Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tips for Editing Your Manuscript from a Real-Life Editor, Part 9.5

Part 1: Look it up!

Part 2:  Read it out loud.

Part 3:  Have someone who knows what they're doing read it.

Part 4:  Consistency, consistency, consistency!

Part 5:  Dialogue tag...you're NOT it!

Part 6: Pick the right word to say what you mean.

Part 7: Adverbs--Kill it with fire!

Part 8: Editors Aren't Perfect

I had quite a few that I thought would be helpful, so here's the second half of Part 9: FSEs (Frequently Seen Errors)

Men who sound like women

As a woman who frequently writes male perspectives, it's a (fun) challenge to get in their heads and write from their point of view. But we've collectively read so many stories where the male characters are basically women with penises. So, if you're writing a man, try very hard to see things from their perspectives. How do they think? A man who is describing a woman's clothing would notice different things than a woman would--is the dress tight, pink, and short? He's not going to notice that it's peach, chiffon, or tea-length (unless the character is a fashion designer or something). When in doubt, ask a man--brother, father, son, husband, whoever--to describe something, or how they'd say something. It'll probably be short and sweet. There are lots of great posts out there on how to write men, so hit up Google.

Over-reactions as a major plot device

People--both real ones and the ones you've created in your manuscript--make mistakes and misinterpret things. We get that, we really do, and they're okay in small doses. It helps create some mild conflict so we get to see who the characters are. But using a huge misinterpretation or something similar leading to an overreaction as a plot device is getting stale. There are soooo many movies and books that do this that it's pretty played out.  You saw your man having coffee with a woman in a Starbucks you happened to walk by?  Yep, better freak out and overreact and assume he's cheating on you rather than: 1) going in and saying hello; 2) mentioning it to him later on when you're alone; or 3) anything else a real, sensible adult would do. Common plot twist discovered later: she's his sister/lesbian best friend/happily married boss, and that overreaction was all for naught. Huh. Who woulda thought?


Collectively, we agreed that we don't need to hear about everything the characters are doing. One of the freelance editors I was speaking with mentioned a page-long (several paragraphs in Word) meal scene she read where nothing major happened, certainly nothing necessary to the plot. But there were descriptions of what the characters were eating, how they were eating, everything. There was a whole play-by-play scene that did nothing that "X, Y, and Z had pizza for dinner before going out" couldn't have done. Again, we realize you're probably looking to pad the word count, but if you find a scene like this, cut it down. Description is often good and important, and it might take practice to find these stray scenes, but do your best.

Simple punctuation errors

Why would this drive an editor crazy? Because it's so easy to look up. It's almost cliche at this point, but there's a big difference between "Let's eat Grandpa!" and "Let's eat, Grandpa!"--mostly cannibalism.  Please, for the love of Jesus on a Velociraptor, if you want any editor or publisher worth their salt to take you seriously--or, if you're self-pubbing, for the readers to not tear you a new one in your Amazon reviews over your shitty grammar skills--look up how to properly punctuate--especially around dialogue. And please...apostrophes aren't necessary to make something plural. Really. Please stop abusing them. What have they ever done to you?

Excessive name or nickname use

Think about the last conversation you had with a person or even a group of people. Now think about how many times you actually said one of their names out loud, especially if it was just you and the other person. Maybe once? If it was a group, maybe a few times--if that--to specify who you were talking to? Keep this in mind when writing dialogue scenes, as this often gets out of hand. It's easy enough to tell who's talking if you use tags like "Brian said" or "Melanie asked". If there's a group, you can probably get away with using names more often, or to specify who is talking to whom, but keep it to a minimum. Your readers will thank you for it.

As for excessive nicknames, they can actually confuse the reader, especially if you have a large cast already. The readers will likely wonder, "Who is this?" and get frustrated. If you have a character named Katherine, it's logical that some people would call her Kate. But it's probably not necessary for her to also be called K-Dawg, Special K, and Katy-Kat by other characters.

I hope this little peek into frequently seen errors has helped you out!

What do you think?

xoxo Sarah

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tips for Editing Your Manuscript from a Real-Life Editor, Part 9

Part 1: Look it up!

Part 2:  Read it out loud.

Part 3:  Have someone who knows what they're doing read it.

Part 4:  Consistency, consistency, consistency!

Part 5:  Dialogue tag...you're NOT it!

Part 6: Pick the right word to say what you mean.

Part 7: Adverbs--Kill it with fire!

Part 8: Editors Aren't Perfect

Here's Part 9: FSEs (Frequently Seen Errors)

I was chatting with some friends in the freelance editing world recently, and the subject of common mistakes we see over and over in our various projects came up. Basically, these were frequently seen errors (I'll call them FSEs because I like to throw an acronym in now and then) that we saw in manuscripts--grammar, spelling, punctuation, plot, pacing, phrasing, you name it. We've all been doing this a while, so we notice trends.

And I thought that since this is a series on how to self-edit, it could maybe do some good in helping folks see if they're doing any of these things that drive editors crazy.  Because a lot of what we freelancers do--besides the standard grammar/spelling/punctuation-nitpicking--involves the stuff that makes a story good.  And we all know that you guys want to write good stories (that have excellent grammar/spelling/punctuation too, of course)!

Just for a little background so you know we know what we're talking about, the lovely freelance editors I spoke with and I cumulatively have 10+ years editing (of all kinds, and all genres) experience between us.


This is one that came up a few times and I know I'm guilty of as a writer--when I write something, before it's edited, I generally have tons of information in clumps. I want the reader to know allthethingsimmediatelyOMG. I've shoveled it when I should have sprinkled it, and it doesn't do the story any good. Trust me. Spread it out--one of the things that keeps the readers reading is if they don't have all the information at once. Oddly, this usually happens with character back-story.


Characters making gestures is natural--they're "people", after all. But too many gestures, or too much physicality, can take the reader right out of the story. Are your characters constantly touching each other, or rolling their eyes, or any number of other physical things/gestures, especially if dialogue is interrupted to stick those gestures in there? Get another person to read it to make sure it's not too much, especially if it distracts from the story. Another big positive: If you limit writing gestures, then it will also make the ones you do include more powerful and meaningful.

Eye stuff

This deserved it's own category. There's often so much about characters LOOKING at each other. Gazing. Staring. What have you. Let the reader fill in the blanks to picture what's going on, and stop giving the reader the impression that the characters are trying to hypnotize each other. Eye-rolling, also. Limit this to, like, almost never. Trust us. If you need to show exasperation, there are much better ways to go about it. The Emotions Thesaurus is awesome for this.

Mouth stuff

At the risk of sounding dirty, mouth stuff is another thing we kept seeing. Mouths popping open in surprise. Mouths gaping. Jaws dropping. Again, how many times does this happen to real people, and, again, there are better ways of showing surprise.

Both writing that undermines the reader's intelligence AND writing that's pretentious

Both sides of the coin can be hard to deal with as both a reader and an editor, and a happy medium must be struck. If you dumb your writing down and spoon-feed the story to the reader, they're going to be insulted.  On the other hand, if you use words you'd see on the SAT and you're writing a cook book, again, probably time to reevaluate.  Take-home message: Readers are smart, and don't write for the lowest common denominator.

"...think to myself..."

We agreed that the only appropriate use of this would be if you're writing a story involving telepathic characters--in other words, when you might actually need to clarify who the character is thinking to. Otherwise, who the heck else would they be thinking to?  "I thought" is just fine.


Read this: Part 7: Adverbs--Kill it with fire!  Enough said. Yes, we get that adverbs help pad your word count. Still, don't do it.

Sex scenes

Why is this on here? Because you'd be surprised the number of scenes we've read that aren't quiiiite up to par. What do we mean? Sometimes you'll run across one with a position that's not physically possible (and not even in the realm of fantasy--like, the guy would have needed to sprout a third arm or something), or that uses the word "moist".

Need some help writing erotic or sexy scenes without fading to black, no matter how tame or kinky? There are tons of guides on Amazon, so check them out.

I'll be doing a post on this soon, probably after the new year, so keep an eye out for it.

This concludes the first half...I didn't want the post to get too long. The other half should be up soon!

Are these helpful? What do you think?

xoxo Sarah

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tips for Editing Your Manuscript from a Real-Life Editor, Part 8

Part 1: Look it up!

Part 2:  Read it out loud.

Part 3:  Have someone who knows what they're doing read it.

Part 4:  Consistency, consistency, consistency!

Part 5:  Dialogue tag...you're NOT it!

Part 6: Pick the right word to say what you mean.

Part 7: Adverbs--Kill it with fire!

Welcome to Part 8: Editors Aren't Perfect.

I'm often asked whether anything trips me up as an editor. And the answer is, unequivocally, YES. There are just some things that, even after repeated hammerings-in, just don't make it into my thick scull.

I'm not afraid to admit that I don't know everything related to writing, but that's why I own copies of several different editing and/or style guides.

But what stumps me? What's bookmarked and dog-eared in my editing reference books?

I'll tell you.

Keep in mind that these are just a few things, and, for the sake of brevity, I'm not going to go into detail on the correct meanings or usage of them--feel free to look those up, though I might stick a link or two in there if I feel like it.

Lie and Lay  

For the life of me, I can't keep this one straight, especially since the different tenses of the different words are often the same or cross-overs. This has to be one of the most-visited section of my editing guides, particularly because I have to look up the proper usage each time one of these (or a tense) is used.

Affect and Effect

Ugh. This one. Every time I use one in my own writing, even a freakin' Facebook post, I have to look it up. Drives me crazy that I can't keep this straight.

Time Format

Should it be AM/PM? a.m./p.m.? am/pm? Where does it go in relation to the actual numerals? This one is a frequently visited page when it comes up, which, thankfully, isn't often.

Colons and Semi-Colons

I've been told before that I sometimes misuse semi-colons, and I'd rather not use them at all than use them incorrectly. Colons are used so infrequently (unless it's with time) that when I see one used with a list or something else, it's an automatic look-up. Personally, I'm not a fan.

Em Dashes 

Usually these don't bother me and are more of a stylistic thing I rather like using in my own work, but they sometimes trip me up when wondering where to place them in dialogue that has been interrupted by something, typically a character's action.  Though, oddly enough, it makes a difference whether the dialogue stops completely for the action to take place, or whether the dialogue continues on, and the interruption is more of a note for the reader. Complicated? Not really. Hard to keep straight? Yep.

Example showing more of a "dialogue note" interruption, straight out of my CMoS 15 that I consult regularly: "Someday he's going to hit one of those long shots, and"--his voice turned huffy--"I won't be there to see it."  Blogger is weird and won't let me use a proper em dash, but the little hyphens there are the same thing.

This obviously isn't a comprehensive list, but there you have it!

What grammar/spelling/punctuation thing leaves you stumped every time?

xoxo Sarah

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fan Fiction and Me...or How I Started Writing (Again) Pt.3

Again, this won't make a whole lot of sense unless you've read Part 1 and Part 2.

Check those out if you haven't, then come on back here!

I was talking about the benefits of writing fanfic, like the fact that it's like writing with training wheels (writing a novel or even a short story on your own is scary enough!), working with other authors for editing purposes, and that you get instant feedback through reviews.

Some of you may be wondering about the legality of it.  The very nature of fanfic is taking someone else's work (work that's often not in the public domain already) and playing in it, making parts of it your own.  Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, so the following is as I understand it.  Fanfic is legal, as long as you're not making any money off of it.  It's not for profit.

"But some people pull their fics from the online posting sites and publish it!" you may be saying. "Fifty Shades of Grey was one of those--it was a Twilight fanfic before it was a bestseller, and the author has made shitloads of money!"

Yep. But good news... I asked a friend, who actually IS a lawyer and works with issues like this, what her thoughts were.  Here's what she said: 

The question asked is whether publishing a story that was originally written as fanfic is copyright infringement. It is certainly actionable to publish infringing material for commercial purposes. However, if a fanfic story was infringing, and those elements are modified or removed prior to publication, there is no viable claim. The fact is, curing infringement happens every day. There is no support whatsoever in either the word or spirit of the law for the concept of “once infringing, always infringing.” I believe such an approach would be highly disfavored because it serves no useful purpose and would result in new and improved products and expressions of creativity being discarded simply because at one time they contained an infringing element. The purpose of copyright is to “Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,” and such a concept is wholly inconsistent with that purpose.

Likewise, the idea that simply because I was inspired by the work of another, I can never fix the infringing element, is without merit. We are almost always inspired by something when we write. In the words of Justice Story, “In truth, in literature…there are…few, if any, things, which in an abstract sense, are strictly new and original throughout. Every book in literature… borrows, and must necessarily borrow, and use much which was well known and used before.”

In a nutshell, according to what my friend said above, there's nothing wrong with pulling your fic to publish it, so long as it's far enough removed from the original source material.  If E.L. James (author of Fifty Shades) had written it closer to the plot of Twilight, or if there were vampires, then there might be issues. But as it stood, all her characters were human, and, if I recall, there was no hardcore BDSM in any of the Twilight books.  If James had left her characters called "Bella" and "Edward", there might be problems, but don't you think Stephenie Meyer's lawyers probably looked at this from every angle already?

But this issue polarizes readers and writers in fandoms almost more than any other.

I've read many--many--fics that have been pulled from sites by their authors and subsequently turned into published works for profit.  Some have been self-published by the authors, and some have been published by big New York publishers.  I see them on the bookshelves in stores, and I smile, happy for the authors' success.  Most you would read these books and never in a million years guess that they were ever a Twilight fanfic (or from another fandom); even in their fic form, a lot of the similarities ended simply with the characters' names and physical descriptions.  The rest--places, family relations, etc., resemblance to Stephenie Meyer's characters/story--are easily edit-able and changed, removing any Twi-fic-ness about them.

What's amazing is that since I started writing fic in 2009, the stigma has been lifted to a huge degree.

See this poster here?

Sorry about the size; I wanted you to be able to read the names, which were tiny in the original.  These are the attendees of an author event at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas at the end of October this year.  And out of all these authors, I can count five...yes, five...that I recognize as Twilight fan fiction authors.  There are possibly more on the poster, but I don't know their names or pen names.  These are all best-selling authors; some of their published work is former fanfic, some is completely original from their imaginations.  Am I going to let you know who they are?  No.  If you don't know already, then that's fine...maybe they don't want to be outed.

I'm a member of the Maryland Romance Writers RWA chapter, and they have a stage each year at the Baltimore Book Festival in Maryland.  If you click here, you can see that this year there was even a panel titled "From Fanfic to Fiction".  The description is: "Join published authors who first cut their teeth writing fan fiction to discuss the transition."  I wished I could have been in the audience for this one, because I have a feeling they reviewed a lot of what I've mentioned over these past few posts, answering audience questions.

And in a huge turn of events, fan fiction is even being deliberately sought after by publishers.  This article from the Washington Post mentions a few Twilight fanfics that have been successful in the publishing world, and also discusses a One Direction fic that was acquired by publishing giant Simon & Schuster and recently published.  It's worth a read.

You might be wondering how much fanfic did I write?  I had probably 10+ short stories out there, along with 2 novel-length pieces.  Do I still write fic?  Between my editing and writing, I honestly don't have time at the moment, but I can't say I never would again.  I've pulled most of my fic from the web, but there are a few still out there.  I can't say that they're good--it's mostly stuff that I did very early on, but that's the idea, right? To practice and get better.

Do I read it?  Occasionally, but not Twilight so much anymore.  Other fandoms I've read fic in include Sherlock, Harry Potter, and Marvel comics.  All are great in their own ways, and I'm always blown away by the writers' creativity.  I swear, some of the Harry Potter fic I've read could have been written by J.K. Rowling, it fits so nicely into her magical world.  And the talent of some of these writers rivals some of the best published authors I've read as well...and who's to say they're not one in the same?  I'm aware that there are plenty of best-selling and/or published authors who write fanfic in their spare time as a fun writing exercise when they're not writing for themselves.

I've met some of my best friends and fellow writers through writing fanfic, and I had nothing but good experiences with it.

So, that's how I got started writing again and discovered this was what I wanted to do.

I'd love to know what you guys think about fanfic...hit me up in the comments.

xoxo Sarah

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fan Fiction and Me...or How I Started Writing (Again) Pt.2

This won't make any sense unless you've read Part 1 yet, so go back and read it if you missed it.

I'll wait.

Back?  Okay, onward!

So, when I left off I was saying how my first desire was to fix the Twilight books...write them the way I thought they should be.  But maybe I didn't have to do all this work...maybe there was something out there like this already?

I didn't really know where to start.  I had no idea people even did wrote stuff like that, but some Googling sure fixed that for me.

Site upon site popped up, and I started reading on several of them, fascinated and relieved that I wasn't the only one who wanted to take the work in a different direction.  A lot of the stories were decidedly more adult in nature (to be expected, given how much importance is placed on sexytimes (or avoiding them--Edward) in the books, and the fact that Stephenie Meyer faded to black in Breaking Dawn, not even giving the fans a little bit or somethin' somethin').  There were even stories where the characters were all human (abbreviated AH) instead of vampires, allowing the fic writer to take the characters in completely different directions while still retaining the character traits.  I'll talk more about this later and in Part 3.

I mostly read on the sites for a while before the writing bug really started kicking in.  I started small, writing a short story that was accepted on one of the sites, then, when I'd gained some confidence, actually wrote a novel-length piece.  People might wonder why I'd bother spending so much time and energy doing this--why write fanfic when I could have been developing my own worlds and skills?

You see, I was doing just that.  To me--and what I often tell people who look down on fanfic writers as silly people who are wasting their time when they could be writing real stuff--is that I believe writing fanfic is like writing with training wheels.  For someone new at writing period, or someone like me who hadn't done it in so long and was a bit rusty at it, it makes the process easier.  Half of the work is already done for you...the characters have backstories, descriptions, personality traits.  The fic author just has to make them do stuff--make a story around them.  It's like playing in someone's sandbox with the toys already there.  And later on, this gives us the tools and frees us to create characters and stories of our own.  The practice I got writing fanfic was, I believe, in some ways just as good as taking a creative writing class, and much more hands-on.

Another giant plus about fanfic writing is the instant feedback.  The sites you can post on all allow reviews, so readers will review your work (usually as posted...most of the time you can post chapter by chapter), and trust me, they won't pull any punches.  Sure, you'll get your share of "OMG write more! Loved it!" which is always nice, but you'll also get those who will give you a detailed critique of your chapter and/or story.  And there'll be some who hated your work, hated your characterization, hated...whatever...about the way you took the story.  Not much difference between fanfic readers/reviewers than "real" ones on Amazon and Goodreads, huh?

I loved working with other writers as well.  I was lucky enough to find a few that I used as "beta readers", or basically light content and grammar/spelling/punctuation editors.  We'd trade services where we'd read each other's chapters before posting them, giving the author feedback on what they've written.  As time went on, I could see my work improving, which was very satisfying.

Again, this is getting away from me, so stay tuned shortly for Part 3!

Thoughts?  Leave 'em in the comments below!

xoxo Sarah

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fan Fiction and Me...or How I Started Writing (Again) Pt.1

Whenever I meet new people, either in a personal or professional capacity, during the standard get-to-know-you stuff, inevitably the question is asked, "So, what do you do?" And when they find out that I'm an editor and writer, the conversation turns even more inevitably to how I got started writing in the first place.  After all, it's not exactly a career choice for everyone.

And up until now, I've been, well, sort of vague about the whole thing, except with a few people, and that was after knowing them for a while first.  Mostly to make sure they wouldn't laugh in my face.

I'd tell them that I'd loved writing as a kid, and gotten back into it while my husband was traveling a lot; that I'd come home from work and have a lot of time on my hands, so I started writing short stories.  And that was about it.

And it's true.  Mostly.  Sort of, in the same way as your skeleton can be considered your "body".

You see, the truth is, I got back into my writing groove writing Twilight fan fiction.  Let me define that for you: Fan fiction is, as Wikipedia says, the term for stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator.

If you're laughing, I kind of don't blame you, and I'll give you a minute to get it out of your system.  Fan fiction has this weird--mostly undeserved--stigma around it: that it's written by bored, horny housewives or squealy teenage girls to fulfill...what, I don't really know, probably something that needs fulfilling.  If you haven't participated in a fandom (group of people with a common interest in something, including the minute details--Trekkies are a good example of a fandom) before, most people assume it's all about writing sexytimes with someone else's characters, and while there is plenty of that, it's about a whole lot more.

Let me explain, but also let me back up a little bit.

I've always loved to read and write, and I've been crafting stories, good and bad, since I was in elementary school and probably before that.  I'm sure being an only child has something to do with it; by default we're on our own a lot, and we tend to have active imaginations.  Story-creating is what we do.  Despite this, I never majored in English or creative writing or anything that most people would automatically associate with something to springboard into a writing career, but writing and creating weren't foreign concepts to me.  I feel this needs to be established.  So there you go.

Anyway, yes, my husband was away traveling a lot, and yes, I had a lot of time on my hands and got bored.  So I guess I'm not dispelling the "bored housewife" stereotype, but whatever.  This was back in 2008, and the first Twilight movie was just coming out.  Though I'd never heard of the books or movie before, the buzz around it was quickly picking up steam, and I'm weird about reading books before I see a movie based on them (mostly so I can judge them harshly), so I figured why the hell not and picked up the first book.  And I was kind of hooked--the story wasn't bad, and it was enough to keep me entertained, which is what I was looking for, so I bought the other two and finished them as well before the fourth book came out a month or so later.  Mostly I wanted to see when Edward Cullen would get his head out of his sparkly emo ass and bite Bella, because they were clearly meant to be together forever...

Ahem...back to my story.

"Bite me." "No." "Why?" "I'm too angsty."
But when I read that last book, I immediately wanted to throw it across the room.  I almost did, actually, but I don't condone human-on-book violence.  I completely disagreed with some story choices the author Stephenie Meyer made in the third book (Eclipse), which somehow also led to the clusterfuck that was Breaking Dawn.  It's the book (and plot twist) that shall not be named. Sorry, but if you disagree with me, we can get into a fight about it in the comments section below.  I've met a lot of people who enjoyed all of the books, and a lot who agree with me, and while I respect their opinions, my blog, my rules, my skewed opinion.

And while Stephenie Meyer did an admirable job world-building, and her characters (weirdly enough the side-ones like Esme, Charlie, and Rosalie along with the rest of the Cullens) are interesting, her two leads needed a lot of work.  And then there were the plot points I didn't like.  These were all things floating around in my head after I read the books, leaving me with weird feelings I hadn't had about someone else's story before.

I had the overwhelming urge to FIX IT.  Make it--the story--the way I thought it should be.

This post is getting a bit on the long side, so I'll break it off here, but stay tuned shortly for Part 2.

Leave a comment below if you've ever been part of a fandom...which one? Did you read fic? Write it?

xoxo Sarah

Sunday, November 2, 2014

New Newsletter! Woot!

I've been taking a class on how to self-publish on a shoestring by the amazing Magda Alexander for the past month, and one thing that was discussed was having a mailing list or newsletter.  Readers can sign up to get it, so you can update them on whatever's going on--a new release, contest, etc.

So, if you want updates on my writing, publishing, contest and giveaway news, either sign up in the side-bar on the right, or click the link here and sign up.  

I'd really appreciate it!

xoxo Sarah

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

WIP Blog Tour...Tagged by Nicki Elson!

I was tagged by the lovely Nicki Elson for the WIP Blog Tour.  And since it's been a bit since I last posted anything about my writing, I figured this was as a good time as any to let you guys know a bit about Fate's Awakening, my WIP.  Also, in case you don't know, WIP stands for "work in progress".  Yes, I still count FA as a WIP, because it's not published, and, in fact, is being critiqued mercilessly by Shelley Greene at this time.


The rules of the to:

1)  Link back to the person who tagged you.  That would be Nicki Elson, so check out her blog here.

Okay, so far so good.

2)  Write a little about and give the first sentences of the first 3 chapters of a WIP.

Here's the blurb I've tentatively settled on for Fate's Awakening.

Jack Harris's reluctance to find The One has put his life in danger with the Fates. They send a young goddess to convince Jack that he needs to search his heart or he's going to lose his only chance at happiness. After the goddess gives him less than a month to get his act together, Jack realizes that his soul mate is his long-time roommate and best friend, Andrew Kelly. Problem is, Andy's in a relationship with a woman, and Jack can't quite figure out where they stand. Will the goddess's divine intervention be enough to help Jack? Or will the Fates have to cut the tangled thread of his life when the deadline comes?

Intrigued? I hope so.

And here are the first sentences from the first 3 chapters of Fate's Awakening...four, actually, because I did a prologue. So you guys get a bonus sentence! Woo hoo!

Prologue:  "The Three have requested your immediate presence."

Chapter 1:  "Your place or mine?"

Chapter 2:  Insistent banging roused me from a deep sleep.

Chapter 3:  Just after eight-thirty, my cab pulled up in front of the bar.

And finally, rule 3:  Tag 4 more writers to see what they're up to!

Shelley Greene

Jennifer DeLucy

Debra Anastasia


Rumer Haven

I can't wait to see what they're up to!

xoxo Sarah

Monday, October 27, 2014

Auction ends tonight!

Hey, ladies and gents!  There's an auction going on right now to help support the Maryland Romance Writers, and there are some great things up for grabs.  Anything from signed books to gift baskets to knitwear to critiques to a tutorial on Scrivener writing software. 

The auction ends TONIGHT at 9PM EDT, so get your bids in before it's too late!


xoxo Sarah

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tips for Editing Your Manuscript from a Real-Life Editor, Part 7

Part 1: Look it up!

Part 2:  Read it out loud.

Part 3:  Have someone who knows what they're doing read it.

Part 4:  Consistency, consistency, consistency!

Part 5:  Dialogue tag...you're NOT it!

Part 6: Pick the right word to say what you mean.

This is part 7: Adverbs--Kill it with fire! 

Or, as Stephen King says in On Writing: "The road to hell is paved with adverbs."

Apply adverbs here...

That might sound like a little extreme, but trust me, adverbs are not your friend. What's an adverb? It's basically the equivalent of what an adjective is to a noun, but it's a word that describes or modifies another adverb, adjective or, most commonly, a verb--how something is done. Often--but not always--they end in "ly".

He walked slowly.  How did he walk? Slowly.

She talked quietly.  How did she talk? Quietly.

You get the idea.

So what's the problem with adverbs? Description is good, right? And I'm always on everyone about showing, not telling (*maniacal laughter* You just wait...there'll be an entry in this series on that too, I can guarantee it).

The problem with adverbs is that there's almost always a better word to use that makes your narrative stronger. See all those words in bold and italics? I even went overboard with the emphasis so you guys would know I'm serious.

And since I'm so big on showing, not telling, I'm gonna show you.  Read the following two narrative paragraphs, and pick the stronger one...

Kylie quietly walked through the house. She'd waited patiently all day for her family to leave. Now, Kylie finally had the computer all to herself. She firmly pressed the button and switched it on, fidgeting excitedly as it slowly booted. The web browser opened suddenly, and Kylie meticulously poked in the address. Yay! Kylie thought happily. Now I can immediately watch my favorite cat videos!

Kylie tip-toed through the house. She'd waited all day for her family to leave. Now, Kylie had the computer all to herself. She pressed the button and switched it on, fidgeting as it booted. The web browser opened, and Kylie poked in the address. Yay! Kylie thought. Now I can watch my favorite cat videos!

The second one is stronger, more direct, and clearer, and that's with only changing one of the adverbs (quietly walked to tip-toed) and just deleting the others. Even better would be to find ways of showing even more using other, stronger, words.

Here's what I mean by that:

Said quietly becomes whispered.

Walked slowly becomes strolled.

By using a single word (or a short phrase) in place of the adverb, it provides a more direct description of what's happening and makes it clearer to the reader.

This post with a giant quote from Stephen King's On Writing, where he talks dandelions in your word-garden and closing the door firmly, takes the cake. Go read it. I'll be watching Nyan Cat until you're done...


Back already? Good.

Oh, and like the awesome Mr. King says, for the love of Jesus on a Velociraptor, please don't use them with dialogue tags. For 99% of the time, let the dialogue communicate how someone says something. For the other 1%...well, I guess I can let it slide.

"Fine, Mom, but as soon as I'm done cleaning my room, I'm gonna watch cat videos again," Kylie said dully.

See what I did there? I crossed out the adverb. Why? Because you don't need it. It's clear from the dialogue that Kylie is whining (you could, in theory, use "whined" as the dialogue tag instead of "said", but, again, it's not necessary--her tone is already clear to the reader, and readers aren't stupid).

There are ways around using them, too. Is it recommended? Well, that probably depends on what you're trying to accomplish with the description...

"Of course you'd want to watch cat videos instead of eating pizza with me," Jen said scathingly.

"Of course you'd want to watch cat videos instead of eating pizza with me," Jen snapped.

Is it easy to tell from the dialogue that the words are said "scathingly"? Maybe, maybe not. But in cases like this, it'd be your call whether to use an adverb or not. Better yet, change "said" to "snapped" or something like I did. It's not one of those dialogue tags that's too "out there", and it effectively communicates what you're trying to get across about how Jen is saying something.

Let me also say that I'm a huge fan of adverbs...in a first draft. Mine are littered with them. But, because this is an editing how-to tip post thingy, I feel I should emphasize that I try my best to catch them and weed them out (haha, get it? Weed them out? Like dandelions? You'd get it if you read the Stephen King bit above...), replacing the adverbs with stronger language or taking them out completely. So feel free to let your first-draft garden get a bit overgrown...you'll be taking some Round-Up to it when the second draft comes along.

Are you guys finding these posts useful? What are your thoughts on adverbs? Please let me know in the comments. :-)

xoxo Sarah

Monday, September 29, 2014

To review or not to review, that is the question...

Lately I'm making an effort to be a better author-friend, so I have a little something I'd like to get off my chest...

Hello, my name is Sarah, and I was a terrible reviewer.


*dodges rotten fruit*

Hang on, hang on, hang on! And put that squishy tomato down for God's sake...

This might not sound like much to the average person, but the thing is, book reviews by casual readers--yes, I lump myself in there as well, because I do read for pleasure--are extremely important to authors for a number of reasons.

The first reason is that we like to know someone enjoyed our book. Yes, it's that simple...if you liked a book, please review it on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, or wherever you bought it from. If anything, the author will do a little happy dance when he/she checks it out, and you  know you want to be responsible for someone's happy dance.

The other reasons are more technical. Retailers use algorithms to help sell (or not sell) your books. These can be based on sales, reviews, anything that can be quantified. I'm not an expert on this kind of stuff, but I am aware of it, and that it does happen. Exactly how it works, I have no idea.

This article here  and this other article here are a bit on the older side but, I think, still relevant. I'll summarize some of the main points for you, but they're worth a read (or, at least a quick skim) anyway. And yes, they're about Amazon, but please remember to review somewhere, be it the retailer you purchased from, or on Goodreads.

There's a "nutshell version" posted at the end of this, but please take the time to read it all anyway.

The number (and type!) of reviews can tell a retailer to start marketing a book. Often, writers notice that suddenly their book ends up paired with another once they reach a certain point in their reviews (be it a number, or even an average star rating...both matter!). Basically, Amazon says, "Hey, these people are really enthusiastic about this book! I'm going to pair it up with some other similar ones and/or recommend them to readers." Then Amazon "helps" market and sell your book. And the more your book sells, the more people will review...it's the law of large numbers, though, sadly, only a small percentage of readers bother to review at all. The wider the audience, the more larger the chances reviews will come in.

To put it another way if you're not sure about leaving a review for a book...  I love TripAdvisor for planning trips. I scope out hotels and restaurants, reading the reviews left by consumers and visitors. What did they like? What didn't they enjoy? Were these points something I cared about, or wouldn't it matter? The same goes for books--I want to let someone else make an informed decision about something to read. And if it helps the author out too, then that's an added bonus.

So, lately, I've started to leave reviews. I don't leave long ones--I'm not a book blogger, and don't feel the need to dissect everything in the manuscript. Mine are usually a few sentences, but I will hit the high points, letting the author and other prospective readers know what I enjoyed, and what I felt was lacking. I also do my best to leave a star rating of 4+. I think, as blog post in the link at the bottom of this mentions, "Did the book deliver as advertised?", not "Was this the next Pulitzer Prize-winning novel?" and write a review based on that.

Let me explain the star ratings a bit, too, because sometimes that can be a bit fuzzy. First of all, for review purposes, Amazon really only considers 4 and 5 star ratings to be good, and will push those books more than others, even if you get a few crappy star ratings. "But what if I believe that 3 stars means "like", and I liked the book?" Well, too bad...Amazon might screw the author because of that. Think of it this way: Would I recommend it to a friend? If the answer is yes, or YES, give it 4 or 5 stars. I know a lot of people think of the star rating system like this: 1 star=hated it; 2 stars=just okay; 3 stars=liked it/book was good; 4 stars=really liked/great; 5 stars=loved/extraordinary. But Amazon doesn't think of it that way, unfortunately. Is that fair? Nope--it's inflated and decidedly unfair. So if you liked the book, please keep that in mind, at least with Amazon.

Even though this one is for video games, I'd say it's a good approximation for what to do on Amazon.

You might be thinking now, what if I came across a book I didn't like? Again, I'm not a book blogger, but I do realize that my review has a bigger impact than just telling the author that I enjoyed (or didn't) their work. Honestly, if I didn't like a book, I wouldn't review it--I feel like it would do more harm than good with the way publishing works nowadays. But if I felt compelled to write one, I'd try to find something I enjoyed about it.

So, if you'd recommend the book to a friend looking for something to read, take two minutes and write a quick review. That makes everyone happy.

Nutshell version: How many reviews you have and how good they are (typically a star rating, or average star rating), and your book ranking have an effect on how much "help" you get from retailers. So, a book with a 4.5 average star rating and/or 30 reviews will be pushed more by Amazon (or whatever retailer) than a book with a 3 average star rating and/or 10 reviews. Also, Amazon seems to think that anything under 4 stars is NOT RECOMMENDED (though it's not as bad as it used to be), so please leave a review and a good star rating and help an author out!

For some tips on reviewing on Amazon, check this post out.

How about you? Do you review? Are you like me and do it occasionally, but should do it more? What's your policy for leaving a less-than-awesome review?

xoxo Sarah

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Guest Post by Loni Lynne!

My friend and fellow author, Loni Lynne, is celebrating the release of Immortal Heat on October 6th. It's the first in The Guardians of Dacia series. She's stopping by to tell us a bit about her book!

The Guardians of Dacia Series
Romania has been called the mystical land of paranormal beings and creatures of the night. Before the Romans conquered their land, Dacia was a mystical land of magic and folk-lore until one man and his army destroyed the closely woven fabric set by the gods between man and beast. Now, cursed by their gods over two thousand years ago, one immortal clan struggles to maintain their private world while still learning to live and protect their human brethren while their enemy seeks power to destroy the new world.
 But as the clans face extinction, a new generation of Dacian blood emerges to unite the clans once more. The world as they know it may never be the same. 

Immortal Heat

Dacian Historian… 
Determined to study ancient Dacian folk lore abroad, Marilyn Reddlin’s plans are cut short when she is abducted by a dark haired stranger who insists she’s in danger. The only danger she’s in is losing herself to her abductor’s inexplicable seductive energy. Draylon Conier teaches her there is more to Romania than myth and fairy tales while sweeping her into a wild adventure of paranormal mystery and intrigue. 

Dacian History… 
Thousands of years trying to pay back a debt, Draylon Conier is finally able to do so. Sent to capture a young, American student who is in danger while in Romania, he just has to send her back home. Easy enough for him. Unfortunately, Marilyn Reddlin is determined to thwart his every attempt—even telepathy. But there is more to her than meets the eye and the closer he gets to her, the more danger she is in, not only from the ancient immortal Dacian clans he’s trying to protect her from, but also his own sexual need. 

History just got a lot harder. 
They must find out what connection Marilyn has to Dacian history before Draylon destroys her when she succumbs to Immortal Heat. 

Even better, here's an excerpt from Immortal Heat

The server rolled out a dessert tray, and Marilyn automatically possessed room for the piece of decadent Belgian-chocolate cake whispering her name. She couldn’t pass up the temptation. Besides, it was only a sliver of cake. She needed something to absorb all the wine. The rich chocolate would complement the merlot and appease her craving.
 The first bite hit her taste buds with the smooth, sinful flavor of Belgian chocolate- ganache. Marilyn sighed blissfully and closed her eyes, allowing the sweetness to pleasure her senses as she dragged the fork through her lips to capture every last molecule of taste.
Upon opening her eyes she saw a man sitting at her table, staring at her. She inhaled a crumb of chocolate cake, setting her to cough. Marilyn tried to breathe as her eyes watered behind her spectacles. The man handed her the water goblet and their fingers touched. Trembling at the jolt of electricity shooting through her hand, Marilyn took a sip to clear her throat.
She picked up the subtle scent of the amber and musk she’d noticed in the airport. Was it him? Was he spying on her?
He didn’t blink. His electric blue gaze bore into her soul. Small tremors of the fear her mother had addressed for years came running back, but she sat immobilized, staring back at him.
Dressed all in black, his raven hair blended in with the black leather of his jacket and turtleneck shirt. Those blue eyes caught fire from the reflection of candle light between them. Little bubbles of sensual awareness boiled within her bloodstream, and her mouth went dry as if the cake she’d been eating left behind a sawdust residue. She tried to laugh away the nervousness, but what came out was more of a croak. “I think you have the wrong seat,” she said in broken Romanian.
“You have to leave,” he said.
He spoke in perfect, modern English with a hint of accent. She wasn’t sure what kind. You have to leave, her mind echoed. She shook her head at the distracting sound of his voice. Like the Belgian chocolate ganache, the thick tenor drizzled delicious intent that could make a woman fantasize about what that voice would sound like whispering rich, sweet words into her ear. She needed to stop drinking red wine. It made her think silly things.
What would her mother do in a situation like this? With the stiffened spine she’d learned from Diane Reddlin, she met his gaze—difficult as it was to look into his eyes without melting. “This is my table. You are the one who needs to leave.” She took another bite of her cake as if he weren’t there. Whether the cake was more acceptable to bite into than he was would be a matter of decorum, but she bet he would taste yummy.
Hands joined in a single fist planted on the table, he leaned forward until his face was mere inches from hers. He studied her every move as she ate. The intensity should have unnerved her, and yet a wine induced boldness hit her, coupled with a determination to put him in his place, whoever he was. His good looks and dark, sensual appeal could only mean trouble.
The flickering candlelight created shadows along his jaw line, making him appear even more mysterious. His elegant European nose flared, the muscles in his jaw flexed. The mixed scent of the aroma she’d been alerted to at the airport and leather from his jacket again hit her senses. As much as she tried to fight her feminine instincts, her inner woman wasn’t cooperating. Her nipples hardened, and a quiver started in her core. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
“You are in danger, Marilyn Reddlin. Leave now. . . before it’s too late.”
Those eyes penetrated straight through to her soul. She hoped to God he didn’t know what her body was saying. Then his words and the fact he’d just addressed her by her name hit her like a bucket of icy water. She shook off the strange enchantment.
“Who are you?  How do you know my name?”
“That’s my business. Now, leave Romania…tonight.”
Marilyn sat stunned, fighting the commanding lilt of his voice. There was an odd, suggestive pull. She fought it but he’d already left. She hadn’t seen him get up. But when she looked, he’d walked out of the restaurant into the hotel lobby towards the entrance.
 A few moments later she grabbed his hand, halting him. His eyes flared up at her, and then down to where her hand had attached itself to his wrist. She stopped and realized she didn’t remember how she’d gotten from the table to being outside, trying to stop his departure. But here she was. They stared at each other for a moment, both astounded at the circumstances.
He jerked his hand from her touch and popped the collar on his jacket, glaring at her before walking away.
You will leave.
Did she just hear his voice in her mind or had he said that aloud? His back was to her, so she wasn’t sure. She shook her head to get the sound of his voice out of her senses. This was too bizarre.
Like hell I’ll leave, asshole, she thought while staring after him. Who did he think he was? Had her mother put him up to this?
Stopping dead in his tracks, he slowly turned around. Marilyn stood her ground, her hands fisted on her hips in defiance. Did she hear him curse? That was impossible, his lips hadn’t moved, and they were now a parking lot away from each other. 
A logistics truck pulled up through the circular entrance of the hotel, blocking her view, before driving away. When the view was clear, her mystery man had disappeared into the night, leaving only the echo of his warning behind in her head. She walked back to the dining room puzzled over the man’s audacity.

She’d be damned before she turned tail and ran back home to Mama.

Here's a bit about Loni and her writing: 

Born in north-central Michigan, Loni Lynne still loves the quiet woods, lakes and rivers in Otsego County and the Victorian era bay side houses of Little Traverse Bay. But after decades of moving around the country as a child and twenty-five years of marriage to her personal hero, she calls western Maryland her home.
Serving in the United States Navy didn’t prepare her for the hardest job ever, being a stay at home mom, to her two wonderful daughters. After years of volunteering as a scout leader, PTA officer, and various other volunteer positions, all while still writing snippets of story ideas, her husband decided it was time for her to put her heart to finishing a story. He gave her a laptop, portable hard drive and his blessings to have a finished manuscript, ready to be sent out to the masses in one year. He created a writing monster.

Immortal Heat was her first idea six years ago and has gone through many revisions since then. In the meantime another story took hold, Wanted: One Ghost and it became her first published book in 2013. Now with the help of her friends, family and friends of the romance writing community, she’s pursuing her love of telling stories written from her heart.

Amazon Page for Immortal Heat, Book 1 of The Guardians of Dacia series: http://www.amazon.com/Immortal-Heat-Guardians-Dacia-Book-ebook/dp/B00NHDED50/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410880327&sr=8-1&keywords=Immortal+Heat

Facebook Page for The Guardians of Dacia series: https://www.facebook.com/TheGuardiansofDacia

Loni Lynne’s website: http://www.lonilynne.com
Loni Lynne’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/lonilynne
Loni Lynne’s Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/LoniLynne1

Thanks for stopping by, Loni!  And if you lovely readers enjoyed the excerpt, be sure to pick up Immortal Heat, out October 6th! 

xoxo Sarah

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Interview Time with Jennyfer Browne!

Since apparently I'm on a mission to have as many lovely ladies--and creative versions of "Jennifer"--as possible on my blog, here's another one.  Jennyfer Browne is the author in a genre not many are aware of--Amish romance.  But she doesn't play by the rules, and writes it how she wants...and it's good

See for yourself.

Tell everyone about yourself and how you got started in writing!

I’ve always had my head in the clouds, thinking up stories to entertain myself. My best friend and I used to play Star Wars- which can probably be considered live action fan fiction- she always got Han *SAD FACE*. I started writing early, first poetry, and then epic fantasy of a teenager soaking up Tolkien and Terry Brooks. And always with a strong, though often suffering heroine.  

What are your favorite and least favorite parts about being a writer?

My favorite parts are being able to share something from the heart with those that enjoy it ( yay awesome readers!). My least favorite parts? Never having enough time and having a deadline.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other writers?

Write every day- whether it is on the manuscript you are working on or simple short exercises to keep your brain and fingers trained. Even if you have a writer's block- dedicate yourself to the time- even if it is to simply write: “nothingnothingnothingnothingomgthisisterriblenothingnothing”

I've definitely had those days. And do you prefer silence or to have music on when you’re writing? What kind?

I love music while I write. And I love all kinds- I have a few playlists to help with the mood (Angry, angsty, sad, inspiring). It all depends on the mood and sometimes I will play the same song over and over for one single chapter.

How’d you get the idea for the In Your World series?

In Your World started out as an online chat session with some girlfriends over a celebrity photo shoot in which he appeared with a black hat and innocent face. Jokingly calling him Amish, the inspiration struck and I had the first four chapters written in a day. A lot of research following once I realized I knew very little about the Amish save my childhood jaunts to Lancaster.

For readers who’ve never read in this genre, what sets the IYW series apart from a lot of Amish romances? How is it similar?

IYW can better be labeled contemporary romance, with an Amish twist. I like to call it sweet and savory with a twist of tart, as it does have a little more spice to it than typical Amish fiction reads. It is more secular in its approach as it is from an English (non Amish) person’s perspective. It is still meant to be respectful of the culture and philosophies of the Amish, illustrating the meaning of love between two people in a world that would see to tarnish it.

Will there be a 3rd IYW book? 

Most definitely! Initally I had planned on simply two, but in finding titles for the first two, the verse from 1 Corinthians 13 stuck:
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
So  felt it was important to round out the series with Finding Love- which is the story of the young Bishop, Benjamin Yoder. I’m very excited to give him more life and rejoin with characters we have all followed in the last two books.

Your covers are lovely! Did you do them yourself? If so, how’d you do them?

Aw, thank you so much! I did do them myself- which was a huge undertaking and provides me with so much admiration for those create covers professionally. I was a bit of a control freak for the first book, and I wanted a very particular image of Nathan (of which my friend and model, Brian helped to make a reality!). Hours and hours of learning the basics of Photoshop ( you can download it free for 30 days and get it done!)- and InDesign for the formatting of the cover. A great learning experience but my next series I am definitely hiring out!

What made you decide to self-pub?

This series was going to be a tough sell- what with the sexual situations that are not found in Inspirational Romance. I didn’t want to delete those moments, though, as I feel that love and sensuality are a beautiful thing and shouldn’t necessarily become a Fade To Black. I had an interested publisher but there was talk of shrinking it to one book, and that scared me.
Self-pubbing is a lot of work- in that you can decide to do all your own formatting cover, and even editing if you choose. My advice if you choose to go with self-pubbing and you don’t have a lot of funding- put it into editing. You can never see all the errors you make in writing!

What are you working on now?

Finishing up Finding Love, with the hope to publish in November (another boon/curse to self pubbing- you can pick your publish date!). After that I have a series of contemporary New Adults I want to start. And an alien romance. And a vampire romance. LOL

Tell us what genre(s) you write in, why, and what your experiences are like writing in them.  If you write in multiple genres, how is the experience different from one to another?

I love to write in a few genres- Paranormal, Sci fi, New Adult- but of them all, I want a strong female lead. The tone changes- paranormal has that feeling of danger or suspense, New Adult can be more comedic, and Sci Fi can be a free for all. But the heroine has to be strong, even when she is in danger of losing it all.

What was your favorite scene to write in the IYW books?  Why?

Oooh! Favorite scene had to be Kate’s first encounter with Magnus. I love that horse.

What scene gave you the most trouble in the IYW books? Why?

The sensual scenes were the most difficult. Initially they were a little more brazen- but given the audience targeted- a bridge between bodice rippers and Christian fiction, I had to really evaluate what was going too far and what was censoring. To some, I still have gone too far, but I stand by the words and their intent- that love between two people and how they show it is beautiful when they respect one another.

Where can we find you on the interwebs?

Where can we find your books?

On iTunes

Thanks for stopping by, Jennyfer! :-)

xoxo Sarah