Photo of the Week: It’s in the Details

Copyright © 2012 by Brittiany A. Koren

When describing main characters, remember to include little quirks that make them stand apart from other characters in the story. This is important because it will help your readers “see” these characters, and therefore relate to them on a deeper level.

If you look closely you’ll see, for instance, the girl in this picture has a scar in her eyebrow. Her eyes are bright green and her hair almost white blonde while the hair in her eyebrow is darker.

These questions leap to mind. How did she get the scar? Does she color her hair, or is it natural?

And then from there, the story begins to develop. What is she looking at so intently? How old is she? What is it about this girl that makes her special?

Have fun with it, but don’t get too carried away. These little details, if not added in your first draft of the story, should be layered in during the second or third draft phase before the story is sent to an editor for review.

Good luck! 🙂

E. Tip of the Week: Endings

There’s a lot of advice on how to write great beginnings and getting through writing the middle of stories, but what about that ending?

An ending should be everything the story has been building up towards. Powerful. Intriguing. Satisfying. To have a great ending means it needs to be satisfying to the reader. So many times when I’m editing a novel, the emotion of the story will build and build. Then, in that last page it’s like there’s a cliff there and the story just drops off the face of the earth. I’m not talking about a cliff hanger. I’m talking about an ending that builds towards the end but doesn’t have a satisfying end for the reader. An ending when the reader walks away and says “That’s it? That wasn’t worth it.”

Those are words no writer wants to hear, yet so many times in editing novels I see a writer spending so much time on crafting their beginnings –it’s imperative to have a great hook, after all–and middles, the writer will just leave their ending to just “come together.”

Don’t do that.

When you’ve finished writing the first draft, second draft, third draft, go back and read just the last five pages of your story. What is the emotion you feel after you’ve read the ending? Did you feel the tension, the sadness, happiness, or shock you as the writer were going for? Or, did you feel empty or confused?

Make sure to spend the same amount of time on your ending, as you do the beginning and middle. After all, if it’s a satisfying read, your readers will be more apt to tell others about your characters and the journey they just experienced. And isn’t that what you really want? 🙂

Photo of the Week: Roller Coaster Emotions

If your character went on a roller coaster, what would their reaction be? Terrified, excited, anxious? Would your character sit in the middle, or on the end? Would they be comfortable going on the ride alone, with strangers filling the other seats? Or, are they more of a “pack” person, wanting to share the experience with friends? Would it matter to them?

Copyright © 2008 by Brittiany A. Koren

Look at the pool in the bottom right hand corner of this picture. Would your character be afraid to fall into the water? Or, are they an experienced swimmer? What kind of story ideas can you come up with by just looking at this picture? What types of noises do your hear? What kinds of smells? How does the hard metal of the ride feel around their bodies as they’re strapped inside for that one timeless minute?

Writer’s Wednesday: An Interview with NYT Best-selling Author, Julie Hyzy

We’re excited to have Julie Hyzy as our guest today! I’ve watched Julie grow as an author over the years, and it has been one of the neatest journeys to see. We are so happy for her success! Please help us welcome Julie to The Editing Essentials!

A relentless snoop since childhood, Julie Hyzy gets to play detective these days by writing amateur sleuth adventures. An Anthony, Barry, Lovey, and Derringer Award winning author, Julie is thrilled to be able to call herself a New York Times Bestseller as well. She writes two series for Berkley Prime Crime: the White House Chef Mysteries and the Manor House Mysteries. She also has several backlist and original titles available as e-books. http://www.juliehyzy.com/

WD: How old were you when you began writing?

JH: I wrote my first book at about age six or seven. Right about the time I realized I had the capability of recording the stories I made up in my head. Back then I even drew pictures, too.

WD: Did your family support your writing habit when you started?

JH: My parents were supportive of everything I did. They read (and gently critiqued) all my early novels (Mary King Mysteries) and when I hand printed my weekly eight page neighborhood newspaper, my dad would take it to work to make copies for me to distribute (sell) to indulgent neighbors.

WD: How many rejection letters did you receive before selling your first novel?

JH: Wow. I have no idea. A lot. I queried agents for the most part, and those rejections came in quickly and in bulk. Rejections became the norm, which in a way was good. After a while you get used to them. In fact, I trained myself to embrace rejection. Why? Because getting those “No thank you” notes in the mail (and yeah, this was via snail mail) was proof that I was following my dream. If I wasn’t submitting I couldn’t be amassing all these rejections, right? So they became a good thing.

WD: What was your reaction when you sold your first novel?

JH: Amazement. Disbelief. Joy.

WD: What person in your life–family, mentor, friend–pushed you to continue writing on days when you really didn’t want to?

JH: To be perfectly honest, I’ve never had that day. Even on my worst writing days when the words don’t come, I’ve known that this is what I’ve always wanted to do. I may slow down. I may not get any good words done for a couple of days, but I never stop wanting to do it.

WD: Your relationship with Michael A. Black has led to a collaboration of characters. Could you share how you two decided to put your characters together in Dead Ringer?

JH: Mike and I were critique partners for a very long time. We got to know one another’s styles so well that when we decided to write a short story together, it was easy. After that, just for fun, we decided to end our next respective books (my Deadly Interest, his A Final Judgment) with last chapters that dovetailed. My Alex St. James met up with his Ron Shade at a gas station. That was fun, too. Then we wondered, could we write an entire novel together? It became a challenge. And so we decided to try.

WD: Are there more collaborations planned for Ron and Alex, or for Michael Black and Julie Hyzy?

JH: At this point, Mike and I are super busy with other projects. But I’ve learned to never say never.

WD: What are your current writing habits? (How often do you write? What’s your schedule?)

JH: I try to write every day, Monday through Friday. Things don’t always work out as planned, but that’s my goal. I like to get at least 1,000 words in a day, but this year has been busy and that’s been tough. Right now I’m facing a deadline and if I don’t hit at least 2,000 words a day for the next three weeks, I’ll be sunk. I like to do my email and a little bit of promotional work in the morning and get started on whatever project I’m working on by 11:00. If I can write solidly until 3:00, that’s a fabulous day. Doesn’t always work out that way.

WD: What made you want to write the Manor House mysteries?

JH: I love mansions—the kind you tour on vacation—with rooms that number in the hundreds. Like Downton Abbey … The stories those rooms could tell! Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to live in such a house. I used to dream up floor plans and design rooms. Now that I’m all grown up I’m doing that for real—but now I also get to invite readers to join in the fun.

WD: Now that you’re a NYT Best-selling author, something many authors can only dream of becoming, what is your next challenge?

JH: My next challenge, honestly, is to always write a better book than the one before. That’s what I always hope to do.

WD: Which of your stories was the most difficult to research?

JH: I’d have to say that the White House Chef Mysteries are pretty difficult to research. Although there’s a lot of information available on the White House, there are details that are nearly impossible to find. While there have been some wonderful White House staffers, and former staffers who have answered my questions, it would really be best if they’d just let me in for a couple of days to wander at will. I promise not to make a mess. You think I have a chance?

WD: If there was any part of your career you’d like a re-do on, which would it be?

JH: I think I should have started submitting work sooner. I didn’t submit in earnest until 1999. I’d been writing on and off for all my life but had never made writing a priority. Maybe that’s fine. Maybe I wasn’t ready. But I think I could have been. I wouldn’t change any bit of the journey I’ve been on, but it would have been nice if I’d started sooner.

WD: You edited for a while before writing full-time. What did you learn about your own writing by editing someone else’s work?

JH: Actually, I edited while writing full time. Editing another person’s work is always an eye-opening experience. As an editor, I become an objective reader. In that role I believe I’m better able to catch problems, whether they’re word choices, consistency issues, plot holes, or character considerations. When we’re too close to our own work, it’s hard to see these things, but when I stepped back and caught them in others’ works, I was able to bring fresh eyes to my stuff. What a wonderful experience. Truly valuable.

WD: What is the best thing about being a writer, in your opinion?

JH: I have the best job in the world. I spend the day making up stories and bringing characters to life. I can’t imagine anything I’d rather be doing.

WD: What does your family think of your success?

JH: So far, they seem pretty pleased. My husband and kids were even more excited than I was when Fonduing Fathers hit the New York Times Bestseller list. They are incredibly supportive and always helping me, whether it’s setting up a launch party or passing out bookmarks.

WD: What do you have lined up for 2013? Goals? Books? Vacations?

JH: I’m currently working on WHChef #7 and as soon as that’s finished, I’ll start on Grace (Manor House Mysteries) #5. Both of these manuscripts are due this year, with WHChef #7 due in just about six weeks (insert panicked shriek). I’d like to add to my Alex St. James series by releasing a new Indie title for her, and I’d like to continue Riley Drake’s adventures with a sequel to Playing With Matches.

WD: You inspire writers and readers everywhere. What was the most important lesson you’ve learned as an author? What advice would you give to struggling/beginning authors?

JH: Me? Inspire writers and readers? Not sure about that. But I do have advice. First of all, don’t give up. There is so much rejection out there, whether it be from agents, editors, reviewers on Amazon and BN.com, or even friends and family. They say that writers need a thick skin. I don’t have that, and rejection always hurts, but I know that if I wasn’t putting my work out there—exposing it, making it vulnerable to others’ opinions—then I would be writing only for myself. That’s not my dream. My dream is to reach people with my words, whether I’m simply entertaining or – even better – making them think. If to be able to do that I have to risk myself, then so be it. Rarely does success come without rejection. Part of the deal.

The other advice I’d give is to read. Read in your genre. Read outside your genre. Read fiction and non-fiction. Read books by successful writers about how they’ve done it. Read books and blogs by experts in the business. There is so much knowledge out there at our fingertips. Learn, be hungry, be thirsty. Be a sponge.

Oh, and most importantly: Write every day.

Thank you, Julie, for being our guest today! If you have questions or comments for Julie, please feel free to post a comment to the blog. Thank you!

Photo of the Week: Adding Texture

Take a hard look at this deer. What is it thinking? What direction will it go next? Or, will it stay still and listen a little longer?

Think of your main character in this sense. How will they react to danger? Fight or flight?

Look at this deer now in a different way, how the shade from the trees keep it in the shadows. It’s not a straight line, but staggered. Look how the grass in some places is green and other places dead. What does the grass feel and taste like? Is it soft, brittle? What season is it? What sounds are around the deer? What is making it listen so hard? Is someone watching it? Or something? What does it smell? Is it in danger, or safe?

Remember, using the five senses is very important in making your story come to life.

Reader Review: Eric by Terry Pratchett

Title: Eric

Author: Terry Pratchett

Format: Paperback

Page Count: 197 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins

Reviewer: Susan

Terry Pratchett’s Eric is part of the Discworld series, which mixes sorcerers, demons, DEATH (that’s how the character—DEATH, complete with his hood and scythe–appears in the book), magic and a whole bunch of philosophical humor into a sharp, witty storyline I can’t get enough of.

Adolescent Eric, while trying to summon a demon, instead summons not so skilled/lucky/ambitious sorcerer Rincewind.  Rincewind is no demon, but Eric is not to be easily satisfied.  Rincewind “grants” him three wishes, and Eric chooses to live forever, be master of the universe, and have one of the wild women of history as a girlfriend. Rincewind tries, but everything doesn’t go smoothly.  First worshipped as gods, Eric and Rincewind find some people think the gods have a LOT to answer for…and they will be providing the answers…or the (human) sacrifices, hence DEATH’s hanging around.  Did I mention there’s a Wizard University with a librarian who is (now) happily an orangutan and ferocious Luggage with hundreds of legs that eats whatever is inconvenient or disliked in its path?

WD’s E. Tip: Pratchett’s writing is ironic and very, very funny.  If you enjoy British humor, this book, and this series, is for you! It’s a great way to learn how to write humor.

Introducing Susan Pawlicki, Editor at Written Dreams

As Written Dreams expands to be a great resource for authors, I look for the best people to help grow this business with me. I was so impressed with Susan’s editing skills, it seemed the perfect fit for her to be a part of our team. Introducing Susan Pawlicki, our talented non-fiction and fiction editor at Written Dreams!

WD: Tell us about your family. What do they think of your editing?

SP: I have two daughters at home, Emily, who is twenty, and Sarah, who is seventeen. Both are students at the local college; Emily is studying art education and Sarah is still in the decision making stage. (Historian? Lawyer? Psychologist? ) Both girls have become avid readers and writers, which is a true joy in my life. They are most happy about my editing for Written Dreams: I truly enjoy the process of editing and I’m a happier person when I have a project at hand.

WD: What are your hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time?

SP: I’m a voracious reader who enjoys everything from “Paradise Lost” to Calvin and Hobbes, so I always have a book or two going. My daughters are both great readers as well, so years ago we designated one table in the house to be the “Reading Table”—right now it has (let me check) twelve books on it ranging from a history of snowflakes to Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men—I’m teaching it in a couple weeks—to a volume on Mary Todd Lincoln and her maid/confidante, Elizabeth Keckly.

In the summer I’m an enthusiastic bike (the pedal kind) rider and outdoor runner; at the moment, though, I’m running on a treadmill to get ready for the Illinois Half-Marathon at the end of April. I like riding the bike because you can cover a fair amount of distance in a short period of time, and out here in rural Illinois it’s just beautiful in the spring, summer and autumn—there’s always something to be discovered on a ride. Running makes me feel fit and healthy, and it challenges both my self-discipline and my will. It makes me a stronger person.

WD: What compelled you to get into editing?

SP: I’ve always loved writing and about the time I began teaching writing at the local college, a friend who was starting a business asked me to look over some writing for him. The volume of writing grew to the point he felt uncomfortable asking me to do the work as a friendly gesture, so voila—I became an editor. And the rest is history! 🙂

WD: Who are some of your favorite authors to read?

SP: My favorite author is F. Scott Fitzgerald. He’s my favorite. What a vocabulary that man has! Emerson and Thoreau. I’m a big fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, too; reading Remains of the Day was a revelation to me; the writing is beautiful without calling attention to itself and rarely has a character been created so three-dimensionally. Hemingway. C.S. Lewis—The Screwtape Letters seems mandatory reading for consideration of good and evil. Terry Pratchett—how can one man be so profound and yet so funny? Robert Penn Warren may well be joining the list; I’m reading All The King’s Men to teach it for a homeschool high school literature class, and his writing thus far is extraordinary!

WD: Who, in your life, has had a large impact on your way of thinking?

SP: Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are up there at the top of the list. Both have greatly influenced my religious and spiritual beliefs, as well as my philosophy of daily living. My daughters, who over the years have brought up or pointed out the obvious that my adult brain was overlooking, have also been a great influence.

WD: What compels you to continue reading a story?

SP: Real characters, an initial intriguing plot element. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie begins with a young girl trying to save her twin infants from dying of whooping cough—I was sucked into the story line immediately! Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled creates a dream-like atmosphere in which you’re unsure of what is real and what is not right from the first page.

WD: What advice would you share with beginning writers?

SP: Write, and then write some more. Don’t get pulled away from your writing by outside distractions, and don’t give up too soon. This business of writing takes a lot of hard word and discipline.

WD: What advice would you share with seasoned writers?

SP: See advice for beginning writers. I don’t think the process ever changes that much…Even when you’ve had a measure of success, writing is about putting part of yourself out in the world for others to see, and that in and of itself can be scary or discouraging.

WD: What is one goal you’d like to accomplish in 2013?

SP: I’m a goal-oriented person, so it’s hard to limit myself to one! I’d like to help multiple authors get published. I want to run a 2:45 half marathon. And I’m taking my own advice and writing a story a week—if you’re trying the project, too, feel free to drop me an email—we can commiserate! 🙂

Thanks, Susan, for being our guest today so others can learn more about you! If you’d like to contact Susan, you can email her at Susan@writtendreams.com. To see a list of our services go to: writtendreams.com

 

E. Tip of the Week: Take Advantage

Take advantage of another writer’s experience to help you grow as the writer you want to be.

One of my favorite books to read for writers is Spider, Spin Me A Web by Lawrence Block. Books like this are great tools for writers to use when they’re looking for inspiration, or how to use a new tool from their writing toolbox.

Early in the book Block talks about reading, and how important it is to read a lot when you’re a writer. You learn by reading other writer’s works. And you learn when you sit down at your desk and write every day.

To see a full list of our suggested reading materials for writers, visit our page here: https://7b5.22f.godaddywp.com/Coaching.html

Reader Review: The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone

Title: The Romeo and Juliet Code

Author: Phoebe Stone

Format: Trade Paperback

Page Count: 300 pages

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Reviewer: Samantha

The Romeo and Juliet Code is a very good book. It has a lot of action, suspense, love, and happiness. The setting is World War II, when a young British girl, Felicity, is sent to live with her uncle, aunt, and grandmother in Maine until the war ends. During her stay, Felicity finds letters from her father addressed to her uncle that causes her great concern. While dealing with trying to figure out the code of the letters, she gets her first crush.

WD’s Editorial Tip: This is a great example of how to take a character out of their comfort zone and place them into a different culture they’re unfamiliar with in a real-life setting.

A New Year, A New Week, A New Day

As we begin a new year, it’s easy to stress over all the writing goals you want to accomplish in a year’s time. Take a deep breath, now make a list, and prioritize it. What’s the one most important thing you’d like to accomplish that is writing-related in 2013?

Is it finishing the novel of your heart? Starting a new novel? E-publishing? Getting fresh eyes on New marketing strategies? A new look for your website? Getting a website? A map for your novel? A character novel bible for your series? Perfecting that query letter or synopsis? A writing coach to help motivate you to keep on top of your goals?

If you have a 2013 goal that is writing-related, the staff at Written Dreams can help. View our list of services here: writtendreams.com

Or email us through our Contact Us page on our website here: https://7b5.22f.godaddywp.com/Contact_Us.html

Then, when you’ve accomplished all your goals, think of the wonderful vacation that’s waiting for you! 🙂