Monday, February 28, 2011

Revising a Nano Novel, Pt. 1: Perspective

Revising a novel can be daunting no matter what. Never mind when it's a bit...messy. And writing a novel-in-a-month often means a messy first draft. But don't despair. Just because your book may look like a wreck doesn't mean it's unsalvageable.

Reading with Perspective
I wrote The Jester's Apprentice in January 2009 (originally it was titled Philippa's Neverending Series of Pointless Conversations). I got wrapped up writing Dead Locked that same year and forgot all about Jester's for a while. Months later, I read the draft for the first time and felt sorry for the two people who had read it.

Well, while I worked on DL, Jester's kept nagging me. There was at least one good thing about the story so I imagined I would just scrap everything else and start with that. I had all these ideas, which totally changed the story, when I read the draft again (over a year later). This time I saw things with a new set of eyes. For one thing, I had learned a lot about novel writing since then so I read with more experience. Second, the physical and emotional distance from the novel helped me read with more optimism. I saw the book's potential, not just its pitfalls.

First drafts always need breathing time. Or, rather, you do. You won't necessarily make the right decisions when you're too close. If you wrote a novel-in-a-month last November, you've had about three months to leave it alone. Maybe this is enough time. Maybe it isn't. I needed more space from Jester's, but I also had another project in full swing to finish. If you're unsure if you're ready, pull out your manuscript and read it. Your reaction may gauge if you're ready to start revising.

Now, you may ask, 'Should I even bother?' You may think that meandering, padded, confusing manuscript is more trouble than it's worth. But look at it this way: you wrote a complete first draft of a novel! It's not an undeveloped concept in your notebook. It's not an outline. It's not a series of false starts. It's a complete first draft of a novel!

Do you know how hard it is to write a book? Yes, you do! Because you just did it in November. Or January. Or some other month. You wrote a whole book. A whole book that just needs a little TLC and it's ready to go out into the world. You already did one of the hardest parts of the process and you made it to the end. Why quit now? You have something this close to being done. So now I ask, should you bother?

I'm going to assume you said yes to that last question because I tell you that it is worth revising. Whatever the problems, your novel also has all the energy and excitement that you felt when you wrote it. You can always make technical improvements, but you only write with your heart once.

So you've got perspective, now you want to revise. Where do you start? Next week we'll uncover the secret first step to a successful revision. Well, not really. But I will show you how to evaluate your novel so the revision process starts out smoothly and doesn't overwhelm you. Stay tuned!

Photo by Cory Doctorow

Monday, February 21, 2011

Vote for Dead Locked Book Trailer!

My book trailer for Dead Locked is in the You Gotta Read Videos February contest! Please vote by visiting You Gotta Read Videos and using the poll on the top right sidebar. Voting is open until February 25.

A big thanks to everyone who has downloaded my newest release, "Bast & Immie"! As of this moment, close to 700 people have downloaded it on Smashwords and someone gave it 3 stars on Barnes & Noble. If you haven't seen it yet, "Bast & Immie" is a totally free download available for Kindle and other e-readers on Smashwords and for the Nook on B&N.

I've also updated my Bookbuzzr widget so you can now read about half of Dead Locked for free! I'm tweaking and updating and fiddling to improve everything so there will be updates and additions to my blog and website in the coming weeks, including a Dead Locked quiz. Plus, Decode, my web serial about a small time web designer who stumbles on some big time corporate espionage, premiers this Wednesday or next. See you soon!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Story Finds Her Writing Prompt

This prompt draws on something all of us are looking for: ideas. It's pretty simple:

A writer heads into more exciting territory (a city for instance) looking for a story. But the story finds her instead.

I think the 'story finds her' concept could take on new meaning. Use your imagination and go for it!

Friday, February 11, 2011

One Down in the Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge!

For my first book in the Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge (hosted by Book Chick City), I chose a Georgette Heyer mystery, The Unfinished Clue. I kept meaning to read one of her books and this was a good excuse. Fortunately, along with romance and historical fiction, this prolific British author also wrote mysteries. I'm not much for writing book reviews so I'll keep this short and sweet.

In a nutshell, Sir Arthur Billington-Smith has a bunch of guests he doesn't like staying in his country home. He's basically a jerk who treats his family horribly. With an odd assortment of characters and plenty of motive to go around, it's up to Inspector Harding to find out which one is a killer.

My initial reaction to this novel is that it's not the best mystery I've ever read. However, I think the main problem lies in the pacing, not the story itself. Long chapters of nothing but questioning and a lack of any action to speak of wore on my patience and I had to quit sometimes simply because I couldn't stand to read another interview. It would have helped to intersperse some of the interrogations with other investigating or conversations.

All of that said, the best part of the story by far, which ironically had nothing to do with the actual mystery, was the interaction between Inspector Harding and Dinah Fawcett. I don't want to give anything away, but if you read the book for no other reason, the two of them are worth it. I've reread their scenes together over and over, which is pretty rare for me.

Heyer knows how to make characters come alive and how to define them purely based on dialogue. Most of the people are annoying, though I got a kick out of Lola simply because she's ridiculous, but Harding and Dinah are a perfect blend of interesting and likable.

If you want a quick and relatively satisfying read, you might give The Unfinished Clue a whirl this weekend.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Becoming BFFs With Your MC

It's odd to think that about a year and a half ago, I had never thought of Imogen Bell (the heroine of Dead Locked). After spending about the same amount of time writing her story, Imogen is now so ingrained in my consciousness that I'm not sure how I wrote without knowing her. And on some weird level, Imogen feels like a best friend.

So the question becomes: how did we get so close? After some thought, I've narrowed it down to three main reasons and I thought I'd share. If you're struggling to get to know your main character or aren't sure where to start developing one, here are some things to consider:

Time. Just like a real person, you need time to get to know your main character. The more you know, the easier it will be to write. So don't rush the process.

Imagination. I spent a lot of time just imagining Imogen before I ever started writing. And it definitely made it easier to translate her personality onto the page. Don't limit your character daydreaming to specific plot points either. Follow them around on an average day, and at various stages in their lives too.

Experimentation. I tried all sorts of character development techniques, which helped uncover various facets of Imogen's personality. I really love character journaling and interviewing. But I also employ regular writing exercises by inserting my characters-in-development instead of creating someone new.

How do you get to know your characters? I love trying new things so if you have a method or technique you like, please share!

On a different but related note, I just wanted to ask that if you've read Dead Locked (or "Bast & Immie"), please rate and review them on Smashwords or Amazon or wherever you bought it! I hate to ask, but keep reading that I should so there we are. Your support with both stories has been awesome and greatly appreciated!

I'm also seriously considering organizing a giveaway now that Dead Locked is out in print. If you have any suggestions along that line, leave a comment or email me!

Thanks to Tessa and Shaina for writing something based on Monday's writing prompt! I thought that was pretty cool! If you ever write anything based on one of my prompts, do let me know.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Icicles of Death Writing Prompt

So this writing prompt is inspired by the HUGE icicles decorating my house right now (they're finally starting to melt but it's going to take a while). As a mystery writer, sharp objects always get me thinking, 'How could I use this in a story?' Take a look at this photo and then read on below:

How would you use ginormous icicles in a story? As a weapon? A convenient accident? Or, if you're more normal than me, maybe something completely unrelated to someone getting killed or hurt. Regardless, write a scene where icicles play a role - either as a stand alone exercise or as a way to spice up a WIP. Have fun!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dead Locked In Print! & A New Short Story

I feel like I've been talking about it long enough, but the final stage in getting Dead Locked out in the world is done. The print edition is now available at! If you're curious what the story's all about, you can sample the first chapter on the little BookBuzzr widget on my sidebar, read a short excerpt on my website, or download a free sample on Smashwords. Also, the 'Look Inside the Book' feature on Amazon will be available soon!

Speaking of Dead Locked, I just released a lighthearted short story about the two main characters. "Bast & Immie" is available as a free download at Smashwords (which supports Kindle and several other popular e-readers). If you'd like a quick, happy read that's all about the romance, check it out today!

If you'd like to keep up with what's new or coming without hopping from site to site, join my new email newsletter. I'll shoot something out about once a month with the latest info so you won't miss a beat. And when you signup, you can download the ebook edition of Dead Locked for half the price. Aside from just news, I plan to include blurbs and tips useful to writers.

Despite the incredibly cold and snowy winter we're having, exciting things are afoot! I'm planning to release the first teasers of my upcoming novel, The Jester's Apprentice, later this month! And I'm working on a serialized story, Decode, that I will publish weekly right here on amy & the pen. Stay tuned!
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