Sunday, September 30, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Don't get so caught up in self-editing that you halt the pulse of the story. Just write, write, write!
I write dirty (as in messy, not raunchy) the first time. I just get the words down without thinking of all the problems.
Admittedly, each rough draft I write ends up cleaner than the last, requiring less editing after the initial mess draft is complete.
So I urge you....just get it written....don't worry about getting it right, especially if you've never completed a manuscript, or only one or two.
Hope this helps.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
9. Checked the chapter, paragraph and sentence construction. Broke up or shortened any long passages. Made sure every sentence I'd placed on a line by itself NEEDS to be that way for maximum impact.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
When I read Anne McCaffrey's Pern books, especially Dragonsong and
Dragonsinger. It totally made me want to create my own fantasy world
and cool heroine. So I took over the family's Apple IIe computer (am I
dating myself? LOL) and chugged out my 500+ page fantasy manuscript.
> 2. What are your other passions besides writing?
I've really gotten into knitting the past few months. I've discovered
that it helps me to write because I need the tactile stimulation when
I'm in right-brain creative mode. I also really like the challenge of
making things for myself and for others. I just recently finished a
knit skirt edged with hand-knit lace (for me to wear to church).
> 3. If your three current heroines from your Sushi Series could write a blurb
> about you, the author of their stories, what would they each say?
Lex (from Sushi for One): She's an okay volleyball player, and she
gets hit by so many balls it's past coincidence and it's gotten into
scarily freaky, but she's nice.
Trish (from Only Uni): She's cool! She leads a rockin' worship team on Sunday.
Venus (from Single Sashimi): I like her. She's efficient, logical, and
she says what she means.
> 4. What would be the highest compliment a reader could give you regarding
> your writing?
"This book was so fun, I told all my friends to go out and buy a copy!"
> 5. What do you have to have each day before you begin to write...as in
> something you bring to your desk with your hands, or something on your desk,
> and why?
There isn't anything in particular I need each day to write, unless
it's the fact that I've elevated my monitor, keyboard, and trackball
so that I can stand as I write. I alternate sitting and standing at my
desk during the day because it's better for my back.
> 6. Is your writing journey how you envisioned it? Or different? If so, how
It's funny, but my writing journey is nothing like I envisioned it.
For one, the first book I shopped around was DREK and I'm embarrassed
so many editors and agents saw it. I had always envisioned polishing
my work and sending out a jewel of a manuscript, but my knowledge of
the craft was so poor that what I thought was a jewel wasn't even
close. That's the "Bad Book," which is buried in the depths of my
For another, I didn't realize how bad I am at time management until I
started writing full-time. I suck at it! I thought it would be heaven
(and a piece of cake) to spend only an hour at emails and the rest of
the day on writing, but I quickly discovered that wasn't the case. I
have to work really hard to be efficient during the day, and while
some days I do well, other days i don't do so well. I'm ashamed to say
that I had better time management when I was working full-time.
However, thankfully I'm getting better at it.
However, one thing I did envision about my writing journey that's come
true is how much I love what I do. I really enjoy what I'm doing now
and I'd do anything--even going back to work in biology in order to
pay the bills--just to be able to keep writing fiction.
> 7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Keep learning more writing craft. I'll be brutally honest here, what
you think is brilliant is not as great as you think it is (remember I
mentioned the "Bad Book"?). My mistake was in shopping my manuscript
when it wasn't ready. I should have just spent my time working on more
books, learning and improving my writing craft, finding more critique
partners. Some writers sell their first or second book, but most have
to write several manuscripts before they perfect their craft enough or
hit on that really unique story idea that makes an editor sit up and
> 8. It's unusual for debut authors to contract (especially three books! WOO
> HOO YOU!) with a bigger house such as Zondervan. What advice would you give
> to those targeting bigger houses? Do you think it's easier to break in with
> category romance versus single title? And why?
I certainly don't think it's "easy" to break into category romance. In
fact, it's darn hard. Even though category romances are shorter books,
the editors still require a high standard of writing. Krista Stroever
has the reputation of being one of the best and hardest editors in the
business. I get very frustrated with writers who flippantly dismiss
I think the decision to target category versus single title depends on
the writer. Sometimes, you're just a big book writer. Other times,
you're able to write succinctly and emotionally at the same time.
I'm actually a rather succinct writer, but the manuscript that sold
for me happened to be a single title. It's actually a shorter book
than a lot of other novels out there.
There's also the undeniable fact that a lot of category writers
eventually write single title novels. Some of the biggest names in the
business have done that--Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Cathy
Whether you target single title or category houses, I think all
writers need an agent. For one, a lot of houses are relying on agents
rather than their slush pile for manuscripts--in fact, many houses
don't even accept unsolicited manuscripts anymore.
However, writers need to be SMART about picking their agent. Spend
time talking with them and with their clients. Figure out their
working style and communication style, and determine if it's a good
fit for you.
> 9. How much emphasis do you think authors should put on promoting themselves
> before they're published? What are some of the things you did?
I always tell writers to only do what you WANT to do. Don't do
anything you don't want to. If you don't like blogging, then don't
feel pressured to do it. If you don't like teaching, then don't do it.
If you don't like booksignings, then don't do it.
If you only do what you like doing, then you actually find you're more
open to occasionally moving outside your comfort zone for promotion. I
don't like doing booksigning, but I'll do one occasionally. The rest
of the time, I do what i enjoy most--blogging.
The only non-negotiable for a writer is a website. It's your business
card on the web, telling people what you're writing and about
yourself. They're very inexpensive and very easy to set up.
Marketing before you're published is helpful but not necessary. I
happened to have an internet presence before I contracted, and that
helped to beef up my marketing plan in my proposal, but the difference
was that I was blogging within my marketing brand. If you blog about
something totally different from your brand, it doesn't help your
career much. If you market yourself before you're contracted, be very
selective about how you do it, what your focus is.
> 10. How much emphasis do you think authors should put on promotion and
> marketing once they're contracted? What are some of the best marketing ideas
> you've heard of? I just loved your homemade cards by the way! I might use
> that idea. LOL! and by the way, Camy's chopsticks are THE coolest marketing
> tool I've seen!
Thanks, Squirly. Again, I think writers should only do what they want
to do, what they can afford to do. I also think writers need to be
SMART about what they choose do spend their money on. The chopsticks
were both cheap and fit in well with my brand.
> 11. How important is your faith to your writing?
God has really impressed on me the importance of being faithful in my
quiet times with Him. I couldn't write without His blessing on it. I
couldn't write without the right attitude in my heart, and that only
comes through vigilant prayer and study of the Word. Francine Rivers
and Debbie Macomber both spend an hour or two with God every morning,
and while I'm not up to a couple hours yet, I do try to emulate their
faithfulness and discipline. I earnestly want that time to become
vital and important to my day, every day, no matter what I have to do.
> 12. What are you working on now, and when can we expect another release from
I'm working on a new series proposal right now, but my next release is
Only Uni, Trish's story, which comes out in February 2008.
> 13. You are big on networking. How important do you feel networking was to
> your journey to publication? What are some effetive ways to network in your
Networking was one of the most important things I could ever do. After
all, that's how I met you!
Meeting and becoming friends with other writers--both published AND
unpublished--is vital for a writer's journey. I met my prayer partners
and critique partners through online discussion boards and
conferences. I met a few published authors who were able to give me
advice for the journey. I personally think a writer becomes too
arrogant and delusional without other writers for critique, prayer,
> 14. Who has been your favorite character and why?
Venus, whose story is Single Sashimi, releasing in the Fall 2008. I
like how brutally honest she is. She's also as slender and sexy as I
wish I was (sigh).
Thanks for the interview, Squirly!
of Christian fiction and an iPod Nano! Only her newsletter YahooGroup
subscribers are eligible to enter, so join today!
Cheryl Wyatt Gal. 2:20 Pouring my vial of words over Him.
A SOLDIER'S PROMISE~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Jan. 2008
A SOLDIER'S FAMILY~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Mar. 2008
Saturday, September 08, 2007
This marks the LAST prompt for the year. Contest may resume in January of 2008.
As always, write a 500 word scene using one of three Scene/Story Starter Sentences. Use at least five of the ten Prompt Words. Email entries to me at Cheryl at CherylWyatt . com (close spaces before and after "@" and ".".
Scene/Story Starter Sentences:
"I told her it would happen."
Surely she's not going to . . .(fill in the blank here, or leave it as is)
"That's the funniest thing I've ever seen."
fall (in any context...even the season)
Everyone who has entered my prompts (whether you've won or not) will be entered in the annual contest. The person with the most entries will win the 6 month subscription to any Steeple Hlll line of their choice through the Harlequin book club, paid for by me.
As an added bonus, I am also giving prizes to the second and third place winners.
ALSO, since this is the lasts prompt of the year, and your LAST chance to enter, I am giving a bonus prompt. If you use EVERY word (all 20) in the bonus prompt in your scene and use them all CORRECTLY and in their proper context , I will add one more "entry" to your tally. Yes, I'm gonna make you work for this one. :-) You may have to break out your grammar books. He he he.
Here are the 20 bonus prompt words:
6. all together (must use both)
What I've been doing the last three days is:
I let the story gel for about a day and a half. Separated myself from it so I could see it with fresh eyes. Then I went through tightening the writing. More on that in a second.
Normally I do that after the book is finished, but since I only have to turn proposals (three chapters versus a completed book) into my editor from now on, I've changed the way I normally do it. I usually write the mess draft in a matter of days. No editing or proofing, just write, write, write straight through and get the story down.
This time, I've been polishing and proofing as I go. When I finish a scene, I go back through and polish/proof/correct errors. Then I do this when I finish a chapter so what I'm writing the first pass is actually pretty clean.
I actually got on a roll though and in the past four days have written 27,000 words even though I only intended to write the first three chapters. Out of those, I may have 20,000-25,000 usable or keepable words though.
Regarding the tightening: I am aware that I almost always over write by several thousand words. I usually end up having to cut between 3000-10,000 words...and that is before I even send the book to my acquisitions editor for consideration. So I've gone through and made sure that every single sentence belongs there. Every sentence must serve at least one purpose for being in the book. I also make sure that sentence needs to be in the book right then. I had a couple paragraph passage where I must have gotten off on a back story tangent, so I cut and pasted all but one or two sentences of that to the back of the book. I will break it up and sprinkle it in as I go, just not in the first three chapters.
One thing we often do as beginning writers is put too much back story or background in at once. This is called a back story dump and it bogs the reading. You want the story to have forward momentum as much as possible. If, while I'm reading any portion of my WIP (Work in Progress) and I find my mind wandering from the story, I know that I have stumbled upon a problem area in my story. I do something to ramp the tension in that moment. A snappier piece of dialogue, etc. Something to keep readers' attention.
Also to tighten the writing, I'm reworking sentences. Omitting every and all unnecessary words. I'm ruthless with "ly" adverbs. LOL! If I originally wrote, "she moved quickly to hide behind him." I changed it to, "She darted behind him." You get the same meaning while giving the reader the correct visual. She didn't saunter behind him. She didn't crawl. She didn't hop on one leg. She darted. Just by changing one word in a sentence, you can form images in the reader's mind. I also omitted the part that said "to hide behind him." Give your readers credit to be able to figure stuff out on their own without you having to tell them.
On that note, if you've ever received a critique or a contest comment that used the words, "RUE" that means you need to Resist the Urge to Explain. If you've crafted your sentence well enough, you won't have to explain things to your readers. They'll get the picture. In this case, it was a little girl hiding from a DCFS caseworker. She darted behind my hero's leg and peered at the woman. Then I changed it to "Wide-eyed, she shot Miss Harker looks that said she was up for a showdown of wills if necessary." So you see, not only is the child scared, she's strong-willed and defensive. Probably how she deals with her fear. I can show this without saying it or having to explain it to the reader. The hero feels her trembling hands clutching him. So he knows though the child is acting defiant, she's really scared. If he knows, the reader will know. On second pass, that sentence was shaved down to "Wide-eyes shot Miss Harker looks revealing Reece was up for a show-down of wills if necessary." Basically, the caseworker was trying to woo her to come with her, but the child only felt safe with my hero.
You never want to write a scene where you talk (as the author) to your reader. Well, anyway, this is just my personal preference. I don't like when a story has an author intrusive feel.
Another way I've tightened the writing is rearranging sentences. Seeing if I could replace three words with one stronger one, such as the above example. Other examples are: "He reached down and picked her up" became "He lifted her." Stuff like that. Saying the same thing with less words. Gives the writing more punch in my opinion. You can experiment with sentence structure in this manner. Use how you construct your sentences and your paragraphs to convey tone. For instance, if something is really, really, really important....put it in a line by itself. But do that sparingly, so the reader understands the gravity of the sentence. If you use that technique too often, it will lessen the effect when you really need it.
Same thing with exclamation points. I have a personal rule not to use more than 5-10 my entire manuscript. I'm serious. I've seen over twenty in the first three pages alone. That gets old and lessens the effect for when you truly want to convey stuff. I always use it in dialogue or internal monologue. Never in narrative. You can show tension and suspense by making shorter sentences. Long rambling sentences describing the landscape when someone is being chased through a forest will seem odd.
For instance, in Ben's story, in one tense scene, I had one sentence written something like this: He reached for the door handle and pulled but it was locked. Here we have a woman passed out in a hot, locked car. I can't ramble. So I changed the sentence to this: He jerked the handle. Locked. Not only did I break one long sentence into two, I put "Locked" on a line by itself.
Yesterday I went through the line edits of my other two books to make any stylistic corrections to my book. Such as, I wrote USAF just like that. But the copy editors switched it to U.S.A.F. in the first two books, so I switched it to U.S.A.F. in this book to make their jobs easier if they decide to buy the book.
There's much, much more that I've been doing, but as I am swamped the next two weeks so I can't put more at this time. Hopefully there's something here that you can use.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
I totally blitzed on a portion of the plot regarding legalities and proper Illinois (the state my story is set in) proceedures for what happens to an unnattended child whose parent is incapacitated after a wreck. I had to go back into the opening scene and insert a DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) caseworker.
Thankfully, I'd had one in a previous book (who may get her own story some day) so I had her make an appearance. Up to this point, I hadn't introduced many secondary characters, so there was room for her to revisit this story.
So that lengthened the first scene. For some reason my first chapters usually come close to hitting 20 pages. I like to stick to around 15. We'll see if my critique partners can help me shave off a page or two. Anyway, if they can't (because it's already pretty lean) my first chapters are usually highly action-driven which makes them seem to move quick even though they tend to be longer.
After I wrote the caseworker in, I went through and added emotion and depth to the second scene. That part takes a lot of time, and it takes a lot of mental energy. I'm usually drained because I have to really get inside my characters' minds and hearts. I have to explore every angle, and try to put myself in their positions to feel what they'd feel. It's like acting of sorts, only you do it on paper. And sometimes it's hard to have to try and imagine some of that stuff, because it's stuff I'd never want to happen to me or to someone I love. Or it's stuff from a character's past that I feel my reader needs to know in order to help endear the characters to readers.
That's another thing I've done the last couple of days...write in touching moments that will hopefully live in reader's minds. The kind of stuff that brings a tear to eyes. For instance, a movie scene that has had that effect on me is the one from "Raising Helen." If you've never seen it...GO RENT IT NOW. LOL! Watch it immediately. Bring tissues.
Anyway, the scene I'm talking about is when Kate Hudson was in the closet with her just-deceased sister's children closeby. They're smelling her clothes and crying. This is her sister's closet. That scene makes me cry every time I see it. It lives in my mind and heart, especially since I have a sister who I love and can't imagine having to live without. This is the kind of thing you want to try to do with your stories. Write in emotional scenes that most people can identify with. We all love someone. We all grieve. Death or loss has touched every one of us in some manner. Try to write to a universal human need or something that most readers can sympathize with. Some examples I've used in my books are: touching upon the need to belong. The desire to be loved no matter what. Various faith battles. Coping after loss.
I also incorporate light and funny moments that most people can identify with. How many of you get those stupid email messages that say "if you don't send this to a billion people in the next five minutes your eyebrows will explode" or some other equally ridiculous "curse." I absolutely hate those and had my heroine groan over one in a scene in my first book. It's the kind of thing you hope your readers will read and say, "Oh, yes! I hate those things too!" So you've just personified your character, added dimension and realness, and made them a person your reader can identify with.
My particular writing technique is that I see and write the stories by scenes. There is no right or wrong way to write. Everyone is different. Find what works for you. I break the story up in my mind. I rarely know the story from beginning to end. I get it in snippets or scenes. Snippets of dialogue. Flashes of interaction. I see portions of the setting. I usually have a written scene index to go by, but they're usually not in depth..and in fact are usually only 1-3 sentences of scene summary. Then I free write. This keeps me on track plot and word count-wise, and helps me to avoid sagging middles. It also helps me cover all the plot points if I have to write a plot-driven synopsis. I much more prefer character-driven synopses, but I have to make sure in my synopsis that I'm showing my editor the story has a very definitive beginning, middle and end. Once I start a story, I need to have it down (mess draft) in a few days or weeks.
BTW: A sagging middle is when your story just suddenly bogs, and you get stuck. Though I'm mostly a panster as far as plot, I do like to have some kind of a roadmap. My scene index serves that purpose.
For an example of how I do my scene indexes, refer to the Labels in the right side bar of my blog. Click on "Plotstorms" and you should be able to scroll around and find the section where I posted an example of my scene indexes.
In the last couple days' pass, I also changed up my wording a bit in order to foreshadow some things to come, one being a disaster. I also tailored my analogies, metaphors, etc. so they are plot-specific. There is a hurricane later in the book, so I've used words such as, "emotion stormed in her eyes" etc. That's not the precise wording, but you get the drift...pun intended. LOL! My hero is also military, so I've tried to paint word pictures while in his POV that he could identify with. Such as, "her words hit like a mortar shell." Again, not the exact wording I used, but just to give you examples of how your word choices should exemplify the tone, setting, theme and plot of your story.
Another thing I've done is proof and proof and go through my grammar books. I've also done spell check a gazillion times. When I'm satisfied with a computer copy, I print it out and proof it by paper because I am a TERRIBLE proofreader by computer. As you can probably tell by lots of the typos in my blog. I plan to take a couple of days to go through and correct those though because I can't stand the thought of leaving them out there. But for now, I just want to get this down while it's fresh so I can get the story turned in to my editor.
More in a day or so.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Saturday, September 01, 2007
So Ben-li is one of the U.S.A.F Pararescue Jumpers (PJ) in the series I'm currently working on. Steeple Hill publishers have bought two of the books so far. They'll release in Jan 2008 (A Soldier's Promise) and March 2008 (A Soldier's Family).
To start Ben-s story, I knew these things about him: He's part Asian, and part Caucasian. He's unusually tall for an Asian man. He's marriage-minded. Wants to find someone who shares his newfound Christian faith. He is musical. Likes to play various instruments but mostly the guitar.
So he's a well-rounded kind of guy. A Special Forces soldier, highly educated. I'm the kind of author who loves to turn stereotypes on their heads, so in deepening Ben's character, I didn't want to give him traits most people think of when they think of Asians. He's not the martial arts expert of the team, but the communications expert. One quirk Ben has is he hates chinese food. He eats it so he doesn't hurt his mother and grandmother's feelings. So though he's a tough as mortar warrior, he's also sensitive and thinks of others. Yet he's not wimpy. He's funny and speaks clearly in an American accent. He doesn't drive a sports car, he drives a sensible, economical car...just like him. He's sensible and manages his money wisely. My readers may never know some of this stuff about Ben, but I do. It helps me to know how he would react in any given situation.
Moving onward, Ben's story goal is to move his adult brother (who has Down Syndrome) to Refuge (the fictional town of my story setting) and to find someone to either take care of him, or find a home that his brother would thrive in because he cannot live alone, and Ben gets deployed on a moment's notice. Ben's never really had a relationship with his brother and longs for that. He also longs to honor his parents by enabling them to pursue the world travel they've always dreamed of. His brother doesn't travel well, so Ben taking over primary care of his brother is a win-win situation for everyone.
In comes the heroine. Ben met her by chance in the opening. She was passing through Refuge en route to a friend's house, who'd offered her a job and a place to live. She is a single mom who has a fender bender with a mall light pole. She has to remain in town to get her car fixed. She's financially strapped and unexpected expenses keep cropping up to deter her plans. You want to constantly toss roadblocks in your characters' paths to challenge their goals.
One of the first things I did in the plotstorm was get to know my characters by the use of character charts. Another thing I do immediately is figure out characters' goal, motivations, conflicts, spiritual struggles and relationship conflict. Meaning what is the main thing keeping the hero and heroine apart? There can be more than one thing. It can be an internal reason (heroine hurt in the past and gunshy of relationships-liek my heroine), or it can be an external reason: (hero's job phsically takes him away from the heroine...such as in my first book.)
One thing I determine in the beginning is what can I incorporate into the plot that forces the hero and heroine to remain together, though their goals try to pull them apart. In this case, her car breaking down keeps her in town initially. Ben helps her and she feels indebted to him. Then other things crop up to keep her in town for summer, and so forth. She gets a summer job in Refuge to be able to catch up some before starting school on scholarship in another state.
All of these things are tentative. They may change when I turn this in to my editor. If she likes the story and wants to buy it, there will probably be revisions, which makes everything here tentative. It's always good to have plan B or C, etc for your stories in case one aspect of your plot doesn't work.
I find out why my characters want this goal. This is called motivation. You can get Debra Dixon's book called GMC....and she explains all of this in depth. It's a great way to formulate story structure and make sure you know your characters somewhat before you begin.
So we know the characters' story goals and motivation. Then I figure out who is least and most resistant to the relationship and why. This usually stems from something that happened to them in their past, or a way they were raised, or some defining moment in their life which caused the resistance.
I then figure out their spiritual struggle. One or both of the characters can have a spiritual arc, meaning their faith struggle. In this case, my heroine never feels like she measures up to God's standard to her. She's always working to better herself. She struggles with self-condemnation. That's her arc in the book. I have a goal epiphany for each character usually, but especially for the character who struggles most in their faith. In this case, it's the heroine. Her epiphany is that she must come to realize that no matter how many times she fails, God will never see her as a failure. That she can't do anything to make God love her any less.
Okay so moving on...
We have GMC, etc. Now, I figure out the opening scene, which usually consists of a defining moment in character's life, or a disaster or some life change, etc. I decide whose point of view I'm going to start the book in. In this case, it's the heroine.
I then decide my setting, meaning what time of year is it and where is the story set? I already knew the setting would be Refuge before, since readers like to revisit towns from previous stories in a series. So at this point, I am planning to set the story in the same town as the first two books.
Then I go through and think of as many things as I can to add tension to the book. How can I up the stakes constantly for the characters? What hurdles can I fling at them, and what obstables can I toss in their paths to make them work harder for their goals, and cause the reader to wonder how this is all going to turn out all right in the end. Some ways to do this is imagine your worst fear and write about it. That puts quite a bit of authentic emotion in the story. Or, I've heard of authors putting their characters in a situation they dread most, or that they'd never willingly enter into themselves, and see how they react. Make them do things they think they'd never do, or never could do.
So for now, I have polished the two opening scenes. I had scene two as chapter two originally, but I cut it down by 6-7 pages because I wanted the heroine and hero interacting sooner. In category romance, it's pretty important that your hero and heroing meet within the first chap and even better if it's in the first few pages.
Since I tend to lean toward writing action-driven stories...I struggle with that and usually have to do some major hacking of plot and pages to get them together sooner.
So that's what I'm working on now. Or did a few days ago. Then I've let the story gel for several days...so I can see it with fresh eyes. It's amazine how much stuff you pick out, mistake wise and plotholes, etc. when you set it aside for a time so your mind has a chance to forget most of what you wrote.
This is also why I send it to my critters (critique partners). They always find stuff I miss. I highly recommend if you're serious about learning fiction, to find a good writing group such as ACFW or FHL or RWA. Pray for God to send you critique partners. And if you're able, spring for a conference. Networking is invaluable. Contests are great for feedback, but if contests help you move a few inches in your writing journey, conferences will move you miles. It's that kind of difference face to face networking makes.
Okay, off to tear into chapter three.
More plotstorm another day.