Thought it would be fun to join in on #Writer’sQuoteWednesday & #BeWow

Since I’m waist deep in editing, I can use a little inspiration. Fortunately I stumbled across Writers Quote Wednesday and BeWow. This weeks theme is Victor Hugo. Fitting as Les Miserables is one of my very favorite stories, being, in my opinion, the most poignant, naked and beautiful illustrations of faith and redemption in literature. (We also used to perform the medley of the musical in my middle school choir. One of the few musicals that has great alto parts)

This one resonated with me.

“The future has several names. For the weak, it is impossible; for the fainthearted, it is unknown; but for the valiant, it is ideal.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

online writing workshop and what it has done for me

I was asked recently to contribute what my favorite online review site has meant to me and I thought it would be helpful to share it here as well.

I discovered the online writing workshop for science fiction, fantasy and horror (OWW) on the website of one of my favorite authors, Cecilia Dart-Thorton as a resource for writers. At the time I was a stay at home mother with a disability. I was an author of several unpublished manuscripts. I knew my writing needed work, lots of work, but any attempts I made to get feedback came up short. Trading with other authors would have me pouring over their every line and getting nothing from them in return. I had sent out my manuscripts to dozens people who never read any of it at all.

I was stuck. I could not take classes. I could not make it to writing group meetings. Being an author is my dream but I had to get better.

When Ms. Dart-Thorton’s website directed me to OWW I knew I had my answer. I joined immediately and was promptly crushed with constructive criticism. I went through a month of denial and then I grew the thick skin I needed to be a writer. My work improved. I read the work of other writers and I found my feedback to them developed. And my work improved more. I identified my weaknesses. I learned how to strengthen them.

What does OWW mean to me?

It made the difference between feeling like I could be a writer someday and being a writer now.

It taught me how to be discerning and harsh with my own work. How to take criticism and be thankful for it.

I am a better writer. I am a more confident writer. I am a writer whose ego no longer rules my edits.

My newest manuscript is on its last round of edits. I have received amazingly helpful feedback on OWW that have shaped it into the very best thing I have ever written. I am confident that it will be my first published novel.

I recommend this site to every writer I meet. I warn them, it will strip you of your ego and then it will build you up again as a writer.

It has been my most valuable resource.

The thing about editing

After much procrastination, I am finally back to my last round of edits and I’m pleased to discover it is not nearly as difficult as I anticipated. This is pretty much always the case when I actually get into editing, but every single time I’m looking at the task ahead of me, it seems overwhelming.

When you imagine what it means to be an author, you think of spending your time writing, reading and researching. The truth of the majority of your time will be spent editing your manuscripts. Assuming you enjoy writing, it the the actual work of being a writer. It piles up and glares at you and absolutely has to get done in order for your project to move forward.

I generally have to take a break between drafts. By the time I finish a round of edits on a manuscript I am excited, relieved and done with that story for a while. It’s a good time to work on another project, send it out to beta readers, gather feedback and do some research (or binge watch Netflix and read a few books).

When it all comes back though, I dread the next round as much as I dread the last round. I’ll put it off as long as I can until I’m dying to get the story out there. It doesn’t help that I’m not very productive in the middle of winter.

But it doesn’t have to intimidate me. Yes, editing isn’t work I really enjoy, but just like any other job I’ve had, when I actually get down to it, it flows. Getting on a schedule helps. Removing distractions (finishing any Netflix series that are calling my name). Setting goals for each night’s work.

And with the right amount of time in between, I enjoy being back in the story, even if it is to rip it to shreds, because I like the story I have written. And that is encouraging. The edits are cleaning it up, and making something I like even better.

I’m nearly half way through  my manuscript. And this is the last round of edits before I start to submit. I may go back again later but three rounds of edits are all I have to give this book without more outside help.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is growing brighter rapidly. I am making progress and gaining momentum.

Don’t let the idea of edits overwhelm you. The reality is that they are just like housework, filling out medical forms, and to-do piles. They will be accomplished one step at a time and you will be so relieved to have a completed project.

How do you edit? How many drafts and rounds do you work with? When do you know you are done? How do you keep yourself going?

Writing love scenes without writing love scenes

Some stories really benefit from some hot and heavy sex scenes. Some do not. Whether or not they should be included is really up to you, but if you believe that sometimes your characters deserve just a little privacy than here are my suggestions for allowing your characters some sexy times without detailing every passionate thrust.

Think of it like a PG-13 movie

When things start to get heated, the camera pans off out the window and doesn’t come back to the characters until the next morning. Do this with your writing.

Joe took her in his arms. “I’ve wanted you forever”. Bertha melted against him, ready at last. Kissing, he led her to the bed.

She slid out from under the sheets and pulled on her pants, admiring the sunlight shining through the window.

How easy is that?

Characters will talk

Sometimes it’s necessary to describe a sex scene for plot reasons. If Joe and Bertha’s first time was mind blowing or very disappointing, this plays a key role in how their relationship progresses. So how do you convey this? Through dialogue. Maybe Bertha assures Joe that everything was swell (no pun intended) but in reality, things were not quite in sync. She can call up Wendy later and fill her in.

“It was nice,” Bertha said.

“Just nice?” Wendy asked.

“Yeah, well- He got his- but then he went to sleep.”

This is very telling of both Bertha’s and Joe’s characters and presents an important obstacle to overcome. And you don’t have to write the play by play of Joe’s selfish lovemaking.

Making Assumptions

If the specific sex act has little to do with your plot, all you need is a suggestion. If a character’s multiple partners says something about who they are, but how they interact with those partners isn’t as important, a few lines will allow a reader to get an idea about them without bogging the plot down with romances that lead no where.

Joe glanced over at the blond in bed beside him before pulling on his clothes and going home. She was cuter than the chick from Wednesday.

 

“Last call,” said the bartender, handing her a free drink.

“How far is your apartment?” Bertha asked.

‘Nuff said.

Further Assumptions

In some cases, it is entirely unnecessary to even hint at sex. If your characters are cohabiting, in a long term relationship or married without serious problems, your readers will assume they are sleeping together and there will be very little interest in their sex life (it’s true, no one really cares about monogamous relationship sex).

This is actually a great little secret can be played upon if there are twists to their relationship. What if Bertha and Joe live together, seem to get along, and never speak about their sex life and we come to find out that they haven’t been intimate in years and secretly hate each other? Or their sex life involves a third party?

Keeping the door closed until you are ready to let your reader into their bedroom is not just a plot device for those who’d rather not get into play by play love scenes, it’s also a clever device for plot twists and conflict.

 

What is your preference? When do sex scenes benefit a story and when do they detract from the plot?

 

 

 

 

Strong Female Characters: Fact vs Fiction

“”So, why do you always write these strong women characters?”
“Because you’re still asking me that question. “”-Joss Whedon

They’re all the rage. Run a search and you will find hundreds of articles on how to write them. We all want to create a Katniss or a Buffy or an Arya. We like our women strong, or at least we think we do. For every Katniss there are 12 Bellas and every Buffy there are 200 Lana Langs. In tv and fiction these days there are more weak female characters that we are told are strong than those who possess that actual qualities we seem to want.

So how do you tell the difference?

Isn’t is kinda amazing that we, as a society, don’t yet know?

It’s because we’re dazzled with flash and glitz and drama and a few broken rules. A strong character doesn’t need to wield a sword or have ninja skills. She doesn’t need to defy a nation in a gorgeous dress or defy her parents wishes or choose the better, however more difficult, man. Those things are props that are stuck on female characters to make us think they’re strong. They’re superficial.

“I’m team Katniss. Everyone thinks there’s a love triangle and when I look at it, when I read the books with my sister, I just thought more about how Katniss is going to the games for her family. So, I’m team Katniss.” – Willow Sheilds

So what is it that makes a strong female character?

The answer is in the question.

Strong character.

It’s not about being stubborn or squashing feelings. It’s not about super powers. It’s not about following her heart or her dream. It’s most definitely not about winning over the man.

It’s about having the strength of character to face whatever trials the story throws her way and continuing on.

So how do you write that?

I suggest you draw from inspiration. Think of the strong women in your life. Your grandmother, your mother. Your sister or your best friend. Your teachers and bosses.

What are the qualities that make them strong? Do they do what needs to be done? They make sacrifices but continue to strive and hope for something better for themselves. They hold themselves to a high standard. They are resourceful. They get back up when they fall. It doesn’t have to be everything. Strength presents in different ways, in different situations but the important part of it is:

They are not strong women. They are strong people.

What women would you want to have your back if you were facing a serious trial?

Who would you want on your side? Buffy or Bella?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Why are strong females so hard for some writers to nail down? What makes them strong? What would you like to see more of?