Category: Author Ramblings

An Evolution of my Writing Craft

Posted July 24, 2020 by Victoria in Author Ramblings / 2 Comments

I like to evolve as a writer. I like to learn what works and what doesn’t for me to produce the best work possible, with efficiency, and without sacrificing craft. I always thought I couldn’t write more than 1k words a day and be able to do it consistently. But I’ll get back to that point.

There are many books on writing fast and there’s undeniable proof that rapid releasing is the way to go. And yet, the ghost of that year when I released three books and promptly burned out haunts me. Still, it’s so easy to get caught up in the next writing trend. I am awed when I see my author friends say they churn out 5k words in 3 hours, or 9k words in one day! I can barely eke out 4k words an entire day and then I’m down for the next few days. Ha!

But I tried it anyway. Set a timer, turn off the wi-fi and go! Lo, and behold I wrote almost 800 words in forty minutes. I sprinted with some author friends and was quite proud of myself. I closed out the day with 3k words in 3 forty-minute sprints. However the next day, I went back to read over what I wrote. It almost took me an entire afternoon to fix my writing. So, I thought, well, writing is a muscle and I just need to exercise it more. I tried it again and again until I decided speed writing wasn’t for me.

What bothered me the most was:

a. Sameness of the voice of the characters. It was like it was lost and they all blended together.

b. Unimaginative banter, rudimentary dialogue. For some reason, when my brain is in “write fast” mode, my characters seem to drone on about superfluous things, and I feel like it’s because subconsciously, I’m just trying to get to a word count. And to me,  besides a tight plot line, dialogue is everything. Character is dialogue and dialogue without conflict is simply boring.

c. The tendency for weird sentence structure. Sometimes it becomes purple prose, while other times I’m like: “Why the hell did I write that?” 🤣

For the above reasons alone, I cringed at my attempts at writing fast. It worked for others, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me. I decided I wanted to write wiser, not faster. So rapid releasing wasn’t in the cards for me unless I’d take a year or two off  from publishing to write the books, and then rapid release them.

And when my brain and heart finally accepted that, my creativity and productivity soared.

So what finally worked for me?

a. Using story beats similar to Jessica Brody’s Save The Cat writes a novel. I say similar because there are times I can deviate.

b. Hiring a developmental editor who understands my style and genre, but who doesn’t try to change the way I think. Our brainstorming sessions alone are gold. Geri has also been a reader friend for a long time and we’re on the same wavelength about story lines with tight plot, pacing, and strong character dynamics. I send her my first draft in three parts. I have a tendency to devolve into crazy plot lines that becomes implausible to untwist, and Geri is a good sounding board on this and lessens the need for manuscript surgery—which I’ve done a couple of times. 🤣

c. By the time I finally sit down to write, I already have my characters, their backgrounds, part of their motivations, and overall plot as a springboard.

d. My writing time is sacred. From Stephen King’s On Writing book, he advises to write everyday and not to stop until you finish the book because you will lose its urgency. I honestly thought, I couldn’t do it, but I was able to finish the dirty first draft of ROGUE PROTECTORS 2 in six weeks at roughly 2k words a day. With a day job, this was challenging, but it was all about setting expectations with everyone in the house and it included my hubby and dog. 😉

But then you say, “Isn’t that writing fast?”

No, because still following the advice of Stephen King, I let the first draft rest for two weeks (he advises six, but hell no) before revisions, while I binged on other books or Netflix. And as is my regular method, I send it to Kristan, my amazing editor,  for two rounds of edits with a preference of three weeks in between the rounds as I send it to a few betas.

By my calculation, it still takes around 4 to 5 months to get a book ready to where I want it to be.

I continue to tweak my methodology, but I believe being kind to myself and setting realistic goals is the key to creativity. 🙂

 

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On Writing Captive Lies

On Writing Captive Lies

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, […]

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James River Writers Confere..

James River Writers Conference 2013

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 […]

Posted October 21, 2013
Author Ramblings, Uncategorized
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Writing Gems

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: The Elements of Style – Strunk and White – when in doubt, this is my goto book, oh and google helps too. Revision and Self-Editing – James Scott Bell 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 […]

Posted September 11, 2013
Author Ramblings
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There be growling

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 […]

Posted July 1, 2013
Author Ramblings, Silver Fire
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Some great reads this week

Some great reads this week

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 […]

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The Importance of Content E..

The Importance of Content Editing

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 […]

Posted March 31, 2013
Author Ramblings
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Details, Details …

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 […]

Posted March 22, 2013
Author Ramblings, Uncategorized
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Use the best word

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 […]

Posted March 16, 2013
Author Ramblings
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The Writing Process

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 […]

Posted March 13, 2013
Author Ramblings
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