Saturday, July 31, 2010

A wonderful post on EDITING!

Hello there, my fabulous fans. I have exactly 70 followers now. How on earth did THAT happen? But WOOT! That makes me feel a little more awesome about myself.

Anyway, before I get into the heavy stuff I'll quickly update about the whole publishing thing. Since I last posted, mostly I've been getting form rejections. But yesterday I received another request for a full manuscript and another request for a partial! And the full request was from Laura Langlie who is Meg Cabot's agent! (*Squee*) I hear she replies fast though, so for all I know she could reject me in the next two minutes. But hey, at least she requested the full. Plus, Katherine Boyle is still reading my full, too. So *FINGERS AND TOES CROSSED*

Now onto EDITING.

Okay so a while back, someone requested that I write a post on editing. My response was something along the lines of "HAHA You are asking the wrong person." It's not that I don't like editing, or that I'm bad at it. It just scares me, since it's such an overwhelming process. I remember the innocent days when I thought "editing" just meant you fixed all the typos, and you were done! Huzzah! But noooo … There are all these horrible things called "plot holes".

But before I can go on a long angry rant about that, let's approach this in a more organized manner. So I guess I'll share how I, personally, go about editing. That doesn't mean there's a "right" way to do it, but this is my advice.

1. Once you finish writing your first draft, don't attack it right away. Let it sit for a while. Enjoy that wonderful "I finished writing a book" feeling. Start writing something else. I wait months and sometimes years to edit things … Partly because I'm a procrastinator and partly because it's good to look at a manuscript with fresh eyes when you're editing.

2. Before you start editing, read the whole manuscript first without changing anything. Take notes about things that might need work, and fix any typos or spelling/grammar mistakes you notice, but don't do anything major yet.

3. Remember: You have to pretend the book is not yours. Then you'll start thinking like "OMG, this book is my baby. I cannot kill my baby." And that's bad. You must learn to murder your children. Errr … I'm sorry, that's too morbid of an analogy. The point is, you can't help but be emotionally attached to your book. Writing a book is a long process that involves a close relationship with the story and the characters, etc. The hardest part is detaching yourself from it. Continuing with the child analogy … If you never punish a child or teach him/her anything, the kid's going to grow up to be a spoiled idiot. You have to give that child some tough love and whip him/her into shape, and he/she will grow into a good person. With books, it's the same way. Of course you love your book, but you have to teach it a few lessons. Books, like all children, have a rebellion stage, where they start to go off on their own and go out of control. You have to remind that crazy teenager who's boss! And then you have to let it grow up and make its way out into the world. :)

4. Allow someone else (or a lot of people) to read the manuscript and give feedback. And I don't mean your best friend or your grandma or your dog. It should be someone who you trust but also someone who won't be afraid to rip your book to shreds (figuratively, not literally. If you think someone would literally rip your manuscript apart, I wouldn't trust them as an editor if I were you …). Like I trust my mom, for example. Now I know a lot of people are like "Your mom? Psshhh that doesn't count!" But trust me, my mom kicks serious ass at editing. She rocks. Most of you probably can't trust your mom's because they'd be like "Oh goodness dear, what a lovely little story!" If your mom is a kick-butt editor like mine, then you are lucky. I also trust my good ninja-writer-friends who I met through Goodreads.com and now communicate with through Facebook and Skype also. It's good to have an online group of writing friends. There are tons and tons of websites to get writing feedback. Be careful about spilling writing all over the internet, but there are a lot of great websites for posting/critiquing websites, such as Goodreads (as I already mentioned), WEbook, Mibba, Critique Circle, Critters, etc. Get more than one person to read your book and give feedback. Others are better at catching the little mistakes (I find that I tend to read over my own typos hundreds of times without noticing them) and they catch the big gaping plot holes too. Now you don't have to take all of everyone's advice, but if there are patterns in the critiques (like a lot of people have problems with the same things) then you should probably change those things.

5. Make sure the writing has a good flow. A lot of readers get caught up on writing style, even if it's a great story, so this is important. When it comes to dealing with this, the first thing I do is take out all the useless words, which mostly consist of ADVERBS, ADJECTIVES, and DIALOGUE TAGS. I write these things in caps because they are evil. Well, not really. To a certain degree they're alright. But too much of any of them makes your writing sound awkward.

"Hello!" the beautiful, smart, young girl exclaimed brightly.
"Get out of my face!" the talking, purple, fat mushroom retorted angrily and indignantly.

You see what I mean? It gets ugly. (btw, I have no idea where the talking mushroom came from.) Unfortunately, I used to be obsessed with adjectives, adverbs, and dialogue tags. And sometimes the bad habit still sneaks up on me. It makes editing my old work total hell. But anyway, the point is, powerful verbs and nouns = good. Adverbs and adjectives encourage telling rather than showing, which is FOR THE WEAK. ARE YOU A WEAKLING? I DIDN'T THINK SO. And excessive use of dialogue tags exposes you as an amateur. Forget all those words like "exclaimed, shouted, screamed, shrieked, gargled" … whatever. Use them very very very occasionally, like if you REALLY need to, but not after every piece of dialogue. And if you must use dialogue tags at all, please just use something simple like "said, asked, answered" etc. This may be a shocker to you, but most of the time you don't need dialogue tags at all. *GASP* The actually interesting part is the dialogue. As long as the reader can clearly follow who's talking, there's not much use for dialogue tags except for an occasional reminder of who's saying what. We don't need to know how something is said, because it's usually implied in the context of the scene. You can pretty much tell how someone is saying something just by what they say. Like, "I hate your freaking guts you stupid talking mushroom!" … I think anyone could make a pretty good assumption of what tone that would be spoken in. You don't have to say that anyone "shouted angrily" for readers to get the idea. :P

Also, read out loud to yourself. It might feel silly at first, but it's a useful strategy. When you hear your own words out loud, it helps you get a better sense of how the writing flows or doesn't flow. And if it doesn't, you can play with it by talking to yourself until it sounds right.

6. Adding/removing scenes. Now, this is the tricky part, not really my strong point either. But I'll try. I'd say, only add a scene if you think it's necessary––like, if you need to develop a certain character a little bit more, or there's a gaping plot hole that you forgot to explain somewhere. Likewise, remove scenes if they're NOT necessary. Like maybe there's some long scene where the characters are all eating breakfast for 20 pages and nothing really happens. Maybe there are some good bits of dialogue or a great description in there somewhere, and you can still use those … just in a more interesting scene. Just because you remove a scene doesn't mean you can't take the gems out of it and use them elsewhere. But if there's a scene that drags out for too long and interrupts the flow of the story, you need to take it out. One of the worst things you can do as an author is be B-O-R-I-N-G.


Well, that's the advice I got for ya, and I hope it helps. If it doesn't, well SORRY. If it does, well YAY ME. As always, if you have questions for me you can leave a comment. :) Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A long, rambling post that includes some bad news, some good news, a happy story, and some of my writing

Hey, folks. It is I, Brigid, once again. Life has been absolutely nuts in the past three weeks since I've posted––and I don't really have one topic to focus on, so this is going to be a long rant about a lot of things that are bouncing around in my brain.

I thought I'd start off by giving you the bad news. Then I'll get to the good news. Then I'll tell you about some awesome stuff I've been doing for the past couple weeks. Lastly, I realize that I've never really posted any of my writing directly on my blog, so I figured I would share a snippet of it for once.

Alrighty, here goes …

The Bad News

The bad news is,

a) Kristin Nelson double-rejected me. You know how I emailed her back before, after she read my partial and said it was "relentlessly dark" and all? Well, then I got the reply back from one of her assistants or something, who was like "Kristin says thanks, but she has too much to read" or something. Oh, well. That's pretty much what I expected. If dark and depressing isn't her thing, I guess she just wasn't the agent for me.

b) Jason Anthony also rejected me––although as far as I could tell, he seemed to like the manuscript at least a little … He basically said that he was impressed I'd written it at my age, and that my writing style was good, but he didn't like the structure and thought the story was too clich├ęd. So over all, "You're good for a kid, but you're not good enough. *pat pat*" At least he said he's interested in future projects, so I'll have somewhere to turn when I finish/edit something else.

As for Walking Shadow … Well, I started frantically sending out queries again a few days ago. Which brings me to …

The Good News

The good news is, I sent out somewhere between 20-30 queries in the past two days. *whew* Today I sent out a bunch at about 4:30. I just checked my email like half an hour ago and found I had one response that came at 5:16. So I'm like, "Wow, that was fast." And then I just stared at it, not wanting to open it.

I hate hate hate that feeling of opening a response to a query. I always tell myself "It's a rejection, it's a rejection, it's a rejection" but there's always that part of me that hopes so badly that it won't be.

And this time, it wasn't.

I GOT MY SECOND FULL MANUSCRIPT REQUEST FOR WALKING SHADOW, PEOPLES!

So, Katherine Boyle of the Veritas Literary Agency requested my full manuscript. Woot! Of course I made sure she's an AAR member and looked up her background on AbsoluteWrite. From what I've read, people say she's friendly and enthusiastic, and she's willing to request revisions if she thinks a manuscript has potential. So, that's good. :) I'm trying so hard not to get my hopes up but … Maybe this time will be different? Maybe maybe maybe?

Anyway …

Happy Story!

So, the past few weeks have been totally awesome because I've been hanging out with my ninja-writer friends: Acacia, Ilana, and Sella. Sella flew over here from CA and Acacia and Ilana both live in MA … So now we are all here in MA and it's been the greatest experience hanging out with all of them. I met all three of these amazing people through Goodreads.com––not that I am encouraging meeting with random people from the internet, because these guys aren't random. I've known them all for at least a year, and we've talked through Goodreads, Facebook, Skype, and over the phone pretty much every day since we "met". It's kind of an out-of-body experience though. You'd think it'd be weird, but when I met up with them in real life I didn't feel like it was any different––besides that they're even more amazing in person, but it's like we've been friends forever and ever. :D So yeah, since Sella got here we've had a bunch of sleepovers, and watched movies (and lightning storms, which Sella had never seen before :P), and stayed up all night … and oh yeah writing, that's pretty important too. ;) lol. It's been like the best summer ever! I love my ninjas!!!

My Writing

Okay, so here's what's up with my writing.

First of all, I finished my book Jump! Yay! I have now completed seven novels :)

I'm now switching my focus between Sky-Fall, Unraveling, and Rage. Not really sure which one I'm going to focus on next. … I told myself for months that Unraveling was next in line, but now I keep getting ideas for Sky-Fall and Rage too. Dammit. Well, I'll probably end up sharing tidbits of all of them in the future.

For now, since I talk about it so dang much, I thought I'd share some of Walking Shadow with you. So, enjoy this little excerpt. Peace out! ;)

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Jason stops dead in his tracks. He whirls around to face me again, so suddenly that it startles me.

“I don't know what I am, anymore,” he blurts. There's a wild, terrified gleam in his dark eyes now, like his fear is driving him into insanity. “I don't know what I've done. But I have to get back, somehow. I have to become human again.”

We're both silent, staring at each other like we're looking through a pane of glass––one of us on each side, separated but still able to see each other. The only thing I can hear is both of us breathing. My heart is pounding faster and faster in my chest.

I can tell that he's holding something back. I still see the image from him in my dream––curled up on the floor, bleeding, dying, so close to me but yet so far away, beyond my reach. I feel lightheaded, just thinking about it.

“What do you want me to do?” My voice is low, almost a whisper. “I don't––don't understand.”

His eyes go dull, like he's starting to get some of his sanity back. I can practically see it, when reality hits him. “I don't know, either. I don't know what you're or what I'm supposed to do. But I just can't keep living like this. Or not 'living', exactly, but you know what I mean.” He shakes his head. “I'm just really scared, okay? I know that maybe you can't help me, but if you could just consider it, at least. If you could just try …”

“You're not telling me something,” I interrupt him. The words burst out of me before I can stop them. He looks at me, taken aback. “Maybe I'm wrong, but …”

“No.” The surprise is gone from his face. “I mean, you're not wrong. You're right.”

“So, what are you not telling me?”

He closes his eyes, like he's trying to concentrate on something. When he opens them again, they seem darker and blacker than ever. “You have to promise that you won't be afraid of me, if I show you.”

I wrap my arms tighter around myself. The cold of the autumn morning presses in around me. I want to tell him that I won't be scared. Normally, it would be true. I've never been truly afraid of anything, except my own mind. But I feel afraid of him now, with an intensity like I've never felt. Still, I need to know who he is. What he is.

I don't promise anything, but I give the command, keeping my voice and my gaze steady. “Show me.”

Once again, the wind picks up, as if in forewarning. This time it's stronger, making my hair whip into my face, snatching the leaves from the ground and throwing them into the air. More leaves fall from the tree branches above us, orange and yellow, so it looks like fire is falling from the sky.

Jason is still standing there, like he's waiting for something. But what is he waiting for? Is he waiting for me to change my mind? Is what he has to show me really that disturbing, that dangerous? Violent shudders go up my spine. What's he going to do, grow fangs and eat me?

Jason doesn't change. He doesn't shape-shift. He doesn't burst into flames. He just looks down at the gloves on his hands––and slowly, he starts to take them off. When his hands emerge from the gloves, they look perfectly ordinary. No fur or scales or claws or anything. Just normal, human hands. What am I supposed to see?

Jason puts his gloves in the pocket of his denim jacket. He's not looking at me anymore; he's looking around at the ground, like he's searching for something. He walks closer to me, and the cold, Otherworldly feeling of his presence nearly overwhelms my mind, filling it with blackness. I'm dizzy for a second, but I force myself to stay alert, to keep watching him.

He kneels on the ground, so close to me. His head is bent, still staring downward. I can't see what he's looking at, so I kneel down too. My legs are shaking so badly, I'm afraid I'll fall over. But I manage, clumsily, to make it onto my knees.

I brush red strands of hair out of my eyes, my fingers shaking. The only thing on the ground between us is a small patch of uncovered soil. In the middle of it, there's an anthill. It's getting a little late in the year for the ants to still be alive, I think. But that's probably not the point.

The tiny black creatures climb in and out of the small, dark hole. I lift my eyes, looking at Jason. His face is a blank mask. It's like he's concentrating on something––something that is beyond my perception. Then he reaches down, and he brushes one finger over some of the ants.

At first, nothing happens. I'm about to decide, once and for all, that he's crazy and that I should just walk away. Then, I see that something strange is happening to the ants that he touched. They stop in their tracks, as if they've been frozen in time. One by one, they start curling in on themselves, their little legs struggling like they're trying to fight against an invisible, crushing force. They crumple. They disintegrate. Their tiny bodies burst, leaking black fluid. The ants that Jason touched lie in a miserable, messy trail of death.

I almost fall backwards in horror. I stare and stare, not knowing what to feel. I feel like I've been punched hard in the stomach, like I'm choking, like I'm going to throw up. This is not what I expected in the least. It would be an understatement to say I'm surprised, and hardly anything surprises me. I haven't even breathed this entire time.

I can feel Jason watching me, like he's waiting for my reaction, and his gaze––even though I'm not even looking at him––chills me to the core. What does he expect me to say? What does he want me to say? Is he hoping that this convinced me to try to help him? Did it convince me?

I'm starting to think that I'll never be able to look up, but at last, I let out a deep breath and I lift my eyes; they lock on Jason's. Right away, my breath catches again. It's not that he looks different, but that there's the hint of something new there, like he's scared of what he's just done, but there's another part of him that doesn't see the horror in the situation, maybe even a part of him that enjoyed it. But fear and desperation overpower that satisfaction, so strong as they reach me, from across the small space between us, that I can almost taste them. I've never felt fear like his.

Again, I see him in the middle of the white room, in my dream, his bloody hand prints streaking the walls, his fingers dripping blood as he reaches for me. I can see his eyes overflowing with bloody tears, leaving red trails on his face. I hear those words, repeated, even though he doesn't say them aloud this time. It's like his very soul, if he has one, is screaming and calling out to me.

Help me, it cries, tearing me apart. Help me, help me, help me

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Daaayyy!!! (And I have lots of news to share :P)

Helloooo everyone! *ducks rotten tomatoes* Yeah yeah, I know I haven't posted in forever. Sorry! Well, I have lots and lots and lots to tell all my fabulous fans … you know, all two of you who read this or whatever. Heh heh.

Alrighty, so, the first thing I have to talk about is the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, which ended like a month ago or so. The bad news is, I didn't win. The good news … I believe the last time I wrote I had made the quarterfinals of the contest. Well, I ultimately made the SEMIFINALS!!! THAT'S THE TOP 50 OUT OF 5000 YOUNG ADULT ENTRIES, TOP 100 OUT OF 10,000 TOTAL ENTRIES! AD;KFD;SKJFSKJ. I've known this for like three months and it still blows my mind. Anyway, a couple of great things came out of this, even though I didn't win. First of all, I made the semifinals based on a review and rating from a Publishers Weekly reviewer (AAHH!).

So, my friends, here is the PUBLISHERS WEEKLY review of my book Walking Shadow. I will put in bold all the phrases that made me die of happiness:

"Two teens connect under very unusual circumstances in this well-crafted novel. Both seventeen, Cassandra is a psychic and Jason has just died in a car crash. Cassandra is closed off socially, suffering from dreams of the souls that live in the Otherworld. Jason, after his death, makes a deal with the Lord of the Underworld to be returned to his past life, not realizing that he will be a ghost. When Cassandra is the only one who can see him in his ghostly form, Jason pleads with her to help him. Cassandra agrees, thinking that Jason might be able to help her lift the curse of psychic ability that has affected all the women in her family. A solution is presented to them, thanks to Celeste, a spirit from the Otherworld and Elaine, a ghost like Jason. If they are able to journey through the Underworld, Jason can regain his soul and Cassandra can lose her psychic ability. But this journey has never been completed by a human--will they be the first to achieve this? Told in two voices, these engaging main characters live and breathe on the page. While the idea of a journey to the Underworld is not new, there are interesting twists, such as Jason's ghostly state. The plot is well-paced and thoughtfully developed, the Underworld clearly established without long passages of exposition. Combining romance and action with a dual character study, this manuscript is a wonderful, thrilling read."

HOLY TALKING MUSHROOMS, can you believe that? I had to re-read it about ten times the first time I saw it because I couldn't believe it was real! I still don't believe it … GAHHH! So yeah, that was definitely a life-changing experience.

And as if things couldn't get any better … shortly after I made the semifinals, I received an e-mail from literary agent Jason Anthony (Lippincott Massie McQuilkin agency). Apparently he discovered my Kindle excerpt of Walking Shadow and enjoyed it, and then––get this––he found THIS BLOG (woot!) and also enjoyed it, and so he asked to have a phone conversation with me. Thus, I ended up having my first phone conversation with a literary agent, during which he asked to see the full manuscript. (Squee!) Well, I haven't heard back from him yet. But even so … This is the first time a literary agent has approached me, rather than vice versa. Feels purty special. I'll keep you peoples updated on this. Hopefully I will hear more from Mr. Anthony soon. :)

I also got a partial request from Kristin Nelson (Nelson Literary Agency) for the first 30 pages. She rejected me a few days ago saying she thought the writing was "solid" but it was "relentlessly dark" and she would have liked to see a glimpse of hope in it. Well … it's kind of hard to show hope shining through in the first 30 pages of a 500-page book, especially when the story is about one character who is doomed to die while the other is already dead. So, I don't know, maybe this was a horribly stupid idea, but I decided to stand up for myself and e-mail her back, explaining more about what the themes of the book are and that I want to show teenage kids that "love triumphs over fear" and that it does actually have a hopeful message … or something along those lines. I'm kind of afraid to go back and read it, but I felt good about it at the time. Oh, well. I expect that she'll either ignore me or reject me again, but at least I tried.

AWKWARD TRANSITION

So … other random things going on.

It's summer! Yay! I finished my horrible, intolerable, depressing, soul-crushing junior year of high school! I got my report card yesterday. Meh heh. Well, let's not talk about that. Just kidding, I pretty much did fine in everything (EXCEPT STUPID STUPID GOSH DARN MATH WHICH SHOULD DIE IN THE FIERY PITS OF HELL). Ah-hem. Nobody saw that.

Also, IT'S JULNOWRIMO!!!!! (which is like NaNoWriMo, only in July and not as important). Guess what?! I HAVEN'T STARTED YET. CRAP. Ah … well, I can still probably do it. I intend to finish writing Unraveling for JulNo, but right now I'm trying to finish up Jump, which I am like 3.5 chapters away from finishing. *sigh* Just need to get working on that, but I decided to do this blogging thing instead.

And another thing! I AM GOING TO MEET MY GOOD WRITING-NINJA FRIEND SELLA TOMORROW!!! HOOORAAAYYY! :] SO EXCITEDDD.

I guess that's all for now. I will try to post again soon … er … !!! :)