May 2017 Archives

The Diabolic

DIABOLIC.jpgThe Diabolic (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016) by S.J. Kincaid is an amazing story.

Nemesis is a diabolic--created to protect Sidonia. She'll do anything to keep Donia safe, including killing. So when Nemesis is asked to impersonate teenage Donia at the Imperial Court, she'll do that too out of love, even though it's more like trying to make a tiger, or something worse, into a kitten.

Here's the book trailer.

The exciting news is that a sequel is coming out this year in October. Looking forward to The Empress! S.J. Kincaid has also written the Insignia series, which I need to check out. Read about the author on her website.

For writers, you'll want to read this post on Ellen Oh's blog: What's the Best Writerly Advice You'd Give Your Younger Self - S.J. Kincaid.

Being a writer was never

Being a writer was never a choice, it was an irresistible compulsion.
Walter Jon Williams

Save Me!

lifebelt.jpgI was helping a new writer and she was confused about versions of her story/article. This is a common problem for many writers as it requires some computer literacy that people often don't have. Here's what I suggested to her:

  • Have a computer folder for the book project. Hers was a collection of stories from mission trips to Haiti. Her folder logically says HAITI STORIES.
  • Inside that folder have a folder for each individual story. One of her stories is titled "Anesthesia by Song"--don't you want to know what that's about?! Her inside folder where all copies of this story are can simply be ANESTHESIA BY SONG.
  • - I also use this folder to save notes, resources, etc. related to my article or story.
  • - I might have a separate folder labeled NOTES or INFO inside the story/article folder if I have a number of different documents.
  • If you want to have different versions of a story/article, name the files with dates or a number. E.g. Travel Story 4-15-17.docx, Travel Story 5-1-17.docx, Travel Story 1.docx, Travel Story 2.docx. (Or .doc for older computers.) At a glance, you'll see which is the newest version. You could also label them Travel Story first draft.docx through Travel Story final.docx.

Whether you are on a PC using the file manager (looks like a folder at the bottom of your screen) or on a MAC using Finder, organizing your work helps you know where everything is. The folders within another folder, the files within a folder, all can be in alphabetical order which makes it easy to find the file you need when you need it.

My friend was surprised to hear you can have folders within folders. I liken it to a wide hanging folder in a desk drawer. It can have multiple manila folders. But the computer is even better as you can keep nesting as far as you need.

But how do you save different versions of a document?

There are multiple methods:

  • The one I find myself using the most often is opening the document itself and then clicking on "save as" and adding a version number or date. This leaves my new document open and I can immediately start work.

  • Another option is to go where the file is and make a copy. When you save the copy, the system will add a number to differentiate it or will add the word copy. Then you can rename the copy, open it and get to work.

"Save as" is useful in other ways too.

  • Saving a backup copy to another location such as Dropbox, google drive, a USB device, etc.

  • Saving the first ten pages for a consultation/critique. Of course, you can also copy the first ten pages and paste in a new document, but you probably will lose your headers.

I liked having the "save as" icon on my toolbar, so I can click on it easily.

Another writer expressed this week how she lost six hours of work when preparing a PowerPoint presentation. We've all lost work and it is very frustrating. Here's what I do to help avoid that:

  • Name the document or presentation right away. An unnamed doc or ppt is much more difficult to find if you have a computer crash. I've also clicked on "don't save" when I meant to click on save when closing a document. Arghh!

  • When you save the file that first time, make sure you put it in a logical place so you'll know where to find it.

  • Save frequently as you work. I suggest every twenty to thirty minutes. (The "save" icon on the toolbar makes this quick and easy. Command/Control S is the keyboard shortcut.)

  • If you're inserting create commons images you've copied from the Internet, I suggest downloading them then insert versus copy and paste. You'll have the downloaded copies in your downloads folder as a backup.

And speaking of backups... Make sure you are backing up your documents and files. For further info, go to this blog post.

Thats the magic of revisions

That's the magic of revisions, every cut is necessary, and every cut hurts, but something new always grows.
Kelly Barnhill

Books transport us to magical

Books transport us to magical places we could never go on our own.
J.A. Kammins

Jelly Bean Summer

jellybeansummer.jpgJelly Bean Summer (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2017) by Joyce Magnin is one of those pull-you-through reads. Once I got started with this historical middle grade novel, I didn't want to put it down.

It's 1968 and Joyce Anne and her sister Elaine are not getting along. In fact, Joyce is so desperate to get out of their shared bedroom, and out of the house where everyone shares the grief over brother Bud being missing in Vietnam, she moves up to the roof. From the roof she meets an older boy and finds something to occupy her summer away from crazy UFO-believer Elaine and her squealing guinea pig.

The book has humor, pathos, and a satisfying ending.

Author Joyce has two other middle grade novels out and also writes for adults. You can read all about her here.

Like brush stroke

Like brush stroke & color choice to artists, sentence length & word choice are writers' tools for evoking emotion.
Jill Santopolo

Run Away Words

runners-373099_1280.jpegEver met someone who can't seem to stop talking? He always has something to say. She may or may not be interesting, but has words for every topic. If there's silence, this person is more than happy to fill it. Perhaps, overfill it.

Ever been sidetracked in a conversation? It definitely happens to me. I start telling a story, then at some point realize my words have run off the road. I'm not sure where I took the detour that got me from the original topic to where I am now. I might lamely say something like, "I'm not sure what the point of that was..."

Writing is neither about simply filling the page with words nor about letting words run away. Sure, a rough draft may work that way. But even with a rough draft, we hope we are headed in the correct direction. Our intent isn't simply to spit out words.

Recently when editing someone else's novel, I found myself marking "redundant" on information. As a reader, I already got that point and didn't need to be told again. But as I writer I know how easy that is to do. We want to make sure our reader doesn't miss something important. We want to keep a reader grounded in the setting. We have good intentions. However, we need to trust that the reader will understand without us over explaining.

I find it easy to let my words run away when working on a picture book manuscript. And it isn't only about word count. I have to go back and look at my text and see what should be left out because the illustrator will take care of it.

Sometimes run away words are simply a bad habit. "Everyone" says them and we use them without thought. I found this site that lists 200 Common Redundancies in English. It's actually rather entertaining to read. The words in parenthesizes are the ones to leave out.

Clichés are similarly not good practice in our writing. I like how this article, 681 Clichés to Avoid in Your Creative Writing, calls them shortcuts. Peter Selgin says, "The real problem with clichés is that they deprive us of genuine details, which, though less sensational, are both more convincing and more interesting." This article suggests interesting ways to remove clichés: Replace Cliches with Phrases That Move.

If you have tips or suggestions on other ways we writers let words run away, feel free to comment below. (If you cannot see the comment box, click on the title above, which will take you to the post itself.)

A rejection is nothing terrible

A rejection is nothing terrible; if it is a personal rejection, it is the first step in a relationship.
Chris Raschka