Tag Archives: query

How to make Your Reader Care About Your Character #1

I was cleaning off my desk this weekend and I came across a handout from a seminar or class that I don’t even remember taking.  I read through the page and considered my current work in progress.  I’m pretty sure that by this time in my career I am doing what the handout recommends as an almost instinctual part of my writing process.

I almost tossed the paper, but thought there may be some people out there who could benefit from these notes.  And, of course, I tend to learn stuff myself when I write out and analyze notes for posts, so let’s see what happens.

To keep things  short, I will break this topic into 5 separate posts.  One thought to chew on at a time.

Disclaimer:  I honestly don’t remember where this handout came from. I’m going to paraphrase the topic and think up my own ideas, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m stealing without giving credit.

All right:  Creating a character people care about:

It should be a given to an author that they need to create characters that their readers will care about. They do not necessarily have to like the character. Some really great characters are very unlikable. But we need to CARE about them, or we won’t keep reading. Right?

So how do we do this?

1.       Relationships.  Everyone in the world has relationships. They can be good, bad, or just tolerable, but you know what a relationship is, and so does your reader. Seeing a character in a relationship is an easy way to help a reader connect.

Let’s think over some memorable relationships.  I’ll grab a character most people know.

Harry Potter.

Harry lives with his aunt and uncle. Wow, they do not treat him well, do they? Have you ever been treated unfairly? Have you every had to put up with it because you had no choice? Have you ever wished a magic letter would show up and scoot you away? (Well, I’m sure the answer is “yes” to most of what I said, anyway.)

Giving Harry this horrible home life helps us to INSTANTLY connect with him. We feel sorry for him and want him to live up to his potential.  If Harry can overcome the odds, maybe we can, too.

Do you see how quickly and easily the connection is made? In the first few scenes we totally care and we are engaged.

Relationships. Use them.

And if your character is stranded on a deserted island, have him draw a face on a ball so he has someone to talk to. Yes, that has been done, but that helped you to connect as well, right?
Relationships are one of the easiest ways to help your readers care about your characters.

How have you used relationships to develop your characters?

_JenniFer____EatoN

Writing Madly to a Deadline, and then NOT submitting

I recently jumped into the running for another anthology, which means writing to a tight deadline.  I tripped up my schedule for a few weeks, finalizing my novel for the Amazon Break Through Novel Contest, and was two-weeks behind schedule. I DID finish in time (barely), but now I sit here the day before the deadline, with a completed manuscript in my hands, second guessing myself.

Do I think it’s not good enough?  No.  The opposite.  It’s tight. It’s precise….

And if you could have seen the look on my son’s face after reading it— Dang.  I haven’t seen him this excited about something since finishing the Hunger Games (Not that mine is even remotely like the Hunger Games)

So what’s the problem?  Submit the dern thing!

Here’s my problem… It’s too long.  I did not make the word count.  I contacted the publisher, and they said they would consider it at the higher word count, but it definitely would have to be cut down by 1500 words for publication in the anthology (If it were chosen)

I searched for those 1500 words, and found a possible 500 to cut, but editing out those 500 would have affected the “mood” of the story.  And if another 1000 words were cut after that, the whole story would seem rushed.

If my son had said “Meh, it’s okay.  I’ve read better.” (Which he has done to me in the past) I would have sliced and diced the 1500 words out of the story and sent it in.

But he didn’t say that.  He asked for more.  My kid the voracious reader said:  “It was really great.  I’ve never read anything like that before.  When will you write another one?”

I thought about what those forced changes would do, and decided to take the creative high road.  I am passing on the anthology, and am now embarking on a search for a publisher of Young Adult Paranormal Short/Novellas.

Ugh!  I hate passing up an opportunity, but I think this particular story needs to find a more suitable home than the confines of an anthology.

I am all for editing… all stories need to be edited, but I don’t want to “cut” just for the sake of “cutting”.  I’d rather have words cut because they don’t belong there… not because there is a stipulation on word count.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this?

If not, do you think you’d submit anyway, or search for a new home?

_JenniFer____EatoN

I’m back! The blog tour is finally over. (Thank Goodness) – What I learned. And an ebook #giveaway for #FreeFriday #freestuff

Omigosh.  I can’t believe it’s finally over.  This may have been the most painful thing wonderful experience I’ve ever had as a writer and I hope I never have to put myself through this can’t wait to do another one.

I just came off a month-long blog tour.  45 stops in 30 days.  The over achiever in me says “Yes! Awesome! Bring it!”  But the real-person side of me just wants to take a step back and sleep.

So, what did I learn?  A lot.  Would I do it again?

No._00000

Well, at least not in the same way.

Did we get the word out?  Yes.

Did we sell books?  Yes.

Was it worth it?  I’m not really sure yet.

I don’t think I am going to take on a blog tour this aggressively again. Will I be aggressive?  You betcha! But the rest of my life shouldn’t suffer for it.

Before I dig into the things I’ve learned, let’s discuss the result…

Don’t get me wrong, this was not an overall bad experience.  My fear is, though, that I may have lost some of my following because I was not “here”.  That is what is really bothering me.

Soooooo… In the future, I will not be wreaking havoc across the internet for thirty days straight.  I will take it easy so I can still enjoy my life, because I can’t write when I’m stressed, and that just doesn’t work for anyone, does it?

I’m going to cut back a bit on blogging too, so I have enough time for my extensive goals for 2013… but I have some great things planned.

Mondays will be my days for posting about whatever pops into my head… The fun rants on my writing, my world, or whatever.

Tuesdays will continue to be Write a Story with Me, which is still going strong, and new people are signing up.  This has been a HOOT!

Wednesdays and Thursdays I will take off, unless I have a book review or something exciting that I can’t wait until Monday for.

Friday is something brand new I’m going to try out as a gift to everyone who’s supported me through all this.  #FreeFridays will feature a different author every week with a giveaway. They may give away a book, an ebook, chocolate, dogs, cats, whatever. But it’s a chance for them to promote their book, and a chance at a freebee for all those who comment.  Should be fun.  By the way… since this is the first #FreeFriday, everyone who comments today will have a chance to win either For the Love of Christmas or Make Believe on ebook. (your choice)  Yay!

Saturdays will be open to my whims, and I may not always post.  But for the next month I will be featuring the continuation of author/Editor Danielle Ackley McPhail’s advice on the do’s and don’ts of how to submit your manuscript.  It’s great stuff we can all learn from.

Sunday will return to Sunday Snippets, where I will showcase a snippet from my current work in progress, and invite you all to do the same.  It’s a time to share a little, and see what you guys think of it.  I’ve thought of making this a weekly blog hop, but it will be very informal, and I won’t kick you off if you post more than six sentences.  Yeah, I’m nice that way.  If you want to sign up, click here and be sure to hop around to other people’s sites to see their snippets.

Okay!  Now that all of that is out of the way….. What I learned:

A few things to keep in mind when you set up your own blog tours:

1.       Just because a person says they will host you, and you do the interview, doesn’t mean they will post it.  Just say’n.  Be ready for it.  It’s embarrassing to send people to a post and have it not be there.

2.       Confirm, and make sure you get confirmations.  I sent out interviews and sent confirmation emails, but in one instance I didn’t get a response for the confirmation.  Not sure what happened to my emails, but the host never got either, so the post ended up late.  My fault for not following up better on that one.

3.       There will be posts that it seems no one has read.  I try to tell myself that not everyone who reads posts comments. I hope some people read some of those guest posts, because I thought they were pretty good! Try to keep your chin up.  No all stops will look as successful as others, but you won’t know unless the host lets you know the number of hits.

4.       Some tour stops will be AWESOME.  Make a note of those people and become buddies.  Luckily for me, I’m already buddies, so everyone else has to suck up to them J

5.       Scheduling, doing the interview/post, telling people where you are that day, and following up and answering questions on all those other sites is time consuming and exhausting.  Be ready for it. No matter how well you think you have prepared… well, you know how it is.

6.       Don’t forget about Facebook.  I forgot about Facebook.  Oh well.

So, there you have it.  The good, the bad and the ugly – and what I learned through all this monotony.  For the most part, it was fun, and if I were a full time professional writer, and didn’t have another job, a part time job, a poodle that needs to be brushed, three kids with homework and a husband, it would have been no problem.  But for me, I think a more leisurely pace will be the ticket for the next one.

Thanks for sticking with me! And Here’s to an AWESOME 2013!  What do you have on tap for this year?

Don’t forget one commenter below will get their choice of For the Love of Christmas or Make Believe on ebook!

It’s GREAT to be back!

JenniFer_EatonF

By request: Who’s verses Whose

It never occurred to me to do an article on Who’s verses whose, because I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with it.  I can see how this could be confusing, however.

I will try to make this as simple as possible.

Who’s” is kind of like “it’s”.   It is a contraction of two words.

Who is going to the store?

Who’s going to the store?

Whose is the possessive form of “Who”.

Who does this book belong to?

Whose book is this?

I believe the problem that may cause confusion is that sneaky little apostrophe.  In most cases apostrophe with an “S” denotes a possessive.  That is not true for “who”, or for “it”.

It’s just another one of those wonderful little rules that make the English language so much fun!

Hope this helps!

What Stupid writing thing did your beta reader come up with this week? “As” easy as it seems?

Apparently, I like the word As.

It’s a little word.  So small, so subtle, BUT SO TROUBLESOME.

Yeah, I admit it, I’m an “as” junkie.  I love combining sentences.  I like the way “as” makes sentences flow together in such a beautiful flowery way.  But, unfortunately, too much of a good thing stands out.

The lovely Miss Ravena went through my manuscript and started highlighting my “as” addiction.  Oh, what a colorful page I received back!

Did I get rid of every one of them?  Of course not.  I just reworded sentences where they were not absolutely necessary.  I tried to make sure there wasn’t more than one “As” in a single paragraph.  In one instance there were three in a paragraph, but I could only drop to two.  Anything else and the pacing would have suffered (in my opinion).

So, yes, I still have the dreaded “as” used as a conjunction in my manuscript.  Tabu?  Maybe a little.  I’ll watch for it, but I’m sure I’ll do it again, and again.

It is, after all, an addiction.
You won’t catch me giving up chocolate too soon, either.

What stupid writing thing did your beta find this week? Darth Vader Syndrome

My characters breathe.  There.  I said it.  THEY BREATHE.  People breathe, right?  Get over it!

Ugh.  A beta recently said “your characters breathe a lot.”  Hmmmmm.  Do they?  Nifty little count-it trick to the rescue (Click here if you need the trick)

Yikes!  In 50 pages different characters breathed deeply, or took some sort of a breath 23 times!

No No No NO!  She smacks herself in the head.

Now…. breathing.  It’s normal.  Everyone does it, right?

Ergghhhhhh.  I think the deep breathing was a spastic reaction to making sure they don’t sigh too much.  I guess my sighs turned into deep breaths.  Now they all walk around sounding like Darth Vader.

The problem is, this seems normal to me.  If I think hard about something, or I am about to say something important, I feel myself taking in a deep breath.  Some call that a sigh.  Because I do it, my characters do it.  I guess I need to curb that habit.

It’s hard though, isn’t it?  There are just so many descriptive words in the English language that don’t jostle you out of the story because they are too “odd”.  It leaves us stepping, looking, sighing, and taking deep breaths.

Ugh.  No one said this writing gig was easy, my friends.

You just have to stop breathing.

I’m talking about your characters.  Breathe, QUICK!  You’re turning blue!

Whew!  That was a close one.  You guys gotta stop taking me so literally.

Watch for words you use too much.  Trust me, you won’t even see them.  Someone will have to point it out to you and make you feel silly.

Writing to a Deadline Part 2: “I still got Nothing.”

In Part One, I told you about this publisher’s writing prompt.  I told you I decided to pass, even though it was a great opportunity.  It nagged at me, though.  I have written two Epic 400,000 word series.  Why the heck couldn’t I do something with this picture?

I opened the web site back up.  I stared at that picture.  I was brutally aware that I was now two-weeks behind all those happy writers that seemed to be all over this story.  I could do this.  I stared at the picture some more.  I put it on my desktop.  Looked at it all the time.  Thought about it all the time.

Had I lost my touch?

“Just do it,” my son says. “Just write it.  Get it over with and see what happens.”  I ground my teeth as my own words came back to haunt me.  (See my previous post)  Problem was… this was a publisher, not a fourth-grade teacher.  They wouldn’t be happy with a “B”.  This needed to be “A” grade work.

I had no idea where to start, so I used a trick that I’ve used in my novels when I’m not sure how to start a new chapter.  I took the character in the picture—  I knew nothing about her, just what she was wearing and a setting.

I sat down to my keyboard, and had her take a simple step.  The wind whipped up around her.  Her shoes got dirty in the mud.  The air chilled her face… I engaged myself into her setting.  I allowed myself to feel her.

You know what happened?

Within one paragraph, I knew who she was.  I knew where she was going.  I knew how she had to get there.  I knew why she was going.  I knew what she had to do.  Her character snowballed in my mind.

Do  have a story?  Well, no.  Not yet.  I need more characters.  I need to develop those characters.  I need conflict.  I need antagonists.  I need explosions.  I need overlying theme and plot.

But I had a start.  And, to my surprise, I was suddenly interested in that woman in the picture.

Stay tuned.

Lesson Thirty from a Manuscript Red Line: Finale! Summing it all up

Wow.  It has been about 7 months since my beta partner and I sat on the phone pulling our hair out over the comments the publisher made on her manuscript.  I think at this point I have hacked up and drilled everything they had to say as much as possible.  The rest of their comments are just repeats of the same mistakes throughout the work.

Sooooo….. This is the last one.  Thirty posts in all.

So, did this help you?  Did you learn from this?  I totally did.  My novel is much more crisp, clean, and fluid as a result of all this information.  I hope you have benefitted as well.

Now the only problem is…. What do I post about on Monday nights from now on?

**GACK**  I have no idea!

Here are all the lessons in a sparkly package for you.  If you missed one, I’d suggest going back and taking a look.  Heck, maybe read them over again to get a fresh perspective.

I hope that you have all benefitted from these lessons as much as I have.  I’d also like to send out a special “thanks” to the brave author who was nice enough to allow me to slice and dice her red-lined manuscript for all the world to learn from.

Just out of curiosity, which lessons helped you the most?

I truly hope all of you will have the opportunity one day to add the revised version of the Gold Mine Manuscript into your own libraries.  Once it is published, (with the author’s permission) I will let you know so you can all see the value of good clear suggestions, and the results of hard work and editing.

Introduction

Lesson One:  Write without Looking

Lesson Two:  Do we like your main character yet?

Lesson Three:  Action Action, where is the Action?

Lesson Four:  And Then there was a Conjunction, or Was There?

Lesson Five:  Let’s keep it in the past

Lesson Six:  Watch that Voice!

Lesson Seven:  Where did that character come from?

Lesson Eight:  Magically Appearing Items in the Setting

Lesson Nine:  Written Any Good (Bad) Cliché’s lately?

Lesson Ten:  Girls Rule and Boys Drool

Lesson Eleven: Pre-Telling

Lesson Twelve:  How Are Your Characters Feeling Today?

Lesson Thirteen:  Keeping inside the Point Of View, Part 1

Lesson Fourteen:  Keeping inside the Point Of View, Part 2

Lesson Fifteen:  How Many POV’s Can You Have?

Lesson Sixteen:  Cutting down your Point of View Characters

Lesson Seventeen:  Who are we talking to?

Lesson Eighteen: What makes your story Unique?

Lesson Nineteen: Don’t annoy the reader

Lesson Twenty: Don’t make things so easy

Lesson Twenty-One: Common, and Cliché Themes

Lesson Twenty-Two: Does your Protagonist “Grow Enough?”

Lesson Twenty-Three from a Manuscript Red Line:  Kindle Syndrome

Lesson Twenty-Four: Remembering where your characters are

Lesson Twenty-Five: Bullying for Bully’s sake

Lesson Twenty-Six:  Capital Letters

Lesson Twenty Seven: Fluidity in Action-The Art of a Good Fight Scene

Lesson Twenty-Eight: Very Discreet Point of View Switches

Lesson Twenty-Nine:  Watch your Synopsis

Don’t forget to let me know which one you enjoyed the most!

Confusing Me and I… Ahhh the never ending quandary of a writer

There was a great article on Dictionary.com this week about confusing “I” and “me”

Click over here if you’d like to take a look.   http://hotword.dictionary.com/youandme/

Misuse of these two words is really common.  I hear people do it all the time.  Even in my own house, which I try to keep as grammatically correct as possible.

The words “I” and “me” get my husband and me into a rumble once in a while.  He will correct one of my sons, and then I will correct him, because my son was right.  In our culture in the USA, there is so much “overcorrection” of the word “I” that it is starting to sound right when people use it incorrectly.

Let’s take the first sentence in the previous paragraph.  “The words get my husband and me into a rumble.”  It sounds wrong, doesn’t it?  I actually typed it incorrectly the first time (yeah, I am admitting it) because “I” just sounded right.  I then went back and corrected it.

How can you tell if you are wrong?  Take out the other person, and leave the sentence the same.  Let’s try it.

The words get my husband and me into a rumble

The words get me into a rumble.

The second sounds correct, so we did it right.  In this example, “My husband and me” is correct.  Now, let’s do it incorrectly

The words get my husband and I into a rumble.

The words get I into a rumble.

Oh!  That didn’t work too well, did it?  In this case “My Husband and I” is incorrect.  If you are ever unsure, just take out the second subject and see how it works out.

Need an example when “I” would be correct?  Well, ask and ye shall receive!

George and I should have dinner sometime

I should have dinner sometime

That sounds good.  Okay, how about “Me?”

George and me should have dinner sometime

Me should have dinner sometime.

Oh, Yuck!  That didn’t work at all.  So, in this example, “I” is correct.

The problem is, that “You and I” has been so OVER-CORRECTED, that the word “I” almost always sounds correct.  Even to me.  In the first example, I really wanted to write “My husband and I.”

This is a case of English being an evolving language.  As a writer, you need to make a choice to follow the natural progression of language, or to adhere to “correctness”.

Honestly, between us… your reader probably won’t even notice.

The questions is— which camp your editor/publisher is in?

Ahhh… the quandaries of a writer.

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Lesson Twenty-Nine from a Manuscript Red Line: How’s your synopsis?

The publisher talked a lot about the synopsis in the closing comments of the Red-line.  I found this really strange, but I thought it had merit to mention it.

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

The reason I found this strange, was because they’ve already read the manuscript.  They’ve already made comments, and asked for it to be re-submitted.  Why are they even talking about the synopsis?

What it seemed like to me (being an optimist) is that they were actually being helpful.  They probably knew that there was a chance that the author may not make all the changes to their satisfaction, and that she might submit to other avenues.  They were nice enough to point out problems with the synopsis that might help her if she sent it somewhere else.

(Honestly, after reading all their synopsis critiques, I was wondering why they even asked for a “full” in the first place.  I guess you never know.)

So, this is what they said…

They went through a laundry list of what the story “is not”.

It is not about this, it is not about that either.  (Quoting what was mentioned in the synopsis)

It is not a character study on the main character.

The quest is not fleshed out…

These are some of the comments.  I am guessing they are saying that the synopsis was too in-depth and talked about the side plots in the story.

I can totally understand this.  It took me months of writing and digging and cutting and beta-bashing until I finally realized what my story is about…

Magellan Talbot has to save the world.  Too bad he doesn’t know it.

Boom.  Done.  Now, there is a lot of other stuff going on that is SUPER important and makes the story unique, but you wouldn’t believe how hard it was for me to boil it down to the above.  I kept getting bogged down by the details.  The crux of the story is simple.

To save the world he has to save the Goddess.
To save the goddess he needs to fight for her.
To fight for her, he needs to find the Rapier.
To find the Rapier, he needs to remember his dreams…
The catch?  He can never remember his dreams.
Or anything else about who he really is.

There is also a lot of other stuff going on.  There is a love story, and a jealous brother trying to kill  Magellan… but simplicity is the key for the synopsis… I need to use only the elements that draw the story forward that are closely attached to Magellan saving the Goddess.

The publisher’s next comment in the Gold Mine Manuscript was “If the story is about saving (the alternate world) then that’s your focus and everything that happens in the story needs to lead to that point.  And the synopsis needs to be focused on all the activities that happen to get to that point.  Tie in every character that is introduced to get there as well as why and how (the MC) is the true key… build that up and show how that’s important.  Show us through actions and scenes that push the story forward.”

After reading this, I think I may have edited my own summary down too far.  I bought it down to the bare bones of the fewest characters involved that draw the main plot line forward.  And I also think I centered on the WRONG plotline.  My current synopsis is straight and to the point, but it is more centered on the jealous brother… which is important, but not the center.  I also took out Harris, who is probably equally as important in the novel as Magellan is.

Honestly, I am just not qualified to give anyone advice on a Summary.  I am just as lost as the rest of you.  I have helped out others with suggestions, because sometimes it is easier to have someone else boil down your story for you.  The best I can do is give you the exact quote that the publisher wrote for the Gold Mine Manuscript. (above)

Read their comment over carefully, and do your best with it.  And… when you get lost… remember that you have friends in the blogosphere who are always willing to help.