Thursday, February 28, 2013

Beta-Readers

I realize one of the hardest things for writers to do is to let a stranger read their 'baby' for free. But, if you really want to get objective feedback, it is one of the best ideas there is. Beta-readers are people you choose to read your book and tell you what they liked about your book, or didn't like. If the flow kept them turning the page, or did certain places stop them. And, would they recommend your novel to one of their friends.

Your beta-reader doesn't have to be an editor, or even become a critique partner, they just need to let you know that if put out to the public today, would the book sell, or not. 

My recommendation is to pick someone that is not on you best friends list, or a family member, but someone who reads your genre first of all, and someone that is not vested in you. Other than maybe a follower of your fanpage, or blog.

I know, I know, you're saying but how can I trust a perfect stranger with sending my entire manuscript to them? I think the answer is, trust in your instincts. If there is a person that you have met and shared comments with on your page, then consider what you have learned about that person. I believe most of us can figure out whether or not that person is out to steal your work. Probably most of the people that follow you are avid readers or writers themselves, and their goal is just to read your book.

Most of us are smart enough to keep enough of a 'trail' of our work that you could prove it's your book if you had to, and I have more faith in people than that. 

My beta-reader was a follower on my Fanpage, who is a friend of the design artist of my cover. She was the perfect candidate as far as I'm concerned. She is young, (which my genre is new adult, 16 and older) I have never met her, and neither had my sister, and she loves fantasy fiction. Plus, she writes in her spare time and is going to college herself, so she is no dummy. She lives in Europe and is married to a U.S. military man. So, it's not like I will meet her someday soon.

She gave wonderful feedback and is also willing to not only beta-read for me again, but will write a review for my book once it's on Amazon. I think I made a great choice. 

If someone is willing to be a beta-reader for you, then consider the benefits, and think about whether or not they fit your criteria of what you need your beta-reader to do for you. If they agree to your terms, then go for it. To have an objective eye is always an added bonus and hopefully will make you feel better about making the choice to launch your book, or if it needs more work. 

But, one more thing to think about, your beta-reader is not an editor. I still feel strongly that you should send your manuscript to a professional editor before you make the plunge.


Well, I hope that all of you have a wonderful weekend. Don't forget to leave me a comment and let me know if you have ever considered a beta-reader, and what helped you make your decision to do so, or if not, why?

Love, Lisa










Monday, February 25, 2013

Dreaming of the Mountains

The cabin fever is setting in. I look out the window and all I see is drifts of knee deep snow and wishing I were hiking in the mountains, enjoying the fresh Colorado air and sunshine.

Not that I am complaining about the snow, we need the water, but about being stuck inside and looking forward to milder weather. I love walking in God's country. The scent of wildflowers, pine and earth. The quiet and peacefulness, and the company of my husband, or whomever has decided to hike the mountainside with me.

We put the harness on Branch, (our dog) and her bouncing around the house in eager anticipation. Following us from room to room, telling us in her own way, 'Hurry up', and running to the car and jumping in the back seat knowing where we're going. 

Once there, she leaps out of the car and her nose finds the nearest grasses. On the trail, she tries to meet every other dog that is hiking with their master's, too. It is nice that, not only do people take advantage of the hundreds of miles of paths we have in the state, but a lot of them own dogs. She is in doggy heaven!

We recently purchased a pop-up camper, a used one. They are expensive, but our landlord gave us a great deal. That's what else I am trying to be patient about, going camping. I do feel blessed living in a state where you drive a couple of hours and you feel like you are on vacation far, far, away. 

We have decided we don't relish sleeping on the ground in tents anymore. I am really looking forward to packing up all the provisions and finding the perfect spot. I love sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows, hiking in the area, fishing, and most of all, staring up at the stars at night. 

I breathe in the crisp mountain air in the morning, and love to sit outside drinking my morning coffee, and then cook some bacon and eggs. For some reason it tastes better when you're camping. 

I know it's only a few months away, but I anticipate it all the same. Do you like going camping, or even hiking? Are you in an area where you have mountains to do so? 


I hope you do, because to me, there is nothing more relaxing and healing than enjoying nature and what gifts we have been given. To appreciate what life has to offer. 

Have a great week everyone! See you on Thursday!

Love, Lisa



Thursday, February 21, 2013

Words to Avoid

Today I will leave you with the last of my little lessons:What words to avoid and stronger verbs. I want to say one of the most important things you should do while in the middle of revisions is 'read aloud'. It is amazing how different it sounds when you actually hear it, as apposed to reading it to yourself. You can spot a lot more mistakes, especially if you are telling instead of showing.

Basic grammar and punctuation are important, but so are the topics I have touched on the last few posts. Also, another great feature on your computer is  find and replace. This is a good way to see how many of the words I list on here you are using in your manuscript. These are called 'Garbage Words'. They are typically used for fillers, and can slow down the text. A lot of them you can either delete, or replace. 

Really                 Very
So                      That
Well                   And then
Totally                Just
Quite                  Good
Great                  Like


And, there is one word that should only be used once or twice in your entire manuscript: Suddenly

The reason why I say to avoid these words, is they tend to be involved with telling, instead of showing. There are other words you can use, and will generally lead you to explaining, instead of saying. 

Like, is one of those words that is misused in most American books. If you like something, that is one thing, if you are explaining something and use 'like', then it is incorrect.

Example: He looks like he knew the answer.

The proper way would be: He looked as if he knew the answer.

In this instance, 'like' should be replaced with as if, or as though. 

Another list of words that a lot of times you can either delete, or change the sentence structure are conjunctions in the beginning of sentences.

For                     And
Nor                     But
Or                      Yet
So


Do a find to look for these words at the start of your sentences. There are times where they fit, but other times you probably don't need them.

Last, but not least, are verbs. Yes, we have to have them, but there are times you want to use stronger ones to avoid passive voice. Dangling participles are one of the types of words you want to watch. 'Ing words' such as walking, are passive, and if you can change the sentence so that you don't have to have them, then do. Of course, you will have 'ing' words, but within certain places, they should be avoided. Such as, action scenes. 

There are places in your novel that you want to look for redundant actions too, such as 'nod', or 'sat, or even, 'down'. These words can be passive also, or boring if you use them too much. 

Use your thesaurus, that's what it's there for. Try to replace verbs typically used, for stronger, more aggressive ones. Also, it will broaden your vocabulary. 

Well, that's it for this subject. I could go on, but I think most of you get the idea. I know there are a lot of other creative writing topics I could discuss, but  I don't want to bore you with too many blog posts on this subject. I just wanted self-published author's to think about their manuscript before you put it out there for the world to see. I believe that if our work is exceptional, it will reflect, as does when it's not up to par.

Thanks for putting up with my little lessons, and I hope that at least it helped some of you. I hope all of you have a great weekend and don't forget to leave a comment, I would love to know you thoughts on these two subjects.


Love, Lisa












Monday, February 18, 2013

A Talk About Point Of View

Another busy weekend with very little time for writing, and here we are again, Monday. I have enjoyed doing these little lessons on creative writing the last few blog posts. It has helped me also to remember the 'rules' and I hope that it has jolted your own skills as writers, or even readers. 

Today, as I said, will be on Point of View. I have seen this used incorrectly, (in my mind) a lot lately. The reason this one topic should be discussed and not to mention, implemented, is because if you switch POV's in your manuscript you can confuse your reader, and therefore, they might put down your book.


Now, I'm not talking about scene or even chapter POV switches, I'm talking about right in the middle of a scene, you go into another character's head. There are usually two types of writing that are used in today's fiction, first person and third. There is also omniscient which is a type of writing where the author is actually playing God by being in everyone's head. This type of writing is not suggested for most writers since it can really confuse the reader if not done properly. 

The most common error in POV shifting is when you have two people in your book that are in love and they are in the middle of a love scene. The writer tends to jump back and forth between the thoughts of both characters. The author claims that they are both their main characters, but I was taught there is only one main character and the other is a secondary one. I believe that you can stay within one character's head in the next love scene, you can be in the other one's POV. 

Your main character is the one that is telling the story, not your secondary one. Yes, you can go into other POV's as long as you separate them by scenes or chapters. There is also your antagonist who tends to have his/hers own POV. This is widely accepted as long as you again, separate them. 

Another suggestion is try to limit yourself on the amount of character's whose POV's you go into. I have seen books where the author stays within protagonist and antagonist's POV's and I have also seen where the author jumps into more that 4 different character's POV. You really need to watch how many heads you are jumping in because it is the main character's story. I know there are times where important information needs to be told and the protagonist is not in the scene, and that is fine, just watch how much of this you are doing.

The other issue is when you are writing in first person and you want to have another POV. I have seen this common practice lately and my suggestion would be to make sure you separate the different points of view with chapters. Also, have a header on top to let the reader know who's POV you are in now, otherwise the reader will get really confused. A good book for an example of this is 'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett. Excellent book by the way. With third person you typically don't have to start a new chapter, but you do need to start a new scene.

I want to leave you with a few examples of POV shifting so that you can see where this can confuse the writer and I feel it is amateurish writing. You really do need to watch your tenses.

Example: Carol worried how telling her friend Mary the truth. Although, Mary was an excellent gymnast, Michele really was better. She didn't want to hurt her friend. "I do believe you are well on your way to being picked for the US team, Mary, I just don't want to see you hurt if your not."

"What do you mean by that, Carol? I have worked night and day for this." Does Carol think I'm not going to be chosen for the US team? 

"I know you have, but I just don't want to see you get your hopes up." She wanted to see Mary make it, but knew how picky the coach was.

Now, as you can see, this started with Carol's POV and when it switched to Mary talking, there was internal thought in Mary's POV. That is a POV shift.

Example: Jan ran down to the store to grab the milk for the baby. Sue came with her and Jan would have rather her stay at the house to keep an eye on Bob. He wasn't that great at responsibility when it came to the kids. "I really can get the milk by myself, Sue. I will be right back."

"But, I want to come with you. I want to get out of the house." Sue would never let Jan have any alone time. She felt she had to know everything Jan was doing.

Okay, not the greatest of examples, but I think you could see where the writer 'implied' how Sue felt. That is also a POV shift.

Well, that's all for today. I would love to hear whether or not you struggle with POV shifts and do you try to catch them or is it a 'free for all' in your book? 

It is hard for the reader to keep up if you switch back and forth between heads. Until Thursday, I hope you have a great week. I am planning for a few different guest author's in the near future. But, until then, Thursday will be on words to avoid using and stronger verbs to avoid passive voice.


Love, Lisa
  



























Thursday, February 14, 2013

Descriptions in Writing

Happy Valentine's day to all of you! I hope you have a wonderful celebration! I guess I could have written a blog about valentine's day, but I figured there would be plenty of them today. So, back to the topic at hand: Description. A friend of mine requested this one.

Description, as my writing coach used to say, is the most important part of the story, and her favorite. This is where you have to be careful about what needs more and what needs less. You can find yourself over doing it and your readers will be skimming.

The other problem is if you're not painting a good visual and the reader will get confused. And, of course, not enough and the reader is disappointed.

So how do you determine where and when, and how much? This is not a simple question, but I will try to narrow it the best I can.

First, you have to go back to the old adage and ask yourself these questions with each scene. Did I describe this thoroughly and is it important enough to add more detail? There are several places where you need descriptions and some where you need to leave it to the readers imaginations.

1. Describing your characters and what they are wearing.
    
    You do not have to completely describe your characters. I have seen where the writer just said 'when he shook his hand, he noticed the freckles that laced it'. That gives you a visual of how the person looks. Probably of Irish decent and has a freckled face and red hair. Your main character cannot describe himself, since you are in their point of view. You can add little bits such as: She ran her fingers through her long blonde hair.

    You really don't have to describe the characters in detail, unless they are an alien, or an extreme paradox to your other characters. In my book, the Djen needed more description because they weren't like the people Stevie and her friends were used too. And, the reader needed to know the differences. My writing coach used to say the easiest way to pick out a new writer as if the put their main character in front of a mirror and described themselves. You can add little bits of their looks through dialog.

    Dressing the characters: This is the same as describing what they look like.  If you are introducing a new character, you can add a little about what they are wearing. There is no need for every detail. Your reader can discern this on their own. Example: She walked toward me in her pale evening gown, carrying her three inch heals by their straps.

    Again, if it is an unusual character, such as someone from another planet, or your character is being brought in front of the king and you character only wore rags, then there is quite a contrast. 

2. Describing a scene.

    This one can be tough. You know if you are describing an important scene, such as your main character seeing an alien city for the first time, you want to add more description, but you don't have to write two pages worth. Just enough to give the reader a visual. 

    If you want to describe a room, or a house, unless this is really important to your story, such as the character finds themselves in a dingy cell, then don't over do the description. If it is a room that is pertinent, then add more otherwise, just a little is enough.

    If your scene is an action scene, then you want to describe as much as you can to give the visual, but this is usually a fast moving scene, so choreography is important here. If your reader can't see how your characters were killed, they will be stopped in mid-read and reread it trying to figure it out. This is where a critique partner or beta-reader really comes in handy! Another set of eyes are always helpful.



   A trip can also be tough to decide what is important. When I took Stevie and her friends on their quest, they had to travel across the country. At first I had detailed every part, and luckily for me, my critique partners told me there was no reason to add every detail, such as where they stopped for gas, and food, and what road they took. You only need to show a little of this and unless something important happens along the way, then get them to their destination. Once there, I did have to add more description of the lay of the land for effect. It was in an area that most people do not travel, Princess Royal Island. This area is protected for one, because of the spirit bear, and is a difficult terrain. 

3. A love scene.

    Since this is an area where, even though I have kissing scenes with Stevie and her love, I don't have a lot of experience with. I have read these scenes and one thing that sticks in my mind, is I don't need a whole lot of detail here. For me, how many different ways can you describe two people having sex? I have seen writers go overboard here, and I don't believe you have too. I think sweet love scenes are better for descriptions, but that's just me. But, to describe 'every' detail is a bit much, if you know what I mean?!

4. Descriptions between dialog.

    This is one I see done way over the top. I know that internal thought is important, but there is no reason to add it in between each line of dialog. A little is enough. Example:

Katy couldn't wait to hold Jim in her arms. She ran to him and he pulled her in. "I've missed you so much," she cried. She looked deep into his eyes and remembered what he had said to her the last time they were together. How he would come back to her.

"I'm so glad to be home," Jim said.

"I had hoped we could spend the evening together," she added. The last time he came home he had gone straight to work, and they had no time together. She needed to be alone with him. It had been a long time since they spent a quiet evening. 

I hope this helps you to understand what I'm talking about. This is just a little example, but I have seen where writers continue this through almost every dialog, it's a little annoying. 

Well, I hope this post helps. It is hard to tell you what is important for description and what isn't. You have to look at each of your scenes. The one example that always comes to mind for me is in the book The Secret Garden. There is a scene where the writer describes a flower for several pages. Now I don't know about you, but I don't need that much description about a flower. Of course, if it's a man eating plant like in Little Shop of Horrors, that's one thing, but that should give you an idea of what not to do. 

Until next week, I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend and I look forward to your comments! Monday will be about Point of View.

Love, Lisa






Thursday, February 7, 2013

Do You Cut What's Not Necessary?

I just finished reading a book series, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but there were some writing issues that I not only saw in these books, but in other self-published as well. Not that I haven't made these mistakes myself, but I do have critique partners and editors that have helped me to hopefully fix these mistakes. I am sure when I receive my manuscript back from the professional editor, she will point out more that we need to fix before launching the book. Which is fine with me, more to learn in this on going 'class' of creative writing. 

One of the hardest challenges of a writer is you can't see the mistakes like other's do. I have seen this time and time again. In fact, people point out something for us to fix and we just told our critique partner that they were doing the same thing. 

But, what is really getting to me is the attitude of a lot of editor's today, they are changing the rules. Of course you don't want to change the 'voice' of a writer, but writing issues are just that, mistakes. 

So, I thought maybe talk about a different issue each day on the blog and hopefully get people to talk about these creative writing challenges. There is always something to learn, and I am up for new ideas myself. 

I feel fortunate to have had such a wonderful writing coach. Janet Roots taught me a lot about creative writing skills and I soaked up the knowledge like a wet sponge. She is from Europe and they are more rigid about sticking to the 'rules' of creative writing, which I have to say, makes for a more tighter and cleaner read. I wish the newer American editors would stick to these rules themselves. The books out there would be not only good stories, but great reads. 

Today I thought we could talk about cutting where we need too, and keeping what's important to the story. I have found one of the hardest things to do is delete a sentence, or even a scene that's not necessary for the book. 

1. Don't fall in love with a line, you might need to get rid of it because it doesn't add anything to your book. 

2. When you are in the process of revisions on your manuscript, look at each scene and ask yourself, does this really add to the story? Is it important enough to write a scene for?

3. As you revise, look at each sentence and see what words you can cut. For example, go through your manuscript and do a find on each sentence that starts with But or And, and see if you can rid yourself of the But and And. You will find that you won't need a lot of them. 

4. And finally, watch your info dump areas. Can you tell this information in dialog as apposed to inner thoughts? This is a great tool for character building.

So, those are my suggestions for cutting, and hopefully, enriching your writing. I know that it's hard to make yourself cut, especially a whole scene, but if it isn't important you are leaving your reader left to skim certain scenes. Which takes away from what you're trying to accomplish, a loyal reader of your books.

What do you do to cut down your manuscripts? Do you take the time to get rid of the info dump?

Leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts on this subject. Next blog I will talk about redundancy.


Until Monday, have a great weekend! Love, Lisa 









Monday, February 4, 2013

Protecting Your Online Pivacy

In the last few months I have had more problems with my sites being protected from either phishings, or putting unwanted ads on my blog. I have changed my pass words several times and even considered closing accounts and re-opening them for fear that once a perpetrator gets into one of them, they keep them open for future hits.

With my email I have found that I might have to do just that, close it out and reopen. I wish there was an easier way to contact companies that run these sites so you can have them close it, and then reopen without issues. Google is one I wish there was a way to talk to someone. I cannot for the life of me understand why you can't contact them and actually talk to a 'live' person?!

I also clean my computer once a week on top of everything else, and I still have issues. 

I was made aware that my blog was being hit with ads in my comments this weekend. I had to go in and change my availability for comments to only those who have registered ID's. I wanted to let all of you know that in case you have a hard time commenting. I am hoping it won't affect you being able to post. 

Now, this morning I was made aware that Twitter is having issues with this very problem and so when I am finished here I have to go in and change all my passwords again. 

I think it's time to learn more about this issue and see what I can do to stop it. Do you have these problems too? Do you know, or have, any information on this topic that could help me avoid this in the future?

It is really getting old and I am concerned about protecting my novel, and books I write in the future. If you have any information or ideas, please leave them in the comments below. I sure could use the help!

On a lighter note: I decided to allow a friend of a friend to read my entire novel for feedback. She lives in Germany and I've never met her, which I thought would make an excellent candidate. I heard back from her this weekend and I am so happy to tell you that she loved the book and asked to be a future beta-reader! In fact, she said she would read any and all if I would let her. 

I can't tell you how excited I am about her enthusiasm of the story. It means the world to me and my sister! Thank You Jessi!

I hope that all of you have a great week and I look forward to any ideas you might have about the issues with phishings. Take care and see you back here on Thursday!


Love, Lisa