Category: Author Ramblings

On Writing Captive Lies

Posted March 5, 2018 by Victoria in Author Ramblings, Fire and Ice, Misty Grove, Smoke and Shadows / 1 Comment

Captive Lies was a “turning point” book. I wanted to explore my writing voice, to see where I could improve and to figure out what could be holding me back. I have always written what I wanted which was why quitting my day job wasn’t in my immediate future. 😉

Let me backtrack a bit. Writing Fire & Ice started out as an accident. I’d been reading about amazing alpha male heroes but they were always getting paired with doormat heroines and I got frustrated. Out of that frustration, I wrote the first five chapters of F&I and sent it to my friend and forgot about it. A couple of weeks later, she emailed me back and asked me where the rest of the manuscript was. And I thought, really? Someone wanted to read it? I went ahead plotting and writing the rest of it, googling editors and sending it off to one I found. No way was I publishing unedited work. I got good feedback as well as critique. I had a male editor, and he thought Jack was a wooden character, but he liked Maia and my plot was well-paced. Made some adjustments and the rest, as they say, was history.

I’ve always liked to tinker with a character’s story arc, but I noticed I always followed what was the “trend.” I’ve ventured into dark and twisty with Deadly Obsession, but that hesitation to go darker than I was comfortable with curtailed some of its storyline. Don’t get me wrong, I loved how it turned out, but I knew I could have explored it more, but would I be writing “me?”

Then I wrote the alpha-hole that was Matt in Saving Grace. Could I have made him more of an asshole or did I hesitate because I didn’t want readers to hate him so much? Or maybe his arc was a bit too contrived? Maybe a bit, but that was where my editor and betas came in and I think he’s still an asshole but he’s my lovable asshole. 😉

I was learning throughout my writing journey, but I wasn’t exactly sure what I was learning.

Makes sense?

Then came clarity.

Read More

Divider

James River Writers Conference 2013

Posted October 21, 2013 by Victoria in Author Ramblings, Uncategorized / 0 Comments

douglas

Thanks to a tip-off from a good friend of mine, I was able to attend my first writer’s conference right here in Richmond. My first impression was, Boy, there’re so many serious-looking writers. I thoroughly enjoyed the humor and charisma of speakers Brad Parks and Christopher McDougall (author of Born to Run).

I was kind of put off by how some speakers derisively labeled New Adult as soft porn. They obviously have not read Colleen Hoover’s Slammed and Hopeless series. There wasn’t much smut in Beautiful Disaster either. I think they should not ignore the generation of readers that Fifty Shades of Grey have spawned. I myself have no interest in reading pulitzer-prize winning pieces, because I love my smutty reads. 😉

I had my eye on the Improving your Craft track. Some were helpful, some were not what I was expecting.

Suspense across Genre

Always lead with your best stuff. Create compelling characters—balance the good and bad in him. Make the readers care for that character and then raise the stakes. Chop up the suspense—no info dumping. Build the suspense, but slow it down at some points.

*My own thoughts. Since I write romantic suspense, I build the characters by having them react to the circumstances/danger I throw at them. How they react will shape their existing characterization helped along by a backstory. Create life-threatening scenes, although, since I write HEA endings, these make them a bit trickier to be suspenseful.

First Draft Method and Madness

Don’t get too attached to it. The predominant advice was to push through to finish your first draft. Cut out the editor in you. If you have to use the word “Suddenly” to introduce a scene, do so. If you have to use adverbs to get it moving forward, do so. It’s important to get all the way through to the end to get a sense of your plot…to see if it’s working or not.

I’ve also read this before. The first draft is always messy. If it’s so orderly and clean, then you did not allow yourself to give it your all. And that’s what you have to be: reckless and crazy.

Ernest Hemingway once said: “The first draft of anything is shit.”

Revising like a Rockstar

So you have your first draft. It’s time to cut or to add in. Revising is NOT editing. So turn off that little editor in your head. If a scene doesn’t advance the theme, cut it out. The best thing to do is to distance yourself from your work, so you can come back and look at it with fresh eyes.

I’ve done this with Silver Fire. I let the manuscript sit for a few weeks before going back to work on it.

When you are ready to edit, read it aloud. See where sentences are bleeding. An attendee suggested diagramming your sentence.

Take a look at the Paramedic method, by Richard Lanham for a way on writing concisely.

Now, some of favorite authors like Kristen Ashley have a way of writing run on sentences that have so much heart. To be honest, sometimes too perfect sentences are boring. Don’t you think?

Be careful not to edit out your voice.

**** I was disappointed in the last two sessions because they were the ones I was most excited about. I am the first to admit that I do have a problem writing run-on sentences and dangling modifiers.

Word nerds Unite! Advanced Techniques in Sentence Fluency

There were no advanced techniques given at all. I mean, the speakers just gave us what were their worse writing ticks.

  • Between you and me
  • Preposition with no object
  • Comma before which -> I covered this in an earlier post
  • Using that instead of who
  • Watch those adverbs
  • minimize helping verbs

You need clarity when writing a scene.

One of my goals this year is to let go of the conjunction “as” when writing action scenes. I seem to be using it too much like a crutch when describing simultaneous actions. There must be a way to rewrite sentences to avoid too much repetition.

Plot Mechanics

So I was hoping for something like Larry Brook’s story engineering—how to keep the plot moving forward, but all we got was a dissection of the authors’ book, which was also good to see how they plotted their novel. I think the engineer in me wanted to break down a book into parts (1st plot point, build up, 2nd plot point etc.), but what they’re trying to say was that writing is organic and you should just let your characters flow.

Know the vague end, because it may still change.

Divider

Writing Gems

Posted September 11, 2013 by Victoria in Author Ramblings / 0 Comments

What a journey it has been! I have published my first book in April this year, followed by a novella and a short story and will be publishing my second full-length novel in October. Through it all, I have learned a lot: from the reviews of my books (both from readers and editors) and through other writing periodicals and books—I only hope to improve my craft, voice and writing style.

Here’s a list of helpful texts:

  1. The Elements of Style – Strunk and White – when in doubt, this is my goto book, oh and google helps too.
  2. Revision and Self-Editing – James Scott Bell
  3. Story Engineering – Larry Brooks – His website has several interesting articles that will help you write a tightly-plotted story, including questions that will challenge your character’s motivations and plot. storyfix.com

Helpful articles:

4. How to use Dialect, Slang, Profanity – Writer’s Digest May/June 2013

*there is a secret to cursing well. Too much in your novel reduces the impact. Do not use profanity to disguise poor writing. Think twice if that F-word is really needed in that sentence. This is a great way to improve your writing. Strip away the curse from your sentence and read what is left. Chances are, you’ll want to re-write it anyway.

5. Antagonists & Antiheroes – Writer’s Digest July/August 2013 .

*even the villain deserves some loving. I realized with Fire and Ice, my villains were the typical bad guys through and through. Almost caricatures. So I decided to experiment with Silver Fire and delve into the psychology of the villain further. Yes, I skeeved myself out. One thing to remember, antagonists are people too. Excited to craft the big bad for Guardians #3.

6. Character Development – Writer’s Digest novel writing Yearbook Summer 2013. This collection of articles, sort of like a whole workbook for writing your novel, is a gem to help you craft your final draft. I also liked the grammatically speaking article which gives 50 tips to make your grammar stronger. The very first one: Avoid multiple exclamation points!!!! Actually, it also cautions against using even a single exclamation point unless for a true exclamation.

Divider

There be growling

Posted July 1, 2013 by Victoria in Author Ramblings, Silver Fire / 0 Comments

When a book like Silver Fire has to juggle three over-the -top Alpha males (Derek, Jack and Viktor) and then some, I can’t help but use the word “growled” in a lot of dialogues. How else can you say:
“You’re mine!” he growled.

However, my editor has a point, I did a word count for “growled” in Silver Fire and I cringed at the sheer amount of growling by my heroes; they’re not werewolves after all. 😉

So before I start editing, I write a a list of word alternatives. Sometimes when you’re on a roll, you can’t pull that best word out of your mouth, but you would hate disrupting the flow of the prose—you soldier on. I guess, that’s the type of writer I am. It’s when you finesse your story (and after you’ve read it a couple of times) that the elusive word finally makes itself known. 🙂

I also did a word count on the f-word, and it’s well below the average for the genre. 😉 (at least I hope so). I’ll probably clean it up a bit. Incidentally, the may/june issue of writer’s digest has a topic on using profanity and raw talk in fiction. And there’s a topic on cursing well.
The well-written curse is:
*pointed and precise. When you are dropping the word out of habit, you’ve hit the point of “too much.” Hear it, precisely.
*quickly and forcefully crafted. Shape and vary the language you use.
*revealing, both intentionally and unintentionally. Language (that is diction) changes when emotions are charged. But that might be the moment when swearing drops away. Work for the surprise
(source: writer’s digest may/june 2013 issue)

While I’m happily editing away, the short story I promised about Jack and Maia is nicely forming in my head  and I will start pounding the keys on that in a few weeks. This will cover the weeks after Beneath the Fire and Silver Fire and will be free on my blog like Murder and Silk.

In the meantime, happy reading! 🙂

Divider

Some great reads this week

Posted April 19, 2013 by Victoria in 2013-Reviews, Author Ramblings, Contemporary/Historical Romance, My 5-star reads, New Adult/Young Adult, Silver Fire / 0 Comments

spring blooms
spring blooms

I’m getting ready to re-plot my second book. I had a story fixer look at my plot outline and I had realized a few home truths: I had too many villains that my story could rival ‘24′ …  after all my next heroine is a brilliant nuclear scientist and not Jack Bauer. And although my male protagonist could be as badass as Jack Bauer (with the sexy of a Christian Grey), I had a plot twist that could either be too brilliant or too contrived.

And when my thoughts are too mired in my plotting, I need to clear my head by reading.

Great reads are getting harder and harder to come by because I’ve been avoiding books with cliffhangers. Is anyone tired of this trend yet? I had been looking forward to Entwined with You because that’s the last Gideon and Eva book, but Sylvia Day announced that there was to be more Eva and Gideon. I mean, really? Can we just give them an HEA? They’ve been through enough, right?

And I’ve slowly O’D on New Adult. I think the stories are getting repetitive. Let’s see, tortured hero (preferably tattooed), heroine running away from a dark past, college drama (stupid reason for breaking up) which results in angst & jealousy. Not only do the books end with a cliffhanger, they get to do the same thing all over in book 2 or 3.

That said, I had one interesting read this week. This book is not for everybody because it touches on the subject of forced seduction (that line that is blurred between rape and consensual sex):

Wanderlust
Wanderlust

Wanderlust, by Skye Warren, was incredibly dark and touches on very disturbing situations. It was an emotional story. That the author was able to get me, the reader, to root for Hunter after what he had done to Evie, is a job well-done.

And my favorite read this week was the latest contemporary by Julie James, Love Irresistibly.

Love Irresistibly
Love Irresistibly

This book had great banter and was just great overall writing. This was her best of the series, in my opinion.

So, yeah, like I said I got tired of New Adult romances and since I liked Office Affair so much I started looking for similar book recommendations and I found some great suggestions from a Goodreads group.

Anchor and Storm by Kate Poole is a historical erotica with a great story. Here is the blurb:

Edgar Armstrong, Earl of Callander, had not given much thought to marrying and producing an heir…until he meets Emily Sinclair. When their easy companionship grows into love, they learn that Edgar’s progressively debilitating disease could be passed on to his children. As their joy turns to despair Edgar finds a solution. If he can’t get her with child he knows just the man who can. But will Emily agree to his plan?Angus MacNeill, Lord Callander’s groom, thinks Emily married Edgar for his title, his money and the security he can give her. And when Edgar approaches him with a very unusual request Angus questions his master’s motives. Still, it doesn’t stop him from accepting Callander’s terms — it’s the only way he can be with Emily, even if only until she conceives.Deeply in love with Edgar, Emily will do anything he asks of her. But she never suspected he’d ask something like this! Despite Edgar’s reassurances she worries that his plan could destroy their marriage rather than strengthen it. And when she makes her choice, Emily wonders if there’s room enough for two men in her heart — and in her bed.

As y’all can tell from the book, there are hints of ménage a trois. The story is well-written, and I really felt for Emily and Edgar’s predicament. And Angus, I felt so sorry for him when he was clearly in love with Emily too. The author had written the resolution in a way that is very satisfying to the reader and the ending is inevitable but there is a bittersweet HEA.

Divider

The Importance of Content Editing

Posted March 31, 2013 by Victoria in Author Ramblings / 0 Comments

I love my pink marker
I love my pink marker

After I got my manuscript back from my editor, I noticed that most of his corrections were my inconsistencies of when to spell out numbers. There is no fixed rule about this, I think it is largely dependent on the standards of a publishing house. For a self-published author, it is important to establish that guideline early on and stick to it. From the corrections of my editor, he spelled out numbers twenty and below. For time of day, I have always used PM and AM, so using the number equivalent was fine like 3 PM. I’m still deciding whether I should use 9mm or nine-millimeter regarding the weapons used in the book, it looked like either form was acceptable. The impact of the former was better in my opinion.

Oh, about content editing. As a new author whose desire was to write the novel that has been percolating in my head, there were some new phrases I had to learn. Content editing was one, suspension of disbelief was another. As a beginning author, I guess I had the tendency to explain every scene or the thoughts and motivations of a character that it had left nothing to a reader’s imagination. With this in mind, content editing comes into play. A main part of content editing is to remove repetitive information from the manuscript.

I noticed in later chapters, paragraph sections were crossed out, and at first I was dismayed, but then I realized that the information had more of an impact when given in another part of the book.

There were other scenes in which I did a total rewrite or had to cut them out completely. This was to remove the dreaded wash-rinse-repeat cycle which I did not know I had been doing, but I totally got the point my editor was making.

I’m very happy with the end-result. The extra work had tightened the plot and moved the action smoothly forward.

Here is an excerpt from the editorial review of “Fire and Ice”:

In terms of the engaging, gripping nature of the book, a significant factor is the fact that you get your reader to like and invest in the characters very quickly. All of the characters are very vividly drawn, and you are able to impart a distinct personality and aura to them with a few deft strokes. One thing to bear in mind in this respect would be what I mentioned in my previous letter about showing rather than telling: it seems to be the case that an important aspect of the suspension of disbelief is a lightness of touch on the writer’s part when spinning the illusion, and any hint of coercion or forcefulness (“This is what X means / This is what you are meant to think”) tends to interrupt the reader’s absorption by drawing attention to / making them aware of the presence of the writer trying to engender exactly that.

Divider

Details, Details …

Posted March 22, 2013 by Victoria in Author Ramblings, Uncategorized / 0 Comments

As a reader, I’m not much for endless details or filler chapters, but I do realize that sometimes they are needed pace the story. I do not like to read about pages and pages about a character’s clothes or a certain location. This triggers my automatic skimming.

However, I do appreciate specific details and this is one skill I want to develop, writing a setting and keeping the flow interesting.

I came across the February 2013 issue of  Writer’s digest and am impressed with the wealth of information contained within. It’s a great magazine for a new writer like me to navigate ways of improving my writing. A short article that caught my eye and tickled my interest was : “Getting the Details Right” ~ Write it real by knowing your high heels. My current heroine, Maia Pierce has a shoe fetish. 🙂

Here is an excerpt. This article was written by Tiffany Luckey. There were 9 types of shoes mentioned here but the top three are the most commonly used:

Pump : A slip-on with a low-cut front. Heel length varies (typical 2-4 inches). who would wear it: the working woman who is both stylish and practical.

Stiletto: A long, pencil-thin heel named after the stiletto knife; 2-10 inches in heigh. who would wear it: the tempress; a go-getter; the fashion forward woman.

Kitten: A shorter version of the stiletto, usually 1 1/2-2 inches in height. who would wear it: usually taller and dainty women; those who look like Katherine Hepburn as a style icon.

Regarding stilettos, the designer of choice is still Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin.

 

 

Divider

Use the best word

Posted March 16, 2013 by Victoria in Author Ramblings / 0 Comments

When I become interested in something, it almost becomes an obsession. I read/buy books, I buy the best tools—everything needs to be top-notch—I try to go to classes when I could. Fortunately, in novel writing, you just need your writing tool—this could be your computer or if you are still old-style … a typewriter. The internet is also a wealth of information, but use it wisely.

My husband has always thought that I was the queen of the internet because I was quick to find the answers I needed. But there’s nothing like a good old reliable book. I’m sure most writers are familiar with it— but to those not in the United States (I know I’ve never heard of it when I was in school)—this book has been my bible:

The Elements of Style by William Strunk JR. and E.B. White

Unfortunately, like most textbooks, retention is bad unless I find real-life applications of the rules in the book. I have the illustrated version, but I’ve bought the e-book version as well for a quick reference since I always have my e-reader with me.

So what are some commonly misused words?

  • which/that – Usually, I can tell which one to use by reading it out loud and figuring how the whole sentence means to me. An example from my manuscript:

Castle is about 30 clicks from the main highway, which that should give us roughly 20 minutes’ heads up.

         which is none restrictive, when it is taken away, the meaning of the sentence does not change, information following it is supplementary.

that is restrictive. It is necessary for the meaning of the sentence.

A safe house that has a panic room is essential to the mission.

  • got/had been  I have a bad habit of substituting got for had been. So now I ask myself if had been would be a better word. For example:

Numerous arrest warrants had been got issued.

  • didn’t/hadn’t Again, this is a matter of habit and one might not be wrong as the other, but read it out loud and see which one sounds better. When posting a FB status, update I caught myself writing this.

Didn’t plan on buying shoes…

so I corrected it to this which sounded better to my ear

Hadn’t planned on buying shoes …

  • before/ago I also noticed the correction of certain time references. I normally would say, 10 years ago—this was edited to 10 years before. Other changes:

last night => the night before

tomorrow=> the next day

I realized that this may depend on the point of view. If it’s in the third person point of view, it would be better to say the next day or the night before. A formality maybe? If it was in a dialogue, then a speaker was most likely to say, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” or “It was fun last night.”

The following pairs of words are for possible substitutions. One word might not be wrong to use, but in writing always choose the best word:

like (for a comparison) => such as

as in => perhaps

This man was the finest male specimen she had ever come across in a long time, perhaps as in ever.

Another book I am currently reading is : Revision and Self-Editing for Publishing by James Scott Bell. I’m finding important writing gems in understanding what makes a good character, a compelling plot and handling those tricky point of views. I wish I had this before I started my book, but then again having finished work makes it easier to work on some material for improvement.

Until next time, happy writing!

Divider

The Writing Process

Posted March 13, 2013 by Victoria in Author Ramblings / 2 Comments

I had dabbled in writing since maintaining a food blog for over six years. Tackling a novel is a whole new ballgame. Wait, let me backtrack a little. I’ve always been a dreamer. I remembered my early childhood when my father always scolded me for being absent-minded. Even then I would think up scenarios in my head and appear to be lost in my own world. In high school, I even started on a science fiction novel which I, unfortunately, abandoned. I grew up learning and speaking three languages. You can just imagine how confusing that can be when it came to writing. Fortunately, I only had to do composition in two of them.

I did well in my English courses in high school, but when I headed off to college and took up an Engineering degree, I got rusty in composition. When I started writing a food blog, I realized that I had a habit of shifting subject-pronoun agreement, and mixing up verb tenses. I was able to get a writing coach to help me be more mindful of this. When I switched to fiction writing, I told my friend who was a beta-reader to excuse my dangling modifiers and verb tenses. I knew I had a problem. You know what she told me?

“Don’t worry, that’s the job of the editor.”

And you know what? She was right. Especially for those of us who have a story to tell but had not had the opportunity to be a literature or English major, there’s the editor that can help without losing your own voice. I also realized that it’s a good thing to just roll with the punches. When the words and ideas are flowing out—forget about the adverb placement, forget about your verb tenses—you can always go back and fix them later.

I’ve finished proofreading my first novel and I couldn’t wait to share what I have learned during the editing process. As I prepare my novel for publication, maybe other first-time writers may also benefit from the experience.

Upcoming post: misused words, books to read

Divider