasionally take them out, dust them off and try to “fix” them? I have four novels in various stages of production. Some are in genres I never usually write in and I use these books to “play.” When I need a break from a serious WIP, but still want to write, I go to these “where the sun don’t shine” novels and work on them. Some of them are actually decent, some of them are terrible and some of them I will never show anyone because of subject matter (you fill in the blanks 😉 ) But the fact is, they are there, I know they’re there and I don’t necessarily want to let them go.

I wondered if I were the only author that has unfinished works in their arsenal. This week I asked authors Charity Parkerson and C.K. Raggio for their input on this subject. They had some great, thought provoking responses.

Question #1) Do you have any unfinished works? Or do you have stories you start but don’t finish and what do you do with them?

C.K. Raggio: I have quite a few short stories in numerous notebooks near my desk. When I get frustrated or stuck on whatever novel I’m writing (and hard liquor and yanking out my hair doesn’t cut it) I take out a short and work on that instead. It helps me to clear my mind and refocus. It also gives me a feeling of accomplishment once I get to the end of a draft and feel like I’ve improved on it.

Charity Parkerson: I have one book in particular that has sat on my computer for over a year now that I’m beginning to think will never be complete. While writing A SPLASH OF HOPE I always intended for it to have a sequel, but so far, it’s not happening. Sometimes if I have several things that are around 1000 words, I’ll find a way to piece them together to start a new story and it will spark an idea.

Question #2) Do you think it’s okay for writers to have stories that never get finished?

C.K. Raggio: Definitely. I think sometimes a story starts in our head but isn’t ready to be completed. Sometimes we need to grow in our own lives before we are finally able to go back and finish the story’s journey. I believe every tale we tell in some way is connected to our experiences, fears, goals and ultimate dreams. Life will sometimes throw a curve ball and a course we thought we were following changes direction, so even if a story is never finished it’s not a bad thing, it just means we may have drastically changed before we had a chance to polish it to perfection.

Charity Parkerson: I think every writer does have stories that never see the light of day. If in the end it doesn’t work for them then most likely it’s not going to work for readers. Writing is never a waste of time, but not everything is right for publication.

Wise words, ladies. I agree with everything you’re saying and love the idea that maybe sometimes we need to “grow into our lives” before we can finish them. And I love the concept that even if we don’t finish, it’s not a waste of time because it might “spark other ideas.” Really great advice.

For more information about the authors above, please feel free to contact them here:

Charity Parkerson is an award-winning author of several books including 15 Amazon bestsellers. She can always be reached on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/authorCharityParkerson You can also check out one of her novels, THE SEXY & THE UNDEAD at http://www.amazon.com/The-Sexy-Undead-Witches-ebook/dp/B00CLYIMD0/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1373661362&sr=1-6&keywords=charity+parkerson

C.K. Raggio is a thriller/horror writer with a taste for the dark side. Her debut novel HERON PARK is available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/Wx537w You can visit C.K. at her website http://www.ckraggio.com/

Hey, Did I Ask For Your Input On My Book? Oh yeah, I did.

blah blah 2Why can’t people just be quiet? Why must we always vomit from the mouth? Do you ever have moments where you so badly want to tell someone about the story you’re working on, but you know in your heart you really should just keep your mouth closed? I do this all the time. I have these ideas in my head and I’ve just put them down on paper, and I want so badly to share it with someone that I find myself begging and pleading with those around me to let me tell them about it. It’s usually my very tight writing friends, my husband and sometimes even my kids. (I know, I must be desperate).

Maybe I’m looking for validation that the story is good? That I’m on the right track? Sometimes that’s the case. Other times I just want to bounce the idea off of someone because maybe the story isn’t making sense and I want to brainstorm a bit. I find just “speaking” about my topic to someone helps me to break it out further in my head. Sometimes saying things out loud has a way of making things sound, well, not so great and then I know there are inconsistencies and issues that I need to address.

Of course, then there are the random people you meet in daily life who find out you write and ask “what are you working on?” That’s when I should just learn to be quiet and say, “Oh, it’s a YA novel, haven’t gotten it flushed out yet.” Yeah, getting me to be quiet is another blog onto its own. I invariably start spewing, hoping for that “OMG, that sounds amazing” reply. Invariably the response is anything but. They give me this quiet stare, or a little crinkle starts between their eyebrows and already I know that this isn’t going to go well. Then I start to back pedal super-fast and try to justify what I’ve just said. Sometimes I feel like I have to justify the entire novel!

This doesn’t just happen to me with strangers. I have an 11 year old son this happens with all the time. He’s a super high fuctioning Aspie and he loves to come into my room and read over my shoulder when I’m writing (which yes, I find distracting). I love the kid to death, but this is never a good thing. He’ll read something and that little crinkle starts between his own brows and then the inevitable line he quotes nearly every time. “Mom, I’m not trying to be rude but you really should write it this way.” He proceeds to correct my grammar (he is not always correct, by the way), changes my plotlines (all off of a one page reading of a 200+ page book) and explain, in detail, how people really don’t like science fiction and fantasy and I really should make things more real life, less violent and more interesting. After I’ve sucked in my breath, I smile and say, “kiddo, while I appreciate the suggestions, this is my book and this is how I want to write it.” This is usually followed by a “My mom just doesn’t understand anything” shrug and he says, “Just trying to help.” I always make the suggestion that he should write his own book and then he can write whatever he’d like. (that never works – for him that feels like homework and he skedaddles quickly away at any mention of that).

The bottom line on those crinkled brows. I don’t think people are judging. Well, maybe they are, but I did open up the can of worms in the first place. People are built to have opinions, we’re wired to think differently and if you put yourself out there, be prepared for what is going to come back. BUT, food for thought for all you people on the other end of that author’s rant… Here’s what a writer REALLY wants to hear (well, me) … Unless I’ve paid you a tremendous amount of money to edit and destroy my manuscript, or asked you to beta read, or really said, “tell me what you think,” what I really want you to do is just nod and smile. I’m just actually looking for support. I’m really just brainstorming out loud. Trust me, it won’t read like this when it’s done. Well, hopefully it won’t.

So folks, I’d love to hear from you if you have this same problem and, what is your solution?