Tuesday, October 9, 2012

NaNo Survival Kit

And so it is beginning...NaNo 2012!  We're gearing up for it and building suspense, momentum, plots, and epic problems to write our way of next month!  So, let me ask, what would you (or what DO you) include in your NaNo Survival Kit?

My NaNo Survival Kit
~Armae (My laptop)
~Koppur (my netbook for when I'm writing out of the house)
~Golden Jump Drive
~Jump drive pouch with 2 backups
~One spiral-bound white-papered legal pad (special pad that is only found at CVS) containing notes and outlines
~Assortment of favorite pens
~IPod and USB cord for recharging
~2 pairs of Earbuds
~Assortment of Creativity-Inducing Tools (ex: NaNo Fingerless Writing Gloves; headband with pink glitter bobble skulls; pink leather kitty kat eye mask; pink wig; purple wig)
~Knitted slipper booties
~Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, protein shakes, oatmeal, carnation instant breakfast, soup (my diet for 30 days)
~New apple-scented candles and brand new lighters for my office

Monday, September 3, 2012

Let's Talk About Adjectives

Let's have a little lesson about the Adjective.

An adjective is a word that modifies a noun.  
For example: the green chair, the old couch, the sexy Marine.

Adjectives are great when used correctly, because they can help a reader "see" something in a more specific way, and there are times when a sock and a holey sock can mean totally different things and can impact your story in completely different ways.  Don't believe me?  Check out what happens when I remove the adjectives from the following sentence:

Original sentence:  As Kate walked into the abandoned building, she was careful to avoid stepping on any broken floorboards; the last thing she needed was to take a step and end up falling through to the dank and rat-infested basement below.

Without adjectives: As Kate walked into the building, she was careful to avoid stepping on any floorboards; the last thing she needed was to take a step and end up falling through to the basement below.

Not only does it not make sense (Why is Kate worried about stepping on floorboards? How is she going to even avoid that - walk on the walls?), but it takes the intensity out of the situation (sure, falling through the floor to the basement is bad enough, but it'd be 10 times worse to fall through the floor into a basement that was dank and filled with rats!).

However, please note I said adjectives are great when used correctly.  Yeah, you know where I'm going with this...

How not to use adjectives.

Using too many adjectives is overkill.  It bogs your writing and the story down, making it feel heavy, clunky, and at times, pretentious.  You don't need an adjective with every noun.  In fact, I'm telling you right now, NEVER use an adjective with every noun!  Treat the adjective as you would hot sauce: a little dash of it here and there can spice up a meal and make it better than before, but too much will ruin the meal and make you sick to your stomach.  And if you're one of those wacky people who love your hot sauce and put it on everything, well, go get a job at a Taco Bell and sauce it up, baby!  But for the rest of you, a little discretion, please.

So what, exactly, does Adjective Overkill look like?  Here's an example I found when I was reading stories online one day...

Hands cramping with the unproductive chore, he stood and surveyed the shallow hole, the rocky ground that had never mothered a seed to growth, the only root a dry husk that lie broken at the foot of its shriveled and dehydrated flower, and the setting sun behind the barn.

Count 'em.  Go ahead, count 'em  That's 8 adjectives. 8 adjectives and only 3 nouns that don't have an adjective with them in one sentence.  Adjective Overkill.  Not only that, but of those 3 unadjectived nouns, the first one is given an adverb (hands cramping), and the second is given anthropomorphic qualities (ground that has never mothered a seed).  It's only the last noun (barn) that is left to stand alone.  It's as if the author had suddenly run out of steam and said "Screw it, I'm just gonna leave that one alone; nobody will notice anyway."

But I promise, people will notice.  If for no other reason than we've been trudging through your mucky narration for the last three lines and suddenly we find ourselves stepping out of the puddle free and clear.  And sadly, that single, simple noun at the end only calls attention to all the overly-adorned nouns in the rest of the writing.

So I beg of you, please, don't let yourself go crazy with adjectives.  If you find yourself using more than one or two in a paragraph, consider rewriting the whole paragraph.  There are plenty of ways to convey your meaning and setting in prose without the overkill.  I promise you.  I sincerely promise you.  I sincerely, truly, honestly, absolutely promise you.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Much thanks to a friend of mine (the kickass author of Anypocalypse: The Ladies Guide to Surviving Anypocalypse) for sharing with me a new online publication called eFiction.

It's pretty cool, describing themselves as "the modern descendant of pulp fiction magazines" and having with a simple mission statement of:

(Yeah, I snagged that right off their website, heh).

They have six genre fiction magazines (eFiction Romance, eFiction Fantasy, eFiction Noir, eFiction Horror, eFiction Scifi, and eFiction Steampunk) that they'll be launching as soon as they have enough pieces for each respective magazine.  You can also submit book reviews, poetry, non-fiction pieces about the world of editing, artwork, and even serial fiction.

This could truly be the best online publication that has happened for years for the new/under-appreciated artist that's hiding inside all of us!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Another Genius McSweeney Post

I bring you another genius post from Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency...

Writing Better
Than You Normally Do

And remember, I accept all forms of gratitude, but cash and bottles of Pimm's are the preferred gifts!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

BEST "Fifty Shades of Grey" Review Ever!

I've been hearing about Christian Grey and his Fifty Shades for months now.  Evey body and their mothers' have been telling me I HAVE to read it.  Here's the thing: I'm not a fan of reading a book at the same time as everybody else in the world.  I think there is too much outside influence on it.  If you don't like it, what's wrong with you? If you do like it, of course you do; it's perfect!  Wait, you want to actually discuss the writing?  The plot?  The characters?  You see a flaw?  You obviously don't know what you're talking about; that was the BEST. BOOK. EVER!


I'm not saying I'll never read these grand best-sellers, but I like to wait until the hype has died down (and the long lines for the movie version) has disappeared first.  Example?  I just finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

But back to Mr. Grey.  Seems like these books are even invading my personal life now, as a guy that I'm a big fan of hooking up with has just confirmed to me that he's reading them!  I'm assuming it's to get tips?  Maybe get a better understanding of what women like in bed?  So I decided to suck it up and read (at least) the first book.  I went to Amazon to buy it today, and found myself instead reading customer reviews of it.  Below is my favorite one.  If you are a writer, you'll totally get it.  If you don't...well, have fun with Mr. Grey...I'm going to go see Magic Mike in technicolor!

Fifty Shades of Grey Review
RATED: 1/5 stars
Bestseller? Really??? March 25, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
I enjoy erotica and heard so much about this book that I had to give it a shot, but I'm five chapters in and just can't take it anymore. This has to be the most appallingly atrocious writing I've ever seen in a major release. The pseudonymous British author sets the action (such as it is) in Washington State... for no reason than that her knowledge of America apparently consists of what she read in "Twilight"... but the entire first-person narrative is filled with Britishisms. How many American college students do you know who talk about "prams," "ringing" someone on the phone, or choosing a "smart rucksack" to take "on holiday"? And the author's geography sounds like she put together a jigsaw puzzle of the Pacific Northwest while drunk and ended up with several pieces in the wrong place.

And oh, the repetition...and the repetition...and the repetition. I'm convinced the author has a computer macro that she hits to insert one of her limited repertoire of facial expressions whenever she needs one. According to my Kindle search function, characters roll their eyes 41 times, Ana bites her lip 35 times, Christian's lips "quirk up" 16 times, Christian "cocks his head to one side" 17 times, characters "purse" their lips 15 times, and characters raise their eyebrows a whopping 50 times. Add to that 80 references to Ana's anthropomorphic "subconscious" (which also rolls its eyes and purses its lips, by the way), 58 references to Ana's "inner goddess," and 92 repetitions of Ana saying some form of "oh crap" (which, depending on the severity of the circumstances, can be intensified to "holy crap," "double crap," or the ultimate "triple crap"). And this is only part one of a trilogy...

If I wrote like that, I'd use a pseudonym too.

Like some other reviewers, what I find terribly depressing is that this is a runaway bestseller and the movie rights are expected to sell for up to $5 million. There are so many highly talented writers in the genre... and erotica is so much more erotic when the author has a command of the language and can make you care about the characters. For examples, check out the "Beauty" trilogy written by Anne Rice under the pen name A.N. Roquelaure, or any stories by Donna George Storey or Rachel Kramer Bussel. Just stay away from this triple crap.

*UPDATE*: Thanks to the many other perturbed readers who have shared their own choices of the most annoyingly overused phrases in this masterpiece. Following up on their suggestions with my ever-useful Kindle search function, I have discovered that Ana says "Jeez" 81 times and "oh my" 72 times. She "blushes" or "flushes" 125 times, including 13 that are "scarlet," 6 that are "crimson," and one that is "stars and stripes red." (I can't even imagine.) Ana "peeks up" at Christian 13 times, and there are 9 references to Christian's "hooded eyes," 7 to his "long index finger," and 25 to how "hot" he is (including four recurrences of the epic declarative sentence "He's so freaking hot."). Christian's "mouth presses into a hard line" 10 times. Characters "murmur" 199 times, "mutter" 49 times, and "whisper" 195 times (doesn't anyone just talk?), "clamber" on/in/out of things 21 times, and "smirk" 34 times. Christian and Ana also "gasp" 46 times and experience 18 "breath hitches," suggesting a need for prompt intervention by paramedics. Finally, in a remarkable bit of symmetry, our hero and heroine exchange 124 "grins" and 124 "frowns"... which, by the way, seems an awful lot of frowning for a woman who experiences "intense," "body-shattering," "delicious," "violent," "all-consuming," "turbulent," "agonizing" and "exhausting" orgasms on just about every page.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Voice

I haven't been writing much this last week or so because I've been having trouble with my new project, and it's easier to stick my head in the sand and ignore it, than it is to try and find the solution...or, as other writer's will say, "I have writer's block."

Here's my dilemma:

I'm writing a non-fiction memoir (autobiographical account?) of the year I spent looking for love on the internet...pause for hysterical laughter to die down...still pausing...

However, I'm having trouble finding my voice.  Seems that while my therapist has said that I do no, in fact, have multiple personalities living in my head, I do, in fact, have multiple writing personalities in my voice.

Some of the accounts I've already written sound like I'm a whimsical, funny, kooky girl who waves off every practical joke karma throws at her with a chuckle and an eye roll, and some of them sound like I'm a bad-ass, sarcastic, take-no-shit kinda gal.  There are a few where I appear to be just your average 30+ year old who's afraid she's never going to find love, and a few where I'm the epitome of the confident, sexy, always-up-for-a-good-naked-time woman.  There's even one or two where I've earned my Puma badge (you aren't a Cougar until you hit 35).  And yes, I know that these are all side of myself, side to my personality, sides that my long-term family and friends will say totally recognize in me, but when you are writing, you need one clear, consistent voice.

Let me repeat that in case you missed it: When you write, you need one clear, consistent voice.

Which, for this project, I don't have, and so it sounds confusing and fake and like it's not the adventures of one woman, but several women, which is totally the opposite of what it's supposed to sound like.

So instead of working on this problem, I've just decided to ignore ALL the voices in my head for the holiday week, stick my head in the sand, and my body in the ocean.

Happy Fourth, all!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why You Should Join a Writing Group, Part 1

Last winter I was made co-organizer of a group on Meetup.com called Southcoast Part-time Authors.  It's a great group of people who love to write and are pursuing the ever elusive successful writing career.  I've met some great new people and it's helped me get my butt in the seat and accomplish something useful.  There are plenty of reasons why every writer should join a writing group, and here are some of mine.

1. The Group Write

The first of my reasons is the Group Write, which is basically where we all get together at one place, and we sit and work on our own projects.  It's great because no matter how badly you want to get up and do absolutely anything other than wrestle with your characters or twist that plot some more, you feel guilty if you do get up.  It calls attention to you, which, as most writers will tell you, is one thing we don't want - that's why we write, not act.

The Group Write is also great for having a set amount of time put aside for writing.  Even if you spend the entire time moving paragraphs around or changing everything from present tense to past, you are still committing yourself to working on your project for a couple hours that day.  For some writers, especially part-time authors who have that whole full-time non-writing career to spend 40 hours a week with, those hours with the group can sometimes be the only hours all week that get spent on their project.

Finally, I love a Group Write simply because it brings writers together.  Ask any writer and they'll tell you: writing can be a lonely job.  And it can be frustrating as hell.  Writers spend a lot of time in the world of our characters.  We step into their worlds, sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours, surrounded by "people" we have become attached to, "people" we know better than some of the people we know in real life.  And when it's time for us to step back out of that world and into the one with the three-dimensional people, well, sometimes we've been gone so long we simply can't find any 3-Ders. 

Which is why a Group Write can be so beneficial.  It brings writers, who are loners by trade, together, yet it still lets them be in their own fictional world where they need to be to play the role of creator.  It helps ease the transition from Almighty God to Plain Jane.  If nothing else, it reminds you that you're not the only one insane enough to listen to the voices in your head and write down their stories.


Next up on Why You Should Join a Writing Group: Getting Feedback