Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Editing and Re-Editing, Just Stop it Already

Most writers love writing. That’s pretty much a given. However, a good portion of those writers hate going back and editing. They’d rather continue with the flow of new ideas and just write, write, write.

I’m a little weird, so of course, I’m one that actually does like to go back and read my work and polish it until it’s blindingly shiny. In fact, I sometimes take so much time on editing and re-editing that I don’t work on new ideas. Worst of all, I’ll sometimes go back and start editing a story that’s still not finished.

What that means is that the first few chapters of my story is great, the middle so-so, and the end is non-existent. Not good. At this rate, I’ll never finish anything.

As it turns out, I’m not completely alone. This is a trap that a lot of new writers fall into and it’s a trap that is the more dangerous to new writers in particular. So not only are we susceptible to this, we’re the group it negatively affects the most. Great.

So why is it a trap? As mentioned a couple paragraphs ago, I’m having trouble actually finishing stories. This is why. I’m so wrapped up in editing the beginning, that I’m not writing the end. Bad newbie writer!

Okay, so why is it more dangerous to new writers? I’m constantly learning things about writing. Every day that I write and/or research, I learn more and improve my skills. So, any edits I make now, will probably be changed later as I improve further. Basically, I’m wasting my time editing something that’s just going to be changed later anyway.

But hold on there. Experienced writers can fall into this trap as well. Quite a lot of writers like to spew forth words and write whatever comes to mind, not worrying about grammar and style. All that will be worked out in editing. So, why not start editing right away and help the process along? Well, I’ll tell you why not.

When writing, the author gets in touch with their creative side. Lots of ideas start flowing and plots, characters and other ideas often will change midstream. By the end of the book/story, what you wrote in the beginning might very well be edited out altogether. So if you went in and edited as you went, you just wasted time on editing something that’s no longer included. That’s valuable time (since most of us writers have a full time job to “pay the bills”) that you could have used to write.

That’s what I’m fighting myself over. I really, really, REALLY want to go back and edit and edit and edit some more. I swear it’s like a compulsion. But I’m not getting anything finished.

So here’s what I’m doing. I’m fighting the compulsion. I’m forcing myself to not go back and either write new material or edit finished work only. Yeah, I can go back and reread passages to get back in the flow of things. If I see a glaring error, I allow myself to change it, but I don't go back purposely to edit now.

I have to say, it’s actually working. I finished two stories and have outlined two more so that they’ll be done in about a week. With a little bit of focus, I went from no stories done to almost having four done. That’s quite a difference.

Anyone else suffer from the constant need to go back and perfect your work before it’s done?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Series Review: Black Dagger Brotherhood

Okay, so this is a couple days late. I know you all were just waiting with anticipation.

Today, we’re going to explore the Black Dagger Brotherhood by JR Ward ( This is an intense series from the point of view of the vampires. Humans are the bad guys and vampires just want to be left alone.

Series Overview: Overall, JR Ward creates a world from the vampire’s perspective. They don’t feed off humans, they don’t hurt humans at all really (unless the humans strike first). In essence, they are completely harmless and just want to live their lives. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Hunted down and often tortured, their race is dwindling. Only the Black Dagger Brotherhood stands in the way of their extinction.

The Brotherhood is a group of warriors who are enlisted by the king to protect their race. Born only of other warriors and the Chosen (think vampire nuns who exist only to serve their deity and give birth to more brothers), the brotherhood is treated like royalty. Built like mac trucks, they are genetically engineered to be stronger, faster and be fierce protectors.

Ironically enough, the biggest threat to their race is a human militia group, the Lessening Society, led by the Omega (another deity). In this world, vampires don’t even drink human blood; it’s too weak to sustain them. They drink blood of other vampires. They completely and totally leave humans alone, but the lessers insist on killing and torturing them anyway, the big meanies.

The writing is strong and forceful. The plots are usually fairly involved and can be brutal. The characters aren’t always your typical hero/heroine type. They have issues and problems and it’s working through those issues that make the books great.

Here’s what irks me about the books (and these little quirks have totally turned off some people).

1 – For some reason, vampire warriors are gangsta. Everything they say is slang or abbreviated. Quite a few times I had to stop reading to go back and figure out what the heck they were talking about. I usually figured it out, but it did bring me out of the story.

2 – Major brand name dropping. There are constant references to products and brand names. I think this is just her writing style, but some get turned off because they think she’s getting paid to drop names.

3 – This is the one that gets me more than the other two. The names are ridiculous and the “Old Language” from somewhere over in Europe is basically English with a bunch of ‘h’s and ‘r’s stuck in various places. The deity who created vampires is called the Scribe Virgin (and she’s neither scribe nor virgin) and their nemesis is the Omega. Seriously? Yes, seriously.

Dark Lover – this is the start of the series and it starts out with a bang (literally and figuratively). She focuses on the King and a half human/half vampire woman named Beth. This really introduces you into the world and the culture as Beth goes through her coming of age. I found this book enjoyable, but it didn’t enthrall me. It took quite some time for me to pick up the second one. I really didn’t see what the fuss was all about.

Lover Eternal – This is the book that made me a devoted fan of the series. I laughed, I cried, I went through a whole range of emotions. This book focuses on Rhage and a human named Mary. Bella is also introduced and the next book is set up quite nicely. We also start hearing about John Matthew who is key in an ongoing plot throughout the series. (Supposedly, he’s the focus of the next book.)

Lover Awakened – Another great book in the series. So much pain and so much healing. This book focuses on Zsadist and Bella. Some of the other ongoing plots will rip your heart out in this one. There’s a lot going on in the series at this point, so there’s a lot of switching back and forth between the different characters.

Lover Revealed – For many people, this is their favorite one. It was good, but Lover Eternal is still my favorite. This is the story of Butch and Marissa. Marissa got screwed over big time so far, so it’s nice to see her character evolve and grow. Butch has been lingering as a character too and it was time to do something with him.

Lover Unbound – I was extremely anxious to read this book. Vishous was my favorite of the brothers and this was his story. I have to say that he got jipped. In an interview with the author, I found out that Vishous was her least favorite character and that she struggled with this particular book. I have to say that it shows. This story is about Vishous and a little bit about Jane. It’s only redeeming factor is that it really delves into the vampire world and society. Quite a lot is explained in this book. In fact, the author has been criticized that she’d gotten away from the “romance” element and focused on more fantasy instead. Although there is a romance story predominant, it is not the only story and all the other plots do start to compete for dominance.

Lover Enshrined – Since I was disappointed with Vishous’s story, I looked to this one to bring the series back to life for me. Phury is also a favorite of mine and I really wanted to see his life take on a more rewarding path after all he’d been through for his twin brother, Zsadist. This is the story of Phury and Cormia, but as with the previous book, there was very little “romance,” but a whole lot of side plots and soul searching instead.

Lover Avenged – Okay, so after two not quite romance books, I resigned myself to the fact that I was reading this series because the world was so rich and there were a whole lot of side plots going on that I wanted to keep up on. So I read this without expecting too much. This is Rehvenge and Ehlena’s story. I have to say that the romance element was brought back in this book even though there still was quite a lot of side plot still present. Technically, Rehvenge has been a side plot for quite some time and little was known about him. Everything is revealed in this book regarding this character. Ehlena is just sort of along for the ride.

Lover Mine – (To be released next week 4/27) This is John Matthew and Xhex’s story. John’s side plot to this point has been completely heart wrenching and it’s about time for something to get resolved here. This book is set up in the previous book much like Zsadist and Bella’s story was set up. I’m anxious to read this one because of all the other ongoing plots, this one has been lingering the longest and has captivated many fan’s hearts.

Future books – Although the author is also working on another series (Covet), there are plans for more books in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Specifically books about Torhment (one of the original brothers), Lassiter (an angel sent to help them) and Pain (a potential female “brother” ), all three have been ongoing plots for awhile now, Torhment having been there from the beginning.

Conclusion: I love this series, even the books that were questionable. I picked it up for the romances, but stayed because of the world. Towards the end of the series, it does get involved and the plots do focus more on events and character growth rather than romance. The romance never disappears, but it is much more downplayed in later books.

Please note that there is sex, violence, blood, torture, more blood, rape, and some very dark elements. If any of those elements offend you (or just the slang and silly names) then don’t pick up this series.

If you can look past the dark elements, the gangsta speak, and the ridiculous names, this is a series that is a must read.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Modern Times

So, I've been away from my computer (home computer) a lot lately. That has seriously put a kink in my writing time. What I've been doing is taking a lot of notes on my smartphone. I even have an app that will let me write using MS Word and update my submission schedule in MS Excel. It's like a itty bitty laptop in my pocket. I have to say that's just super cool.

However, there is a downside (isn't there always?). It's a small screen and the keyboard is miniscule. Yeah, I can type on it and I do a pretty good job of it too, but it's not a computer (well, it is, but it's not a full size computer with a keyboard, etc.). For example, I've been known to write some of my blog entries from my phone and submit them to draft. Because of the screen size, I can't format them, so I have to come home, turn on the computer and format my entry there. 

Wouldn't it be great if I could both write and format with one fell swoop while on the go? Furthermore, wouldn't it be great to actually start writing when the ideas start flowing, no matter where I am, instead of just jotting down ideas for later?

Well, isn't it great that we live in modern times then?  Because the solution is right in front of me.  Literally. I'm in the store right this minute typing away on a netbook. Yes, a netbook.  Not a laptop, but a netbook (really just a smaller laptop with less features, but also cheaper).

Now, I'll be able to just get into the writing that's going through my head as it goes through instead of just taking notes on my phone and hoping I remember all the ideas and nuances that passed through. And on top of that, the battery life is much higher than a standard laptop, so no getting interupted with pesky low power notifications.  Well, not as many anyway.

The downside is that it has a much smaller screen (still bigger than my phone) and comes with Windows 7 Starter. Supposedly it's upgradeable, but what happens to the powermanagement and how sluggish does it get then?

How many others out there use such devices? In this day and age of computers on our phones and so portable, how many writers out there actually use this technology?

Friday, April 9, 2010

In all things, moderation

"To avidly learn is what keeps life interesting," Elisabeth expounded excitedly.  She spent the rest of the day thoughtfully musing over the lessons she'd learned.  The next blog post was written with much excitement.
Did I miss anything?  Can you pick out all the rules I just broke?  I've gone over a few of the more popular rules in my last few posts.

There are plenty more rules out there.  One of them, that was pounded into me in high school, was not to use "There are".  But these were rules that I'd come across recently and that were still under debate or being discussed.
Now that I've researched and gone over each one, I can say I have a much better understanding of why each rule was put in place.  I know most of the negatives and the positives for each one.  However, I still dislike the word "rule".  I'd much rather use "guideline".
The very word rule implies that there are never any exceptions.  Each "rule" I've gone over recently most certainly does have exceptions (depending on who you talk to).  Guideline implies that you should do it a certain way where ever possible, but there are times when you should do it another way.
Just following some of these guidelines has improved my writing exponetially.  For example, here is my original opening paragraph to my book:
Her first thought was, Oh hell no!  Kat had just woke up to find herself tied to a chair in an old, dimly lit basement that smelled like gym socks.  The last thing she remembered was walking down to the corner store to get the milk that her harebrained sister, Kit, forgot.  Kit was always forgetting everything and Kat, as usual, tried to fix it.  This time, however, it landed her in this basement.  Great.  Just great.
Lots of telling, adverbs, etc.  Here's what I have now:
The smell of old gym socks assailed Kat’s nose, waking her. She opened her eyes and scanned her surroundings, trying to figure out what had happened. A florescent light flickered overhead, casting the room and its dingy contents in intermittent darkness. Realizing that her hands were tied behind her and that she was in a strange basement, her first thought was, Oh hell no!
Kat struggled against the ropes, chafing her wrists. It made no difference, she wasn’t about to stay here, no matter how raw and bloody her wrists ended up.

She remembered walking home from the corner store, a bottle of milk in her hand, then a sharp pain on the back of her head. Her harebrained sister, Kit, had forgotten to stop by the store again. As usual, Kat had tried to fix the situation, going out after the milk on her own. This time, however, Kat’s fixing landed her in this basement. Great, just great.

It could still use some work, but it's better.
Here's what I've concluded.  Moderation is the key.  Using the guidelines will help inspire a higher level of writing.  Never settle for poor writing.  Anything can be re-written.  The big question is, is it being re-written for the betterment of the piece?
Sure I can follow all the rules, but by following all the rules, did I just lose the voice that makes me unique?  Is my writing now bland and sound like everyone else's?  Or have I added to the description and drawn the reader further into the story?
Only you can answer that question about your own work.  Often we get caught up in writing for other people.  What will the agents like? The Editors?  The audience?  Sometimes we forget why we started writing to begin with.
Of course, keeping the rules in mind will help when dealing with editors and agents, but also remember that you are writing for you.  Write what makes you happy.  In the end, you're the most important reader.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Series Review: Almost Human

This time, I'm going to review a self published author, Melanie Nowak's Almost Human (1st Trilogy) series (  Okay, I admit it.  I got drawn into the whole Twilight world and really liked it.  There, I said it.  After I was done reading that series, I craved other similar series and did a bit of digging.  During my digging, I found this one.

Although written before Twilight, it does have a similar feel.  The differences are that the heroine is in college and the situations are a bit more "real".  Real as in, there's a 300 year old vampire, of course he's had a few relationships and even fallen in love before.  I mean, come on...

Whenever I read a self published author, such as this, my brain shifts a bit.  Typically (not always) there are going to be typeos, grammatical errors and just the odd thing here and there.  And yes, you do get those, but there are less than I expected.  It's definitely not polished by editors and the like, but for not having that polish, it's not bad.

Overview - A few annoying things come to mind. In particular, she uses bold for emphasis instead of italics.  For whatever reason, that just bothered me (probably more than it should have).  Also, the books are really not stand alone AT ALL.  The series is really just one big book broken out into three parts.

Otherwise, I got my whiney teenage girl/moody vampire fix.  The plot itself drags out a bit, but is pretty solid.  The writing could use some polish, but I was able to get through it.

Note that the plan is to have multiple "trilogies" in the same world but with focus on various characters.  She's currently working on the 2nd Almost Human Trilogy.

Fatal Infatuation - Felicity goes away to college.  She'd been protected her whole life and this is her chance to finally sprout those wings and go out on her own.  She soon finds herself completely alone and a little bit pathetic.  She gets a job, meets a guy, has a run in with a few vampires (Sindy), another vampire (Cain) saves her, yada, yada, yada.

Cain is an elder vampire who has found religion.  He has a mission to convert all the other vampires to drink from animals or at least not kill the poor helpless humans.  If they don't, he kills them.

Of course, the hero and heroine cross paths and are hopelessly attracted to each other and he has to protect his new love interest from the evil Sindy.

Lost Reflections - Here's where you get the skinny on Cain and find out more about the vampire culture and inner workings.  Venom is explained further as well as how to turn humans into vampires.  I do have to admit that the explanation of how everything works is pretty detailed.  However, Cain's story felt a bit forced.

Evolving Ecstasy - The final book that wraps everything up for Felicity and Cain.  I won't spoil anything, but the ending struck me as odd.  Not Cain's part, that actually made sense to me and was a lot more realistic.  No, Felicity's part was what made me think, "Really?"  It just struck me as really soon and fickle.  Then of course, there's a teaser for the next trilogy.

Conclusion - If you liked Twilight, you'll probably like this as well.  However, there are sexual scenes, more violence and more adult situations.  It is not a YA series.

If you don't like Twilight or unpolished work annoys you, it might not be for you.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

"Dialog tags?" I muttered

What are dialog tags?  I'm glad you asked.  Dialog tags are these nifty little words that tell the reader who's speaking.  The most common is "said" as in "He said" or "She said".

Mary said, "But that doesn't make sense."
John said, "Sure it does."
Mary asked, "How can it?"
John explained, "Simple, you just…"
More industrious writers sometimes use more descriptive dialog tags.

Mary panted, "I just ran ten miles."
John gasped, "And you didn't collapse?"
Mary grinned, "Not all of us are as out of shape as you are, John."
John muttered, "I'm not out of shape…"
Now, what's the big deal?  The basic rule is to not use them or if you do, use them sparingly.  Well, how do you know who's talking?  That's a good question.  Take the above example:

Flushed from her run, Mary halted in front of John.  She bent over and placed her hands on her thighs, panting. "I just ran ten miles."
"And you didn't collapse?"  John's eyes nearly popped out of his head.
"Not all of us are as out of shape as you are, John."
"I'm not out of shape…"
There, no tags, yet the reader knows who's speaking AND it was descriptive.  I'm not saying it's great writing, but it's an example.

Okay, here's the debate.  Those that like to use tags like to use them to add description to their writing.  Using "He screamed" is a lot more descriptive than "He said" and adds another dimension.
Those that don't like to use them say that they are distracting and interrupt the flow of the dialog, especially the descriptive tags.  This group feels that using "said" (and MAYBE "asked") actually blends in better than descriptive tags and the eye passes over all the "saids."  That said, they should still be used as sparingly as possible.
I can see both sides.  Yes, they do interrupt the flow and they should be used very sparingly, but sometimes it works better if I use a "she whispered" instead of an alternative.  Yes, I could rewrite it, but sometimes it's even more distracting describing everything before someone says something.
The argument is that the dialog should show everything, so you don't need description.  If someone is angry, their words should show it and so you don't need a "he spat" or "he pouted".  For the most part, I agree with this.  But how do you show when someone whispers?  Okay, I guess the other character could lean in and / or ask them to speak up.  Even a "They spoke in hushed tones." and then start the dialog would work.  I'm sure there's a way to do just about anything, but is it better for the story and the plot?

Also, here's a little pet peeve of mine (and I know several others are in agreement with me on this).  Sometimes these descriptive tags don't make sense.  The most common one to bring up is:

He laughed, "And that's when I told him, that's no goat, that's my wife."

How can you laugh and speak at the same time?  You can't (at least not well).  Either you are laughing or you are speaking.  How to fix this?  It's just a matter of adding a period instead of a comma.

He laughed. (period and begin new sentence.)  "And that's when…"

If you are going to use descriptions for tags, please please please take this into consideration so that your tag at least makes sense.  In the above version, he laughed and THEN he spoke.