Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fun with Wordle

Howdy, y'all!

So, if you don't know what Wordle is, let me briefly explain how it works. It's a nifty little website, where you can enter a bunch of text, and then it creates a "word collage" based on what you enter. The more frequently you use a certain word, the bigger it is in the collage. Fun, right?

But not only is it fun, it's also a useful tool for writers––because it shows you what words you might be using too much.

For example, here's what happened when I entered the entirety of my book UNRAVELING:

Uh wow, the word "like" is freakin' HUGE! Same with the word "know" ... and there are a lot of other words that are relatively large. 

Now, this is what happened when I entered six of my books at once:

The results are actually pretty much the same. Looks like no matter what I'm writing, I use a lot of the same words. Particularly "like" and "know," for some reason.

Well, I take this as a sign that I should go back through my manuscripts and take out some of those words that I'm using way too much. 

So, my question of the day is: What are some words that you use too much? Have you ever used Wordle to find out––and if so, did the results surprise you?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Interview with author Kristen Taber!

Hello everyone! Today I interview the lovely Kristen Taber, whose book Ærenden: The Child Returns recently came out. I had the honor of beta-reading this book, and thought it was fantastic and exciting––so I hope you all will check it out as well!

Q: How long have you known you wanted to write books?

A: I’ve wanted to write nearly my entire life and have toyed with poetry, plays, short stories, etc. since soon after I could talk. I began focusing on writing books in my high school years. At first, I tried collections of short stories in the suspense and horror genres, and then I stumbled on an idea that later turned into something much bigger. Something, as it turns out, which became my first publication, Ærenden: The Child Returns.

Q: What inspired you to write The Child Returns? Do you remember where you got the idea?

A: I remember it clearly, though the original idea looks nothing like the finished product. I took Spanish in high school. While in class, a friend of mine and I joked around about being twins named Estrella (Star) and Cielo (Sky). We invented a silly backstory about being superheroes at night, and suffering Spanish class students by day. Throughout the year, I retooled the idea, casting the twins in a fantasy storyline where one is a wizard and the other is a military ruler. A janitor at the school they attend—a young, orphaned boy—turns out to be their protector. At some point in time, the twins became a single girl named Meaghan and the boy remained her protector, though his role drastically changed. I started writing the book about seven or eight years ago, put it down because I didn’t like where it was going, then picked it back up two years ago, changed the plot line, extended it into a series, and fell in love. As I said, it’s nothing like it was so long ago, but its origins still stem from my youth.

Q: What's your writing process like? Do you outline or go straight into writing?

A: I do a bit of both. I have a general outline in mind when I write, but often, the books take on a life of their own. I plotted the Ærenden series to be one book, but around page 150, I realized I had a series on my hands. Characters, solutions for problems, even entire plot lines sometimes unfold on their own, much like watching a movie. I chase them, knowing full well I’ll be doubling my editing time later, but it works well for me.

Q: Did you ever suffer writer's block while writing this book––and if so, how did you deal with it?

A: No major blocks, but minor ones, sure. Typically, I’ll hit a wall where the characters aren’t talking to me and I leave them alone for a while. Working out (running or the elliptical) tends to help, as does running errands or cleaning. Activities that allow my mind to wander often create situations where my creativity flows best. My best characters have popped into my mind during these times.

Q: What was the revising process like?

A: I took a long time revising this book, mostly because it’s my first and I had a lot to learn about the process specifically, and writing in general. Initially, when I thought the book was “done”, I sent it out to friends and family for thoughts, as well as entered it into the ABNA contest where it made it through the Quarter Finals. The feedback I received in return showed me the book needed more work (as expected). I then entered it into a contest where people judge the first few chapters and provide feedback. This also helped me retool my style and learn more about proper vs. sloppy writing. After this, I began editing in earnest. I went through the book twice myself, then sliced and diced it several times with my editor (a friend who does a fantastic job with comprehensive editing), edited it again myself, and then sent it out to a few trusted people for beta reads. After receiving their feedback, I incorporated necessary changes, edited it myself twice more, and then called it “done” a second time. Though, of course, it's never truly finished. We’ve since found a few typos, despite all the eyes that combed through it, but reviews have proven the extensive editing process did its job. The final product is professional and all of us who worked on it are proud of what we created.

Q: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

A: Learning how to handle feedback was definitely the hardest part. Negative feedback is difficult to accept (to authors, watching someone tear apart our manuscript is like watching a pack of wolves tear apart our babies). And positive feedback, though easy to accept, can be dangerous as it’s often given to stroke our egos and not to help us grow. The truth lies somewhere in between and the trick is learning to discern it, which is not an easy task. Sure, if everyone says the exact same thing (that scene sucks or I love this character), then you can easily figure out what to keep and what to change. But this rarely happens. Art is subjective, so when people read a book (listen to music, view a painting, etc.) their opinions will often contradict each other. Taking all of the feedback I received became crippling. When one person liked a sentence or scene and another person hated it, I didn’t know what to do. I was constantly revamping the book and wondering if I would ever get it right. Then one day, after I changed a sentence for one person and changed it back for another, I realized my folly; I had found an infinite loop of madness.

I finally realized that with every piece of feedback I received, I had to be an emotionally detached
gatekeeper and ask the right questions. What is the reviewer’s motivation? What sort of books and
authors do they like? Am I getting this feedback the majority of the time? If so, why? Does it fit my style, the plot, the characters? Does it ring true to me? Once I learned to answer these questions and to own my manuscript instead of renting it out to each person who read it, I could move forward and create a solid, final product. I know it won’t please everyone, but that’s also something I have to learn to accept. If I’m true to analyzing the feedback I receive, I should be able to please most of the people and create something worthwhile in the process.

Q: What writing projects are you working on now?

A: I’ve been working on marketing for Ærenden: The Child Returns and helping other authors do beta reads, but I intend to hole up in my office again in the near future. I have a lot of editing to do on Ærenden: The Gildonae Alliance, the second book in the Ærenden series, if I intend to make my Fall 2012 release.

Q: If you could give one, most important piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?

A: Learn everything you can. Never stop. Talk to other authors, read blogs, study grammar, read books, swallow whole everything you can get your hands on so that when you write, you’re teaching as much as you’re learning.

Q: Anything else you'd like to share about yourself or your book?

A: I can be found on Facebook ( and Twitter ( and would love to connect with everyone on either or both sites. In addition, my book is currently available on Kindle and in Print, both through Amazon ( Signed paperback copies can also be ordered by contacting me through my website ( 

Thanks so much, Kristen! :)

Sunday, June 17, 2012


In this post, I will probably sound like a creep and a psycho. But, you probably already know that I am both of those things.

So, earlier today I saw this funny post on Tumblr. (Oh yeah, and you should all totally follow me on Tumblr  because I'm addicted. Uh, just as long as you don't mind a lot of "Legend of Korra" spam ...)


The post was about a made-up term called "scheherazadenfreude,"a play on the word "schadenfreude" (pleasure derived from watching other people suffer). If you don't know who Scheherazade is then I guess the joke's not really funny ... so uh, if you don't know who she is, then you should just read the Wikipedia page about her story. But anyway, this Tumblr post defined "scheherazadenfreude" as "perverse joy in the suffering of one of your own characters in the story you are writing/telling."

And I found this particularly funny, because ... well, I really love torturing my characters. I don't know why, but I do. Maybe because it makes me feel powerful? Bahaha, I don't know.

But, seriously. For instance, one of my favorite characters has been ... um, let's see ... shot, stabbed, strangled, drowned, tortured, beaten to a pulp ... Well, I think that about covers it. You get the idea. It's like, the more I love a character, the more I want to harm him/her. Because that's totally normal, right? Heh heh. 

I've heard some other writers say pretty much the opposite thing––that is, they love their characters so much that they're afraid to hurt them in any way. But, personally I just find a story more compelling if the characters suffer a lot. I mean, if I finish reading a book, and none of the major characters have died (or almost died) I find myself feeling rather disappointed. And the same goes for my own stories; I just can't imagine myself writing something where nobody dies-or-at-least-almost-dies. I would get super bored.

Don't get me wrong, there are definitely exceptions ... I do love a lot of books where no one dies-or-almost-dies. Just, in general I guess I find it hard to get excited about writing a story if there isn't any violence in it.

So ... Is it just me? Or are you all running away from me, screaming? ;)

Monday, June 4, 2012

My Perspective on Perspectives

So, lately I've been worrying more than usual about perspective. Well, and tense as well. I'm just going to put them both under one, broad category.

I, for one, love experimenting with both. Whenever I get an idea, it just comes to me in a specific tense and point-of-view that feel right for the story. It's kind of hard to explain, but I think tense/perspective play an important role in whether a book works or not; they have to be done correctly in order to fit the mood, the message, etc.

Whether I'm reading or writing, I personally don't really care if the story is in past or present tense, if it's in third person or first person or second person or thirty-fourth person ... Whatever. Like I said––as long as it fits the story, it doesn't make a difference to me.

But lately, I've been encountering more people who are much pickier about the subject. For example, somewhat recently I got into a debate about it in a Goodreads group, and I was surprised to see how many people absolutely loathe present tense. There was one girl who even said that, if she reads something in present tense, she automatically thinks it's horrible writing, and that she had never read anything well-written and in the present tense. Mind you, I'm not attacking her, and she's entitled to her opinion of course ... I was just a bit shocked that it made such a difference to her and other people. It hadn't really occurred to me before that it could mean the difference between good and bad writing to someone. Sometimes, a story just comes into my head in present tense, and that's the way I feel it should be written. And after that, I don't really think twice about it.

Then there comes the issue of choosing what person to write a story in. Most of the time, stories naturally come into my head in first person. Although sometimes––usually if there are a lot of important characters in a story I'm writing––I prefer third person.

Now, there's the problem of UNRAVELING––one of my books that uses a lot of second person. Before this story, I had never felt particularly compelled to use second person, but in this case I had a specific reason for doing so. It's kind of difficult to explain, but I felt that it was a very personal story between the main character and her friend (to whom the story is narrated)––the kind of story she wouldn't really be telling to anyone else. However, I received a lot of feedback saying the second person was confusing and that it "shut the reader out" in a way, which isn't something I wanted to do.

Currently, I'm doing another revision of the manuscript in which I try replacing the second person with third person, but I feel like it drastically changes the overall "feel" of the story. And I'm not sure if I like it. But on the other hand, I don't want to lose the interest of readers or literary agents just because I chose the "wrong" way to tell the story.

GAHHH you guys, I really hate being a writer sometimes. I hate when it comes down to deciding how much I want to change just for the sake of pleasing other people. Of course I want my writing to be enjoyable and understandable to my audience, and I'm willing to let go of a lot of things for that purpose. But when it comes to something this big and important, I'm more hesitant. I want to do what I feel is right for the story, but what I think is right might seem wrong to everyone else ... if that makes sense.

Anyway ... I don't want to turn this into a self-pitying rant. I guess my point is to ask you all what you think about tense and perspective. Which ones do you most often use? How much do you think they matter? Do you notice them a lot when you're reading something?