School Again…

I swayed while in college back and forth between wanting to go to graduate school and not. In the end, I decided against it. I was lucky to walk away with a bachelor’s degree with little debt and didn’t want to change that. I was so happy to be finished, no more essays, tests, or massive amount of homework.

I avoided entering into the world of working full-time with a real job, though. Instead, on an impulse, I got a work n’ holiday visa for Australia and did that for six months. Then traveled around New Zealand… then I finally came back to the US to become an adult, get a proper job, and started paying off my student loans.

I don’t expect to become rich enough off my writing. I know I’ll probably always have a job. And the one that I would really like to have until I retire is not yet in my reach. I need 18 more business hours to qualify for it so… I’m going back. Sort of, it’s not like I’m committing to two years of graduate school. I’m taking those hours all online and I expect to be done by October at the latest. Getting back in that proper student mental is going to be annoying. I always took at least 18 hours a semester when I was going to college but back then I was just juggling that with a part-time job and writing.

Oh well, I’ll manage.

The only thing that really bothers me is how this will cut in to my spare time. (aka my writing time). I hope to start query by July, and I don’t foresee that being a problem. It’s the new idea for a story I was hoping to begin to write while I queried my current manuscript that’s going to probably suffer. I doubt that’ll be happening until October. It’s just a few months set back but it bothers me still.

Don’t you hate it when life interferes with writing?

New Story Idea

I put aside my main manuscript to get some distance from it before I go back and add a new start and revise it (hopefully, for the last time). If I do either of those things right after I just revised it, I know they won’t turn out right. I’d end up reading what’s in my head instead of what’s actually in front of me.

I’ve been reading a lot to fill in my spare time, both about the struggles of getting published and good old fiction. One tip that I constantly come across is start writing a new story as soon as you start querying. Of course, I think that’s a good idea. It gives you a back up in case the one you finished doesn’t get picked up by an literary agent (which would be a real horror…).

But, at the same time, the only other developed idea for a book I had was an adult series. My main manuscript is YA, though, and I kept telling myself I wanted to stick with YA for a while before going up to adult. When I first started to write, I never really categorized myself as either YA or adult because I never stopped to think about it. That or genres, I just wrote the stories that came to my head and learned to categorize them later.

At the start of the week, I got really lucky and a brand new idea popped into my head! Two, actually, and they are both YA. One I’ve been able to write a solid outline for an entire for and the other is still a concept with a vague outline. I love both ideas, of course, but I’m far more excited about the fully outlined one. So much so that I almost feel like starting to write that story but I know if I do that then I’ll get sidetracked from my main manuscript for too long… and it’s almost to the point where it’s polished enough to write a query and synopsis for (two things I’ve been researching about, but avoiding out of a mixture of dread and fear).

Though it pains me, I’m forcing myself not to write either story out yet and to stick with outlining them. I know some can write a wonderful story without outline, but I’m not one of them. I make lists for almost everything I do, it keeps my organized or else I’m sure to forget something.

My hope is that in two to three months (at most) I’ll be starting the query and process. That way I can move on to writing another book, just in case that fails to land me an agent. And if it does, then I’ll have another book ready and waiting to see the light of day.

Ultimately, it’s not about getting published though. I’d write these stories even if that wasn’t my goal. If I don’t write, then I don’t know what I would do. I think Noah Lukeman sums it up really well when he said:

“Writers write because they HAVE to, because they NEED to. It is what they do, and it is who they are.”

Writing Dialogue

I’d say my biggest pet-peeve, and what will turn me off to a book the quickest, is if the dialogue isn’t right. I never really gave dialogue much thought until my freshmen year in college. I was taking Fiction Writing, and it opened my eyes up to what was good writing and what was just… writing. I never understood the difference between show v. tell until then (well, at least I had a grasp of it).

And I never actually understood what made good dialogue until then, either. I still vividly remember my professor, a man passionate about creative writing, go off on a tangent about how dialogue in novels had to be like a conversation you’d have with your friend and yet not at the same time.

How he hated “uh”s. And now, I hate them, too. If I see multiple “uh/um” in the book (outside the bedroom or getting violently harmed) then I’ll close it and walk away. I know that seems extreme, but they drive me crazy. And if there’s “uh”s then that means there’s a lot of other things wrong with the dialogue, too.

I tell this to anyone I’m doing critiques for but I don’t think I’ve ever said it as clearly as what I found looking through the tumblr accounts I follow. wrote this:

A lot of people assume dialogue is easy to write because ‘It’s just a conversation! I have those all the time.’

But real conversations are, for the most part, really boring:

  • Lots of verbal tics (uh, um, like, well, I mean)
  • Lack of conflict (How was your day? Great, yours? Pretty good!)
  • Cliches and repetitive phrasing

Writing dialogue that too closely mirrors real conversation will give you lots of repetition on the page. You don’t want that. Repetition is bad. It’s boring. It sucks. It’s totally lame.

All that said, here are a few essential reads re: writing dialogue that is great and awesome.

See what I mean? Clear, concise, and helpful all at once. If you click on the link above, fictionfiction gives some links of her own on help for writing dialogue.

I hate uh, um, like, well, and I mean. Some of them can be used appropriately (well, I mean, and like) but they must be used sparingly. The other two hold no purpose whatsoever in dialogue. I also hate repetition–inside of dialogue or outside of it. If that repetition of words and/or phrases is for an obvious literary purpose then I’m fine with them. I like it when it services a purpose.

But when it doesn’t other than the fact that if a real person, really talking, would keep repeating “um” or “well” or “I mean/I know/I don’t know” then I’ll be hitting my head against the table.

I don’t care if that sounds ridiculous to some. We’re all allowed our pet-peeves and bad dialogue is mine.

Paranormal Romance Genre’s Challenge

Paranormal romance (PNR) is a genre like mystery, thriller, historical romance, fantasy, horror, and I could go on and on. For whatever reason, I’ve heard and read a lot of complaints about this genre and it doesn’t make sense to me. Editors want a break from it. People are sick of things within PNR (like vampires, demons, or werewolves).

Why doesn’t PNR get treated like every other category? Yes, things repeat. Yes, vampires are used a lot but they’re not the only paranormal creature. PNR is bigger than just vampires.

Every genre has a set of things that happens all the time. Thrillers have international terrorists that are going to destroy the USA. Mysteries have cops that catch creepy killers. Romance has a lot of repeats about the same relationship complications (like, girl is irrationally in love with an asshole who turns out not to be as much of an asshole as she thought). Fantasy has magic. Horror has ghosts. Sci-fi has spaceships or genetically altered humans.

Do you see my point? Every category has things that repeat. Over and over again. Yes, I get it, people get sick of repetition but I hear a lot more people complaining about being sick of that happening in PNR than other genres. I don’t think people give it credit. It seems more like everyone assumes it’s just a phase that will eventually disappear.

I hope that’s not true. I love PNRs. I’ve always been interested in paranormal creatures. I like them so much because they’re a break from reality. There are still unique, original, stories being published both traditionally and through self-publishing (example, BR Kingsolver’s Succubus Gift).

My point is this: every genre has repeats. Those repeats are made original by authors every day. The same thing happens within PNR. Yeah, vampires might be overused but someday an author will come around and breath originality and life back into them.