Category: writing

Why Critique Partners are Important

1-They push you to be better.
They tell you when your work isn’t good enough. Sometimes when I write, I have a tendency to think everything’s great. I get the honeymoon period a lot. Me and my manuscript. Running off into the sunset holding hands. I become too familiar with the words and too in love with the characters. This is bad. Critique partners aren’t afraid to tell you that your prose is murky and your characters are flat. They push you to dig deeper and write harder.

2-They lend an ear and a shoulder when you get rejected.
I don’t know of a writer who hasn’t faced rejection. (And by all means, if you’re out there reading this and you haven’t been rejected on your writing journey and your walls are full of shiny book-lovin awards…don’t mention it here. You will be stoned.) It’s easy to feel down when someone in the industry says your work won’t be picked up. It’s easy to take it as a personal attack on you instead of a simple decision on your work. Critique partners keep things in perspective. They remind you that you’re not the only one struggling to make it. It’s not personal. Have a drink. Or a donut. It’ll all be better in the morning.

3-They celebrate in your victories.
I had a little victory when Dark Tide Rising got a five star review from The Romance Reviews. (Love the shameless plug.) I was jumping up and down. I was ecstatic. I read it a dozen times. I cried. Seriously. But there was no greater feeling than my writing friends congratulating me. I could hear the excitement in their emails. (OMG! WOW! CONGRATS!!!!! GO YOU!!) Victories, even little ones like starred reviews, are better celebrated together.

4-They GET IT like no one else in the non-writing world gets it.
It’s hard to explain to a non-writer how important the Golden Heart awards are for romance writers. It’s hard to explain why I enter the Daphne Contest. (I enter both every year.) The first thing a non-writer asks after seeing me toil over the submissions is “what do you win?” The answer is simple: A necklace. It’s the most simple necklace infused with honor, respect, and writing glory. Truth be told, I don’t even want the necklace. The necklace isn’t what it’s about. It’s about knowing my work means something. It’s about my work getting the stamp of approval from my peers. Writers get it. We gather year after year at RWA National, get all spiffed-out for the red-carpet award ceremony the final night of the conference and watch as our friends, colleagues and FAMILY take the stage to claim that simple necklace. Not so simple after all.

3-They plot!
I had originally planned my paranormal series to be three books. Enemy, Beloved is about a shape-shifter and a vampire (and a bunch of other cool fight stuff). Immortal, Beloved is about a human and a vampire (and a bunch of reincarnated lover, death all around stuff). The third in the series (Untitled) was going to be about a fallen angel and a vampire elder (and a bunch of other totally awesome stuff I haven’t really figured out yet).

But…after a recent development which I can’t share yet, I’ve put the third book on hold. Not for good. I’m still going to write it should a publishing house pick up the first two. (PLEASE PLEASE THEY’RE GOOD I PROMISE) Now, though, I’ve decided it’s probably a better career move if I write something in a new direction. If I build a new world. If I stay in paranormal romance but write new characters in a new and equally exciting world.

Why, you ask?

Because I have to prove that I can write something other than the series I’ve already started. It’d be great to say I have The Crimson Bay Series and yet another coming down the chute that’s the same, but different.

But I have no freaking clue what that book is going to be about. I have a general premise. I know I want to write angels or ghosts. I know I don’t want to write demons. I know I don’t want to write any book about people/monsters/otherworldly things rising up against God. Period. All the other details still need to be worked out. That’s where my awesome critique partners come in. I talked with one last night while giving my kids a bath (Side note: NEVER attempt to plot while giving small children baths. Your bathroom will flood. Just sayin’.) Even though I felt like I had nothing to go on–a blank canvas that needed something beautiful painted on it, my critique partner started chucking globs of literary paint onto my blank slate. We mashed around colors. We smeared ideas right and left. Although my canvas now looks more like mess than art, it’s a START. And I have my critique partner to thank.

4-And lastly (too long a post, although I could go on and on), they balance you out.
During the above plotting session last night, my critique partner and I realized that we write books the EXACT OPPOSITE way. I come up with a premise. I figure out the major conflict. I figure out who my hero will be in that conflict–major role, obviously. I then determine who would challenge him most in that world. There’s my heroine. She, on the other and very interesting hand, develops characters first, then throws them into complex situations. She’s a great writer. I’m honored to read and critique her work. I stand to learn a lot. But that’s why I think we work. Without the balance we’d never learn, right? Yin is nothing but a funky crescent moon lookin’ thing without Yang.

And I think that philosophical gem is a great place to stop.

Thank your critique partners today. They’re your lifeline on this crazy journey toward publication.

Sagging Middles

No, I’m not talking about that little pooch hovering around your middle. I’m talking about the drawn out middle section of your work-in-progress.

You’ll know if you have one:
Is there a certain chapter driving you mad? Giving you all kinds of problems? A certain character who won’t get in line and do as you want him to? Is the writing slow and choppy? Have you edited it a thousand times over and *still* something doesn’t seem right about it?

If you answered YES then your problem most likely is not that chapter or character or scene that is “sticking”…it’s the sagging middle pulling down other threads of your story. The plot should roll. Fast. (Although I struggled in my own WIP to make certain parts PERFECT, and rewrote them {and rewrote them over and over again}, I honestly felt like I was still in the beginning throws of my book, still tossing conflict at the characters, still building their relationships, when I suddenly realized I had to start wrapping things up. I started panicking that I didn’t have enough room to finish the growth that the characters so needed.)

So how do you stop the middle of your book from sagging?

Use the Three Act Structure.
Use GMC: Goal, Motivation, Conflict. (Although I prefer reading it straight from Deb Dixon.
Remember Vogler’s Hero’s journey.

Those are great tools. If you’re still stuck, here’s a quick checklist you can go through to be sure your middle doesn’t sag:

1-Characters aren’t drifting through–make sure they have solid, clear goals.

2-Are characters getting closer to those goals? Or closer to realizing what they are, at the very least?

3-Are all scenes ending with the characters’ needs being met? THEY SHOULDN’T BE. Do you always get what you want? No. Neither do I. Neither should your characters. It complicates things and that’s exactly what you want.

4-Do you have unexpected twists and turns? Some event that takes the story in a different direction? (And side note: what would happen if that event pushed your character into a corner?)

5-Are your emotional stakes high enough in the middle? Do they escalate?

6-How’s your pacing? Is it choppy and quick? Or long winded and dreary? Speed things up by creating a sense of urgency, not just with your words, but with your sentence structure.

7-Are there dead weight scenes? Find THREE purposes to keep the scene in your work-in-progress. If you can’t find three VALID reasons, HACK IT.

8-Is your writing cliche-driven? Does your plot have predictable patterns? Change things up. Lead the readers a certain direction in your chapter or scene, then end it COMPLETELY DIFFERENTLY.

How’s your middle looking now?

The Perfect Storm and The End

I wrote like a madwoman yesterday and finished Immortal, Beloved!!! Yay!!! I woke up, deciding immediately that it was going to be a PJ, coffee, writing day (those are now OFFICIALLY my favorite kind) and buckled down.

Do you remember the movie The Perfect Storm? Let me jog your memory:

What’d you say? Those two hunky celebs weren’t supposed to be the focus of the movie? Huh.

In the movie (based on real events), Hunk 1 and Hunk 2 were part of a crew of swordfishermen fishing off the Grand Banks. Their fishing boat, The Andrea Gail, despite countless warnings, headed straight into The Perfect Storm (a culmination of a few monster Atlantic storms crashing into one another) and sank.

How does this fit in with my writing day yesterday? Glad you asked.

Remember this scene?

The Andrea Gail was fighting to get out of the storm. The fishermen could see the sunrise. Just on the other side of that ginormous wave was their freedom. They could almost reach it…almost…tension was at its peak. And then they tumbled down the wall of water and were never seen again.

Okay, so I’m being overdramatic. But I was fighting to finish Immortal’s first draft. Although this book is my absolute favorite–the best I’ve written to date–it’s given me pains along the way. The beginning was torture. I wrote draft after draft. The middle was action-packed and went much more smoothly. But this ending. Ugh. Pain. I wrote 6k in a few hours yesterday morning. Stepped away from the computer for a bit. Came back. Deleted 2k of those words. I reached the black moment of my story, wrote through it, realized I was a few paragraphs from the end…and decided it wasn’t good enough. It didn’t grab me like it should’ve. So I tumbled back down the wall of words.

After I put the kids to bed last night I sat down again, determined to finish this book. I wrote a few more hours, twisted things in a different direction, saw the new day dawning (in my book of course), and FINISHED!

It’s raw. It needs to be edited A LOT. Especially since I wrote another 2k in a flurry after hours. (And the stuff I write in the middle of the night is not good. Ever.)

But it’s done. I made it out alive. (Albeit tired and in serious need of coffee and down time reading other genres.)

The [glorious and wonderful and all things shiny and sparkly] End.

How Kristin Writes Part II

Okay. I’m about to get personal. Really personal. I’m about to post some pictures of what I’ve looked like when writing the ending of Immortal, Beloved: Book 2 in the Crimson Bay Series. (And think about how personal it is…my laptop screen is the only thing that sees this side of me…the troubled, contemplative, working side.)

Now, keep in mind…this ending has been in my head since early December…but for the life of me I couldn’t write it. Remember the performance anxiety post? Yeah. It’s plagued me for going on two months.

So finally FINALLY I buckled down, trudged through the first few paragraphs and got some GREAT writing done. I set my webcam to take an auto picture every fifteen minutes for an hour. Get ready, get set, for the progression of my writing hour. (And NO, sadly, this is not a joke.)


At first, I was ready. I was writing up a storm. The ideas were flowing. I even knew when the webcam went off. I think I wrote a few solid paragraphs at this pace. Not great. But not too bad.


Oh, and then came the irritated stage. You know, the stage when things aren’t going as smoothly as you’d like (to say the least) and the writing is total and utter crap? Yup. That’s my I’m never going to be able to fix the mess that is this chapter face. I start to get ticks. I bite my nails. Fluff my hair. Adjust my shirt. Change the channel on Pandora (Jack Johnson is my absolute favorite) or Facebook a minute or two.


And now I’m on a roll. The ticks have stopped. I’ve facebooked. I’ve tweeted. I’ve updated my blog and posted comments on others. Pandora is playing music I ABSOLUTELY LOVE. I’m in a groove. I have no clue when the webcam is flashing because, let’s face it, I’m not looking at the clock. And although it looks like I’m dreaming about very important things like when the next new episode of The Vampire Diaries is coming on, I’m not. I’m editing. Hacking away the dead parts of the chapter. I’m skimming for repetitious words or phrases or clumps of adverbs and adjectives. I’m making headway. I LOVE BEING A WRITER!!


What’s this a picture of? Oh, that’s right. You guessed it. I hit the wall. This is a picture of me–back hurting, hands cramping, arse numbing and ravenous for more coffee. This is me a few minutes before I get up, throw some laundry in, watch some Judge Judy, make a sandwich or run circles around my dog. (Wouldn’t I be bad ass if I could do all of that at once?)

I’ve learned that it takes me a bit to warm up to writing every day. Most of what I write sucks. It really does. But I go back, again and again, and again, every single day and smooth things over, ramp things up, and delete, delete, delete things that aren’t working. (DON’T BE AFRAID TO DELETE!) (Seriously, the Immortal, Beloved “cut-out” file is 72 pages long. The actual novel will end around 350.)

So that’s my progression. (And I should also add that I write for, on average, three hours per day…so this cycle repeats itself another two times. No joke.) What’s your progression look like? Take some webcam pictures and see! It’s great to take a look and laugh!

Early release and giveaway and squealage!

GET READY FOR GREAT AND UNEXPECTED NEWS AND SCREAMING AND STUFF!!!!

Dark Tide Rising is available NOW in print format! The digital version still won’t be available until February 2nd, but The Wild Rose Press pushed print production ahead! Yahoo!!

You can find it here. Once at TWRP website, scroll down to “Latest in Paperback” and you’ll see it.

You can also find it here, which is still from The Wild Rose Press website, but copied directly from the order page.

And here, which is Dark Tide Rising’s site on Amazon.

The price for print is the same, no matter where you order from, however you might want to play around with shipping costs from each site to find the best deal.

Also, once I get my author copies I’m going to be giving away a signed copy–watch for the easy-to-enter, easy-to-win giveaway.

If you’re one of the lucky ones to have read Dark Tide Rising early, and you post a review on Amazon…well…I’d love you forever. That’s what. And if that’s not good enough then I guess I’ll have to figure out other cool stuff to giveaway.

Dark Tide Rising is out there in the world. Hope you all enjoy it.

Dark Tide Rising Listed on Amazon!

Want to see something really awesome? Ahem. Let me rephrase. DO YOU WANT TO SEE SOMETHING I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR SINCE I STARTED WRITING?!? SOMETHING THAT ROCKED MY SOCKS OFF?!?

GO HERE TO SCREAM WITH ME!

That’s right…Dark Tide Rising (although not available for purchase until February 2,2011) is cited on AMAZON!

NOW PARDON ME WHILE I RUN CIRCLES AROUND MY HOUSE AND STRAIN SOME EARDRUMS.

How to Write a Rollercoaster…I mean *Ride* a Rollercoaster

I’m convinced that writing a novel is like riding a rollercoaster.

If you’re at an aumusement park with a friend and he or she says, “Let’s ride THAT!” you’re going to size up the ride they’re pointing at. Does it have enough dips and turns to make you thrilled and are they severe enough to make you sick? Is the line worth the ride? Is that a ride you’ll love? Will you walk off wind-blown and dizzy with a smile on your face saying “That’s the greatest ride ever?” (I get that way EVERY SINGLE TIME I get off Space Mountain in Disneyland.)

Writing a novel is no different. You plot out all those dips and turns in your head. You make sure you can do them justice. You research your material. You make sure you’re challenged (at least I do). You chose a story that will pull you to finish–something you’re passionate about.

Now when you get on the roller coaster, what’s first? Oh yes. That long, dragging pull up to the top of the peak. That’s plotting, folks. Building your story one rung at a time. You peak at the top of the first hill–the largest–hold your breath, close your eyes, (maybe pray)…and fall into writing LINE 1 PAGE 1. It’s wild. It’s freeing. You feel like you’re floating.


*That’s me–the crazy lady with her arms in the air–riding The Hurricane at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk two years ago.

The roller coaster sweeps around turns, jerking you right and left, then right again. Some turns are expected. You brace yourself. Grit your teeth. Maybe even scream a little. Some turns are blind. You smack into the rickety car, hurting your side. It’ll ache for days. Same goes for writing. Some pieces of your story you’ll see and prepare for. Others will sideswipe you and leave you reeling. (Robert Frost said “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader…”) Both the expected and unexpected are necessary to make the writing ride thrilling.

If the roller coaster is any good, it’ll speed up, not slow, near the end. You should be holding tighter near the bottom, as the G forces pull the smile from your face. Just when you think you can’t possibly hold on any longer or any tighter, you slam to a stop and the bars release to let you up. Writing is no different. You want your endings to be the best part of the ride. Leave the reader breathless and reeling. Aching to hop the turnstile and do it again. (You know you’ve done that before. Remember the feeling? You just HAVE to get back on. One more time. Books are the same. Remember the one you finished and held close, as if you could jump back into that world? Remember how you didn’t want it to end? Yup. Same feeling.)

Remember when you’re building your roller coaster and writing your story that the mechanics between the two are the same. You should feel the G forces pulling you to finish. I’ve heard some published authors say that endings fly off their fingers. They can write 50 near polished pages a week. Their stories read the same way. My eyes fly through the words.

What kind of roller coaster are you crafting? And how will your reader feel when they get off the ride and close your book?

How the NYT Bestseller list is created

I found a video this morning about how the New York Times Bestseller list is created. I’ve always wondered. I’ve been asked a thousand times.

Truth be told, I just figured “they” (“they” being people behind the publishing industry’s pearly gates) tallied up the total sales for hardcovers any given week and VOILA! NYT Bestselling.

Not so much. Take a look.

(ETA: Sorry the right side of the video is cut off. I don’t know what’s going on with Blogger, but I can’t modify the margins like normal.)

Are you shocked to hear that books sold at WalMart aren’t included into the tally? Me too. I’m also shocked to hear that only two books from each publisher are sent. Seems like there should be more under consideration especially since I’m sure trusted and true authors (like Nora Roberts, James Patterson, Stephen King) are sure-ins for the list. Where does that leave room for debut authors? Kinda feels like there’s a teeny tiny crack in there somewhere to slip through.

Whether you’re shooting for your writing goal today (mine’s 4k), or aiming to finish that book that just won’t end (I’m still 50 pages off. Heh.) or hoping to sell your first book to a major publisher (I’m still waiting on editor feedback from Enemy, Beloved) or are praying to hit the NYT Bestselling list this Sunday (under the circumstances I’d say I’m years off), at least now we all know the process to get there.

Have a great writing day!

Dark Tide Rising Excerpt

What better way to start the year than by posting something on the blog that I never have before?

I’m going to post an excerpt from my work. Even though I realize it’s coming out in a month (ONE MONTH, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!?) I’m actually scared to death to post this. Something about writing it here, for all the Internet world to see, feels…shaky. Like I can write the darn book but am terrified of having someone read it. Ridiculous concern, I know, especially since tons (at least I hope tons) of people are going to be holding the book in their hands. I mean, that’s what I’m in the profession for, right? To write something great. To have people read it and (hopefully) enjoy it. Now I’m wondering if there’s any authors who’ve felt the same way…

Okay. *Deep breath* *And another*

I’m stalling…

I know…

Dark Tide Rising RELEASES FEBRUARY 2ND. Here goes!

A killer was on the loose…
Lurking in the dark, waiting for her to succumb to a dreamy state, was a menacing foe. Like a demented spider creeping into her mind, the vision tapped its sick legs on her deepest insecurities and darkest fears; took her to a dark, wet place reserved for secrets and shadows.

Emily knew immediately she’d felt this ominous feeling before, watched this scene play out in her head.

But Stefanie was gone. There was no reason for her to be reliving this again.

A sheet of ice water slipped over her legs, numbing her senses.

It was when the initial shock of the wave wore off that Emily realized this was different than the nightmare she’d had before. The pain from the previous vision was foreseen, understood, and empathized.

This pain and this piercing cold, however, she felt deep in her bones. She wasn’t looking through Stefanie’s eyes. She was looking out…

Through her own.

Panic seized control over her logic, her thoughts. She looked around, her head thrashing from side to side, unable to see anything but a black void.

Why couldn’t she see? Why couldn’t she hear? Why was she unable to do anything but wriggle with her hands stuck behind her back and kick her feet?

The one thing she did know was that she wasn’t alone. She could feel someone watching her, standing over her.

“Hello?” her voice shook, echoing through the cave.

Why couldn’t she hear him? Wasn’t he talking to her, as he had to Stefanie? Why was she left with nothing but an eerie silence and rising water?

*********

Okay, so there you have it! The Wild Rose Press has officially posted my book on their website. You can’t order it yet, but if you wanted to check out the page where you can buy the novel come February 2nd, go here.

The Writers Alphabet: A-Z

*

A-gents believe in the value of a good book. Give them something to believe in.
B-logs are the ultimate networking tool. (And quite fun to boot!)
C-ontests help build your writing bio but
D-on’t count on the scores to mean a thing.
E-dits are a necessary evil.
F-acebook will distract easy enough but you still need to
G-et down to it and write!
H-ell, the book won’t write itself.
I-nspire others and so inspire yourself.
J-ump chapters or scenes if you get stuck.
K-ill your darlings–no matter how much it hurts.
L-ocal writing chapters provide unwavering support.
M-anuscripts will be changed again and again. Hold nothing dear.
N-ational conferences are a great way to meet other writers.
O-pen your work to both pos/neg feedback.
P-artners to critique your work are a must.
Q-uestion everything. Does that -ly need to be there?
R-ough drafts are just that: rough.
S-ave early and save often.
T-witter is a writers vortex–not many useful pages escape.
U-nderstand marketing trends, then write what pulls you anyway.
V-alue free time away from your WIP.
W-rite! Write! Write! Now Write some more!
X-cuse mistakes here and there.
Y-ou must remember it’s a process. You’ll get *there* eventually.
Z-ebra Mochas from Starbucks are an essential muse booster. (At least for me–mocha addict–remember?)