Involving Outsiders (aka my friends)

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friends1

Friend 1:

“So my dad and my sister wrote a book.”

“I wanna read it.”

“But you don’t even know what it’s about.”

“Okay what’s it about?”

“Well, it’s about-”

“I wanna read it.”

Friend 2:

“So I have this description I want you to read (insert some story about Amazon sending me descriptions of soon-to-be-published books).”

*reads description* “Ooo this sounds good!”

“Yeah I thought so too. But I kinda lied…my dad and my sister wrote that book.”

“No way. I wanna read it.”


There were so many times when I wanted to tell my friends about Changers and so many times I stopped myself. I wanted to wait and tell them when it was finally done. When all the major plot changes had been made and when we were FINALLY ready for outsiders to read it.

We’re still making changes and tweaks but I can’t wait to get some feedback. Partly because I know the authors but mostly because I helped. I may not have “written” any words on the manuscript but I helped edit and tighten and tweak.

I’ve read quite a few books in my time and I never realized how much time goes into putting a story together and making it perfect. I love being part of the behind-the-scenes stuff and being involved in the entire process.

I just wish my friends would get back to me about Changers….*anxiously bites nails*

Limiting Details

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details

When I read a book, I have to be able to picture people and things in my head. I have to be able to kind of play a movie in my head with the book’s description. However, I don’t want the author to give me too much detail. I’d like to be able to add my own spin on the characters and places.

This begs the question: How much description is too much description?

You’re probably thinking “the limit does not exist. Use all the description.” I think this is a mistake. When you give the reader too many adjectives and start describing the irrelevant details, that’s too much description.

One thing my dad and sister had on their side when they started Changers is that they’re both avid readers. They know exactly what they want in a story. They know what they look for when starting a book. There wasn’t one time during my editing of Changers where I said “There isn’t enough detail here” or “Okay, I don’t care what her freckles would make if you played connect-the-dots on her face”.

I’ve read books where I’ve actually had to go back and find the original description of a character to realize that there is a huge continuity error. In the first chapter, someone will be described as having straight, black hair and by the end of the book, it’s curly and dirty-blonde (in Changers, this could happen *wink* but in books not about Changers, it’s not right).

The authors of Changers have made it so I can imagine the characters but I’m also allowed to make up details to complete the picture. If/When this gets turned into a movie *fingers crossed*, they won’t have a hard time finding the cast.

 

 

Reality Check Number 1

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reality check

We originally started this website to document our experiences in writing a book. It’s a way to share with anyone who wants to know, anyone who’s curious, and/or anyone who may be on the same journey. We also wanted to have a nice place to show off our talents, our personalities and a small part of our lives.

So it’s reality check time.We decided to send our – what turned out to be second-to-the-last – draft to some people that seemed genuinely interested in taking a look at our manuscript and giving us an outsider’s view of what we had created. We determined early on we wouldn’t bug these people with things like, “…so…what do you think…how far have you gotten…did you like the part where…what do you think about…”, etc. We delivered our book electronically to a few beta readers. After almost a month, we have heard not one word. From anyone. Not. One. Word.

Maybe it’s the book. Maybe it’s the story. We’ll keep looking for readers. A little better diligence and vetting next time around. We have to know what outsiders think about it.

In the meantime, editing continues.

 

 

Relating To The Players

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kid stuff 1

When I was a kid, I always thought when I became an adult, I would be this all-knowing, mature, cool person. I imagined all the asshole-ness of my childhood would be gone because I would be mature. I thought the ‘underdog me’ and the ‘cool kids’ would finally be on the same playing field.

Adults are just big kids. We’ve learned from our mistakes. I think people learn to suppress past portions of their lives they’d rather not remember. So much suppression is going on in most adults, they actually cause themselves to forget where they came from. They forget the hurt. They forget the feelings of youthful rejection. They forget the innocence and the playfulness. There’s a line in a song by Bob Seger that says, “Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” The kid inside never really goes away – people just don’t know the kid any more.

Writing YA is a natural for this team because we remember what it’s like to be a kid. We remember the good, the bad, the hurt, the simple joy. We remember where we came from.

Creating and developing the players in Changers comes from remembering, from never letting go of the kid inside.

 

 

Why Punks?

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punk right

Why did we decide to use Punks in the story? Why are Punks one of the three main groups of players? Why Punks, of all the groups or cultures to choose from? Why choose Punks?

  • “They were smokers and non-smokers, shy and outgoing, tattooed and pierced…or not. They sat, stood, crouched and knelt on chairs, benches, tables and sidewalks. The group was a family of individuals. Each individual was his or her own person.”
  • “…the dress part is secondary. Punk is attitude. It’s a way of thinking, a frame of mind. Punk is about being an individual. It’s someone with a beef against the profit-driven world. It’s about not buying into society and the quest for money, just for the sake of having more than the next guy. It’s not just a different fad. It’s more like a culture. There’s a reason behind the culture. It’s specifically against doing things to be part of the average person’s idea of normal society. It’s an attitude that comes from inside a person. Dressing punk is a reflection of the attitude.”

That’s why.

A Fun Scene to Write

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chair in the basement

Someone said, “We need to have a scene where Curtis is confronted by the cops.”

All righty then. Best get typing. The players in the Changers saga have to grow as the story progresses. Especially major players. Otherwise, they’d be boring. If Curtis started out as an insecure, weaselly, punk musician, and by the end of the book, he was an insecure, weaselly, punk musician, he’d be a boring player. But if he started out as an insecure, weaselly punk musician, and by the end of the story, he was a brave, confident punk musician, he’d be a badass.

Partway through the beginning of the story, Curtis is involved in two incidents that change his life. These incidents work to shape his thinking and his actions through the rest of the story. The scene mentioned above (where he’s questioned by the cops) takes place after Curtis’s ‘awakening’. An officer visits Curtis at his home and questions Curtis’s involvement in the disappearance of a local girl. In this scene, Curtis strays from what we thought was his comfort zone and makes a few wisecracks to the cop. His demeanor is less reserved, more confrontational. As the reader, you knew he had it in him, but it was repressed. In the scene, Curtis does lean on the security of his parents to a degree, so you can tell he’s not a completely changed person. That comes later.

That was a fun scene to write because we got to start shaping Curtis from nerdy geeky punk toward Curtis the badass. But that wasn’t the funnest scene to write.

Someone said, “We need to have a scene that shows Sol absorbing a human life while Sol is in his jacked up state.”

Oh, this was a fun scene to write. These two little squirrely guys become Changers and decide to cut out of The Underground City prematurely. They end up at Kutch’s house and are tasked with finding a human for Sol to absorb. These two guys, Zack and Rod, are dipshits. They can’t even do this right and they end up causing other problems. So when Rod is provided a human, courtesy of Kutch, to ‘feed’ to Sol, things get messy. After Rod pokes, prods and persuades the victim to get close enough for Sol to absorb, Rod’s task is fulfilled. Yeah, that was fun.

Even a dipshit has his day.

 

 

Chapter Chat

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chapter chat

There came a time when we took a look at what we had named our chapters. The book-writing software we used made it easy to keep things organized. Looking back, it seems we may have taken for granted how easy it was to create new chapters, and create new scenes within the chapters. It was so easy in fact, we found our 89,000-word book had sixty-three chapters. What?! How’d that happen?

This became one of the editing phases of the book, just like finding problem words, or renaming our players. We had to ask ourselves if the story needed so many chapters. After trying to keep our thoughts organized, and trying so hard to keep the story itself organized, sixty-three chapters gave the book a feeling of disorganization. Wow, that’s the opposite of what we thought was happening.

We discussed the issue. We were split. Sixty-three chapters seemed high, but if it made sense, why not? As long as each chapter stood on its own and was relevant to the flow, okay. We also talked about how having fewer chapters might be less distracting to the reader. Ultimately, we trimmed the number to twenty-three chapters, with five additional no-name mini chapters that were phone calls between players. It actually tightened things up, and tight is good in this case.

In the end, we rolled Chapter Forty-one, “Drew and Sydney Go to Visit the Punks and Try to Convince Them to Help Find Out About the Disappearances”, into a scene within Chapter Fifteen, “Two Joeys”. Sounds about right.

 

 

Beta Readers

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beta readers

Yay, we found some beta readers and sent out semi-final drafts of Changers. And we’re still looking for more. Calling people beta readers, or beta testers – or beta anything – brings to mind a room full of people sitting around a huge table, all reading the book, taking notes, making red marks, and tapping on their tablets. Or a bunch of robots lined up in a row, all perched in front of computer screens with the words of the book scrolling upwards a la The Matrix.

There were a few instructions we gave to the readers. 1) We welcome feedback, and 2) It’s a Young Adult novel. We don’t want anyone to be shy about telling us what they think, or how the book makes them feel. We’re pretty sure we snagged most, if not all the typos. We’re looking for things like pacing, whether things make sense, timing and timeline issues, etc.

Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” We put a lot of effort into trying to know what we’re talking about. Facts are important, even in fiction – we didn’t want to distract the reader by playing loose with facts. For example, we have a scene where someone is going through a candidate diffusion. In this scene, the Changers wanted to erase the character’s short term memory, but they didn’t want to eliminate (kill) her. So they went through this process to erase her short term memory. To make it credible, we researched how that would be possible. One of our beta readers has both a bachelors degree and masters degree in nursing. If our research is wrong – if we used the wrong drugs, if our character didn’t act appropriately in the moment – hopefully our nurse beta reader will let us know.

We also don’t want beta readers from our immediate family, for obvious reasons. So far, we have six readers. They look like this:

  • A 17 year-old male high school student with a 4.5 GPA.
  • A 17 year-old female high school student who excels in sports.
  • A 21 year-old female college student majoring in medicine.
  • A 28 year-old married woman in the mortgage industry.
  • A 40 year-old married nurse with bachelors and masters degrees.
  • A 41 year-old male telecommunications engineer with a bachelors degree.

Yes, Changers is YA, but people of many ages still like YA novels. It’s all in the story. We’re still anticipating more readers – we need all the feedback we can get. We’ll post the comments and feedback when received. This is getting exciting!

More Than One Main Character

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random characters

Can your book have more than one main character? That’s one of many questions we asked ourselves when writing Changers.

A lot happens in Changers. The story is deep. But Changers is not a complicated story. The main player has to make a decision whether to kill the person she loves to save her own life. Nice premise. Scary dilemma. But in Changers, there are other players (teenagers) who have been damaged in one way or another by the shenanigans of the Changers. These other players are trying to find out what happened to their loved ones. Like, why are they disappearing? Why are they still missing? Are they dead?

The teens are frustrated with the adult authorities and their lack of progress in investigating the disappearances. The authorities aren’t coming up with any definitive answers. So the teens decide to start their own investigation. Why not? This being the case, the investigating teens had to have names, personalities and depth. This brought us to our question: Can our book have more than one main character? We decided yes.

As the story progresses, certain players grow and come to the forefront. They take lead roles in their amateur sleuthing. They team with other players, they argue, they fight – anything to find out what happened to their family and friends. Specific players become leaders, and thus, main characters. It’s a nice bonus to the reader that as the story progresses, the teens’ investigation crosses over into the lives of the main character, and vice versa.

So yes, your book can have more than one main character. Changers does. And we’re good with that.

Editing the Manuscript

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manuscript layout issues

The manuscript – printing, reading and editing some more.

Printing the manuscript was a task, to say the least. At almost 300 8 1/2 x 11 pages, not double-spaced, we had to stand by and wait for what seemed like eternity.

When it was finally done, I thought I was holding gold in my hands. I was so proud… until I started turning the pages. Turns out, the spacing doesn’t transfer from the writing program we’re using to Microsoft Word as flawlessly as we had hoped.

The deeper I go, the more errors I find. Not grammatical, but spacing, indenting, italics… the list goes on, and on, and on. And on.

So now, while Olivia edits grammar and punctuation (with some mild eye-rolling from me), Les edits “no-no” words – we’ll call them ‘unmentionables’ – I’ll be editing layout.