30 April 2016

Zipper (and Other Words I Hate)

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

I barely got a chance to even look before he pulled my zipper down and slipped his hand over my boxers. 

Yeah, there was no quote in UL that uses the word "zipper" that wasn't naughty. Sorry not sorry. Actually, I'm lying. There's totally a sentence in the first chapter that mentions backpack zippers. But where's the fun in that?? 

So I actually hate the word zipper. But it's one of those weird words that you can't really find a way of replacing or editing out. So I started thinking about what other words I hate that I still have to use from time to time. So I made a list!

WARNING: Most of my least favorite words are related to sexytimes in some way.

Ok, it's not so much the word that I hate. It's that it's just a necessary part of any below the waist sexy scenes. Pants can't come off without zippers going down. I know you can skip some things, but that always seems to be an action that needs to be on the page or people are going to wonder how the heck those pants came off. Magic? Scissors? And the pants aren't always 100% off, either, but Jordan's always wearing skinny jeans, no one's getting in there without a zipper being undone.

I hate this word probably more than any other word and I don't even know why! It's just a weird word! It's a weird thing! Especially on dudes! But I mean, it's there. Sometimes a tongue has to be touching it...

This is one of those words that just sounds so textbook in a sentence. Like, what is this, high school health class? What's the alternative--hard on? Because that sounds SO romantic! NOT.

The F Word
No, not the obvious one. That's in there 183 times. The mean terrible one. I've tried to use it somewhat ironically but it always stands out like a sore thumb. I think it may be better off not in there at all. (Except maybe the quote featured in my V post. But that whole paragraph is heavy on the sarcasm so I think it works).

Ok, I don't actually hate the word love. But it's kinda hard to come up with words that you dislike and still have to use (because if you dislike a word, you typically just don't use it!). But for this particular novel, I made it a point not to use this word. At all. Ok, once. That's why I'm hoping it will stand out in that particular sentence, because it kind of shows how one character is entirely aware of how another character feels for him (but has not revealed this to the reader). But I have made sure that I don't use it in any other sentence in the book, even something so simple as, "I love pizza!"

I wanted this list to be longer, but like I said, coming up with words that I hate and still have to use is hard. Plus they're all probably related to sex somehow. Well, that is it for this year's A to Z Challenge! I hope you all enjoyed my ramblings this month.

What words do you hate? Are you going to take a nice long nap now that the Challenge is over??

29 April 2016

Yummy Stuff

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

I stuck the fork right into the squishy, yellow center, picking up a big chunk and sliding it onto my tongue. It was sweet and tangy, the flavors erupting in my mouth. I snatched up the entire dish and brought it back to the couch and ate and ate and ate until my fork scraped up all the crust from the bottom. I just couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t even want to. 

One of my favorite things to write are food descriptions. This won't always be necessary in every story, but in UL, food plays a huge role, so it definitely pops up now and then. Writing about food can be fun--what it looks like, smells like, tastes like. It's a great chance to really dive into a description and cover all of the senses. 

But why food? Well, that will depend on the story. For mine, food represents not only an actual hunger, but also a more symbolic one, as well as an awakening of sexuality. With pie and cupcakes. Yeah, it may seem weird, but I think it works. It's one of the more fun parts of writing my novel. 

So where do I sneak in food descriptions? Well, most of them are at the beginning. If you read this post, you may remember that when Tom first meets Jordan, he brings him a pie (it's a math joke!). Chapter One ends with Jordan eating that entire pie in one sitting. His hunger is something that cannot be contained, but also exposes a vulnerability that he isn't quite ready to admit, either. 

I will fully admit that it gets bizarre at points, and I absolutely love it. One of my favorite scenes involves eating lemon bars while Jordan, is, well, by himself...doing something else at the same time (wink wink). It's so weird and yet it works. Every time I include a lengthy food description, what I'm hoping for is to actually show some other aspect other than just the fact that my characters are eating. There are other emotions and desires going on at the same time as a literal hunger for food. 

Why would you want to include food? If not for a symbolic reason, maybe just to show character traits. Maybe one of your characters likes to cook. Having them cook for another character could be a good way to show certain aspects of their relationship as well. Or maybe you just want to make your readers hungry...

Do you include food descriptions in your stories? Do you think you could eat a whole pie in one sitting??

28 April 2016

Exceeding Expectations

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

But clearly it was supposed to happen, since the universe so conveniently placed the answer right in the palm of my hand. I mean, I’m used to getting my way, but this was more than that. This was a sign.

I'm not exactly the type of person to believe that things will go my way. I don't honestly believe that I'll finish this book in the near future and get it published and then all my dreams will come true. But that doesn't mean I don't dream, either. I guess the weirdest part about that is that sometimes I actually worry that these dreams will come true. What if it's just too much for me to handle? What if I just want to run and hide instead? 

I won't deny the fact that I dream big. I mean, I lead a very rich fantasy life. And it's this weird mixture of thinking/hoping that all of these things will come true while also being incredibly rational thinking that they couldn't possibly happen. Like, I'm delusional, but I'm also very much aware of how delusional I am. Sometimes I wonder if these thoughts are helping or if they are holding me back. 

It's not just because I worry about reality not living up to my expectations. That's pretty much guaranteed to happen. There's another underlying fear that I don't really like to think about that much. What if these dreams do all come true? Am I really the type of person who can handle it? I'm not exactly one for the spotlight. I mean, I can't even take the pressure of being a bride right now and only six people are coming to my wedding. So why do I think being some famous author is going to work out for me? 

But I also think everything happens for a reason. I've always thought that this story is bigger than me, because it was just so strange that I even came up with it in the first place. I feel like it serves a bigger purpose than just being a story, but I can't know what that is now. 

And then there was the sign, of course. I know I've mentioned it a few times with my weird vagueness, and that's for two reasons. I don't really want to talk about it that much until I actually know whether or not it was a sign. That could take years to figure out. But also I don't want to explain it and have people say, that's not a sign, you're just crazy! I'd like to hold onto that little bit of hope. 

I will tell you that it involved at least four coincidences at once. I knew three of them beforehand, which was pretty much why I was where I was in the first place. Things seemed to line up perfectly and I just had to be there. What I didn't expect was the fourth coincidence, and it kind of slapped me in the face. I've mentioned before that my novel has colors--blue and gray (yes, I know it's weird, but stay with me). I suddenly realized those two colors were right there, front and center. It was kind of nerve-wracking to realize this. What did it mean?

I know the more logical explanation is that it meant nothing and it was just a big coincidence. But it was just so weird that I still think about it from time to time over three years later. Was this the universe's way of telling me things will work out? Or am I just nuts? 

Either way, the thought of success is mildly terrifying. What if I can't handle it? I feel like I'm the kind of person who would rather go hide in a cave than shine in the spotlight. But that doesn't mean I don't want to finish and publish this book. So I guess, like most things, I'll have to take it one step at a time. 

Are you afraid of success? Do you think the universe sends signs?

27 April 2016

Wait, I Take It Back

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

I felt so stupid and angry. I didn’t want to forgive Brian, not ever, and I wasn’t ready to forgive myself. It just seemed so easy to forgive Tom, because he was so f***ing pathetic, because I didn’t want to start over. 

Stories usually have a lot of twists and turns. Not everything that happens is going to be expected. If you want to keep the reader entertained, including a few surprises could be a good way to go. But how do you get things back on track after you've included a surprise? Does it lead your characters down a completely new road or is it more of a detour? 

What happens after the twist will probably depend on how big it is, or how it relates to the overall story. Is it something life changing or just something that temporarily throws your characters off? How do you recover from a twist (if recovery is even possible)? 

My issue is that I feel like I recover from my twist too quickly. There's something that happens at the end of Chapter 17 that is completely unexpected. I love the twist. LOVE IT. So much so that I'm not going to explain it and spoil it. I love everything about it, how it comes out of left field, my narrator's response to it. It's pretty much perfect (I think...). What I worry about is how fast I smooth things over. In the next chapter, actually. 

Basically one character does something bad to another. It seems like their relationship is over, but then some other unrelated bad things happen and the second character changes his mind. Then the character who did the bad thing explains why he did it and apologizes. And then we're back to normal. 

I just hope that the chain of events leading up to the apology doesn't make it seem so strange. But I also worry that the character's explanation basically takes back the bad thing he did. It's not completely swept under the rug but it's pretty much forgotten within a few chapters. Does this totally ruin the shock of the twist? Or should I find some other way to keep its impact going as the book continues? 

Do you ever "take things back" in a story? How do you deal with a twist?

26 April 2016


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

Great. Just fabulous. I mean, really. What the hell, why didn’t we just have everyone watch us going at it? It would have been a great show. Watch the f** try to f*** the desperate whore. Who knows what could happen?!

One of the few good things about working on the same novel for over five years is that at this point, I have the voice down. It is done, it's developed, it's perfect in my mind. It certainly may not be everyone's cup of tea ("Who has tea??" Jordan says. "You made tea and didn't make me a cup?!"), but neither is the whole book. For this book, and for this character in particular, the voice works.

Voice is a tricky thing. What you need can depend on a lot of things. Each character should have his/her own distinct voice when they speak, but that doesn't necessarily come up on every page. Your narrator's voice does, though. And if the book is in first person, you're actually writing from a character's point of view. As you read, you're experiencing everything through his eyes and his words. You want it to sound like a real person is telling the story. That's where voice comes in.

Everyone has a certain way of speaking. Your narrator's voice should be distinct from the other characters in the book. We should actually believe that this person would use these words to tell the story. When I first started writing UL, it did not sound like a teenage boy was telling the story. It sounded like a twentysomething girl was, well, because that's who was writing it. Voice doesn't always come to you right away. Sometimes just getting the story down first is more important. But developing a distinct voice for your narrator will not only make the story believable, but hopefully more enjoyable.

Honestly, the first thing I did to develop Jordan's voice was just to throw a lot of swears in. I figured that was a totally plausible thing for a teenager to be doing. I cut the big, lengthy words that he would never use and replaced them with more believable ones (like "bullsh**" for "pretense," that was a good one!). I didn't shy away from fragments. I added little phrases that I probably will need to cut down on in the third draft, like all the "I mean"s and "really"s and "I mean, really"s.

I guess the one thing I worry about is that some people won't like the voice. But I guess those are the same people who wouldn't like the book anyway. But some people are turned off by swears. I almost didn't include the end of the above quote until I realized that was kind of the point. If Jordan wasn't swearing all the time, it would probably seem weird. I know that limits my audience a bit, but I just think it's more believable, and it's something unique to his voice. There are other characters in the book who never swear, but he's definitely not one of them. So why would his narration be any different than his dialogue?

Figuring out the voice can depend on a lot of things. Who your character is, what point in his life he's telling his story from, or just how he speaks in general. It can take a long time to develop, but as long as the narrator has a unique voice, that will make the story come alive even more.

How do you develop a character's voice? Do you mind reading books with swears?

25 April 2016

Unseen Forces

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

“So when do I get to meet your sister?” I asked when I finally took a second to breathe instead of eat. I said it like this was something completely normal to ask. Really, I just wanted to see how he would react. 
He just glared at me for a second before shaking his head. “You’re hilarious.”

Every story is like a bubble. Everything that happens in the story takes place inside of that bubble. All of the action, dialogue, and moments that the reader actually reads over the course of the book. But that doesn't necessarily mean that these things are all that matter. We can still see through that bubble, where there are all kinds of outside influences.

Unless your story is following a particular character from their birth to their death, then really, we're just looking at a particular moment in his/her life. What is happening in this life snapshot will obviously be the most important part of the story, but that doesn't mean that what has happened before it isn't important. Your characters have already lived some of their lives and that has shaped who they are. Some of that may show up in your story.

Take background information, for example. Stuff like this occasionally needs to come up within a story--things that happened long before the book began but whose influence is heavy on the characters and story. The background story on Jordan's mom plays a big role in UL, for example. It weighs heavily on their relationship and how he lives his life. Without some of that information sneaking in now and then, their relationship within the story may not make sense. What has happened before the story begins will still find ways of influencing the characters from time to time.

Not every single influence is necessarily seen in the story, either. If you think about one character in your story, then think about every person they know and that has influenced them in some way, that would probably be a lot of people to include in one book. I have a few unseen characters who are mentioned here and there throughout the story, Jordan's mom's boss and Tom's sister in particular. These unseen characters influence the lives of the story's actual characters, but there just isn't a spot for these characters to actually show up. You don't want to force these characters into the story if they just don't fit, but if their influence is still there, maybe they need to be mentioned from time to time.

There are things and people outside of your story that will occasionally influence what is happening within it. How much information you share about these things will be entirely up to you.

Do you have unseen forces or characters that influence your stories?

23 April 2016


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

“So once we find someone who plays bass we could actually start playing.” 
“Make sure he’s cute.” 

Finding a quote for today's post was rather difficult. When I first wrote Uneven Lines, I had zero intention of writing any sequels. It was always a stand alone book in my mind. Consequently, there aren't really any lines in it that hint at a sequel. The line about finding a bass player for Jordan and Eric's band was just supposed to be a joke. I had no idea that person would a) eventually exist, b) actually be a love interest for Jordan, or c) turn out to be a "certified cutie" (possible Book 2 description). Or that he would bother me relentlessly about the sequels when they weren't even supposed to exist in the first place!

But let's rewind. At what point to you decide to write a sequel to a story? I guess it's probably different for every writer, for every story, even. You may know a particular story needs to be a trilogy before you even begin writing it. For me, that was never the case. I just came up with a story and I wrote it. It was never supposed to be anything else. But then the main character decided to attach himself to my brain. I started thinking about what would happen to him after the story ended. It wasn't always terribly interesting; most of these brainstorms were just for fun. But eventually an idea for a second book started to form in my mind. I was considering things that I never thought I would when I was writing the first book, characters whose existence was never even mentioned, but would actually be so important in Jordan's life. So I had Book 2. Well, an idea, at least.

My hesitation for writing Book 2 was mostly based on the fact that I had no idea when or if this series would end. Should I just keep writing Jordan's stories for the rest of my life? Or was there a place to cut it off? I didn't want to start Book 2 without some sort of endgame in mind. And at the very least, I knew UL could stand on its own without any sequels.

But then suddenly I had an idea for Book 3 , and I totally blame Adam, the aforementioned cute bass player. He's the one who threw the ideas at me and they stuck. Which, interestingly enough, is exactly what Jordan did to me with the first book. My characters tend to control things more than I do. The thing about Book 3, though, is that it would completely tie up the series. Instead of having no end in mind, suddenly I had a trilogy. It seemed perfect and yet daunting at the same time.

I worry about how people will react to the sequels. If they think the first book is good, will they think the sequels are as good? I certainly think the sequels will have a different tone than the first book. Jordan is fifteen in UL, but he'll be twenty in Book 2 and twenty-two in Book 3. I think Book 2 goes to some very dark places, whereas Book 3 does the opposite, there's a lot of happy fluffiness. Do all these books actually fit together? Will anyone even care to read them? Will they wish I had just left the first book alone?

I can't really worry about the sequels too much without getting the first book done. I know I want to write these books for me, and I will. I know I want to publish UL, but I'm not so sure about the sequels yet. I guess I'll have to write them first and see how they turn out.

Should I write the sequels to Uneven Lines? When do you decide to write sequels to your stories?

22 April 2016


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

Yeah, some people like the bright lights, the noises, pushing through crowds of people without caring whose feet you step on. Me, not so much. 

One of the elements you have to decide for your story is where it takes place. This can involve the overall setting (a city), or just where each scene takes place (a particular room). The setting should always feel right, both for the story and for each individual scene. 

When you're choosing your overall setting, you want to think about what works for the story. This can include place as well as time period. I wanted my story to take place in modern day New York City for a few different reasons. A major reason is that I needed a place where a teenager would be able to get around on his own and without a lot of money. I lived in a suburb when I was growing up and the only way you could get around was if your parents drove you. Kind of hard to sneak around and pull off a secret relationship. I needed Jordan to have a certain level of independence and the setting is a huge part of that. He can just hop on the subway and go wherever he wants. If I set the story in a different place, it may not be as believable and a lot of elements would have to change. 

When you're describing your setting, you'll want to include what's important to the scene. This could be a building or just a piece of furniture. A lot of my scenes take place indoors so there's a lot of describing couches and kitchen appliances. But I try not to overdo it, to not mention something unless it's actually being used. When Jordan first visits Tom's apartment, we get an overall description of what it looks like, but after that, there are only references to certain things throughout the book whenever it's necessary. You don't have to give vast descriptions of every single place in every scene. Just give whatever's necessary. 

Certain settings can be right or wrong depending on what is happening in each individual scene, as well. Maybe an argument between your characters shouldn't take place while they're scuba diving (although that could be funny...). Or a very private conversation probably shouldn't happen in a public place. Ok, I actually broke my own rule. A private conversation takes place between my characters in a diner. But when it was the first draft, the things they were saying were a bit on the extreme side. Rather than changing the setting for the conversation, I changed the conversation for the setting. I think it actually helped in the long run because now the dialogue is more subdued and not so ridiculous. 

Whatever you choose for your setting, you want it to work for your story. It can be as important or unimportant as you want it to be, as long as it's believable. 

How do you choose setting? 

21 April 2016

Reliable (?) Narrator

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

I sighed, trying to hide my relief. I mean, I wasn’t jealous. No way. It was just—he was mine, you know? 

When you have a first person narrator, the reader isn't always going to know if he/she is telling the truth. Sometimes you have an unreliable narrator. They may tell an interesting story, but it may be skewed by their viewpoints or just what they're willing to share with the reader.

I don't think Jordan is necessarily an unreliable narrator. He does tell it like it is, at least when it comes to what is happening in the story. He even shares certain things with the reader before he shares them with any character in the story. Where I think that reliability starts to become shaky is when he has to tell the reader what he's feeling. He's really not all that emotional of a person, and when he has to open up to someone, whether it's another character or just the reader, he may not be entirely truthful.

There's a particular moment where he describes what he is feeling physically, mentioning his eyes stinging and blinking frantically, but not once does he acknowledge what that actually means--that he was trying not to cry. Because he would never want to admit that to anyone.

So he doesn't necessarily lie to the reader, but does he lie to himself? Probably. He's all about being in control of every single situation, so if he feels like he doesn't have control, he's probably not going to tell you. He wants everyone to believe that nothing can get to him and that includes the reader. That's one of the reasons I think he can be very vulnerable at times, but you have to look really hard to find it under the surface.

So if the narrator doesn't share everything with the reader, is he unreliable? And does that work? I think if he was constantly changing his story or telling outright lies to the reader it may get confusing. But when it seems like a certain pattern, like only telling certain things, it may actually show us more about his character. You may learn as much from what he doesn't tell you than from what he does.

Have you ever used an unreliable narrator? Do you think a first person narrator should always be honest with the reader?

20 April 2016

Queries & Publishing

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

What’s left, anyway, after something is complete? You just move on to the next thing. 

A lot of these posts (or all of them...) have been about stuff that's actually within the story. Well, not this one! This is about what happens after the book is done. Just what the heck am I gonna do with it? 

Nowadays there are more options for authors once their book is ready to be published. We don't necessarily have to go the traditional publishing route. I don't really know the first thing about self-publishing, but sometimes I feel like it may be the best choice for this particular book. Well, because I'm just not sure if anyone will want to publish it. 

I know getting a book published is a long struggle. I know rejections are to be expected. I'm just not sure how likely I am to get that final "yes" after an endless sea of "no"s. But that doesn't mean I won't even try. I'm going to hold out hope that there is someone out there who is my literary agent soul mate. Someone who will get it. Not someone who will just cringe at the idea and not even give it a try. Really, that's what I want out of my readers, too. Just people who will get it. 

I've thought about a query letter. The one I wrote for Pitch Wars was complete rubbish so I'm not even going to look at it. I'm pretty sure I deleted it anyway. What I'd like to pull off with my query is to sell the book like I'm trying to get myself to read it. Well, I know I like my book. I know the reasons why. If I want to get someone interested in it, I think those points will be important to point out. If I just give a summary of what happens on the surface, it will turn most people off. But if I try to dig deep and really find a way to sell this story like the story that I know it is, maybe people will give it a shot. 

That being said, if the traditional publishing route doesn't work, I'm definitely up for self-publishing. It's so scary that I don't even want to think about it right now. I will cross that bridge if and when I come to it. I certainly want this book to see the light of day since I've worked so hard on it and despite all my incredible insecurities, I am passionate about it. 

But I'm getting way ahead of myself. First I have to finish the third draft. Then I need to get some real life (as in, more than one) beta readers. I'll probably put out a request at some point once the draft is done (this post isn't it! The title will probably be something like "BETA READERS WANTED" with fireworks gifs all through the post). Then while they have it maybe I'll start figuring out my query and where I want to send it. Then editing, and, well, you get it. But of course, the writing has to come before all of that nonsense. 

Would you rather find a publisher or self publish? How do you approach a query letter?

19 April 2016


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

In fact, there was something sort of beautiful about Eric and his guitar. I couldn’t quite figure it out. It was sort of like when I watched Tom cook. It was a happiness that went beyond the fact that he enjoyed what he was doing. Like it was meant to be or something.

There are a few different kinds of passion. Today's post isn't about the romantic kind (because we already kinda sorta talked about that!). There's another kind of passion that comes up a lot in UL, and it's about a passion for what you do, or really, just a passion for life.

Most people have a thing. For a lot of you, it's probably writing. I'm not talking about something you just do for fun or as a hobby. This thing is your passion. You feel like you were meant to do it. You get a certain thrill when you do it, and when you're not doing it, you're probably thinking about it, just waiting for the next moment when you can get back to it.

Why would this be important to a story? Well, it may not be. But it is something that comes up a lot in UL. And it's not just about this idea of fulfilling your dreams. Are you really being true to yourself? Are you even being yourself at all, or are you shoving that passion down?

I have one character whose passion is cooking. He does it a lot, and quite well, but mostly on his own. It's not something he usually shares with other people. It's definitely not a big part of his life, even though it should be (like, say, as a career). It sort of coincides with who he is as a person. He hides most of himself from the world, only making connections with a select few. He can't fully give in to his passion, just like he can never fully be himself.

On the other side of the spectrum, I have a character who doesn't know what his passion is. He doesn't really know what he's looking for in life, just moving from one cheap thrill to the next. There's nothing with any significant meaning to him. So over the course of the book, he is able to find his passion (which happens to be music), but what he's really finding is himself.

Whatever your characters are passionate about could say a lot about them. It may go beyond just a simply hobby or even a career goal. It could speak about who they are as a person, and reveal things that maybe they (or you) didn't even realize.

What are your characters passionate about? Does it reveal something about them?

18 April 2016

Opening Scene

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

I won’t deny the fact that I like to cause trouble.

Everyone knows how important an opening scene is in a book. You want to have something interesting enough to hook the reader in and get them wanting more. At the same time, you don't want to give too much away all at once, or it could be confusing. So what do you include in your first scene? How do you get the story going so that someone wants to read it? 

Sometimes you can't just think about what is going to happen after the first scene, but also what has happened before it. What has happened to your characters to bring them to this point, and why does this particular moment lead to an entire new story? Sometimes background information can be used, or it can be saved for later. If you hint at something on the first few pages, you may just keep the reader intrigued enough to keep going. 

I've only recently written the third draft of my first scene, complete with a brand spankin' new first line (see above!). I've always known exactly where my first scene would take place (a classroom), but figuring out how much information to share has always been a bit tricky. In my previous drafts, there was quite a bit of exposition alongside the action that was happening within in the scene. It made the scene too confusing because there was just so much going on. So I shifted the focus to what was actually happening. There are a few hints here and there at some other things, but those aren't really revealed for a few more pages. 

What has happened before the story begins also plays a huge role in my first scene, which also makes things a little tricky. It's kind of an overlap scene. It's the end of one story and the beginning of another. What has happened before the story begins isn't terribly interesting, but without it, there would be no reason for the novel to exist. So I do have to include a little bit of exposition on what has already happened. Luckily it isn't all that hard to explain, so it doesn't drag down the story. 

What I really wanted to do with the first scene is introduce the main character. Some people may find the things he does strange, but hopefully that will be interesting enough to make them keep reading. 

How do you approach a first scene? How important is what happened before the story began?

16 April 2016

Nobody Will Like It

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

It’s not exactly something that comes up in everyday conversation, especially with my friends, who were just your typical dudes. And honestly, I had no idea how anyone would take it. My friends, my mom, or any of the countless people who thought they knew me but really didn’t know anything. 

It's pretty much impossible for everyone to like every book. Even if most people agree that a book is good, there are still going to be people who give it 1 star reviews. You just can't please everyone. But I'm sure most writers worry that they won't be able to please anyone. What if there is just not a single person out there who will like your book? What if everyone will hate it? 

This is one of the things that has seriously slowed down my writing (you know, besides the not being able to figure things out part). I constantly worry that people won't just not like it, but they'll hate it. They'll wonder why I wasted my time writing something so awful. They'll think I should quit writing altogether. 

I know that thinking is pretty extreme, but my book isn't exactly tame. People are going to find reasons to dislike it, but I can't change the story to try to please those people. But there are just so many elements that worry me. I worry that no one will like the voice, or the swears, or the sexual references. No one will like Jordan or the fact that he's a manipulative little bastard. No one will like that I'm a straight girl writing about gay characters. No one will like the age difference between my characters. No one will like that one of my characters is an ephebophile. No one will like any single thing that any character says, does, or thinks. 

*Phew* Ok, now that I've gotten that out...actually, I have no idea. I can't really erase those doubts until I actually publish it and have a few readers who do like it. And that doesn't mean that they won't be gone completely because I'm sure that there will still be people who hate it. I just wish (and maybe naively so) that the people who would hate it wouldn't read it in the first place. Or maybe someone with a completely open mind who gave it every possible chance and for whatever reason just didn't like it, well, that would be understandable. And better than someone who just hates it before they even start reading. 

Do you ever worry that no one will like your writing? 

15 April 2016

Madison, or, The Magically Appearing Minor Character!

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

There were plenty of things I could have said. No thanks, I like boys. Sorry, I’m just afraid that you’re diseased. No, really, I’m flattered, you’re just really annoying. What came out of my mouth was, “Fine. Come on.” She grinned as I took her hand. 

Sometimes you have characters who cause trouble. Wait, haven't I written about this before? I guess all of my characters cause trouble. But sometimes you come up with a character who didn't even seem necessary to the story, just shows up in the middle, throws everyone off, then walks away. And the mess they leave shouldn't work, but it does, and you're the one picking up all the pieces.

I can't even think of an accurate name for this type of character, so for now we'll call her Madison. Well, because that's her name in UL. But I'm sure a lot of you have had a Madison every now and then. The issue is whether or not she's even necessary, and if she is, is there a way to make her more prominent in the story?

Let me break this down without being too spoilerific (I hope). Madison doesn't show up in UL until Chapter 17. There has never been any mention of her whatsoever. Jordan goes to his friend Brian's birthday party and she just happens to be there. Seems ok, right? But the thing about Madison is that she's tied to things that happened long before the story even began. Madison is best friends with Kristen, who just so happens to be the last girl Jordan went out with before deciding to end all that nonsense. Now, Madison and Kristen are the biggest frenemies you've ever known. So a just about perfect way of hurting Kristen would be to hook up with the guy that dumped her and left her a little obsessed.

I know what you're going to say. "Uh, Sarah...don't know if you knew this, but...Jordan is gay." Shhhhhhh. Teenagers can get it up for pretty much anything and it works in the scene, trust me! That's not the point! Because he doesn't go through with it, obviously, and not just because she's a girl. Because he has feelings for someone else. Which leads to an entire other fiasco but that will come up in a later post. But without his interaction with Madison, certain things that happen in the main plot never would have happened at all.

Also, the whole Madison thing fuels the subplot on a huge level. Brian gets really pissed at Jordan for the whole mess, Jordan decides he needs to pretty much destroy Brian's life, blah blah blah. So she has a purpose. The thing I worry about is the fact that she just shows up out of nowhere, messes everything up, and then disappears. Is that a weird thing to do? Will the reader be thinking, "who the hell is this chick?"

I'm trying to work her in more and more in the third draft. She's lurking in the first chapter when we catch Kristen staring at Jordan, and then she whispers to the girl sitting next to her. Madison also happens to be the girl Eric has had a crush on the whole time even though he doesn't tell anyone until after all the nonsense happens. And I think she can show up again later on as Jordan is scheming against Brian. He sees her as someone who could help because she's just as sneaky and crafty as him.

So is it ok if characters just show up out of nowhere? Or is it better to subtly weave them throughout the story so that they don't shock the reader and throw things off?

Do you have your own version of a Madison? Do you think characters can just show up and never be seen again?

14 April 2016

Looks & Appearances

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

I was tall, pretty skinny, which apparently a lot of girls went for (don’t even get me started on how hilarious that was). Just plain old brown eyes and short, light brown hair. I guess it really had to be my face. I’ve got high cheekbones and a smile that can kill.

Have you ever thought about what your characters look like? Of course you have! We probably know every exact detail of every character's appearance. But that doesn't necessarily mean it shows up in the story. How much do the readers need to know about what your characters look like? And how often should it show up?

I know some people will argue that you don't have to describe appearances at all. While I think it's definitely easy to overdo it, having a brief description of what a character looks like will help the reader to visualize the story better. Especially if the character is important. Minor characters don't necessarily need to be so clearly defined if they aren't showing up as much. For instance, in my book, I never really describe what Jordan's friends, Eric and Brian, look like. They're only in a few chapters and since I already had to give descriptions for two characters in the first chapter, I didn't want to bog down the beginning of the book with character descriptions.

So what do you tell? And when do you tell it? I think it's better to get it out as quickly as possible. If you're introducing a character, then you probably want to describe what he looks like. If you put it off for too long, it may come off as strange to just suddenly say what he looks like halfway through the story when you've made no reference to it before. So my general philosophy is right away, or not at all. It's a lot easier when you're introducing a character we've never seen before. Jordan meets Tom for the first time at the end of Chapter One in UL, so that was a perfect time to describe what Tom looks like. For other characters, it isn't always so easy.

The hardest thing, I think, is to have a character describe himself. You'll only have this problem if you write in first person. There is rarely a time when a person will actually describe what they look like and it will sound normal. You'll have to find a way for it to come up naturally within the story. The whole "describe myself while looking in the mirror" thing has been ridiculously overdone. When I have Jordan describe himself to the reader, his thoughts are a reaction to a conversation he's having with his friends at the time. He doesn't go into a ridiculous amount of detail, either. Just a few sentences and then the story continues. I think it works for the scene and gets that description out of the way so the reader can better visualize him through the rest of the story.

You can sneak in details throughout the story as well. I felt in Jordan's initial description, I didn't fully explain what his hair looked like, because it just seemed silly and unimportant. But I figured I could sneak in some detail later on in the story when he's getting ready for a date. I'm sure most people will fuss over their hair in that type of situation, so it won't seem strange like it would have in his initial description.

It's really all about finding the right place and the right way to describe a character. You may not be able to get every single detail in at once, and that's ok. You just have to find the spots that work for your story and characters.

Do you include physical descriptions of your characters?

13 April 2016

Kissing, Sex, & Other Naughty Things

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

I flew up the stairs, banged desperately on his door. He could barely get it open when I collided into him, smothering his mouth with mine. I was breaking every rule, and I didn’t care. I didn’t want any space between our bodies.

WARNING: I may use a few naughty words in this post. Also, SPOILER ALERT. I'm totally going to talk about how far my characters' physical relationship progresses.

Time for some action! Well, at least talking about it. If you've got two characters who are romantically involved, chances are there is going to be some kind of physical interaction. Depending on your book and even the particular scene you're writing, it could be tame (a simple kiss) or extra juicy (full blown sex scene). Figuring out what your book needs or even what these scenes need can be tricky. How much do you need to show? And how many times should you show it?

Well, it all depends on your story. If you're writing erotica, then by all means, show everything. And keep doing it. If not, then you really need to choose what needs to be shown and for how long. For most of my book, it's all about kissing. Well, because it would be illegal for my characters to do anything else. It's kind of the point. Their whole relationship is centered around this sort of arrangement that only allows the physical moments to go so far.

One of my favorite kissing scenes is the first one. It doesn't happen until Chapter 8 (well, it may be 7 in the third draft since I may be cutting a chapter, but that's not the point!). I think it's always fun when a book doesn't give you that first kiss right away. You have to wait for it, just be screaming at the pages until it finally happens. Tension should build up until that point and when it finally happens, it should be a significant moment in the story. What I like about the first kiss in my story is that it's incredibly simple and short, but also a huge deal, both because of the characters' relationship and because of how long it took to actually happen.

So after the first kiss, how much physical interaction should you show? For me, there is quite a bit of it. The characters' physical relationship progresses very slowly, so my idea was to show more detail when something new happens, basically when it advances the plot (or the relationship) in some way. I can spend a whole page on a make out scene or just a sentence or two to imply that it happened. It depends how important it is.

There is one sex scene in the book, and it's in the last chapter. Well, my characters are human, and they screw up. They let things get too far. The interesting thing about it though is by the time my characters do have sex, it isn't really something either of them wants. It's more of a way out. Which is why I think I have a hard time writing it.

No matter how many times I write and rewrite the sex scene, I just can't get it right. And I don't think it's because of the physical elements. I've done my homework, everything besides actually watching porn (because EW! EWWWWW! I'd much, much rather read some erotica. Or just binge watch Looking...). No, trust me, I know what needs to happen between my two male characters. My issue is balancing the physical with the emotional. It should be a sad scene, really, but it should be sexy, too. It is a sex scene after all. But it's difficult to get that right.

I have an earlier scene that only has a handjob, but I actually like it more than the sex scene. It just works. There's passion, excitement, there's really just an energy to it. I read that scene and wonder why I can't take that energy and put it in the sex scene. Well, I know the emotions are completely different, so it can't be exactly the same. But as it is now, the sex scene just doesn't have any energy. It's completely weighed down by the emotions. And I just can't seem to get it right.

All right, I'll wrap this up before I tell you about every single tiny physical interaction my characters have throughout the book. Do I have some of it figured out? Hell yes. Do I have all of it figured out? Not even close. I guess it's just going to take some more rewriting. Lots and lots of rewriting.

How do you approach a kissing or sex scene in your writing? How do you balance the physical with the emotional?

12 April 2016

Jerks & A-Holes

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

“First, he beats you up. Then he tells the whole school you’re gay and it turns out to be true? Everyone hates him.”

Not all characters have to be good guys, or even all that likable. How else would we have villains, after all? But if you have a character who's just a complete jerk, then you probably want a reason for it.

I've recently been rewriting the first chapter of UL and as I started the second scene, I realized something: Jordan sounded way more negative than I intended. He hates everything and everyone and isn't afraid to tell you. I don't necessarily think it's the end of the world, but I think he was coming on a little too strong. He does start the book by telling you how he's been manipulating one of his teachers just for the fun of it. I can't really start it any other way, but I worry that he comes off as a jerk and no one will like him.

I think I could sum up Jordan's world view as this: "everything is terrible but I really don't give a crap." (Except replace 'crap' with a stronger word). He's usually just trying to find something that isn't going to bore him to death. The thing that I think works is that underneath his tough outer shell is actually a very vulnerable person, even though he'll never ever admit it. I guess that's what makes first person tricky in this type of situation. You're only going to get what he puts out there. To see that softer side, you'll have to read between the lines.

I think if you put a character who isn't quite as strong in Jordan's shoes, they could fall apart. I know I probably would. He has a terribly depressing home life. I've realized things about him like the fact that he's never had a birthday party or believed in Santa or anything normal children should experience. He's not necessarily struggling with his sexuality, but he's definitely hiding it. That's not an easy thing to deal with. You would probably feel bad for him, but he just won't let you. So does that work? Or does that tough exterior make him seem like a complete a-hole?

There's another character who's definitely a jerk. If my story had a bad guy (and considering the fact that Jordan is the protagonist so it's not him), it would probably be his friend, Brian. Brian is just your typical obnoxious teenager. He wants to be popular but doesn't really want to admit it. Jordan gets the impression that Brian is jealous of him, but since he never says so, how do we know it's true? Why is he such a jerk and a bully?

Maybe he has a crappy home life but doesn't tell anyone. Well, Jordan isn't exactly the kind of person to care even if Brian was the kind of person to open up about it. So do I just let the reader know what Jordan believes? That Brian is a jerk for no good reason? Do I have him ponder it for half a second, or maybe have another character (Eric, most likely) clue him in? I actually do want the reader to dislike Brian, but I also want them to believe that he could exist. If he's too over the top with his jerkiness, he may not seem all that believable.

Do you have characters who are jerks? Do you think there should be a reason behind it?

11 April 2016


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

He expected the whole world to come crashing down on us, and still there was nothing. Everyone lived in their own little bubble, and we weren’t even worth noticing.

Every so often, amidst all the plot holes and inconsistencies and things to fix, you realize you may have gotten something right. Some element of your story that just works, even though you may not have even tried to put it there in the first place. But once you figure it out, you want to keep working on it so that one element is as perfect as it could possibly be.

I don't usually plan on putting themes or symbols into my writing, but every so often they pop up without me even trying. One of those things I think I got right in UL is this idea of isolation. And it works on a few different levels. Well, my characters have to be isolated, since they're carrying out a secret relationship. That part was always obvious. But I think my characters are even more isolated than they realize.

Even though Jordan technically lives with his mother, she is hardly ever home. He basically lives his life on his own. He has school and friends, but most of the time, he's alone. He doesn't necessarily have a problem with this, either. Tom, on the other hand, forces isolation upon himself. Besides working his job, he chooses to be completely alone, mostly because he's terrified of himself and doesn't want other people to really know him. Part of the appeal of their relationship is that only when they are with each other can they be completely 100% themselves, and also not be alone.

Setting plays a big role in this as well. The book takes place in New York City (more on setting in a later post!). I always liked this juxtaposition of having this busy, lively city all around the characters, and yet they are completely isolated from the world, both together and alone. The world getting in could ruin everything, so they have to keep it out.

But it's on the individual level where I think the isolation really works. It's sad whenever someone feels they have to hide who they are or keep the world away. But sometimes it's just out of that person's control. By the end of the novel, one character is branching out, putting himself out there more and finding his place in the world. For the other, that place may never exist. But there are always sequels...

Have you ever had an isolated character? Do you ever put themes in your stories?

09 April 2016

Habits, Hobbies, & Other Human Traits

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

Since I couldn’t go anywhere, I rolled my eyes, looking off to the side as if there was something more interesting that grabbed my attention. Really, paint drying would have been more interesting. 

Every character has different quirks that make them unique, just like real people. Someone may roll their eyes a lot, for instance, when they're annoyed (especially a teenager!). A character may have something they like to do that may pop up every now and then throughout the story. No matter who your characters are, they should have unique traits that make them feel like real people.

The way each character speaks and acts should be unique to who they are. You wouldn't want every character to be exactly the same, would you? That would probably be boring, and maybe even a little confusing. When you have two characters speaking to each other, you'll want each voice to stand out on its own.

So how do you make each character unique? Think about all the things about you that make you different from other people. Are you shy and awkward or confident and outgoing? A shy person may not speak much at all, will probably blush more easily than others, and maybe will use more "uhs" and "ums" when they speak. A more bold person may say things more directly and be willing to take more risks and try new things. Even the language a character uses makes them unique. I have one character who swears all the time (guess who!) and one who almost never does, so that when he actually does swear, it stands out and is kind of amusing.

Think about what your characters like to do. A hobby may be a fun little quirk that can fit into your story. I have one character who likes to cook, another one plays the guitar. One character just likes to go for walks, although I'm still trying to figure out what exactly that says about him. If you want to feature hobbies for characters, it really should fit into the story. If it's just there for the sake of it, it may seem strange. For instance, the cooking hobby actually plays a huge role throughout the story. But if my character did something that didn't forward the story at all, I may not want to mention it.

The ultimate goal is to make each character feel like a real, unique human being. But also to be believable and interesting, while still making sense for the story you're writing.

How do you give each character unique traits? Do your characters have any fun hobbies?

08 April 2016

Gay Young Adult Romance Something or Other

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

Well, I could have always come out of the closet. That certainly would have made for an interesting day. 

I've always had a hard time figuring out exactly what type of book UL is. It always seems to be everything it's not. Because it's young adult, but it's not. And it's kind of a romance, but it's not. And it's also gay fiction, but not. I kinda want to pitch it as literary fiction, but I feel it has all these elements that may turn off some readers who are looking for something more straightforward.

One thing I've already decided is to not try to sell this book as young adult. Yes, it's from the point of view of a fifteen-year-old. And no, it's not from some future perspective. It sounds like a fifteen-year-old's voice. But there are some pretty adult moments throughout the book. I think the only part that really completely reads young adult is the subplot concerning Jordan's friends. I also wouldn't really want young people to read it. While an adult book written from a young adult perspective may be a tough sell, I think it's the right decision for this particular book.

Then there's the romance aspect. I've always called it a "demented" romance. There's the age difference between the characters, of course. Their relationship definitely isn't straightforward by any means. And your typical romance novel usually has a happy ending. While the end of UL certainly isn't some epic tragedy, it's definitely not happy, either. So while there are some romantic elements in the book, it definitely doesn't follow your typical romance novel structure.

I think out of all the things that it's not, the label that fits the most is gay fiction. My characters are gay, after all. But I've always thought that it's an important aspect to the characters, but not the story itself. I could switch out the genders and sexuality and still have basically the same story. Obviously some details would change and the dynamic between the characters would be different, but the same basic plot line would still be there. I wouldn't change it of course, because I've been with these characters for so long that changing them to something completely different would just feel wrong.

So does the story need that label? I think it probably does. If someone had no interest in reading a story with gay characters, no matter what it was about, they would probably want that label there so they would know not to read it. Same goes for the opposite--someone who wants to read about those characters. They want to be able to find those books more easily. But is that all I get to call it? What other label fits my book? Contemporary? Something else entirely? Or do I just call it gay fiction and call it a day? If I knew I wouldn't ask so many questions. But I guess I should worry about finishing it first.

Where does my book fit in? Have you ever written a book you couldn't figure out a label for?

07 April 2016

Family & Friends

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

I couldn’t even say the easy part, even though the timing seemed perfect. We seemed to be having a moment. It might never happen again. Mom, I like boys. I just took another spoonful of ice cream. 

Everyone has a certain group of people in their lives that they're relatively close to, who they probably see every day. This group is usually made up of family and friends. If you're writing about a fictional character, chances are he or she will come across these people every now and again throughout the story. How do you fit in these characters? How do the relationships enhance the story? 

The family aspect has always been an interesting one when it comes to my book. Jordan has exactly one family member: his mother. He never comes close to mentioning any other family member because they don't exist for him. I wonder if that will be strange for the reader. I just figure at this point in his life any questions he may have had are way in the past and he just doesn't care. Why would he take the time to explain something to the reader if he doesn't care about it? 

At the same time, the relationship with his mother is a huge factor in the book. With this story, there are obviously a lot of issues regarding a person's age and maturity, and her character highlights these as well. She was actually a teenager when Jordan was born, so that helps to show this idea of having to grow up too soon. But their relationship is also very dysfunctional. She's basically never around (making Jordan's secret relationship with Tom much easier) and even does a few things that help advance the main plot. So is she a vital character? I'd say so. But there are still some things I struggle with. 

I guess, like most things that happen in the last third of the book, it's something I still haven't figured out yet. I know Jordan's mom is flawed, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm just trying to figure out how to make that realistic and yet interesting at the same time. I know I'm going to end the book with their relationship incredibly fractured, possibly beyond repair. I wonder if that's something readers will be ok with. While this plot line will have an ending, it definitely is not wrapped up in a pretty bow. It's messy and open-ended. Things could change in the future or they could stay the same. There's really no way of knowing (unless I write a sequel...). 

And then there are friends, of course. Jordan's friends are more part of their own subplot than the main plot. Sometimes I wonder if I need them at all, because I'm afraid their scenes seem forced. At the same time, it would feel strange without them. Doesn't everyone have friends, particularly someone in high school who also claims to be popular? Even if he doesn't like them, they should still exist. I also worry that the end of this particular subplot is too over the top. Jordan has two close friends throughout the book, one of which he becomes even closer to by the end, the other he completely destroys, all while furthering his own agenda. I guess it shows his evil side, which is an important part to his character. 

So I guess family and friends are especially important when they're showing different aspects to your main character. How does he act differently when he's with them? How do they move the story forward? As long as they're serving a purpose, then they're important characters.

Do you show family and friends in your stories? Do they help show different sides to the main character?

06 April 2016


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

Today's post is also a tie-in for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Click here to learn more and sign up! 
I used to go out with girls, if you can believe it. Like, a lot. Crazy, I know. 

Most people don't stay the same over the course of their entire lives. You've probably changed a lot at this point in your life and will continue to do so as you get older. The same can be said for characters. They are supposed to be like real people after all, right? Sometimes the point of the story is for a character to evolve. But what if the characters or the story evolve without you even realizing or meaning to? 

I've noticed a ton of changes from the very first draft of UL up until now. And not just the ones I made on purpose. Because there were a lot of those (and more to come). I've noticed that not only have my characters evolved from where they started, but I've also evolved quite a bit as a writer. I guess that's just what happens when you spend over five years on the same story. 

My characters have changed quite a bit. In the very first draft, Jordan was basically a sociopath and was definitely bisexual (bwahahahaahaha...sorry, it makes me laugh). He's softened over the years (although he's still quite the manipulative little SOB) and although he's dated a few girls before the novel begins, it was just for show (there is a brief encounter with a girl about halfway through the book, but that is another post!). I know sometimes I complain about spending so long on the same story, but without that amount of time developing every single detail, I don't think he would have become the character he was supposed to be. He would have been a different person entirely.

When I first started this story, I thought it was the best thing I had ever written. It started as a short story (although it was a bit on the long side). Eventually I decided to change it into a novel, to be able to flesh out those parts that were rushed and add in more details. So the story was evolving from the very beginning. What I didn't expect was to eventually feel so differently about that first draft. Because now I hate it. 

I'm sure most people are frightened by their first drafts. They can often be a mess. Every time I look at that original story, I cringe. I can probably count on one hand the number of lines that have made it through all the drafts untouched (and they're probably all dialogue). So why did I think it was so good at the time? Maybe the answer is that it was. Maybe it was the best thing I had written up to that point. That doesn't mean it was perfect. It just means I was improving as a writer. I still had a long way to go. What was good about it wasn't necessarily the exact words on the page, but the story they told. And that was something worth working on. 

So my characters have evolved, my story's evolved, I've evolved. And I'm sure we're not done. 

Have your characters evolved as you write your stories? How have you evolved as a writer?

05 April 2016


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

Sometimes I hated words. There were so many better things you could do with your mouth than talk. 

You probably thought I'd share some witty snippet of dialogue, right? Well, that would have been difficult. I love dialogue. Loooooove it. Finding my favorite line of dialogue to share would have taken months. I'm a dialogue abuser. Sometimes (ok, most times), I first start out a scene by writing all the dialogue and then filling in everything that happens in between. Dialogue comes the easiest to me, especially if I'm struggling with the blank page. But why is that?

Maybe sometimes it's easier to think of what people would say rather than what they would do or think. Especially when you're only in one character's head; you can't actually say what anyone else is thinking. Only the narrator's thoughts can be told. So dialogue helps in finding out information from other characters.

My issue is usually using too much dialogue. If I write out a full page of it and try to fill in some exposition in between, there are only so many shrugs and sighs and reaction thoughts I can squeeze in until it just seems silly. So sometimes you have to cut back on the dialogue. Only show what is entirely necessary.

The weird thing about dialogue in a story is that it's kind of like real life, but it isn't. You want your dialogue to sound realistic, like it's something a real person would actually say. But at the same time, you don't want to fill your pages with the kind of boring, everyday conversations that fill most of our lives. You just want those juicy, interesting moments. You want dialogue to move the story forward. Maybe a character learns something new from another one. Maybe two characters figure out something together by talking. But they should never be talking about the weather or something that's going to put your reader to sleep.

My other issue is info dumping. There are quite a few times where my characters have to reveal something to one another. One character in particular has a secret that he first confesses in one chapter, and then as the story goes one, gives more and more details regarding this secret and how it came to be. These moments are usually filled with dialogue, and it's hard to work around it. My narrator doesn't know what's going on in the other character's head. So he can only get that information through dialogue. But sometimes I feel like it's still too much.

I guess the way to go about it is to always make sure whatever's being said is important and moves the story forward. If you can find a way to do the same thing with less dialogue or no dialogue at all, then you should probably do it.

Do you think less is more when it comes to dialogue? Or are you a dialogue abuser like me?

04 April 2016


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

I wasn’t some vulnerable child, and he knew that, too. But to him, it was completely black and white. Anything we could possibly do would be illegal and that was that. Final answer.

Not all stories are filled with happy fluffy bunnies and rainbows and unicorns. Some stories go to a dark or scary place. A place that makes people uncomfortable. And that's ok, as long as you do it right.

There are plenty of different kinds of controversies you could throw into a novel. You could write about war, politics, race issues. It usually involves something that people have differing opinions on. Or, you could write about something that most people would agree is wrong. But if you do, will they still want to read your book?

This is something I constantly struggle with. This is why I worry that people will hate my book, because some people aren't willing to give a controversial story a chance. So how do you stick with your idea but make it something that people will actually want to read?

My book is controversial because it centers around the relationship between a 15-year-old and a 28-year-old. As much as I say that my story chose me, I have to admit this is how it started. I wanted to write about a student-teacher relationship, with no other concrete details in mind. Then a few hours later all of the characters and details hit me like a pile of bricks falling on my head. But it did still start with my own little spark of an idea.

I've always been a sucker for a forbidden romance. The problem with this one, though, is that the thing keeping them apart is the law. Most people would agree that it's controversial, and that these people shouldn't be together, no matter how strong their feelings are. They should either walk away from each other or wait until the younger person is old enough for it to be ok.

So why would someone even want to read this story? It's not like it's the first book to feature such a subject. Actually, one of my favorite novels of all time is Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. But that's a book that's incredibly well written. What if my writing isn't good enough to make such a tough subject more interesting to readers?

What I really want is to tell an interesting story. I want people to have mixed emotions when they read it. To actually want the characters to be together one moment, and then pull back and think, "wait a second, no I don't!" I'm not trying to say that I think this type of relationship is ok, even if it's very clear my narrator thinks it is. I write from the younger character's point of view, and he's actually the more manipulative person in the relationship, which I think (or hope) is different from other stories like this. I think the voice is strong. And I know there are some people who will just have no interest in reading a story like this, and that's ok. I just hope the people who are willing to give it a shot will find it, pick it up, and hopefully not put it down.

Do you ever write about controversial subjects? Do you like to read stories that feature them?

02 April 2016

Bigger Than Me

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

“You can, if you want to. It’s not a big deal.”
“It is, though. It’s a very big deal.” 

A story can feel like a big deal. Sometimes writers choose their story ideas. Other times, the stories choose them. Well, what happens if you're not the right person for that story? What if despite all of your passion and desire to write it, it's just too much for you to handle?

UL has never been the right story for me, especially at the beginning. The idea seemed to come out of nowhere and was nothing like any story I had ever thought of before. Let's start with the fact that I thought I was done writing fiction. I was way more into poetry and hadn't thought of any new story ideas for a few years when this one came along. I'd never written from a male perspective, let alone a gay teenage boy's. Swears were a rare occurrence in my writing and sexual descriptions made me squeamish. It was weird and different, and yet I had never felt so passionate about a story idea in my entire life.

Of course at this point, I've been working on it for so long that it does seem normal, but that took time (and a stubborn muse). And I still don't think I'm strong enough to write it.

Let me explain. This is the kind of story that takes guts to write, and even more guts to publish. It's not a lighthearted story and it's not one that most people are going to respond to. I've already experienced negative feedback, and more than once. First, when I workshopped the original short story version in my fiction writing class, and then when I entered the novel into Pitch Wars. And this wasn't your typical "this needs some editing" feedback. People hated it.

I know this story isn't for everyone, and I'm ok with that. But I don't have the guts for the negative feedback. I take it hard. Super hard. I'm just a sensitive person. So why on earth would I be writing a controversial story like this? I really don't know. It's just that it popped in my head one day. I really had no say in it.

So if none of this is up to me, then who is it up to? Is it crazy to believe that the universe gave me this idea because it has bigger plans in mind? What if writing this story is just the beginning? What if there are other people out there who this story will affect or help? What if it leads to more--more books, a movie deal, who knows? Why am I asking you all of these questions??

If the universe does have bigger plans, what if I'm not strong enough to pull it off? I actually believe the universe sent me a sign about this, but that happened over three years ago. What if I've taken too long? I don't like to share the details because I feel like I'll jinx it, but there were just a lot of coincidences that lined up at once. I always thought I didn't believe in coincidences, but now I'm not so sure. What happens when time runs out on my dream? I don't even know how much time I really have. What if I can't finish?

I couldn't think of a picture for this post, but I immediately thought of a song that fits! So I'm going with that. This is a live performance of "Stray Italian Greyhound" by Vienna Teng, and this song definitely rings true for my mindset when I first started writing this story. And maybe it still does.

so what do I do with this/ this stray Italian greyhound/ these inconvenient fireworks/ this ice-cream-covered screaming hyperactive thought/ god I just want to lay down/ these colors make my eyes hurt/ this feeling calls for everything that I am not