Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Pet words and phrases:

Most authors seem to have them. Some people aren't bothered by them and think of them as the author's fingerprints. Some people are. I'm reading a novel right now in which the words: “spidery” and “spidered” are used way too much.

Don't get me wrong, the occasional use of these words in snippets of description is brilliant and wonderful and gives me images and feelings from the book that I couldn't have gotten any other way. But after awhile it becomes less brilliant and seems more lazy than anything else.

I LOVE this book though. It's wonderful. It's one of the best books I've ever read. (And yes, I realize now that almost EVERY book I read ends up being “One of the best books I've ever read.”) And yet, when she uses this pet word/variation over and over, it takes me out of the novel a bit.

It reminds me I'm just reading a story and the writer is just a mere mortal just like me. On the one hand such things make the author seem more human. But on the other hand sometimes I wonder, can the writer not see they are doing this?

Usually by the second or third read I can catch most of my pet words. I like to use the words: “Bizzarre” and “Clearly” a lot. Actually I'm way too in love with adverbs to begin with and once I murder those, the writing is much stronger. A lot of -ly words in a book just scream tentative.

Certain phrases that are pets of mine are: “Hurt like hell” (even though it's a total cliché to begin with). OH! And “slumped unconscious.” I found that a lot of characters had a habit of “slumping unconscious.” The poor souls.

So I go through and I edit and change etc. So that the ONE time someone “slumps unconscious” it's not totally stupid. And the one or very few times someone uses the word “bizarre” it actually carries some impact.

I also seem to like the words: “creepy” and “evil” a lot. And I'm having more trouble letting go of some instances of those because in some sense it's a “style/voice” thing. But in another sense I feel like if I don't take care of this stuff now, it will be my “spidered” and “spidery.” That thing that reminds readers I'm only mortal. A wonderful and endearing quality AFTER finishing a book. Maybe not so much during.

But maybe I'm being too hard on myself and others. It just seems to me that given all the millions of word combinations out there that to continue to use the same pet words and phrases over and over is a sign of laziness and I feel we owe readers more than that. And maybe the author doesn't even see it. Maybe they're too close to it. Perhaps I have other pet words and phrases that I don't even catch. But surely this is what critique readers are for. Yes?

At least it's not as bad as “pet metaphors.” Pet metaphors are much much worse. It's my opinion that you can use a truly descriptive metaphor ONE time, no matter how much you love it. To use it over and over makes it look like either, you can't come up with something else, or you're way too in love with your words in that instance.

Comments? What are your pet words and phrases? And how do you get rid of them?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Pet Peeve #784: “Love too cheaply bought.”

Even though the last pet peeve number was entirely made up and pulled out of my ass, I thought I would stick with that numbering system, so for those curious, that's where I got the number.

I hate when characters fall in love too quickly in a romance. I mean I understand if the storyline has to happen on a time crunch, but if they've just met there better be some really good reasons they are falling in love so fast. You can fall in lust or infatuation pretty quickly but not love, because I've been in love and am currently in love. What you feel at the beginning is so shallow compared to what comes later.

I understand it's fiction and “fantasy,” but to me a part of why romance so often cannot rise above being “just romance” to being a good story for its own sake, is the high unreality of characters who fall in love too quickly.

In my opinion, Romeo and Juliet is the worst play Shakespeare ever wrote. I would never badmouth a living author on my blog because well, that could be bad for my future success, but Shakespeare is gone so I'll say it. These kids knew each other like three days. That's not enough for real love to grow. Killing yourself after knowing someone for three days isn't love, it's a sign that you need a padded cell and a lithium drip.

I want the characters to have something deeper. I also think it's okay in a romance for the characters not to love each other eternally by the end of the novel. As long as they are starting their HEA, it's cool with me. I'd rather have that than: “Oh, Eric, I love you, I love you. I cannot live without you.” When the heroine only met him less than a week ago. Give me a break. That's not real. I'm quite sure at that level of attachment she can live without him.

In the paranormal romance I'm editing right now, I have this problem. I do have a bit of a time crunch going on, and yes a crisis situation can bring people together. Constant togetherness can bring people together, but I needed to add another scene to help bond the characters to make their love more believable when it happens.

So from this, I guess you know I don't believe in love at first sight. I believe in lust at first sight. Pheromones and chemistry are lovely things. Raw lust is heady and exciting. But actual love is something that grows over time. It's deeper than that and I don't like when it's too cheaply bought. It just takes me out of the story.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Every now and then a novel comes along that causes a big stink and book burnings etc. However, in the end, the author tends to be better off and the banned book becomes more famous. Now, I'm against censorship and this isn't really about censorship pro/con. It's more about...comparatively speaking books are the most free things out there.

Think about it. Video games, movies and television shows all have rating systems. Even CDs now have parental advisory warnings on them. But at the current time there is no such rating system for books.

You have to be an adult to buy/rent/go see an R rated or NC-17 rated movie. You have to be an adult to buy a Playboy or Hustler or any of thousands of movies with charming titles like: “Debbie does Dallas.” I have a very hard time believing she did ALL of Dallas, but whatever. ;)

Books aren't like this. Even novels of erotica share the same shelf space with the other books. There is no red curtained off area. There are no parental advisory labels. There is no rating system. There is no law that you have to show your ID before purchasing it. An erotica novel can be purchased by anyone with money to buy it.

Now granted, any individual store clerk might say: “Now, honey does your mama know you're buying this” if some 14 year old were to approach the counter with 'Story of O' or the erotica of Anais Nin for example, and yet, there is no law saying that 14 year old couldn't purchase it.

I wonder why that is? It's definitely adult material. And judging from recent freakouts over the word 'scrotum' in a children's novel, surely words like 'cock' and 'pussy' are things conservative people who set themselves up as protectors of our morality and children should be in an uproar about. Not to mention BDSM fiction. Sometimes I wonder if our gatekeepers of morality are even aware of how inundated in our culture games of dominance and submission have become.

I think it's kind of a bizarre situation to tell the truth. Online erotica stories have stiff warnings of “you must be 18 to view this material” blah blah blah to cover their collective legal asses. And yet, a fifteen year old who manages to get a hold of mommy's credit card, or buys a visa gift card, or is savvy enough to exchange their spare change at a coinstar machine for an amazon gift certificate, can hop on over to and buy an erotica novel, no questions asked or hoops to jump through. Not even a button to clicky clicky saying you're 18.

Although I have no idea how/why anyone thinks this honor system works. I can only assume it's to protect the seller because they didn't knowingly sell to a minor. I can assure you, almost no kid feels guilty for lying on the internet about being 18.

To some degree I think we overprotect both minors and adults from sex and it shows in the sexual hang ups a lot of people grow up with. It's not healthy. Human beings might not be super emotionally mature before 18, but they are sexually maturing before then.

While I believe kids should be allowed to be kids as long as possible, and the sexual exploration of a minor should happen between minors and not between minors and adults, exploration will happen. They will explore, and figure out what they need to figure out. And they're going to masturbate. Get over it. Keeping them from reading a book with the word Scrotum in it, only makes you look like a ninny.

It also makes me wonder how many adults have forgotten their own sexual awakening. Have they just blocked out of their memory the first time they had a dirty thought, read something 'naughty' or masturbated? I really don't get it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Emotional exhaustion etc.

So this is Wednesday, hence it's post-y day. So unless there is something dire going on, I'm posting on the days I said I'm posting. Today's post is writing related but more 'personal' I guess. Kind of more like a regular journal entry. I'm kind of just throwing this out here because it's on my mind a bit and so why the hell not? It's not like it's deep dark secrets which will later incriminate me. Well hopefully. Different people think different things are incriminating.

So anyway...some of you know I'm a fanfic girl. And yes, I only write fanfic where the author/creator has approved it. I don't try to profit...blah blah blah. I just feel like I have to specify that because otherwise someone's going to just think I'm the queen of evil or 'not a real writer' because I do something just for fun sometimes. shudder, gasp.

At any rate. I'm taking a fanfic writing break. Probably for about a month. Like fanfic is supposed to BE the break lol, but it's turning into "fake pressure." Like if I don't update WIPs in a timely fashion I lose reader interest and get less feedback blah blah blah.

On top of that though of course I'm working on two diff novels. The paranormal romance is getting into the final stages of revision and I'm about halfway through the rough draft of an erotica. The erotica will be under a diff pen name should it get published because I really want to keep those two identities separate. I know this makes it completely insane for me to blog about it here, but...yeah. I'm not super good at compartmentalizing my life into a bunch of different multiple personality bubbles.

It's enough that I keep the actual exact name I'm using under wraps for privacy's sake.

ANYWAY... so the erotica is very dark. I mean VERY emotionally dark. And it's hard to write for a lot of different reasons, that being only one of them. It's emotionally exhausting. Like I wrote this most recent paranormal romance for nanowrimo and I was churning out 3,000 and sometimes 6,000 words a day like nobody's business. The erotica however, Jeez, it's rough sometimes getting just under a thousand words done.

Good thing my daily word count goal to meet my personal deadline is just 750. Thank you gods and magical creatures for the shorter word count requirements of erotica. I'm going for 60,000 words here and that seems to be pretty standard for the genre, novel wise.

There are several challenges in this novel. One is of course the fact that it's just so dark emotionally. Another is, smut is always hard to write. And the third is that there isn't as much dialogue here as I normally write, so I'm having to develop a lot of other types of writing muscles.

I think the end result will be worth it though. I really believe I have something worth saying in the genre, blah blah blah. It's just...yeah. So hence fanfic break. Because I can't be sitting around going: "ZOMG imaginary looming fanfic chapter deadline" when I'm writing this novel.

I'm taking like a month break from the fanfic and then I think I'm going to just not post things unless I've finished them first. I just hate having unfinished things hanging out there. I mean I completely understand it's "only fanfic." And yet...real live human beings have taken time out of their lives to read it. The same amount of time it would cost them to read a "real book." So I feel like I owe it to people who have invested time in reading my words to finish what I start, even if it's "just fanfic."

Monday, February 19, 2007

Pet Peeve # 783: Euphemisms

Welcome to Monday, and the new blog posting schedule. In personal news I finished the third draft of the paranormal romance today. An end to revisions are in sight and the revision process is getting less and less scary as I learn to trust it. So Yay! :)

On to today's blog topic:

Writing romance and reading it, I come across a lot of horrifying sexual euphemisms. I'm thrilled to find that a lot of current romance novels are getting less embarrassed about sex and are more willing to write about it honestly. But there are still those that make me cringe.

I've spent a lot of time trying to determine why people insist on writing sex with euphemisms. If you have a hard time saying "cock" or "pussy" or don't want your novel to be that graphic, fine. Say: "He thrust into her." or "He slid into her." There. Simple and not squicky. Cause when I read sex unless it's a case of a joke between lovers, I really shouldn't be laughing through it. The euphemisms kill it for me.

If sex is written out, why is it being written out? I understand that romance is not erotica. Erotica is meant to physically turn the reader on. And I write a little of that too. Still, if you choose to write sex, rather than just alluding to it, isn't arousal a natural response? Doesn't it reflect a culture that is still deeply ashamed of sex no matter how much they "act out" when arousal is separated from it? It's okay for it to happen as long as you don't like it too much? Let's keep that puritanical guilt rolling merrily along.

When a writer writes a sad scene, the highest reader response is crying. When a writer writes something funny, the highest reader response is laughter. When a scene is intense or scary, a bit of pulse racing is in order. So why then should so many writers shy away from writing sex that creates arousal, when they aren't afraid for the reader to feel everything else?

If you don't want to write the sex, fine. Let it happen off screen. And maybe the sex scene is meant to be romantic or convey something more emotional. Maybe it isn't meant to arouse. Fine again. But euphemisms still make no sense.

To me, flowery euphemisms for sexual acts are a way to shy away from the material. It says to the public: "I'm not really that comfortable writing this." So don't. Please for the love of God don't write it and kill it with euphemistic phrasing.

Perhaps also it's a case of various publishers/lines wanting different things, but I don't think I would ever write for a line that required me to write sex with silly names and phrases for anatomy. Because to me it's not a sign of sexual maturity, nor it is a sign of emotional honesty. When I write, that's the most honest thing you'll ever get from me.

I'm not going to hide from it to write about a throbbing pulsing member of love.

Friday, February 16, 2007

My not a blog post:

Ok, this SO does not count as a blog post, but here it is. Some have noticed that I haven't been posting as often as usual. I don't want to lose readers due to my not posting regularly so I'm making a short little post to explain.

I'm dealing with some personal issues so the blog isn't exactly at the very top of my list of priorities right now. I'm still writing, I'm just not focusing a lot of energy on "extra writing" such as the blog.

Also a part of it is, I'm getting a little bit burned out on it. There are only so many different things one can say about writing. So I'm sort of at a cross roads. I may have defined the blog too narrowly to keep my interest as well as other peoples'. So...the blog may start to morph a bit and cover more ground besides just "writing stuff."

It might start to become a bit more personal but in the edited "what I don't mind sharing with the whole world" kind of way. I'm just going to have to play it by ear and see.

Also, I'm going to change the schedule I'm blogging on. For awhile there I was blogging every day or practically every day, but that's just too much. But I want to have some kind of schedule so that people who read it regularly don't drift away because I'm not here when I say I'm going to be here so to speak.

So...I'm going to try, starting next week to post blog posts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Some of it will be writing stuff, some of it might not be.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Why I love Young Adult Novels...

Fewer flashbacks. Most Young Adult novels tend to be shorter and have fewer flashbacks, concentrating instead mostly on the front story.

There tends to be the view by many that if you stick closely with the front story and don't spend a lot of time in flashback that you're writing something "simplistic." Yet, at the same time, lots of flashbacks don't advance the story and cause readers to either skim, or just put the book down, never to pick it back up again.

The more I write and the more I read, the less patience I have for flashbacks. It's not always true, sometimes I'll read every single one and love it. But often I just skim through the flashback to get to the next scene so I can get back to the front story.

In the novels that I've skimmed in this way, I've never gotten to the end and thought: "Damn, this climactic scene makes no sense...I should have read that flashback."

Since I don't say this, I can only assume that many times a flashback, while interesting to those who want the backstory, tends to slow down the front story. We're told constantly as writers, "Show, don't tell." But sometimes I think that advice can be taken to an extreme.

For example...there are things you REALLY want to tell. If a character goes through the normal routine of getting ready and then goes and catches a cab and sits in the cab for twenty minutes, we don't need to be shown all that. The realism of a cab ride just isn't all that exciting. If I see all that I'm already at the skim point.

Back to flashbacks...

Many times, if a flashback doesn't advance a story, it's a case of it would have been better to just "tell it" All stories have exposition, stuff you're just telling. It's the job of the writer to know which parts are better to show and which are better to tell.

If you show something in a flashback, be VERY sure it's advancing the plot and not just advancing your need to show how much of your characters backstory you know as the writer. i.e. don't do it just to be clever.

I've got a few flashback scenes in the novel I'm revising now and I try to keep them really really short so I can get back to the front story. Sometimes you have to have flashbacks and if worked properly they can be great. Just don't write a flashback that all but the most fastidious readers will skim. And don't give people an excuse to put down your story.

Friday, February 9, 2007

2007 Reading log, book 5/50: "Blood and Chocolate" by: Annette Curtis Klause

OMG, what can I say about this book? It's amazing. It's classed as a Young Adult novel, but it's so richly textured and just plain wonderful that I can't see any adult turning their nose up at it. It's a coming of age novel about a werewolf named Vivian. This is my current favorite book, and probably in my top five all time ever.

It just deeply resonated with me. To say what it's about without giving the plot away besides just saying it's a "coming of age" novel... It's about the struggle between one's light and dark side. It's about family and about the relationship between mother and daughter. It's about love and finding it in places you don't really expect.

It's about werewolves, but there is such a deep realism to so much of it that you easily forget that. Normally I read a vampire or werewolf book and it's a book that's just 'fun' but I don't take it seriously as great literature. This book I feel differently about. It stands, IMO as something deeply wonderful and "breaks out" of genre barriers to be just a fantastic story.

A movie has been made about it, but honestly I would just skip that. The movie is completely different from the book, not the same story. They've cut out the mother entirely, aged Vivian to in her twenties, took the story to another country and made her a trendy club hopper. And made the hero of the book the villain. They've basically cheapened every layer and nuance of the book by turning it into an all werewolf "Underworld." Do yourself a favor and read the book instead.

However, if not for the movie I never would have heard of the it, and never would have found it. So I'm grudgingly grateful that the movie got made, but deeply disappointed that the novel was so desecrated.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
5 / 50

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Choosing your Pack:

Today my post is going to intersect in a lot of places. It's going to be part book review and part personal observation and by the end of it you may wonder what it has to do with writing, but I hope not. ;)

I'm reading a fantastic book right now called: "Blood and Chocolate" by: Annette Curtis Klause. I started reading it last night and if not for sheer exhaustion, probably wouldn't have put it down. A movie has been made about it and I was intrigued. It's a coming of age story, but that's not what makes it great. What makes it great is that it's about a werewolf named Vivian.

The last lines on the back of the cover sold me completely on this book: "What is she really - human or beast? Which tastes sweeter - blood or chocolate?"

I've always felt that vampire stories weren't really about "supernatural beings" but are about humans. What we long for: immortality, no sickness, power, youth. What we fear: those stronger than us, what lurks in the shadows, our darker selves. etc.

But until "Blood and Chocolate," I didn't really see werewolf stories as being "about people." Reading this though, I see that they are. Even the werewolf main character notes the pack mentality of human beings. And yet the central werewolf story in this novel...I read it and I get a sense of "otherness" but also a sense of "sameness."

It seems to be a giant mirror of what humanity is. Essentially, we are pack. We boast about our individuality while following trends set by others. We often "do what we want", but we deeply care what others think. Even those of us wearing the mask of "I don't care" cares what someone thinks. To not care what anyone thinks on any level is to separate yourself completely from society and not be a part anymore. And what is society? If not a large pack?

Human beings are incredibly complex in our social interactions. We have many units of social structure, ever widening circles that encompass different levels of human interaction. And yet this pack mentality exists and exists strongly. It goes by many names and has many philosophies attached but it is there. We don't long to be lone wolves. We long to connect but not lose the pieces of what makes us ourselves.

There are many packs. There are family, work, religious, and purely social units. And there are writers. Writers, while so solitary in our endeavors, seek very strongly to connect with others of our kind. We run in packs, be it critique groups or online groups.

I've noticed this pack mentality even more strongly in many online groups recently (both writing and nonwriting.) It seems usually small online groups that have known each other for awhile tend to see each other in terms of "family." And this word, family, it's comforting to us. Because we are so strongly social.

But "family" alone cannot be a selling point for the packs we choose to run with. There are many abusive families out there, many that will seek to tear you down rather than to build you up. Immature, emotionally stunted, and unhealthy families are a dime a dozen.

Like me, as a writer you probably feel almost compelled to interact with other writers, to have that connection and sense of community. But choose your pack wisely. So much of how you see yourself and others in this business will depend on it.

Monday, February 5, 2007

The price of freedom:

So on Magical Musings the blog today is about the freedom of being unpublished, how so many writers look back on this "pre-published" time with longing because it was before deadlines, back when writing was just "fun" before it became a job...etc.

So that post inspired my blogpost, and some of it I'm repeating directly from my comment cause I'm getting lazy with the blog. I'm going to have to develop some accountability factor for my blogging. ;)

The vast acres of time and freedom that prepublished writers have can be as much of a curse as it is a blessing, because it can be a wilderness that is hard to navigate. Without deadlines...sometimes shit doesn't happen.

I’m pre-published and deadline oriented. If I’m not, I don’t produce, if I don’t produce I can’t get published. The more I produce, and the better I get, the more I up my odds. So I don’t really see it as “vast acres of freedom.” I see it as Deadlines I’m not getting paid for lol. So when the day comes when my deadlines equal a check, I won’t be sad to see this “vast freedom” leave me. ;)

Because I can't produce in "freedom" I have to be chained to a deadline, either self imposed or imposed on me. At least once it's imposed on me there will be money attached to it. A pretty little carrot that I can chase.

I tend to get involved in online deadline oriented writer groups where you have to post your progress for accountability. Last November I was in a smaller LJ group for nanowrimo and we had to post wordcount progress every day. Now I’m doing something on LJ called “novel in 90″ and during this 90 days I’m revising one novel and completing the rough draft of another. I do about 2 hours of revisions and 1 hour of rough draft a day and I take maybe a day off a week.

If I don’t do this, I don’t feel like a writer. And the reality is...I'm not one. Writers write. And if I ever hope to be published I have to write a lot, and on a deadline.

Friday, February 2, 2007


So, I'm really getting into this whole "simultaneous" thing. There was a time when I wouldn't work on more than one project at once, for fear that I would drop the other. It really comes down to, being in two different phases of the work. Like I wouldn't write two rough drafts at once, because to me, that's a recipe for badness. (Although this isn't a judgment on someone else's process. If you write more than one rough draft at once and it works for you, more power to you!)

Now I'm starting to let this carry over into reading. Right now I'm reading a book that is kind of hard to get through. I like it, it's good, but it's just not something I can pick up and not want to put down. I know that sounds insane. How can I really be drawn in by the characters and story if I can so easily put it down? I'm not sure really. Maybe the author's style doesn't quite jibe with me. That happens sometimes. I'm not sure what it is, but I want to keep reading it.

At the same time though...I'm stalling out on it and it WILL take me forever to get through it. And I've committed myself to reading 50 novels this year because I think reading is so very important to being serious about writing. To make a commitment to write is also to make a commitment to read.

So I'm considering adding this multi-tasking attitude to reading and read more than one novel at once. Hell, I'm writing on more than one at once, if I can do that, I can read more than one at once. This way I can take my time and meander through this difficult, but still very worthwhile novel, while not slowing down my progress on my 50 novels in a year thing.

The other day I commented in the magical musings blog, that I tend to not read flashbacks in novels. Usually they slow down the story for me and at the end it's very rare for me to honestly say: "Gee, I really wish I'd read that flashback, because the story doesn't make sense." Usually it does make sense. Sometimes flashback enriches a story, but often it just slows it down and gives me a stopping place to put the book down.

As I've grown more serious about writing, my attitudes toward reading have changed. For example...I don't feel it necessary to plunge through a novel I don't like. I just cut my losses and stop reading. If I get to a flashback that doesn't just immediately drag me in, I skip it and go back to reading the front story. Now I'm considering reading two novels at once on those occasions that I get to a "difficult" novel that I still want to read but that is slowing me down.

Does anyone else read more than one novel at once? What are your attitudes toward reading, as a writer?

Thursday, February 1, 2007


So there is always this ongoing war over epublishing. One faction says it's not "real publishing" and another faction says: "We're just as good as you...neener neener."

I would like to circumvent that entire argument. Because it's really really not the point. It's two totally different worlds. It's not necessarily a "one or the other" type of deal anyway. You can do both. For a long time I was very resistant to the idea of ebooks. Mostly because I personally am not a big fan of the format. When I read I like a print copy. A real live book in my hands.

Because of my deep and abiding love of print books, ebooks don't just thrill and excite me quite the same. But it's a different format. Audio books don't overly thrill me either, but some people prefer them, and I would never say: "Don't publish me in audio books, I'm not a big personal fan." That would be ludicrous, and probably ignored, and rightly so.

The fact is, some people love ebooks. I want to sell to New York, absolutely, that's my goal. And after that, my goal is to keep selling to New York, and after know...up and up. I've thought also about smaller presses. But while I'm waiting to sell to New York, I may as well at least consider the possibility of ebook publishing (with one of the good houses. There are only a handful that I would submit to, because beyond that, I may as well self publish.)

I know one should keep trying and not give up, and that is my intention. But "this" book, might not sell to New York no matter how much time I keep it circulating. So if it's good (and I believe it is) then it should sell SOMEWHERE. To automatically just shut out the ebook possibility is shooting myself in the foot.

Ebooks, while not my eventual goal, still provide me with some things. For one, It starts to give me a fanbase, people who might follow me into print publication. For another, it's money. The royalties at some of the better ebook houses, aren't bad at all, and you get paid monthly. Money is money, and if I am to consider my writing as a business, then I have to be smart and be willing to do what is necessary to get my name out there.

So that's an attitude of mine that has shifted recently. What about you? What attitudes have you had change as you've gotten deeper into your goals and writing plans?