Monthly Archives: July 2012

Off to a Conference!

Well, I’m a day away from attending my very first writing conference, and I’m so excited!

In the past weeks I’ve been hyper-focused on my novel, Kyresa. My goal was to have it finalized, edited, and proofed by the conference, so that I could start querying agents the moment I got home. Goal attained! I can now rest easy knowing the creation part is done…and the hard part—marketing—is about to begin.

Bring it!

Tomorrow I will head off for the Cascade Writers Workshop, where I will get to work with several other writers, as well as a handful of editors and agents. Most of the authors attending also write in the fantasy genre, and I expect it will be a great time. (The numerous hilarious emails flying around between group members are starting to confirm my suspicions!) We will be workshopping, critiquing, socializing, and writing as a group, and I’ll also be pitching Kyresa at a formal pitch session. Fun!

Since I still have a gigantic To Do list to tackle before my flight tomorrow (um, starting with PACKING, sort of important…), I’m going to sign off for now. When I return, I’m sure I’ll have tons of stories to share. Can’t wait!

Also next week: I’ll be settling into a more regular blogging schedule again (TBA) and I’ll share my thoughts on Stephen King’s On Writing. I’ll leave you with one word for now: fantastic.

Stay tuned, and have a splendid rest of the week, everyone! 🙂

Advertisements

Fabulous Blog Ribbon Award

I’ve just been honored with the Fabulous Blog Ribbon Award by Katherine Checkley!

Thanks, Katherine! 🙂

Katherine is the author of The Intrinsic Writer blog. Her posts are lively, informative, and inspirational. Every time I read them, I’m delighted with her style. Katherine’s blog is actually one of the very first blogs I started following because she had a ton of information on her site, so I encourage you to check her out!

Thank you so much, Katherine! I’m flattered you thought of me!

*Squeal!*

The Fabulous Blog Ribbon Award has five simple rules. They are:

1. Thank the blogger who gave it to you and share the link back to the awarding blog.

2. Name 5 fabulous moments in your life.

3. Name 5 things that you love.

4. Name 5 things you hate.

5. Pass the award to 5 deserving bloggers.

All right, here goes…

Five fabulous moments in my life:

  • The day my father figured out I was addicted to writing and finagled an old Mac from his coworker. Which I promptly sat in front of, every day that summer, at the tender age of 12. (I was never much of an outdoors girl.)
  • The day my mother took my hands into hers after I’d won a speech-writing contest at 17 and said, “Honey, I’m so proud of you. You do it all. Sing, dance, write, act—you’re like Madonna, but better. Keep it up!” (Ah, thanks mom!) (I should mention I was and still am a huge Madonna fan. 🙂 )
  • The first day of my teaching career. I was 23, the kids in my Geometry class were adorable, and after they left the room, I ran my fingers along the desks with a big beaming smile and thought, “Oh my goodness! I’m getting paid for this awesomeness!”
  • The day I passed my subtests (10 years later) to earn an additional credential in English. (I imagine the first day of this school year, when I’ll get to teach English too, will be a new moment to add to this list!)
  • Every time I’ve finished an edit of Kyresa, and in particular, this last one—there are tears, a celebration, a feeling like I’ve done something right, and then a rush of excitement for the next step! Woo hoo!

Five things I love:

  • My niece. (If you’ve followed this blog, you’ve probably guessed this one.) She is almost 5, and is also known as the Most Adorable Niecey On the Planet. A weekend with little Miss V trumps all!
  • Friend time. I adore my friends to pieces and would pretty much throw myself in front of a bus for most of them. I often joke I’m “everybody’s girlfriend” because I like to make them all laugh and help them out as much as I can. Can’t help it; it just is. XOXO to my pals.
  • My cats. No, I’m not a crazy cat lady, but I am pretty amused by the two of them. They think they’re dogs—one played fetch for two years and the other will smother you in love—and once I figured out they could open jars I decided they’re twice as much fun. I also love white tigers, leopards, panthers, and jaguars, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t house train so well. 😉
  • Working out. I’m kind of a fiend, except when I’m in big-time writing mode—then I struggle to stay on top of it. But golly I sure do love my gym time.
  • Candy. (Um, sort of the direct opposite of the last one, I know.) Candy is my nemesis, but I love it so. Gummies, Good N’ Plenty, and especially licorice are my favorites, and I can’t keep candy in my house because I cannot stop eating it. My dentist once told me I’m the poster child for teeth brushing, because I clearly feel so guilty over my habit that I brush all the time to compensate. I’ve toned it down a lot (not the brushing), but if you put candy in front of me, the rate at which it gets eaten will blow your mind. Sigh…

Five things I hate:

  • I hate the word “hate.” I hate the way it is used all the time, I hate that people feel it, and I hate that I still use the word too. I particularly “hate” when children tell their parents/teachers “You hate me, don’t you?” It takes so much energy to hate someone. I don’t have the time, and neither do you. Let’s hug and move along already, world!
  • The inability for people to directly say what they mean. I get the sense that we’re particularly bad about this here in America, where “I’ll call you” gets thrown out (for example) when it isn’t meant. I think we would be better off just being honest, because then rejection wouldn’t sting so bad, no matter what the case (dating, publishing, hangouts, etc.). I would rather hear, “Thanks for lunch. It was interesting spending time with you, but I don’t think we’re a match,” or “I really want to hang out, but I’m super busy right now,” instead of evasiveness or vagueness. Can you imagine what life would be like if we all said this stuff? I think we’d be confident people able to handle rejection by age eight! (Perhaps I’m dreaming, but this is my theory.)
  • Sleeplessness. As a teen, I didn’t sleep much. As an adult, I get by on 6 to 7 hours of sleep. So while those nights I stare at the ceiling may be residual from my teen years, they still drive me bonkers. (I am sure I’m not alone in this.)
  • Heavy amounts of garlic. I can actually smell it on me for days, and I usually dream of vampires (nope, not kidding) when I eat loads of garlic.
  • Inconsiderate drivers. A common phrase uttered in my car is, “They know they have turn signals, right?”

and finally…

Five deserving bloggers!

  • Jessica Vealitzek, who runs the True STORIES blog. I’ve nominated her for an award before, and I’ll nominate her one hundred times over. Her blog focuses on real stories, and they are anything from deep and painful to lighthearted and fun. Jessica is a fellow SheWrites member, and we’ve formed a kinship via email as new writers storming the path and plotting to take over the world. (Whoops. Did I say that out loud?) You are awesome, Jessica!
  • Anna Meade at Yearning for Wonderland. Let it be known, Anna is a fairy princess and a dark fairy, all rolled into one. She is probably the funniest person I follow on Twitter, and her blog posts are delightful—she posts a variety of musings as well as lovely flash fiction pieces. (Anna was also one of the co-hosts of the Once Upon a Time Flash Fiction contest I entered; if you’d like to read all the entries in a beautiful print anthology you can buy it here.) Her blog is also incredibly whimsical, and easy to get sucked into if you like pretty things, fairies, or fairy tales. 🙂
  • S.J.I. Holliday for her flash fiction-focused blog, http://sjiholliday.com/. Susi was the other co-host of the OUAT contest, and I’m pretty sure she and Anna were fairy twins separated at birth (follow them both on Twitter and you’ll belly laugh for hours). This wonderful lady writes some amazing flash fiction—that’s very short fiction—and great commentary on reading and writing in general. Let’s just say that thanks to her and Anna, I believe in fairy tales again. 🙂
  • Vanessa Grassi, who runs http://vanessagrassi.com/. Big heart, big thoughts, and a lot of good posts. Vanessa’s blog is currently on hiatus until the fall (she, too, felt the call of the writing, and had to pause to focus on it), but every time I read her posts I feel her enthusiasm soar off the page.
  • Melanie Conklin, a writer and designer at http://www.melanieconklin.com/. When I think of Melanie’s posts, the first thing that comes to mind is intelligence. She is a clever woman, and her posts about writing and the publishing world are quite thoughtful. Sometimes she relates the writing process to her design work, and I find the connection fascinating. I particularly enjoyed Melanie’s last post, What Agents Really Mean When They Say “We’re Not a Match”, because it’s so true! (If you’re a writer and you haven’t seen this piece, be sure to read it.)

I hope you have the opportunity to check out each of these wonderful blogs!

Thank you again to Katherine, and keep up the great writing and reading, everyone!


How I Edit

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you.  And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.  ~Arthur Polotnik

An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff.  ~Adlai Stevenson, as quoted in You Said a Mouthful edited by Ronald D. Fuchs

If I don’t answer my phone today, it’s because I’m editing. Or, I jumped out the window. ~Me
As many of you know, I’ve been on a mission to edit my work in progress, Kyresa. There are some steps left before I can actually call the book “finished,” but I am pleased to announce the editing stage is officially done! Woo hoo!

Editing is a funny thing—it is imperative for crafting a quality piece, but it’s also a grueling, tedious stage that must usually happen several times. While every writer edits, I don’t believe every writer edits in the same manner. Today I thought I’d share the process I used for the most recent edit of Kyresa.

First of all, this last edit was more of an edit/rewrite/edit mashup. I had an idea that I might potentially want to change the ending, but I knew that I couldn’t make that decision until I re-immersed myself in the story. When I started, Kyresa was 111,400 words. That’s about 404 pages, double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font. I printed it out 2-sided and put it into a binder that I could tote around wherever I went. I armed myself with three goals:

  • Cut the crap.
  • Cut the crap.
  • Cut the crap.

Then I set five more goals to work through as I edited:

  • If there’s a simpler way to say it, find it.
  • Lay off the dialogue tags if the speaker is clear. (“You sure do talk a lot, Eva,” THE BLOG READER SAID.)
  • Keep an eye on adverbs, because Mr. Stephen King thinks they’re the devil and he probably knows his devils writing horror and all.
  • Don’t rob the reader of the right to come up with her own image of the person/place/thing by giving too many showing details. (I am a control freak, so over-explanation can happen.) (Like that last parenthetical comment.) (Sorry.)
  • Decide if I want to change the ending. (I wrote a note to myself about 20 pages after where I thought I’d like to end it that said, “Are you feeling an ending change, Eva?”—and yes, this is actually written on the page.)

So, I went through the whole book this way, marking all over it with a variety of pens. Some pages were just a little marked up, and some looked like I had a blue/green/red pen party and just dripped the ink everywhere like a crazy person. And when I made my way to the moment of ending-change decision, I opted to go for it!

This is where the “rewrite” part of the mashup happened. I pulled all the scenes I wanted to delete out of the binder and tucked them in the back, but kept the scenes between that I thought were useful. Then I blared Clannad’s “I Will Find You” two times as theme music before setting off to write the new ending. (I generally do not write to music, but sometimes I will listen to it and run it through my head as I write. Or blurt out singing. Either way works.) I then printed out the new scene and stuck it in the binder, and went back to fix the story where necessary to accommodate my new ending. This involved a lot of scrap paper hole punched and stuck in where appropriate, and lots of lines written over entire margins. I also seriously edited my new scene, since it was freshly written and needed some heavy tuning.

Once I got to the last page, I started to tear up. In fact, I get teary-eyed every time I get to the end of this book. (This means either it’s moving or I’m a complete sap, only time will tell.)

After that, I watched a movie and then cleaned up my office (please reference Clean Space, Fresh Perspective for more info on this, and if you’re feeling a tad more voyeuristic, you can learn about and see what my office space looks like in a guest post I did here), but from then on it was business. I proceeded to enter all the changes into the computer. This took a loooonnnggggg time (days), because along the way I found other little changes, and of course I did all of this knowing there were more to come. Over and over again. And again.

After the changes were in, Kyresa was down to about 101,000 words—I’d say half of this was due to the ending change and the other half to my aforementioned goals. But I still wasn’t done!

Now came the “find and replace” (F&R) game.

I did this with every word I’d noticed as an overused word when I edited, and with others I found through the SmartEdit software I mentioned in my last post. I searched for repeated actions (sighing, for example), passive voice (was, were, to be) and for words we humans tend to overuse without realizing (that, so, few, really, very, just, even, like, and many others). Changing these words didn’t always entail deleting or the simple use of the “replace” function; sometimes the whole sentence needed restructuring. In addition, I went through Every.Single.Adverb that SmartEdit recorded and evaluated its purpose, and ran the dreaded F&R one more time for the word as (which, by the way, I am now seeing everywhere, and it makes me want to throw things).

All of this cut Kyresa way down in unnecessary wordage—to 93,400 words, as a matter of fact!

(Oh my gawd I said “as” and I think I’m going to scream!)

After that, I did a happy dance. This was both to celebrate and to cheer me up, because every time I did the F&R function I went from the beginning to the end of the novel—meaning there were a lot of teary eyes again. Geez…

Lastly, I ran a spellcheck and a computer-version of proofread (which is hilarious for a fantasy novel, by the way: Wench. “Sexist expression. Avoid using this word.”), printed it out, and set it aside for a few days to stew before I proofread it for any glaring grammatical errors, typos, or other oddities that need cutting.

Another thing of note—and I want to mention this because I think it’s important no matter what you’re writing, be it a book, some poetry, or a paper for school—I resave about every 10 minutes, and each day I save the file with a new name. “Kyresa(updated 7-1-12),” then “Kyresa(updated 7-2-12),” etc., so that I can always go back if I change my mind on cutting a scene. And though I have a backup drive, I also email the file to myself every few days (because a backup drive is no good if your house burns down).

Sooooo…there you have it, my editing process. 🙂

Now I’m curious: what’s yours? Please share in the comment section below! I’m sure many of you have some great ideas that the rest of us would like to [steal] know about! Thanks for sharing, and happy editing!


Hacksaws, FRINGE, and Some Darn Good Books

One of the upsides to my current once-a-week blog schedule is that I’m finding myself stocked up on things to talk about! Picture me as the little kid with my cheeks poofed, holding my breath all week long to say something… 🙂

First item: Hacksaws

A hacksaw would be the metaphorical utility I’m using to edit the crap out of Kyresa. Somehow I’m still working on it (!), but I’m having a good time. I noticed at some point that Kyresa had started sighing too much. They say some of your traits appear in your characters, and I’m a sigher in real life—less because I’m a romantic than because I tend to over-analyze and think too hard—but this is clearly not an acceptable trait for a powerful, immortal Queen. Nope, nope, nope. So, we had a long pep talk, and now she’s a much stronger character. Phew!

I’d also like to share this nifty editing software my friend passed along, SmartEdit, which helps you track overused words, phrases, adverbs, etc. You name it, this program will find your errors and blow your mind with your redundancies. The catch? It only runs on PCs. I myself run on a Mac platform, but fortunately my netbook is a PC, so after a few file transfers…boom! I learned that my real-life tendency to smile all the time is getting a little old in my characters. “Find and replace” is currently my best friend, and I’m delighted to report that so far, between an ending change, some general cleanup, and my recent obsession with tightening up my manuscript, I’ve cut Kyresa from 111,400 words down to 98,400! I’m not done yet, but I’m thrilled with this progress. THRILLED.

Second item: FRINGE

I am fairly intrinsically motivated, but I like a good reward on occasion. My latest “gift” has been one episode of Fringe a night after I reach my editing quota. At 22 episodes per season and four episodes to catch up on, you might imagine this has taken me an extraordinarily long time—it has! But it’s been such a great reward, and now I can’t wait for the fifth and final season to start in the fall!

If you haven’t checked out this incredibly intelligent Sci-Fi series, please do. I’ve talked to a couple people who said they started but couldn’t get into it, and it’s my belief that Fringe takes a few (read: four or five) episodes to get completely sucked in—unless you’re a Sci-Fi person, in which case I suspect you’ll be in by Episode 2. Fringe follows the FBI’s Fringe Division, a super secret department responsible for solving unusual and otherworldly cases. They might involve radically unknown toxins, strange disasters, shape shifters and DNA mutations, telepathy, or even trips to another universe! In fact, there’s a whole element of this other universe flowing beautifully through Fringe, and it’s quite fascinating. What’s thrilling about this show is that it’s not just about the Sci-Fi elements (which are indeed spectacular) but also about the dynamic between the four main characters. Anna Torv plays Olivia Dunham, a uniquely talented FBI agent who partners with an offbeat genius scientist, Walter Bishop (played by John Noble) and his wickedly clever son, Peter (played by Joshua Jackson). Jasika Nicole plays Astrid Farnsworth, a big-hearted FBI agent who assists Walter in his research. Walter and Peter Bishop have a touching father-son relationship, which is complicated by a serious faux-pas Walter committed in the past. It is this very faux-pas that creates many of the Sci-Fi elements of the series (that I cannot describe without giving away the geniusness of this show), and which forces them to work through several definite tangles. Meanwhile, Astrid and Walter have a kind closeness, sharing some really lovely moments as she helps him—a once-committed, wild scientist—work through the cases. Anna Torv as Olivia is the most complex of all; she’s a strong agent who works through the cases with ease, but she must also shuffle through the trauma of her youth which makes her so essential to these cases. At first she comes off a bit flat, but as you go through the series—wow. Her range proves to be completely astounding as the story unfolds. As-tound-ing!

Add a little romance, some good special effects, and a bit of clever dialogue to these stellar characters and you have one of my favorite shows of all time. The only negative thing I can say is that the show ends after season 5. Boo!

Third Item: Darn Good Books

I finished a book and started a book this week. Currently, I’m about 100 pages into Stephen King’s On Writing, and it’s great. I can’t wait to share more after I’m done!

The book I finished is preparation for the fall semester, when I become the Math-English teaching hybrid. (I feel a Sci Fi story here. Truly.) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is well-written and sweet, and narrated by Christopher John Francis Boone. Christopher is an autistic teen who leads you through his investigation of the “curious incident,” one that also happens to carry through the relationship between him and his father, as well as the connection between his parents. Christopher is an intelligent young man, and Haddon’s portrayal of his eccentricities is pure brilliance. Haddon worked with autistic individuals in his past, and his empathy shows on every page. Christopher is lovable, clever, and detailed, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in his adventure. It’s also a great experience to follow the mind of someone in his shoes—it really makes you reevaluate the way you look at the world. I highly recommend it!

All right, the little girl pushed her fingers into her cheeks, expelling all the intel she’d held for the week for this one information-packed blog post! 😉 Now time for some more editing.

Hacksaw at the ready!


Mi Casa Es Su Casa, or, a Bonus Post!

Yeah, yeah, I know I said I wouldn’t be back all that often while I’m editing, but after spending over seven hours focused on Kyresa today (woo hoo!), I decided that I ought to reward myself with a teeny tiny addendum post.

You may remember my post last week, Clean Space, Fresh Perspective; I went on a mad cleaning spree after being inspired by Anna Meade’s “A Room of My Own” series. Anna runs the lovely Yearning for Wonderland blog, and after seeing my post, she asked if I’d like to participate and share my room. I was of course delighted to join in!

If you’d like to learn more about where all my writing happens, you can do so here: My Room. (There’s even a picture!) A big thank you to Anna for inviting me to participate in the series. It was fun!

Also, after yesterday’s post, I decided I needed to seal in my reestablished confidence as an author…

So I ordered myself some business cards. 🙂

Have a great week, everyone!


Process, Self-Doubt, and…a Published Piece!

It’s been another solid week of editing…however, this week proved a bit more challenging for a handful of reasons. The first noticeable obstacle was the three-trip adventure to the mechanic for my mysteriously overheating car—sadly, this resulted in a loss of a lot of editing time, and also no verdict on the car (hmph). It also led to a bit of meandering around on foot and thinking, which then rushed me right into the monster obstacle of the week: a giant case of randomly and inconveniently induced self-doubt.

Generally I’m a pretty confident and ambitious person. I mean, it was only 8,000,000* changes, and my years performing circus led me to believe that I’m part Superwoman, so really, how hard could this be?

Ha.

I was editing, then I was up, then I was editing, then I was off in la-la land, then I was editing, and…well, you get the picture. Sure, I suppose I could attribute some of it to my self-diagnosed adult A.D.D., but as I stewed and fretted and wondered “Really, really, can I ever truly finish this book?”, I started thinking maybe it wasn’t the five-year-old trapped in my head after all.

I read some good blogs on getting motivated, and a great post on Letting it Go that I bookmarked and kept referencing (you should too). I had lunch with my talented author and graphic novelist friend MariNaomi, who handed me Stephen King’s On Writing (she’s also the third person to recommend this book to me). I made a deal with myself that I would definitely peruse this memoir right after I entered the 8,000,000* changes in my book but before I gave it a last touch-up read, since I might actually learn something helpful from Mr. King. And then when all that still didn’t seem to make me any calmer, I busted out my Kaiser medical handbook and learned how to belly breathe.

Sadly, all good monster stories tend to contain the really scary moment when the beast goes haywire. And that moment happened. Hard.

I happened to be on the phone with my cousin. I don’t usually like to refer to her as my cousin; she is more of a best friend than a relative, and she is also one of my treasured beta-readers/editors. She’s sassy and smart, and despite our familial connection, she can critically (but kindly) tear apart most any text I throw in front of her. We keep telling her husband that the two of us are going to quit our jobs so he can support us while I write in their basement and she edits for me full-time, but alas, he seems a little slow on follow-through…

All of this aside, the darling dear had something I really needed at that moment: patience and a good ear. I told her my frustrations—because “life” happened, I shelved this book so many times and for such long intervals (read: years) that my first novel had now been with me for the better part of two decades [belly breathe], and I have so many great ideas bouncing around and waiting for me to hurry up and finish that it was distracting and frustrating me [belly breathe], though of course I love the book I’ve been carrying around for more than half my life, but would I ever stop finding things to change on it [belly breathe!], because it simply feels so drastically different from the style I’ve been writing on the side for the last ten years, and how would that ever work? [BELLY BREATHE!]…Wah wah wah, cue violins, play a sad song, and then I dropped to the floor to belly breathe again.

After my cousin ascertained that I was indeed alive and breathing like a normal person, she said, in the wisest and calmest of voices, “Eva, you’re doing fine. It’s your first novel. Of course it’s going to be the hardest. So finish this edit, get it out there to some agents, and then feel good about it no matter what. You owe it to yourself to finish and move on.”

Before I knew it, I was on my feet with that last little sentence on a post-it hanging on my mirror (no I’m not kidding). I was ready to go full-tilt and finish this little baby.

And honestly, I realized the end is not so far away. In fact, here’s a pretty little visual for how many of the 8,000,000* changes I’ve entered:

So close!

I cooed to my cousin for about ten straight minutes with lots of thanks and a threat to send her cookies in the mail, and then I pulled out more pages to enter. Before I started, I checked my email and got the real kick in the pants to cheer up and get to work:

The wonderful anthology that Susi Holliday had worked and slaved over from April’s Once Upon a Time Flash Fiction Contest was in print and ready to order!!! I mean, could I get any more inspiration than that?!

So, in summary, I think I need to spout a few great lessons I learned here.

1. Surround yourself with good people.

2. Listen to the wise words of your cousin/friend.

3. Belly breathe. Often.

4. Don’t let the Self-Doubt Beast win when it comes to writing. So the book takes forever, and maybe it doesn’t get published, but you’ll never know if you don’t try. And if it doesn’t work, okay, move along. In fact,

5. “You owe it to yourself to finish it and move on.”

6. And finally, always celebrate good things—like, for example, my first ever published piece. Yippee!

If you would like your very own copy of this fantastic anthology, you can hop on over to Amazon to order it here: Once Upon a Time: A Collection of Unexpected Fairytales. Edited by S.J.I. Holliday and Anna Meade, this anthology contains 89 tales by brilliant authors on the theme of “Unexpected Fairytales,” and it’s only $3.70 plus shipping. The proceeds beyond production costs even go to charity!

So, I’m off to edit now, with a big smile on my face and no belly breathing necessary. And thanks to all of YOU for going on this journey with me. 🙂

*Special Note: A week later, I am still fessing up to my tendency to exaggerate, often with the number 8. But shhh, don’t tell, or I’ll have to pick another number. 😉


%d bloggers like this: