Archive | February 2012

How to Write with a Natural Voice

If you don’t subscribe to Writer’s Digest Magazine, you should. It’s one of the few things I really think is essential to all writers. I’ve had a subscription for over ten years, and just renewed it for another two.

This months issue contains an article entitled “Writing with a Natural Voice” by Larry Brooks and it was filled with helpful sparks of wisdom. The first paragraph:

“By far the most common entry-level mistake in the writing game, the thing that can get a perfectly good story rejected by an editor on the first page, is overwriting: a writing voice that is overly laden with energy and adjectives, that tries too hard, that is obviously the work of a writer trying to poeticize a story that doesn’t have a chance.”

I think this is probably the thing I see the most in stories by new writers. I know I was certainly guilty of it back in the day. I think it happens because agents make having an “Original Voice” such a big deal. New writers try so hard to have a unique voice that they overdo it. In fact, Mr. Brooks advises all writers to try to write “crisply and cleanly.” To some extent, I agree with him. It’s important that you not bog down your prose, that you not try to make it like poetry. It’s not poetry, people. Unless you’re writing a certain style of literary fiction, trying to make your fiction like poetry will probably get you rejected.

However, I do think that you need to have a strong “character voice.” By that I mean that the personality of the character has to shine through your writing. We have to see the world through the character’s eyes to connect with him, to fall in love with him. If you can’t do that, you’ll get rejected as well. The line between too much voice and too little is very fine, so fine that it can be very difficult to find a voice for you writing. What do you think? Do you have any helpful words of wisdom for mastering voice in your writing?



Where do you get Your Writing Ideas?

So I have a confession to make. Ever since I was little, maybe three or four, I’ve had really intense, very vivid, very frequent nightmares. I do have regular dreams as well, but they are always crystal-clear, like mini-movies in my head. The best way for me to break into the writing scene would be as a horror writer. The short story I wrote for the competition was from a nightmare I had two weeks ago. I would have an abundance of material. Except, I have to go through it every single night and I find I don’t want to relive it as a writer every day.


Some of my earliest memories are of the nightmares I used to have. When I was younger, I spent many, many nights afraid to go to sleep. I still have them, but they don’t bother me as much now as they used to, although I still occasionally wake up in a state of terror. Let me tell you, the dream that sparked the short story idea was pretty tame compared to some of the others I’ve had.


I’ve been told it’s a by-product of my extremely imaginative mind. That it’s a blessing and I should be grateful. Although, as a kid, it felt a lot more like a curse than a blessing. I guess occasionally it’s useful, as the novel I am starting is based on a dream I had. But I just don’t think I have it in me to be a horror writer. What about you? Where do you get your ideas?

I’m a Finalist in the Short Story Competition!

Thanks, Mina B! Here is her notification:


“Loved this. What the heck were those things? Well done! FYI: You’re one of the top 5 I picked in the group I’m judging & have been shortlisted to move on to stage two. There will be a semi-final (stage three) and a final (stage four). Congrats.”

YAY!! If any of my campaigner friends want to vote for me, I’ll love you forever!


If anyone missed my story, you can read it here.


One of the Best Writing Books I’ve ever Read

I just finished The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner and I have to say, it is one of the best writing books I’ve ever read. Description from Library Journal:

“Lerner’s credentials include editorial stints at Houghton-Mifflin, Ballantine, Simon & Schuster, and Doubleday. Working now as a literary agent, she shares an insider’s perspective on the publication side of writing. Definitely not a “how-to” book or a style manual, this chatty, informal volume is anecdotal and encouraging to the novice or amateur writer. The first part describes various types of writers Lerner has worked with over the years and how a writer’s personality influences both the writing and the ability to get published. Stronger and more helpful, the next section covers the process of manuscript submission and offers concrete advice about literary agents, query letters, multiple submissions, working with editors and publicists, and dealing with rejection and writer’s block. Because of her unique approach, this book will find its audience among writers groups and workshops.”

The first section describes various ways writers can sabotage themselves, and ways to become conscious of the some of the bad decisions we might make and how to work around them. The second half shines a light on the actual business of publishing. It was fascinating, funny, and heartbreaking at times. I checked it out from the library but will definitely be buying a copy. The one most important piece of advice I took away from this book? Writers who never give up are the ones who get published. Thank you, Ms. Lerner, for strengthening my resolve to never give up. I have to admit, a few weeks ago it was wavering, but not anymore!

Three More Blog Awards!

Wow! I never fail to get a little thrill when someone writes those words: “I’ve nominated you for a blog award!” When I first started writing this blog, I wasn’t sure what kind of reception I would get. I only knew that I had acquired a bunch of knowledge over the last 4 or 5 years that I had been writing and that I wanted to share it with other writers, the ones like me, slogging away every day, reaching for a dream that at times seems unreachable. I hoped that in some small way, what I might have to say would be encouraging or helpful. Every time one my readers nominates me for an award, or leaves a thoughtful comment, or “likes” one of my posts, I feel grateful that you have enjoyed something I’ve written. Thank you, all my readers.


And now, on to the awards! Thank you very much, Jenny, for the 7×7 Award and the Liebster Blog Award! And congratulations for receiving them yourself! Please check out Jenny’s blog. It’s full of interesting posts and observations! And thank you, Peggy, for the Sunshine Award! Your kind words made my day and you definitely deserved to receive the award as well. Thank you! And everyone, please check out her blog.


As I’ve already received the 7×7 award, please check out my acceptance post here.


The rules:


The Sunshine Award

  • Thank the person who gave you the award.
  • Write a post about it.
  • Answer some questions below.
  • Pass it along to ten people and let them know they received the award.


The Liebster Award (the rules as stated on Jenny’s page)

The guidelines for the Liebster Blog Award are:

  • Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
  • Reveal your top 5 picks for the award and let them know by leaving them a comment on their blog.
  • Post the award on your blog.
  • Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the blogsphere – other bloggers.
  • Most of all – have fun and spread the karma.

On to the questions for the Sunshine Award

  1. Favorite color:  I love all colors except black and brown.
  2. Favorite animal:  Dogs. They love you unconditionally and keep your feet warm on cold winter nights
  3. Favorite number:  1,739,563 (I’m just kidding! I don’t have a favorite number)
  4. Favorite non-alcoholic drink:  Water. It’s pretty much all I drink.
  5. Twitter or Facebook:  Facebook. I’m not entirely sure I have Twitter figured out. It makes me uncomfortable.
  6. Passion:Reading, reading, reading. Writing, writing, writing. And my family.
  7. Getting or giving presents:  Giving. I used to be so excited to give people presents that I’d always blurt out what they were before they opened them. Come to think of it, I still occasionally do that…
  8. Favorite pattern:  Polka dots! They’re so exuberant!
  9. Favorite day of the week:  Friday. You have the entire weekend spread in front of you, just waiting to be enjoyed.
  10. Favorite flower: Old-fashioned roses, but only on the bush, never cut.


On to the recipients of the awards! I’m going to list five blogs, total. I’m sorry I can’t do more, but my son is getting his very last molar in and woke up crying an incredible eight (EIGHT!) times last night. Please excuse any typos for the same reason! It was all I could do to keep from falling asleep on my desk as I wrote this today. If I list you, pick whichever of the three awards you would rather have, and pass it on!

1. Novelisthq– A blog that focus specifically on writing for the sci-fi Genre. Definitely worth a look.

2. Misprinted Pages: Musings on Books and Writing– Stephanie has great book reviews on her site! If you’re looking for a good book, check out her blog!

3. Lake Superior Spirit: Blogging from the Upper Peninsula North Woods– A great blog from a fellow North Woods woman! Her thoughtful posts on writing and life are very refreshing!

4. Her-Story-Calls: Quill Bending Writers Blabbing About All Things Historical, Future, and Modern– A great writing blog written by multiple authors. I always find something interesting to read here!

5. Lynda R. Young, Author W.I.P. It: a Writer’s Journey– A great blog that has helpful tips for both fiction writing and writing for your blog! Definitely worth a visit!

Critique Contest Winner Announced! And a Call for Beta Readers

And the critique contest winner is…

Stephanie with her sci-fi/fantasy novel! Yay, Stephanie! I’ll be contacting you later today via email to discuss the details with you! For everyone else who entered, if you sent me an attachment with the first chapter of your novel, it will be deleted unread. If you weren’t chosen, don’t worry. I’ll definitely be running this contest again sometime in the future. I love editing and giving critiques. I’d take on more critique partners if I didn’t have to get my own work done first!

I would like to say that if anyone is interested, I could use a couple of beta readers. If you don’t know, a beta reader is someone who reads a novel and then offers opinions on plot, characterization, etc. It isn’t an edit, or fixing typos, or anything like that. I’m specifically looking for someone who reads a lot of YA, as that’s mainly what I write. Let me know if you’re interested! I’m especially be interested in who your favorite YA authors are and what type of YA you most like to read! Let me know!

Writing: Waiting is the Hardest Part

I don’t know about you, but I find the waiting to be the hardest part of trying to become an author. Waiting while my readers critique my stories and get back to me, waiting until my book is good enough to send out to agents, waiting to hear back from agents about my query letter, waiting to hear back on requested manuscripts (yes, still waiting), and waiting to hear about various contest results. (No, I didn’t win SYTYCW. Still hoping I might get a revise and resubmit, or a call telling me they might like to buy it.)

I’m probably as patient as the next person; not expecting instant gratification, but not quite able to control my worrying either. But let me tell you, “writing” waiting is hard, especially waiting to hear back from the agents who have my manuscripts. I’m tied to my computer, checking my email at least once an hour all day. When I wake up, the first thing I do is turn it on, all the while trying to ignore the nervous pitching in my stomach.

I don’t know why I’m so very anxious about it. Yes, it’s something I’ve wanted for such a long time, but you know what? I wanted to have a baby more, and I honestly think that those nine months of waiting for him were easier than waiting to hear back from the agents. I don’t know if it was because I knew approximately when he was coming, or if it was because I was a little afraid as well as excited, but that period of waiting was not as bad as this one.

Does anyone else have this problem? How do you deal with it? (Yes, I am already working on my next story. No, it doesn’t seem to be helping.) Does anyone have any tips or tricks that might help me out?

Another Full Manuscript Request!! And Writing: Not the Absence of Fear

I’m super happy to announce that I received ANOTHER full manuscript request over the weekend. I sent it off yesterday, so please wish me luck!

Today is also a big day, not only because it’s Valentine’s Day but also because today is the day that the winner of the Harlequin So You Think You Can Write ontest will be notified. I’m not afraid to admit that I feel a few butterflies flapping against my ribs, but I don’t really have high hopes. I actually have my fingers crossed for my CP, Aimee, who I think might have a shot. Thinking about the contest, and also about sending my manuscript off with a hope and a prayer, has made me think about how writing and fear go hand in hand. I’ve decided to re-post my article about the necessity of courage in the field of writing. Enjoy!


Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
Mark Twain

I am not afraid to admit that I’m scared of a lot of things, one of which is failure. I am afraid to fail. Sometimes, I am even afraid to try new things, for fear of looking stupid. After I posted yesterday, committing to do NaNoWriMo, I was instantly assaulted with fear. What if I don’t finish, and I look stupid in front of everyone?

For me, there have been quite a few things to be scared of in regards to writing fiction. When I first started writing, I was scared that what I wrote would be crap. When I started submitting to agents, I was scared I would get rejected. When I entered the New Voices contest, I was scared that someone would trash my work. Now I’m scared that I’ll fail at NaNoWriMo.

Here’s the thing: I’ve done all these things, despite being scared, and you know what? In a lot of cases, the worst thing that could happen, did. I did get rejected by agents. Someone DID give me a scathing review in New Voices, and when I started writing, my writing WAS crappy. But I did it. Sometimes I got hurt, but I also learned something every single time. My writing is better, and I’m a stronger person. Those are some pretty good reasons to be courageous.

At the end of the day, if you give into your fear, you’re still a failure, even if you are the only one who knows it. And on top of that, you’ll probably have regrets that you’ll have to live with for the rest of your life. You might as well do what you’re afraid of. When you’re one hundred years old, you’re not going to look back and say, “Gee, I wish I hadn’t entered that contest and gotten bad-mouthed.” But you are likely to look back and say, “Gosh, I wish I hadn’t been afraid to be a writer.”