Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fun Ideas and Tips #2: Index That Novel!

This works best for writers of traditional fantasy, epic fantasy, science-fiction, and anyone writing a series.

A simple way to keep and maintain all the names, places, and even basic information or backstory is to create an index for your novel or series. It’s usually best to begin sooner rather than later in the writing process. If you wait too long it’s a pain to have to comb through your manuscript(s) to jot down the information and make sure you’ve been consistent with things like spelling or description.

Things to keep track of:
1)   Character names, titles, basic description, and background. All of this is mostly for your benefit, but for writers of larger tomes or complex series, you might be asked to include a character list as part of your submission in order to help the reader keep things straight. Put these in alphabetical order for easiest accessibility.
2)   Places. We’re world-building writers and unless your story takes place in a handful of settings or has a narrow world-view, you’ll need a list to keep track of the places you come up with. Things to include are what the place is, what is its significance in the story, and if it’s part of a larger place, eg.: village of _____, in the country of _____. Maps, charts, and such are also good to include. Having all of your place info in one spot makes it easy to find and to double-check.
3)   Your world attributes. Whether it’s a list of the deities involved, special bits of language used (and that you want to share the translation of), how your magic system works, the social/political levels involved, or the scientific info dumps you wisely left out of the narration but still want to share with inquisitive readers.

I keep these kinds of files for my stories, even the simple ones, and I can attest to how valuable a novel index is when I need to quickly check a reference or make sure something’s working right in the plot. I even go a step further and have a master name file for all the characters and places I’ve ever come up with in all my stories. I’ve made up a lot of names over the years and I want to make sure I’m not duplicating myself.

If you’re like me and have constructed more than a few simple language words or grammar rules for your story, you may want to create your own language dictionary. I put the words in alphabetical order, note how to pronounce them, any changes in spelling due to grammar, what they mean, and in my most complex case I also list the way the words evolve from one dialect to another. It’s a lot of work sometimes but the payoff has been rewarding.

When submitting your story to agents/editors, and you have complex world-building, be sure to include the maps you’ve drawn and the basic lists you’ve needed to keep things straight. If unsure what to send, take a look at what other authors have included in their books and how.

I'm sure some of you are good at keeping track of the details in your stories. If you have a method other than the one I've written about, please share in the comments.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Villainy Part 3: Guts and Innovation

Wanted: A non-clichéd antagonist for novel. Must have conviction, guts, and brains. Special skills or knowledge a plus. Motivational, innovative, and charismatic individuals need only apply.

A good antagonist isn't passive, even if they use the illusion of being so. They are active. They are also not active in ways that are easily predictable. And if they do show a predictable route, you can bet it's a red herring meant to throw the protagonist and the reader off.

Innovation: (from 1. something new or different introduced 2. the act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods.

So an innovative villain uses new means to achieve their desired outcome. They have to think outside-the-box and deliver a wow factor (big or small.) Brains come into play here, as does their own special skills and knowledge pools. Connections with others is also a plus if your villain is a good manipulator.

This is one way you can make your story different from others that are similar or in the same genre. Write down the first antagonist plot outline or plan you can think of. Then write a handful of other possibilities. You'll find that the harder you push yourself to come up with a new idea, the better the ideas will get and the unpredictability factor will rise.

Guts: (from courage; bravado.

An antagonist must have what it takes to see their plans reach fruition. Even overcoming their own weaknesses or moral codes. If they have a strong motivation for what they want/do they also need to have the guts to carry out the means. In most good villain cases, they have more guts than the protagonist does up until the climactic end. Maybe it won't be an obvious part of your story but does your antagonist's inner journey climax at this point as well? Not worth the effort? You'd be surprised what a difference it makes in tension and plot around the climax and ending of the book if there are signs of a peak in the antag's inner journey.

If you struggle with this aspect of villainy, I recommend reading a few good mysteries. Mystery writers do these kind of villains well, since innovative and gutsy antagonists are a staple in that genre. I wish more speculative fiction writers employed antagonists with this combination.

If you know of some MG,YA, or speculative fiction books that have great examples of innovative and gutsy antags, please share in the comments. Likewise if you read mysteries and can share some great reading recommendations, please do.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday Link Special #10

I did start collecting great links for you all last week but ran out of time to put them together. So...I'm compiling two weeks worth of links and again apologize for not having time to read through all of the blogs I normally do. I'm sure I've missed some great stuff. For what it's worth, and if you have some time for perusal, here we go.

Agent alerts for those who are querying:
GLA has an agent interview with Deirdre Knight of The Knight Agency. She's looking for: "romance, nonfiction, literary fiction, young adult and middle grade lists with debut or established authors."

Bookends has a new agent, Lauren Roth and she's looking for: Literary fiction, romance (all subgenres), women's fiction, chick-lit, YA, MG, mystery, SF & fantasy, historical fiction, and steampunk.

Literary Rambles has a spotlight on Mandy Hubbard of D4E0 Literary. She's looking for: MG and YA in all genres.
And L.R. has a spotlight on Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency. She's looking for: "Science Fiction, Mystery, Commercial Fiction, Fantasy, Women's Fiction, Romance, Young Adult, Thrillers/Suspense, Erotica."

On the topicsof writing:
Writer's Digest shares 4 Ways to Make Every Word Count and 8 Ways to Write Better Characters.
Adventures in Children's Publishing has a post on Building a Better Novel Premise.
Write it Sideways: How Cliched is Your Writing? Take the Test
In the Jungle confronts trends as she discusses Fashionable Writing.
On a similar note (and if you still care after reading the link right before this), there's a post by Karen McCoy: YA Books in Libraries--What's Popular? Some interesting facts and figures in this one.
Agent Kristin points out the most Groan Worthy openings to novels. Nathan Bransford also blogs about Five Openings to Avoid and why. And if you need some more examples pop on over to where she dissects the openings of volunteer submissions in a series of workshops.
Jessica from Bookends brings up the subject of Word Count in an Epub World.
Patricia Wrede blogs about the difference between Surprise and Suspense in a novel and the problems that go with Rewriting the Past.

When it comes to critiquing: (Which is a topic close to me right now--Go Posting Marathon!!)
Sarah LaPolla posts about The Beta & Omega (all things beta reader.) And she also posts What I Talk About When I Talk About Revisions, her process when requesting manuscripts for possible representation.
Courtney Miller-Callihan reveals not only what kind of editing/non-editing agent she is but also the different kinds of editors that see an accepted novel through the publishing process: On Criticsm and Critiques. But Mostly Editing.

If you suffer from writing discouragment and need a picker-upper:
T.K. Richardson writes about Why We (Don't) Quit Writing.
Jane Friedman blogs about 5 Things More Important Than Talent.

And if you are bored, have time on your hands, or want to procrastinate yet feel like you're doing something writing related, you'll find more linkage here.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Villainy Part 2: Motivation

Wanted: A non-clichéd antagonist for novel. Must have conviction, guts, and brains. Special skills or knowledge a plus. Motivational, innovative, and charismatic individuals need only apply.

Motivation may seem like an easy ingredient when making an antagonist, but putting some thought into the antagonist of your story can have an enormous payoff. Why does that bully at school like to pick on your protagonist in particular? Why has the serial killer honed in on the protag or someone the protagonist knows? What drives the quiet woman to become a murderer? Why must the antagonist win that competition no matter what? Why is this ruler bent on destroying his neighbors and conquering the world? What does the antagonist have to gain? Was it easy for them to make the decision to follow this path or do they struggle with it? Is someone else forcing their hand? Is there another antagonist behind the main antagonist of the novel?

Why does the antagonist see themselves as the protagonist, especially if their ways-to-a-means is illegal or ethically wrong? What redeeming or good points are there to the antagonist's plan? How do they see their path as helping themselves or others?

To really get to the heart of a villain's motivation is to dig deep as a writer and get to know your antagonist as well as your protagonist. Maybe their motivations are rooted from something in their backstory. Maybe they've had an inciting event before your protagonist which gets everything in motion. Maybe the antagonist is ready for a change and opportunity has come knocking. Maybe they've been planning this for a long time and feel ready to make their move.

All kinds of things can be used as a motivation: religion, politics, social behaviors, abuse, neglect, wealth, power, love, hate, rejection, justice, acceptance, insanity, obsession, etc. Figuring out what that core motivation is will help develop a good antagonist in all writing elements: plot, character, dialogue, quirks, and conflict.

An antagonist's motivation also needs to be realistic. Here the writer needs to graduate from the motivations seen in their childhood, such as in cartoons and comic books (not that all villains in these are clichéd or canned) and really check to make sure readers aren’t going to close the book with a frown or a sarcastic “yeah, right.” Yes, it does mean more work and time on the part of the writer. Plots and conflict become so much stronger when you take that time. Nothing kills a story like a bad or generalized motivation on the part of the antagonist. Their job is to be a genuine challenge for the protagonist. The greater the challenge, the stronger the protagonist becomes (and so does the story.)

So if you haven't invested time in your antagonist yet, take a few minutes and really look at their motivation(s) for what they do, say, and feel. It's a great way to crack writer's block, ramp up a boring scene, and identify key turning points in the manuscript.

Question for you: What sorts of poor motivations will make you close a book or hate a movie? Either for the antagonist or the protagonist. Are there any motivations you feel are overdone these days? Any specific motivations you'd like to see more of?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fun Ideas and Tips #1: A Private Table of Contents

Whether a story will officially have an actual Table of Contents (TOC) or not, keeping one to yourself while writing can help you keep tabs on quite a few things.

1. Give a title to each chapter or major section of your story. That way it's easy to reference back to it instead of trying to remember page numbers or which numerical chapter heading each scene occurs in. These titles don't have to be fantastic or permanent, just something to hit your memory buttons for optimum organization.

2. Make note of the number of pages or word count next to the chapter titles to give you an idea of how large or small your chapters/sections are. This comes in handy when you need to combine or sever chapters or when you're looking for chunky places to reduce word count.

3. Put a one or two-line summary beneath the chapter titles. This acts like a mini outline of sorts, helps with remember what happened where, and can show you where the key beats of the story are taking place. It'll reveal where flat chapters are too.

4. Switching POVs throughout the book? Your private TOC can showcase whose POV each chapter is in and how often you switch them around. Maybe you've stayed too long in one POV and neglected another. Maybe you intended to switch every other chapter and this will help you stay on top of that.

5. A private TOC is also a great place to mark demolition and completion. Need to work on Chpt. 10 but haven't figured out how yet? Put a note next to it in the TOC so you don't forget the where. Have Chpts. 1-5 polished to a glow? Celebrate by checking them off in your private TOC.

A private TOC is like a master sheet for the book. You don't have to use all five of the above suggestions. You may find other uses that will help you achieve your writing goals. Have other great ideas for a private TOC? Please share in the comments.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Villainry Part 1: Brains

Wanted: A non-clichéd antagonist for novel. Must have conviction, guts, and brains. Special skills or knowledge a plus. Motivational, innovative, and charismatic individuals need only apply.

A good antagonist isn't stupid when it comes to their role in the story. They believe they are the protagonist, they believe their way of doing things is right, and the really good ones have thought through the issues and possible twists of fate to find their desired outcome. They have brains.

A good antagonist doesn't marinate off-stage while the protag is busy in the limelight. The antag is doing their best to stay a step or two ahead. They may have no narrative voice or POV in the story so it's the writer's job to make sure these unsung villains of fiction get their dues.

Of course, usually, at some point the protag is going to trip them up. How easily is this done? We've all cringed at a movie or book where the antag turns out to be a fluff bunny on the inside or downright absent-minded at the critical moment and the protag sails through the climax gaining all except the satisfaction of defeating a true challenge. Villain-fail. And if the villain fails to give the reader/watcher the most bang for their money, the protag doesn't really win either.

Some things to keep in mind when checking your antag's smarts:
1) What is their backstory? What put them on that particular path and way of following it? What drives them, motivates them, compels them? What's at stake for them?
Please don't say world/galactic domination and glory.
2) What is their personality? Yes. They need one. What character traits do they have that will rub the protag the wrong way and vice versa? What drives them batty? What fills them with fiendish glee? What quirks do they have that might be used for foreshadowing, further wrong-doing, or even humor?
Having a villainous laugh and a fancy for piranhas in the moat doesn't count.
3) What are they good at? What are their special skills? Do they have expertise in not only subjects dealing with the main conflict of the story but side-subjects that might throw more stumbling blocks in front of the protag?
Doomsday machines, nifty laser weapons, and secret passwords—um, right.
4) Who are their people? You know, the characters that live and work around them? Who can they use to further their goals and how? Who shares their goals? Who gets in the way of those goals, aside from the protag and their people? Good antagonists know how to manipulate, delegate, and keep their hands clean.
Hiring dumb, big-bodied hench-people, so overdone.
5) Smart villains have back-up plans. If they can't get Goal A, what is Goal B? If they can't obtain Goal B will they settle for Goal C?
Hm...might need to do some plot outlining on the side for this one. Or you could forget it and just have the ready get-away steed in a cave but somehow that rings of cliché.
6) If antags can find a short-cut, they'd use it. This hails to bad planning on the overall plot and the protag's journey. If the villain could have demolished the hero early on but instead is mysteriously absent long enough for the hero to get their training in or learn the secrets of the cosmos, then that is a massive fail all around. Use your antag to drive your plotting. Let their brains antagonize you, as the writer, and lift your story to better heights.
7) A smart antagonist mentally steels themselves to hide their deeds. They are good at lying, poker faces, alibis, and have their arguments planned out in advance. Red herrings? They have one or two up their sleeves when the occasion demands it.
8) Though they might not admit it, a real antagonist also goes through growth during the course of the story. Whether they become the antag when originally they were not, or turn around and become friends with the protag, or go from reason to insanity—their growth needs to be marked as well. Antags do not stay the same from beginning to end. Push their good and bad buttons with each scene they're in. They get smarter too, even when losing.

We love to invest time and thought in our protagonists. They're the ones we root for. Make them even more sympathetic by giving them antagonists that will push them to greatness. The antagonists start out smarter, more prepared, and with the edge. They call the shots.

What about unintentional protags vs. antags? Some stories the protag stumbles into the antag's way or the antag isn't sure who the exact protag is and makes a mistake or two which soon IDs the protag and gets the two forces colliding. The antagonist still needs to be the stronger element and smart enough to take the changes in stride and work with them to their advantage.

Creating smart antagonists is one way to avoid clichéd villains and one way to make a stronger story. Not that every antagonist needs to be another Professor Moriarty. They don't have to have the big IQ to be smart and challenging. But a little thought and care into the role and character of the antagonist will go a long way to improving the story. We need more memorable villains. Be mean to your protagonists and show your villains more love.

For fun to illustrate one of my points:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Link Special #9

I  never call summer lazy and mine's kicked off with a bang. I've tumbled out of back problems and a neck brace into the arms of some Herculean yardwork, keeping up with my kids' school activities and homework (yes, even they don't have lazy summers) and putting my writing on the back burner in order to get some good-old-schooling through a madhouse of critiquing sessions with several other writers. It's exhilerating and exhausting at the same time and I learn so much I wouldn't trade the experience for many typical summer traditions. So to take 2-3 hours to read through my ever growing list of great blogs for this week's linkage was something of a sacrifice but I'm happy to say I've got the goods and here they are:

Regarding publishing:
Thinking about using a pen name or wondering what you can do with it right now? Check out this over at A Steampunk Reverie and this over at Jami Gold's blog for some great advice.
Agent Courtney shares some great tips On Professionalism and Communication with agents.
Wahoo! Kristin Nelson shares a hint that Speculative Fiction is in demand! More of an emphasis on science-fiction and horror here.
Alan Rinzler has an encouraging post about how the industry is changing and authors are calling more of the shots. Some good things to think about in this post.

Topics on Writing:
Pop over to Ready.Write. Go. for a post On Dialogue and Characterization (Or Specifically, Slang and Dialect Use).
Rachelle Gardner has a few choice words to say about Exclamation Point usage.
Patricia C. Wrede discusses characters as indivduals.
Eli Ashpence tackles Cliches and Rug-Pulling and shares her take on How to Become a Writer (8 General Steps for Beginners).
Tackling the topic of the beginning of your novel: Stephanie DeVita writes about Diving Right In, Jennifer Laughran points out a huge beginning no-no in YA novels in her post On Bordeom (which as a beta reader I whole-heartedly say amen! to), and Mary Kole has some great points and tips about The All-Important Beginning...
Then over at It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets an Agent there's a great post on endings.

For people on the agent prowl:
GLA has a new agent alert for Meredith Barnes of Lowenstein Associates. She's looking for: "a wide range of engaging fiction for all ages, including literary fiction, women’s fiction, thrillers and crime. She is open to science fiction and fantasy that has something new to offer the genres. Ender's Game is her favorite book, so we’ll leave it at that. She does not represent early readers or children’s picture books. For nonfiction, she is extremely interested in health, fitness, and spirituality nonfiction with a strong author platform and online presence. For both nonfiction and fiction, Meredith considers more than just the print possibilities. Projects that lend themselves to apps, enhanced ebooks, and other fresh ways to tell stories are especially appealing."

And they have an agent advice interview with Taylor Martindale of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. She's looking for: "She is most interested in acquiring young adult fiction—specifically gritty contemporary and unique paranormal/urban fantasy. She also accepts children's picture books, commercial fiction, women's fiction, and multicultural fiction. She does not want business, political, or science books; cookbooks, or self-help."

Have a great weekend! And to my comrades-in-arms from the Speculative Fiction Group on AQC, thanks for a stellar opening weekend of the 3rd Annual Posting Marathon. It's going to be a great summer.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Interview With Angie Sandro--Newly Represented!

Instead of a blog spotlight this week I'd like to share an interview with paranormal-fantasy writer Angie Sandro, fresh from the query trenches and who recently landed an agent. I know Angie from Agent Query Connect. She's a fantastic critic when it comes to query letters, has an engaging writing style, and is a very nice person. If you're in the middle of the query process or about to begin, hopefully this interview will prove helpful and encouraging.

J.A.: How long have you been writing? What are your favorite genres to write?
A.S.: My sister recently reminded me of a story I wrote in the fifth grade, a ten page handwritten horror novel about the devil possessing a man in a haunted house. She said that story scared her so bad, she slept with the lights on for a week. I ended up passing the story around to my classmates and their response to it fueled my desire to write for an audience of more than just family. I kept writing, but not seriously until last year. On my birthday, I had an epiphany. Life is too short not to go for your dreams, and my dream has always been to get published. So I buckled down and focused on learning the craft of writing and finished three manuscripts in the YA genre. Every story I have ever written has horror, romance, or fantasy aspects.

J.A.: What are your favorite genres to read? What books have had the most impact on you?
A.S.: My favorite genres are horror and fantasy. I think the books that had the most impact on me personally were David Eddings’s, The Belgariad series. I read this series at the age of thirteen, and it was the first fantasy series I’d ever read. Before that, it was all Judy Blume and Sweet Valley High novels. I had no idea that fantasy could be so entertaining. I fell in love with this genre and moved on to Raymond E. Feist, Anne Mccaffrey, etc. Then I found Stephen King. I still read The Stand every time I catch the flu. I love his worlds.

J.A.: Aside from writing, what do you love to do?
A.S.: I love reading (I’m a book addict), bike riding, knitting, genealogy, and hanging with my family.

J.A.: What can you tell us about your agent and the process of signing on with her?
A.S.: Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary is my agent and she’s fantastic. I was reading this blog (thank you Joyce), and learned that Kathleen was accepting queries in the young adult genre. I started researching her online and found her interview with Monica B.W. on the Love YA blog, Kathleen said, “Topics of particular interest to me include reincarnation, the occult, the supernatural (not in a zombie or vampire context, more psychic, or witchy, or fey), ghosts (a scary ghost story? yes, please), and psychology.”

I thought, wow, she’s perfect! I sent her the query letter for Juju’s Child, and received a full request for the manuscript half an hour later. The next morning, she called with an offer of representation saying she “loved” the book. Her response was everything that I dreamed of finding a prospective agent.

In one day, less than 24 hours, my life changed with one phone call. This is the reason why no matter how sick and tired you are of the daily query rejects hitting your inbox—YOU CAN’T GIVE UP. Today could be the day.

J.A.: May we see your agent-winning query letter?
Dear Ms. Rushall,

When seventeen-year-old Malaise LaCroix finds a dead girl floating in the bayou, she crosses her mama by reporting the murder to the police. She’s naive enough to think the girl’s parents will be grateful, but Mama warns her otherwise. Of course, once folk start dying, Mala wishes she’d listened and left the girl for gator–bait.

Mala’s innocence becomes overshadowed by the pesky rumors that her aunt is an infamous New Orleans Hoodoo Queen and her mama can shrivel a guy's, well, man-parts. Even the boy Mala’s in love with is afraid to stray too close. Thing is, Mala thinks believing in magic is for weak-minded fools, until the dead girl starts haunting her.

The desperate spirit crushes the minds of those she influences and needs Mala’s latent psychic gift, willing or not, to expose her murderer. And once the girl’s father, Reverend Prince learns his daughter’s body has been drained of blood in what he assumes is a magical ritual, he sets out on an old-fashioned witch-hunt.

To keep from becoming the soul’s possession, or worse, being burned at the stake, Mala turns to the two guys whose own agendas don’t include helping an outcast such as herself—the cop she’s pined after since ninth grade that is investigating the murder and the ghost’s grief-crazed brother who uses Mala’s attraction to him as a weapon for revenge.

I was thrilled to see your interview on the Love YA blog, especially your request for something "witchy", and hope you'll be intrigued by JUJU'S CHILD, a 79,000 word young adult. Mala Lacroix is a  teenage,  African-American Sookie Stackhouse who gets caught up with the supernatural--ghosts instead of vampires--romance and murder. This manuscript was inspired by my rich, Louisiana Creole cultural heritage .

J.A.: How long did you query before finding your agent?
A.S.: I began querying in 2010 on another manuscript which I ended up shelving after querying 180 agents. While I was querying that book, I began writing Juju’s Child in October 2010, and started querying it in February 2011. I found my agent in May 2011. So basically, it was a year and a half of querying agents.

J.A.: What advice would you give to those who are actively querying or getting ready to query? 
A.S.: Ah, research, research, and research some more. There are many online resources like where you can get tips on everything from drafting your first manuscript, writing synopsis and query letters, and finding agents. I wrote about my take on writing query letters on Kate Evangelista’s blog Reads, Reviews, and Recommends: The Anatomy of a Query Letter.

J.A.: What have you learned from writing and querying that you didn't know before?
A.S.: When I started querying, I knew nothing. Not a clue about how challenging and thrilling this process can be. It certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. The key is to keep learning and growing. Connect with others who are going through the same process and learn from them.

J.A.: How important were your beta readers?
A.S.: I wouldn’t be where I am today without my critique partners and beta readers. We met during the Speculative Fiction Posting Marathon and Agent Query Connect last year, and after finishing the marathon we continued on together. We’ve grown so much as writers and as friends.

J.A.: And for fun: If you were to change one thing about the world tomorrow (big or small) what would it be?
A.S.: For some reason I’m having a hard time finding an answer that doesn’t sound like I’m in a beauty pageant asking for world peace or feeding the homeless. Which are things I would love to change about the world, but I think I’m going with my dream. Personally, I’d like to see more emphasis on developing our space program in the direction of eventually colonizing new worlds, seeking out new life….boldly going….Yeah, I’m a geek and proud of it.

We like geeks on this blog. Great dream. Thank you, Angie! It's great to be able to see the light at the end of the query tunnel. Best of luck to you and your agent as you move on to the next step in the publishing process.

Angie Sandro can be found at:
On Twitter: @AngieSandro

For information about Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary:
Guide to Literary Agents Spotlight (note, she has since changed agencies)
The Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC (note, they haven't added Ms. Rushall into the agent link yet but you can find out about the agency here)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Adjectives, Adverbs, and Sneaky Profanity

Purple prose, too many adjectives, relying on the handicap of adverbs: all no-no’s. We’re supposed to use strong nouns and verbs to cut back the clutter.

Instead of “She wore a dress of cloudy, gauzy, light purple material.” use “She wore a dress of lavender tulle.” Fewer words, more distinct, gets the job done.

Instead of “He menacingly walked toward her.” use “He slunk toward her.”

You don’t have to slash and burn every adjective or adverb known to man from your manuscript. They are legitimate parts of speech and have a place in writing. The overuse or misuse of them is the crime. 

Then we get to a seldom mentioned tangent, profanity. Now, I’m not going to touch the “Should we use profanity in writing?” debate. I’m talking about substituting profanity for adjectives and adverbs. I’m baffled this hasn’t been brought up widely. The use of profanity is something of a sacred cow on both sides of the moral debate. So without stepping on too many toes, may I point out that using profanity as an adjective/adverb crutch is just as bad as abusing actual adjectives and adverbs?

Example: *Bleep* kids. How was he supposed to sleep with all that *bleep* *bleep* racket going on every *bleep* *bleep* morning? Today he’d confront their *bleep* parents.

One could easily stick in adjectives and adverbs for each of those profane bleeps. I've read published books where page after page I've stumbled over sentences riddled with this kind of descriptive structure. A lot of authors and writers put in profanity where adjectives and adverbs normally go. It makes for a jarring read; as annoying as purple prose.

Style issue? Sneaky writing is more like it.

A person might as easily argue that their true voice relies on the same five or six adv./adj. in order to showcase their style. Writers are often warned to watch for repetitive words. They stick out and hit the reader between the eyes. I read a book once where the writer used the two words "ostentatious" and "redundant" repeatedly (ironic, I know.) The more I stumbled over those words the more they pulled me from the narrative flow. The same thing goes for adj./adv.-like profanity. It may show the writer's natural language use but it also reveals how limited the writer's vocabulary is. I can see a character or two having this kind of voice, but unless your story is first person in that character’s head, it’s lazy writing to use profanity in place of adjectives and adverbs all through the book. Use stronger nouns and verbs. You can get the snark or anger across just fine without the profanity tactic.

Profanity as an interjection, sure. Occasional use as an adjective or adverb, as long as the situation calls for it. But watch out for the tendency to prolifically use profanity, adjectives, and adverbs with the assumption that no one can criticize the practice because it’s your style. It’s still lazy writing. No moral or ethical debate needed. I’m being strictly technical here to unmask the beast.

It's a fine line, as are most elements of writing. Be true to your style as a writer and be true to your characters' voices but watch for repetition and adj./adv. abuse. Find ways to cut down your word count by eliminating these kinds of crutches and making the effort to find better words.

Anyone else noticed the overuse and abuse of adjectives, adverbs, and profanity in what they read or write? Have any good examples of when adjectives, adverbs, and profanity are acceptable? Please share.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturday Link Special #8

Here are this week's gleanings and there are some gems in this batch:

Let's start with literary agents, for those of you on the prowl.
Michael Bourret from Dystel & Goderich updates what he is looking for, and he wants stories off the beaten track or that are hard to categorize. Sound like your current novel? Take a look and see if you might be a  match.
GLA has another new agent spotlight, this one for Jessie Cammack who has joined JABberwocky Literary. Jessie is looking for: epic fantasy, YA science fiction, literary fiction. Check out the interview for more details.
Jennifer Laughran weighs on dream agents, lists, and query letters. This is a must read post if you are querying or starting to query. She has another fantastic post that gives writers a reality check. The benefits of writers teaming up together online. And on the flip side: you aren't unloved or a bad writer if you aren't on every social networking site known to man. Loved this one.

On the topics of writing and craft:
Greenwoman wrote a great post about properly researching plants for novels. All I can say is, well put.
Eli Ashpence writes about using good description when writing.
Slate contributor Noreen Malone points out the problems with overusing the em dash. And at Ready. Write. Go. Cherie talks about the difference between the em dash and the en dash. tackles Physical Cliches. (Prepare for some more revisions after reading this one!)
Agent Rachelle Gardner resurfaces some archived posts on Write Your Truth, Backstory, and Having Fun Writing vs. Getting Writing Done.
Guest writer, Sarah Allen posts in Pimp My Novel about 5 Tools to Carry in a Conspiring Universe. Good tips to make writing on the go or at any time easier.

With regards to publishing:
Author Beth Revis has an enlightening post for both teens and adults alike regarding teen writers seeking to publish.
Author Patricia C. Wrede shares her own dose of reality when it comes to Cash Flow and writing output in the publishing world.
Darke Conteur distinguishes the difference between fanfic and seeking to cash in on someone else's story.

Happy reading!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Blog Spotlight #11 Beach Reads With Bite

This week I'm happy to share/introduce you to Jami Gold, Paranormal Author and her blog. Jami's blog hits the nerve center of writing and she puts a lot of thought into her blogposts regarding craft and publishing. She also shares great links, has a newsletter sign-up, and a simple, easy-to-use blog format. She's not cluttered. Her achives are easily accessible and worth going through. I enjoy the professional and personable voice of her blog. If you've been thinking about diving into blog waters and want some ideas on what a great blog looks and sounds like, jump on over and see what Jami has done.

Some gems from Jami Gold's blog:

There's a lot more. I love it when I find great author blogs like this one.

Why are you still here? Go look at Jami's blog!