From The Agent’s Desk: How to Edit!

From The Agent’s Desk:
How to Edit!

I was having a conversation with my author, Shanna, the other day, and she was reading a post about editing and what to do once you’ve finished your first manuscript. Of course, she then goes on a clarifying rant about how it’s not just editing, but HOW to edit that took her a while to understand. Being the English person I am, I completely didn’t understand this for a minute and spent some time just sitting and thinking about it. I turned back to her, now realizing that editing and writing doesn’t come naturally for most people and immediately said, “THIS is something I can write about!”

So, here I am, and here you are reading this, hoping to better your editing skills. No pressure, right?! I’m better at teaching than I am at small talk, so let’s just get right to it!

Editing is so much about knowing your character, your story, and your voice, and most importantly, your weaknesses. Most people can’t identify their weaknesses until they have someone else point it out for them, and even then, writing is so subjective that another’s opinion doesn’t always help you with your own story and voice. There are times it’s even taken people years for someone to say “hey, you’re doing this wrong” in order for things to finally click into place.

The guidelines below are to help you identify weaknesses in your work and other people’s work. They’re not cure-alls, and they are most definitely not an instantaneous fix, but they will help you learn and recognize what’s most needed in your work when you’re so used to your voice that you can’t separate yourself from your manuscript. I highly advise multiple beta readers and critique partners in addition to these editing techniques, as all of these experiences help you to become a better writer! So, read on, my dear writers, and please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

1. Repetition of Words

This is a huge one I see constantly during line edits. If you’re repeating words, it needs to be purposeful and part of your voice/character’s voice. It should be a catchphrase or related to an emotion. However, repeating words for readers means that you’re losing your reader’s interest quickly. They’re reading your story because it’s something different, so you need to GIVE them something different in each line. Each line, paragraph, page, chapter, etc., should be ADDING to their experience as readers and moving them along at a nice pace. It’s all purposeful, and repetition of words is one of the biggest mistakes a writer can make.

In addition to this, there are probably a couple thousand words in your manuscript that you don’t even need in the vein of “that”, “very”, “just”, “softly” and many more. DELETE these words. They’re some of the most common words in the English language and they do nothing to further your manuscript and your writing.

I highly suggest going to Diana Urban’s post here, where she lists 43 words that you should be able to cut from your manuscript immediately. Open it, read it, look for them, and delete them!

2. Sentence Structure Variation

Speaking of words, sentence structure variation is my biggest pet peeve. This is especially difficult for people writing in first person because you’re somewhat limited, and then your sentences come out with “I ran to the mall. I bought that shirt I had wanted for so long. I had finally fulfilled my dream of owning the blue shirt. All my hard work paid off.”

Almost every single sentence we write naturally comes out as noun, verb, prepositional phrase, and so on and so forth. It turns into an extremely boring read, and if you do your research, you’ll find that the best writers are MASTERS of varying their sentence structure, including fragments, slang, and conjunctions in order to make reading flow nicely for today’s readers.

The only reason you should be repeating your sentence structure is to make an emphasis. If you want emphasis on a certain feeling, emotion, point, etc., it’s possible to repeat that sentence structure, but don’t over use it. If you must repeat your sentence structure for emphasis, stick to two sentences, as it’s enough for your brain to recognize it, but not enough for your readers to become bored of your writing.

In addition, my best advice for this is to STUDY some of your favorite writers in the age range and genre you’re writing in. Read their work and take notes. Some of your favorite sentences, paragraphs, and quotes, how are they written? What about it draws your attention? Where is the emphasis in the sentence and how are the sentences around it written to set up for your favorite lines?

3. Expository Language

One of the best ways to identify expository language is to go through your manuscript piece by piece and continue to ask yourself if your world building and narration is coming from your character or YOU! Is there a 3rd person narrator that just seems to pop up at the precise time needed to describe grandma’s wallpaper in the afternoon light? Is your narrator giving away secrets to your book before they actually happen, or after the fact? Is your reader being filled in to background information from this narrator, because they need to know the information but haven’t received it through action or dialogue yet?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, you’re including expository language where it doesn’t need to be. Even in adult manuscripts, it should be your characters voice coming through to build the world and emotions involved. It should be your character’s voice and dialogue cluing your readers in to past events and other’s feelings. You don’t need the extra narrator and descriptions. Take them all out and find a way to bring your back story, emotions, and world building in through dialogue, actions, and inner voice.

This is the classic “show, don’t tell” response that many people receive. Be aware of this, because if you master the practice of showing, rather than telling, effectively getting rid of your expository language, you have improved your writing ability ten fold!

4. Dialogue as a Purpose

I read a tweet from Writer’s Digest the other day, quoting Jordan Rosenfeld saying “Dialogue should serve a purpose, and that purpose should not be to reveal something obvious.”

How many of you state the obvious in your manuscripts? Do you clue the reader in with actions and dialogue, and then have your characters state what the reader should already know? TAKE IT OUT! It doesn’t need to be there. There is so much story to tell just in the look in someones eyes, body language, actions, and even inner voice. Why does your character need to say it?

In addition, if your character does need to say it and tell another character about something, you need to make sure that all of your characters actions support that statement and how they’re feeling about it, without fully giving the idea away. Every single word in your manuscript serves a purpose, and if you find dialogue that doesn’t serve a purpose, is placed in there as a useless filler, is put in there to make a reader laugh, is stating the obvious or repeating something the reader already knows, take it out. It doesn’t need to be there, and I can assure you that your manuscript and writing skills will be stronger by learning to connect the two dots around it without needless dialogue.

What are your characters really trying to say? How else can they express this? Is the reader already aware of what needs to be said?

 

5. Realistic Dialogue

This gets many, many people rejections from my query box. If you have a contemporary novel and you’re not using contractions (can’t, won’t, didn’t, etc.) than you need to start using them. You should be writing dialogue and voice the same way you speak. We, as most humans, speak in slang, and to have your character not speak in slang means that you’re character isn’t realistic or relatable.

This isn’t to say that if you’re writing a historic novel, your characters can’t speak in proper, older English. Or maybe your manuscript takes place in another country where the language is broken from another character’s point of view, so you need to write your dialogue with an accent (but not too much, as it still needs to be readable!). Write it how you would hear it and understand it. Write your dialogue with thought and precision. Going back to your dialogue should be purposeful, so should every single word in your dialogue be purposefully written to be fluent, relatable, realistic, and readable.

Small tip: If you’re writing in an accent or inserting another language into your manuscript, let your readers imagination work FOR you, not against you. Your readers will naturally highlight the accent and will hear it in their minds, even if it’s lessened to a point of understanding. You don’t want your reader overworking themselves trying to figure out what your dialogue actually says in the accent. You need a comfortable in between to let your reader’s minds wander and help you. Saying a few words in another language that your readers may not understand can also help to bring a sense of culture to your manuscript. You don’t have to have them always explain these words, either. If you give enough context clues in your manuscript by having other characters react to their words or respond to them, your reader should be able to figure it out without much help. If they really want to know what the word is, it means they’re invested and they’ll look it up.

A few questions for your as you go through your manuscript: Is this how I or my character would say this line? If they’re speaking differently than the other characters, is there a reason for it? Is my accent so overdone that my readers can’t understand what the character is really trying to say? Are they speaking in slang and fragments like I do? What slang and fragments would have been used by my character during this time period?

6. Realistic Character Actions

This will be explained more in my next post about larger ideas, but it’s important to take note of this while addressing your dialogue as well. As writers, we have a tendency to insert random dialogue or plot points that don’t actually make sense to our readers, but they make sense in our heads. Because we plan all of this out and think to ourselves, “YES! My problems are solved! I know how to make my story work!” When in fact, you’re just confusing your reader by finding the easiest way out, rather than making your actions, dialogue, and voice realistic.

This is tough because sometimes it takes another person to point out the unrealistic adventures we put our characters through, but it can be spotted with time and care. My best advice is to list out your characters and physically write down keywords and information about them. You want to put down adjectives to describe them, and thoroughly understand how they would probably react to different situations, including what would drive that reaction. Make your list, and use it to help go through your manuscript piece by piece.

On a smaller scale, this will help you determine whether your dialogue is natural. If you have a character that’s freaking out and screaming, upset because her husband cheated on her, but the keywords you have for her are introverted, shy, dependent, etc., she wouldn’t be yelling at him. She’d probably be sitting there crying, thinking to herself what she’s going to do now and whether or not she can forgive him. And if she does leave him, what is driving that motivation and how can you make it apparent to your readers?

When your readers don’t know your characters’ drives, as well as the how and why to what they’re saying and how they’re feeling, they can’t relate to your characters, and your writing begins to feel unnatural. This is where you lose your readers because we can’t connect to your characters on an emotional level.

In addition to this, I highly, HIGHLY recommend people watching. If you know some people who are introverted or extroverted, or maybe you based your characters determination off someone, it never hurts to ask them questions about what they think they would do in certain situations. Or maybe you just want to observe them in real life, interacting with their friends. Take notes of how people respond to different situations, act things out with your friends, ask them questions. It may feel odd at first, but the more responses you receive, the better understanding you will have for your characters.

Go through your plot points and dialogue with the list and research you created. Are your characters acting naturally according to your list? Are they reacting in a way that feels true to them, rather than to you? Are they speaking in a way that feels true to their core drives? What small body instances of body language can you place into your manuscript to make these characters and their reactions feel real and alive?

7. Passive Voice

Most people I tell this to don’t understand how to recognize passive voice, and rather than going into too much detail, I’m going to send you all to Grammarly with a fun way of identifying it. Go read up on Rebecca Johnson and Kimberly Joki’s fun way of identifying and replacing passive voice here.

Folks, Passive voice is BAD. We don’t want passive voice, as it makes for boring sentences and a not-so-active character, as well as a not-so-involved reader. You can even tell in the sentences that Kimberly uses as examples: one sentence is obviously more interesting and engaging than the other. This is because of the noun and subject placement. Make sure that your characters are actively participating in their own stories!

8. Pacing

Last, but definitely not least, a small section of pacing. Again, this is another topic that I will touch on more in my next blog post about larger editing techniques, but this is important in your first pages, so I wanted to touch on it a bit here.

Pacing is difficult, and it’s most difficult because you, as the writer, know everything there is to know about your story. You know the backgrounds, stories, action, etc., that everyone else may not know yet. Being all knowledgeable makes writing at a good pace difficult because most of the time, you either want to slow down and get to the gritty part of your characters’ emotions, or you want to bring on the action and the tension.

The best way I know how to double check your pacing is by literally doing a chapter and plot diagram outline.

This is a great example of a plot diagram! Make sure your story and tension follows this arc. This is even simplified and comes with boxes you can easily fill in on your own to determine if your climax, conflict, rising action, etc., are in the right place for your manuscript.

Chapter outlines are done differently by every person, but I highly suggest that you get as specific as possible in your chapter outlines. These outlines are what will enable you to pick out your greatest moments of tension, emotion, and forward movement. What I would do as a writer is actually go through your character outline and highlight the chapters or instances where you are building tension and asking questions. Then go through and star, or maybe highlight in a different color, where you slow down and get to the emotional turmoil and character development. And finally, go through and highlight your scenes of action (especially for high fantasy and heavy action stories!).

Are your colors/markers cyclic? Are they spread out? Are they consistent throughout the entirety of your manuscript? Do they coincide with the plot diagram?

Side note: pacing is VERY IMPORTANT in your beginning pages, so make sure you take note of how much background information you’re showing your reader, what emotions you’re showing your reader and how much these emotions pull you in. Take into consideration all of the above elements, and send your beginning out to beta readers and CP’s in order to make sure that you’re starting in just the right place. Beginnings are so difficult to get the pacing just right, so make sure you get other opinions!


The guidelines above are smaller details to take notice of in the brunt of your manuscript, and I will be sure to post a more general “How to Edit” post that deals with pacing, plot, characters, conflict, etc. to cover the more general ideas that will be needed to help with large edits on your manuscript. The edits above, however, can be especially useful in line edits and your first few pages. Please feel free to leave any questions, comments, tips, etc., in the comments below! I’m sure other readers and writers will get even more value from your ideas and experiences, should you choose to share them with us. =)

I’d also love your feedback! Was this helpful? What else would you like to know about editing? What worked for you and what didn’t work for you?

Thank you all for your time, and best of luck in your writing adventures!

kellysig

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Team Gryffindor Welcome Post! (Plus my sign-up Post)

 

HELLO and WELCOME my fellow Team Gryffindors! (If you are not team Gryffindor, that is ok! Welcome to you as well!) As Head Girl of the Gryffindor house for this challenge I want to take a moment to let you know I am here for any questions you may have, concerns that pop up, or if you just want a fellow Harry Potter fan to chat with! Also as Head Girl, I will be the Gryffindor’s host to turn in all points to on November 12th!

If you are interested  and have not yet signed up, feel free to head over to my other post and get all the info! Here is a link.

JUST A LITTLE ABOUT ME:

My name is Lauren. *waves* I am a book dragon, coffee drinker, somewhat artist, photographer, sometimes gamer, all time dreamer, hopeful writer, and Harry Potter fanatic! I mainly read Fantasy, but will read pretty much anything. I’m beyond excited to have everyone join us for this reading challenge! When Alex told me this idea in September, I knew it was going to be amazing! We are lucky to have Kelsey and Erica join us! This is my first time co-hosting a reading challenge, and I can’t think of a better challenge to start with! If you ever want to chat, you can find me on Twitter: @Betweendpages or Instagram: Between_D_Pages.

HOUSE CUP CHALLENGE:

I may be a co-host and Head Girl, but I can’t pass up on this fun! So to join in I’m going to add my sign-up post here!

Name: Lauren @BetweenDpages
Hogwarts House: Gryffindor!
Wand Type: Laurel Wood and Dragon Heartstring
Pet: I wish I could take my dog Luna (yes, she is named after Luna Lovegood!) But apparently witches never seem to have dogs, and I’m allergic to cats so I’m going with OWL!
Favorite Subject: Transfiguration! (I actually had a hard time picking between Trans and Charms! But Transfiguration seems like it would be a little more fun to learn!)
Favorite Professor: Professor McGonagall. (It was between her and Lupin! I love them both so much, but McGonagall’s sass won over Lupin’s sweetness!)

ACCIO BOOKS!

Coming up with a TBR for anything is actually kind of hard for me. I am a big mood reader, so picking books in advance can be tricky. I also added an additional challenge to myself by trying to only pick books I owned.  BUT I DID IT!! To try and give myself a little room to work with I picked books for the main challenge, plus a book for every bonus challenge! I seriously doubt I will get them all read during this challenge, but at least I have a plan!

I don’t have these in any order, so I’m just going to list the 7 books I picked for my main challenge:

Year One-Year Seven:

-Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Illustrated Edition
-Dead House
-The Girl Who Drank The Moon
-The Darkest Part of the Forest
-Heart of Betrayal
-Anna and the French Kiss
-This Song Will Save Your Life

Bonus Challenges:

Gryffindor: Read a book with an epic hero/heroine (HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Hufflepuff: Read a book that contains a strong friendship (HP and the Goblet of Fire)
Ravenclaw: Read a book that revolves around a mystery (The Killing Jar)
Slytherin: Read a book set in a dystopian world (Never Fade)
AstronomyClass: Read a book set in outer space (These Broken Stars)
Care of Magical Creatures: Read a book that features an animal or magical/mythical creature (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown)
Tri-Wizard Tournament: Read a book that includes a competition (Caraval)
Occlumency: Read a book about a character with magical abilities or superpowers (Fate of Flames)
Death Eater: Read a book told from the POV of a villain (Vicious)
Platform 9 3/4: Read a book that features travel (Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour)
Time Turner: Read a book set in the future or past (Ready, Player, One)
Fantastic Beasts: Read a spin-off to a beloved series (Fairest)
Dumbledore’s Army: Buddy-read a book with a friend or group (The Girl Who Chased the Moon, and Uprooted)
A LITTLE STUCK?
Picking books can be a little difficult so here are a few I would recommend if you have not already read them!
-Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
-A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
-Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh
-The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows
-My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand
-The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
-Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
-Air Awakens by Elise Kova
-Hounded by Devin Hearne
-When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandy Menon
There is also a list on Bustle for Gryffindor reads. They also have the other houses which might give you ideas. You can go here for that list!
Just a reminder:
Sign-ups close Saturday night, October 14th. Make sure to have your post linked with one of the host before Saturday night! If you are not a blogger, please be sure to complete your sign-up Twitter post, Instagram post, or Youtube video!
There will be a kick-off Twitter chat Sunday, October 15th @8:00p.m. EST! Please try to join us if you can! This is a great time to meet fellow challengers and get to know everyone who is participating! The hosts will also be taking time during the chat to answer questions you may have!
We are excited to have you and hope to see you all at the chat Sunday!
laurensig

Musings of Melissa Bashardoust

eternaldreamers

Face Your Fears, Find Your Flaws
by Melissa Bashardoust

How do you design a character’s flaws? The answer, like most things, lies in Star Wars.

As Yoda tells us, the root of the dark side is fear. Fear is what makes us lash out. Fear can motivate us or hold us back. Fear can bring out the best and worst in your characters. If you want to find out a characters flaws, figure out what your character wants, what motivates them, what’s important to them. Their family? Their status in the social hierarchy? Freedom and justice?

Great—now threaten to take that thing away from them.

Put your character in a position where they’re about to lose the thing they’re most afraid of losing, and imagine their reaction. Would they become ruthless and destructive? Would they retreat and give in to despair? Push a character hard enough, and eventually they’ll show you their worst impulses. Force a character to confront their worst fear, and you’ll find out what demon they need to overcome, what’s holding them back and what’s driving them forward.

Okay, but what if a character’s response is a mature and healthy one? You can work with that, too, because there’s a flip side to every coin, after all. Every good quality can become a flaw if it’s too extreme. A cheerful attitude can become an unwillingness to confront the heavier parts of life. A calm sense of detachment can become an inability to connect with others. Anakin Skywalker would never have fallen to the dark side if he didn’t have the admirable quality of caring so much about the people he loves…and if he weren’t so afraid of losing them. (It always comes back to Star Wars, I’m telling you.)

Even just knowing what a character is afraid of can lead you to their flaws. To take an example from…let’s say…Star Wars, we have a scene from The Force Awakens where the antagonist (Kylo Ren) very conveniently tells us what the protagonist (Rey) is afraid of. “You’re so lonely, so afraid to leave,” he tells her (and us). On the surface, Rey’s afraid to leave the planet where she was abandoned as a child, because she’s worried her family won’t be able to find her if they ever come back for her. But really, she’s afraid to leave because that would mean admitting that her family isn’t coming back for her. From this core fear come her flaws: stubbornness, self-imposed isolation, a refusal to move forward. Her fear of abandonment causes her to initially choose stagnation and isolation when given opportunities to expand her horizons and make new connections.

If you’ll allow me a more self-indulgent example: In Girls Made of Snow and Glass, one of my main characters, Mina, is afraid that she’s unlovable, that anyone who truly knows her will reject her. By working from the inside out, I can take that fear and translate it into flaws. Mina can be guarded and distrustful, ruthless and manipulative, because she believes

that she has no one to count on but herself, and that if anyone sees the real her, she’ll never be loved. Desperation—that mixture of fear and desire—makes her flaws manifest.

Knowing my character’s fears and flaws helps me know how she would react to both positive and negative events in the plot. The worse the event, the more likely she is to retreat into herself, to reject others before they can reject her. She doesn’t have to have any of those flaws. There’s no one set path from fear to flaw—but tracing out of one of those many paths will make the flaws feel organic and will help readers empathize with the character even when they’re not at their best. We may not all relate to each individual flaw, but we all understand fear, and the influence that fear can have over our actions.

You don’t have to know your characters’ flaws from the start. One of the most satisfying parts of writing is seeing your characters develop on the page, watching them go from vague skeletons in your head to fleshed-out people. Flaws are the thorns, not the roots. The roots are the characters’ hopes and dreams, their upbringings—and yes, their fears. Water those roots and the thorns will grow on their own.


Melissa_516

About Melissa

Melissa Bashardoust received her degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, where she rediscovered her love for creative writing, children’s literature, and fairy tales and their retellings. She currently lives in Southern California with a cat named Alice and more copies of Jane Eyre than she probably needs. Girls Made of Snow and Glass is her first novel.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Tumblr


Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Kobo | Book Depository


Thank you so much to Melissa for writing this wonderful post and sharing it with us. I know from experience that sometimes character flaws and growth are the most difficult parts of writing and what really divides a good book from a great book!

As always, thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature! Your words and advice are always happily devoured, and we love you all for helping us.

We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!

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Musings of Candace Ganger

eternaldreamers

The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash Inspiration
by Candace Ganger

The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash is loosely based on a tragedy that occurred in my family circa 1979. Though I wasn’t born yet, my mom kept newspaper clippings that I kept going back to. I couldn’t imagine going through anything like this and felt a tug in my heart to fix it (whatever that meant). The whole incident, and images used in those papers, haunted me for many years. Knowing what I know now, and seeing how strong my family managed to be in the wake of something so horrific, I couldn’t ignore that pull to do something. I just wasn’t sure what that something was, until these characters sort-of popped into my mind one day. I tinkered with storylines (so not to be exact with the facts), landing on a skeleton of a different version of Birdie & Bash—one way more depressing—that I decided could be cathartic, if done right.

With trusted readers and thoughtful notes, I transformed B&B into vaguely what it is now—one with a through line of hope. Sensitivity to my family’s wounds have always been at the forefront of my mind, but I knew no matter what, I’d give them the ending I felt they deserved.

In pulling from this event (while fictionalizing; I can’t stress this enough), as the connecting thread between Birdie & Bash, it’s definitely helped me work through my own pain and losses, while also rewriting a history that never was, but should’ve been.


About Candace

Candace Ganger is a mother, blogger, contributing writer for sites like Teen VogueTWLOHABustleRomperXO Jane & Hello GigglesShe’s also an obsessive marathoner and continual worrier (yay!). Her debut YA novel, THE INEVITABLE COLLISION OF BIRDIE & BASH, will be out via St. Martin’s Griffin July 25th, 2017. Aside from having past lives as a singer, nanotechnology website editor, and world’s worst* vacuum sales rep, she’s also ghostwritten hundreds of projects for companies, best-selling fiction and award-winning nonfiction authors alike. Candace—aka—Candyland—has a severe** Milky Way latte addiction + eats way too many*** donuts/doughnuts but all things in excess, amiright?

FYI: She’s TOTALLY awkward in person (#sorrynotsorry).

*she was okay, at best.
**what counts as severe?
***don’t judge me

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook


The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash

The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash

Birdie never meant to be at the party. Bash should have been long gone. But when they meet, a collision course is set off they may never recover from.

Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together: to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad, and to see his beloved Ma through chemo. But when he meets Birdie Paxton, a near-Valedictorian who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot in her science pun T-shirt, at a party, an undeniable attraction sparks. And suddenly he’s not worried about anything. But before they are able to exchange numbers, they are pulled apart. A horrifying tragedy soon links Birdie and Bash together—but neither knows it. When they finally reconnect, and are starting to fall—hard—the events of the tragedy unfold, changing both their lives in ways they can never undo. Told in alternating perspectives, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger is a beautiful, complex, and ultimately hopeful teen novel that will move you to the very last page.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s | Books-A-Million | Indiebound


Thank you so much to Candace for sharing her story with us. Sometimes we all find inspiration in the oddest of places, and it only takes opening ourselves up to the possibilities in order for it to hit us.

As always, thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature. Your words of advice and stories never fall upon unappreciative writers.

We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!

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Musings of Leah Henderson

eternaldreamers

Advice for Young Writers
by Leah Henderson

There is so much writing advice out there about what to do or what not to do. A lot of it is very helpful but to be honest, most of it is overwhelming. So the first thing I will say is focus on what speaks to you and what you need at certain moments in your writing journey. Everyone’s experience with writing is different, but there are definitely some universal themes that resonant with all of us at any given point: doubt, frustration, excitement, confusion, fear, fatigue, hopelessness, hopefulness, love, hate, envy, relief, elation. The list can go on and on. But the one thing that every writer should remember whether they are a beginner writing their first sentences, or a pro with shelves of published books, we each need to believe in the power and wonder of revision!

No story has ever been perfect on a first draft. Yes, there can be nuggets of brilliance, and gems to marvel, but I’d arch an eyebrow if a writer told me they’d never written a crappy first draft or at least one that needed a little extra love and attention.

Stories are built on layers.

There is nothing better than diving back into a beloved book only to find new elements and clues to explore. Many of these added details come through revision.

For me, I try to settle into the story in the first few drafts—figuring out characters, scenes, and the overall arc. Then I start focusing on specifics whether it’s about a character’s mannerisms, subplots, or adding a bit more texture to a place. I attempt to color in the lines of what I sketched in my early versions. And I keep smearing color, intensifying shadows and deepening contours with each read. This might sound like a lot of rewriting and adding, and frankly sometimes it is, but I don’t worry about that while I’m knee deep in my mess. I focus on getting every thought out of my head and onto the page. Some of my ideas work, though many of them don’t, but I won’t know unless I’ve tried. I might attempt to say something ten different ways before deciding which is the strongest. And I’m okay with putting in that effort because I know:

Revision is magical.

When I come to the final drafts of a project I’m always a bit amazed at how much certain moments and characters change, grow, and develop. In early drafts a lot of these aspects couldn’t even have been envisioned because I was too focused on other details. And it wasn’t until I got those details just right that I could free my mind for other possibilities to take shape.

So trust in the power and wonder of revision and trust in your imagination to get you through. Don’t rush either because with patience and thoughtfulness you will see the true pearls of your story shining brighter and brighter with each attempt to get it just right.

Wishing you all the best with your writing & your revision!


About Leah

Leah has always loved getting lost in stories. When she is not scribbling down her characters’ adventures, she is off on her own, exploring new spaces and places around the world. One Shadow on the Wall (Antheneum/Simon & Schuster) is her debut middle grade novel. Leah received her MFA at Spalding University and currently calls Washington D.C. home.

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One Shadow on the Wall

One Shadow on the Wall

An orphaned boy in contemporary Senegal must decide between doing what is right and what is easy as he struggles to keep a promise he made to his dying father.

Eleven-year-old Mor was used to hearing his father’s voice, even if no one else could since his father’s death. It was comforting. It was also a reminder that Mor had made a promise to his father before he passed: keep your sisters safe. Keep the family together. But almost as soon as they are orphaned, that promise seems impossible to keep. With an aunt from the big city ready to separate him and his sisters as soon as she arrives, and a gang of boys from a nearby village wanting everything he has—including his spirit—Mor is tested in ways he never imagined.

With only the hot summer months to prove himself, Mor must face a choice. Does he listen to his father and keep his heart true, but risk breaking his promise through failure? Or is it easier to just join the Danka Boys, whom in all their maliciousness are at least loyal to their own?

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Simon & Schuster


Thank you so much, Leah, for sharing your advice about layering and revisions with all of us. You’re so right, that the best stories are built upon revision after revision, adding layers, characters, growth, and everything else you can imagine to your story. The best stories are the ones we revise a thousand times because sometimes those first fifty tries just aren’t enough. =)

As always, thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature. Your words are invaluable to all of the writers who are trying to get their feet on the ground. We are always so appreciative of you.

We hope you have a wonderful rest of your week, and remember to keep writing and revising!

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Musings of Cale Dietrich

eternaldreamers

Do you believe that writing from your real life makes a better story?

by Cale Dietrich

Hi! First of all, I have to say that I’m super happy to be here, writing this. This is actually the first blog post that I’ve written since The Love Interest was released, so it’s kinda cool to document this moment in time.

So, answer time. I think this is a really interesting question, because I think all writing is intensely personal, even if it isn’t drawn from direct life experiences.  That said, The Love Interest is actually heavily influenced by my own life – I was going through the early stages of coming out as I was writing it, and I was working through my feelings by writing the book. It’s interesting, because it was also a really reflexive process. I was writing TLI to work out my feelings, while at the same time writing an unapologetic gay empowerment story was shaping my feelings. Honestly, working on TLI increased my confidence so, so much. So the two are incredibly linked, which is a super weird (and awesome, imo) thing.

I can’t say if that makes the story better, as that is 100% up to readers to decide. But from a writing standpoint, I think it made it way easier. For me, it’s not really about taking events that directly happened in my life and putting them in a book though. Very few of the events in The Love Interest have directly happened to me. Although side note: I think my Mum thinks they did and I just never told her, robots and all.

I think the thing that made it easier to write was that I’d experienced many of the emotions, and I sort of tried to write scenes where Caden feels how I felt when a similar thing had happened to me. So like, while I may have literally never gone on a drive late at night with a Bad boy rival, I TOTALLY know how realising you have a crush on a guy feels, especially when you’re not sure the guy you like is gay and you’re hoping he is but also worried he isn’t and etc etc.

So I think the thing that made it easier was recalling those feelings and then giving them to Caden, even though the literal events that happen in the book are different from what happened in my real life. When I mesh those two things, the end result tends to be the writing I am proudest of (and that readers seem to connect the most too).


14541076.jpgAbout Cale

Cale Dietrich is a YA devotee, lifelong gamer, and tragic pop punk enthusiast. He was born in Perth, grew up on the Gold Coast, and now lives in Brisbane, Australia. The Love Interest is his first novel.

 

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

 


31145148.jpgThe Love Interest

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Book Depository


A huge thank you to Cale for sharing his story, obstacles, and advice for us! Drawing from real life experiences and feelings can help your story to become amazing.

As always, a huge thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature. Your words and stories never fall upon unappreciative writers.

We hope you have a wonderful weekend.

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Musings of Sandhya Menon

eternaldreamers

A Difficulty in Your Writing Journey and How You Got Past It
by Sandhya Menon

Writing is such a funny endeavor.

At the beginning, when you’re sequestered away in a room, you write only for yourself. At that point, it didn’t even occur to me to be concerned about other people. I wrote all kinds of things—short stories, poetry, novellas, plays, non-fiction essays.

As time went by, though, and I learned more about the craft, I got serious about getting published. I went the indie route at first, self-publishing novels and serials for readers. It was thrilling. The bad reviews were hard to take, but at least people were reading my work and talking about it.

Then my agent found me—ahhh. I was thrilled, humbled, ecstatic. It felt like a whole new world. I wrote stories and discarded them; I felt like I had to get everything just right. A novel of mine, previously self-published, was accepted by a major publisher for their digital line. When that one came out, only a few people read it (it’s one of my favorite stories, but it just isn’t what they call ‘high concept.’ I suspect the editor who acquired it took it on solely as a labor of love, for which I’m very grateful).

My confidence dipped very low. I began to wonder if I would ever find readers again. I’d been writing seriously for a good four years at that point, with my two little children at my feet, and I was really tired. “Maybe I should get a real skill,” I thought. I’d always had a passion for psychology—it was my major in college—so I decided to go to graduate school to train as a therapist.

I got accepted into my program right around the time the offer for When Dimple Met Rishi came through.

The hilarious thing is that I look back on my journey and wonder if I would’ve done anything differently to avoid that awful writing slump where I just about threw in the towel. And I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t anything I could’ve done. I think getting really low and contemplating giving up is just a natural part of the creative person’s journey.

For writers (especially writers on social media) it can feel like an onslaught of people getting agents, getting book deals, going on tour, getting starred reviews, and hitting the bestseller lists. If you’re also high, this is great! More people to celebrate with! But if you’re in a slump, it can feel like the entire world is moving forward while you’re mired in your own untalented quicksand.

I don’t have the cure for this, but I do have a suggestion: The next time you feel “slumped,” remind yourself that it’s normal. Not wanting to write is normal. Feeling like a talentless hack is normal. Wanting to scream, “It’s not faiiiir!” is normal. If you need a break, take it. Take the opportunity to refill your well before you come back to your desk, ready to begin anew. I promise you, your stories will wait.


Sandhya Menon With Filter_443x375

About Sandhya

Sandhya Menon is the author of When Dimple Met Rishi (May 2017). She lives in Colorado where she’s on a mission to (gently) coerce her husband and kids to watch all 3,221 Bollywood movies she claims as her favorite.

 

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When Dimple Met Rishi

When Dimple Met Rishi

A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Book Depository | Simon Pulse


A huge thank you to Sandhya for sharing your stories of highs and lows with us. We all feel a roller coaster of emotions as writers, and sometimes we just have to struggle through the lows and experience the trials in order to just make it out okay on the other side. All of our successes will come at our own times, and we can make time to care for our own mental states while we wait. =)

As always, thank you so much to all of the amazing writers and publishing individuals who have been fundamental in keeping this feature going and continuing to share your advice with writers who need it. We appreciate you all more than you know.

We hope you have a wonderful rest of your week!

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Musings of Julie Shepard

eternaldreamers

Reader Questions – Why You Want Them!
by Julie Shepard, author of
Rosie Girl

Before you read this, I have a job for you: Pick out a book on your shelf (or in your Kindle!) and read the first few pages. That’s it. Then ask yourself: What am I wondering about? What has the author mentioned that’s piqued my curiosity? What questions do I want (or better yet—need) answers to? Because if you don’t have any, chances are you won’t be reading any further. It will become a part the dreaded “set aside” books. And do you really want that to be the fate of your book?

Let’s analyze Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow:

We find our main character in a rehab facility. I’ll even mention the fact that Ms. Glasgow holds off for several pages before telling the reader her name (Charlie). Bonus points for that! We’re wondering a lot of things, simply because this girl is in a hospital. Why is she there? How did she get there? As we read further, more questions take shape because the author begins to give us more information. That’s a good thing: More information shouldn’t just tell the reader things—it should cause the reader to ask more questions. And more questions mean more pages read. And more pages read mean your entire book will get read, which is your goal. (Reviews are another thing!)

So, back to Charlie. She lived on the street. She kept company with a bunch of guys and a girl named Ellis. You may not even realize you’re asking questions, but your brain is firing off tons of them: What was the relationship between these people? Who was good, bad, friend, or foe? Was someone jealous, beautiful, a train wreck? You’re also seeking answers to more subtle issues: Do I like this main character? Do I want to hop on this journey with her? Is she—aside from whatever personal demons led her to end up in a hospital—basically good? Does she have to be in order for you to want to follow her story? Is she a victim, a con artist, a drug addict? Do you even care?

You thought your goal was to write a book. It’s not. It’s to write a story that creates questions like these for your reader. Sprinkle in answers while creating new ones. Just as we start to get a sense of the relationship Charlie had with Ellis and these boys, the author mentions Charlie’s mother, which unleashes a whole new set of questions. Where is she? Did she hospitalize her own daughter? What’s their relationship like? You always want your reader wondering, searching, hypothesizing. By creating questions, you’re creating actively-engaged readers.

Here’s a challenge: Share your first five pages with someone who has not read any of your manuscript, and ask them to jot down at least three questions (the more, the better!) they already have at this point. These could be plot-related or character-related. They’re equally important, because people read for a variety of reasons and tune into different elements that pique their interest—the promise of love, the suspicion of murder, the heartache of loss. Then ask yourself: Have I answered their questions, and when? There’s a fine line between satisfying a reader’s curiosity too soon and frustrating them by making them wait too long for a payoff.  

Few of us would admit it, but I will. There are books I haven’t finished. It’s not because they weren’t “good”. It was because I either stopped asking questions or stopped wanting answers to the ones I still had. Take a moment to reflect on those books you partially read. Do you remember what captured your interest? How did the author lose it? Perhaps the answer will be just what you need to make sure your book never becomes a part of anyone’s dreaded pile of “set asides”.   


Julie Shepard_author photo

About Julie

Julie Shepard began her writing career on a Smith Corona typewriter, hammering out dark stories like the twisted tale about homicidal identical twins who conspire to get away with murder. She earned a degree in English Literature from the University of Florida and a teaching degree in Middle Grades English from Florida International University. While in the classroom, she developed a keen ear for adolescent drama and knew that young adult fiction was the path her writing journey would take. She lives by the beautiful beaches of South Florida, where sunny skies often beckon her outside to do her writing on a lounge chair. Rosie Girl is her debut. You can find her at http://www.julieshepard.net

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Rosie Girl

Rosie Girl

Little Peach meets We Were Liars in this haunting YA debut about a troubled teen searching for her birth mom who uncovers disturbing family secrets along the way.

After her father passes away, seventeen-year-old Rosie is forced to live with her abusive stepmom Lucy and her deadbeat boyfriend, Judd, who gives Rosie the sort of looks you shouldn’t give your girlfriend’s step-daughter. Desperate for a way out, Rosie would do just about anything to escape the life she’s been handed. Then she finds a letter her dad wrote years ago, a letter confessing that Rosie’s birth mother isn’t dead, as she believed, but alive somewhere—having left them when Rosie was a little girl for reasons he won’t reveal.

Rosie resolves to find her birth mom, and she’ll put everything on the line to make that happen. She hires a PI paid for by her best friend, Mary, who turns tricks for money. Unlike Rosie, Mary’s no delicate flower and when she sees the opportunity to make some cash and help out her closest friend, she takes it. Romance blooms when the PI Rosie hires hands the case off to his handsome nephew Mac, but Rosie struggles to keep her illicit activities with Mary a secret. Things begin to unravel when Rosie starts getting creepy anonymous texts from johns looking for Mary. And then there’s Mary, the one person Rosie can count on, who’s been acting strangely all of a sudden. As Rosie and Mary get closer to finally uncovering the truth about Rosie’s mom, Rosie comes face to face with a secret she never saw coming. With the ultimate unreliable narrator and twists and turns around every corner, Rosie Girl is an unforgettable tale of identity, devotion and desperation.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Penguin Random House


Thank you so much to Julie for writing this post! Sometimes questions can be hard for us all to listen to as authors and writers, but in reality, questions are the best occurrences that could happen to us. They not only help us improve, but they keep our readers engaged, and our books out of the “set asides” pile. =)

As always, thank you so much to everyone who has participated in this feature. We appreciate your words of advice more than you will ever know.

We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!

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Sailor Moon x Truthwitch = Moon Witch?

It’s no secret that I am in love with Sailor Moon and Truthwitch and Windwitch by Susan Dennard.  It’s also widely known that Susan also loves Sailor Moon, which is why I decided to cross the two and write this blog post.  The idea actually came to me when I posted these two Instagram photos for a book photo challenge.
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