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.

 

 

Editing Babeesty

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babeesty2

Sometimes editing is a bitch. Damn! Even at this late stage in the game we’re finding issues with continuity and spelling.

About spelling: Watch out for ‘global search and replace’. I think we really did have all the spelling issues covered. We’re good spellers, so all the spelling errors we found were either fat-fingering or light-fingering. Then I just had to go and do a ‘global search and replace’ on a specific word I didn’t like. While reading through what I thought would be one of the last – if not the last – edits, I come across the word “babeesty”. So I’m going, What the heck did we mean by that? Never mind the details, it was irritating. It’s bad enough to catch accidental mishaps. But the self-inflicted errors are trying my patience.

About continuity: A character is last heard from at a particular location. Two chapters later, the same player appears 370 miles away with no mention of how she got there. It would have been optional rather than mandatory, to just have the player in the new location, because that kind of thing happens all the time. The reason we thought this might be an issue is because the events in the three chapters at issue were taking place concurrently. We had to insert a short scene to justify this player’s presence elsewhere within the three-to-four-hour timespan. It actually worked out neatly. We like the addition.

Ultimately, it’s so much better that we find these things before we submit query letters to agents. I read a critique online where the agent said, “Gosh, didn’t you even edit this?” We don’t want to come off with, “Thank you for considering our book with typos and continuity errors. We’re hoping you don’t notice, because we didn’t.”

So back to work. You know what they say about babeesty!

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.

 

 

I’m in the Mode

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Juke Box, 1965 Rockola Starlight

We never actually have to be in the mood for writing. Writing is creating, and at least one of us is always in a creative mood. Whether it’s writing or painting, pencil drawing or making creatures out of clay or tinfoil, someone’s in the mood. However, we really feel like the tone – or the mode – matters.

Setting the mode is different from setting the mood. We like to have specific things within reach when we create. Depending on the mood, munchies are optional. Chips, M&Ms, peanuts or popcorn. A drink is never more than arm’s length away. A drink is essential. Cold beer, hot coffee, diet soda or ice water. One of these is always present. Call it a security blanket if you want, but that’s the way it is.

The must-have-never-create-without-it is music. That’s where the real variety comes into play. The mood for “what’s-on-your-iPod” varies like the wind. For the record, this isn’t an iPod family. We have iPods, but nothing beats the freedom of Android, satellite radio and the ever-faithful turntable. Right, the one that actually plays vinyl records. More often than you’d think, we fire up the 1965 Rockola jukebox.

In our house, at any given moment you could walk into Rancid-Transplants-Tim Armstrong; Led Zeppelin-Deep Purple-Doobie Brothers; Coldplay-Dreamers-AM Taxi-Young The Giant; Tyrone Davis-Tavares-Harold Melvin-The Spinners; or The Archies-Monkees-Partridge Family. It could be Ska, Punk, Indie, Alt, Rock, Pop or Steely Dan.

There’s always something on, but it’s the audio that matters, not the video. Nothing beats a cold beer on the table and some Tim Armstrong on the stereo. That’s the good mode.

 

 

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.

Novel Writing Software

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It was kind of a pain in the butt trying to write a book using Microsoft Word. It took about 20 minutes of writing to figure out that wasn’t the way to go. We figured there must be some book-writing software out there somewhere.

So yeah, we looked around on the internet – how else? There are a few to choose from that we’re pretty sure must be badass. We found some that cost money to buy. We even found some that make you pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee to use. You can find them by surfing the web, or just do the usual google search. But this isn’t about reviewing, comparing or rating novel writing software. There are plenty of articles on the web that rate and rank that stuff. We’re just saying we found a book writing software program that we use and like.

yWriter5, by Spacejock (Simon Haynes) is cool. It’s what we use. One of the biggest benefits is it’s free to download and use. It gets updated regularly, so we know it’s not a piece of software someone wrote and abandoned.

The ‘pros’ include:

  • Awesome editing and structuring capabilities.
  • The ability to drag and drop scenes and chapters.
    • This helps when you’re putting your story in order.
  • Create as many chapters as you want.
    • Merge/combine chapters if you decide two chapters would be better as one.
  • Create scenes within the chapters.
    • This also includes the ability to merge/combine scenes.
  • Global search and replace.
    • This came in handy when we changed character names.
  • Daily word count.
    • You can even set daily goals for word count.
    • Word count reports.
    • Set up a work schedule.
    • Set goals for completion, outline, drafts and edits.
  • You can include images in your story/book.

yWriter5 allows you to export your project to html, RTF, text, LaTeX, ebook, Nanowrimo obfuscated text. You can also export chapters, scenes, characters, etc. There is so much more we could say about this software. But once you click on the link below, you’ll find out all you need to know.

The main ‘con’ we’ve found is the spellchecker isn’t really all that. It finds misspelled words, so it’s good for that. But if you click on your misspelled word to get the proper spelling, it opens your web browser to dictionary.com.

We like yWriter5 a lot – enough to have sent a donation (that makes our version ‘registered’). We also recommend it. If you’re looking for a novel-writing software program that’s easy to use, up to date and free, yWriter5 is the way to go.

Here’s the link –> yWriter5 by Spacejock

In case you’re wondering, this is not a ‘paid for’ review. None of our reviews or recommendations are.