Spellbinding stories of mystic love and soulful hope . . .

Archive for the ‘writing tips’ Category

Work-out Writer: When it’s like sex

breath -- breeeaath -- breeaaatth -- BREATH

breath — breeeaath — breeaaatth — BREATH

Workout: You anticipate the workout, what it will feel like, how good it will be. Your brain flirts with the idea of what you’ll soon experience. You dress in what you know will entice you to the gym, put you in the mood. You hop on the treadmill, and begin slow, slow, slow, warming up, your body begins to Pay Attention, something exciting is about  to happen. The music pulses in your ear, the beat just quick enough to cause your synapses to fire off, your blood to move, your heart to quicken. Arch your back, feel your spine tingle, mouth slightly open so breaths can essss-scaaape.

As the music pulse upbeats, so do you, a little faster, a little more intent, your breath begins to pant, your body oh so aware—you oh so aware of your body and what it can do and how it is feeling–hyper aware, hyper-aware, oh hyper-aware, and the world begins to go away as you only feel the sensations, hair flying, body flying, pulse of the music rises, heart-rate thuds against your chest, shoes pounding, pounding, pounding, your body moving sweat-sweat-sweat SWEAT-SWEAT, moving moving moving, faster faster faster, breath breath breath BREATH BREATH BREATH, HEARTBEATHEARTBEATHEARTBEAT DSC00089PULSEPULSEPULSETHROBPULSE—KAPOWIE! OMG! PANT-PANT-PANT– That is the BEST feeling EVER—OMG OMG OMG!

You and the music pulse pull back, heart rate and breath slows slows slows slow. You wipe the sweat from your face. The world comes back to you once again. You step off. You can’t wait to do it again.

Writer: I told GMR that it seemed my newest book The Lightning Charmer felt like one big sex act. At first I thought it was because I allowed myself to have a little fun with 007writing sex scenes–and in varying “situations” of the words– in that book—more than one, more than two, more than three, more . . . anyway . . . .   But as I read over my drafts, I realized it is also about the pace of the book. Much like the workout above, there is the teasing, the flirtation, the slow build up, until the pulse quickens, faster faster faster—omg omg pant-pant-pant—and then slow slow slow, ahhhh. While I am feeling this, my hope is my readers will, too. I don’t do outlines, for my works comes, so to speak (teehee), more organically. But whereas the Graces books sort of meandered along in their family saga way, TLC mimics a more plotty kind of thing, a pulsing breathing book, that is, at least to me, sexy and throbby with longing and breath and building up to something wild, and then the release . . . release . . . release . . . .

And writers,while I’m thinking of sex: are your sex scenes organic, natural? Do they make you want to go have sex right then and there? Or do you maybe giggle a little or roll your eyes? Is your character maybe just a little out of control, on that exquisite edge–oh yes, oh yes, OH YES! . . . ?

I'm coming for your tunnel, chooooo chooooooo

I’m coming for your tunnel, chooooo chooooooo

Or is your sex scene something like this: His locomotive of love pile-drived her quivering dark tunnel of expectation? Okay, I burst out laughing when I wrote that. Haw! You do not want to laugh at your sex scenes (unless you mean for them to be funny). You do not want to roll your eyes. You want your sex scenes to capture your own sexuality, where you Want It Right Then And There, just as your character does. And your hope is, as mine is, that your readers will feel the same way. HA! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that when your reader read your sex scene, they had to put down the book and—well, anyway, that would be the only reason I’d want someone to want to put down my book. Teehee.

Work-out Music of the day: I love my sex by Benny Benassi

Work-Out Writer “tip” of the day . . . Form, y’all

Sampling of Today’s Work-out Soundtrack (and I can see my friends’ raised eyebrows at the choices, since they know I crush on some Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons, Broken Bells, MGMT, etc, but there ain’t nuttin’ like Pop and Techno to get me jumping round on that treadmill!): Sandstorm, 50 Techno Trance Anthems; Satisfaction, Benny Benassi & the Biz; Sparks (Turn Off Your Mind) Fedde Le Grand/Nicky Romero;  I’m Sexy & I Know It,  LMBFAO (makes me laugh).

abs tight, glutes tight, hold your balance, feel strong

abs tight, glutes tight, hold your balance, feel strong

Fitness Tip: Good posture – your form – is as important in your work-out as the work-out itself. Without proper form, you may set yourself up for injury, and as well, you are not doing the exercise correctly and in the best possible way for optimal benefit. Don’t think of “good posture” as some kind of ATTENTION! military-like snap-to, but instead, stand with feet slightly apart, eyes forward, chin lifted, arms at your sides. Gently lift your chest, as if a light string is attached to your upper chest to the ceiling holding your chest gently up, and let your shoulders gently and naturally fall back –that string attached to the ceiling is gently pulling up your upper chest and your shoulders naturally fall back: do you see? Breathe in and fill your chest and when you exhale pull your abs in — try to keep your abs tight but do not hold your breath. As you grow stronger, you will be able to hold in your abs naturally. When you exercise, you keep that basic posture of chest up, shoulders back, abs strong, eyes forward, chin lifted. Breathe in on the easy part of your exercise move, and exhale (pulling in abs) on the difficult part. It helps to count aloud as it forces you to think about breathing. The stronger you are, the more you practice good form, the more instinctively it comes to you.

Oh how I love thee Strunk & White

Oh how I love thee Strunk & White

Writing tip: The more you learn the basic “forms” of your manuscript, the easier your edits will be. As in: one period after punctuation, each character’s dialogue as its own paragraph, be aware of relying on too many adjectives/adverbs, etc etc etc. The more you write, the stronger your writing will be, and the more you will instinctively write even your “shitty rough drafts” in proper form. I love breaking rules where appropriate, but I had to learn the rules first–do your research, there are plenty of books out there to help you–and learn all you can about punctuation, voice, POV, etc. You’ll be so glad you did when edit time comes–and your editor will love you for it, too!

Later y’all.

Find your bliss

There’s more to life than first apparent

Wednesday Classroom: Do your research to gain trust with your reader, yawwwwl

Morning Y’allses! Guess where I am while you are reading this? In Oregon! Lawdy but I’m far away from my little log house. GMR and the dawgs and the ghost dawg have the house and cove all to themselves and I bet they miss my pea-headed s’ef.  So, for this post, I’m a’trying to post ahead of time. Just think, as I’m typing this I’m in the little log house, but as you read it, I’m in Oregon. Wheeee ain’t technology grand?

Folkses, as you all may be able to tell from reading my posts on writing, I can be strict about some thangs. I try to have things Right. I want to convince my audience, and you should, too!

With fiction, bring in truths to ground the reader—and whatever those truths are will be  up to the writer to convey them. The amount of danged old research we do will have much to do with the place/time we create. My worlds have been and are in South Louisiana, West Virginia, and here in these western North Carolina mountains. My time has been from the 50’s to the present. My research will deal with that time and place.

If I’m writing about a real town, I need to be accurate about that town to honor its people and sense of Place–I wouldn’t have New Orleans as the capital of Louisiana–lawd!–because it is Baton Rouge; I wouldn’t have Maggie Valley with a McDonald’s because we do not have fast food joints in Maggie (except for one lonely Subway, and who knows how it managed to find its way here). If I’m writing about a fictional town based on a real town, I have a little more flexibility, but I still need to be mindful. Most of my books do not mention specific towns, but my readers can often guess where I am talking about, or place my characters in a specific area that they can relate to.

If you’ses have yourse’f a world that’s all made up, like “Madeupland,” you still must ground the reader in some reality, yawwwl, right? riigghhht! So there will be some research even if it’s minor. Mainly, if you have a “Madeupland” you best be consistent–I tell you what!

All you’ses wunnerfuls out there have seen me write this before: Convince your audience and you’ve done your job, no matter how, what, where, when, who you write. Throw all the danged ole rules out the window for all I care—just convince me, or you lose me as your reader.

Sometimes you may think you have something correct, but you do not! oopsies! It doesn’t hurt to double-check those things you “remember” or “think you know.” I had Tang in a Tender Graces scene–later, it began to bug me, when was Tang invented? I looked it up and Lawd!, it wasn’t released to the general public until sometime after my scene–the astronauts had it first.

Whenever I mentioned a movie or a television show or a football game, I made sure I had it Right. Folkses, you don’t EVEN want to go messing with South Louisiana and have their LSU Tigers game days, or anything else, wrong–lawd! I can’t have my South Louisiana town’s team playing  Old Miss in September when they didn’t play until later in the season, or have them playing in town when it was an out of town game. I can’t have the movie Rocky coming out in March of 1976 (in Secret Graces), because it didn’t release until December 1976. Look It Up and double check–our memories are wankity.

You can play around with research to enhance your books. Was there a significant weather event that would change something with my characters or their Place? Or make something fun/interesting? (Like the South Louisiana Hurricane mention in TG when Mee Maw comes to visit—category five Grandmother.) Or, if in the holler in West Virginia there was a bad snow storm, Katie Ivene wouldn’t be flying to town in her Rambler with the windows open yelling “wheeee!” I found sites that show historical weather. I love those little details even if only I know that on April 13, 1976, it really was 82 degrees and foggy in a town in South Louisiana (I use weather more as a mood or as Place or whatever, not that I go around quoting weather).

Little details help the reader to “Be There” with the character, to ground them in a place or time or mood, maybe even to have them say, “I know that place/event/area!” “Hey, I remember that!”

Don’t rely on only one source. I do the best I can to make sure I have everything as accurate as possible—because you are worth my time and care, you being the reader. Often, I double and triple check my sources.

Will someone find an error if they go through my books with a fine-toothed eye? I don’t know, but it won’t be for lack of me working hard and doing my job best I can. I don’t respect lazy writing and I know it when I read it.

When and how you do your research is up to you. Do what works.

Don’t cheat. Don’t be lazy. It’s worth it to build trust with your readers. Do you want your reader to stop and say, “Hey, wait a minute! This ain’t right . . .” and bump them from your world, your story? Naw! And more important to me: I want my reader to trust me and to forget about me and only focus on the narrator and the story.

Do you make sure you have things Right and build trust? Does your work require extensive research, or just a bit?

See all y’allses wunnerfuls later!

Don’t forget: I changed my blog posting schedule for my Classroom series & I am your Personal Trainer series, etc, to the first and third Wednesdays of the month, with Friday open to photos/art/video: no words. So there will only be posts twice a month, and on most Fridays, photos/video/art with no words.

Grammar/Sentence Structure: Tips or Tics? – what say you to Kat’s picky-persnickities

There are writing “Rules” that have attached themselves to me—as leeches will do, some may quip – haw! And I have become rather picky when it comes to these particulars.

You don’t write books? No matter, for your letters, business documents, may I dare say e-mails?, and other areas where you communicate, can become stronger and smoother.

Or perhaps you will say my “tips” are actually “tics.” You decide. Meanwhile, I could drive myself crazy reading/listening . . . ungh . . . but I won’t! I won’t, I say!  Especially when I see my own mistakes in my earlier writing—earlier even could mean my last novel—ungh! Or a recent blog post when I was in a hurry and/or distracted—oh dear! I am shamed, shaaaaaaaamed! *kat hangs head*

Yes, many times I throw rules right out the window and simply go by the rhythm of the phrase/sentence. I want my work to be rhythmic but in a natural way, so breaking the rules is sometimes necessary to create a mood or feeling or a sentence that Fits. And of course, when I write in a character’s voice/pov, I must be true to that voice/pov—not all characters will be as picky as . . . is it picky as me or picky as I am—it is I am—see below! . . . Virginia Kate has her VK’isms and I stand true to them, while Melissa narrates Sweetie and she’s a bit more “formal” in her speech. And sometimes I’m just lazy. *gasp – no Kat! Say it ain’t so!*

So tip or tic?

I and Me: This one trips up people often, but if you think of the sentence in another way, or restructure it, it makes more sense.

He went to the grocery with me and bought all the cookies. Correct

He went to the grocery with I, and bought all the cookies. No

He went to the grocery with me. He bought all the cookies.

Me and Harry (or Harry and me) had a great time eating cookies. No.

Harry and I had a great time eating cookies. Correct.

Harry had a great time eating cookies. I had a great time eating cookies.

This is a lesson for you and me. Correct.

This is a lesson for you and I. No.

This is a lesson for you. This is a lesson for I–nope. This is a lesson for me–yup

Not everyone is as picky as me. No.

Not everyone is as picky as I am. Correct.

I am picky. Me is picky.

The Split Infinitive:

To be or not to be is not to be or to not be. I split many an infinitive in my life, and sometimes it does make the sentence read a bit more smoothly. However, most times I unsplit my infinitives and lean back with an ahhhh. Am I never to do it again? Or am I to never do it again—ha! I am never to do it again! To and do go together, not to be split by never.

Now, aren’t these clear as the clichéd mud on your windshield? Haw! Aw, now, I think those are great examples. *kat sniffs a bit sardonically*

Take to/bring back.

This one is in honor of my father (I miss you Daddy), who drummed it into my head over and over, and even now, I still sometimes falter. I can hear him so clearly:

“It’s take to, bring back. Say it, Kathy, take to, bring back.” (My family called/calls me Kathy—no one else is allowed *laugh* except sometimes GMR).

We take something to and then we bring back from. Take me to the grocery for cookies, or bring me back some cookies. Although I don’t like “bring me back some cookies;” I like, “If you show up from the grocery without any cookies, you’ll regret it! By gawd!”

I’ve got. Pull out the sentence, and see how it reads/sounds:

I’ve got two dogs at my little log house,” means: “I have got two dogs at my little log house.” Awkward!

“I got two dogs at my little log house” – nope, still not there!

Perhaps try: “I have two dogs at my little log house,” or “I’ve two dogs at my little log house.”

In the first example, you’ve rid yourself of an extra word! SHAZAM! Now doesn’t that feel zippity do dah day! Come on, doesn’t it? *kat is starting to feel (see below)—no—kat is a bit discombobulated*

“Got” is one of those words that tends to drive me batty, for it is oft-times used excessively, and once I “notice” a word—as in: got, or had, or suddenly, then my brain BUMPS and I am then temporarily “bumped” from the story—what we don’t want, right?

Choooo choooo – chugging right along, y’all . . .  you still with me? *laughing*

Further/Farther

Farther is a physical distance. I am farther from the kitchen than you are. Further is not a physical distance, as in “You are further along in the recipe than I am.”

So, “I am farther from the kitchen ( physical distance) than you are, so you are further (not a physical distance but an “abstract  idea of being”) along in the recipe.”

Snuck/Sneaked

Snuck is a colloquialism, so yes, I recognize that “snuck” is universally accepted. But . . . still . . . sneaked is correct! “I sneaked to the kitchen to steal cookies” instead of “I snuck to the kitchen to steal cookies.” The only time I use “snuck” is in dialogue, because some of my characters do say “snuck” just as many people do.

What? I said I was picky. Dang it all!

Less/Fewer: Oh is this one often misused, and it’s really simple. No, really!

An easy way to figure out “less” and “fewer” is to think of “fewer” as items you can count as in 1, 2, 3: I have 10 items in my basket, so I can stand in the “10 items or fewer” line even though that woman in front of me has waaaaay more than 10 items and I’m burning a hole in her back because I am in a hurry and . . . and . . . ARGH!

Think of less as what you can’t count individually, one two three. I would certainly have less time to stand in line in the grocery with my ten items or fewer if you were not in front of me with your seventy-three gamillion items.

I have fewer chocolate chips (one two three) so there will be less chocolatety goodness (abstract/non countable statement) in my cookies, all because the woman in front of me not only had more than 10 items, but she took the last bag of chocolate chips. *This means war*

Started to:

We all say or have said “started to.” I wrote “started to” quite frequently until it “started to” blare out at me as extra words that are not required. Can “started to” be changed to a more direct action?

It started to rain: It rained. I started to cry. I cried. I starting running, or I started to run. I ran. I started to pull out my hair. I pulled out my hair. You started to pull out Kathryn’s hair for all these tic/tips. You pulled out Kathryn’s hair and watched her cry—oh wait . . . ungh.

We are not perfect writing machines, but the more we do instinctively and naturally, the less time spent on “fixing” what we write, or even how we speak. Our editors, bosses, and whomever else cares about this stuff (hey, I do and I bet they do, too!) will notice and love you for it. And even if they do not know why they love you for it, you will know why and will be the stronger for it.

By the way: every Monday will be a post on language, books, grammar/sentence structure (NO KAT NOOOOOOO *SOBBING from Readers*),  publishing, etc etc. So be warned, or is it forewarned, or . . . my head hurts.

What do you think? And do you have any tics/tips you are strict about in your language? Have you run off pulling out your hair? Helloooooo? Helllllooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo?

My arrogant naivety had its ass kicked by reality in this publishing/book biz

You who know me, know I try to speak truths and honesty. So, over a few posts here and there I’ll admit a couple things I thought THEN versus NOW. Miss Kathryn ain’t so naïve and certainly isn’t arrogant any longer! And believe me, I’m still learning about this publishing and book business.

Errors Happen, no matter how careful you are.
I’ve done a series of posts on Cleaning Up Our Manuscripts but the truth of the matter is, Stuff Happens. THEN, when I’d read an author’s book and find an error, I’d think, “An error! Couldn’t someone catch that? I mean Reeaaaly.” I lifted my naïve arrogant eyebrow over it. The truth also is that editors at publishing houses are busy. The job isn’t what it used to be, at least I understand it to be this way. Authors need to take more and more responsibility for many things, and sending clean work to the editor/publisher/agent is one of them. I’m proud of how clean my manuscript is by time I send it—and they are happy to get my cleaned manuscript. Still. Stuff Happens.

Before I go on, folks, this absolutely does not excuse sloppy lazy work. I’m talking about the stuff that seems to hide in an author’s manuscript despite hard diligent work.

Author writes the manuscript draft. Then author begins re-writes. That means things most certainly will change and if they don’t, well . . . they probably should, really. During these first few “read throughs” of the manuscript, errors are found, but not only that, scenes/details change, and those scene/detail changes may affect/effect something that happens later on. In subsequent “go throughs” these should be found, one hopes.

Author reads manuscript repeatedly, fiddles, tweaks, and then is ready to send it to the editor at the publishers for them to do their thing. The ms is sent and the Author then waits, sweating, hoping the editor likes the work. What? You ask. Back up, you say. But, don’t they already know what the book is about? Don’t you already have a contract at that point? Well, thing is, they haven’t read the entire manuscript. So, all that work you did could be for naught if the editor thinks it doesn’t work. So far, I’ve been lucky in that respect.
*whew; wiping brow*

So, let’s say the book works. The editor makes his/her marks and/or suggestions/questions and sends those comments back to the Author. The Author begins reading/tweaking again based on those found errors/suggestions/comments—maybe there is a big change in scene(s) or maybe there are only little nitty things. Author may not agree with something and defends it, or Author may agree, or author agrees to give in. While going through the manuscript with the editor notes, Author also feels compelled to make a few more little tweaks. Author sends it back to editor at pub house.

Then comes the galley proof, the “This is it. You best find any lingering errors because all chances are gone after this.”

So Author pants and sweats, and once again, scours the manuscript. Reading it line by line to catch an error that may have sneaked by. Perhaps she has a friend or a spouse read it as well, just in case. What shocks Author is she/he reads the pages after spouse/friend does, and even though they have scoured it, and the editor has scoured it, the Author still finds sneakity sneakers in there! How how how? Author wails. How could there possibly be any errors at all? The work has been read and read and read and read—and by multiple people. Line by line. Carefully. Author really feels exceptionally nervous about this. However, deadline is deadline and fingers are crossed, so are eyes. Exhaustion sets in.

Then comes the Final Galley. Author can look at it quickly but there is no time for a slow line-by-line reading. There is time to make sure everything looks okay at a glance: Margins, headings, paragraphs, etc, and maybe a quick flip through, but that’s it, because to make changes at this point is a pain in the arse for the editor, so you better have found them all before this. And editors have more than one author they are working with so asking for changes at this point is frowned on and big arse acher. Really, by now, it’s a matter of just glancing over it to make sure nothing looks wonky.

The publishing house sends it to print. How the book actually goes to print and comes out a book with a cover and words inside that Author and Readers will hold in their hands is a mystery to this author. Author quivers over the chance of some weird glitch in code that could happen that wasn’t caught in the galley. What if a margin or two is off? What if a page is missing? Or what if when making a hurried change in the galley proof, Author made an error, or changed something that affects/effects something later on, or deleted a word that shouldn’t have been deleted or inserted one that shouldn’t have been, or what if editor fixed something and it was a wrong fix or or or, things went so fast, the deadline rushed up so quickly . . . oh! Dear! But, there’s nothing to be done about it once it goes to print. It will be discovered only upon reading the final published version where some one may point them out with glee or with pity or with “oh dear how embarrassing for this author” or with their own naive arrogance, or et cetera.

Author gets his/her published book and reads it, hoping there are no blaring errors. Hoping she/he and the editor have been very very lucky—because luck has a lot to do with it too, along with hard work and a keen eye.

So you see, my friends, with all the back and forth going on, with the changes and deletions and insertions and thises and thatses that are flying around fast and furious once that manuscript is sent to the editor at the pub house, it really is a miracle if a manuscript goes out without an error. I see this Now. See how much work goes into creating a clean and lovely manuscript, but I also see that no matter how many times I read a “cleaned” version of it, I always found something else that either needed to be changed, or simply could be changed to make it better. The first one scares me much more than the second one.

Knowing what I know NOW versus THEN, I am much more understanding to authors.

Yup, my arrogant naivety had its ass kicked by reality.

What about you? What reality has kicked your ass that you were naive or arrogant about?

image from
image from

With a cliche here and a cliche there, here a cliche there a cliche don’t use a cliche!


You can find “writing tips” all over the web, in books, on blogs, under rocks, in the refrigerator behind the mayonnaise. But there are general things I think about as an editor, as a writer, and as a reader and from time to time I’d like to share them.

I want to talk this morning about things I see as “cliches.” I try double dip hard not to write cliche-ingly. Those cliches can be tricky; they can be sneaky. It’s not always the obvious cliche of “soft as a cloud,” or “hard as a rock,” etc. There are other things I think of as “cliche.” Those things that are over-used or unimaginative or sometimes just, um, “lazy writing.” And this does not mean one must try to be clever – if you are trying to be clever, it will show that you are TRYING to be clever. If one is constantly THINKING about what they are writing and how they are writing it instead of actually just writing, then the work will be stilted or the work won’t be done or one could freeze up and feel as if they will “fail” – there is no failing, there is doing what feels right for You–and if writing with the cliches below feels right to you, then for gawd’s sake write that way.

Some things I think of as “Cliches” (and yes my word “cliche” doesn’t have the emphasis mark but I’d rather have none that use a ‘ ):

Please don’t end your story with “it was all a dream.” Or, set me up with a situation and then I find out it’s a dream. As I always say: Rules are meant to be broken, but you dang sure better be good at it and convince me! I love reading dreams in a story, but I like to know they are dreams and not feel as if the author is trying to fool me or say “gotcha!” Those “gotchas” better be done in a way where I think “oh! I didn’t expect that! Cool!” and not the gotcha that has me rolling my eyes and feeling frustrated and “fooled.”

Watch those descriptions of characters where they look into mirrors and then describe themselves, for example: “Betty looked into the mirror and studied her strong determined chin, her curly red hair that framed a pale winsome face, the freckles across her haughty nose.” Who does that? Who thinks about themselves in that way? I can see something natural, though—the character notices something that we really would—hair all messed up or lipstick smudged or a spot of dirt on a cheek, etc. Just be careful that your character looking into the mirror to describe their physical characteristics to the reader doesn’t become a cliché–if you describe your character in a mirror, then it already is a cliche.

This is my own personal pet peeve, but, watch phrases such as when something floods a character’s mind or body or whatever, as in “Relief flooded Betty’s body,” or “Anger flooded her veins,” or “Happiness flooded Betty’s mind.” It’s just a personal thing for me – maybe it’s been overdone, but mostly I’m looking for something more compelling to describe the feelings Betty is having .

Oh well, those are just a few things I am thinking about this morning. More important for you is to get the words on the page; the more you practice, the more things that come to you naturally or instinctively or through an awareness, the more you will automatically do them so that in re-writes you have less work in front of you. If I knew what I know now back when I first wrote Tender Graces, that novel would have been completed and ready to go much sooner. Do I sometimes make mistakes – hellvitica yeah! Do I sometimes mess up and write out my own pet peeves? I do and I try to catch them. Will I ever stop learning how to be a better writer? Heckles no! Writing-words and language-is alive and breathing!

Now, I am going to go work on Virginia Kate Book 2. See y’all later!

google image: http://kathrynmagendie.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/cliche-bingo1.jpg

Tag Cloud

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,667 other followers

%d bloggers like this: