Wrap-It-Up Wednesday: Beware of Copy/Paste

Here’s what I learned from the Tuesdays this week: Copying and pasting from past drafts can be dangerous.

In group today, I read my new chapter five aloud, and I was literally cringing. Why? Because I had chunks of backstory and exposition that I had pulled from other drafts. I thought I needed these pieces, forgetting there’s a reason I’m rewriting the book instead of revising. (Because the previous drafts sucked!) Not only was the tone of this cobbled-together chapter inconsistent, but I also did an awful lot of telling (old draft) that I then followed up with showing (new draft).

Fortunately, I have the Tuesdays to point out the error of my ways (although this time I saw it for myself). They were happy to point out other areas of my chapter that needed work, but I don’t mind because that’s what helps me write a better book. Thanks, Tuesdays!

Less is more: Such a simple idea

By Faran Fagen

Tuesday Tips
A few years ago, I had the fortune of meeting YA boy writing guru Chris Crutcher at an SCBWI conference.
In addition to exchanging a wealth of sports knowledge, he took a look at some of my work.
I learned a lot from his critique, but probably the most helpful hint he gave me was, “Don’t give away all the good stuff at the beginning.”
Since then, as I polished my manuscript, the idea of saving important pieces for later or trimming pages has come up a lot.
In Tuesday critique group, just about every week, I read a scene which my critique chums say can be tightened for effect.
At conferences, agents and editors often say “less is more”.
Since that fateful critique from Crutcher, I find myself asking, “do I really need this quote, or this narration, or description?”
Stacie Ramey often says in Tuesday’s class to “trust your reader” to pick up a subtle change or detail.
As I’ve embraced this idea, I’ve found it creeping into other aspects of my life.
At school, I’ll be typing a letter to faculty, and leaving out any extraneous information they don’t need.
With my kids, I’ll omit details that might confuse them (which might happen anyway – they’re 9 and 4).
Just two weeks ago, I attended another SCBWI event at the Boynton Beach library with illustrator/writer Fred Koehler called “Writing Between the Lines”. It too stressed the important of saying more by writing less and allowing your readers to use their imagination.
One exercise had everyone write a death scene without any screaming or blood or any use of the words ‘dead’ or ‘death’. Some of us wrote about tires screeching, and metal and bones crunching.
This idea of less is more goes back all the way to the eternal writing guidebook, “The Elements of Style”, by Strunk and White. They say to “Omit needless words”.
Sounds like such a simple idea.

Interview with Jennifer Fenn, Debut Author of Flight Risk

Hello Tuesdays!

Today, I’m pleased to be joined by my fellow 2017 Debut author, Jennifer Fenn, whose book, Flight Risk, is scheduled to come out July 18, 2017 from MacMillan/Roaring Brook

JR: Hi, Jennifer and thanks for joining us today.

Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about Flight Risk and the impetus behind writing it?

JF: Flight Risk was inspired by the story of Colton Harris-Moore, aka The Barefoot Bandit, a teenager who eluded police for two years and stole several planes before he was eventually apprehended in Bermuda.  I became aware of this story while Harris-Moore was still on the run, and I found myself—a writer, a teacher, a generally law-abiding citizen—rooting for him not to get caught, which led me to examine why society loves certain anti-heroes, including fictional ones, like Walter White and Tony Soprano, for instance.  Also, I was teaching 7th grade Language Arts and one of my classes was reading Jerry Spinelli’s wonderful Maniac Magee.  That book opens with a jump rope rhyme about the title character and all his exploits, which have been mythologized by the neighborhood kids.  That got me thinking about how folk heroes are created today, in the age of social media.  Both themes inspired the story of Robert Jackson Kelley and his fictional flight from the law!

 

JR: I read on your website, www.jenniferfenn.com, that you’ve jumped out of a plane before. There is no way, whatsoever, I’d do that, so I have to hand it to you, but first off, why? And then, what was that like?

JF: When I went sky-diving, I was a recent college grad and feeling adventurous!  In my early twenties, I made a conscious decision that I was going to fearlessly dive (pun intended!) into any and all opportunities to try something new.  My sky dive was followed by an Amazon rain forest trek, and over the years I’ve also tried SCUBA diving in Vietnam and Belize, rock climbing in Alaska and zip-lining in Puerto Rico.  Sky-diving was amazing; after a rush of cold air and about two minutes of free fall, the rest is a gentle descent.  I actually laughed the whole way down!

JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point? 

JF: I am a graduate of both Lycoming College’s creative writing program and Rosemont College’s MFA program.  Flight Risk started as my thesis project; it received the program’s Thesis of the Year award, which gave me the confidence to pursue publishing it.  Writing the novel took about three years.  I queried around fifty agents, and pitched it in person at a local SCBWI event as well as at Rosemont’s Push to Publish.  After about seven months, I was lucky enough to have Amy Tipton of Signature Literary represent the book, and she sold it quickly to Roaring Brook Press.  Amy was instrumental in finding the right editor, the wonderful Katherine Jacobs, for the book.

JR: What’s your writing process like?

JF: I write non-linearly, meaning I jump from scene to scene, writing what is of interest to me at the moment, no matter where the scene occurs in the plot.  I’m also a “pantser,” and generally don’t outline, though sometimes I think I’d save myself some time and anxiety if I did.  I also write the endings of my stories first; I usually won’t even start an idea if I don’t have an ending in mind!

JR: What’s your favorite book and who’s your favorite author?

JF: How much room do you have?  I love Zadie Smith, Junot Diaz, Beth Kephart, Jerry Spinelli, Stewart O’Nan, Lois Lowry, Megan Abbott, Karen Russell, Ben H. Winters, Joyce Carol Oates and Laura Kasischke, among many others.

And picking a favorite book is like picking a favorite child!  I just can’t.  But I highly recommend Jerry Spinelli’s “Stargirl,” Beth Kephart’s “This is the Story of You,” Zadie Smith’s “White Teeth,” and Laura Kasischke’s “In a Perfect World.”

 

 

JR: What’s your favorite movie?

JF: “Fight Club,” “Clueless,” and “Ghostbusters” (original, though I do love the 2016 reboot!).  I’ve seen “Ghostbusters” so many times I can recite entire scenes.

 

 

JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

JF: I am afraid of corn fields and by extension, corn mazes.  Anything could be lurking in there.  Anything.

JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write?

JF: For Flight Risk, I did a lot of research about small airports, small planes, and the Pacific Northwest.  For my work-in-progress, I’m reading a lot about cochlear implants and drumming.  I haven’t written a novel yet that hasn’t required research, which I think is true for many writers.

JR: Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?

JF: I’ve been involved in several, and also the workshops through my graduate program.  Feedback is critical, as is the comradery of fellow writers.  In the early drafting phases, critique groups can ask the questions that help you shape your characters and plot.  The more eyes on your writing, the better it will be!

 

JR: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?

JF: Read.  Read every day.  Read widely.  Enjoy what you read, but also put on your author hat and figure out what techniques the author used that you can try out yourself.

As for breaking into publishing, let rejections bounce off you and keep submitting until you find the right people for your work.

 

JR: What are you working on next?

JF: A second YA novel.  It is in the early draft phase!

 

JR: Is there anything that else you want to share with our readers or perhaps tell them how they can follow you on social media? 

JF: My author Facebook page can be found here:  https://www.facebook.com/writerjennfenn/

My Twitter handle is @jennifer_fenn

I’m also very active on Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15016250.Jennifer_Fenn

JR: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays? I don’t want you to rush. Take your time and think–

JF: Faran!

JR: Well, I’m glad you took your time to think this over…

Anyway, thanks again for joining us, and best of luck with Flight Risk!

Taking It Easy Is Hard

Well, it’s my turn for Fun Friday, and I have to admit, I had a hard time coming up with a topic, mostly because I haven’t been having much fun lately.

Part of my problem is, I’m the opposite of a procrastinator. I try to get things done as soon as they hit my plate, and I can’t seem to relax (or have fun) until they’re off my plate. I’m one of those annoying people who’s always early—it’s annoying even to me—and even if I’m right on time, I still feel like I’m late.

So I have to remind myself to relax, take it easy, stop and smell the roses and all that.

This tendency to get everything done right now affects my writing too. I’ve been spinning my wheels on a particular scene for days and I keep telling myself to skip it and move on to the next scene, but do I follow my own advice?

 

Absolutely not. So I write and rewrite the same paragraphs over and over, changing the wording just a bit in hopes that I’ll be like those million monkeys who can churn out a novel. (If you type enough words, something will come out, right?)

Then a funny happened. I was reviewing notes for a class I’m going to teach on conflict, how important it is to every scene, and I realized—duh!—that’s what was missing from my scene. Yeah, my main character had a bit of uncertainty, but that’s not conflict, or at least it’s not enough conflict to sustain an entire scene.

After thinking about how to add conflict (while I exercised and knocked that off my to-do list), I spent the next two days writing the scene, and isn’t it amazing that it came so much easier? The scene’s not perfect, but that’s what revision is for. I have a bad habit of trying to do my revision while I’m still writing the draft, so even though I’m learning to take it easy, I’m still not quite there.

Our Favorite Disney Movies

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: Picking your favorite Disney movie is like being asked to pick your favorite child. And for that, I’ve already discussed with them which one it is. But, again, for the sake of this, I know I’m forced to pick. There are songs I like from so many of the movies. Happiest Millionare, Pete’s Dragon, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but for only choosing one, I’m going to say Mary Poppins. I love that movie, have a painting of Mary Poppins fluing over the London skyline. But, the songs, the humor, the sense of wonder, and the performances of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, I’ve always counted that as a favorite.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: My favorite Disney movie is Mary Poppins. I first watched it when I was a teenager, but I grew to love it in my twenties. I was pretty unhappy back then, but popping in this VHS tape always made me feel better. The songs are fabulous (Chim Chim Cher-ee still brings tears to my eyes), the kids who play Jane and Michael are absolutely adorable, but I think it’s the joyful spirit of the movie that drew me to it, at a time when I didn’t have much joy in my life. Thanks, Disney!

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: The Incredibles! I love the story, the style of the images, the music. I can watch it again and again, and I have!

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: When I think of Disney movies, I think animation. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite. I adored Belle, who loved books. (Sound familiar?) I loved Belle’s heroism in taking her father’s place with that terrible beast. To me, the amazing library could be worth having to put up with an ugly, nasty dude for a while. I never imaged that one of the movie’s morals was, don’t judge a book by its cover.

Faran Fagen

Faran: I’ve seen a lot of Disney movies (many over and over) since my kids were born. Have to say the one I look forward to most is Finding Nemo. Love the story of a father’s quest to find his son, and the school of fishy characters are full of depth, like the ocean floor. My favorite creatures are the zany ones Nemo meets in the fish tank in the dentist’s office. They always make me laugh.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: The Tuesdays have often heard me say that I don’t get Disney World. The characters aren’t real. Except for Pooh Bear who totally is. Also Harry Potter (of course). But my disdain for the amusement park does not extend to the movies. In keeping with that, I’d have to say that I break Disney movies up into two designations: classic Disneys and modern Disneys, so I get to choose one of each. Yes I do. For my classic choice I went back and forth for days until I finally settled on Cinderella. That dress! Those shoes! The pumpkin turned coach.  The mice. Perfection. My modern Disney choice? That’s easy. Lion King. Paws down.

Life is Getting in the Way of my Writing!

www.tuesdaywriters.comI’m in full-blown avoidance. I’ve got a scene to write. A crucial one. I’ve used every excuse to not write it. So what do you do when you have to force yourself to write?

www.tuesdaywriters.comHere are ten ways to force yourself to get it down on paper!

  1. Set a word goal. 500, 1000. Puh! You can even set a word count of 25 if that’s what you need to get started.
  2. Set a timer. No surfing the internet for the perfect adjective. Fingers on keys or pen in hand and no matter what you do, for that amount of time, words must be recorded. Even if they’re crap, get them down.
  3. Social Media blackout. You are not allowed any form of social media communication until you have the scene completed.
  4. Social Media Accountability. Post that your goal is to get that scene written and ask your friends/feed to keep you to your task. Sometimes a little shaming is good for the WIP.
  5. NO TV, Netflix, Hulu, DVR, or Scandal season finale until you at least have a draft.
  6. Draw the scene like a comic book. Use stick figures if you need to before moving onto the printed word.
  7. Use the voice typing feature. Google docs has one, and I find I like how the words flow out of me.
  8. Record yourself using your smartphone. You can listen back to the scene and then type it.
  9. Confide in a writing buddy. Maybe even read the scene out-loud to them that comes before the one you’re hoping will write itself. Maybe you need a critique partner pep talk.
  10. BIC – but in chair. Sometimes the simplest is the best.

By the time this post goes live, I hope I’ve taken my own advice, but in case I haven’t, what’s your best trick for when the writing to too much like work?www.tuesdaywriters.com

 

 

Bookstore investing in Readers and Writers

Joanne Sinchuk, founder and manager of Murder on the Beach bookstore moved from Connecticut to South Florida to be warm. In 1996 she opened her bookstore in Sunny Isles Beach and relocated the store to Pineapple Grove in Delray Beach in 2002.

Q: How did you decide to open an independent bookstore?

They always say: do what you love. I love books. I also liked the concept of being self-employed, so the idea of having a cozy bookstore in a nice warm place was very appealing to me.

Q: Why did you decide to specialize in mystery/thriller/crime fiction?

It was a marketing decision. I wanted a niche market, and I felt that was a good one. By focusing in on the mystery/suspense genre, we can carry many more books than a large store like Barnes and Noble which has to stock a little bit of everything.

Q: I’m sure you read a lot of mysteries. Do you get a chance to read other genres?

People are surprised to hear I read books other than mystery. My favorite thing to ask them is: does the guy who owns a pizza shop only eat pizza? I love to read so I read across multiple genres.

Q: You get some big hitters like James Patterson and David Baldacci in the store. How do you draw them in?

It depends upon establishing a reputation with the big publishers in New York. When Florida author, Jonathon King won the Edgar Allan Poe award in 2003 for The Blue Edge of Midnight, we sold over 100 books at a signing. That got the attention of New York and gave me a good reputation with them. It’s been easier to get the big names since then. Now, they want you to write proposals to request an author. You have to include a marketing plan and an estimate of how many books you might sell. I write more than a hundred proposals to publishers every year to bring authors here. I only get a fraction of those I apply for. During the winter months we are able to get the best-selling authors.

Q: You co-chaired Sleuthfest for the last two years. What brought you to the decision to run the event?

I’ve been the book vendor for Sleuthfest for many years. I’m involved with the Mystery Writers of America as well as the Florida Romance Writers and more recently the Florida Writers Association. I like to do events.  Sleuthfest was an extension of that, just a larger event. Having a co-chair helped.

Q: You’ve been able to sustain Murder on the Beach when many other bookstores have failed. How do you do it?

Books are essentially part of the entertainment business. What we do is an extension of that. We strive to teach and entertain readers as well as writers. Aside from the many book signings we do, we also have our Literary Lunches. We partner with a restaurant (Papas Tapas) here in the plaza, and offer a fixed price. Readers can have lunch then come here, listen to the author and get a signed paperback. We also hold writer’s workshops on Saturdays in the summer for aspiring authors. This summer in The Authors Academy, we have fourteen different classes, for $25 each and a contest for best work in progress. We also have a book club for readers.

Q: I noticed that Bum Luck by Paul Levine is on the store’s best seller list. Doesn’t Paul Levine self-publish his books now? Do you take other self-published authors?

Paul does self-publish now, but the Bum Luck series is published by Thomas and Mercer. We do sell some Indie published authors. Every day I get a call or an e-mail from an Indie author asking if I will carry their book. A self-published author must prove themselves with their writing and by their dedication to the profession. We don’t take anyone off the street, but we will consider involved members of the Mystery Writers Association and the Florida Romance Writers.

Q: What’s your next upcoming event?

We have a mass Indie signing at 7 pm on June 21st . MWA president, Charles Todd will moderate a panel that includes Carol White, Raquel Reyes, Victoria Landis, Marcia King-Gamble, Joanna Campbell Slan and Kathy Runk. Each author has an opportunity to talk about their book and do signings. We like to help promote good local authors.

Thank you, Joanne, for sharing your time and expertise with The Tuesday Writers.

It’s been my pleasure. If your readers are ever on Atlantic Avenue in beautiful Delray Beach, they can find us just off the Avenue at 273 Pineapple Grove Way, better known as NE 2nd Avenue, or via MurderontheBeach.com.

Triplet Sisters Raised to Believe they Must Kill Each Other

Sounds like the ultimate dysfunctional family, doesn’t it?www.tuesdaywriters.com

Three Dark Crowns is a luscious novel of poison, intrigue, and triplets who must fight for the crown.

Separated in the first few years of their lives, their mother knows what their gifts are. One will be a poisoner able to withstand any poison so much so that every meal and every drink will be tainted and not harm her.

The second will be an elemental who controls the elements – even fire – to do as she tells it.

The third will be a naturalist who can force plants to grow and wild animals to obey.

Raised separately, Katharine, the poisoner, Mirabella, the elemental, and Arsinoe, the naturalist, have been told that they must kill their sisters in order to be queen. Once they are sixteen, they have one year to accomplish the task. The last woman standing wins the crown and control of the island of Fennbern.

Kendare Blake http://kendareblake.com/ does a masterful job of weaving this story that is the perfect mix of world building, tragic love, and it creates such indecision in the reader (AKA – me!)

I don’t know which sister to root for!

And I have to wait until September for the sequel. Argh!

Three Dark Crowns is on the newest Florida Teens Read list. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8CEjoyJ0xk You can also watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcaCrSOQ9kY

Which sister will you choose?www.tuesdaywriters.com

Some Really Good Books

For this week’s Themed Thursday, we’re sharing the last really good book we read. What’s the last good book that you read?

Faran Fagen

Faran: This one’s easy, since the answer was written by a Tuesday. A few months ago, I read The Homecoming by fellow Tuesday member Stacie Ramey—in two days. I literally couldn’t put it down and was sneaking reads in my classroom and in the car at stop lights. I really identified with John, the main character, and his struggles to fit in with his family and at school. And I love the idea that in the end he just wants to feel at home, and eventually finds his way.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. A sixteen-year-old girl witnesses the fatal police shooting of her childhood friend. What happens after is heart-wrenching and heart-warming, powerful and disturbing. Also very timely.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather. I was halfway though listening to the book (expertly read by the author by the way) before I realized it was written by a descendant of Cotton Mather. It’s a contemporary story with doses of magic and history. I highly recommend it!

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: The last really good book I read was Off the Grid by C.J. Box. I love thrillers. I’ve read several other good books in the year since I read that one, but that one sticks in my mind for its edge-of-your-seat plotting and very relatable characters.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: The best book I’ve read recently was The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore. It’s the story of two people from warring performance families who fall in love despite their families’ feud. Sound cliché? Nope. Not the way this book is written. It’s a completely fresh take onteh Romeo and Juliet story. A must-read, just in time for summer!

Jonathan: I read parts of books every night. So, basically, I have a whole list that I finish at one time and enjoy many of them. But for the sake of this, the last really good book I read is King of the Bench: No Fear by Steve Moore. It’s a funny book about a kid who languishes on the bench of his baseball team and is more than okay with it. It’s for any kid who dreaded making mistakes on a sports team. Baseball and humor, both among my favorite things.

Wrap-It-Up Wednesday!

Hi Tuesdays!

Thanks for joining me for Wrap-It-Up Wednesday!

This week’s group meeting was a good one. Aren’t they all?

The answer to that is yes, they are! There’s always something you can learn, even if you aren’t reading, which I wasn’t today. I have been swamped with finishing up final edits on Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, which comes out, right around the corner, on August 1. (Wow, it’s so disgusting how I just threw that in seamlessly!)

Anyway, like I was saying, even though I didn’t read, I was still able to pick up things just from listening and critiquing. And by the way, one of the fun features of our group is the live tweeting. If you’re not following along, you should. It’s fun to see what goes on in group, especially the days when Faran gets choked up and cries! Look for us on Twitter, under @TuesdayWriters6, or hashtag, #TheTuesdays. @e start tweeting at approximately 3:30 and feel free to join in the conversation!

 

@TuesdayWriters6

 

But, back to this week.

Critiquing is sometimes tough, because you have very well-written scenes, which are just missing that one little thing. But, that one little thing might be all the difference in the world, between great and good.

So, taking that into account, what we learned this week was, we need to get meaner on our main characters! There were some well-written scenes, that might have just fallen short, because we provided relief for our characters maybe a beat too soon.

When they think everything is finally going well, pull the rug out from under them. We also talked about increasing the sense of danger they have. Don’t make things ever seem too safe. There was one part of a story, where the majority of the Tuesdays felt the danger the main character felt, wasn’t clear enough, so the suggestion was made to amp it up for the reader. Show what a dangerous situation the MC found themselves in.

Those are always the best critiques, when the group is divided, you don’t know whether to take a piece of advice or not, but when it’s pretty much unanimous, it’s probably a wise idea to listen.

We also discussed getting to the action or the crux of the scene. Sometimes, those scenes in our heads, that we feel are adding emotional depth, might just be slowing the pace instead. Cut out what’s not important to the flow. That statement also went to setting up the scene. Sometimes, less is more. We all fall in love with things that we write, after all, that’s why we became writers. But, if the beautiful scene we’re setting up is on the third page and we haven’t gotten to what the scene is about, we know it’s time to cut.

All this just goes to show, that no matter how long we’ve all been at this, we sometimes need a fresh eye to catch something. And that’s why we need our critique group!

Until next week, Tuesdays!