Tag Archives: Sophie

Familiar Turns of Phrase

A while back I got one of those nice rejections that makes you want to smile as wide as the nearest river and cry yourself a river all at the same time. The agent loved my pacing and “strong sense of narrative,” but thought I used too many “familiar turns of phrase.”

My critique partners all said, “No way.” (Love those guys!) But I decided to read through my manuscript again and see what the agent meant. And I found plenty. I found a handful of phrases that my CPs probably glossed over because they’re not actually clichés, but that made the writing more accessible. Things like: Yesterday afternoon, excitement to go out with Vincent had me jumping out of my skin

Not so bad, right? However, I realized something important. Those familiar phrases are a fabulous opportunity to strengthen your character’s voice. Would Sophie actually think the words jumping out of my skin? No, probably not. She’d say something related to dancing – leaping off a stage or pirouettes in her stomach. No, even better, fouettés in the stomach because that involves a bit of a kick. Comparing her excitement to a ballet term makes Sophie a more genuine character and reminds the reader about her connection to dance.

Here’s another example: …I jumped out of bed, blood rushing through my veins

Do people really jump out of bed? Not once they’re older than about nine years old. The blood rushing is probably a cliché, so it definitely needed to be changed. Here I chose to just delete the clichéd description and tell the reader how Sophie is feeling. Sometimes a well-placed tell is more effective than overly physical showing. (But that’s for another blog post.)

And another: My skin crawled.

Okay, apparently we should avoid the word jump unless it fits the action, and stop using the skin to describe emotions.

You get the idea, right? Those three examples are all from the first three chapters. Two of them got deleted and one changed to enhance voice. Bing bang boom I’ve got a stronger beginning.

If you’re brave enough, post your own example in the comments and how you think you should improve it.

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NaNo Update

Last night I reached 20,067 words. Woohoo! I am lucky to have the time right now to write, which will not always be the case. Especially now that I have a new job with a foreign language center (we teach several languages to children and adults).

Writing a sequel has been an interesting experience. Obviously, I have never done this before. On purpose, I always avoided writing a sequel in case the first book did not sell. And if it weren’t for NaNoWriMo, I wouldn’t be writing Rachel right now, I’d be revising a middle-grade manuscript (now my December task).

When I first came up with the idea of a trilogy in which each of the three books had a different protagonist, I was actually going to try to do it all in one book. But I had too much to say. And now, the similarities and differences are really becoming evident.

Sophie travels back in time, Rachel travels forward. They each have experience with the same year in the past, however, 1895. Sophie had the good fortune of knowing a little bit about the past, as most of us do, to some degree. Rachel had never imagined our own time. So their reactions to the time periods in which they end up are quite different.

And while it has been fun to revisit the characters each book has in common, I’ve been enjoying the new characters the most. I can’t wait for my readers to meet Renard, for example. He has been the most fun to write, possibly of any character I’ve ever created.

So how is your November going? What’s new, my friends? Please share in the comments.

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My Last Beta-Reader

I’m going to get a bit gushy, so please forgive me in advance.  I’ve read lately about authors thanking their spouses for being their first readers.  Well, my husband isn’t my first reader, he’s my last.  He doesn’t want to see a manuscript until I think I’m done.  But he does read all my manuscripts.

Despite that, I was surprised when RocketMan said he wanted to read Sophie.  He had a hard time with Kwizera – he’s totally a genre fiction kind of guy, especially old school sci-fi.  (In fact, lately he has lamented the loss of the kind of sci-fi he likes to read, so please send some good adult sci-fi recs in our direction.)  Kwizera was too…literary for him.  But he read it and made a few comments.

Sophie seems to be a different story.  (Nope, that pun was not intended, and I didn’t even notice it while writing.)  The other night he came home late from a business trip and he brought up the fact that he was about halfway through Sophie.  Then he proceeded to tell me his thoughts.  Every time I thought he’d finished, he’d launch into another thing he remembered from my manuscript.

I couldn’t keep the grin off my face.  It didn’t matter that he had a few negative comments – he was talking about Sophie, and he got it.  He noticed things that other beta-readers missed.  For example, he pointed out that when Sophie changes out of her 21st century togs, the sister of the girl she’s pretending to be should be horrified by her underwear, because she wouldn’t have seen anything that skimpy before.  Then he gave me ideas to write myself out of that problem.

Isn’t he awesome?

He would also want you to know that he’s not a dirty old man; he just remembers being a 16 year old geek (or is it nerd?).

He also said he keeps thinking about where it’s all going and threw out some ideas.  I just grinned and kept my lips sealed.  He hasn’t figured out the twist!  Squee!  (Oops, I hope he isn’t reading this, because now he’ll put his super-genius brain to the task of figuring out the twist.)

So, not only does he keep me very well-fed (did anyone read my tweet last week about the lobster paella made on the grill?) in a material sense, he also feeds my creative writer self and pushes me to be even better.

Who feeds you?

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Balancing Act

Did my life really get busier in the past few months or does it just somehow feel that way?

My children’s social calendars, school and extra-curricular activities. Yardwork, now that we bypassed spring and have landed squarely in summer. Social Media. Critiquing. Writing.

It doesn’t sound like that much listed that way. Under critiquing I should add that I’ve had the honor and pleasure to make some new critiquing friends in the past few months. Last week I gave critiques to 3 different friends.

The good news is that I finished a draft of Sophie and sent the first 5 chapters to 2 critiquing friends. I guess I should send them more, so we can move this process along, right?

On a different note, the awesome JC from J.C. Martin, Fighter Writer posted an interview with me on Wednesday. Check her out and say hello.

Does anyone else feel like life has become closer to overwhelming these days? How do you balance all the disparate elements of your life? Any tricks to pass on?

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Consistent Voice

I’m sorry I skipped last Thursday’s Read-Through post. It’s not that I don’t have plenty to talk about. I’m loving Holly Black’s Red Glove (have you read White Cat yet? No? What are you waiting for?!), and a few weeks ago I finished Little Brother by Cory Doctorow – another winner. Between the migraines, the allergies, the beginning of a cold, and some extra mommy duties, I just didn’t have the energy. I hope to be back later this week, depending on the duration of this dang cold.

Brief clarification: RocketMan is my husband (he’s aerospace-engineer-smart). Was looking for a nickname for #1 Son. What about A-Read?

In other news, did you all check out my interview on Cally Jackson’s blog and this one on Akoss Ket’s blog? These are two neato writers who deserve a peek. So go check them out and come back. I’ll wait.

Now for this week’s post on voice:

I’m still revising Sophie, but I finally reached a point where it’s coming along more quickly than it had a few weeks ago. I survived the above-mentioned complications, and then finished the structural, character and plot changes (for this draft).

Now I’m working on voice – making sure each character’s voice is consistent, yet distinct from all the other characters. Honestly, I never gave the differences between my characters’ voices much thought – I just wrote them as I heard them in my head – before Tanya Reimer, the writing friend who gave me the idea to write a scene in a different POV, suggested this voice exercise.

She suggested I highlight each character’s dialogue in a different color and then read one color at a time. When you’re focused on just one character’s dialogue, it’s easy to see (and hear, if you read it aloud) what doesn’t fit the voice. Even when I’m not reading aloud, I hear the dialogue in my head and I add accents and intonations. That, too, helps me be sure the dialogue fits the character’s voice.

Another cool thing about this is that you can see the balance of dialogue and action/description/narrative in your manuscript. And it’s colorful!

So, I’ve finished voice read-throughs and revisions for Sophie and Mireille (Sophie’s closest friend in the past), and now I’m on Louise (Sophie’s sister in the past). The weird thing is, I can’t wait to get to each character. I’m actually excited to revise – which is unusual for me as I prefer writing the first draft. Then again, I’m excited to be closer to finishing this manuscript.

What gets you excited about revising? Have you ever tried looking so specifically at voice? What do you think of A-Read as a nickname for #1 Son/awesome reader whose first name starts with an A?

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My Newest Beta

I’ve reached a new stage in my writing career. My oldest son is now old enough to be a built in beta-reader! This is the boy who reads Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, The Chronicles of Narnia and other books as listed here.

I didn’t reach this conclusion myself. No, it took RocketMan to point it out. In the car this weekend he asked me, “Number One Son could read Transparents and tell you the parts he likes and doesn’t like. Couldn’t he?”

What a brilliant idea! And I should have thought of this myself since a couple of weeks ago, one of my amazing CPs mentioned that she’s reading her MG wip chapter by chapter to her kids to get their impressions. When I heard that, I thought, What a brilliant idea! Yet I still didn’t make the teeny-tiny leap to trying that out myself. D’oh.

So now that the idea has been doubly pounded into my head, I will have to try this out. As soon as I complete the current revision of Sophie, and I do a revision of Tzohar, I will have Number One Son read it. Who knows? Maybe he’ll actually give me some valuable advice. Maybe he won’t just shrug at me and say, “I don’t know. I just liked it.” This might sound good, but it’s not very helpful.

Anyway…guess I need a better nickname for him now that he’s been mentioned in two blog posts just this year (plus a few last year). Any ideas?

While you’re thinking of appropriate nicknames, go check out this interview of me on the blog Cally Jackson Writes. I survived my time in the Hot Seat! Thanks Cally!

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Write Hope

I have mentioned this auction by and for writers before, and I will mention it again. Today, a pair of custom mitts crocheted by me goes on the auction block. My auction post will go live at noon EDT. Please check it out, as well as the other items still open for bidding.

In other news, I will return next week with another installment of Read-Through Thursday; I plan to change the name of this blog to reflect my personality and my writing interests; and if you have not yet voted for one of the four polished excerpts on Adventures in Children’s Publishing, please do (the link takes you to my excerpt. Look in the sidebar on ACP for the poll and the links to the other entries).

Update (4/2/11): Voting on ACP has ended and the Sophie excerpt won. Thanks for all the support!

I am so proud to be part of this community!

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