Friday, April 25, 2014

The Ultimate Editing Checklist

Hello blogosphere,

It's been a while, hasn't it?  Generally, my instinct during my busiest writing periods is to seclude myself and forget about the world outside of my writing, but I am missing the inspiration and connection that I receive from being an active part of the blog world. Since I have some catching up to do, I thought I'd post the tried and true editing checklist and ask you for your advice. Is there anything you would add? What about points that you struggle with?

So here are the fourteen questions you need to ask yourself before you send out your manuscript:

1) Have you made all of your passive sentences active?
2) Have you eliminated common words? (For me, these are yeah, well, that, been, really, very, and was)
4) Do the characters' personalities differ enough?
5) Does every scene contain action? Not just an info dump?
6) Are your characters consistent in their actions and dialog? No sudden changes of heart or jumps in tone of voice?
7) Are all of the characters essential to your story?
8) Are you telling too much, instead of letting the readers learn for themselves?
9) Do you give the reader enough info about every character as they enter the story? Would your readers be able to finish and tell you the characters' ages, rough images, and personalities.
10) Are your suspenseful actions suspensful? (Not just mentioned once in the beginning and then appear 100 pages later)
11) Are your plot twists developed so though the reader will not initially figure them out, they can look back and have it all make sense?
12) Are all of your scenes told from one POV? Or at least, only one POV, per chapter?
13) Are you using -ly words sparingly? Replacing them with stronger verbs or metaphor?
14) Are you using appropriate grammar and punctuation? (Check for misplaced apostraphes, over-use or under-use of commas, missing question marks, single dashes where double dashes should be and vice versa, etc)

<3 Gina Blechman

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Reading Poorly Written Books For Educational Purposes?

With college graduation behind me and the resurrection of my free time, I've started reading books I've had on my to-read list since last summer. One of these books, Imperfect Bliss by Susan Fales-Hill was just (please know that I hate to say this) an absolute disaster. After forcing myself to read past the first eight pages, the only way I was able to get through the whole thing was by skimming through many of the longer paragraphs which were mostly perfect examples of "telling and not showing." I tried as hard as I could to like the book. It has a strong, confident female MC, mocks reality television, and criticizes sexism, materialism, and other unfortunate parts of society--all major pluses in my opinion--but is, unfortunately, terribly written. Still, there's a part of me that believes the book was worth the read if only to remind me of what not to do. Now I can look for the same mistakes in my own writing. 

What do you think? Is it good to read poorly written books every once in a while to remind yourself what not to do?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book & Agent Contests and Giveaways

As I've been making the rounds today, I've noticed quite a few contests and giveaways going around the blogosphere. Since those chocolates I "gave" you in my last post didn't seem like enough, here are the links to some grooovy upcoming contests and give aways.

Agent Judged Competitions
1) June 25th: Ruth Lauren Steven and Michelle Krys are hosting an agent judged competition. 30 pitches will be accepted and looked over by 10 agents over the course of one week. All you need to do is enter a polished query letter and the first 500 words of your completed manuscript. Both adult and YA will be accepted. Follow Ruth and Michelle's blogs for more info.

2) June 29th: Daisy Carter is hosting a pitch contest with literary agent Tricia Lawrence. Query and first 250 words of a completed YA manuscript are required.

Book Contests/Give-aways
1) June 24: Elana Johnson is giving away a signed copy of
The Limit by Kristen Landon
Variant by Rob Wells
The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

2) Casey McCormick at Literary Rambles is giving away 
June 19: Indie Author Giveaway
June 23: Like Clockwork by Elle Strauss
June 23: Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
June 23: Both Surrender and Regret by Elana Johnson
June 30: One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

3) June 19: Rachele Alpine is giving away Butter by Jade Lange

4) June 24: Cynthia Leitich Smith is giving away It's Our Prom (So Deal With It) by Julie Anne Peters

Have fun and good luck!

<3 Gina Blechman

P.s. And though it isn't necessary, I would greatly appreciate it if you'd follow me. Who knows what other contests I'll be posting about next. Stay informed!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dear Bloggers, Manuscript, and Books: My life would suck without you.

I'm baaaaack! Guess who's excited? (ME! ...And hopefully you!) Life has been one busy thing after another, and the suffering that my blog has endured is not okay. First my lack of blogging was due to being abroad in Italy for the semester. Then, it was trying to catch up with everyone. Then, it was taking a double course overload during the Spring semester. 

Point is: There's always SOMETHING. Big or small, internal or external, life happens. And what happens isn't always bad. However, what I've been realizing lately is that despite all the accomplishments, pitfalls, and other miscellaneous things in my life, I miss the buzz, the excitement, the everything of editing my manuscript regularly, blogging regularly, and reading like a fiend (so that I can post reviews for you!) Therefore, I have returned from the dead and am working on a Summer to-read-and-review list and fixing up a blogging and manuscript editing schedule.

And fellow bloggers, those chocolates over there? (Look to your left. See 'em?) Those are for you. My life wasn't quite the same without you folks.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Creating Good Conflict Scenes In Your Story

No one likes boring conflict scenes. I mean, a boring anything scene is bad enough, but, by definition, conflict scenes need to be interesting. Since, as we all know, I'm very fond of checklists, I have created two checklists, one for good conflict and one for bad conflict, to help you assess your scenes. (And for me to assess my own.)

Good conflict involves problems that are:
  • external
  • internal
  • significant
  • pressing
  • ones that force your characters to act
  • informative

Bad conflict involves problems that:
  • are shallow
  • can't relate back/ahead to other parts of the story
  • don't move the story forward
  • don't teach us about the characters
  • have obscure or entirely too simple/obvious solutions that leave the reader confused or aggravate

Typically, your scene should start as close to the start of the conflict as possible and pick up pace, then peak closer to the end, leaving room for resolution.

In his book Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern calls scenes like this “Bear at the Door” scenes. As said before, there' s an external problem or trouble:  “Honey, there’s a bear at the door.”  A significant problem:  “Wow, the bear’s huge”.  A pressing problem: “I think the bear’s trying to get in.”  And one that forces character(s) to act:  “Do something!”

What are your strengths and weaknesses with conflict develop? Any tips you want to share?

<3 Gina Blechman

Monday, February 6, 2012

Review: The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder

4 out of 5 stars

The Day Before is an absolutely adorable book, a heartwarming story with a good message, and, best of all, it has unexpectedly candid and wonderful characters. (And it's written through poetry! Heck to the yeah!) I also really enjoyed that it doesn't rush to the extreme's with its characters. It's easy to make the "bad boy" a bully, or a drug addict, or a pimp or prostitute or super-angsty 'emo kid'. It's just as easy to dramaticize relationships between characters,bringing them to a totally unrealistic and, quite frankly annoying, level of "I met you two seconds ago but I love you" lust. But the MC's in The Day Before are actually realistic and relatable. And the story is still suspenseful even without that gobbledy-gook.

Description: "Amber’s life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself.
Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell he’s also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets.
The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she’s drawn to him.  And the more she’s troubled by his darkness. Because Cade’s not just living in the now—he’s living each moment like it’s his last."

<3 Gina Blechman

(P.S. Does anyone know how to spell "gobbledy-gook"?)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How to Break Anxiety/Procrastination Mode

You're there. At that pivotal scene where lots of big, important, mind-blowing stuff happens that all your readers will love. And everything's set, and everything's awesome can't write it. Maybe you're on your first draft or maybe you're on your twentieth, but there's something about this particular scene, whether it actually is epic or is just the start of something that could be, that keeps you far away from your computer. We've all been there. Those moments when your thought process goes

"Hey, I should really write that scene."
         "Oh look! E-mails I need to send."

"Hey, I should really write that scene."
         "Oh look! Dust on the floor! Let's vacuum!"

"Come on, it's really time to write that scene now."
         "But I have to catch up with my DVR...and I kind of want to bake brownies...and if I make brownies, I'll probably eat one, and then I'll have to brush my teeth, and..."

Yeah. Sound familiar?

Well, recently, I found a way to get around this. Instead of creating an entire scene, which can be quite daunting, just write the dialogue for that scene. No tag lines. No exposition. No setting. Nothing else but talking. Write what feels right, whatever pops into your head that you can imagine the characters saying. As you do this, you will start to see actions and envision the setting, though you will not be writing them down. This way, once you have the dialogue on paper (or on Word), you will probably want to add all the things you've been imagining or will at least be more curious as to what happens next. This should, maybe, possibly, hopefully get the ball rolling.

Does this sound like something you'd be interested in? What types of things do you do to beat your procrastination?