Tag Archives: Ava

My Problem (and a few tips)

By Ava Mylne

I have this problem.
I’ve written four full-length novels,
and written to the miserable middles of four more,
but I have yet to submit anything—seriously–for publication.
My problem?
Even after twenty years of practice, nothing
is ever good enough if it came out of my head.
I’m still learning, you see. I still don’t know everything.
No matter how well written something looks to me now,
I’m going to see it in another year and cringe at how flawed it is.
I don’t want to see my own literary flaws
immortalized on some bookstore shelf–
If I ever get that lucky.
I have a lot of very encouraging friends who tell me,
“Just keep trying,” and I do.
My back-brain tells me, “Just keep writing,”
and I will.
Someday I’ll be able to read my own writing
and judge accurately what needs to stay and what needs to go,
but for now, I rely on a dear friend:
Other people’s ideas.

So now, without further ado, I give you: Lauren’s List of Words to Eliminate! (Is this plagiarism? Now excuse me while I go do some editing.)

That
of
ing
ly
just
then
finally
like
as
sound of
made of
so, finally, of course
precisely, slowly, quickly, quietly, softly
all forms of to be
could, should, may, would, can linked to a verb
have, has, had, will, shall, might, must
The word “breathed”—or “hissed” or “growled’ or any other animal sound– used as a tag
amusement vs interest
stare or staring
names of animals–appropriate?
Names used where they should not be (mainly in conversation)


Recharging

by Ava Mylne

I’ve been praying for rain.

In a semi-arid climate, sometimes it gets so dry that the heat reflecting off the bricks of my home makes it almost impossible to keep things alive. Sometimes we get a good rain and my plants look visibly happier, but usually I have to drag out the hose and do it by hand. I also love the sun. Sources close to me have, on occasion, called me “solar-powered”.

I’ve discovered I write in the same way. Sometimes I can’t sleep for the stories running manic circles in my head, and other times I can go months without wanting to even check my e-mail.

I’m in a dry spell right now. How do I sit down and meet my writing goals when there is nothing in my head to write? When I don’t even want to write? When those times come, I find myself panicking, thinking, “Are there no more stories left for me to write? I something I love so much just over?”

So often I have seen friends do something they enjoy until it becomes a chore instead of a love, and it would break my heart if I ceased to love writing. I am also—fortunately–not in the position of having agents or editors breathing down my neck for the next installment. I have friends in that position as well. Is it blasphemous to say that right now I’m not sorry to be unpublished?

I’ve heard this state of literary inaction called “recharging”, and I have to agree with that assessment. I still love my stories. I still get way too excited about my characters, and talk about them ad nauseum to long-suffering friends and family. My characters still live and breathe in my head. But for now I won’t panic. I’ll just recharge. It’s part of the writing process. I’ll enjoy the dry spell in my head, and I’ll enjoy the heat of the sun, and when the rain comes back to douse my whole soul in limitless words, I’ll enjoy that too. And if enough time goes by, maybe I’ll get out the hose and do it by hand.


Rage – and a self-publishing warning

By Ava Mylne

Last Saturday something horrific happened to a dear friend of mine, our Writing Snippets colleague, Lauren Ritz. Lauren has worked tirelessly for more than a year to finish and polish a book for submission. She quit her day job to write full time–something most of us would never have the courage or trust in God to do–and she is living from minute to minute on the remains of her savings. She has written fiction for years, has a degree in English from the University of Utah, and has studied all types of publishing. She learned from her own study how to format her work to different media options, learned web design and maintains three blogs. She offers professional editing and reviewing services. She is doing what she loves more than life.

A week ago, she put a book of short stories up on Smashwords and Amazon, alongside an LDS Suspense novel she had just finished. She said she was “learning the system”.

On Saturday, March 28th, in the middle of a family party, I heard a noise from her that I hope never to hear again; a choking, garbled sound that made me sit still for a moment in shock, then get up to go see what was wrong. No, no death. No gory dismemberment. Not physical, anyway.

Someone had stolen her book. They took her story, her cover art–which was also her own work, an original painting—her title; they didn’t even bother to change her name. She had offered the book for free, but they had changed the price as well. They were charging $2.99 for the book she had offered for free. Her blood, sweat and tears, her passion, her effort and sacrifice, her love of writing, hijacked to put money she desperately needs in the pockets of some subhuman toads.

Happens all the time, you say? Maybe. In a five minute search we found two other authors who had the exact tag-lines and symbols added to their books. Lauren contacted one of the violated authors, and she said the same thing. “It happens all the time”. This author has numerous books on Amazon, and said it has happened to her before. No biggie.

I beg to differ.

This is what I have to say: First, if you ever considered putting an electronic submission up, be aware, “It happens all the time”. If you have a book on an electronic site, cross-reference your title, your name, etc. Do a search for similar titles. Keep an eye on things there. Don’t let this happen to you.

Second, (and yes, this is a shameless plug!) go check out Lauren’s blog. Find her on Twitter! Look up her books on Amazon and Smashwords!! Her book title(the un-plagiarized one) is listed below. She is a magnificent writer, and my own muse in all things literary. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing for her. Maybe her friends can help make it positive.

Lauren, I’m cheering for you!

Without a Voice, Contemporary Suspense by Lauren Ritz on Amazon and Smashwords. LAUNCH DATE IS TODAY, April 1st! (And no, this is not an April Fool’s prank…)

Connect with Lauren Online (right click and edit hyperlink to get the address, or just paste them as they are):

Website: http://lauren.laurentritz.com
Twitter: laurenritz1
Facebook: LaurenRitztheWriter
Amazon Author Page: Lauren-Ritz
Smashwords Author Page: LaurenRitz
Blog for writers: Eclectic
Blog for readers: Welcome to the HalfWorld


Someday I Want …

Or, The Writer’s Lament

by Ava Mylne

I have to go do the dishes.

How is it that every time I want to do something, there is always something more important to be done? For instance, I sat down at the computer, got down three sentences of mediocre dialogue and found myself thinking about the mountain of dishes in the sink. Dinner is in one hour and I haven’t the foggiest notion of what I am going to make. I call the dinner quandary the “Eternal Question” because it is never answered.

Someday I want a maid.

Better yet, someday I want to know that if I don’t cook, the only person going hungry will be me.

Someday I want a vacation. On a beach. A warm beach, without cold wind and blowing sand, and while I am dreaming, I want a beach chair with the comfort ratio of a Saturday afternoon nap and a blanket. Just in case there is a cool breeze.

Someday I want a cruise. An Alaskan cruise. For a whole two weeks. Someday I want to see the British Isles, and every castle in the world, And I want to dabble my toes in the waves of the Mediterranean Sea.

Someday I want to know that every frustration I stifled, every stinging word I swallowed, every unjust anger that I harbored will be blown away like a spent storm. Someday I want the best that is in me to shine through and the worst to become a nothing so distant that I don’t have to think about it anymore, that I don’t even have to pretend that it isn’t there.

Someday I want to be perfect.

Until then, I will settle for burned oatmeal and a week’s worth of folded laundry used to create a bird’s nest for my three year old on the living room floor. Someday all this will be over, and I will miss it.

Someday I want life to be paradise. But not today.


Looking Back and Moving Forward – Another New Year for the Writing Snippets Crew

Hello wonderful followers! This post marks the two year anniversary of Writing Snippets. We’ve gone through lots of changes in these two short years, and we’d like to send a hearty THANK YOU to anyone who was along for the whole ride, and an equally hearty THANK YOU to anyone who hopped on board more recently. We love you all!

In the new year, due to time restraints and logistics, we’ll be spending more time blogging and less time podcasting. We hope you’ll enjoy our written words as much as you’ve enjoyed our spoken words.

As this anniversary passes and a new year begins, members of our crew are looking back over what they’ve learned this past year and what lies ahead for them. Here are their thoughts – please share your own in the comments.

Ava Mylne

I think the single thing I have learned this year about writing is that there is no single thing I need to improve on. But my biggest lesson is this: I have more to learn than I have learned in the past, and I know when I have learned everything I think I need to learn right now, that I will have miles more to go. I want to start learning how to logically follow a story, so that I can find plot holes and character inconsistencies — big picture problems — that I haven’t been able to see before.

I think it odd that when we are learning to write, most of us focus first on grammar and punctuation; but grammar and punctuation are the last things to be fixed in a serious edit. If you fixed the grammar first, you would have to fix it again with every subsequent edit. Why torture yourself? I want my stories, my characters, my thoughts, to live and breathe in book form. That means I have to perfect the characters and the story before I perfect the words that create them. It feels backwards somehow.

I can read your thoughts. You’re thinking, “Good luck with that perfection thing.”

Oh, well. I’ll never get there in this life, but think of everything I’ll learn along the way.

Alice Beesley

What I’ve learned in the last year:

Some of the things I’ve learned this year are how to plot a novel. I was more of a pantser to begin with but I’ve found that I end up having to do too many revisions that way and I’m not a super fast writer so it takes too long. I tried several plotting worksheets I found on line and they’ve helped me do loose outlines of my stories. I also started doing character sketches to help me get to know and develop my characters better since that’s one of the things I struggle with and it’s made a difference. For me character development usually comes last after I’ve got my plot and story figured out and have done several revisions. Emotion is another thing I’ve worked hard to portray in my stories this year and I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of it and be able to incorporate that more into my stories.

Writing goals for 2013:

Publish a novel and find an agent. I have two novels out with editors who have expressed and interest in them. I’m doing a revision on one of the novels, and I’m going to start querying agents for another one. I’m having a third novel critiqued by our writer’s group and some other writers I trade books with. After that I’ll do more revisions on it, then I’ll query agents with it. I also plan to plot out and write sequels for two of my novels.

Jocelyn Nash Carlin

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned this year is that I don’t function well as a writer unless I have a structure – and after having a baby a year and a half ago, my structure completely fell apart. If I don’t have a fixed writing schedule and goal, the work doesn’t happen. If I don’t have an outline, the work is three times as hard. That novel I wanted to have finalized by Christmas 2011? Still not done. Why? Because I wrote it by the seat of my pants. Every time I go to work on more edits, I curse myself for not outlining beforehand.

I’ve also learned that I enjoy writing short fiction from time to time. I’ve completed several short stories this year, which are making their way through the rounds of submission to various publications and contests. Writing them was a wonderful palette-cleanser from my endless novel edits.

In this new year I’m working with my spouse and children to get back on a fixed writing schedule that works for the whole family, and that the whole family will respect. I plan on trying my hand at more short fiction, redoubling my efforts at submitting regularly, and outlining my next novel before diving in too deep.

My only measure of success will be: Am I happy with what I write? Sometimes, after writing slumps, that’s the goal that matters the most.

Lillian Banks

Lilly decided to share her thoughts in a vlog:

Nichole Jarnagin

In 2012 I learned a valuable lesson — or at least that’s when it finally sank in. The concept is this: From the very first page you set up an expectation for your reader, a promise, and it’s a promise you must keep.

For example, if you’ve written a blossoming romance set in regency England, you can’t introduce aliens in chapter five. Okay, that’s a big jump but you get the point. In the case of my work in progress, I was aiming for a YA paranormal romance but in trying to add depth to my characters, I’d inadvertently written a gritty contemporary. The “issues” my main character struggled with were distracting and prevented the story from moving forward. I’d mislead my readers, switching the focus entirely. Readers couldn’t get past my main character binge drinking and cutting herself to focus on the important parts of the story — the discovery of a gorgeous male siren. Forehead slap. I had taken my story in the wrong direction because I failed to keep the promise I’d made. The good news. Once you’ve grasped this concept and stop fighting against it, it’s much easier to delve into your story and take it where it needs to go.

In light of the New Year my writing goals for 2013 are as follows:

1. Schedule and honor time to write as follows: every other Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00am -noon. Every Friday from 7:00am- 10:00am OR 10:00am-1:00.
2. Edit and polish Allure by March 15th
3. Submit query letter to dream agent C.D. by March 30th
4. Research and compose list of backup dream agents just in case 😉

Now you’ve seen our New Year’s thoughts – don’t forget to share yours in the comments!


Editing Basics

I recently ran into myself at an online critique site. A weird experience, yes, but informative. A friend asked me for a critique of her writing. I hope she wasn’t emotionally shattered after what I gave her, but it showed me in stark detail how much I have learned in two short years with the Snippeters.

It also put me in mind of an article I recently read on LDSPublisher, written by author and editor (and home-schooling Mommy and headless chicken) Tristi Pinkston. The article, “Before You Send Your Manuscript Out to Readers (or Publishers)” goes through four steps that will make your manuscript more readable from the beginning. I wish I’d read this article two years ago. Or ten. Or Twenty. It would have saved me a lot of time and headache.

I had finished two novels and started three more before my first writing group made me aware of a little something called “passive voice”. Tristi’s rule #1: Do a search for the word “was”. Not only does this little word add unnecessary verbiage, it also puts distance between the subject of the sentence, and the action: “Herbert was running from the knife-wielding madman” vs. “Herbert ran from the knife-wielding madman”. Or, kicking it up a notch, “Herbert fled through the darkness, the panting of his breath echoing the steps of the madman at his back…” But I digress. Just having fun with excess verbiage. A tell-tale sign of passive construction: “was ____-ing”. Was saying=said. Was running=ran.

Tristi’s second rule: Search for the word “that”: Until I read the article, I didn’t know that I could overuse the word:

“He remembered little but her eyes, golden and cat-like, thinking that she had somehow looked on his soul and found it pleasing.”

Rule three: Check your punctuation. Sometimes when you remove a word or a phrase, the punctuation gets deleted with it.

And fourth: “Take out fully ¾ of your adverbs.” Seriously, do a search for “ly”. You’ll be surprised how polka-dotted your manuscript appears. Find other words or other ways to say what you want to say. Beware of “He/She said ____-ly”. “He said shyly” could become “…He said, scuffing his toe in the dust like an embarrassed boy…” Or, “She said angrily” becomes, “…She shrieked, white with fury…”

And finally, a rule of my own: Don’t feel that you must follow any rule 100%. Adverbs can be a savory dash of salt to your writing, and you can’t write without using “that” and “was”, but use them in moderation. Learn to refrain and rephrase.

Oh, and my personal favorite: “Never think you know it all.” There is always more to learn.

You can find Tristi Pinkston’s article at

http://www.ldspublisher.com/2012/04/before-you-send-your-manuscript-out-tristi-pinkston/

By Ava Mylne


By Hook or by Crook part 2

I’ve got a thing for hooks right now. I pulled a bunch of books off a shelf at random and looked for hooks in the first page, filling in the “who-what-when-where-why-how” and paying close attention to when my focus wandered or was piqued. This is what I found:

In “Pebble in the Sky” by Isaac Asimov, the hook is the implied disappearance. He uses the phrases, “two minutes before he disappeared”, and “the face of the world he knew”. The why and how are left as questions, or hooks, in the reader’s mind.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s “A Fistful of Sky” used a hook that surprised me. The word “We” is used repeatedly, giving a sense of unity against outsiders, against ominous forces: “the force we supported each other against was right in the house with us”, implying a currently unseen—and imminent– threat. “I” is not used until the last paragraph of the first page.

Mary Higgins Clark’s “Pretend You Don’t See Her” and Anne McCaffery’s “Renegades of Pern” had no strong hooks, no risk, no questions raised without an immediate answer. These two authors being the names they are, I wondered if they were relying on their already substantial readership to sell the books. A simple evidence of this was the fact that I also looked at Anne McCaffery’s “Dragonflight”, (one of my personal favorites). This is one of McCaffery’s first published books, and the hooks were obvious: “Lessa woke cold.” This is a cryptic question that lends to the atmosphere of discomfort and fear, foreshadowing the recurrence of a familiar terror. The cold of the early morning is only the beginning.

All in all, these are some of the hooks I found:

*Mood: recognition of danger, sense of fear or threat, mystery and unanswered questions. In every case, the “why” and “how” went unanswered.

*Implied danger to the family or society.

*Implied social difference: “Special child destined for greatness”; a misfit or underdog in society.

*Humor or personality in the authorial voice or the characters.

*Repetition of an emotionally evocative idea, as in “the reaping” in “Hunger Games”, and the “We” in “A Fistful of Sky”.

What are some of the hook techniques you like to use? Or ones that stand out to you when you read?

By Ava Mylne

In two weeks Lauren will be posting a blog on why we read what we read, and asking for your input in a poll. Here are some of the questions ahead of her article. Be ready to tell us what you think!

1. Would you buy more books if you didn’t have to worry about your children / siblings / nieces and nephews finding them on your book-case?

2. Do you buy e-books because you can lock (or hide) your e-reader?


By Hook or by Crook

My daughter is in middle school.

I’m sure we all remember the books we were asked to read in school. I remember “The Lord of the Flies,” “The Scarlett Letter,” and “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Oh, and the plays. The Crucible. Romeo and Juliet. And the short stories: Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles,” and let’s not forget “The Lottery.”

I specifically remember “The Lottery.” In my humble opinion, we have a twenty-first century equivalent of that story: “The Hunger Game.s” Yup. The whole premise is that some innocent person has to kill or be killed in order to feed his–or her–family. Someone must lose their life to sadistic, unreasonable, societal expectations, either to entertain the idle in their bloodlust, or to maintain savage “tradition.” I thought we were past this as a society. Personally, I think the whole idea is degrading and animalistic, but what do I know? I didn’t want my children to read the book because I have this funny, old fashioned idea that children need to be protected from depravity and savagery, but guess which book my girl was assigned in her literature class?

Fine. I told her she didn’t have to read it if she didn’t want to, but she said she would give it a try. When I asked her what she thought, this is what she said: “I hate the story idea, the premise of child gladiators killing each other to feed their families, but—” her words not mine: “The writing was so incredibly great that I was pulled in from the first lines.”

!!!

My curiosity piqued, I mentioned this to my friend Lauren, a fellow Snippeter and a writer-who-sees-clearly. She sat down and analyzed the first page of that novel. What was it that pulled the reader in and didn’t let them go?
Hooks. Lots and lots of carefully placed, well hidden little two-or-three syllable temptations that have you miles deep in the story before you know you’re through the first page. This is what Lauren said:

“In the first paragraph, author Suzanne Collins introduces the main character, the family situation, and a hint of poverty. She ends with a hook. She mentions “the reaping,” an ominous phrase that brings to the subconscious mind visions of a dark hooded specter carrying a scythe. The second paragraph also ends with a hook. And the fourth paragraph refers back to the hook in the first paragraph, and the menacing hope of “the reaping.”

By the end of the first page (or in reality, page and a half) she’s introduced the setting, the main character, the society, and leaves with another hook, pulling you through to the next page. What is the reaping? Hope for better, the word suggests, since it’s a cause for gift giving. So far it’s the only thing mentioned more than once.

It doesn’t start into the action immediately, as some people seem to think is necessary. It sets up the situation in careful detail and leaves us wanting more by the use of carefully spaced hooks. This story has been painstakingly crafted, the hooks placed with caution and deliberation, to keep the reader reading.

It is also written in present tense, which makes the action (or rather lack of it) more immediate. But that’s another story.”

Now I have my next focus of study. But I’ll figure out how to use hooks to draw my readers in with anticipation, with joy. Not with dread. I think the literary community from Euripides to dystopia is saturated with dread. And I’ve had enough of dread.

By Ava Mylne


Listen to our appearance on Dungeon Crawler’s Radio

If you want to listen to Ava, Lauren, and Alice chat with the boys of Dungeon Crawler’s Radio, you can find the interview right here.


Ruminations of/on the Certifiably Insane

I woke up this morning with story running circles in my head, screaming to get out.

“Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy,” I thought. “This is great stuff. Maybe I can get to my computer today and write it all down…”

My three year old comes to my elbow just as I am sitting down and asks me if she can play on my computer. “When I’m done,” I say.

She waits exactly twenty seconds. “Are you done now?”

“No,” I tell her. “Go talk to daddy.”

Breakfast. I can’t write on an empty stomach… And then the dishes. Then the necessary. Have you ever noticed that just when you are up to your eyeballs in something uninterruptable, nature calls? Insistently?

My nine year old comes to the door of the bathroom. Apparently the world has come to an end and I missed it. He wants to get on my computer, he yells through the door, and he needs me to type in the password. It resets itself every thirty seconds, you see. Some security setting. I tried to fix it, but I think all I fixed was the aspect ratio. If anybody knows how to turn an upside down screen right side up, I would sure love the information. Why do we even have that setting?

“Oh well,” I tell myself. “The kids are on my computer now. I may as well vacuum and make the beds.” And clean the bathroom. Ugh. When I was little I could milk romance out of anything. When it was my turn to clean the bathroom, I would get out the scrub-brush and bucket and “Sing Sweet Nightingale” while I scrubbed the floor on my hands and knees.  You know; Cinderella. If I ever find out whose bright idea it was to put textured white linoleum with glamorous glittery gold flecks in a bathroom…

The bathroom will wait. It’s my computer, I can boot the kids off and write.

It takes serious effort to drive off two daughters, two sons, one nephew, two nieces and a few random neighbor kids, but I have survived. The repercussions will be felt when they turn on the hose in the back yard, but at least they are outside now. Type fast, little wanna-be author!

My fingers hover over the keyboard, waiting for those first golden words to spill out; the immortal poetry that will give my story flight, that will raise my words to sacred truth in the minds of worshipful readers everywhere…

Nothing.

Nada.

Zero, zip, zilch.

Oh, %~^&*$}?@#!!!!!!!

I guess I’ll go clean the bathroom.

 

by Ava Mylne