Before and After
My guest this week is Tara Fox Hall, author of the Promise Me series from Melange Books. She shares her story of a writing workshop intervention that helped get her writing to a publishable level.
Tara Fox Hall:
To say I needed a lot of help getting my first novel, Promise, ready for publication is an understatement. It was 200K in length, it had punctuation errors, and I tended to use not only repeated words, but also several paragraphs when a few sentences would do. I was lucky enough to qualify for a writer’s workshop through a small press, Wolf-Pirate Publishing, which helped me immensely to work on these problems, as well as others I wasn’t aware of. At first, the criticism was very hard to take, not to mention all the rewriting needed for multiple rounds of edits. But it not only made Promise better and gave me experience with what a real publisher would require, it helped me change the way I wrote, so I didn’t make the same mistakes in new rough drafts I crafted. I also went back through my other works using what I’d learned and made them better. Promise eventually became two books, Promise Me and Broken Promise, which are part of my successful Promise Me Series. Now three years into my writing career, I look back at my first attempts and am glad no one published them. I also keep trying to get better with each new project.
Here is a short except from the first final draft of Promise.
Someone had tried to kill him and almost succeeded. That someone had involved me, by dumping him so close to my house. And I had done the last thing expected: shelter a total stranger in a basement with no windows. If he had been out all night, he would have been a pile of ashes by now. The truck I would have found today would be empty, and I'd have called the police. They would have come and hauled it away, and that would have been the end of it.
My thoughts were manic, but nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I had involved myself in something I had no experience to handle, and I was unused to the feeling.
But I was smart, and strong. I’d work out a best course of action, if I thought long enough, and kept my reason.
No one knew now even that he was here, except whomever had struck him. Because usually when you try to kill someone, you have a reason. I was gambling here that I had found the good guy, whom some bad guy had hurt. But the opposite could be true. And that led me to the only conclusion it could. I wanted to know what was going on, and why this guy had been dumped here, and who had hurt him. I wanted to know what he was, that he had teeth like that.
Plus he was hot, and he was stirring things in me that hadn't been stirred in a while. Okay, a longer than average while.
Final Promise Me published version.
If the legends were true, someone might have tried to kill him last night. That someone had involved me by dumping him so close to my house. I’d done the last thing expected; sheltered a total stranger in a basement with no windows. If I’d left him outside, he’d be a pile of wet ash by now. The truck would be empty, and I’d have called the police when I went out this morning to check the quarry. They would have come and hauled it away, and that would have been the end of it.
My thoughts were manic, but nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I’d involved myself in something I had no experience to handle, and I wasn’t used to the feeling. But I was confident that I’d work it out if I reasoned over it long enough. My more prevailing thought was curiosity. I wanted to know what was going on and why this guy had been dumped here, and who’d hurt him. His sexy appearance stirred things in me that hadn’t been stirred in a while.
About Promise Me:
When young widow Sarelle McGarren finds the vampire Danial Racklan unconscious and hurt in her woods, intuit concern quickly becomes passionate love. Together, Danial and Sar work to overcome their own past heartbreaks, their vastly different lifestyles, and Danial's relentless enemies. Yet Danial needs more: an Oath of Forever. But can Sar give Danial his greatest desire?
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Housetraing Pet Words
A wonderful guest post today from B. K. Fowler, author of the new historical novel Ken's War. She has some great insight about favorite words that authors tend to overuse.
From B. K. Fowler:
Every writer has pet words. Tabitha King's pets in The Trap are hooked and hauled, as in "She hooked off her socks," and "He hauled his boots on." Strong verbs used in unconventional ways are refreshing until they’re overworked and become annoying to readers.
Pronouns, one breed of pets, are especially vague. "I hate and mistrust pronouns, every one of them as slippery as a fly-by-night personal-injury lawyer," writes Stephen King in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. And in The Book Alan Watts refers to the pronoun it is a spook, as in "It's raining outside." What exactly is it?
King, Watts and other successful authors use it when it's unavoidable or natural sounding. Character dialogue, for example, sounds natural with a sprinkling of the neuter, singular pronoun.
Overusing it causes confusion, as this passage from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland demonstrates.
"…The patriotic archbishop of Canterbury found it advisable — "
"Found what?" said the Duck.
"Found it," the Mouse replied rather crossly: "of course you know what 'it' means."
"I know what 'it' means well enough, when I find a thing," said the duck: "it's generally a frog, or a worm. The question is, what did the archbishop find?"
If it is one of your pet pronouns, replace it with the true subject of the sentence or phrase. The sentence, “It was the boss who inspected the books,” can be revised as “The boss inspected the books.” (When it disappeared so did other pets--was, who.)
Other easily housebroken pets include the rest of the pronoun menagerie: all, some, this, those, they, what, anything, everyone. Other overused words include just, only, really and very.
When editing your manuscript, pick a word you used too frequently. Look the word up in a thesaurus for suitable synonyms. Or maybe the word can be deleted. I used just too often, as in “His dad would just have to adapt to Japanese food.” I can replace just. “His dad would simply have to adapt to Japanese food.” Or I can delete just. “His dad would have to adapt to Japanese food.”
Housebreak words that piddle on your story. Remove them. Replace them. Or rewrite without them, when possible.
Ken’s War by B.K. Fowler: Army brat Ken finds himself in Japan when his hot-headed dad is deployed to a remote post there. Culture clash is one of the many sucker punches that knocks Ken’s world upside down in this coming-of-age novel for teens and young adults.
“Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.
Ken's War: When culture shock & teen rebellion collide. http://www.fireandiceya.com/authors/bkfowler/kenswar.html
Contact the author of Ken’s War & go behind the scenes at https://www.facebook.com/kenswar
Get writers tips and resources at http://writershelper.wordpress.com
D. G. Driver
Award-winning author of books for teen and tween readers. Learn more about her and her writing at www.dgdriver.com
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.