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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Voices of YA

Thank you Molly Looby and Raimey Gallant for tagging me!! And thank you Caitlin Lambert  for creating the Voices of YA tag!!

Here are the rules!
1 Thank the person who tagged you
2 Link to the original creator
3 Answer the ten questions

4 Tag at LEAST TWO other YA writers/bloggers


ABOUT THE WRITERS:

What draws you to YA?
YA feels limitless. It doesn’t have to fit into a certain box and can basically be about anything. 

Describe your writing process. Do you like outlines and structure, or seeing where the story takes you?
My writing process is not structured by any means. I don’t really do outlines. I do a lot of  writing my ideas out by hand in an actual notebook. When I write my ideas out, I let them flow and write whatever comes to mind. Later, when I am typing up my story on Scrivener, that is when I process my notes and make them make sense. 

How long have you been writing? Where are you in your journey?
I have been writing, according to my mother, since I came out of the womb. I only have one book published, The Best Mixtape I Have. It was self-published shortly after NaNoWriMo a few years ago. It is horrible and not at all edited. I do love the story line, but I wish I wouldn’t have rushed it. I just wanted to enjoy the free copies that I received from finishing NaNoWriMo. I am currently working on a book that I am definitely taking my time on and hopefully I won’t self-publish. 

What do you need to write? Coffee? Music?
I need my notebooks and music. Coffee is nice but isn’t a requirement. Music is a requirement, however. I have a special soundtrack that I listen to when I write. I’ll share a sample:

Contagious - The Night Riots 
The Night We Met - Lord Huron
Silvertongue  - Young the Giant
Do You Remember - Jarryd James

If you could offer one piece of advice to another writer (other than "don't give up"), what would it be?
Don’t ever let anyone tell you how it is for you. Whether it be a friend, an agent, a publisher, if making certain changes makes you feel uncomfortable or if you feel like you are destroying your story, do only what you feel best. Now, I am not saying that agents and editors don’t know when changes need to be made, but sometimes you have to go with your gut. You know your story and you know how it needs to be told.



ABOUT THE BOOKS:

What book still has you reeling from its plot twist? (*no spoilers please*)
I can’t really think of any…

What books are you most anticipating for this year?
It was The End of Oz by Danielle Paige, but I kind of already dug into that book and finished after a day. 

I am also looking forward to The Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts. Here is an official synopsis: In Bastards, we follow Tilla, an intrepid but surly cast-off of Lord Kent of the Western Province, who raised her as a baby but more or less shrugged her off once he discovered his trueborn children. But when a visiting princess chooses to sit with Tilla and other kingdom bastards at a royal dinner, everything starts to change. Especially when Tilla finds herself helping to safeguard the princess’s life as rebellion brews.

In your opinion, which YA book/series has the most unique premise?
I like the Dorothy Must Die series by Danielle Paige. I love the reimagining of The Wizard of Oz and how Paige mixes teen angst with a classic story.

What is your all-time favourite quote from YA lit (I know, I'm cruel)?
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.” - The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky. 

What book do you most hope will have a movie adaption?
The Black Witch by Laurie Forest. The book is beautiful and I would love to see it played out.

Thanks again for my tag! I am tagging DJ Humphries and Amy Laurel!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Names Have Power - #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


"Names have power." - Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

You have to be careful when naming your characters. You have to consider the genre, the time period, and where the story takes place.

If you are writing a story about Mary, Queen of Scots (and your story isn't about time travel) who lived during the 1500s then I would stay away from names that have only recently became names. Even my name, Vanessa, would not be appropriate. Vanessa wasn't a thing until 1700s when Jonathan Swift invented it. 

You also have to think about where your story takes place. Some places, like the United States, gives you more leeway when picking names. But if your story takes place is small town in the Ukraine, you aren't likely to find a Nevaeh there, but maybe a Viktoria or a Sofia.

You should also be consistent with nicknames. If you have a character named Gregory who prefers to go by Greg, make sure he only goes by Gregory in formal encounters or only have one friend/family member who calls him by his full name. 

As a writer, I try to avoid using names that are too similar by both spelling and sound. Readers don't always fully read words. If you have characters names Laurie and Lauren, readers might confuse the two. Same goes with Tim and Tom. Also, have two characters with the same name, even if spelt differently can be awfully confusing. 

I would also be careful when naming based on ethnicity and looks alone. If you are going to name a character based on their heritage make sure you do some research. Do not be like E.L. James and be so lazy that you name the two characters go color in your book the same thing. In Fifty Shades of Grey, James named her characters of hispanic decent Jose Rodriguez, Jr. and Sr. It's lazy and rude. It would only work if there was a reason behind it, but as I recall, James never stated one.

When I name characters I tend to avoid names in the top 50 to 100. But if I love a name, I don't care if it's very popular though I rarely love popular names.  I also avoid names with heavy connotation. Beyonce will immediately make people think of the singer. Elvis, Madonna, Hitler, Kanye... those names can turn your characters into caricatures. 

So, where should you look for names for your characters? I keep a running list of names in my writing journals. I also look through phonebooks, baby books, yearbooks, and name generators. I write down my favorite names from my favorite television shows. 

What advice do you have for naming characters? Please share in the comments!!

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click here.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Blog Photography



Every good blog contains photos but you have to select those photos carefully. If you need a photo for your blog, please, don't use Google image search. Also, don't screenshot a photo from someone's Instagram to use a photo you find on Tumblr. 
By using photos you find in that way, you would be breaking the law and are opening yourself up to being sued.

So, where do you find photos that are free to use without purchasing the rights to do so? Well, you could just take the photos yourself. I love photography and creating an amazing image. 

You could also use certain website that provide free photos that don't require a license, a purchase, or to cite where you got the photo (though that is something you can do as a courtesy.) 

Here are the websites that I have found to have the best photos:


I am sure there are more, but those are my favorites. 

I hope this helps you add wonderful images to your blog. Also, if you want to see my photos, check them out here: https://scottvanessam.wixsite.com/andyouwrite 

If you do check out my photos, please tell me what you think!! 

Thanks and May the Fourth be with you!!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Building Block: The Five Bones (#AuthorToolboxBlogHop)


During my time at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, I had a professor who taught me something he called, "The Five Bones." Basically, it's a way to get to know your characters, particularly your main protagonist. 

What are "The Five Bones?" They are the things that make your character tick. "The Five Bones" are what makes your character who they are. When Professor Pritchett first told me about his building block theory, I thought it was crap. But I found myself using it in order to better understand my characters. Using "The Five Bones"has really added a depth to my story that wasn't there previously. 

And here are "The Five Bones"
  1. Desire - This is what your character wants now and will want five years now. It is one of the things that drives them.
  2. Fear - This is what terrifies your character and again, will terrify them five years from now. It also is one of the things that drives them.
  3. Strength - This is what will help your character accomplish their desire.
  4. Weakness - This is your character's suffering. It is the thing which will stand in the way of your character fulfilling their desire.
  5. Action - This is what your character is doing about the other four bones. This is what defines your character. This is what makes your character lovable, relatable, and revered. 

This building block technique has helped me give purpose to aimless characters. It has helped me discover what exactly my character needed to be doing in order for my story to feel complete. I say, give it a try. Use it to outline, at least, your protagonist and antagonist. See if it helps you get out of writer's block.

Let me know if "The Five Bones" works for you in the comments! 

Have a great week everyone!!

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click here.



Sunday, April 2, 2017

Fifty Shades of Once Upon a Time


I want to preface this post by saying that I am not anti-fanfiction. In fact, my current obsession, The Dorothy Must Die series, is fan fiction. But, I sometimes wonder... do authors (including myself) have no more original stories to share? I'm sure that isn't the case. I mean, borrowing from other authors is a tale as old as time. Yet, I can't help but notice, even with TV and movies, everything seems to be a retelling or re-imagining these days...

I feel like Hollywood has always had a penchant for reimagining previous movies and remaking them or turning them into TV shows. The writing world may have done the same thing, but more in the form of publishing new editions of novels, not reworking them. But, it feels like the moment Fifty Shades of Grey was published and the moment Once Upon a Time hit the small screen, that stories started to be reimagined. Especially fairy tales...

I was browsing books at Barnes and Noble the other day and noticed that there were so many books based on fairy tales. My mind immediately went "this is the Once Upon a Time effect." Disney has a set of novels written from the villains point of view. (I will be reading Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen, thanks to Prime Reading.) I saw Marissa Meyer's The Lunar Chronicles which twists fairy tales and makes them as dark as they were originally. I picked up Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige because I'm a sucker for all things Wizard of Oz and was intrigued by an evil Dorothy. I also saw The Storymakers books by Betsy Schow (these seemed ridiculous to me and the back matter put a nail in the coffin of me reading it,) where Dorothea wears Hans Christian Louboutin heels and her parents are stuck in Kansas. As much as I liked the play on words with the shoes, the reimagining felt like it was just along for the fan fiction ride.

So, have we gone too far? I mean, at least Fifty Shades of Grey tried to distance itself somewhat from it's source material. Honestly, if I hadn't known it was fan fiction, I might not have put it together. I love that fan fiction has opened a path to creativity for so many, a path that has lead to some amazing writing and original stories. I don't want it to go away, but should we, as authors, try harder to make sure our stories can stand on their own even if they are a result of fan fiction?




Saturday, March 11, 2017

Book Review: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

I know this week's blog was supposed to be about find a job that you love and that actually allows you to use your degree, but this week has been long and tiring and I would love to put more effort into that post.

So, instead I am going to review a book.


I am not a Me Before You reader, at least not normally. I prefer my stories full of teen angst and supernatural tendencies, but my sister recommend that I read this because I said that I needed a good cry. 

The story was well written. I absolutely loved Lou and felt myself falling for Will with each turn of the page. I honestly didn't think that a story about a women who took a job caring for a quadriplegic and fell in love with him would be any good. I mean, it sounded like a giant cliche and I was afraid that it might be insensitive to those who were really wheelchair-bound, but it wasn't. It was actually quite magical.

I had heard rumors about how heartbreaking this book could be but after getting almost a third of the way through I still wasn't feeling the heartbreak. I knew it was coming. The build up was extremely well-crafted. It broke me. I sobbed. I bawled. I felt everything Lou felt.  I have never been so mad at a fictional character while also understanding their decision.

Do I recommend it? YES, especially if it falls outside of what you normally read. This isn't a traditional romance and I am wholly thankful for that.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Importance of Word Choice



Have you every read a short story or a book that felt off? The story itself was good but something just didn’t feel right. There is a good chance that it was poor word choice that was throwing you off.

The way I see it, one of the most important things a writer can focus on is word choice. Especially when it comes to dialog. Dialog can make or break a story. As a writer I need to know when to have a character say “hello” versus having a character say “hey.” I need to know the connotation behind words, particularly if I am writing a period piece or a story taking place in a certain country (if the story takes place in the US but a character had just moved there from London, it would be a smart choice to have the character use British slang versus having them use American slang.) 

Along with good word choice, I find that my favorite writers aren’t afraid to use “colorful” language. They use cuss words and content appropriate slang. It’s kind of sad that I feel the need to mention this, but Americans are extremely weird when it comes to language. The word “fuck” will have some of them up in arms and they will act like you’re obscene idiot for using the word, but they have no problem watching something extremely violent as long the language isn’t too filthy (PG-13 movies.) 

Why is using colorful language important to me? Because it makes your characters easier to relate to. Think about Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s hard for to me to take it seriously because of the language that the characters use, whether in dialog or their head. The main protagonist is 22 and calls her vagina “my sex.” She says “holy crap” and “double crap” way more than most adult women do. The only Latino in the books says “dios mios” almost every time he appears. (Basically, you should read Fifty Shades of Grey as “what not to do” example.) It’s all good to have a character who has a tagline, but to have them repeat the same words over and over feels cheap and lazy.

So, when you’re writing your next story or editing your current story, please look at your choice of words. Did you make sure the language made sense? Did you make productive choices? If a sentence doesn’t sound right, try changing a word or two and see if that helps.

I hope this helps you in your writing. Please let me know if you have any word choice tips or advice!


Next week’s blog will discuss getting a job that allows you to use your degree. I would like to give a shout out to my great friend, Lori, for the idea!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Change: A Story Needs It


Last week I ranted about the changes that I am currently going through and I promised to share how one could use that change in their writing.

Well, how do you use what you’re going through in your life in your writing?

  1. Keep a journal. Writing about your feelings about things as you are feeling them is the best way to capture the emotions in a raw way. 
  2. Use that journal to help mold your characters. It is much easier to write a realistic emotional scene if you know you how that emotion actually feels. For example, if you have ever moved and felt said about it, you will know exactly how to have your character emote that without it being over the top or unrealistic.
  3. The changes in your life, no matter how small, can be used as inspiration for your story. Maybe you have a character that feels like their life is piling up on them but it feels off to have everything be a major issue. I hate it when I read stories about people who literally have every bad thing you can imagine happen to them. So, if you have a character who has gone through a series of bad things (they got into a car wreck and lost their job in the same day) using a small change could be the best way to set the character off (like their favorite snack being taken off the market or even going to. different restaurant than their usual for a birthday dinner.) I feel like making the tipping point something small makes the situation for realistic. 

Why do I feel that way? Why wouldn’t it be something major that sets a character off?

When I think about my own life, I was fine with moving and getting a new job, but it was spending a holiday (Valentine’s Day, a day I don't even care about) in our temporary living space that made me cry. With everything changing around me, I couldn’t help but long for something to stay the same. I feel like that tends to be the case with most people. Most people say that big change freaks them out when it’s really the little things that get to them. For example, moving is a big change and while it is normally not a bad thing, a lot of people hate it. I don’t think they hate it because they don’t want a change of scenery, but because of the little things that will be different (you might have to use a different grocery chain, your bedroom might be set up differently, but mostly, it’s just not the same.)

Why is using your experience with change important in your writing?

Because you have no story without change. If your character’s life is the same from beginning to end, if there is no change, no growth, then you didn’t tell a story.


I hope this helps you harness your own experiences and using them in your writing. Next week I will talk about words and why word choice is extremely important.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Change is the Only Constant




Lately it feels like everything in my life is changing. We have recently sold our first home and are moving into a new one, but we haven't closed on the new house yet. I feel like I am in limbo in our temporary shelter, living out of a suitcase and never feeling quite right. I may have somewhere to lay my head but I feel homeless. 

I also got a new job as a Digital Marketing Assistant with a small, woman-ran company. So, I quit my part-time gig and while I should be so happy that I finally got a job that allows me to use my degree, I can't help but miss my co-workers at H&M. Some of those people are like family and it's going to suck not seeing them daily. BUT, I am happy about my new job and I love that I am helping companies reach out to their customers in an organic way (the only downside is my lack of time for writing...)

My sister is getting divorced, making holidays and family get togethers different. America is being ran by a narcissistic psycho, making me fear for the future. The QuikTrip near my work is closing and being moved down the street. In 2018 my driver's license won't be an acceptable form of ID to fly because Missouri is stupid. My kiddo will have to go to a new school district because of the move and he fears he will lose his friends. I miss our first house terribly and makes me regret the decision to move.

I just want something to stay the same in my life, even if just for a minute, but it can't. The only constant in life is change.

And how can I use my feelings about this change in my writing?? 

I'll tell you next week...

(P.S. Thanks for reading my rant about problems that aren't really problems. I don't handle big change well and writing about it helps.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Name That Book




I believe that a compelling story needs an equally compelling title. 

Why?

Titles matter. Think about the titles of the most beloved books in literature and you will find that they are not only unique but also memorable. Same goes for the books on the best seller’s lists. Titles are, at times, what originally draw readers in.

Here are a list of my favorite book titles, even though they are not always my favorite books.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (One of my favorite books of all time)
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Also a favorite)
The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Fifty Shades of Gray by E.L.James (I loathe this book but the title is memorable and catchy)

Of course there are many many more, but looking at these titles should give an idea of what I mean. These titles are catchy, unique, and memorable. Just think if these books had generic titles, would they have caught people’s eyes on bookshelves?

So, how does one come up with a badass title?

I actually find my inspiration in music and from my own writing. The story I am working on now is called “Reigniting Salem.” It came from a line in the story, it’s funny because its a minor character who says it, but it works on so many levels.

When it comes to using music, sometimes a line in the song becomes the title or it becomes the inspiration behind the story and weaves itself into it.

My one piece of advice for naming your story is to write it first. I never give a story a title until a good chunk of it is written. 

Do you have any advice for coming up with titles? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

It's Not Goodbye. It's See You Later.

Tomorrow marks the end of an era. Hate him or love him, Donald Trump will become the President of the United States. He doesn’t deserve it and sure as hell doesn’t have the temperament for it. He is not “my” president. Even saying that, I truly do wish him the best. Why? Because if he fails, America fails, and I refuse to fail.

BUT… Today is President Obama’s last full day as Commander-In-Chief and I want to honor him. He is the epitome of class and dignity. I will miss him, I swear, it feels like I’m losing a friend. So, in honor of “my” president, here are some of his best quotes:



"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."



"We need to internalize this idea of excellence. Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent." 



"You can’t let your failures define you. You have to let your failures teach you."




“We are big and vast and diverse; a nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, different experiences and stories, but bound by our shared ideal that no matter who you are or what you look like, how you started off, or how and who you love, America is a place where you can write your own destiny.”


"My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won't stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my remaining days ... I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change -- but in yours."


Well, it's been a great ride President Obama. Thank you for all that you have done. I wish you nothing but the best.

(I'm not sure what next week's post will be about. Give me some ideas in the comments if you like!)









Saturday, January 14, 2017

Computer Woes


I would like to apologize if this post ends up making no sense. I took some strong cold medicine and it has made me pretty loopy.  I swear, it's been a long time since my body hurt this much. My face feels like someone has punched it and my throat is throbbing as if I swallowed gravel. I absolutely hate having a cold or whatever this is.

Anyway, this last week I had some computer woes. I turned on my computer on and it couldn't find the hard drive. Turns out my hard drive had been corrupted somehow. I couldn't tell you what happened, I never download files that aren't from the App Store or scanned for viruses, but the only thing I could do was erase it. I ended up losing a few Apps I paid for (still crying about Scrivener, I got it for half off with my NaNoWriMo goodies and now it's gone!) 

BUT I didn't lose any of my stories! Why? Because I back them up multiple ways. I email them to myself, I save them to the cloud, and I save them to my flash drive. Basically, if one back up fails, I always have more.

I'm sorry, but I think I am going to go pass out now.

I do want to leave you with two pieces of advice:
  1. Always save and back up everything.
  2. Don't blog while on cold medicine...

Friday, January 6, 2017

Going Beyond the Big Picture



After I do my cutting and deepening drafts I move on to actually editing. My personal editing style has two steps: macro and micro-editing.

The macro editing is still in the realm of the big picture and that is why I do it before I micro-edit.
The things I look for during this edit are:

  1. The story moves under its own power and that nothing about it feels forced. 
  2. The story is dramatic. No one wants to read a story where there is no conflict. We might say that we hate drama, but that only applies to our own lives, we want drama in our fiction.
  3. It is intimate and I don't mean it has sex in it (but it isn't a problem if there is.) What I do mean is that the reader gets to know and care about the characters. Good stories have characters that readers bond with and feel as if they really know.
  4. The story takes place in a special world. It doesn't have to be the magical wizarding world but it does need to feel exclusive while also being relatable.
  5. It is somewhat compressed. I am neither a minimalist or a maximalist, I fall somewhere in between. When I look for compression in a story I look for a day to read like a day and not like five days. Sometimes writers get ahead themselves and pack too much action into one day and that only works in stories that take place in a day and doesn't work well for series. (I also make sure each paragraph is no longer than eight sentences long, no one wants to read a wall of text.)
  6. The language is consciously crafted. The words being used to tell the story have to reflect it. I would never tell a story about the Battle of Culloden and have the characters speaking with New Yark accents and using American slang. 
  7. Lastly, the story is complete and satisfying.
If I have to fix anything from above in my story then I go back and do another cutting and deepening draft before I move on to micro-editing.

When I have looked for all of those things and feel satisfied with it then I start looking at the small stuff. I read each sentence out loud. Doing that allows me to find the missing words, the typos, the misused punctuation, and the grammar mistakes. I also have someone else read it as well. That someone doesn't have to be an English major, they're just a second set of eyes to help you catch things.

After editing the whole story, I save it and walk away from it for a while. I give it a couple of days and then at look at it again. I look for the same things, the same mistakes, and fix them.

I hope that helps you with any future editing.

I am not sure what next week's post will be about, but I'm sure I will come up with something. Have a lovely weekend!