Category Archives: Writing With Kids

Yes, the writing, and the kids

3 ways to avoid inconsistency

Think… Monsters Inc. Remember that line, when Mike and Sully leave the apartment and Mike says to Sully, “You’ve been jealous of my looks since the fourth grade.” Remember that? Good.

Now, think… Monsters University. And how jealous Sully was of his good looks in the… Fourth grade? Wait.

The entire premise of Monsters University makes that line in Monsters Inc completely impossible. Not to mention they act like they’ve never met the Abominable Snowman when they get banished in Monsters Inc, but the end of Monsters University flips that on it’s head as well.

You can’t blame Monsters Inc too much. I mean, how long was it between the first movie and the second? Time between storytelling is a perfect excuse for inconsistency. Just take a look at X-men. Which one? Oh, take your pick. You can pretty much sit down and watch any two x-men movies and there will probably be something that contradicts something else.  My favorite is “X-men Origins: Wolverine” versus “The Wolverine.” We find out in Origins that Logan had bone-claws, got them fused with adamantium, and then shortly thereafter lost all memory of his life before. But the opening sequence in the Wolverine shows Logan hanging in a well using his bone claws to hold him up. When this scene is mentioned later in the show, Logan seems to remember the occurrence.

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photo credit: mememaker.net

Inconsistencies pop up in almost any series, and even in standalone stories. What we say at “once upon a time” might conflict with what we say at “happily ever after.” We’re never going to be able to make that perfect (That’s a recurring theme throughout my blog) but here are some pieces of advice you can try to minimize them.

Style Sheets

I learned about Style Sheets in an editing class I took a few months ago. Basically it’s one piece of paper, or excel document, or whatever works best for your mind, where you write down anything that you might forget. Did you spell your main character’s name Marc or Mark? Write that down. Did your supporting character tell his friend he has a severe peanut allergy? Write it down, because you don’t want him eating a PB&J halfway through the book. (Unless you intend to do a hospital scene shortly thereafter.)

Style sheets are going to help you out in keeping things straight for the novel you’re working on, but if you end up writing a series, make sure to keep your style sheets from book one and two, etc. They will be invaluable. It means you won’t have to go back and read through the first few books while you’re trying to write the next one. That being said, it leads me into my next tip.

Read what you wrote

I know this one seems a bit obvious. But it’s a little more than that. I suppose I should say “read what you wrote, and read it fast.” Don’t skim, because you might skim over the inconsistencies. But before you hit “publish” on that novel, read through the whole book, not with an eye to edit or “fix” it, but with an eye to catch any inconsistencies. It’s incredible how taking a whole afternoon and crashing through your novel, (kind of like one of your addicted readers might do) can help you realize you said one thing in chapter 2 and something else in chapter 28.

And last but not least,

Know your weaknesses

This one I might just be preaching to myself, but I know my weaknesses when it comes to inconsistencies. I might write something on page 87 that says the drive would take seventeen hours to get out to the test site. Perfect. But on page 92, after they’ve done their tests, gotten some lunch, shot the breeze, or whatever, they get in the car to head home and show up just before dinner.

I know I’m awful at timeline stuff. Some people could just put timeline stuff in their style sheet and have no problem. That doesn’t work for me. I invested in a timeline program just last year, and absolutely love it. I can keep track of when things happen, and can even put in notes of how long google says it takes to get from point A to point B. It gives my story a lot more realistic feel to it, when I can say “it took us a day and a half to get to L.A.” rather than just saying, “Sometime later we arrived in L.A.”

So what techniques do you use to keep track of and avoid your inconsistencies? Let me know in the comments below.

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.

 

My Turn to Rave

I know it’s been a while since my last blog post, but here’s why.

I just edited a 56,000 word novel in 10 days. Not to mention having to take care of children and do all the other amazing things I do.

I’m not saying the following things to brag about myself, more to brag about my editor. My editor had a lot of really nice things to say about my novel, Love is Death. You know, it’s great to have your family and friends read your work and tell you it’s good, but there’s just something different about having a professional look at your work and tell you this was a great story and she really enjoyed it.

And speaking of professional, that’s what my editor is. She had a chance to rave about my book in her comments and emails to me, and now it’s my turn to rave about her.

Let me tell you a little more. The “Edited By” acknowledgement of my novel will proudly hold the name Miranda Miller of Editing Realm. Their “tagline” at Editing Realm is “High-quality editing services at affordable prices!” and that’s the truth. I had been looking for an editor for a few weeks before I found Editing Realm, and I was seeing quotes of $2,000, $3,000, sometimes even $5,000 for my novel. It was simply unattainable. I have to be honest, when I stumbled upon Editing Realm’s services I was a little leery of how cheap the prices were, but I desperately wanted an editor, and I figured if I made a mistake picking them, then at least it wasn’t an extremely expensive mistake.

Now that I’m done with my edits, I can assure you it wasn’t a mistake at all.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that an editor should improve your work, but not change your voice. Miranda was brilliant at exactly that. She immediately identified several of my weaknesses: My characters looked a lot. (look, people gotta look at things worth looking at, right?) Using repetitive phrases repetitively, (see previous parenthetical.) Passive voice, (Although the passive voice was trying to be fixed by me as the author as I was doing my own edits.) Oh… And overuse of ellipses… but, I mean… they’re just so dramatic when you have ten of them in one sentence… aren’t they?

Sorry if that previous sentence was painful to read. It was a bit painful to write, and I totally got off track with it. Miranda was probably twitching as she read it.

Not only did she find my weaknesses, but she strengthened my word choice. She was like a magician. I brought in this beat up old parrot of a word, she put it in a box, waved her magic wand and out came a shinning, glorious new dove of a word. I mean, I use the thesaurus sometimes and end up pulling out a pterodactyl, but pretty much every word change she suggested I looked at and thought, That’s a perfect word for that. Why didn’t I think of that word?

As I started out this post saying, Miranda had a lot of great things to say about the story as it went on. As authors, we don’t get to hear our readers’ gasps when that love interest gets hurt or see their eye rolls when that antagonist does something stupid. Miranda put those gasps and eye rolls in the comments, as well as a lot of really great suggestions on how to improve the characters and flow.

I had a few questions and several scenes that I had changed heavily in the edits. I sent them to her and she was always quick to respond, and clear in her answers.

My point is that I want to tell the world, (or at least, anyone who reads my blog) all about Miranda Miller of Editing Realm. I will definitely be using her for my future novels, and have already recommended her to a friend who is planning to publish soon as well. She has erased one of the major concerns I had about self-publishing, and that was having a book that I didn’t feel was truly “polished.” It’s less than a month until my novel hits the virtual shelves, and I couldn’t be more excited.

So have fun, and enjoy the writing, (or editing as the case may be.)

On ending books, beginning books, and being in the middle of things

I took a few days off from my blog this last week, and it’s mostly because I was trying to take my own advice and be an author. I’d set a personal goal to be finished by the end of August with the revisions on the novel I’ll be publishing this year. Well. It then became September. So I changed my goal to be done by the first week of September. I came close when I finished it yesterday, on the 12th. At least I made it before the month was half over. Yay for achieving goals…even if they’re a little late.

But I did it. Shed a couple of tears (literally. I’ll be writing about bittersweet endings sometime soon) and then wrote those two wonderful words, “THE END.”

And then I said…oh boy. Now what?

I’ve got myself a very nice plan for my writing goals, and the next step in that plan is to revise my NaNo novel from 2012. It’s been sitting on a back shelf for four years now, begging for some attention. I decided I was going to try to get that one published second, but there’s just one problem.

I have to start it.

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As a NaNo novel that has not seen much revision in the last four years, it certainly has its fair share of…how shall I put it…parts that could be better. One of those particular parts is the beginning. So not only do I have to make my writing better…I also have to entirely rethink what I’m going to write. (The original beginning is somewhat of a “forbidden” beginning. And yes, I know. Rules are made to be broken, but only when you have a really good reason for breaking them. My reason for breaking them when I originally wrote my forbidden beginning, was because I had no idea how else to start the book. Not, in my opinion, a good reason for breaking a rule.)

So I must don my thinking cap again and push on through. I know once I get started revising, I’ll get into the swing of the story and I’ll be mostly fine (at least until I have to kill off a favorite character. That always throws on the brakes for any novel I’m working on.)

So now that I’ve addressed endings and beginnings, let’s talk about being in the middle of things. I’m currently in the middle of putting my children to bed, even though it is 9:40 and way beyond being past bedtime, so it will be a short blog post today. Good night everyone. Have fun and enjoy the writing.