Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bridging the gap between a first book and its sequel

I'm currently drafting the second book in the Tanzy Hightower series. As I have it now, the sequel picks up twelve hours after the first book concludes. The writing is easier in some ways and harder in others. The characters' voices are strong and their opinions are solely their own, leaving me to do what they tell me. And they've driven the plot forward at warp speed. I took the time to reread the first 100 pages, and for a first draft, I found the structure to be sound. Until I had this thought: what if I never read the first one? Would this story make any sense? Heck no.

Here's my hang-up: one of my reader pet-peeves is when an author recaps the previous book in the first couple of chapters. The rhythm is usually sluggish and passive. I scan these parts as fast as I can until I find a tempo I recognize. Sometimes this means I've missed some gem of new information buried in the rehash, and I pay for my skimming ways later on. But it's very unlikely that all readers feel this way. So I asked a couple of writer friends if they had any words of wisdom as per how to weave the first book into the second - is it even necessary? Their answers were so fantastic that I wanted to do this blog post just to spread their very generous knowledge. Here's what they said:

From Mel Smith ( We have to assume that there will be a significant amount of time between readers finishing the first book and beginning the sequel. In that light, I think you would have to do some physical description of the reintroduced characters but not as in depth as what would have been covered in the first book. A third book in the series could stand to have even less physical description because your fans would, by now, have a strong mental image of your characters. On one hand we assume our readers have read our first book, but on the other we have to make the sequel able to stand on it's own somewhat in the case a reader picks it up first. Many times I’ll start a second or third book in a series just because the first or second wasn't available at the time; that one, in turn, will urge me to seek out the earlier books.

I realize there are a lot of assumptions going on there. It's redundant, though I think we have to write for contingencies. The largest bane in my writing is that I assume my reader knows what I know of the story or sees what I see in my mind and due to this it may be best to purposely be heavy handed on the descriptions when reintroducing characters and plot points. (there is a fine line to do that for aesthetics and not insult our readers intelligence. This falls to craft and how we present the description.) For me I want to have a good balance. Authors like Stephen King take pages to describe something while others do so piece meal in small paragraphs throughout the novel. Something between those extremes is what I strive for. And I think you can lighten the descriptions for each subsequent book in the series.

A wonderful series to research ways of doing this is Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series and Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series.

From Justus Stone (  I wouldn't duplicate, but whatever happened in the first book is going to influence the 2nd, so some recap is probably not a bad thing. Unless it's a tongue in cheek thing that becomes a trope of your series (like there's always a new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher, etc)

Thanks again, Mel and Justus! I'm inspired, and I have a plan. A dangerous combination for my characters...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Review: "The Dragon's Call" by K.W. McKabe

I have to admit, I was hesitant to read and review this book - only because I've never read a dragon-based fantasy book before and worried it might fly to the peaks of high fantasy, losing me somewhere among the clouds. However, the fire-breathing (not-so-mythical) creatures were introduced and crafted in such a way that grounded the story in a great way.

Overview: (supplied by author on In a thoughtless final act of destruction, humans wake the one creature of legend they have no protection against. Years after the complete subjugation of the human race, Derek, heir of the Dragon Queen, and Cecily, create a tentative friendship. But something or someone is stalking the human enclave. Cecily and Derek must find out who and why before she's next.

I was most impressed with how the author seamlessly integrated a fantastical overtaking by dragonkind into a very plausible outcome. She uses two POVs, and it's interesting because one is a man who survived through the war and the other is a girl who's never known anything else. So it's fun to see how differently they react to the same situation. And she does a great job of giving each POV a very clear voice. My favorite character is Derek, the love interest and heir to the dragon throne. I am also particularly fond of Cecily's father. His decisions and reactions feel very authentic, and even when they make me mad, it's so well done that it makes me feel like a teenage girl holed up in my room in my parents' house again. My one gripe is that the tempo of the writing changed a bit towards the end of the book. But I'm definitely interested in seeing what happens next! I give it four stars :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Is sex appropriate in YA books?

Now that my debut novel is headed for the copy editor - and out of my hands - I'm outlining my sequels for Tanzy's next two adventures. Things will certainly heat up between her and her love interest, but how hot should they get?

Romance and physical relationships run the gammet in YA books: some climax with the two love birds finally, slowly, kissing each other, and another has two teens we've just met rounding third base and heading to home plate before the end of the second chapter. The popular Twilight series has Bella and Edward get hitched before slipping beneath the sheets.

So what's appropriate? My opinion is this: exploring sexuality in some form or another is an integral part of our teenage years. Whether we did it, didn't do it, talked about, read it, whatever - it's a time in your life when you start feeling things that you haven't before, that you don't completely understand, and can't always control. And when a YA story features a budding love, the sparks would feel a little chilly if these feelings weren't addressed one way or another.

On the flipside of all of those feelings, I do think that whatever our characters decide, we have a responsibility to make the experiences and consequences authentic. Glorifying the moment and coming out of it unchanged doesn't do anyone any good - neither for your characters nor your younger readers. As writers, we have to recognize that our characters are showing our readers what kind of treatment is acceptable and what is not. To be frank: Bella and Edward could've had sex before they got married and it wouldn't have bothered me in the least bit. What DID bother me was that it didn't bother Bella that sex with Edward left her covered in bruises. That is not acceptable treatment in my book.

To be completely honest, I've already written such a scene between Tanzy and her main squeeze. This scene is in a separate file, waiting to be dropped into the plot should Tanzy and her love interest arrive at this moment and the fire won't quiet. I'm not positive I'll use it, but I do know how the entire plot will change if I do. Because sex DOES change things - whether in real life or on paper. And if we go down that road, we owe it to everyone involved to see it through to the end.

What are your thoughts? Please leave them here, and include links to your blogs/sites/etc. And please feel free to disagree!!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Review - "Predator Girl" by S.B. Roozenboom

I was very interested to read this book for two reasons: I'm a fantasy junkie, and also, because the author, S.B. Roozenbaum is what I call a word-sister, since we're both authors for WiDo Publishing. I hadn't read a WiDo released book yet, and was very curious to see one of their finished products... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, the synopsis: (provided by author for Strange and unusual beasts that few people are aware of roam our world. Jared Ferlyn is one of these few—a Finder, born with the gift for detecting and tracking paranormal beings. Tagging these Otherworlders for the government, he’s had his share of keeping fey, nightlings and other creatures from human sight. But when a strange new girl comes to town, Jared is unable to classify her despite his training and experience.

While tracking the mysterious newcomer, Jared is pulled into a dangerous environment that not even a Finder is prepared for. And he finds a whole lot more than he bargained for.

"We were a match made in hell, yet no matter how many times I repeated it, it wouldn't soak in. I'd never had so much trouble tossing a woman from my mind. For me, there was an off button that came with every girl. . . . But Ilume didn't seem to have one." (Jared Ferlyn in PREDATOR GIRL)

In a nutshell: This book takes a very different look at a trendy topic, making the type of paranormal creature featured feel fresh and intimate at the same time. I also found it very interesting that the main character and voice is a guy. It was fun to see the guy side of a love interest. His counterpart also has chapters from her perspective, and I really enjoyed getting the whole picture of the dynamic between them. Roozenboom is a heckofa storyteller.

Final words: I can't wait for the sequel. 4 1/2 stars!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cover Reveal: "The Second Sign" by Elizabeth Arroyo

This is my first cover reveal as a blogger - and I'm so excited about it. Any cover design with wings definitely gets bumped up my must-read list :)

The Second Sign by Elizabeth Arroyo
Publisher: Sapphire Star Publishing
Genre: Young Adult Dark Fantasy/ Paranormal Romance
Release Date: February 07, 2013

Synopsis (provided by author): Bred to believe in the war between angels and demons, Gabby has come to the conclusion that love is responsible for war, jealousy, and all the other deadly sins she can think of. So when she’s exiled to the middle of nowhere for getting kicked out of her fifth school for fighting, she doesn't expect to meet Jake. Much less fall in love. But Jake is quickly drawn to the eerie beauty of her violet eyes while Gabby is unsettled by their undeniable connection.

When a demon guardian comes to collect her soul, she refuses to give it up. She’s not a demon. She can’t be. Her father and twin brother are angels. The demon gives Gabby twenty-four hours to decide her allegiance, and then starts killing her short list of friends, leaving a message behind: She is the Second Sign.

As Gabby and Jake begin to unravel the mystery behind the Second Sign, she learns Jake may be the key to saving her soul. But it means a sacrifice has to be made that will change their lives forever.
And, drum roll please....
Congratulations, Elizabeth! A stirring cover and an intriguing premise. Count me in!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"The next big thing" blog hop!! (who, me?!)

I was trolling one of my favorite author blogs when two familiar words caught my eyes: Jadie Jones. I'd been tagged in "The Next Big Thing" blog hop. Me?? Really!? What a great reason to throw back the curtains and shed some light on Tanzy's world.

Side note: thank you so much Katie Pendergrass for choosing me as The Next Big Thing. (If you don't know Katie yet, click here to check out her blog about her upcoming debut novel "Dancing Demons."

The Next Big Thing

1. What is the working title of your book?
That's a loaded question. I've gone back and forth between two titles: "Be Seeing You" and "Origin." It's likely that neither will end up as the final title. My publishers are working on that as I type. I can't wait to have a firm name!

2. Where did the idea come from?
Literally, a heavily medicated dream state. I'd taken a nasty spill off of a horse and had a concussion. For the first few nights after the fall, I had some very vivid dreams. A big part of this story was one of them. I also really wanted to craft a story about a capable, savvy heroine.

3. What genre does your WIP/MS fall under?
I would consider it a young adult or new adult urban fantasy with a twist of paranormal, and of course a heavy-handed dash of romance.

4. Which actors would you cast as your main characters if your book is turned into a movie?
FUN! A couple of notes about this before I list my casting roster. First, I have a pintrest account where I have created inspiration boards for all of my main and supporting characters. In a word: eyecandy. Here's the link: And, I have to say that Stephanie Leigh Schlund actually inspired the look of "Vanessa." Brilliant, blond, beautiful, and tough as nails (and Vanessa's are always manicured.) Stephanie and I met for lunch in a stretch of small town Georgia between where I live and where she lives. She's bi-coastal, so we go stretches without seeing each other. She walked into this tiny, smoky burger joint in a killer black dress and perfect black pumps, without a blond hair out of place. Waiters literally fell over themselves trying to clear a path for her. BAM - Vanessa. And this scene replays itself in a swanky night club in Louisville, Kentucky. (Huge congratulations to my dear friend Stephanie for landing the role of Cashmere in The Hunger Games -Catching Fire movie.) Anyways, on with the casting!

Tanzy Hightower: Alexis Bledel

Vanessa Andrews: Stephanie Leigh Schlund

Asher: James Marsters

Ryan: Alex Pettyfer

Lucas: Greg Finley
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Gah! I'm terrible at the whole synopsis bit. I emailed my editor and begged for help as soon as I saw this question on the list. Here's my best attempt: After losing everything in one deadly night, Tanzy Hightower must put her faith in a new friend and a scarred, beautiful stranger as she uncovers the terrible reason her soul was first created - and brought back to deliver.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My book has been picked up by WiDo Publishing, and is due for release next year!
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Three or four months, I think. But it took many many drafts between that first one and the manuscript that I sent off in queries to agents and publishers. Over three years and too many drafts to count.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within its genre?
That's tough. I'd describe it as a love child between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sea Biscuit. Except no vampires. Or jockeys. I've worked in the horse industry for the better part of 15 years, so I bring that knowledge to this story. Tanzy is a gritty barn chick who's not afraid of hard work. Tanzy reminds me a little bit of Katniss (Hunger Games) in that they are both a little prickly and hard to get to know. They don't rely on others well. But once you matter to them, you MATTER.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I'd gone through a few hits in my life where I'd stopped being good at seeing something - anything - through to the end. Once I locked on to the idea of it, I couldn't let it go. It wouldn't leave me alone. I was determined to see it through, come hell or high water. Side note: I never missed an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ever. I would say that I was inspired by my deep and unmet desire for Buffy and Angel to have ended up together in the end.

10. What else about your book might pique a reader's interest?
There are layers of betrayal in this story that peel back all the way through. Also, since I do bring the horse experience to the table, I try to give snippets of real-life information about the equine industry.

Now on to the fun part! Passing along the honor - and the tag - of being "The Next Big Thing!" My tags are...

Summer Ross
Rachel Harris
C.J. Redwine
Matthew MacNish
Ellie Garratt

Friday, October 12, 2012

An editor: the best lab partner ever.

Soon after I signed my contract with WiDo Publishing, I recieved my first email from my editor,  introducing herself and explaining how she wanted my manuscript formatted for her first read-through. I'd heard horror stories about the editing process, and my short-lived experience as a writer in the political arena had instilled in me a sort of PTSD in regards to all red ink. But I was determined to soldier on and be brave about what she might say (or slash and burn.) When I emailed her, I told her not to hold back, and that the only thing I liked sugarcoated was my cereal. Or something to that affect. And then she explained to me what her role in this was: a partner, a side-kick, a sounding board. One edit turned into four, emails shot back and forth at all hours, and we became exactly that.

This is how I know best to explain the partnership between a writer and his/her editor. The process is more like a biology lab and not at all like a biology lecture. Lecture: the teacher stands in front of the class and yammers on for an hour, writing in chicken scratch on a dry erase board. Lab: you and your partner disect things, blow things up, create chemical compounds, mess with DNA, make fruitfly babies (gew.) You get the idea. You get your hands dirty. You get a little sweaty. And you REALLY learn.

My editor disected parts of my manuscript and we blew up other parts together. I started recognizing some of my own bad habits as a writer: my word addictions, redundancies, my reliance on metaphors, my odd way of breaking up dialogue and speaker, my obsession with having characters nod instead of say something. I was also forced to confront the weak spots in my plot and/or writing that I'd mentally swept underneath the stronger parts around it. She made me learn how to fight for my manuscript, and, more importantly, what to fight.

Ten minutes ago, I emailed my final line changes to my editor. So few, were they, that she insisted I send a "clean" copy (no mark-up bubbles, red text, etc.) so she could forward it directly to the copy editor. Five weeks, a big overview edit, and three line edits later, my manuscript is finally ready to move forward on this journey. The lessons I learned from my editor thoughout this process will affect the way I write forever. And as I write this little blog diddy, I can't help but wonder if she knows that, if she recognizes her lasting impact.

I knew my editor would change my manuscript. I had no idea she'd change me.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Inspiration Boards for Characters

You know what color your character's eyes are. You know (and probably envy) her hair. You know whether she's tall or short. You know her body type. But do you know what she really looks like? Do you know what face she makes when she's royally brassed off? The shape of her nose? The line of her jaw? Do you know how she carries her hands? Do you know what clothing/accessories she would but if she was in a store?

Painting a complete picture of your characters not only helps you get to know them better, but it's also ridiculously fun. (Especially when you're a mom with three jobs and you're painting a picture of your protagonist's chiseled love interest... but I digress.) It's also really easy.

The old fashioned way: grab a few magazines and cut out any and every thing that makes you think your characters: clothing, colors, faces, bodies, personalities, accessories, locations, etc. Separate them into piles per-character and then glue/tape them to an "inspiration" poster board. Write notes on your board as they pop into your head: catch phrases your character might use, bits of dialogue, memories, plot ideas, whatever strikes your fancy. Write it ALL down. You never know what little gem may tumble from your brain as you cut away like an 8 year old in art class.

The www. way: Pintrest. It's amazing, addictive, and a mess-free way to create inspiration boards for your characters. With a couple of clicks, you can pick an image and put in on a board for your character, and then keep on perusing. I usually run out of time before I run out of attention for Pintrest. I have even started inspiration boards for a couple of my main settings as well. Warning: I'm a homebody, and the pictures on pintrest of amazing sights all over this world have made me want to travel. Bad. (site url:

An added bonus to creating online inspiration boards: your fans and potential readers can see exactly what was going on in your brain when you crafted your character/setting. And any link between a reader and a character only serves to strengthen the bond between them. For those of us penning a series, this is particularly helpful. I want my readers to KNOW my characters. I want them to have feelings for them: love, hate, fury, etc. And it's a lot easier to feel those things if you have a high-resolution picture in your head.

Just for fun, I'll post a few pictures from the inspiration boards for my main characters here. I think the old adage: a picture is worth a thousand words rings true. How many words will your inspiration boards create in you?

Tanzy Hightower

 Vanessa Andrews

Here's a link to my pintrest page:  I've created inspiration boards for my main characters and a couple of settings. If anyone has any other websites or ideas on this topic feel free to post - and please include and blog/site address.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tackling writer's block: how to turn a stop sign into a speed bump

Writer's block: invisible, silent, and about as unsympathetic as ants to a picnic. And just like those pesky ants, it marches away with your plot/dialogue/character and drops it down a hole too tiny for you to follow. It's easy to glare at your screen, to consider the blinking cursor a traitorous bully. But I've noticed that any writing I muster with my face twisted into a pretzel typically comes off just as snarky and sluggish as I feel.

This debut novel of mine took me three years to write - and in those three years, I've faced down a lot of dead ends. Some successfully, and some not so much. During a particularly long stand-off with myself, I went on the hunt for a proverbial jackhammer. I read (a lot) and I google-searched til my finger cramped from scrolling. I've provided a list below of a few exercises I found most effective, but the key word is: exercise. I had to take time out from moving forward with my plot and stretch new muscles in my creativity. It meant slowing down my pace, but if I was being perfectly honest with myself, I had to admit I was at a complete stand still. So slowing down was actually an improvement.

1. The empty picture frame: Can't figure out how to get out of a scene? In Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird," she describes an exercise she gives in classes that she teaches. She tells her students to find/make/buy an empty picture frame and to write these words inside: What do you see in here? Forget about the action that you can't force forward, and instead make notes about what you see - no detail too small to notice. Top to bottom, horizon to horizon. Paint the picture. Live in it. What do you smell? What do you hear? This helps me 99% of the time that I use it. My picture frame is green, by the way.

2. Who ARE you? When my dialogue starts to err on the side of a polite conversation in a church sanctuary, it takes my whole scene down with it. The ho-hum banter paves a path straight to somewhere fiery. Usually what's happened is that I've lost track of who my characters ARE. What are they all about? What makes them tick? In a separate file/notebook/etc, create a complete - and I mean crazy complete - description of the inner workings of your character. Ask yourself asinine questions about what he/she might do in every day situations: found a lost dog, made a cup of coffee, answered the door to religious zealots, found a fifty-dollar bill, got behind an extreme couponer in the 10-items-or-less checkout line. What would your character do? What would they say? Does their inner dialogue have a catch phrase? What word do they typically use to agree or disagree? Considering these questions seems like the long way around, I know. But knowing how they speak in every day circumstances will make their dialogue read in a way that feels meaningful and authentic to your reader without weighing down the whole page.

3. Plot stall: Your main characters are standing around staring at each other. Cocktail hour is over and the main course is still thirty minutes away. Awkward. Instead of sending your characters for another round of free drinks, try this: kill off your main character. Seriously. Copy the section/chapter/whatever and paste it into a new file. Then, write a quick story from the point where the engine fell out of your plot and kill off your protagonist. This exercise makes you look through the eyes of all of your other characters and consider their integrity (and their resourcefulness.) Or maybe your leading hero succumbs to an unknown food allergy or a moment of tragic clumsiness. Either way, I promise your original scene won't look the same upon return.

4. Back track: sometimes, I have to level with myself and embrace the fact that I HAVE written myself into a corner. Somewhere along the way, I chucked the spare tire to cut down on weight and now I've got a flat. Then I have to do what every writer dreads: search back to the last place the story was breathing on its own, and pull the plug on the rest. I'm a huge advocate for the delete button. To be fair - and honest - I always start a second document file where I paste the bigger pieces I've cut from my work-in-progress just in case I need them again. But I very rarely go back for them. Our stories are in our minds - not in our key strokes. A scene can always be recreated, even with some well-earned grumbling.

Please feel free to leave your own tips - or links to your own posts on the subject. Thank you for reading and happy writing!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

"looking" at you! - a writer challenge

LOOK! No, really, look. That was the challenge issued by my brilliant editor Summer Ross, who tagged me in a "look" writer challenge.

The rules: find out how many times the word "look" appears in your manuscript or work-in-progress. Then, post your favorite three paragraphs with the word "look" in it. Of course that means I had to evaluate each and every time I used the word.

When I saw the rules, I thought: piece of cake. That's not one of my go-to filler words. WRONG. Here's the truth in cold, hard numbers: I used the word "look" 327 times in 90,000 words. At first I thought, that ratio isn't too bad. Then I realized that there are 327 "looks" in 298 pages. That's a problem.

Look had become a filler word for me - people gave each other "looks" and "looked" at things and said "look" instead of owning an action, an expression, or just cutting to the chase (apparently, 327 times.) Needless to say, there's major editing happening over here. And I dutifully looked through every single "look." Here are my three favorite paragraphs with the word "look."

Even now I can feel the drops of blood that splattered my cheek the moment my fist made contact. I catch myself wiping at it, sure I’ll see stains on the back of my hand. But there’s nothing there. A man could be dead because of these hands but they don’t look any different. Shouldn’t they look different? They start to tremble all over again. I shake them at my sides, shake them until they hurt.

“Wait,” a new voice commands smoothly. Everyone goes silent at the sound, which is familiar even to me. The psych patient from the hospital. I wouldn’t forget that voice in a million years. The instant recognition makes the hairs prick on the back of my neck. As I turn to look for confirmation, everyone else in the courtyard drops into a deep bow. The only two left standing are him and me.

“I am to make a crown. For his queen. He wants the horse shoe to be part of the center piece. If you don’t succeed…” He stops and looks away from her. The agony in their eyes cuts me to the quick. She wouldn’t let go of the necklace even in the face of death, and I left it on a bedside table. Two seconds ago, I was certain there was no part of my heart left intact. But there was. And it just shattered like a fist to a mirror. Spera and I are not the same. We are not alike. Not in the least bit.

Now for the last rule: once you've "looked," tag 5 writers in your response, and pass along this little challenge. If you've been tagged and want to participate, post your findings and your paragraphs on your blog/site/FB where ever, and make sure to let the writers you tagged know that they're next!

And here are my tags:

Rachel Harris
Lori Ann Robinson
Katie Snow Pendergrass
Kerri Cuevas
Charity Bradford

"looking" at my three choices, I'm clearly a big fan of action of description in the use of the word "look."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

line editing - DO judge a word by its cover

The good news: my totally rad editor gave me two thumbs up on the work I did on the "overview" edits (adjustments in major plot, characters, dialogue, and pacing/flow.)

The next step: in-line editing. In other words: making every word count. These words are literally purchased by our readers, which means they have a job to do. It means they've got to toil and sweat - because it means that word beat out every other word for the spot in the sentence. In the paragraph. In the chapter. In the story. Yes, I'm beating the horse. But the horse's job is to run. The horse's job is to win. And if you're riding a dead horse, you've got bigger problems.

On a lighter note, the first advice I ever got about word count was from a writer who I sat next to on a plane. I was a doe-eyed teenager who wanted to be a writer, and he was an adult who said things like "literary agent" and "word count." So I soaked up every piece of advice he was willing to dish, including this: "no publisher will look at your work as a first time author unless your manuscript is done (which is true as far as I know), and unless it is AT LEAST 100,000 words." That's not so true. In fact, depending on your genre, that's as far from the truth as you can get - especially in YA. That was probably the worst advice I have received to date as a writer. Why? Because it stuck with me, and I never questioned it. So I pumped my draft for word count - quantity first - and squeezed every word I could from the bones of my story, all in an effort to achieve that magic 100K count. The result: a plot that meandered from point to point, arriving unceremoniously at an overly concluded conclusion, disastrous dialogue weakened by almost every possible redundancy, and a protagonist whose defining moments were lost in scenes so descriptive tiles on the floor were counted (okay, thankfully that's an exaggeration, but you get the idea.)

So how do you know what to cut? Here are a few tips and words of wisdom that I've learned during this editing process:

1. Look for redundancy. Redundancy can be obvious - using a "real" word twice or more in a paragraph, but it can also happen in some indirect ways. Each new sentence should have a point all of its own, so make sure that pairs of sentences aren't saying the same thing twice. This can also happen in dialogue. Example: "Oh my gosh!" she exclaimed excitedly. See the triple repeat? "Oh my gosh!" works just fine on its own. Several well-known literary agents that blog are big fans of sticking with the tried and true he/she says and letting other versions of speech descriptions filter in as a rare exception.

2. Weak/passive voice. To be or not to be is NEVER the question, if you can help it. Cut out any "to be" verbs that you can and let your characters own their actions. Use words like is, was, are, am, be, been, etc. sparingly. But "to be" verbs aren't the only villains of passive voice. A few of my subconscious favorites: seems to, starts to, and begins to. *yawn.* I'm sorry, what was I saying? Try cutting the fluffy verbs from the action and see if you like the result.

3. Filler words. We all have them. Our go-to words when our creative juices are tapped out or we're trying to force something that just won't fit or flow. My go-to fillers: Just, seems, get, even, as, but, and suddenly. And, as an entire grammatical category: adverbs. Typically (hehe), adverbs fill the space where character-development/showing should happen. I tried to get away with this big time in my manuscript. I thought: if the editor sees this she'll tell me how to fix it. She did see it. You know what she said? "Fix this." Well played, madam. Well played.

4. The best advice I ever got and didn't want to believe: during my querying phase, I stalked more writing blogs than I cared to count, especially once I realized my 100K words bit was about as wrong as a nun at a strip club. I stumbled across a piece of wisdom that made me recoil from the screen and I rejected it immediately. Curious? The blogger's advice was this: find your favorite section of writing and cut it. Sounds crazy, right? Well here's the thing - the second I read it, I knew exactly what section of my manuscript I was most proud of as a writer. Then I read the blogger's reasoning: this section is probably just you showing off, and likely doesn't jive with the flow of the story or really add anything to the work around it. I disagreed with her for weeks. And I kept going back to it, tweaking it, finessing it. Not to make it fit better, of course, because it was my best writing. It fit! Didn't it? Kind of? Nope. Not at all. Finally, I cut it. And the whole chapter read so much better without it.

I hope this helps you avoid some of the mistakes I made. I'll post more soon on this topic. I'm learning so much during through the thoughts of my editor and I'm excited to share. Any other writers/bloggers/editors/whoever - please feel free to contribute your own tips (even if they completely contradict mine) and also please leave a link to your blog/page.

side note: I'm a BIG believer in Anne Lamott's concept of the "crappy" first draft (she uses a stronger word, but you get the idea.) Get your story down. Get your main characters fleshed out on paper. Then worry about finding the right words to do your story and your character justice.