Author Archives: Amanda Giasson

Recognition and Acceptance

It’s not you, Megan. It’s me.

We’ve started writing the sequel to Love at First Plight, and I am finding the process to be both easy and a challenge at the same time. I love writing my character, Megan Wynters. I really do. Slipping into her character is like sliding my feet into my favourite and most comfortable pair of shoes or like wrapping myself in a warm blanket.

Working on Book 2

At the same time, writing Megan can sometimes be a challenge. It’s fun challenge, mind you, but it’s a challenge all the same. The reason isn’t because I find her difficult to write, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. The trouble is that my personal writing technique can frustrate me, at times.

I am the type of writer who is in a continual state of self-analysis and who relies on structure to tell a story and to bring my character to life. While this does have its advantages, where it puts me at a disadvantage is that I tend to have a difficult time getting started.

In other words, I get ready to write, but instead of hitting the keys, my fingers remain poised above the keyboard as my mind processes the steps that I will take. Finally, I begin to type slowly, but steadily, as I figure out how I want to form the first sentence and build the first paragraph. Eventually, my fingers will fly across the keyboard as I let my imagination flow, but I’ve always been slow to start.

Even though writing Megan comes naturally to me, I have never sat down at my computer with the intention of writing her character and immediately typed full speed ahead. I build up speed over time.

While this usually isn’t a problem for me, when there are time constraints, I don’t always feel like I have the luxury to take the time I need to comfortably write as much as I want to complete.

This is the main challenge I am facing right now, as I write Book 2 in the Perspective series. It isn’t that I don’t know how to write my main character or that I don’t know how to get inside her head. It is that it takes me a surprising amount of time to get into the groove of storytelling, especially at the start.

After years of writing, I’ve learned that my particular creative writing skill requires a great deal of focus, structure, and organization. I need to write in a distraction-free zone, I need to channel my character, and I edit while I create. Yes, I’m guilty of editing while I work, which is something that most writers warn other writers not to do. Ideally, when writing creatively, you should write first and edit later, so you don’t disrupt your creative flow; a process that should look like this: Write. Edit. My writing pattern, on the other hand, functions more like this: Write-edit-write-edit. Edit. As you have likely guessed, writing this way can significantly slow me down.

That being said, what I’ve come to realize is that even though others might cringe at my writing technique, I can’t change the way that I write and I don’t want to change the way that I write; it works for me. I have developed my own style and my own creative method and it’s not wrong; it’s simply mine. It may not be the fastest process around, which can really frustrate me, especially when I’m pressed for time, but I’ve recognized and accepted that that’s how my creativity flows.

Unfortunately, all too often I’ve compared my writing style and speed to Julie’s and to other writers and this, in my opinion, has been my most self-destructive habit as a writer. I should never compare my skill to someone else’s; no writer should. You can appreciate another’s talents, but you shouldn’t judge your own talents against theirs or feel that because you don’t possess certain skills that the ones you do have are somehow less significant or have less value.Getting started is the hardest part

The bottom line is that comparing how I write and how I create to how someone else does it, serves no positive purpose. On the contrary, it makes me doubt my abilities as a writer. It makes my self-confidence shrink and my self-criticism swell. It makes me think illogically that I can’t write the story of a character that I’ve written dozens of times before, which is ridiculous.

Thankfully, this is an issue with which I am struggling less and less. However, I would be a liar if I told you that I don’t doubt my abilities as a writer and storyteller from time to time. Nevertheless, at the moment, I’m pleased to say that Megan’s side of the story is progressing well and I’m immensely enjoying the creative writing process as I always do.

So you see, any time I think I won’t be able to write Megan, it has nothing to do with her character and everything to do with my suddenly becoming ludicrous and losing my nerve as a writer. All I have to do is write her to realize that I haven’t lost my touch.

Therefore, if you ever find yourself doubting your abilities as a writer, try slipping into the role of one of the characters that you’ve created, and hopefully they will remind you of your incredible talents as you bring this character to life with every word that you write.

That is exactly what Megan does for me every time that I slip into her character.

Thanks, Megs 🙂

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I’m not Ashamed to Say I’ve Cosplayed

In honour of “Fun Fact Friday” I thought I’d share a fact about myself that, in the past, I was hesitant to admit (even to my best friend, Julie) because I was afraid that I would be judged for liking something that was once typically considered to be an interest that appealed to only kids and teens.

Here it is: I like comics.Panda Quinn  - A Puffin Original

I know, I know, discovering the fact that I like comics was more of a massive anti-climax than a big reveal, but it took me almost half a year to tell Julie that I was completely obsessed with Batman comics and that I was on a serious Harley Quinn-kick.

Why did it take me so long to tell her? The reason wasn’t only because I was afraid of what she might think. My real problem was that I had already judged myself as being inappropriate, or wrong, for liking it.

That said, I would like to take this moment to explain that Julie has always been an awesome, non-judgmental, and highly-supportive friend and that I was a complete weirdo for not telling her about my sudden and odd obsession. To be clear: She never judged me – I judged me.

In fact (because it’s all about facts today) do you know what happened after I told her about my newfound interest? She instantly wanted to know more about it. She watched my favourite episodes featuring Harley in “Batman the Animated Series,” and, for my birthday that year, she themed the entire birthday gift she gave me around Batman and Harley. Furthermore, in honour of my nickname “Manda Panda” (yes, I happen to be one of the many Amandas in the world with that nickname, too 😉 ), she created a “Panda Quinn” t-shirt for me because she’s just that awesome of a friend, who, I also found out, happens to be a big Superman fan! As far as friends go, they don’t come better than Julie.

Today, I’m happy to say that I no longer judge myself for liking comic books, graphic novels, or anything superhero/supervillain-related. In fact, I’m proud to say I have a Big B Comics VIP Rewards Card; my collection of comics and graphic novels is steadily growing; I was Harley Quinn for Halloween two years ago; I cosplayed last year for the first time at the FanExpo as Lara Croft (an amazing experience); and I can’t wait to see the new Avenger’s movie, read the next “Loki: Agent of Asgard” graphic novel and the next “Thor” comic; and play the upcoming “Batman Arkham Knight” video game.

The point to this eAmanda as Lara Croft  - Cosplayntire Fun Fact Friday blog of mine is this: don’t be afraid to pursue your interests, no matter how silly you or someone else may think them to be. Who cares if it’s silly! As long as it makes you happy and you’re having fun, it’s worth your attention and your participation.

The same is also true when I write. When I am a fearless writer I am a great writer. I can’t be ashamed to write what I love! As a writer, I need to embrace who I am and this includes all of my idiosyncrasies, interests, and ideas, whatever they may be. When I allow myself to freely create, that’s when I achieve my full unique potential.

In short, be yourself and don’t let your insecurities stop you from loving what you love and writing what you love. Life is too short not to have fun!

Happy Friday everyone and thanks for reading 🙂

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Take a Break – Free Yourself from Writer’s Block

I’ve recently joined Goodreads as an author and one of the site’s recommendations is to answer a few general questions that people frequently ask authors. Since I was looking for a little inspiration for my blog this week, I figured I’d make one of the questions I was asked by Goodreads the subject of my blog.

The question is: “How do you deal with writer’s block?Writer's Block leaves you hanging

This might be a question that other writers may be able to answer in an instant. However, for me, this wasn’t the case. I really had to think about what solution works best for me when I’m struck with the big WB (no, I don’t mean a wrecking ball or Warner Brothers). The reason being, once I have overcome this maddening writer’s plague, I don’t spend much time reliving it or contemplating how I will be victorious the next time it strikes. Instead, I’m far too busy blasting through the block to care about what it was that finally gave me the power to smash through it.

That being said, what I did realize, as I gave it some thought, was that taking a mental break is what has always helped me to unshackle my mind and creative writing talents. While that is certainly not a revolutionary solution to the problem, it does work (for me, at least). Unfortunately, the trouble is that when I’m actually faced with writer’s block, the last thing that I usually want to do is take a break. I trick myself into thinking that if I keep writing, I’ll get past it.

This is the biggest mistake I make when I’m suffering from WB: I try to force myself to write. For me, this strategy is always a flawed plan. Forcing myself to write, when I am already discouraged, only makes the situation worse. Then, not only is my heart not in it, but I feel like an even bigger failure by the minute and I only make myself more frustrated. In the end, all I have successfully accomplished is to turn me into my own worst enemy, when what I should have done was supported myself, as I would have a friend, and cut myself some slack.

However, as soon as I take a brain break from what I’m writing and allow my mind to become fully distracted by other things, the block begins to lose fortitude. When I stop obsessively thinking about what I can’t do and what I’m not achieving, and turn my attention to other interests and activities, I’m reminded of a much bigger picture.

For overcoming writer’s block, the following are some activities I find to be especially therapeutic:

• Showering
• Taking a brisk walk or going for a run in fresh air
• Reading a book or watching a movie/TV that I greatly enjoy
• Getting proper rest (sleep does amazing things for thinking and memory!!)
• Playing a game (video or board games), especially with friends
• Engaging in a silly activity or conversation with friends
• Singing my favourite songs at the top of my lungs
• Dancing like no one is watchingWriter's Block Freedom

I’ve discovered that it doesn’t really matter what I do, what is important is that whatever I do choose, it’s got to take my mind 100% (or at least 90%) off of my writing struggles.

Finally, I’ve realized that not every case of WB is the same. There are occasions when it can be cured quickly, while in other instances it can last for what feels like forever. Regardless of how long it decides to stick around, don’t fight it directly and don’t rush yourself. Sometimes, the last thing that you want to do is the best thing that you can do for yourself. I hope I remember this the next time I’m faced with the block.

Thankfully, I’m not suffering from writer’s block at the moment, but if you are, my heart goes out to you and I’m sending you digital support and a digital hug (*hug*). Good luck and remember to cut yourself a bit of slack – you deserve it!

Thanks for reading 🙂

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To shut-up or not to shut-up?

That is the question.

One of the greatest feelings in the world is accomplishing a huge success that not only you can see, but that others can see, as well. Writing a book and getting published is, without question, one of the most exciting experiences of my life and one of the most meaningful. Since Julie and I first completed our book, all we’ve wanted to do is to tell everyone we know (and don’t know) about our achievement. We are so very proud of ourselves and are not ashamed to admit it. We want to sing our praises, hear what other people have to say, and bask in the thrill of what we’ve accomplished.Talk - Perspective blog

However, as understandable as it may be that we want to glory in our success and announce it to the world, there comes a time when we need to shut-up about it. What I mean is if I constantly market our book and jam my spectacular success down everyone’s throats, they’re eventually going to become tired of what I’m feeding them and they will get sick of my self-proclaimed awesomeness. I wouldn’t blame them. I would, too.

I’m sure you know what I mean, reader. Have you ever known someone who only seems interested in talking about what they have achieved or who sounds like their own personal marketing campaign for their job, skills, creative work, or whatever other feat of which they are (and should be) proud? After a while, if that’s all you’re hearing, you get tired of it and, instead of feeling happy for this individual, you kind-of want them to shut up about it in the worst way.

That’s what I don’t want to happen to me. I don’t want the people in my life to go from thinking: “Congratulations! That’s fantastic news. I’m so happy for you. I can’t wait to hear more about it!” to: “I swear, if she brings up her book one more time I’m going to find every copy and burn it!”

Shhh!Don’t get me wrong, I have no intention of keeping quiet about our book. The only way people will hear about it and talk about it is if Julie and I spread the word and do our best to market it like there is no tomorrow. I’ve come to accept that this is likely going to irritate some people for a while (hopefully only to a minimal degree) because let’s face it, repetition gets on the nerves of most people at the best of times.

That being said, although I can take a few eye rolls in stride, I don’t ever want to reach the point where I start alienating people and losing support because were driving them crazy and they dread hearing about us and our book series.

I guess what I’m really trying to get at is it is tough to make a personal achievement the center of attention for the long-term, without annoying people and, at the same time, finding creative ways to keep them interested. It is a careful balance of knowing when to market and when not to market. Sometimes, that can be one heck of a slippery slope.

By the way, if you happen to be one of the people who is sick of hearing about our book, we’re sorry LOL! 😀

Thanks for reading!

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Plot Holes and Typos and Errors! Oh, my!

If you’ve ever edited your own writing, chances are that you have likely been amazed at the number of mistakes in your work. Even more maddening are the times when you continue to find glaring errors in what you had felt was a polished piece. Repeatedly spotting new problems in the same work starts to make you wonder if you are incapable of reading all of the words in a sentence or wondering if someone is playing a trick on you by adding mistakes on purpose, just to mess with your mind (and sanity)!

Importance of Editing Perspective Book SeriesThe continual discovery of new errors is a frustration that Julie and I have been facing since we began editing our manuscript. Although we knew that our first draft was far from flawless, I think what surprised me the most wasn’t the grammatical errors and typos that we found, but was rather the number of statements that were utterly nonsensical!

It is easy to forgive typos, laugh off word repetition, and shake your head at a massive run-on sentence. It’s even easy to accept certain grammatical errors if you don’t consider yourself a master of syntax. However, what I found particularly stinging to my pride was discovering that what I had originally thought was a powerful statement, turned out to be not only weak, but also didn’t make any sense!

If you’re a writer, you likely know that repeatedly proofing your work can be a real PITA (pain in the a**) and very discouraging, at times. Be that as it may, editing is an absolute must if you’re serious about producing something awesome that you will feel proud to share with the rest of the world. As a creative writer, you have to accept the fact that you will need to edit what you write, more than once and – more importantly – it is imperative that you have someone else proof it, too.

Whomever you choose to proof your work should be someone who not only has an incredible understanding of the English language, but he or she also needs to be able to work around/with your creativity. When writing a story, especially in the first person, not every character speaks or describes a situation or his or her surroundings using proper and perfect grammar. Some characters may be so rebellious that they will end some sentences in prepositions or *gasp* will occasionally split infinitives.

That being said, this doesn’t mean that you can continuously commit grammar crimes in the name of creativity. There is always a balance that needs to be maintained. In other words, if you’re going to flip the bird to syntax, it should be intentional and you should know why you’re doing it. Otherwise, you’ll be found guilty of linguistic ignorance and your sentence will be a grammar lesson that you’ll be wise not to forget.

Thankfully, Julie and I are very lucky to have a wonderful copyeditor who has exceptional grammatical skill and the ability to recognize that shackling some characters to every grammar rule in the book would snuff out their spirit.

Beyond the proofing done by you and your copyeditor, make sure that you let a few regular readers (you can trust) experience your work in its flawed form. They may not circle all of your typos, but what they will point out are plot holes, and parts of the story that they found hard to follow, hard to believe, or that simply didn’t make sense to them. No matter how great or small, almost all of the feedback that you will obtain will be valuable. It will help you to figure out what changes need to be made and it will put your end goals into greater perspective.

The proofing process of our manuscript has been a real eye-opener for me and I am grateful to everyone who has helped us along the way. The support we have received, as Julie mentioned in her last post, has been incredible. I hope you have an equally wonderful support team behind all of your creative endeavours.

Thanks for reading and all the best!

P.S. Thanks to my father-in-law for introducing me to PITA 😀

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Some Success Lasts Forever

It feels amazing to complete a goal, doesn’t it? To finally bring that long-term goal that you thought you’d never see to the end, to fruition? I’m happy to announce that just over one month ago, I achieved this exact success. I have to say, it feels incredible!

Success is possibleAs my fellow writer in crime, Julie B Campbell, has already revealed in the blog she posted last week, we have successfully completed the first draft of our manuscript. While it is flawed and still needs a lot of work, before it becomes a truly polished piece, having this first, and most important step (in my opinion), behind us, was the real achievement for me.

We’ve been writing this story, in some shape or form, for 15 years. Finally completing the first official draft of our manuscript is a success that will stay with me forever.

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that I have any intention of stopping now that I’ve crossed the finish line. Like many others, I have big dreams and I fully intend to chase after them. That said, ultimately, whatever may happen from this point forward, I know I can hold my head up high because I completed a goal that was truly important to me. I didn’t just talk about something I had intended to do that I never saw through to the end – I actually did it. I have finished what I had started.

As you likely know, if you’ve ever strived to complete a goal over the long-long-term, it isn’t always easy. You second-guess and doubt yourself countless of times throughout the process. You ask yourself if it’s worth it. You wonder if you will ever get it done or if you’ll have to give up on it, as has been the case with so many other goals that have come before and after it. But you can’t give up on what you love and on what you truly believe is great.

I never gave up. I am so proud of myself and proud of Julie for pushing forward and completing the first part of our grand adventure. The hardest part – finishing what we started 15 years ago – is now behind us and an exciting journey filled with new and exciting goals is in front of us.

I hope 2015 will be a wonderful and productive year for all of you and I wish everyone success at completing a personal goal, no matter how big or how small it may be. Julie and I have every intention of making this an amazing year for ourselves and our precious project.

I’ll write more again soon. Like Julie, I’m looking forward to keeping you up to date about our progress and sharing my experiences along the way 🙂

Take care everyone, and thanks for reading!

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If I’m Not Normal, What Am I?

Do you think you could define yourself using one word? Chances are you couldn’t. Certain things about you may be “normal” or “weird” or “geeky”, etc., etc. but, just like characters, no one person is defined by a single label. We’re made up of far too many pieces of our own unique puzzle to truly be just typical or normal.

Bamboo PandaAt first, when creating a story, we tend to typecast our characters. For example, there are the main “good guys/heroes”, the main “bad guys/villains” and then a supporting cast of characters that could be made of up of the “normal”, the “weirdo”, the “sweetheart”, the “queen B”, the “insensitive jerk”, the “nice guy”, the “double-crosser”, the “nerd”, and that one mysterious “creepy” character that just makes your skin crawl. Speaking of which, what is with that creepy character and why do most stories we read have one? (And yes, we have a creepy character in our story…more than one actually, LOL!).

The point I’m trying to make here is that often, when we initially create characters, we usually give them defining characteristics (i.e. hair color, eye color, age, height, gender, possibly a brief background story, and personality traits such as happy, grumpy, sleepy, dopey, bashful, and any other dwarf that’s not Doc, etc.). This is a natural part of the creation process when we’re first fleshing out the story and we need to know what kind of role this character will play, how they will impact the story, and what they will do. In other words, we are defining who they are, as well as their purpose.

However, for any of you who have written a story, what you’ve likely discovered is that once you move away from the bullet points that have so far defined your character, and you actually begin writing, this character is no longer a stereotype that perfectly fits into the original parameters you created for them. They take on a life of their own and become so much more than a “good guy” or a “bad guy”. They become complex. They develop unplanned idiosyncrasies and many other components that make real people individuals and unique from one another.

Real people are not one-dimensional, which is why characters in a story shouldn’t be one-dimensional, either. If a character is so superficial they can be summed up with a single defining word, they’d be pretty boring in my opinion. They would hold no mystery, because you would always know what they’re going to do, and if you can always predict a character’s next move without fail, you’re in for one very boring read.

I don’t know about you, but as a reader, I respond to characters with attributes I can relate to and who also have traits I don’t personally have, but I find fun, exciting, and appealing. I can admit that when it comes to getting goo-goo eyed over a male character, I’m a girl who is far more attracted to the bad-guy than I am the hero. Why? Villains are fun! They do things and say things that I know are not right, but that I can adore in the fiction world, because in reality I am safe and in control. Equally, I can say with certainty that many of my favorite characters in fiction books are not people I would like in real life, in fact, I’d probably loath more than half of them.

Aww Panda!That’s the beauty of fantasy though, isn’t it? You can like people you’d otherwise hate, try new things you’d never do in real life, and walk the dark alley by yourself and not be afraid of what or who may be waiting for you in it. This is why I love reading fiction and I LOVE writing it. Nothing is done that cannot be undone. You are the master of your own universe.

That being said, as I stated in my last post, “Even Superheroes Need Limits”, characters do require certain limitations in order for them to make sense and not be too unbelievable. Nonetheless, these important limits should not restrict a character’s personality to a file cabinet with alphabetized folders.

As Julie mentioned in her blog, “Baking a Cake of Lies”, characters, just like people, will do things that seem uncharacteristic or strange in certain situations with the “right motivation”. There will be times when a character will make unusual choices and act oddly. They evolve with time and change based on their circumstances, just as we all do. As my co-writer perfectly put it in her post – “A character isn’t something that is set in stone.”

Now, to answer the question that I made the title of my post – “If I’m not normal, what am I?” – The answer is I am me. I am not set in stone and I can’t be truly defined by one label, stereotype, or even summed up in a single paragraph or a book series the size of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, no one can…well, no one can apart from those select few individuals who love to prove they are the exception (we all know one).

Thus, as time passes, more pieces are found and added to the puzzle that is me. We’re all enigmas and it’s becoming clearer to me that so are the characters I write.

Thanks for reading!

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Even Superheroes Need Limits!

Every character in a story needs to have limits to their awesomeness. Even superheroes and supervillains must have restrictions. Why? To put it quite simply, invulnerable characters (especially major characters – protagonists, antagonists, etc.) are un-relatable and, quite frankly, ridiculous.

Super-DudeAs soon as a reader deems something a character does as too unbelievable and outrageous, they start to lose their ability to suspend their disbelief. Instead of continuing to accept certain fantastical elements of the story, they begin to read with a far more critical eye and a “ya, right” attitude.

We’ve all been there before, haven’t we? Wrapped up in a book we really like, getting lost in the plot and the excitement and then…BHAM! A character does something completely preposterous that leaves you blinking and staring at the page wondering, “Did that just happen?” Willing to believe that it’s your eyes playing tricks on you, you re-read the same lines over and over again in vain, realizing that your brain didn’t just suddenly have a meltdown. You weren’t imagining those words. What you read really was that awful!

Take this made-up story, for instance: Imagine you’re reading a book starring a female character named Bitsy.  Bitsy is described as being ordinary, of average intelligence, and prefers running shoes to heels, because when she does wear heels, she’s a total walking klutz. The story is interesting, the plot thickens, and you find Bitsy to be a cute, quirky character. In fact, you laugh when she finally wears high heels for the first time and she has a klutz attack. You keep reading and the book gets really good. You’re almost at the end now, just a few more pages to go. Oh no! Bitsy is in serious trouble!  How is she ever going to escape that impossible situation? BHAM! Don’t worry! Not only does non-extraordinary Bitsy manage to save the day in record time, she does it running through the woods in 10 inch heels, using a highly technical plan that suddenly came to her after she deciphered a random mathematical equation she found in a bathroom stall in a public restroom. Yay!  The End. WTF?!?! Wouldn’t you feel the author ripped you off with that ending? I certainly would, because  Bitsy went from being cute and ordinary to extraordinarily absurd.

The same problem happens with supernatural characters and superheroes. If you’re going to make a character have a certain super power, you need to define their limits. After all, “with great power comes great responsibility”. While any Spidey fan reading this post will recognize that line I just wrote as an awesome quote from Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, its purpose here is to remind writers (myself included) that while you have great power, as you are the god of your story, you also have great responsibility to your readers to not make your characters ludicrous (unless, of course, the sole purpose of your character is to be ludicrous then, by all means, more power to you 😉 ).

Super-ChickAllow me to elaborate a little more about my point that superheroes need limits by using Marvel’s superhero, Spider-Man, as an example. Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive (or whatever) spider and the spider’s venom gave him super-human abilities – he’s amazingly strong, he can stick to walls, etc., etc. We can suspend our disbelief and accept that Spider-Man can crawl up walls, shoot webbing from his wrists/cartridges and web-swing all over New York City. Why? Because he’s a very intelligent guy who was bitten by a magical spider. What won’t we accept? We won’t accept Spider-Man having the ability to fly. Why? Because spiders don’t fly (nope, not even magical ones). Thus, since he inherited his powers from a spider, it doesn’t make “logical” sense that he would gain an ability they don’t have. See – limits.

Even Superman, in all of his awesomeness, has his weakness to kryptonite. He also has his love for people, his farm-boy values, and his personal code of honour to keep him in line. All of this is important. These details define his character and his character limits. No one cares what happens to someone who is invincible. OK, maybe some people do, but personally, I don’t.

I like characters with flaws. What’s more, I want to know what dangers exist for characters. I want to know their restrictions, their weaknesses, what they can naturally do, and what they could do if they pushed themselves to the brink and maximized their full potential, as well as what happens to them when they overdo it. I want to know what is possible and what is not possible and use this knowledge to create one incredible story.

As we write our book, I’m discovering that having the power to create does carry a lot of responsibility. If we want our readers to suspend their disbelief, the world we create needs to have a certain level of logic that must be maintained, so that things will  continue to make  sense to the reader. As soon as you start bending your story’s rules of logic, the reader no longer suspends their disbelief, they just stop believing.

So, what have I learned after years of writing a fiction book? If a character was never meant to fly, make sure their feet stay firmly planted on the ground. And if you’re going to toss them off a cliff, you better be prepared to kill them or be able to justify why some awesome superhero who sprouted wings after being pecked by a radioactive bird, swoops in to save them. Otherwise….BHAM!

The End.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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What is that “effing” word!

Don’t you hate it when you are trying to remember that perfect word you want to use, only to be incredibly disappointed to discover that none of the words you come up with feel like the right one?  How many times have you wondered – “Am I imagining a word exists that never did?”

On the other hand, it’s so gratifying when you do remember or find the word you want. I can’t count the number of times I’ve asked Julie (using actual words and not this weird example), “what’s that word that is like such and such and is sort-of like this, but not exactly that?” and she responds with, “ You mean, blah” and I’m, like, “YES! Blah! That’s it!”

A confused panda who just can't find the right word!Sadly, for as many times as I have found the treasured “blah” word I sought, I have been equally dissatisfied in having to settle for alternatives that are not exactly what I wanted. Here’s a great example:

When writing the rough draft of our book together, Julie and I have come to refer to a certain type of smile our characters make on occasion as an “effing smile” (and yes, we actually use the word “effing” I’m not going out of my way to make this a G-rated blog). Why do we do this? Not because we’re being witty or even because it’s an inside joke, it’s literally because we don’t know what is the best word that would accurately describe the type of smile we mean.

In vain, both of us have tirelessly wracked our brains and turned to the thesaurus for any clues to find out what the perfect word could be. Naturally, we didn’t find it and just used the made-up term “effing smile”, so we would understand what the other person was describing.

In case anyone happens to know the word we’re looking for, I’ll do my best to describe the “effing smile” to you.

In my opinion, this is the smile that you give to someone when you understand, know, and/or realize that nothing more can really be said or done about a certain sucky/unfortunate situation or topic of discussion. In essence, the person giving the smile would like to give comfort, but they know that the situation is what it is, what’s done is done, and there is no fairytale ending. It’s like a combination of a half-hearted smile, an understanding smile, an empathetic smile, a wry smile, a comforting smile, and an “oh well, waddaya gonna do?” smile. See, it’s not so easy to come up with one word that encompasses all of that!

Today, after years of not finding the word (seriously, I’m not kidding, it’s been like 5 years), we are pretty much convinced that the word we’re looking for doesn’t exist. Therefore, until we can both agree on an actual word from the English language that will satisfy us, we’ve just used our term, because it’s what works for us.

When it comes to writing, whether it is creative or otherwise, it is important to not get stuck or hung up on finding the perfect word. That’s what editing is for. If after a few minutes you can’t call to mind the accurate word you want, use the best substitute (and even make a note to your future self about wanting to change the word), but keep on writing. If you obsess too much about making everything perfect in the first draft, you risk hindering your creativity and limiting your imagination. Believe me, I know. Editing while I’m creating remains one of my biggest setbacks as a writer.

Anyway, the good news is that before we introduce our book to the world, Julie and I still have time to find a suitable replacement for “effing smile”. While we won’t settle for something that isn’t satisfactory, I now understand that we may have to settle for less than perfect. I can live with that.  After all, writing a good story requires focus on the story as a whole, not obsessing over a single word.

And, who knows, maybe if we can’t find what we want, we’ll just make up words and provide a glossary of terms in the book 😉 Ah, the power of creative writing and imagination – I adolve* it!

Thanks for reading!

*Adolve – A newly made up word, which here means that the writer absolutely adores and loves the control she has when writing creatively.

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The Repetition Curse – Avoid turning your book into a drinking game

Have you ever read a book that makes you wonder if the editor fell asleep on the job?  I’m not just talking about books that feature nonsensical sentences, or that have tiny errors that include the occasional typo or comma. I’m talking about books that have an uncanny amount of word/phrase repetition – the type of repetition that occurs so frequently, it glares out at you from the page and is downright eye-rolling irritating.

Books and drinking gamesWe’ve all read one of these “drinking game” books (thanks for the term Julie ;)).  Books that make it easy for anyone to create a drinking game where you take a shot every time the same descriptive word, etc. is repeated. The trouble is, repetition is so bad in some of these books that if you were to make up drinking games for them, you wouldn’t just get yourself drunk, you’d end up in the ER with a severe case of alcohol poisoning after the first two chapters!

Take the popular Fifty Shades books, for example. Now there’s a series that could send you to the ER if you had to drink every time Anastasia Steele referred to her “inner goddess” or “subconscious” – Yikes!  Likewise, the Twilight series is littered with “pursed lips” and “murmurs” and “chuckles” and “sparkling” and “chagrin” and…well, let’s just stop there. Honestly, the amount of overused words in these novels really did leave me (the reader) chagrined and all but driven to drink 😛

Whether or not you liked the Twilight books or the Fifty Shades of Grey series is a matter of opinion. In fact, I’m not ashamed to admit that I very much enjoyed the first book in both series. I found them to be entertaining, fun, and enjoyable enough that I could overlook the repetitive flaws, which in later books had me so annoyed, I couldn’t have cared less what happened to any of the characters I once liked.

Anyway, I digress. The purpose of this particular post of mine is not to actually bash either of these books or to debate whether or not they are good or bad, but to briefly point out – in my opinion – that the excessive overuse of the same word descriptions in each of them took away from their stories.  This is one mistake I don’t want to make in the book I am writing with Julie.

I don’t mind if the reader rolls their eyes at one of my characters, because they disagree with what he or she did or because they think the character did something ridiculous. However, a reader rolling their eyes at my poor use of the English language and my inability to tell my story without repeating the same descriptions a hundred times over, to me, means that I have failed as a storyteller.

I can’t speak on behalf of all storytellers, but personally, I want you to get lost in the words I weave, escape with them and live in my story every time you choose to read it. If I’m constantly referring to my character’s “inner goddess” or use the word “chagrin” more than once in a single chapter (or several times in the same book), my skills as a storyteller are going to lose you, but not in the way I want.

Fairy RepetitiveOn the flip side of the coin, after reading a lot of books, you may start to discover that while some writers need to pick up a thesaurus, others need to put it down! As a writer, your words are your power, but this power needs control.  It has to have structure, purpose, and it needs to be executed in a way that leaves readers wanting more, not wondering when it will end. This requires more than a large vocabulary. It requires understanding the meaning and significance of the words you use and knowing how to utilize them effectively. Equally as important, every writer – no matter how skilled – needs an editor. Someone to tell them when something doesn’t make sense or when there is too much *cough cough* repetition.

So, the next time you pick up a book and you really feel that the author did a crappy job, remember that the editor is also to blame for the mess. That being said, I would like to take this moment to thank Julie for being an awesome editor (one more perk of creating a story with another writer).

That’s it for my little rant for the day. I hope I wasn’t too preachy and I apologize for repeatedly using the word “chagrin” to make my point.  I promise it won’t happen again 😉

Thanks for reading!

P.S. – What books have you read that you felt were overloaded with repetition? Please feel free to share your opinions and comments 🙂

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