Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Editing, the Process: Beta Readers

As every writer knows, beta readers are an important part of the editing process. I think you shouldn't choose (or ask) someone to be a beta until you are as close to ready as you can tell--that is--when you are sure you are done editing.

I think you should get at least two beta readers. I think you should find one person who likes the genre you're writing in and one who is just simply good with the English language. That way, you have one person that will tell you if they simply like it, and one who will let you know about any major boo-boos you may have missed.

When you find a couple beta readers don't pressure them into a thorough review. Unless you're surrounded by other writers on a daily basis (i.e. working at a newspaper) then the person reading it won't know how to do a formal review. Be curteous, let them know that you'd like a general idea of what they liked and didn't like about your story, but you'd be fine with them just giving it a rating, like 4/5. Of course, if they're willing (and this is mainly where the good-at-English-stuff beta comes in) let them know it would be more helpful to know what needs to be changed. To make notes, and references. One other thing, let them know how they can get a hold of you if they need to ask you anything. Email, phone, facebook, myspace, twitter, whatever. Make sure they know that if they want to grill you about the plot, you will be available. And don't be offended if they call you at three in the morning! I'd see that as a huge compliment if your story kept them up into the middle of the night to finish it.

Have a list of questions ready before you send your story off to be read. Make sure they are simple things, nothing that will confuse them or make them reluctant to give answers. What did you like about it? What do you think could be different? Do you remember the MC's name(s)? Was it believeable? Favorite part? etc. etc. Make notes if you're doing this in person. Know that even though you're extremely nervous to hear what they're going to say, they could be just as nervous. If you're asking your best friend, they may be worried they'll disappoint you. When you've finished asking all your questions see if they have any. They may want to know if you plan to do a sequel, or what happens to a secondary character. Don't forget to thank them. These people have just done you an amazing service.

One final thing. You may be tempted to offer them a copy of the book when/if you get it published. Maybe even a signed copy. Granted, there are people that will be excited by the prospect, but you shouldn't be the one to ask. Its a bit pretentious. If they want one, they'll ask. Whether you say yes or no is up to you.

Well, that's it! After all that work, its time to find an agent or a publisher. And that--that's a whole other diemma for a writer.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Editing, the Process: Passive Vs. Active Voice

Again, I missed a day. I'm so very sorry about that. I didn't expect an upheval of violent weather yesterday, but it happened. So, we're pushing the schedule back another day. Today's topic is passive and active voice, the difference, and how to fix this problem.

First of all, what is passive voice and active voice? Simply put, in writing, the passive voice is evil. It detracts from the action in your writing and loses the readers interest. No doubt, half the places where you lost interest in your own story while reading through it were because of passive voice. The difference between a passive and active sentence is very subtle and usually easy to fix. I'm not saying that when you write a story that you should or even will be able to get rid of all of the passive "verbs," but you will want to try to get rid of 95-98% of them in your novel.

First of all, how do you recognize a passive sentence? Here is an example of a simple sentence (subject, action, object), one in passive voice and one in active voice.
  1. The girl found a kitten.
  2. A kitten was found.
These sentences are very similar. The 1st sentence (active) clearly shows the three parts to this sentence. The subject (the girl) found the object (the kitten). Its a simple sentence. The 2nd sentence (passive) is a little different. By the same rules we used for the first sentence, the subject would be the kitten. The action (was) and the object (found?). Does that make sense? NO! Usually, with passive sentences, you can change them to a question and use this to find the subject. Who was the kitten found by? The girl. Find these sentences in your writing and you can already see how to change them.

Not all passive sentences follow this rule, and in fact, sometime when using the passive verb (is, are, was, were, am, be, been, being) it isn't actually passive. Can you answer the question to find the subject?
  1. The sun was bright. (The sun was bright for...)
  2. The ball is round. (The ball is round for...)
You can see the subject in these sentences. But they aren't the same. The subjects in these sentences aren't actually doing anything. Still, you can even get rid of the was and is in those sentences by combining them with something else. "The boy bounced the round ball." "The lady covered her eyes from the bright sun." There's the fix to those types of sentences.You also want to avoid using "the" too often.

There are two situations where you don't want to remove all of the passive "verbs" in your sentence. I call them verbs because they try to act as the action in a sentence. Usually though, they just make a sentence weak and wordy. One situation where you will want to keep them is when you don't know the subject of the sentence.
  1. A man was ran over late last night.
  2. Who was in my room?
The other place where you won't get rid of all these passive verbs are in dialogue. As we all are aware (especially since we'll be hunting these down in our own writing) people use these words a lot when they speak. By taking them all away, you make the person speaking sound funny, for lack of a better word. Take for instance this passage of dialogue from "A Place Called Earth."
     "We decided that it would only be fair to make this a random drawing to see who would be going. No one here is here because they have more money or a better job. You all come from different places and different walks of life. We regret that we could not be more forthcoming about all of this, but it is what it is. You were chosen. You will not leave here before the predetermined time, and when you do, it will be on the ship that will be taking you to your final location--your new home on Sigma 6.

     "Sigma 6 is a planet circling two stars. It is very similar to Earth in its vegetation, minerals, and looks. You will all be very comfortable there. The journey itself will be very difficult. It will not be easy on your bodies or your minds. As of tomorrow, you will all begin getting prepared for the trip." He clicked a button and the image changed to a planet. He wasn't wrong. It did look a lot like Earth. It had a lot more water, and the land was much greener. I thought it looked like one big jungle surrounded by ocean.
     "There is plenty of life on Sigma 6, also. You will find many creatures similar to animals on this planet. The first five years spent on the planet, you will all be kept in domes to protect you from these creatures. We are still uncertain as to whether both ecosystems will be able to handle the change and we don't want to do anything that will destroy both. We are very hopeful that the human race will thrive in this environment.
     "As to our planet, I am sure you have all heard the rumors about something happening to Earth. Those rumors have proven to be true. In December, astronomers located a large group of meteors on a path toward Earth. We hoped that something else would get in the way and stop them from ever reaching us, or even missing us once they came close. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The largest of these rocks is roughly the mass of the continental United States. They won't only destroy life on this planet, but the planet itself."
I hope I found all of the verbs I discussed. Anyway, these are very important to speech, because they do make the dialogue sound believable. If I removed all of them, it would sound almost robotic. Still, this section hasn't been edited yet, and needs to be. When that does happen, I will post it to show the changes. Generally, in dialogue, if you have a character that uses them a lot, keep it that way throughout the story. Otherwise, knock it down to one or two every five or six sentences. Or one or two a paragraph.

Hopefully this has been helpful. If you are still confused about passive vs. active voice, send me a comment and I'll do my best to get you an answer!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Editing, the Process: Second Read-Through & Revision

Wow... did I ever get lost yesterday! I have so much to make up for. I think what will happen is I will push the rest of the scheduled posts this week one day back so there won't be a double post. After I type this up, I will fix the schedule, too.

So, where was I on Tuesday? I mentioned fixing problems with narration and setting. I suggesting turning the narrator of the story into a character as a way to keep the voice consistent. I also talked about making a graph to create a good and believable setting.

What will I be discussing today? What to look for in your second read-through and major revision.

The second time you read through your novel, you want to read it like you're reading someone else's work. As in, not looking for spelling or grammar errors like the last time. In fact, I think the best way to accomplish this read-through is to print what you've got. Sure, it may be over 300 pages long at standard 8.5x11in. but you'll be amazed at what seeing your words on paper will do for you. It pushes you and makes you want to get it out there. Hold off for just a little longer and I promise it will be worth it.

After you've gotten yourself into your comfortable clothes and fished out a bag of chips or milk and cookies, climb into that favorite reading spot--mine is on the love seat sprawled ;)--and get to reading. I suggest even having something be slightly distracting going on in the background for this. Not something pressing though, you don't want your attention diverted at the wrong moments. Turn the tv on and keep the volume low. Here's why its important: When you start reading your favorite (or favorite so far) book from the same genre your writing, you get sucked in. Or, maybe you don't. But you know what its like to read that book and how it keeps your attention. There are just books out there that will hold on to you until the very end. You can't put it down until you see those two little words on the very last page of the MS. You want the same for your book, too! Right? So, you have something mildly distracting in the background, but once you start reading, even though you know what's going to happen, you should get sucked into your own book. [NOTE: IF THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN, YOU NEED TO CONSIDER A HUGE REWRITE RIGHT NOW!] This is good. It means you're on the right path.

What are you looking for, though? Well, if you can get through the whole story without getting distracted or wanting to sit it down, then you are good to skip this step, but I think even the best of authors would be hard pressed to do that at this point. So, every time the tv (or whatever) is able to distract you or you just feel like putting your book down, mark that spot. Highlight it somehow. My favorite methods: neon colored post-its and markers. Bright markers. How can you miss that? What is this going to tell you? There is something lacking in that particular place. When you come around to more editing, you can take a closer look. Maybe its too much info, or the info isn't clear, or your charactes aren't flat, or confusing, or the sentences are too passive (More on that tomorrow). Either way, you need to fix it. It may be your story and you know it inside and out, but its missing something. How do I know? Because you noticed it before anyone pointed it out.

I'm not going to lie... This was my favorite part of editing. It really showed me that I was getting close to the goal. It showed me that if I could manage to clean up these spots, my story might actually be worth something to someone else. Other people might want to read it. (SQUEE) You want to feel this too. You won't want to throw your story away anymore. Promise.

To continue though, the next thing to do after you've read through and marked the slow/confusing/odd parts. There will be something you will notice overall about your story. How was the ending? Did you enjoy it? Did you feel happy or sad for your characters? Did you get teary-eyed at some point? I hope so. If you can't give positive answers to all these questions, you may need to rewrite. I know, its a terrifying thought.

I dreaded my rewrite. More than that... I was in full edit mode and writing creatively was just out of the question. Why do you think I started blogging? LOL. I also started reading through every first person POV book I could get my hands on. I looked for specific things I like and things I didn't. I knew what my story needed in a rewrite, but I was so scared that by bringing the bad guy back to life for a few more chapters, it may totally change the way the story ends. Breathe. If this happens to you, it isn't the end of the world. You can still use some of the material you've slaved over for months. Break it into logical pieces and catalog it. It was hard for me. There were whole chapters that I could keep, while other chapters were broken into paragraphs sometimes. I brought the bad guy back from the dead, changing when and how he died. How'd it turn out? ITS SO MUCH BETTER! How so? My bad guy is much more frightening. And he's got more depth. Sweet success. And that isn't the best part. I got to keep the ending and spare one of my characters the emotional trama of killing a person.

You're looking for a climax. How do you make it work the right way? You have to look at all the coflict in your story. Make a list. Also, with each conflict, make note of how important it is to the plot line. You'll find a lot of minor conflicts that can seem important, but are really just side-lines to the story or the main conflict. Mine was my bad guy. No one could be happy or safe with him around. That's major to the plot! And so, I had to center my revision around him. The climax has to come when the major plot-riding-on-this conflict is going to be resolved. Now, as I say this, I don't necessarily mean there will always be a happy ending, but with the resolution, there is finally an answer as to what will happen. You're story should build on that simple question. What's going to happen to this/her/him/them? How will it all end? The way you build up to it, is to keep it constant throughout the story. Don't let the reader forget that question. Before you answer it, you want your readers on edge. They NEED to know. But if you do it soon, the reader gets bored before the end of the story. That's no good either.

You'll hear that the climax needs to be in the final third of the story, but that's too vague. You want the conflict to end in the second to last chapter of the story. It leaves the reader hooked until the very end and gives you a chance to show what happened after all that tension, to slow it down, to conclude the story or even set up for a sequel. Sometimes that means, taking a few of the conflicts you have in your story and removing them, or even a character. (I had to kill off my extras... :(  Shame on me, right?)

Amazingly, there isn't much left after this. And so far, this was one of the shortest steps for me. While the others took a month or more, this one only took about two weeks. That included the reading, and I probably read six different books! This one means your getting close. I took a break one night and started researching agents who might be interested. Hint hint...

StrangersAnyway, that's it for today. Tomorrow's post will be about the difference between Passive and Active voice in narration and how to fix those last unavoidable errors.

Special today: What am I reading? Strangers by Dean Koontz. I'll give it a review when I get finished!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Editing, the Process: Narration & Setting

In continuation from yesterdays post...

By now, if following my process of editing, you will have already finished your story and read through it once, fixing minor spelling and grammar errors, and fixing referencing problems and descriptions of your characters. Now comes the second step.

Let me tell you a few of the issues I had with this step in "A Place Called Earth." I think it will help to better explain this step. This story is written in the first person narrative, told to you by the characters themselves. Many people writing in the first person POV will stick to one MC to show the whole story. That just seemed a little too easy for me. Instead, I have eight of them. When a writer is writing in first person, it is best to know that character completely as to give themself over to that character--to be them-- in order to have it be real. The goes much further than their actions and beliefs. You have to know their mannerisms, the idisyncrosies, their dialect, and what they are feeling about things. The thought process alone for another person is hard to accomplish. I spent a lot of time getting to know these people. In the editing part of this, I found myself trying to switch from one character to another as each chapter and subchapter for characters went. I had to forget this technique quickly. I began going to the subchapters for each character from beginning to end, focusing on each one specifically until the end. It made all the difference staying in one mind for the longer periods of time.

Now, the process for narration in third person is different. You have someone that could just be an outsider looking in, or a person familiar with the situation (aka "In the know") or someone omnipresent like a higher power that just seems to know whats happening. This last one, isn't a popular POV these days. It allows the writer to tell a little too much. We want the readers to figure things out on their own, like how the character is feeling. Even in first person POV this becomes difficult. You have to look carefully at your writing to see them.

With third person POV I like to create a character to be the narrator. It isn't always going to be me hearing and retelling the story. Sometimes it makes it interesting to have a grumpy old man, or a little kid telling the story. Keep in mind, that the person telling the story has to be appropriate for the story, and they have to be a consistent narrator from beginning to end. The narrator is the only one in the story that shouldn't show any growth, because while they are an important part of the story, they exist outside the realm of it. Again, though, I do like to sometimes come up with a nameless, faceless personality to tell a story. Develop the narrator well.

Another thing to be aware of in this step is info dumping. When you're reading through your story, look for paragraphs that are simply full of details. Whether it be about a room the character is in, or about a character in general. It overwhelms the reader and doesn't look good. The settings and physical descriptions of characters should be thoroughly planned before you start a story so that you don't end up doing this. It still happens regardless. How do you break up info dumping? It differs from writer to writer. You can do several things. Dialogue is a huge help. It allows you to get vital information to the reader without info dumping. That isn't to say you can't still do it with dialogue. Be careful of long winded explainations that don't sound right coming from a certain character. That's a good sign of info dumping. Its easy to fix in first person POV. Looking through the characters eyes, notice what they notice. Strange details about a room or person. How that character can't seem to look away from the boil on the other characters face. It comes up often and there are remarks about it. You've just told your readers about something and you've done it the right way. Also, let the characters interact with thier surroundings. This helps to not dump it on the reader. What? They knocked over one bookcase and it started a domino effect on that amiour, and then a barstool. Now they're cringing as glass shatters when something else completely smashes a window. What a mess, but you've given the reader a lot of the room this way.

This process takes a long time. A very long time and it will pay out immensly if you don't try to rush it. Another important thing to remember is that you don't have to get all the details out. If one room, you forgot to mention what color the carpet is, you aren't going to get angry letters from the reader demanding to know. Just knowing that its carpeted is probably enough.

The next step, although it could be added into this, is the setting. I spend some amount of time before starting a story to work on this. Search engines work great for real locations. Look up pictures of places, make notes, print the pictures. Do what you got to do to make yourself familiar with a place that will appear in your writing. Be believable. Rooms, houses, etc. is a little different. Sure, you can google or bing a victorian house to see if there is a common layout, but you don't have to. Draw up a sample floor plan and make notes about specific appliances or furniture, carpet or wood floors, paint or wallpaper. This will also help with info dumping.

I also like to make a chart to help with this. You want to try to include all of the senses in your writing without telling, and without it being too wordy (More about this in the post on Passive Vs. Active Voice). The best way I've found to do this is to make a graph. At the top, split the page into five sections: Sight, Sound, Taste, Feel, and Smell. They don't have to be in that order. Start writing details for each one for a given setting. The forest is dark from the overgrowth of trees so close together. The air is fresh as though it just rained. Birds are chirping somewhere above in the bright green leaves. Etc. Etc. You can pick and choose details to add slowly to give the reader a great idea of where it is. It pulls them into the story to not just imagine how it looks, but how it sounds, smells, feels.

While you are going through this phase, make sure the character is involved with their surroundings. If the reader can't "see" how the characters interact with the location, the reader will have a harder time seeing it. And, one last thing. You should watch out for words that indicate that you are telling, rather than showing. "He saw," "She felt," "They heard." There isn't any reason "He heard a board creak upstairs and his eyes snapped up toward the sound" couldn't be "A board creaked from above and his eyes widened Who could be up there?." The second example is stronger, shorter, and looks better. Don't you think so? It also gives the reader more information without being so wordy.

That's all for tonight. Look for the next installment tomorrow. The topic will be revision! Until then.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Editing, the Process: Finishing a Story

First of all, before I start posting, I would like to point out a few key points.
  • These posts are just my opinion. This is what works for me, and may help you along, but you do not need to follow them like they are a guide. I don't believe that there is only one way to edit.
  • These posts are for novelists. Not that I don't think they would work for a short story, I've only ever used this method with longer works.
  • These posts are ordered the way that I have done them. I thought this process through carefully, knowing what would help the most at the first and last stages of editing. Keep this in mind when you are editing. Everyone is good at different things, and you need to take your strengths and weaknesses into consideration while editing.
Okay, now that all that is over, I will get on with my post.

One of the most important things you must do when you are considering starting to edit is to finish your story. It seems like such an obvious thing. Sadly, though, I have fallen prey to the write some, edit some technique and it did more harm than good. I have to start small when I move from editing to writing, writing blurbs, reading others' works, working my way back up to novel-ing (Yes, I'm pretty sure its not a real word.). I can't switch back and forth between the two with any amount of ease, and I've found that aside from hitting dead ends and finding where I need to cut back to, I cannot do any editing until my story is finished. It may be the same for you. Another really great thing about finishing the story before you start editing, is it gives you an amazing boost, almost like a high that pushes you to continue.

After all that effort, I like to read what I wrote, then convince myself not to throw it away. I take my time with that first read-through. I make tons of notes along the way. I also try to correct any spelling errors and major grammar blunders along the way. This takes time. My first draft of "A Place Called Earth" was only 50,000 words long and the first read-through took me nearly a month. I was working on it for at least a couple hours a day. When you aren't paying attention to these things when you write it, it gets written quickly, but you find out after that, there is a lot of deciphering involved. Lastly, I try to make notes of anything big I want to change, or important details that I think I need to add. Of course, the more important details come later. Other things I try to consider on this read-through are things that look more like telling (the ultimate writing boo-boo), and POV issues. "How would he know what she's thinking?!"

Finally, something I find important in this edit, is referencing. When I start a story, I don't create a plot line. I give myself the beginning and let it go from there. I do, however, do extensive character outlines. Someday I will show you my questionaire. Anyway, the reason I do these things at the beginning, is because once I know the things like place and hair-color and whatnot are right, I forget about them. One less thing for me to worry about!

There are tons of great word processing programs out there. My favorite is Microsoft Word. In this edit, my favorite thing to do is use the red bubbles to keep notes (almost like sticky notes) and the highlighter to keep track of where I have a word repeated too often.

This whole little process, I find takes me a while. I disect every paragraph before I can move on. If you do happen to follow this, expect this step to take at least a month, maybe two. Don't be disappointed when it seems to take forever. The next time you read through, it will make more sense and will look exponentially better.

TOMORROW: Post two of this series about narration and setting! Until then. :)

Character Interview Blogfest

After a lot of arguments with all the voices bouncing through my head about who wanted to do the interview and who I wanted to do the interview, I've finally managed to get Joanna to semi-cooperate for the Character Interview Blogfest. Joanna is the MC of a unusual story. Not many would consider her good. In fact, you may remember her from the Bad Girl Blogfest. This was our first interview where I realized there was a little more to Joanna than meets the eye.

Me: Tell us a little about yourself.

Joanna: This is ridiculous. I'm not doing it.

Me: We agreed.

Joanna: *sighs* fine. What do you want to know?

Me: Where were you born and have you moved around a lot since then?

Joanna: I think I was born in Manhatten. I can't be entirely sure. I like the New York area, but I've also lived in London and Paris. Bigger cities are definitely preferable to small towns.

Me: Why is that?

Joanna: For obvious reasons.

Me: Umm... that was insightful. What do you do for a living?

Joanna: I rob banks.

Me: Wow, so forthcoming. Why do you rob banks?

Joanna: I always had this desire to be more notorious than the greats. Jessie James, Bonnie and Clyde. But its more than that. If I do it once, then I have the opportunity to outdo myself over and over again.

Me: Aren't you worried about going to jail?

Joanna: *smirking* I've got nothing to fear from jail. It is just a small slice of forever.

Me: Interesting. So, what else have you done in your life?

Joanna: I used to be a part of a feminist movement. Suffrage and all that.

Me: You don't look more than 25, how could you have been a part of that... that was decades ago!

Joanna: Time means so little to me anymore. A year for you is like a blink of the eye for me.

Me: How old are you exactly?

Joanna: Hmm... I believe I was born on Valentine's Day in 1941.

Me: How is that possible?

Joanna:  Time passes quickly when you're immortal. I was just a baby when Pearl Harbor was bombed. It didn't mean much to me, even though my dad died in that war. My mom was never the same after that. She didn't really care what we did. My older brother took care of me. Introduced me to his friends when I was twelve or thirteen. I liked them. They didn't treat me like a kid. They let me help them. One of them showed me how to do a lot of the little things I know how to do today. Of course, we didn't have things like security cameras back then. It was much easier to get away with robbery.

Me: So, when did you become immortal?

Joanna: A few weeks after I had turned twenty-one, I was the lookout for a job. It was a cold night. A beautiful man came up to me. He looked like he was hurting. He kept complaining about the thirst. I hd no idea what he wanted to drink was me. I tried to give him change. Even though his face wasn't like anyone's I had ever seen, he still reeked of death and looked like a bum. He attacked me when I put a dime in his hand. I thought he was crazy for biting me, and I tried to fight him off. It didn't work. He killed me. I don't know why he changed me. Brought me back to life with his life-blood. I've never seen it as a curse though. I love this new life. I love the power. I love being able to do whatever I want.

Well, that's it for now. There's more interview there, but I didn't want to go on for the other six pages. Anyway, I hoped you liked the interview.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Family Vs. Writing

I have a few things to get through in this post, so bear with me. I have one post request from Harley D. Palmer, not to mention I will be doing my first blog schedule for some posts I'm planning for next week! So, let's get started!

Harley asked me to do a post about dealing with character that won't shut up and taking care of my kids. For those of you that don't know me from WDC or Twitter, I have four kids. Two boys, 10 and 7, and two girls, 6 and 3. My youngest daughter spends all her time with me, while the other three kids, have a different parent that they spend half their time with. Its complicated. I love my kids. And they're a lot of work. For those of you who are non-parents, being a Mom or Dad is definitely a full-time job. Four is utter chaos most of time. Between dressing, feeding, bathing, school, and the bed time routine there isn't a lot of time for much else. Especially when they don't like doing the same things. I'm lucky if I can find a movie that all of them are willing to watch!

I've always been a story-teller. The best proof of this I can give was my accomplished skill as a liar at a young age. Since I moved out of my parents house, that skill has turned into something good. I can create people in my head and worlds that I see in my dreams.Characters are, by far, my favorite. When I'm thinking about characters, it seems to me, more often I think about thier personality before I know what they look like. I've never been great at visualization. I still remember when the teachers would tell me, "Close your eyes and imagine..." Umm... no. I can't see without the color. A lot of times when I imagine things, my eyes are wide open and a specteral image is floating before me.

I sometimes worry that I am losing my mind a little with my characters. They just don't shut up until the story is done. To this day, I have at least three voices that are with me constantly. Even now, Vera is saying, "That's right. And you best not forget it."

For me, it isn't really about finding balance. When I start a story, it stays with me. If I have some amazing breakthrough for the plot I don't forget it. The characters themselves are there to remind me that this is what we agreed on. Yep, its that bad. I have to run it by them before I can write it. Usually with some explaination as to why they are going to be suffering at my hand. Sadly, the family has witnessed this, too. Everyone in my house, and a few of my closer friends have learned not to interrupt me when I'm having an arguement with myself. "Just leave Mommy alone for a few minutes and she'll stop." ;)

I try to keep it to myself while the kids are awake. I write notes to myself, excuse myself to my bedroom so no one has to see it. My youngest thinks its funny. Hey, whatever I can do to amuse her is worth it. Even if it calls into question my sanity. But that's saying that I was actually sane at some point... After its all said and done, my writing occurs after my kids are asleep and when the boyfriend is at work. This gives me about 4 hours of writing time on nights that I have to go to bed early for work and about 6 hours other nights. That is... when I'm not goofing off. :)

Anyway, I have a schedule for next week. I need to take a few days off of blogging to finish up this edit because it's going really well. When I come back, I want to discuss the whole process. I'd love feedback from everyone about how they do it too! I think it helps other writers to know what is and isn't working for their peers. So, keep an eye out on these posts and have some ideas ready of your own.

Monday, June 14th - Finishing a story.
Tuesday, June 15th - Narration and Setting
Wednesday, June 16th - Second Read and Revision
Thursday, June 17th - Passive Vs. Active Voice
Friday, June 18th - Beta Readers

This schedule will show up on the side bar of the blog before Monday. I don't know exactly what time these posts will be published. It depends on my schedule at work. I will try to have them up before 8 pm each day. That's the best I can do.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Practical Joke Blogfest

So, we've all had a month or so to prepare for this event. The Practical Joke Blogfest is here! I'm excited, aren't you?

I couldn't find anything in any of my own writing that was worty of the blogfest so I decided to come up with something special. Here we go.

Maya looked around the small room, noting just how thuroughly her mother had cleaned the bathroom. She gingerly prodded her nose, noting the rubbery texture. With a small grimmace she shook her head and clambered into the cupboard under the sink. She snorted. Can't believe I still fit in here.

The movie was almost over. She strained her ears to hear the credits, ignoring the throbbing in her knees. Joe would be coming in at any moment. She watched him squirming in his seat for nearly ten minutes. She excused herself, unable to watch anymore of the gore-fest. Her teeth ground together at his loud guffaws. She couldn't wait to see his face--to see who would be having the last laugh.

The door swung open. Joe's rubber-soled shoes squeeked on the tile floor, getting slightly louder the closer he came to her hiding spot. Her heart throbbed in her ears. She stared wide-eyed at a small splinter of light coming through the door. Her breathing hitched and sped wildly. Prodding slowly along her temple, she found a seam. Digging her long finger nail in, she peeled a portion away from her hairline.

A sigh issued from outside the cupboard. Joe's booming voice startled her as he yelled. "Hey Mom, where's the TP?"

Maya pushed the small plastic-wrapped package forward. Her mother's voice carried to her muted by the layers of wood and drywall between them. "It's under the sink."

The door swung away from her. Joe's thick face appeared in front of her. She forced a strangled gasp from her throat and tore at the green mud mask the clung to her skin. It crumbled and peeled away from her face. Joe's eyes widened and he backed away. He didn't seem to able to look away. His mouth fell open, but no noise escaped him. His feet shuffled back until he hit the tub and he toppled over into it. Flopping around for a moment, he finally managed to get to his feet and with a small glance over his shoulder and a whimper, he fled from the room. "Mom! HELP ME!"

Maya crawled out from under the sink and collapsed on the floor clutching her side while the laughter bubbled up from her chest.

Hope you all liked it! Now you should all go check out everyone else that signed up!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Sadly, I have no questions to answer for today. If you missed my last post, you should check it out and throw in some questions about my personal life for tomorrow. They would be greatly appreciated. Just a quick reminder before I get to my real reason for posting.

Here it is. Work. I don't really talk about work for a variety of reasons. The biggest being that I signed a form when I started prohibiting me from really talking about the place. Which is fine (I won't use a company name). I am a manager at my store and basically make sure that a few shifts a week run smoothly. It isn't difficult with the few people that I interact with on a regular basis, and the rest don't know me well enough to push limits and regulations around me. And although our handbook boasts promoting from within, I'm one of the few that has actually been promoted. Lately, it has been fellow management that has been my source of stress.

I am still "new" as far as the workplace goes. Even among many of the lower level employees, I haven't been there as long. Sometimes I feel that other people at my pay grade have felt they could use this to take advantage of me. I work a lot of opening shifts so it is usually my duty to get the store ready to open every day, including counting the previous days cash, taking deposits to the bank, pulling toppings, and doing prep. While it is not okay for me to leave until all these things are done, it is okay for the closing manager to leave me things to put away the next morning without so much as a note saying why it didn't get done, or (regretfully) an apology. Sometimes I'm busy, I understand that I'm not alone in that, but at least have the courtesy to mention these things, like I've done for them when the occasion called for it.

Communication at work is awful. I feel like I'm the last person to hear about new deals for customers or new procedures. The most recent is having our delivery drivers take food and coupons to local businesses. The drivers for the most part don't mind this so long as they are being compensated for the time in some way. I found out, though, that as managers, we can't be doing this and getting caught doing so would result in being terminated. What's my problem with it? My drivers are tipped employees. They make less than minimum wage and are expected to claim enough tips at the end of their shifts to get them to or above federal min. wage. Sadly, many of them do not reach this amount, being that we're in a college town and over half of the city is gone home for summer vacation. So what happens when they don't claim enough in tips. By law, payroll is required to pay them extra so they are making minimum wage. But when this happens, they get their hours cut for the next week.

So, in short, the drivers have to take these freebies to local businesses while they are on the clock making less than minimum wage, not be compensated, and expected to claim tips for that time even though they can't possibly be making money doing it. Then to top it all off, if they don't lie, they lose hours. I don't think that many of them even know this! Sadly, in this industry, many of the employees are seriously undereducated. And without some secondary education in business law or accounting, how would they know what's happening is illegal! What has higher management said about this? "Claim the correct amount of tips, and it will all average out in the end."

I don't know what to do about this situation. I know I should say something to someone, but I want to give the people higher on the food chain a chance to explain themselves or change the policies before I go to drastic measures. Therefore, I've been spending my time over the last couple weeks looking up payroll laws for tipped employees. I've been checking laws regarding whistle-blowers. I want to make sure that I'm not going to lose my job, and that my employees are getting what they deserve.

Sorry, I rambled for so long. What do you think about this? What would you do if you were in this situation?