Well, folks. It was fun while it lasted.

As you can see, not much has been happening on this blog lately.

There are several reasons for this, but I will only hit on a couple:

First: It's amazing how much can change in a couple of months--both in our personal lives and on the writing front. A couple of us have signed publishing contracts, and so the need to write, edit, market, promote HAD to take preference over this blog and the services we were providing.

Second: Running this blog, critiquing submissions, providing feedback...well, that's a LOT of dang work. We weren't getting paid for this service. We had a concept and we went with it--for free--not realizing how much time it would involve with very little (nothing) in return for our effort.

Third: Probably the biggest factor that made us come to this decision, was the fact that a good portion of the submissions we received just weren't ready. They needed more revision. We were wanting to give out reviews on AMAZING, fully complete, well edited novels. 90% of what we received didn't come close.

So we've shut it down. We've moved on.

If you liked our comments and our posts, you can check us out on our individual blogs:

Angela Scott: www.whimsywritingandreading.weebly.com or @whimsywriting on twitter or http://www.facebook.com/AngelaScottWriter

D.S. Tracy:

Kacey Mark:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Unfortunate Inspiration

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 9:40 PM 5 comments
This blog post was originally posted on my first blog site: Literary Intentions. Thanks to an unexpected smack in the face,  I had to ditch my blog post in progress and go to plan B. 

Since I was a child, I’ve secretly scribbled out stories and poetry. I would tuck my creations away in an iridescent orange folder and slip it under my mattress—my secret, my coping mechanism for whatever life threw my way. I had always wanted to be a writer, but lacked the confidence to pursue my bliss. 

It wasn’t until a family tragedy knocked everything out of whack that I thought I had any sort of talent for it. My mother-in-law passed away a few years ago on Easter. It was sudden and unexpected. Her death not only shook the family but it became my inspiration to pick up a pen and write.  

A few days after the funeral, my four-year-old daughter interrupted story time to tell me something that had been weighing on her mind for some time. She said Grandma Strawberry (My daughter’s nickname for her Grandma Atteberry) was a fairy who visits her in her dreams and they go on wonderful adventures together. She said when her daddy felt sad and missed his mom, all he had to do was close his eyes and find her: she would be waiting for him. 

Through the eyes of a child . . . 

My mind marinated in my daughter’s words, and after I put her to bed, I had the overwhelming urge to write a story about Grandma Strawberry and her many dreamland adventures—free of pain and full of happiness. I shared the story with my sister-in-law who later said it came on a day when she needed a nudge, a simple reminder her mom was okay and that she would forever live on. Her response was my nudge to pursue something that allowed me to feel a different sort of purpose besides wife and mother. 

So, here I am nearly three years later.  I’ve written two novels and nearly finished a third.  I’ve placed in contests, and I’m currently seeking a literary agent. The one downside to it all is the fact that my mother-in-law isn’t here to root me on. She was a voracious reader, but more than that, she loved how a book made her feel. The waves of emotions, ebbing and flowing, freed her mind from the constant pain tearing through her body. The woman who sacrificed so much for her children could simply pick up a book and be whoever she wanted to be. I miss her, but thanks to my daughter, I now know when I need a little inspiration all I have to do is close my eyes and welcome the adventure.

In a world full of rejection, where do you find your inspiration? What keeps you clutching your pen fast in your hand? 

Thanks for looking, 
The Skeptical Hook’er 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Think readers care about fancy prose? Well, think again.

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 8:27 AM 17 comments
Tell me again, Ms. Myers, how PERFECT he is! I need no other other description than that.

Here’s the thing about writing—readers don’t appreciate fancy words and intelligently written prose. It’s true. It is. For the most part readers don’t even care about GOOD writing (does a certain shiny vampire come to mind? Just saying). You can slave away trying to perfect the most amazing sentence, paragraph, or novel, but I’m telling you right now, most likely, no one will even notice. 

I’ve been there as a reader. I’ve done the very same thing. I hate to admit this, but here I go anyway, I read the shiny vampire book in one day—beginning to end. Ahh, I opened up to you. Please don’t stone me. You may hate her writing. You may dis her and whatnot, but guess who’s laughing her way to the bank, folks—the lady who wrote “Green leaves were swaying in the wind, greenly.” Why? Because readers are interested in a good story. And whether you liked the shiny vampire or not, she told a humdinger of a tale and several million people loved it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to ignore your commas or toss aside rules of grammar and adverb usage (I hate adverbs). But what I am saying is this, don’t get so caught up in the form and style of writing that you forget to tell a great story.

The number one thing writers want and care about most: the story. It is then followed by character development , theme, and then atmosphere/setting (The Writer, August 2011, Laura Miller). I have yet to hear a writer commend the actual writing—“The story was so-so, but the word usage was superb!”

Ain’t gonna happen. If a reader does say this, then they’re just plain weird.

Also in The Writer, August 2011 article written by Laura Miller, she goes on to say the following (which I find perfect and decided to quote directly): “You probably don’t go to the movies to see the lighting and photography, and most readers don’t come to books in search of a breathtaking sentence.”

I couldn’t agree more.

And I’m thrilled.

Here’s why—I’m not an eloquent writer. I may have one sentence, two if I’m lucky, that someone might say, “Hey, that’s good stuff. I’d better underline that.” But for the most part, my writing is at par. Nothing fancy. Nothing to earn a MFA degree with, and I’m okay with that.

BUT, I do think I spin a good story. I work really hard to keep my readers engaged and desiring to read the next chapter, and the next one, and the next one.

That’s my goal. I love The Hunger Games, and I use that book somewhat as my model, my Holy Grail, if you will. Was the writing to just die for? Nope. Not one bit. But the story sure was! She had me hanging on by my nails, nervous and afraid for Katniss and Peeta, sitting in bed for a full day in my pjs, unshowered, because I simply couldn’t function until I knew how the story ended.

THAT’s the kind of story I want to write. That’s my hope and desire anyway.

Of course, my true goal is to write a fantastic story that is written well. I’m constantly trying to make sure my writing doesn’t make me look like an idiot—improve, improve, improve. But, without a great story, who will care that I “show” more than I “tell” or that I found a way to eliminate all to-be verbs from my writing (wouldn't that be awesome)?

These are the stories I’m looking for as well amongst the many, many, many submissions we’ve received. I want a good story. Give me something different, something that makes me say, “Holy cow! I need to read more of this!” We've had a few. But I sure would love to see more.

The Reluctant Hook’er

P.S.  I posted the question, “What do you think readers value more? A good story or good writing?” on twitter.

Though several responses indicated that good writing should be the most valued, there were far more responses that placed a good story above that of good writing. Many even went on to say that they would 
forgive bad writing, if the storyline was excellent.

I’d love to know what you think? So please leave a comment. (I love me some comments. They make me so happy).

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Car Ride: Banter Vs. Bickering

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 3:28 PM 0 comments
Isn’t it funny how a simple family drive can turn to all out war in a matter of milliseconds? The kids screaming, the radio blaring, the vehicle rolling through rush hour traffic at a snail’s pace. No one can escape; you’re all strapped into a road trip from hell until you reach your final destination. That is unless you’re still close enough to turn back for home. Do people really do that by the way? I’ve always heard it threatened. Never seen it done though.

When it comes to conflict with our characters, we must be careful not to strap our readers in for an adventure and give them the car ride from hell instead. For a reader, getting there is half the fun. Making them work to hard through obstinate characters will cause them to throw your book out the window.

 A lot of fun can be had with playful banter, but you must take care not to let it turn into bickering.  The “yes I did” “No you didn’t” dialog can only last so long without a strong enough conflict and even then you may be stretching your readers patience if you let it drag on too long without change or resolution.

I’m not really an expert on literary debate, but I do have a few tips for keeping your character conflict fresh.
·         Make it funny- Throw in a few jokes here and there to liven things up.
·         Make it hot- if bantering could hold any angle for increasing the sexual tension between characters, go for it!
·         Keep it playful- little nicknames and witty comebacks are always welcome
·         And above all else, use the banter advancing the plot.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Uh-Oh, It's Revision Time

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 5:00 AM 2 comments
I’m getting ready to revise. Shoot me now. No, actually, if I get my mind in the right place, I welcome revision. It’s challenging and eye opening. There are many times when I’ll laugh or roll my eyes at some awkward sentence or stupid stretch of dialogue. But that’s okay. Like Angela said in her post on Monday, we have to allow ourselves to write crappy first drafts. If we get caught up with perfection we could lose out on something great. Just get ‘er done and worry about it later.

The best part of revision is getting wrapped up in the emotions all over again and taking them to a whole different level. But before we jump back into our story we need a bit of distance. Use the time to start a new project, catch up on blogs, twitter, or giving your family a bit of lovin’. Do anything but touch your finished ’script.

After I’ve had time away, and before I print off a hard copy, I do a search for all my clutter. The words and phrases that are useless and can be deleted without changing the sentences too much. The reason I do this now is getting rid of some of the fat helps me focus on the story. I stay out of edit mode. Actually, they say writing and editing use different sides of the brain. So it’s important to either write or edit, but not bounce back and forth. If you’re interested in what words and phrases I search and destroy, look for an upcoming post Biggest Loser: Manuscript Edition.

Okay, so I’ve de-cluttered a bit, now it’s time to print off a hardcopy and get to work. Not only do you need a break, but your eyes need a rest from the computer screen. It’s amazing what you’ll pick up in hardcopy. This is a great opportunity to change the font too. Do whatever you can to get a fresher viewpoint.

Read through your manuscript as quickly as you can, resisting any and all urges to edit. Take notes, ask yourself questions as you read. Use this opportunity to be a reader. Does the story make sense? Is there enough conflict? Are the characters believable and likeable? Are there plot holes? Does every scene propel the MC forward? Yada yada yada.

When I’m all done with my first run through, it’s time to get back in writing mode. This is the time to experience it all over again, only this time your job is to enrich it, go deeper. Make sure that your reader forgets he’s reading. There are two concepts I read about in July/August Writer’s Digest that I think help in the revision process: overwriting and finding the telling details.

Overwriting is basically just that. Let’s say you have a scene you’re reluctant to tank but it lacks something. Murdering your darlings is not easy; so, rather than slicing and dicing just yet spend some time, I think the article said ten minutes, and write as much as you can without stopping, adding as much new material as you can. Don’t filter yourself—just write.

Most of this you won’t use, but within that ten-minute chunk of writing you may come across a gold nugget, some detail that makes it better than before. Sift through it and keep what works and get rid of what doesn’t.
The other concept is the Telling Detail. This isn’t telling vs. showing. This is that one detail that brings your character to life or makes a scene unforgettable. Think of one of your favorite books. Was there any one thing that told you everything you needed to know about a character without saying x, y, & z?

In one of my writing lectures, one of the speakers elaborated about the importance of characterization. She shared an example from a suspense novel. Two characters sitting in an office. One was a cop and the other wasn’t. The civilian noticed deep grooves in the detective’s glasses and went on to describe them. Then sometime later, we see this cop at a crime scene, crouched over the body of a murdered woman with the earpiece locked in his teeth. Sure this answers a question as to where the grooves came from but it’s also one of those details that stirs up questions and keep us turning the pages.

Do you have any tips or tricks to enrich your writing at the revision stage?

"You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.” ~ Arthur Polotnik

Thanks for looking, 

The Skeptical Hook'er 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How Do You Handle Toxic Feedback? Cry? Yell? Punch Someone?

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 4:00 AM 6 comments
I remember being a young girl, perched on a stool in the middle of my kitchen, singing along with the radio, belting out the words of the song with such passion and emotion as my mother cut my hair (she was a hairdresser back in the day and so our haircuts came free—lucky us). 

I was feeling the music all the way down to my soul. I was a singer! I could sing just as well as Crystal Gale, or so my thirteen-year-old self believed. I knew I was that good.

Then my mother, the woman I so admired, so loved, told me, “Angela, I’m so glad you took up an instrument instead of joining the school choir.”

What?! What the heck did she mean by that? Was my own mother telling me I sucked at singing? Really?

I truly believed so. At least that’s the way I took it.

And to this day, I remember that scenario clearly (my mother denies saying any such thing or that the situation even happened at all) and because of it, I have a singing complex. I still love to sing, but I don’t do it nearly as loud, nor do I sing in public places—I whisper-sing when anyone is around.  I’m super self-conscious.
The feedback I received from my own mother had a lasting impact on me that even twenty plus years later, I still feel it.

As much as writers crave feedback—good feedback, constructive feedback—every writer at some point will receive some toxic feedback that will make them want to cry, take a hammer to their laptop, and swear they’ll never, EVER write again. No matter what. You can’t make me.

And to make matters worse, that feedback was usually given by someone we admired greatly and so wanted to impress. To find out we didn’t impress them one bit can be pretty damaging and heartbreaking to our fragile writer’s ego (yes, we’re fragile, we are. We want to be tough, but it still stings—we’re human after all).
Putting ourselves out there by handing over our writing, something we’ve put our heart and soul into can be scary. Then to be told it just wasn’t good enough can really affect how we continue to look at ourselves and our writing paths. Each writer is different and each writer will take that piece of feedback and react to it differently as well. For some, it will be the end all to end all. And for others, they will use it to better themselves in an act to prove that particular feedback provider wrong.

Recently, I read a book titled, Toxic Feedback, HelpingWriters Survive and Thrive by Joni B. Cole, in which she discusses this very thing. If you have read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont, then you will enjoy Joni B. Cole’s writing style and approach—very personable and humorous.  Because I like to use little post-it notes to mark passages or areas of a book I find useful , my copy of this book now looks like a freaking rainbow, there was so much I found valuable and worth marking. 

At some point in your writing career, someone is going to make you feel like crap. It will happen. It will. Whether it’s early in your writing—be it a teacher, professor, even your own mother, or heaven forbid, your spouse—or later, after you’ve been cultivating your writing for years—rejections from agents, publishers, or you receive a horrible review from a reader who gives you one stinkin’ star out of five—it will happen.
But in her book, Toxic Feedback, Joni goes on about how we should process that information, how to approach it. And more importantly, I feel, she discusses how WE should go about giving feedback to others who ask it from us.  Because like it or not, receiving feedback and giving feedback can be a highly emotional thing if not done correctly. It could actually be more damaging than good.

I love Joni’s definition of feedback, or what she believes the definition should be: “Any response to a writer or his work that helps him write more, write better, and be happier.” 

Wow. Isn’t that great? That’s the kind of feedback I want. Don’t you? 

And that’s the kind of feedback we should be giving, as well.

Now, don’t confuse this with being all fake and saying positive stuff about someone’s writing that is seriously lacking and needs a ton of work—that’s not what I’m saying here or Joni either. That defeats the “write better” portion of the definition above. 

It’s all about the approach. We need to be conscious of how we approach a person’s work, how we encourage them to fix those areas—spelling, character development, plot issues—without making them feel like a loser. Joni gives some great pointers in her book about how to do it correctly. We also need to look at ourselves and understand how we process and react to negative feedback as well—we need to understand the intentions. 

The cold hard truth is that we all need feedback. We do. Without it, we risk setting ourselves up for failure and humiliation. For me, I know I’d much rather have one of my critique buddies tell me I have a piece of broccoli in my teeth (embarrassing and slightly humiliating) than to be standing in front of the world, smiling like an idiot, with broccoli in my teeth, making people uncomfortable or worse yet, causing them to gag.
If you haven’t added Toxic Feedback to your writer’s library, I highly suggest you check it out. Just as important as it is to know where to place a comma, or what things to avoid in writing your first five pages, I think knowing how to give and process feedback ranks right up there with things all writers should know and be aware of.

The sooner we can come to understand negative feedback and how to utilize it to make us better writers, the sooner we will improve not only our writing but other writers writing as well. 

And don’t we all want that? 

Of course we do. 

Do you crave feedback or do you do everything in your power to avoid it? How do you handle Toxic Feedback?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Need revision/editing help? Here are some quick tips to get you started.

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 10:26 AM 3 comments
The Rabbit in the Hat Hook'er is taking a bit of a hiatus from the blog to work on  her manuscript to get it to back her editor this week. She's a pretty busy hook'er.

So lucky you, you get to hear from me TWICE this week (today and then again on Wednesday). I can here the cheers and whoops (I hope that's cheers and whoops I'm hearing).

Since Kacey is busy revising, and D.S. is working on her manuscript, and I'm in the process of tweaking and editing the heck out of my Western Zombie Romance novel (Don't chuckle. I'm being serious here), I thought why not share some of our own tricks and tips that we use to edit to help you. Feel free to look the tip over and apply what you feel works for you.

1. First drafts are meant to be crappy. It's okay. But it's at this point, when we have a completed first draft that we should start to analyze its crappiness and figure out where and how to improve it.

2. Before editing the first draft, wait at least 2 weeks before delving in. When you were writing, you wrote hot. You were in the middle of it all, passion and creativity flowing--that's good. But for editing, you need to write cold. You need to be able to step back and analyze your work. The 2 weeks will give you time to cool down.

3. Before you do any editing at all, find a comfy place and read it through from beginning to end (this may take a couple of sittings depending on the size of your novel) and read it like a new reader, getting into the book for the first time. Don't stop and make any changes yet. Just read.

4. Now your ready to edit.The best way to look at your writing is to do one of two things: print it out in a different color ink or change the font. This way your mind has to work a little harder and can't simply insert missing words or read over misspellings. It tricks the brain.

5. Check that words are spelled correctly. Check grammar and tense.

6. Create stronger verbs. Remove adverbs, or as much as possible. Convert adverbs into verbs and adjectives into nouns. Check for -ly words.

7. Remove extra words or repeated phrases. Look for the overuse of the word THAT. Many times it can be removed and is unnecessary.

8. Remove cliches.

9. Do a search for words like, COULD and FELT. See where you can remove or revise the sentence to make it stronger.

10. Search for scenes that tell rather than show and revise.

11. Search for to-be verbs.

12. Make sure each scene is character driven. Make sure each character is well developed and serves a purpose to the story.

13. Check for plot holes and ways in which to fill them.

14. If you find yourself skimming over passages, not wanting to read them, then remove them. More than likely, your readers will skim over them too.

15. Watch for repeater words in the same sentence, paragraph, or page.

16. Give your manuscript to some beta readers and get their feedback on your story as to what they liked and didn't like. Then revise again.

These are just a few tip. You can find more online, but this will get you started in the right direction. Have a wonderful Monday! And remember, good books aren't written. They're edited.

~The Reluctant Hooker

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hook'er Shoes And Harry Potter

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 5:00 AM 7 comments
I just started a new job after nearly eight years as a stay at home mom. My usual attire was something like this:

I don’t think I had a shirt that didn’t have one of those mystery stains (moms know what I’m talking about).  
Now that I have a grown up job, absent of Dora and Spongebob, I can wear real clothes and—dun, dun, dun—high heels. I’m a shoe girl so donning my hook’er shoes couldn’t make me happier. If I’m unable to hear the click clacking of my computer keys then it may as well be the sounds of my new shoes hittin' the floor in my office building.

There’s one thing I’m trying to get used to with my new get up. Normally, I blend in with the crowd and don’t get so much as a how-de-do from passersby, but lately I’ve been getting the how-you-doin’ nods from fellas. At first I didn't notice because this is new to me. I’m not sure how to react. I’m sure I should be flattered, give a how-you-doin' back. I would if it weren’t for one thing: all my admirers look like Death Eaters, specifically Wormtail.

Or this guy:

I’ve always thought of myself as a Gryffindor gal maybe even a Ravenclaw. Muggles are good people. But is there something I'm not seeing? Am I dark deep down. Evil? Or is it my shoes? 

What Hogwart's house would you belong to? Try this link and post your answer. http://www.thealmightyguru.com/Reviews/HarryPotter/Docs/Quiz-House.html Also, is there any series that had you waiting/dreaming about the next book or movie? If you answer Twilight I promise to hold back any and all jokes. *lifts up right hand in solemn oath-like gesture*

*update: I just took the quiz and I am a Hufflepuff. Hmmm. Not sure what to think about that. Aren’t they the lame ones? Do they do anything? Aren’t they the magic kids that don’t get picked for wizard dodgeball? It says I am loyal and some other nonsense. Loyal schmoyal. Whatever happened to brave? I'm officially a dog.  

Thanks for looking, 
The Skeptical Hook’er aka The Angry Hufflepuff 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What is voice? Guest blogger helps explain it.

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 5:00 AM 8 comments
People call me Tombstone. No, really, they do. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I delivered pizza for years. It also has nothing to do with the fact that I write about morbid and gruesome topics much of the time. In fact, the whys and hows and ins and outs of my extremely cool moniker are not why I am here today.

Today, the ladies asked me to fill a guest spot on the page, and so I, being the gracious and accepting friend that I am, obliged.

Speaking of ladies . . . and pizza, I’d like to talk about one lady in particular.

618 Nightingale.

That’s where she lived. Important information for when she called the Round Table Pizza establishment I worked at and asked for a pie to be delivered. I answered the phone expecting the call to be like any other.

It wasn’t.

Her voice—sensual, sultry, luscious, and filled with a timbre that flirted on the line between alto and soprano—sent my blood boiling moments after it filled my ears. Delivery drivers fantasized about voices like that, hoping beyond hope that reality would live up to fantasy.

She knew what she wanted. Pepperoni, mushroom, and sausage—and maybe I could deliver it to her. The meat and vegetable innuendo lodged itself deep in my mind, replaying with alarming frequency before the call had ended.

How could I get the delivery to 618 Nightingale?

I heard each fluctuation of her voice—the tremors, the giggles—and each little tactic she used to manipulate my hormones. Even though I knew she was using her voice for her ulterior motives, I let her do it anyway. Why? Because the sound of her voice intoxicated me, and I no longer cared for what ends she planned.

All the astral bodies aligned when I randomly accepted the opportunity to deliver her pie.

Sorry folks, I know you want a nice climax to the story, and will probably want to put me in a tombstone for cutting the story portion of our program right here, but I will finish the tale on my next guest post. In the mean time, let’s talk about voice.

Oh, the things voices do to us.

They can get our blood roiling, or frighten us; they can even set us laughing. The possibilities of voice are endless.

However, when I read statements from agents and editors talking about voice, it becomes clear to me that many of them don’t understand what it is. (Shhh, don’t tell some of them who might see this post on the interwebs that I said that!) Often, I hear vague statements that say something to the effect of “it’s the writer’s style” or “it’s the tone and style of the writer.”

How many of you have heard statements like this before? How many of you have read blogs or articles about voice and felt like the author left you with information as vague and abstract as finding The Blessed Mother Mary in a syrup formation on your French Toast?

In an attempt to cut the crust from the French toast and just get to the good stuff, let me say this: a linguist named Gibson sliced style into three parts of a triangle. This is what he said: style as it manifests the writer’s stance toward the subject matter is called attitude; style as it manifests the writer’s stance toward the audience is called tone; and style as it manifests thewriter is called voice, or persona.

If this is true, then style is more than voice. (Often I see the two terms used interchangeably, which I believe is incorrect.) I would also like to point out that if this is true, then one’s writing voice changes depending on the situation. Did you notice the shift in how the blog felt or sounded when I left the Pizza Delivery story compared to the portion where I began to speak about voice?

Our spoken voices change depending on the situation. When we are angry, our voices become loud, raspy, booming, and cutting, while sometimes our voices become low, sultry, and delicious when we flirt or want to be sexy.

The same thing happens with people when they sing. Voices often change when one is singing the National Anthem as compared to “Back in Black.” Obviously, opera singers have a completely different style than rock singers. Why? Because attitude and tone determine which voice we should use. Think about the differences needed to convey the emotions felt in “Hotel California” by the Eagles versus “Habanera” from the opera Carmen. (It should be noted that skill also determines how one develops his or her voice as well. I am sure Pavarotti could sing just about any rock song and sound good, though I’m not sure Bono could sing anything from Don Giovanni and sound fantastic. Becoming skilled at writing will help also help develop your

So my conclusion is that those parts of style called tone and attitude often dictate which voice we should use. As a writer, are you going to use your inside or outside voice, your sarcastic or serious voice, or your sexy or naïve voice?

Some of this may still sound a bit abstract, vague, and complicated, but let me give you a little exercise to help you develop your own voice if you feel you are struggling with the concept.

First, think of a few authors you like and admire. Second, think of one word, and only one word, to describe how one of their books felt to you as you read it. Here are mine: Michael Chabon and The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay—verbose; Kurt Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse V—sarcastic; and Ray Bradbury and Something Wicked This Way Comes—Octobery. (Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Octobery is a word. I just coined it!)

Now finally, think of your work and your attitude—that is, your stance towards the subject matter, and decide where you stand. Then do the same for tone. Discover your feelings toward your audience. If you do, it will help you discover your voice. Will you be comedic, serious, sexy, mean, or stupid? Each of us has our own voice dependent on the attitude and tone of whatever situation we find ourselves in. Are you seducing someone or making them laugh?

And if you think about these other two aspects of style (attitude and tone), accordingly, you will find your own voice and not be carried by those authors you tried to emulate when you first started writing.

Ladies and gentleman, if this is helpful, please, let me know. Also, if you have other tips and tricks for understanding and developing voice, put them in the comments so that we can share and grow as a writing community. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this teaser for my next guest post.

618 Nightingale.

Monday, July 11, 2011

No Post For Monday

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 4:35 PM 0 comments
No post today. Rabbit In The Hat Hook'er is busy getting her edits back to her publisher for her debut novel. Wednesday we'll have a guest blogger covering for the Reluctant Hook'er. Come check him out. Yes, him. So would that make him a Hook'im?

The Skeptical Hook'er

Friday, July 8, 2011

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 5:00 AM 6 comments

I recently moved back to my hometown just in time for one of the best fireworks shows west of the Mississippi—so they say. As I lay on my blanket, I scanned the crowd and a reoccurring theme rolled through my mind: just because a person can do something, doesn’t mean they should. 

Here’s my list of observations from the Fourth:

Just because a girl has boobs doesn’t mean everyone wants to see them, especially if the girl is 14/16ish. What’s up with all the young girls and the boob shirts?

Just because a seven year old can use a sparkler, doesn’t mean a two year old should. Do I really need to explain this? Two year olds are dangerous with popsicles. Markers. Chocolate. Why oh why would an exploding stick be a good plaything?

Just because you have an extra beer doesn’t mean you should give it to your drunken uncle. Just saying.

Just because a person can use the “f” word in the most creative of ways, doesn’t mean he should. I think it’s great that someone is learning to diversify their language by taking a swear word and turning it into an adjective, a noun, an adverb, a verb, a pronoun, a modifier, a whatever else they can. I’m happy you can do so, but not everyone thinks you’re clever.

Just because a person can wear smaller clothes, doesn’t mean she should. I am not trying to dis on larger people, especially since I am not the most svelte girl at the party. What I’m trying to suggest is wearing clothes that don’t cause pain for the wearer because it is too tight or clothes that make wobbly bits look even more wobbly. Looking like a tied up pot roast isn’t as attractive as eating the pot roast. With potatoes. Mmm. And gravy.

Okay, enough of this. You get the point. So how does this relate to writing? 

One of the great things about being an artist is your creation is your own. You can do whatever you want as long as you have someone who appreciates it. We are all starving for approval aren’t we? That’s one of the reasons for this blog. We want validation for our hard work. But just because we have the freedom to write whatever we want doesn’t necessarily mean we should.

*I am not going to go into a lot of detail because most of these can be blog posts of their own. This is just a quick look at a few things to think about. Please add your own in the comments section.

Prologue: Just because prologues and epilogues exist doesn’t mean we have to use them. I dislike them, and I really dislike them when they are used as a ploy or a “dot, dot, dot” moment to create drama, like an artificial hook. Start with the story. If the story doesn’t make sense without one, then maybe throw one in.

Dialect: Just because your character is Irish or British don’t overwhelm us with perfect dialect. It becomes cumbersome and pulls me out of the story. I like a bit of dialect, especially if I find a good line or two I can say out loud, but too much is too much. Add a bit of stuff here and there, the reader will get it.

Swearing: I read The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein not too long ago. It was a book from the dog’s p.o.v. I loved most of it, but the one thing that really bugged me was the few times the author popped in the f-bomb. There wasn't many times. Maybe a handful, but each time it felt weird or out of place. When a writer goes nearly most of the book without using the word and then all of a sudden pops one in, it changes something for me. It sticks out. If it makes sense then I’m good, but when it is unnecessary, I find myself questioning the author in other areas.

Sex scenes: Just because you’re writing a love story or romance doesn’t mean you have to write a sex scene. If you are uncomfortable writing love/sex scenes, don’t do it. It will come off awkward. I know; I suck at them. I leave that stuff to my Rabbit In The Hat Hook’er. She writes some spicy stuff, but she is comfortable and it comes off that way. That shouldn’t dissuade you from writing romance though if you love it. Some of the best scenes are the ones where I was left at the door. Left to my own imagination.

I just picked the first four that popped in my head. If you could write a Just-Because-You-Can list for writing what would you include?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Picky Hook'ers & Mistakes to Avoid in Your First Five Pages

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 6:17 AM 2 comments
As I’ve mentioned before in an earlier blog post, we’re rejecting a lot of submissions. They’re just not hooking us. The first five pages should snare us, wet our appetite, and have us begging for more, but it just isn’t happening as much as we'd like. 

Are we too mean and picky? Maybe.
Should we relax our standards? Never.

Most agents ask for the query, the synopsis, and a “taste” of your work. Did you know that most agents, after reading the query, skip right to the sample pages? For the most part they could care less about the synopsis or plot of your story. They want to see what your writing style is like. They can get a good sense of who you are and what you have to offer—everything they need to know about you as a writer can be found in those first few pages of your novel. Then, and only then, if they like what they see will they take a look at the synopsis to determine if your story idea is intriguing, new, and fresh, something they want to represent. 

Oh, those first few pages! They can make or break you. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? But agents are busy people. Editors even more so. And Hook’ers are no exception either. 

So, just to give you an idea of what things we’re seeing that tend to cause us to say no (things you hopefully can avoid), I’ve compiled the following list: 

1)      1) Stories starting in the wrong place. Get us into the meat of the story right away. If you start your novel with too much backstory and setup, then we will pass. 

2)       2) Clichéd beginnings. Examples: (YA) The female/male main character comes to school and sees a new kid (girl/boy) in the office registering for classes (I can count on both hands the instances of stories starting off that same or similar way—Twilight, I Am Number Four . . .).  For romance, any type of romance, the opening starts off with the female main character jogging. Enough said. For some reason, female characters must be joggers, because, it’s only through jogging that they happen to come across the main male character (vampire, sexy alien, werewolf, super buff dude). 

3)       3) Starting off with a pretty cool hook/opening line, but then dropping it and never coming back to it. There have been a couple submissions in which that opening sentence was like wow, I need to read more. But then the story takes off in a different direction and leaving us feeling confused and mislead. 

4)       4) Too many modifiers.  The over use of adverbs, adjectives, and metaphors. (You know how much I dislike adverbs). 

5)       5) The cadence or sound of the novel reads funny.  Try reading your words out loud. Listen to the beat of the words as you say them. Even though they are written, they do need to have a smooth flow.

6)       6) Too much stage direction. You don’t have to tell the reader EVERYTHING the character is doing. It’s okay to end dialogue with simply “he said”. That’s good. Some narrative is great and appreciated. It breaks up the use of dialogue tags. But TOO many can be jarring. Find a balance. 

7)    7) Not having a clean submission. I’m not talking dirty, gritty words here (Hook’ers can handle it), what I mean is that the manuscript has either punctuation problems, or margin issues, or copy/crossover over issues.  Now, we don’t always reject simply because there is a misspelled word or two, or the margins are slightly off. We reject when there are too many and it tosses us out of the story too often. Anything that tosses the reader out of the story isn’t a good thing. You want to avoid that as much as possible. 

If you can avoid doing the above, then you will be in a much better position to be accepted by Hook’ers and agents alike. Polish and refine, peeps. Polish and refine.  Do some research and continue to improve yourself. Set yourself up for success.

Oh, and if you want to read a great book on how to make the first pages of your manuscript shine, check out The First Five Pages: The Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of theRejection Pile by Noah Lukeman. If you don’t have this book in your writer’s library, I highly suggest you do. It’s a great book to own.

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