Editing Chapter One: How to Writing?

How do you edit the first chapter of your story is a question every fiction writer asks, and it is a question I’ve done my share of struggling with. However I think I’ve found the most important bit of advice when dealing with the beginnings of any story, and even any non-fiction piece. Whether you’re doing chapter one or the opening paragraph of an essay, you are doing a fine balancing act. You have to give as much information as possible to the reader without overwhelming them, but also ensuring they’re following along with everything you say. The opening of your story, regardless of genre, will sink or swim your novel. While I don’t claim to have perfected the opener, I do claim to have worked at working around and through common mistakes authors are prone to make. And so I’m going to offer the best advice I’ve ever heard for editing chapter one of a novel, advice I was reminded of by the lovely Stephanie London via her youtube channel.

When you’re writing you feel the pressure to get everything just so because you want to be clear about who, what, where, and why. However, the dangers of exposition are many. Since I’ve been an active member of scribophile I can tell you that I’ve seen my share of wonderful tales bogged down by the exposition fairy. That little butthole flew through the window and just refused to leave from the moment the story began. The exposition fairy encourages telling not showing and harkens back to the way we most naturally tell stories, orally. But away from the oral tradition you have to put people in the story. You have to give them a front row seat, and if the exposition fairy is guiding your hand at every other paragraph, or god forbid every other sentence, the reader will be stuck in the back of the theater.

So how do we deal with this?

Well, truthfully it will always be tempting to have it happen unless you are a minimalist story teller. Fans of grand epics and sprawling worlds fall prey to the exposition fairy most of all, but everyone can be a target. To that end, you have to write smart. BE vigilante of your own bad writing behaviors, and then keep writing. MAke notes, and even make minor changes but don’t edit constantly while your writing unless you truly benefit from it or it has to happen. Then once your opening is written you have to do this one super important thing. This is the thing that will make all the difference in the world….

Go back through your opening and highlight every ounce of exposition.

Reread and highlight. Whether you print it out or do it digitally, go through and highlight everything that is only there for exposition. What lines only serve to explain what isn’t shown? You may wish to use different colors for exposition related to different characters or events in order to keep track. Sometimes I mark exposition important to the plot with stars or sidebar comments so I know why they’re their and that they matter. If your opening is mostly color coded and coated then chances are you need to tighten that sucker up. You will most likely need to rewrite  the whole thing. It isn’t enough to disguise exposition in unnatural dialogue. It isn’t enough to excuse why its there because it is there for a reason. It isn’t enough for it to be there to help your readers understand. If it isn’t furthering your theme, your plot, your characters, and bringing people into your text then it isn’t working. I say to do this because you need to see how much explaining to the reader you’re doing. Seeing it visually becomes a lot harder to justify or overlook. Does this mean all exposition is evil? Not at all, but there are ways to pace exposition and present it that are vastly superior to walls of text that may not enrich the story.

By doing something as simple as highlighting expository text you are increasing your ability to keep the story in action and moving forward, which will keep your audience engaged.

 

 

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Wattpad and the Problem of Writer Community

If anything will make you a better content writer and a better writer in general it is interacting with other writers. Reading the works of others and having other others read your work elevates you to another level. However the biggest and most common issue a writer faces is getting feedback. Now that’s a broad way of putting it because feedback is buying your books, views, shares, comments, etc. But in this case by feedback I mean what people enjoy or dislike(in a constructive respectful matter). While there are people who write perfectly well in a vacuum even they could stand to gain from interaction. With all that being said…most writer’s communities suck and unfortunately it is in part because of selfish writers who constantly want to take and never give. Two weeks ago I started using Wattpad and the frustration I have always felt with others began to become clearer. The selfishness of fly-by-night writers who steal into writing communities demanding without ever wanting to give is underscored by communities that are swamped by so many fly-by-nighters that all work gets buried.

So how do you get involved?
Now, my opinions may change, but over all they can only change if the community standards change. Wattpad specifically needs more forums that are better organized in order to connect writers and readers more directly. They also need a search system that is at least on par with FanFiction.com, and can separate newer and older stories…BUT more importantly a can be searched on views in order to give everyone a chance to be seen. But wattpad isn’t the only problem.

The problem is us.
Writers keep acting like we can be selfish  and that if we just market we’ll find readers, reviewers, and beta readers. Marketing is important along with everything else, but you can’t hope to get  anything when you don’t give. Writing communities don’t work if writers don’t actually invest in stories they don’t write and participate in not only dissecting their own work, but other’s. You learn so much by reading and talking no matter how introverted you are. As a teenager I thought I was an excellent writer, but after years of workshops I look back fondly at my work while muttering a “Thank Hera” under my breath because I am SO MUCH BETTER. I am not unique.

Critiquing, sharing, and discussing writing exposes you to a wide range of styles, ideas, and concepts that you can dissect in terms of why it works, why it doesn’t, why you like it, and maybe why you do not. The bottom line is when you exit your vacuum you not only learn, but your brain gets going. You learn how to pull apart your own stories and you also learn what other people pick apart. In essence a group of writers or just readers like Wattpad connects  you to your audience. That is one part why community is important because your writing friends can become your buying friends. Not just because they know you, but because you’ve learned what works in your writing and what works for real people and not just for you.

And yet somehow all of these communities suffer the same problem. Some would say it is accountability that’s the problem. Well, everyone is accountable…only to themselves. Somewhere in writing programs and reading classes we never taught people to value interacting with writing and the writer. Yet this is what keeps writers in business and going because who reads more than writers and creators? If we don’t support each other who will?

So I challenge you now to find writing communities.

I challenge you  to not just read, but review and comment on other authors.
I challenge you to help that friend whose writing a novel or poem, by reading and giving honest thoughts about it.

We make the communities we want to live in. Earlier tonight,and not to get political, I was watching a program and a conservative radio host was laughing at the thought of basically any celebrity or anyone with a platform using it. It was whining. It was grandstanding. And I’ll be real conservative republicans have a very nasty habit of assuming everyone to the left of them is insincere and/or weak. Nothing I or anyone to the left of them is real, which is bullshit. But I bring this up because his point was that no one gets to make their community. In his eyes you don’t get to challenge, change, or make a statement about culture. It’s a very dangerous mindset no matter who you support or what you believe. It is dangerous because our communities support us emotionally, economically, and intellectually. Humanity is interacting. Writing for all the solitary hours we spend with a page and our thoughts…requires interacting. Communities inspire writing. Communities inspire you to dream bigger and do better. No one is an island and we all need to do better by each other, by book stores, by bloggers, and by ourselves by engaging with each other.

So I have one last challenge for you…engage more, have fun, and do better by yourself as a content lover and creator. If you do this you may discover stories, authors, and friends that will enrich your life in ways you can never imagine. Please, support each other because if you don’t who will support you?

The Real Problem with Cliches

Cliches aren’t an inherent problem. Shocker. I know. You’d never expect Rosie to say something like that, but it is true. Cliches are not an inherent problem in writing or life. The problem with cliches is twofold sincerity and whether or not they’re boring. A cliche fails when it feels insincere. Let’s put it another way your partner can say “You look great”, but you’ll usually be able to tell when they are really serious or just spouting platitudes. Why? Because there is a difference in tone. Whether your reading a book or a blog you can tell the difference between someone writing passionately and with more than a passing interest to get a concept out.

I say this because I think there are a lot of writers who like the idea of writing and the concept of telling a story, but who don’t want to dig into what they’re writing enough to make it feel authentic. You pick up a book or read someone’s story page and your met with an obvious love of the concept of a character or a relationship, but the writer hasn’t made the story worth your while. They love the idea of this handsome young lad sweeping this girl off her feet…but there is actually no relationship between them except for the writer telling you so. They never have serious conversations or bond beyond steamy scenes, and even if your’re left with a bit of enjoyment you can’t quite believe in their relationship.

Plenty of blogs and stories that I started have not been finished for that very reason. They’re concepts with no depth, and that’s how you fall into the cliche. You don’t sound sincere even if you sincerely want to tell your story. D.D Griggs and I talked about this the other day. Whether you are writing non-fiction or fiction there are cliches and themes. She writes self-help books, and 70% of them are similar or have similar themes that are cliches we can all spout to a certain degree. Writers like her put those cliches into a context and a way of living that is incredibly important, but we’re all familiar with self-help stereotypes of conferences, yogis, and hippies. Most people can tell you one common philosophy in self-help, but neither of those things are inherently bad. What makes a self-help book succeed or fail is a matter of someone liking the author’s style, but more so it is a matter of whether that author is speaking from a place of sincerity and belief. That’s what keeps those cliches from being a problem.

When cliches become a problem is when they’re boring and don’t feel genuine. A blogger talking about “the power of positivism” and working out won’t grab your interest if they are just issuing copy-pasted ideas to their audience. If they don’t let you in to who they are you don’t feel like you can trust them because all you see is surface cliches. The same thing happens in fiction. If you have a book about a werewolf romance that is just paint by numbers it may make money…but it won’t make you an audience for the next book. It won’t get you the sort of repeat readers you want because the readers can tell you aren’t in it and you’re not giving them anything interesting. By that same token, someone else can write the exact same plot (and people do this and do it well) but they make the characters more sincere and write with more passion. They try to keep the story interesting and their readers see that. In blogging and ebook writing I see a lot of people just regurgitating what they think will get them blog follows or downloads, and then I go to forums of people upset and complaining about not getting sales. Well, you aren’t giving a unique product. You give something that is pain by numbers…and so have hundreds of thousands of others, which has hurt the market in many ways all on its own. These writers just don’t see how the cliches aren’t what hurts or helps a story or blog or what have you. It is a matter of how something is written and the tone that allows readers to connect.

Cliches can be powerful tools not only when you subvert them, but when you embrace them with the intention of making them interesting and bringing somethign new to the table with all the sincerity you can muster. This not only applies to the page or screen, but to how you talk to people as well. I hope you keep that in mind when writing holiday cards this season or are getting ready for New Years.

Until next time…

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The Distraction of Writing.

Writing can be a very good distraction from life. That can also be a bit of a problem, but right now I find it to be rather enjoyable. When you write it allows you to step away from yourself even if you’re right about you. Your just surrendering to the moment and the act of creating something wonderful. There is nothing more awesome than the exchange of ideas and we’re lucky to live in an age where we can do it from virtually anytime or anywhere.  Since about 2pm I’ve been reading different articles on writing and marketing on different blogs. It’s been very enlightening and I’ve realized that writing is a source of power when used correctly. Regardless of what you write you begin to step away and just go for your thoughts and getting them down on paper or screen. You manage to keep yourself going. Lately I’ve been struggling with my life. I’m not unique. I won’t claim I anything is special about me. I’m smart. I’m talented. And unfortunately that isn’t enough. It doesn’t matter how hard I work or for how long. Sometimes life just doesn’t go in your favor or how you plan. That’s not sad. It is just life, and our goal is to take a step towards what we want with every single day. I got rejected from two literature magizines and the Bitch Media internship I applied for, but does that mean I am bad at what I do? Not at all. What it means is those things didn’t come through. Nothing’s changed and I just have to keep trying. I write. I spend hours on reading marketing, reading in general, and then I spend at least three hours a day writing.

It is a great distraction.

I create worlds and build characters. I make epic action scenes and intensely romantic works that make me smile, and I hope you smile one day. I’ve accomplished a lot in the last two months.  Suffer too Good and Dirty Honey were written and published. I have a few older stories I’m slowly working through. I’ve edited stuff for another author. I’ve been trying to engage more with the world around me and that makes a difference. Depression doesn’t always care, but all of that means something in holding back the tide. I just wish I had a few more bucks in my pocket, but don’t we all.

A lot of times I hesitate in posting these reflections because so often people look at millennials and call us complainers because we should just swallow everything and pretend things are fine. But truthfully I guess I don’t care. If I’m being wholly honest I only care to preserve my image. Yet I will say here I do feel like I’m standing in a realm of possibilities without any chance of getting to move towards any of them. College debt, lack of job prospects, my current job not actually letting me work, and my floundering sales do a lot to damage my sense of self both as a person and a writer. Worse they make me feel unstable. Sometimes I wonder if I should just call it quits. Not because this is hard, but because I don’t know how long I can live with the state of things because I don’t know if anything I’m doing is worth a damn. No one really does know until someone else tells them, and they say the definition of sanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, which sucks because writing is a repeatable practice. The best writers can do is try and recognize that we could be the next Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, or Arthur Miller but never get our break. BUT we could. Any day now someone can swoop in and pick up your book, click your blog, or hear about your journey….and turn you into the next big thing. Someone could find value in all that you do, and that can revolutionize your entire life.

I hope for being seen, read, and loved. Any writer who tells you they don’t want that is a damned liar and you can tell them I said that. We write to connect if not with others than ourselves. The irony of that is that is what makes writing such a great distraction. Regardless of whether I get my big break or make some cash to pay for my studies I will always hold a pen in my hand. So I work on building my character, my life, and my world into a better place and me into a better self. Writing allows me to think both in and outside myself. It allows me a distraction from the crippling doubt and the depression that makes me wish I wasn’t going to wake up tomorrow. When I can’t sleep from the thoughts in my head I distract myself with stories and writing. The worst nights and days are the ones where that doesn’t work, but luckily those are few and far between. In today’s world every person has to be there best advocate, their best friend, their kindest listener, and in world of creatives their strongest mentor. More than all of that we have to be willing to distract ourselves with our writing because that keeps us going. It pushes us to evaluate, to debate, to think critically, and hopefully come to understand our best assets.

As time goes on I hope to find my place in the world. I don’t want to be rich. I just don’t want to stay poor. I don’t want to be happy. I just want to be content. Until I am able to get to a place where those things I want come true all I can do is write and pray for the best. We all must push forward….the problem is knowing where forward is and how to get there. That’s what no one ever tells you.

 

Writing Wednesday: 5 Day Romance Writing Challenge!

Let’s keep the energy from National Novel Writing Month going and have a 5 day challenge! Every day write at least 1200 words of romance that can be as clean or dirty as you like! The goal is to explore different types of relationships and what romance can be. Don’t limit yourself to Nicholas Sparks style dramas. Go anywhere you want with your works! Just try to hit the 1200 words a day!

The trick is to set aside ten minutes at a time when you have a busy schedule. Take that ten minutes and write anything to just keep the creativity flowing. Now, some people do fine with writing whenever the mood strikes them. Some stories absolutely need that style, but when you build this habit you increase your chances of producing a finished product.

In the romance genre, but in any genre as well, you have to build a positive habit in creating content and pieces in a timely manner. Don’t stress about the quality of what you’re writing. Just have a good time, and do your best. Then at the end of this challenge you can edit and do whatever you like. The point is to get your butt in gear.
GOOD LUCK!

Also if you’re curious about works I’ve written check out my erotic novels:
Suffer too Good

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Dirty Honey

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In Defence of Smut

As some of you know, I work in the book industry. I am surrounded by the latest books on the market, often proofs before they are published. Back around January/February time, I got my hands on a w…

Source: In Defence of Smut

This is an awesome piece I seriously recommend you not only read it but reblog because I really want to break down the snot nosed snobbishness towards one of my genres because it is truly undeserved.

#NaNoWriMo2016 a lesson in Pushing through Depression

So far #NaNoWriMo2016 has been an exercise in pushing forward creativity.  As our Guest Blog touched on the other day depression and anxiety are tricky things. On one hand, psychologically, depression has been linked to creativity. But on the other hand it is so difficult to slip into a deep bout of being unable to do anything with concentration or joy. I’ll be honest my not concentrating is what is making this post possible. However the goal of NaNoWriMo and structure of it really urges me to go forward. Better yet there are prompts, events, and forums that can really help get you into writing; not just the act, but the mindset of writing, which can be hard to enter when you feel the exhaustion of depressive anxiety.

As I struggle with the last few days, with legitimate fears and the frequent response of others that my fears have no merit….often like how they dismiss how every other aspect of who I am lacks credibility or merit though they’re too “good” to admit that, I find myself turning to my daily writing sessions for solace. I find myself begging to do something and that something right now is diving into my creative works. Earlier I didn’t work on my novels, but I began looking through years old folders for stories because I will be damned if my voice, my views, and people who look like me will be ignored.

Sometimes it makes me feel a bit guilty. I imagine for many of you that may be the case. You write and write and then…don’t for several days then you’re behind and that makes you anxious. It happens. I’m sorry. For me I drift between the buoys of how my anxiety and depression manifest.  Right now energy surges through my nerves and veins under my skin. So to sit down and make it manifest as something is awesome instead of having that energy turn into pure weight. This event doesn’t lessen my other feelings or mean I can’t care about multiple things at once. I’m poly so I got the feelings part sorta down pact. Depression means that writing at a time like this makes a person feel connected and useful even in disconnected feelings. After so many years of eye rolling this big ol’event the use and power of it now hits me in the face. I just create. You can just take your power and put it into something and we don’t always get that lucky. If you can do this too then you’re lucky. Maybe it is pure luck that I can do this and not just not feel like doing anything, but regardless NaNoWriMo2016 is saving my mental health thoroughly by keeping me working in a non-toxic environment with a struture that pushes me to work harder, better, and longer….and enjoy as much of it as I can. Even if you disagree with my politics we can both agree this American election…hell this year has been rough. Sometimes we need something to set our minds to work, and after all this a good thing to work on, to give structure, and to get positivety from is what we all need.

If any of you are doing NaNoWriMo I’d love to talk to you about it! Tell me what you’re working on in the comments or give feedback to this post.

 

Learn More about NaNoWriMo here!

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