Monday, March 30, 2015

Cliches, and How to Fix Them

So we all write cliches; more specifically, we use cliched phrases. All of us. Sometimes, it just happens; I admit that I tend to rely on them during first drafts, since it allows me to focus more on the story that I'm slowly piecing together, rather than the language (which is what I focus on during later drafts).

So what are cliched phrases? They're tired phrases. They're the word combinations that have been used so often that they stop being sharp and witty and they eventually become contrived and simple.

What do you do when you find cliches in your writing? Simply rewrite them to make them different. Now, it's not as easy as it sounds, but it's by no means impossible. When you find them, just close your eyes and lean back and think about the phrase you used, and think about it in the context of your work. It's a brainstorming game of association.

Here are some examples of cliche phrases that my thesis adviser has found in my writing so far (cliches appear in italics):

  • "Palace Square never failed to make her head spin."
  • "Rousseau stopped short when she turned onto the bridge that led to the Woods."
  • "Time was ticking away while she stood there on the bridge."
  • "She pressed the heel of her palm to her socket and her skin slipped against the tears that poured down her face."
  • "There wasn't a soul in [CITY] who hadn't heard the rumors."
  • "He closed and locked the gate, and though he'd already turned around before she started on her way home, she felt his eyes on her until she reached the end of the street."

I mean, some of them aren't the worst things in the world, right? Yet if you get enough of these in your writing, it'll bog it down. Here's a look at the subsequent draft of these phrases (new phrases appear in italics):

  • "Palace Square was a plethora of beautiful things."
  • "Rousseau hesitated when she turned onto the bridge that led to the Woods."
  • "The seconds sludged by while she stood there on the bridge."
  • "She pressed the heel of her palm to her face and her skin slipped against the watery tears that dripped from her scalding eye socket."
  • "Everyone in Palace Square had heard the rumors about the man who lived inside, and most people in the Village and the Woods, too, but the story was always a little different."
  • "He closed and locked the gate, and before she even started on her way home he'd turned around and disappeared inside the tangles of his garden."

Okay, so some of those aren't completely better (none of these are final), but ya'll can see the way I changed the phrases, I hope? Sometimes I simply used a synonym (exchanging "hesitated" for "stopped short"), which doesn't always yield the best results, but it works. In the last example, I was lucky: the entire story had changed by the time I made it back to that phrase, so it was easier to change (which is why I mentioned that it's important to think about the cliches in the context of your work).

It helps to think in the vernacular of your story, and to really get into the head of your character. What kinds of phrases do they use that are unique to them? What about vocabulary? What are their favorite things, or their least favorite, and can those be used to describe things they they like/dislike?

To put it simply, cliches kind of suck. They bore the reader, and they're a challenge to change because we're so used to using them, intentionally or not. The challenge (and we all love challenges, right?) is in brainstorming those new ideas: twist a tired phrase and create something new for your readers to enjoy.

What are some common cliches that you see often? What about in your own writing? How do you go about finding them, and how do you fix them?

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Twist a tired phrase and create something new. Blogger @Rae_Slater talks cliche phrases, and how to fix them (Click to Tweet)

Trying to re-word a cliched phrase? Think about your brainstorming as a game of association (Click to Tweet)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tea Time: A Single Thread

Part two of my three-part review series of Cait Spivey's THE WEB series is here! And, don't forget: there's a Goodreads giveaway going on right now for the first two books in the series. Make it to the bottom of the post, and enter!

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**

A Single Thread (The Web #2), Cait Spivey

It’s been two weeks since Morgan Fletcher’s little sister, Erin, disappeared before his eyes in a flurry of spidersilk and blood. Probability says she’s dead; but when Erin comes to him in a dream, Morgan’s eyes are opened to a level of reality where probability doesn’t mean jack. His sister sees the web of time, and she’s got news for him: trouble is coming.

A cryptic riddle and flashing images of the future are all Morgan has to go on in order to save a mystery boy from a gruesome death. That’s if he even believes what’s happened to Erin. Is her spider-whisperer persona for real, or has his grief at losing her caused him to totally crack?
With a life at stake, Morgan isn’t taking any chances. Madness or no madness, he has to solve Erin’s riddle before it’s too late.(Cource:goodreads)

Narrative-The second installment of THE WEB series is told from the POV of Morgan Fletcher, whose little sister (Erin) was the narrator of the previous installment. What I found myself most curious about in this second installment was how the voice would change: a teenage girl vs. her older brother. It felt to me like a challenging shift, for the main reason that these are two very different people living in the same world.

Morgan's voice was definitely distinctive,  which is what I appreciated the most, even if it felt a bit forced and unnatural at times. Something about it made me read slower, since I kept getting hung up on some phrasing or another, and that's the biggest reason that I'm taking two stars off: I'm already typically a bit harsh when rating the narrative voice, and the clunky-ness of Morgan's didn't sit well with me as a reader.

Plot-A SINGLE THREAD takes off two weeks after the previous novella left off: Erin Fletcher and her girlfriend, Dawn, have simply disappeared. Erin's mother is catatonic and her brother feels like it's his fault for not looking after them. He's determined to find his sister, even calling up one of his cop buddies on occasion to see if there's news.

Then he gets bit by a spider and has a conversation with his missing sister, who's actually become the Ma Meri of time. She gives him a riddle that makes absolutely no sense, and tells him to save a random boy's life. So when Morgan wakes up, he has two options: listen to the specter of his sister and try to save a life, or shrug it off.

Then: vampires (and, really, I'm going to leave it at that. Because I'm cruel. And I think you should just read it).

I admit: I love riddles. I especially love when those riddles are in books, and they're done so well that the reader is just as lost as the character is. The plot of this novella was so excellently crafted around this strangeness and the fact that there are some very dangerous and supernatural things coming to town, and it was reflected well in both the tone, and the fact that the entire community was coming together to protect themselves against something. All they knew was that it was a threat, and they were trusting their instincts. It was a very human reaction to fear, and it was great to see.

What I do wish, however, was that more questions were answered. The questions surrounding the vampire woman are fine (by the end of the novella, you really only find out her name); the questions surrounding why she was choosing a particular victim were really never addressed (unless I missed them). Then there were questions about why Erin wanted the victim saved: what made him so important, or was it simply that she was trying to hold on to a part of herself that was still human? There was a bit of vagueness that I was eager to have cleared up by the time I reached the last page.

Beyond that, though, the mystery in this installment was fabulous.

Characters-Something I've come to learn and appreciate very quickly is how intense Spivey's characters are. Morgan, alone, carries with him a spectrum of emotion and motivation that centers around his sister, Erin: finding her, protecting her, thinking about her, inspired to do and believe anything that'll get him closer to figuring out what happened to her. This is why when the moment finally comes for him to see and talk to his sister, finally (in a dream brought on by getting bit by a spider, no less), he's willing to accept the riddle that she gives him. Either he's simply desperate for a connection to her, or the dream was real and he doesn't want to let her down.

Whatever the answer, Morgan does things like believe in vampires. He even finds/makes two wooden stakes in order to slay the vampire should he come across it. He approaches a girl he'd barely even talks to, and risks his own neck to save her brother. And, really, it's all because his sister told him to. After he figured out the riddle (with the help of a friend).

He's the big, bad brother I kind of wish I had.

Final Answer: 4 / 5

As promised, there's also a chance to win THE FIRST WEB, which is a paperback version of I SEE THE WEB and its sequel, A SINGLE THREAD. So if you're interested, check out this Goodreads Giveaway (open through March 31). You can also Buy Direct straight from Cait Spivey.

Meet the Author:

Cait Spivey is a speculative fiction writer and freelance editor. Fiction is a passion she doesn’t see giving up any time soon. In her spare time, she plans her next tattoo (there will always be a next tattoo) and watches too much Netflix. Anything left over is devoted to her tireless quest to make America read more. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her darling husband Matt and adorable dog Jay.

Website * Newsletter (monthly) * Twitter * Tumblr

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Riddle me this: do vampires exist? A SINGLE THREAD @CaitSpivey got 4/5 stars from blogger @Rae_Slater. Read the review (Click to Tweet)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Things My Characters Learned (the Hard Way) #4

That's right. Every Friday, I'm going to share with ya'll a lesson my characters have learned sometime earlier that week while I wrote their story. Because we all know that sometimes the best lessons are ones learned in a more painful way than not (usually). It also serves to act as a way to share vague plot devices: what are the many ways you can get your characters into trouble? Read on to find out.


Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Thriller

Lesson Learned: Secrets don't make friends, but friends actually do make secrets. It makes it really hard to trust people, don't you think? The thing is, everyone's hiding something, and sometimes it's the least likely person who has the biggest and most shocking secret of all.

Do you know all your characters' secrets?


Do you write? Can your characters relate? Have your characters learned an important life lesson this week? Leave me a note in the comments!

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TMCL: Friends make lots of secrets. Do you know the secrets your characters keep? (Click to Tweet)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

How to Make Time to Read

So this post is a long time coming, the idea given to me by miss Briana Morgan. As a college student whose time is mostly spent in class and writing papers, what little time I have to read is usually spent reading the required reading for all of my courses (textbooks, novels, short story anthologies, poems, name it, there's a chance I've read it).

And I know I'm not the only one with things taking up my time: ya'll are all students, writers, workers of some sort, so you probably know what I mean when I say that other priorities and business matters and family obligations and friend obligations somehow manage to eat up whatever free time you have.

Which makes you a sad panda. Because books.

Basically, all I've done for today is brainstorm ways to squeeze some much-needed reading time into your hectic life:
  • Read before bed. Just one chapter. And I know that for bibliophiles like us it's really hard: you think just one more chapter, but then one chapter turns into five and then it's morning and you haven't slept. Oops? But really, this is something that calls for being tough on yourself: one chapter (with variances allowable depending on chapter length). Then sleep.
  • Read when you wake up. I've mentioned before that I've carved out my writing time by simply waking up earlier, and the same can go for reading. Set your alarm for thirty minutes earlier than you usually wake up, splash water on your face and/or grab coffee, then jump back into bed with that book sitting in your TBR pile. For thirty minutes, you'll have uninterrupted reading time to start your day off right.
  • Read during your commute. If you're a passenger (train, subway, bus, etc.), then read to your heart's desire until you're at your destination. If you're a driver (car, etc.), it gets trickier, but here's what you do: listen to your book on audio. Admittedly, I'm not an audio-book person, so it doesn't work for me, but my friend Briana Morgan has told me once or twice about how she listens to audio-books when on long drives. It's a way to kill the boredom and monotony, right?
  • Read while waiting for appointments. Doctor, dentist, orthodontist...okay, that's basically just been my week. But you know the pain of waiting for things, and rarely are these offices ever on time. Make sure to pack a book, and there you have it: you can read and keep yourself sane at the same time.
  • Read during your lunch breaks. This is something my sister does when she's on her lunch break: she sits in her break room and munches down on her food while reading Stephen King. By doing this five days a week for half an hour (roughly about 20-25 minutes reading time) she can finish a King book in about a month, and King books are long. Granted, she also eats lunch alone, so she has the added perk of a lack of people trying to talk to her. But hey, solitary time equals reading time, right?
  • Read while working out. Here's a tip for those of you who go to the gym and jump on a machine: take a book. Ellipticals, stationary bikes, and treadmills are great places to read while also doing something healthy (thus: work out your mind and your body at the same time). That half-hour/hour (or however long you like to do cardio) will pass quicker than you know; you'll be so focused on your book that you won't even notice the burn in your muscles (or is that just me?).
  • Read while taking a bath. I admit that this is something I get iffy about, simply because I'm terrified of accidentally dropping my book into the water. At the same time, this is something else my sister does sometimes swears by: grab a good book and jump into the tub to relax.
  • Read anywhere, at any time. You never know when a few spare minutes are going to pop up. Therefore, it's always good to be prepared: take a book with you, always. Crack it open whenever you've got free time, whether you're early to class or a meeting, or you're waiting for your kids' soccer practice to be over (okay, I'm again pulling from my own life, here. No, I don't have kids, but my parents would often read while waiting for me to be done with whatever sport I had on any given day). Pack it into a purse or a backpack (or whatever else you usually have with you), and even if you don't think you'll need it, you'll have it just in case.
Okay, so there's a small brainstorm list of how to add reading time to your day, no matter what occupation you're in or what your hectic life is like; at least, I tried to cover multiple bases. Did I succeed?

More importantly: do you have anything to add?

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Blogger @Rae_Slater brainstorms how to make more time for reading when busy lives sometimes get in the way (Click to Tweet)

How do you make time in a hectic schedule to pull out a book and read? Blogger @Rae_Slater brainstorms (Click to Tweet)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Research Chronicles: March 2015

How it works: On the last day (or week; I'll be doing Wednesdays) of each month, you do a post about what you researched in that past month for your novel or other writing project, sharing links to articles, blog posts, videos and more. It’s also a way that you can gather all your information you researched, tell your readers why you researched it and in the process you are leaving this information open for your readers and other writers to use.

This blog hop/link-up, of sorts, is free for anyone to join in and not only have fun sharing what you researched (whether it be actual research of writing tips) but also connecting with other writers and assisting them in the areas of research!


I fail at life because I really didn't do that much research this month (may the writing and college gods smite me, I guess). I've been doing so much rewriting and edits that I haven't come across many holes in my WIP that need to be researched to fill in properly.

So...I'm sorry.

However, I'm always running across great articles about writing in general. As a writer who enjoys writing from multiple points of views, this article from Writers Helping Writers gives some Tips When Writing Multiple POV Novels, and while some of them I knew and always kept in mind, I learned a few more tidbits that are useful to keep in mind.

Here's also a fun fact that relates to my WIP: tungsten carbide is two times stiffer than steel and is denser than steel and titanium.

Another fun fact (relating to my WIP): the Riodinidae butterfly (commonly known as Metalmarks) are really pretty, and the pigment in their wings reflects light the same way as metal does.

(Pro-tip: when researching, it's okay to click on a Wikipedia article first. Skim it, then use the links under the 'references' section to get more reputable sources to double-check the facts in the article).


Like I said, I've completely failed in terms of researching this month. Hopefully next month I'll have some more stuff for you, but until then: remember that researching is actually really fun (but only when looking up things that relate to your WIP and not when you're trying to write a research paper for something school related. I mean, depending on the subject, that could be fun, too, I guess. But this is self-assigned, which automatically makes it better).

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What did blogger @Rae_Slater research this month for her writing? It involves tungsten carbide: (Click to Tweet)

The Research Chronicles: a new feature (hosted by @ABookishFangurl) to showcase your monthly research (Click to Tweet)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Writer's Block: Roadblocks and Detours

So last Wednesday I woke up at my usual 5 a.m., sat down at my laptop with a nice, big mug of coffee...and then I stared at a page on Microsoft Word that only had the word "Eleven" at the top of it.

I did that for an hour.

The thing was, I was torn: half of me wanted to write one scene, and the other half kept calling the first half stupid. I was more inclined to listen to the second half, because the scene I kept thinking about was simple and contrived, and something that I definitely knew would not be in the best interests of my current WIP.

What I'm trying to say is: I had a dose of writer's block. It didn't last long (like I said, only an hour), but it was a rather difficult hour (given that I give up sleep to write in the mornings). Whether you believe in writer's block or not isn't the point of this post; instead, the point is that when you're stuck, try to think critically about why.

I have a theory that whenever I can't write, there's a reason. Maybe it has nothing to do with the writing, itself: it might be something happening in my personal/emotional life. In which case: hey, I can take a step back and go watch anime and Disney movies and lump around for a bit (until I'm feeling better).

All too often, though, I can't write because something in my WIP, itself, just isn't working. In which case I spend time staring at a blank page (like yesterday morning; I hope ya'll sort of see where I'm going?). But instead of doing nothing and waiting for inspiration for strike, I fully recommend being proactive about beating your writer's block (hence: take a detour).

The trick is to be very aware of your WIP and your own writing style. Look back to that third paragraph: my brain was telling me to take the easy way, but my gut instinct said that it was too simple, that it wouldn't work. No matter how much I was tempted to, I didn't write what I already knew was a bad idea.

So neither should you.

The problem, then, for me was that I had no clue what would be better to put in that contrived scene's place. So I skimmed through the previous 18 k and started thinking about plot points that haven't been introduced yet, and plot arcs that hadn't even been started. I thought: what could happen to this character that would have the most impact, and that wouldn't have the same impact if it happened to another (for those of you not up to speed: my WIP is told from two different POVs).

And then: ta-da! I figured something out, was eternally grateful my CP was awake, ran it by her, got the okay, then wrote.

If you're experiencing a block, try looking back over what you've written so far and ask yourself what might have gone wrong. Or brainstorm potential scenes that could go next, and think critically about whether they belong. A big part of this is understanding your own writing methodology and your own goals in writing your WIP: go back to the core of your story and find the basic theme or plot that you're trying to tell (something simple: family, friendship, loss, etc.). Then go back to your WIP and see if any ideas have been sparked.

Here's a reason why it's also a good thing to have CPs who are familiar with you and your writing: you can also talk to them and see if they can help you brainstorm. What you need to remember, though, is that nobody knows you and your writing better than you do, so if you find yourself stuck, try taking a look at your own writerly bad habits (as in: the things you do to just to make it "easy," such as lazy plot filler, a hacked-up backstory. We're all guilty of them, particularly in early drafts). Odds are slightly, sort of, almost pretty good that they might have something to do about it (one of my own bad habits is lazy plot filler, which is what that contrived scene would have been).

You'll be surprised how easy it is to find where you're going wrong if you look at your own weaknesses (again: we all have them, and they're nothing to be ashamed of. Just admit them to yourself, and you'll find that you can catch them before you even start).

So now I'm curious: this is my personal way of figuring out where and why I'm stuck in my writing. What kinds of detours do you take to get around writing roadblocks?

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Writer's block? Blogger @Rae_Slater shares her method of taking detours around those pesky writing roadblocks (Click to Tweet)

Nobody knows your writing method better than you, so if you're stuck try to think critically about why (Click to Tweet)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Tea Time: I See the Web

Alright, guys. So today I have the first of a three-part review series, which means that for the next three weeks (today included) I'll be reviewing Cait Spivey's THE WEB series. Why am I calling this a review series? Partially because I feel like it, and partially because the exciting thing is that each of the parts of Spivey's series are novellas, not novels. Novellas are tons of fun, and they're complete, quick reads, and they require a lot of talent due to their succinct form (my own humble opinion). Which means that I hope you're excited as I am.

Plus: there's a Goodreads giveaway going on right now for the first two books in the series. Make it to the bottom of the post, and enter!

**Warning: Spoilers May Bound**

I See the Web (The Web #1), Cait Spivey

Seventeen-year-old Erin has a lot to look forward to, even if it suddenly seems like everywhere she turns there’s a spider staring at her. She’s finally out to her friends and family, surprising exactly no one. When Dawn, the love of her tender teenage dreams, corners her in the library, a whole new world opens up to Erin. From here on out, it’s all make-out sessions with her beautiful girlfriend in rooms stacked high with books.

Until the spiders start whispering.

Turns out the spiders aren't just stalking her for kicks. They need her to be their voice, their vessel, whatever that means. But their timing is crap, because there's no way Erin is giving up her human life just when things are starting to get amazing. Too bad the spiders just won't quit. Like it or not, Erin will have to choose, and it won't be nearly as easy as she thinks.

A paranormal romance novella, I SEE THE WEB originally appeared in serial on author Cait Spivey's website, and is now available as a complete edition.(source:goodreads)

Narrative-This novella is told from the first-person POV of Erin, the quirky (very quirky) protagonist. I'd be lying if I said that the voice isn't what pulled me in; the very first page opens with Erin explaining her fear of spiders and the way in which she gently coaxes them out of her bedroom while curled up in fear as far away as she can get.

It made me smile. It really, really did.

Erin's well-constructed voice tells the story in a fun manner, which is impressive given the creepy content. I'd love to spend more time in her head, just to follow the hyperactive thought-processes that are both handled with ease, and extremely easy to relate to as a reader.

Plot-Erin's trying to get her best friend to believe her when she says she's a lesbian, and when Geri (the best friend) finally does believe her, then things go pretty alright. Then her mother and brother find out, and nobody's surprised, and the very next day the girl she's been crushing on at school finds her at the library (sent there by Erin's brother), and the two hit it off.

So life's going pretty good for Erin.

Except for all the spiders that keep showing up.

That, alone, is enough to make me shiver. The spiders just keep showing up. And then when Erin tells them to go away, they go away. They just crawl into whatever dark corner they decide to hide in. And then there's a really creepy nightmare, and then a really creepy dream, and Erin starts to figure out why the spiders have suddenly started showing up. And it's not for a good reason.

I SEE THE WEB is horror. And it's horror that's written very well. While I wasn't crazy about how intense the relationship between Erin and her girlfriend became (it was just really super quick), overall the pacing was well done and all of the pieces of the puzzle fit and flowed together so well that I was hanging onto every page and read it through in one sitting (it's a novella, about 55 pages; quick and extremely satisfying read).

Characters-I've already kind of gushed about Erin, but let me do it again: she's realistic, funny, smart, quirky, and all-around the kind of girl I'd like to call a friend just because she'd keep life interesting for me (that's before the spiders, by the way).

Moving on to other characters: Morgan (the brother) is an intimidating presence, but I think that's only because he's described as being intimidating...and he's a bouncer at a night club. And that's kind of cool. But underneath the grizzly appearance he's just a giant teddy bear who cares about his sister (it's hinted that the only reason he hasn't left the small town after graduating high school yet is because he's waiting for Erin to graduate so he wouldn't be forced to leave her alone). Plus, he's the one who sent Dawn to the library to find Erin so the two girls could hit it off. I mean, does he deserve brother points, or does he deserve brother points?

Dawn. Dawn...honestly, Dawn confused me. She was shy and intense and kind of adorable as far as being Erin's girlfriend went, and I'm pretty sure she had a heart of gold. What confused me was her dialogue sometimes, and the way she acted; it made it really hard for me to really pin her down as a character, which would have been a good thing if she was deeper into the paranormal stuff happening than she actually was. So while I can say that yes, I liked her, I didn't think she was as well written as I would have liked.

Last is Theo, but all I really have to say about Theo is that oh my god he's such a creep. So.

Guys, I mentioned before: this is a novella, and it's a well-written one. Go read it in one sitting, and you'll see where I'm coming from. And you'll see why I've already picked up and read the second in the series.

Final Answer: 4.66 / 5

As promised, there's also a chance to win THE FIRST WEB, which is a paperback version of I SEE THE WEB and its sequel, A SINGLE THREAD. So if you're interested, check out this Goodreads Giveaway (open through March 31). You can also Buy Direct straight from Cait Spivey.

Meet the Author:

Cait Spivey is a speculative fiction writer and freelance editor. Fiction is a passion she doesn’t see giving up any time soon. In her spare time, she plans her next tattoo (there will always be a next tattoo) and watches too much Netflix. Anything left over is devoted to her tireless quest to make America read more. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her darling husband Matt and adorable dog Jay.

Website * Newsletter (monthly) * Twitter * Tumblr

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I SEE THE WEB @CaitSpivey: a horrific and satisfying novella, sure to make you shiver. Read the review (Click to Tweet)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Things My Characters Learn (the Hard Way) #3

That's right. Every Friday, I'm going to share with ya'll a lesson my characters have learned sometime earlier that week while I wrote their story. Because we all know that sometimes the best lessons are ones learned in a more painful way than not (usually). It also serves to act as a way to share vague plot devices: what are the many ways you can get your characters into trouble? Read on to find out.


Genre: Short Story

Lesson Learned: Be aware of how easily opportunities can disappear, whether it's to spend time with someone you love, take the next step in your life, solve a mystery that's been troubling you, etc. The chance you have now to make things right can disappear entirely, which means you've lost your window of opportunity.

Which means you'll need to be really creative to make up for it...


Do you write? Can your characters relate? Have your characters learned an important life lesson this week? Leave me a note in the comments!

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TMCL: Missing that window of opportunity means your characters have to be really creative to make up for it (Click to Tweet)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Writerly Bad Habits

My cuticles are a mess. My thumbs, in particular, are a bit scarred from the bad habit that I have of picking at the skin with my other fingernails. It's the way I deal with anxiety, a purely unconscious habit that I always tell myself I'm going to stop, but I haven't yet.

But this post isn't about those kinds of bad habits. This post is about something even better (or worse?): Writerly Bad Habits.

Just like we all have different writing processes, writing strengths, and writing weaknesses, we also all have different writerly bad habits. These are things that we might be conscious about or not, but they always show up (most likely in the first drafts of novels, or else if it's more of a hitch in the process, it's something that might slow you down).

The worst part is: your concerned friends in the writing community (and your CPs) tell you that it's a bad idea (in case you run it by them, first), and then you reason with both yourself and them in an effort to not feel bad about doing it.

Case-in-point: my worst writerly bad habit happens during revisions and rewrites. I'll get about 10-20k (sometimes more) into a revision of a WIP, then decide that something isn't working and that it needs to be fixed right this second...and then I start over. From the beginning.

I've done it about three or four times this year, alone. On a single project. Ask Hannah Hunt. She knows. And she's perfect and deals with me so often it's not even funny.

So that's my writerly bad habit. I simply cannot keep writing to the end if I think that a detail (or many) are so wrong in the beginning that it's leading my entire novel astray. Which means I start over a lot (I'm pretty sure I have about eight different versions of the first 20 k of my WIP. And only three full drafts).

I also have another one, and it has to do with being a lazy plot-filler person. But the whole restarting thing is my biggest one.

You've probably guessed it, but here I go: what's your writerly bad habit?

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Admit it: you've got a #writerlybadhabit. Blogger @Rae_Slater shares hers, and invites you to do the same (Click to Tweet)

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Villain as the Failed Hero: Humanizing Antagonists

So here's the thing: villains are not villains just so they can twirl their mustaches and say, "Ha! See? I'm evil!"

Just like your good guys, your bad guys have a history. Just like your good guys, they have reasons for doing things. The difference is, the reader tends to not see many of those reasons. Sure, they might get the Sparknotes version eventually, but even then it'll be watered-down; most of the roots of the villainry are trapped below the surface.

Which means they're doubly hard to write.

Villains and antagonists don't sit in the dark corners of their bedrooms plotting ways to be evil. In fact, the most convincing and realistic-and thus terrifying-villains are those who believe that they're the ones doing good; if you told your novel from their point of view, they'd be the good guys.

So when you're writing them, imagine they're the good guys.

What are they fighting for? What do they care about? What do they hope their actions will do? Who do they care about most, if anyone? If they're doing bad, and they know that it's bad, then why? What changed? Try writing a few hundred words of the most pivotal moment of their life. How are you looking at them differently, now?

Bad guys are only human (unless your bad guy is literally not of the human species, but still). They have flaws. They also have feelings. When you're writing your novel, make sure that you're doing them the respect they deserve and show them, and you'll be on your way to humanizing them, because every character exists on a blurred line: nothing's ever black or white.

Think of it this way: villains are the heroes who were never saved. While that's only one possible trope for characterizing your villains, antagonists, and overall baddies (of whatever caliber), it's a good place to start.

So I kind of already gave ya'll my own way of getting to know my villains: write something from their point of view. How do ya'll go about getting to know your bad guys?

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Crafting a believable bad guy? Try imagining they're the good guy. Blogger @Rae_Slater talks humanizing antagonists (Click to Tweet)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Tea Time: Sachael Dreams

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**
 Sachael Dreams (The Mine Series #1), Melody Winter

Twenty-two-year-old Estelle Bailey has had enough of busy city-life and her hot-tempered ex. She escapes to the seclusion and peace of her family’s clifftop home in Ravenscar, where the soothing solitude whispers to her soul as strongly as the sea itself does. But her newfound contentment is interrupted when a mysterious man—a Sachael, master of seduction—joins her midnight swim unexpectedly.

Estelle struggles against his charm and the overpowering attraction she feels for him. He offers her a life she never could have imagined, a life beneath the waves . . . but at what cost? Before she can decide, she’s captured, ensnared by the Sect, a secret enemy of the Sachaels, becoming a pawn in a war she knew nothing about.

Now, she’s left with a new choice—escape the clutches of the Sect and flee into the ocean, or side with her alluring, intimidating captor and destroy the Sachaels forever. Can she turn her back on the man she might love, or will the secret of her heritage change everything?

Set against a picturesque backdrop, Sachael Dreams is the first in a new series, exploring themes of romance, love, and identity, and the struggle that happens when all three collide.

Narrative-This book is told from the first-person POV of the lovely Estelle (with the exception of the prologue, which is told in the third-person POV of an unnamed woman).

Quick side note: I've read this on other reviews, too, and I agree that normally prologues aren't needed. I went into it fully expecting it to be kind of a useless one, but after reading it and reading the rest of the book, it actually kind of works? It's weird. It even gives the reader an extra bit of information that even most of the characters don't know. So I mean, I'm not a fan of the prologue, but it just kind

Back to the regular narrative: Estelle's voice is heavy on description and emotion; by that, I mean that the descriptions (my favorite part, probably) were extremely vivid, and the way in which things were described and that she worked through things in her head were thick with what she's feeling on the time, which translated really well from the page (or my Nook screen) to me (the reader). It was an easy voice to follow, which made the narrated parts flow very well (although I found some of the dialogue easy to trip over).

Plot-Estelle is a twenty-two year old young woman who's moved back to her home in Ravenscar after getting out of an abusive relationship. Her father died in the sea ten years prior, yet every month she continues doing what she calls a "ritual" in the sea: a monthly tradition she'd done with her father, which she promised him she'd continue doing even if he died.

As a reader, I knew there had to be more to that ritual than met the eye, and luckily I wasn't disappointed.

What I really liked: the hints and the mystery. Throughout the entire first half of the novel there were little weird things that cropped up that up up red flags, but you weren't sure whether you should pay attention to it or not. I'm talking a man on the train, a woman in the town that Estelle walks through, the repetition of descriptions of her father's paintings. They're all relatively small things, but they stand out in the subtlest of ways, which kept me suspicious and intrigued.

This mystery includes the fact that the prologue sets up the danger: Sachaels. Yet then you meet Azariah, who's a Sachael. Then you proceed to spend about two-thirds of the book wondering if he's really a bad guy, or if he's really as sweet and adorable as he seems. Then the sect gets involved and kidnaps Estelle, and then you need to figure out how good or bad they really are (as well as the individual characters involved). It's very frustrating, but in a good way.

The plot is also heavy on the romance (well, duh, it's "romantic fantasy" for a reason), which means that any and every scene that includes both Estelle and Azariah is going to be adorable.

What I didn't like: the pacing kept throwing me off. From the first chapter, everything happens fast: meeting Azariah, learning that Estelle's mother knows things, and the fast-growing relationship between Estelle and Azariah. It threw me off, but only because it felt like one of those openings that was going to take off at sixty and then accelerate from there; I understood and accepted it. Only, it didn't. It kind of slowed down; this was something else I was willing to accept, because once we hit about the halfway point, things sped up again when the Sect charges in.

So the next few chapters were great and suspended your anxiety in this middle ground where you're like oh, yeah, sh*t's getting real, now.

But then it slowed down again, until around the last thirty-ish pages. And then the climax was...well, anti-climactic.

A great world was set up, here, and I was and am still willing overlook a few things that I don't like on personal levels (like insta-romance; yet I'm overlooking it because it simply fits with the genre, the narrative, and the mythology involved). I loved the suspense, and I loved the hints and the fact that I was kept on the fence over, well, who's really the bad guy, here?

Yet in terms of the pacing and climax (and a few other scenes), I felt there were missed opportunities to engage in some action and to really put the reader in the scene. So I might be getting a bit generous with the stars, but only because (as I keep saying) the mystery and the world were so darn fabulous that I couldn't wait until I could pick the book up again to keep going.

Characters-The biggest statement I can make about these characters is that they're all extremely passionate, about one thing or another. Estelle holds a passion for the sea, for her family, and for Azariah. Azariah as a passion for Estelle. Orontes is passionate about revenge (and Estelle, but that's a very strange and slightly creepy story). Pactolas is passionate about killing Estelle and getting his father's respect.

I loved that the characters all had something or somebody to be fiercely emotional about, things that they were willing to shape their entire life around. That's what made me connect to each of them on even a small, base level (the want to love someone so deeply, to have a place or a person to call home, to earn the respect of somebody you respect).

And Estelle was adorable with her hot chocolate (I'm sorry, I had to say it; she drinks it all the time, and she got really excited about giving it to Azariah for the first time. it was such a small detail that made me smile every time).

What kept me from connecting with these characters on a deeper level, though, was how chaotic I felt they were. They'd say one thing, and then turn back on themselves, or else they were a bit one-sided. They're all strong (as in strong personalities), but in turn I'm not sure I got a chance to really see their weaknesses (aside from Estelle, since the novel is in her POV), which would have made them a bit more three-dimensional. There was only one side that I tended to see, and that made them fall flat in intense situations, despite how well-crafted they appeared.

Final Answer: 3.66 / 5

Meet the Author:

Growing up, Melody Winter showed a natural ability in art, a head for maths, and a tendency to write far too long English essays. Difficult to place in the world when she graduated, she pursued a career in teaching, but eventually ended up working in Finance. Melody is convinced the methodical time she spends working with numbers fuels her desire to drift into dream worlds and write about the illusory characters in her head.

Melody Winter lives in North Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two sons. When not dealing with football, rugby, and a whole plethora of ‘boy’ activities, she will be found scribbling notes for her stories, or preparing for another trip to the beach. With an obsession for anything mythical, Melody revels in reading and writing about such creatures. In fact, if she wasn’t such a terrible swimmer, she’d say she was a mermaid.

Sachael Dreams is her debut novel, and the first in her New Adult Romantic Fantasy series—the ‘Mine Series’.

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SACHAEL DREAMS @MelodyWinter @REUTSpub is romantic, mysterious, and suspenseful. Read the review (Click to Tweet)