Wednesday, January 30, 2013

So, So Close


I seriously don’t know what my problem is, but this happens EVERY SINGLE TIME I write a book. I get to the very end, and I can’t focus.

I find a million things that HAVE to be done.

 Right this very second.

Like scraping off the dried-on Honey Nut Cheerio that’s been stuck to the tile under my couch for about three months. Or organizing all of my Kindle books into collections. Or cleaning out our Harry Potter closet full of a mish mash of camping gear, swimming equipment, toys that are in long-term “time out,” diapers of all sizes (seriously, I’ve been hoarding diapers for years, apparently) and more give-away bags that I care to admit I own.

And those are just the non-essential tasks of yesterday and today.

So tonight, I sat down and said to myself: You WILL finish this book. Tonight. NO American Idol. NO surfing Amazon for another new book to read. NO calling Mom, Dad, either sisters, bestie from high school, friend down the street that I’ve already talked to like ten times today, husband who is just in the other room (also working.)

I guess I am just not firm enough with myself, because somehow, instead of writing, I am listening to Curious George on PBSkids.org (I unwisely let my 3yo take a five hour nap this afternoon, so we’ll probably be up all night long watching this stuff) and updating my blog. Oh, and checking Twitter and FB.

By the way, the rest of the book I’m whining about is written. And I’ve gone through it twice already to do my edits. And I still haven’t written the last couple of scenes. I have them outlined. I have them imagined. I’ve known exactly how this book will end since I first started writing it. And yet… *crickets chirping* (that’s the sound in my brain when I sit down to write)

Where are you at in your manuscript? Do you stall on endings or breeze through them?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Novellas

I've been loving them for the most part. I wrote my Christmas novella for All I Want, and I've never written story that short before. I actually had to outline (what? outline? I may be converted, btw), remove the side plots I was dying to put in, and make sure everything pointed in the direction I wanted the story to go. In fact, I think I'm going to do a lot of this in my next wip and see if I can lessen how many drafts I  have to write to get a clean manuscript.

ANYWAY... here are a few novellas I've read this month that I thought did a great job of telling an entire story with shorter word count.

Heather Moore's Third Time's The Charm. She sent it to me to review and I picked it up one evening about an hour before bed. I loved that it only took me an hour to finish, because I am one of those people who get into a story and will stay up until 3am to finish it. (And then I'm a total bear in the morning and no one is happy.)

This was just a fun, feel-good story. I really wasn't left wanting more, which can sometimes happen in a novella. I just read Moore for the first time in the Winter Anthology she did with a bunch of other (awesome) authors, and I really like her writing style.

Third Time's the Charm (An Aliso Creek Novella)
From the back cover:
Welcome to the Aliso Creek Novella Series

Liz, Gemma, Arie, Jess, and Drew have been best friends since creating the “Five” at Aliso Creek High School. But that was over ten years ago, and each is still trying to find that perfect someone . . . if perfect is even possible.

In fact, Liz Carlson will settle for a normal man. A normal man with a job, that is. Married twice, then divorced twice, Liz’s rose-colored glasses fell off and shattered on the ground a long time ago. Her main focus now is raising her six-year-old daughter and surviving long days at work on her feet as a hairdresser. When Sloane Branden answers her call for help, quite literally, Liz doesn’t even give him a second glance. She’s sworn off dating for as many years as it takes, and it seems that Sloane has done the same after his own tumultuous marriage. But when Liz realizes that Sloane defies every stereotypical deadbeat she’s dated, she might just find room in her heart and discover the third time’s the charm.(less)


Denise Hunter's Truth or Dare
Okay, I came into this one a bit biased. I love Denise Hunter. She lured me in with Surrender Bay and then hooked me with The Convenient Groom. After reading Third Times the Charm, I decided to search out other novellas and found Hunter's. Since I love everything she's written, I went ahead and bought it, and spent the next night reading it. Again, it took me about an hour, which is PERFECT since that's usually about how long I read before bed.

Truth or dare
From back cover:

A foolish stunt in high school left Brianna VanAllen questioning her self worth for the past five years. She didn't expect to dig up those painful memories when she returned home for her high school reunion. But, paired with Jake Volez on a project at her parents' ranch, Brianna must face the issue of forgiveness. Will she have the courage to put her heart at risk again?

What are you thoughts on novellas? Any good ones to recommend?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tips for Cutting Word Count

Since I talked about word count on Monday, I want to share some of my tips for cutting down my words.

1) Highlight useless words like "just" and "that." Delete most instances.

2) Look for redundancies

                  A)  redundant phrases--she bit her lip, she flipped her hair, his eyebrows raised, he rolled his eyes)
                  B) redundant descriptions--are we getting a play-by-play of every outfit the mc wears, of the love interest's crooked smile, her frizzy brown hair mentioned every other chapter. The reader will remember that the mc has frizzy hair without being constantly reminded
                
                 C) Redundant emotions-- "Jenny covered her face and slid down the door after realizing that everyone had seen her skirt tucked into her underwear. She was so embarrassed " Take away any telling things like: she was so embarrassed. We were just shown it, we don't need to be told it, too.

                D) Redundant scenes-- If you've already established something, you don't have to keep reestablishing it. If Jenny sees Mac hauling hay and is impressed by his shoulders, we don't need to have another scene later where she's watching him swim and impressed by his shoulders again. Yes, Mac may have great shoulders, but we only need to see them one.

3) Figure out the point of every chapter. A chapter should take the reader somewhere--introduce a new question and help us to get to know a character or place better. If there is extraneous dialogue or description that doesn't have a purpose or lead somewhere (setting the mood or tone, setting up the dynamic between characters, setting up conflict... these are all places that the writing needs to lead--if this isn't where it's going, take it out.)

4) Find all instances of back-story and highlight it. Is it needed? Is it needed there? And is so much of it needed? Can you take three paragraphs of back story and condense it into one sentence? Can you sprinkle a few hints here and there in the dialogue?

5) Ask the question: Does this scene drive my story forward? If there are any places where the pacing slows (long explanations, long descriptions, long prosy thoughts) and try to cut them down.

6) Play with words. "Jenny heard Mac grunt when he picked up the hay bale." Instead say: "Mac grunted when he picked up the hay bale." You don't need to say "Jenny heard" We know she heard it since we are in her head. This seems nitpicky--but trust me--they add up.

Its all about tighter writing and tighter storytelling. It takes a lot of work, but it's worth it.

What other suggestions do you have for cutting down word count?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wordy, wordy, wordison

I am not one of those people who ever worry about reaching word count.

Opposite, actually.

I have to worry about going too long.

Meg's Melody--originally 120K words. I had read somewhere that a romance should be between 90 and 120K words (I don't know where I read it, don't ask me) so of course I took that to be the gospel truth. I edited it down to 75K. It is so much tighter than it was--and I had to take out a whole plotline and character to get it down (which I still miss. Someday, he'll get his own book...)

Six Days of Christmas--We wanted each story to be around 20K words. Mine is almost 30K. And I had to cut out everything from Jimmy's point of view, because it would have been novel length otherwise.

And on my current WIP, I am trying to cut it down to 75-80K. It will happen, and my story will be better for it--but it's painful going through and picking out THE MOST IMPORTANT parts of the story--the parts that drive the plot and character arc forward--and let go of the rest.

Do you go over or under in word count when your write? (Or are you spot on every time? Please tell us your secrets, if you are!)