Adverbs: I Finally Get It.

I wrote the first draft of my very first story in complete, blissful ignorance. I'm telling you guys, this is the way to write. I thought I was the best. writer. ever.

Luckily, when I started researching agents online--the day after I finished my draft--I also came across a lot of valuable information on writing and realized I was far from ready to send my baby out into the wild.

One of the things I kept reading was the evil of adverbs. I didn't get it.

Then, I came across a blog post explaining it. I wish I could remember the blog I read it on, because they explain it better than I can, but pretty much they said that adverbs are a stand-in for weak writing. When you use an adverb, you spare yourself the need to show the emotion or action you're trying to portray, but you also spare your reader the need to care or imagine.

I read my first draft to my kids with this advice in mind, and it mostly made sense. Plus, have you ever tried to read something out loud when it's riddled with adverbs? Those suckers are hard to spit out!

I was still a bit confused, though. I mean, I like the occasional adverb myself, but some people shun them entirely. It all made sense, though, when I read a certain book (which will remain unnamed) the other day.

You guys. The adverbs in this thing. Not only were there over 1000 (yay, Kindle search feature!) but some of them were really weird. Understandingly. Scoldingly. Exasperatedly. Defeatedly. I understand these are real words, but they're kind of like the tweens of the English language: so awkward. And distracting all lined up in a row like that.

I was so entertained by this blatant use of adverbs, though, that I started reading the story out loud to my husband. He could only take about one page, after we counted eight adverbs in one paragraph and three in one sentence. He asked me how I would change the sentence structure to get rid of the adverb but keep the same meaning. In almost every instance, the solution was to just drop the adverb and let the context do the talking. If the showing-not-telling is in good shape (which is was in this story, I should point out), the adverbs aren't needed. It's like the Hulk saying, "I'm ridiculously, unequivocally, resoundingly, unabashedly ANGRY!" And we're like, "Yeah, Hulk, we know. You're green." See? No adverbs needed.



Funky Fad Friday--Bad Boys Gone Soft

I'll put this out there first of all: I don't really like bad boys, in real life or in books.

In real life, because I was born without a rebellious streak, I guess. In books, because I hate to see a bad boy gone soft.

Have you noticed this? Hot Guy is mysterious, moody, dark. Girl is drawn to him because he just feels so deliciously dangerous. There is tension. This is good. I'm totally on board up to this point.

But then.

Tension breaks. They get together. Bad Boy starts sharing his feelings like a freaking girl! And he's nice and sensitive and kind and patient. And it seriously bugs me. This is not the same guy Girl was initially attracted to. He has become her, with a deeper voice. Guh.

I say, if he's a Bad Boy, he has to have a reason to be bad. And he has to stay bad. Now, I'm not saying he should slap her around or forbid her from talking to her friends or anything. And of course, a guy would open up more to someone he loved than to the general public. But please, don't make the Bad Boy a pushover as soon as he falls in love.

I'll give you one example of Bad Boy done right: Jace Wayland in the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. (No spoilers, guys, I just finished Book 4) Jace is arrogant, sarcastic, and can be downright ruthless with his cutting words. He is emotionally cut off and aloof. He falls for Clary and--wonder of wonders--is still the same guy. Yes, he opens up a bit to Clary, she can see how his sarcasm is a coping device. But he still does it. He still annoys her. She loves him anyway, and I totally buy it because that's who she fell in love with in the first place.

So, Bad Boys. Be nice to the girl you like, but please, continue to be a jerk for your unique reasons, and I will appreciate you all the more for it.


Sagging Middle Syndrome

I have been tromping through this draft with all the grace and delicacy of a grasshopper stuck in tar this week month. It finally occurred to me that what I'm dealing with is Sagging Middle Syndrome.

All writers face this, I know. I don't need to preach to the choir.

I decided to read up on some tips for fixing a sad, saggy middle, and in an effort to internalize the pointers (and avoid my story for *that much* longer), I'm going to share them with you.

Tip #1: When blogging about Sagging Middle Syndrome, don't make jokes about your own saggy stomach. Because everyone else who is blogging about SMS has already made that joke.

Tip #2: Tension. Build it. It's like blowing up a balloon: don't let it go too soon or it will skitter across the room making fart noises and land in a rumpled heap. Or something. Someone make that work. *delegates someone*

Tip #3: This is where your subplots get to take center stage. For just a little while, at least. This is where you change gears and let other bits of the story, besides the main conflict, come out to play.

Tip #4: Raise the stakes. This is kind of like building tension. And kind of not. Make your protag fail. Rain consequences down upon their head! Let relationships form and strengthen, and then make trouble for them.

So now, I beg. Someone who has seen the other side of SMS: what advice can you give us floundering grasshoppers?


Funky Fad Friday--How Old Are These Guys?

 So, according to the comments on last week's fad, I am the only person weirded out by winking? Okay, cool.

Moving on. Let's discuss something in YA that pops up a lot: Hot Guys. More specifically, cut, ripped, built, broad-shouldered, five o'clock-shadowed, other-kinds-of-manly Hot Guys.

I don't have a problem with this one. I, like every other slightly creepy adult woman, really don't mind reading about a love interest with rippling muscles or whatever.


You guys, let's be realistic for one second.

I had the privilege of growing up with my husband. I met him in high school at the age of sixteen, which is often the age of Hot Guys in YA books. And yeah, his shoulders were definitely broader than mine. He was shaving by that time, at least once a week. He had a fair amount of muscles. But, he was still kind of growing into his ears. He was lanky, like most teenage boys are. His voice was deep, but still cracked from time to time. He didn't hit the Hot Guy needs-to-shave-that-attractively-careless-scruff mold until, oh, about twenty, I'd guess.

I had a lot of guy friends who served LDS missions. They typically leave at nineteen and come back at twenty-one, and the thought I had as each one came home was, "Wow, he filled out." Boys became men somewhere in that two year window.

So, my point is, are these Hot Guys really only sixteen or seventeen? Because sometimes the way they're described makes them sound older.Not that I mind. It makes me feel less creepy.

Input! Has anyone else noticed this? What do you think about it?


EVIE'S KNIGHT Book Bomb! And NYAFT Blog Tour!

I'm so excited for my friends today! Kim Krey is having a book bomb for her debut novel, EVIE'S KNIGHT, and Chantele Sedgwick is kicking off a blog tour for her debut novel, NOT YOUR AVERAGE FAIRY TALE.

Let's start with Kim's book:

In Evie's Knight, love doesn't simply hurt ... it kills.

EVIE always thought college life would be magical, but so far it's not what she hoped for. Her best friend has gone wild, her love life is void, and she misses her mom more than ever. But life for Evie is about to change. CALVIN KNIGHT, the very object of her fascination, is about to fall madly in love with her. Just one problem: Their love conjures a murderous woman from beyond the grave who wants Evie dead. The same demon who has haunted the Knight men for over four generations.
Soon Calvin is forced to choose: Set Evie free and hope to evade the wrath of The Raven-haired Ghost, or use his newly gifted strengths to fight against her. If he chooses to fight and wins, Calvin will free the Knight men of this demonic witch. If he loses, Evie will become her next victim.

Now, I haven't read it yet but Kim read me an awesome kissy part (in her naturally sultry voice) and I've been thinking of it ever since (the book, not her voice. Although I am jealous of that voice, Kim.) I bought it on Kindle for $2.99 this morning. It's also available in paperback. Check it out here.

Also happening today is the kickoff for Chantele's blog tour! I have read NOT YOUR AVERAGE FAIRY TALE and it was awesome! You can buy it on Amazon here. Here's the blurb:

Armed with wings and a blue wand, being a fairy godmother should be easy. Unless your name is Ash, and you're a dude.

Ash Summerland has it all–good looks, popularity, and the best grades at The Academy of Magical Beings. Ready to complete his last assignment in order to graduate, Ash is confident he will get the apprenticeship he wants. When he opens the letter from the Council, he is shocked to discover he has been assigned to apprentice Lady Shenelle, Keeper of Happy Endings. A.K.A. the
head fairy godmother. Ash is forced to grant three wishes to a troubled human girl named Kendall, and ultimately give her a "happy ever after". But Kendall turns out to be more than he bargained for. Still grieving over her father's death, Kendall doesn't want anything to do with him. And worst of all, she doesn't believe in happy endings.
Ash. I'm a big fan. *thinks creepy thoughts*
ANYWAY. Chantele's blog tour is going on October 1st-19th and there will be prizes, including a Kindle! So go check it out!

Congratulations, ladies!


Funky Fad* Friday--Winking

Every week I'm going to discuss something I've noticed popping up a lot in books I read. Some things I like, some I don't, some just puzzle me. I'm curious to know what other people think, so weigh in! Let your voice be heard!


I read a lot of YA, and I like it a lot, but this is always something that has made me wonder--do real teenagers actually wink to be flirtatious? Because in almost every YA book I read, there is at least one wink, and often many more. Usually, it's the most popular girl in school, or the hot mysterious guy, and whoever they're winking at is often left flustered and totally attracted to the winker.


Now, I had a dear, dear friend in high school who would wink flirtatiously and every time he did, it was like, "Huh? How old are you? Are you from the fifties?" (Sorry, people from the fifties. Did people wink back then? I don't even know.)

There was also another boy in high school whose gaze had the power to literally render me speechless. Once, under the full force of his eyes, my actual response was, "Ummmbluuuhhhhhhh." (He didn't look at me much after that.) He was hot, guys. But, my point is, even if he had winked at me, it would've been more like, "Eh?" Because I don't think teens wink like they're often portrayed to do.

What do you guys think? Is the winking legit or is the cheese factor too much for you?

Are there any fads in books these days that you want to talk about? Let me know!!

*Fads and trends are different. I know this.** Some of these will be trends. But trend doesn't start with an F and I'm trying to be cutesy. Work with me here.

**My design schooling demands I defend myself.


What's Really Important

I recently came across an old notebook, the one I was using when I wrote the first draft of my current WIP (the WIP fondly known as "The Story That's Trying to Kill Me") (more on that another day). Along with some utterly embarrassing story snippets that I thought back then were pure gold, I found a list I wrote called "The Important Points of the First Ten Chapters."

The reason I made this list was because I had just realized my story started at the wrong place. I'd read a blog post that suggested making a list to see what really needed to be included and going from there. So, with that brilliant idea, and my equally brilliant and creative list title, I did that.


It's been over a year since I made that list, and my beginning is finally (hopefully) where it should be, but on a list of over twenty important points, guess how many are still in the story?

Four. Yes, four little things that have survived the hacking and slashing and ugly weeping of six more drafts. It was amazing to me to see how much my story had changed. And it's not just changing, it's improving. Very encouraging.

It made me think of this post by Natalie Whipple about the malleability of stories. Things might feel so important and key to our plot, but if they're not working out, you know, it's okay. It's okay, guys.

Now. I'm going to chant that to myself as I go back to kneeling in front of my laptop, begging this WIP to cooperate. Malleability. I got this.


What's that sound?

That whimpering from the corner? Oh, it's my blog. I got on last week to check something, and realized my last post was March 20th!

Wow. Poor little bloggy.

Then, I decided to post something, and the new layout stuff BLEW MY MIND, so I avoided for another week. But I miss blogging, and my blogging friends, and ohmygoshyouguysIjustwenttoStorymakersanditwasawesome.

Proof: I can't even show you the best pictures. It was that awesome. Am I right, Katie? But, here are the rest, and they're still pretty great.

My fantastic roomies: Chantele Sedgewick, Ruth Josse, Katie Dodge, Shelly Brown (who wasn't a roommate but is still fantastic) and Donna Nolan

Kiersten White (who remembered my name from the book festival last summer!)  (and who is only taller than me because she's wearing heels.)

Me and Donna with James Dashner! (who also remembered my name!), Robison Wells (who promised he would remember my name forever), and J. Scott Savage (who said my name should be in a book.) (Don't worry about that grotesque stretching sound...it's just my head inflating.)

Me and Brenda Sills

Me, Jessie Humphries, and Angie Cothran

Me and Mel Fowler (and Donna, feeling all superior over that blue water bottle) (sorry, Donna!)

This may be THE ONLY PICTURE IN EXISTENCE of Erin Summerill, who was the official photographer for the conference.

I think one of my favorite parts of being at the conference was being around so many like-minded people. After the first day of classes was over, the lobby was covered with writers, camped out in chairs or on the floor, typing, writing, laying out lines of index cards. I overheard--and participated in--conversations about WIPs, protags, MG, YA, hooks, plot arcs and pitches. A few times, I looked around and thought, "I totally get all this stuff. I am with my people." It was a good feeling.

So now, Storymakers is over, I'm moved into my new house, and I'm hoping I'll have plenty of time to write and blog and paint my piano!


Guest Post-age!

I'm over at Shelly and Chad's blog today, sharing my love for these guys

Disclaimer: This Night Fury isn't mine. But I wish it was.

and sharing how they helped me shape my story's beginning. So go, check it out. (Please?)

In other news, I've decided I'm going to paint my piano. Like this:

Nice, yeah?
Or maybe this:

Any color suggestions?


What Are You Wearing...?

And by you, I mean your characters. (I'm not a creeper. I don't care what you're wearing. Unless you got a stealer deal on it. I love awesome deals.)

Are you a fan of outfit descriptions in YA? You know, the ones where every peep-toe slingback, every matchstick jean [side note: what's the difference between matchstick jeans and skinny jeans? Anyone know?], every cute top is described in detail.

I'm okay with it when used sparingly, but every outfit of every character is a bit much in my opinion. In my own writing, I rarely give clothing descriptions, unless the clothing is important to the scene, and even then, the descriptions are pretty loose to interpretation. "He was wearing jeans. Not a dress. Nope, no dress for him today." Stuff like that.*

There's two reasons for this: A) I'm really fashion-challenged. I don't even know how to think up a cute outfit in my head. Good heavens, I don't even know the difference between skinnies and matchstick jeans. B) I think adding too much detail to clothing can date your book. Think Babysitter's Club. Think Claudia and Stacy, who were so ultra-cool and trendy in their acid-washed jeans and high side ponytails. I have a hard time not being distracted by stuff like that. I was a kid of the 90's. Those white leggings with lace that I wore with a bold, geometric print sweater and jelly shoes haunts me. Please don't make me go back.

So what do you think? Love it? Hate it? Don't-care-either-way it? Let's discuss.

*my descriptions are a little better than that. Just automatically assume in my books that my guys are wearing pants, unless stated otherwise.


A Post Not Very Related To Writing--But I'll Give It a Shot

In a fit of exuberance at the end of January, I joined a health and fitness challenge. Pretty much, I have an exercise regimen and I commit to eating healthy, check in every day on my progress, post results weekly, and post pictures every 30 days. Also, there are mini challenges once or twice a week.

All in all, I'm feeling pretty good. However, this week's food challenge may be the hardest one yet: no sugar until Saturday morning. *sobs quietly into fist* *trashes house in search for grapes*

Actually, it hasn't been that bad. Since I got the message this morning, only a third of my thoughts have been sugar-related. So I'm thinking this will be a piece of...carrot stick. *sob*

In other, non-related, non-writerly news, my husband and I went to a basketball game in Utah this past weekend. A few observations:
  • Utah Jazz fans are CRAZY.
  • Utah Jazz fans don't appreciate people cheering for the Heat in their arena.
  • Utah Jazz fans really don't like LeBron James.
  • LeBron James doesn't care.
  • Booing LeBron James only makes him play better.
So, here's the writing connection we'll make: I'm lucky enough to have full support in my writing from family and friends, but I know some people have to deal with naysayers. If that's you, just let their booing propel you forward. Become the LeBron James of the writing world. Because like him or not, watching him play in real life is poetry. Unless you're a Jazz fan.


Links and A Thought Frenzy


I don't know what's come over me this week. Suddenly, I'm making plans. And setting ginormous amounts of goals. And writing out lists and charts to make said goals and plans actually happen!

I think this is a good time to write out my goals, too, because I just found out about March Madness happening over at Denise Jaden's blog. It starts today, which is perfect, because I'm totally in a goal making/bashing/dominating mood! It's all about accountability and encouraging each other, so here are my goals:
  • Write 1500 words a day**. Since I have about 3 hours a day I can block off for writing, I have to average 500 words an hour. That means no Internet or fridge breaks during that time. I will also drink lots of water and refuse to take potty breaks in an attempt to write faster.
  • Blog twice weekly. And think of things to blog about. Speaking of, I read an excellent post about this very thing yesterday.
  • Keep up (and catch up) on CP critiques. YOU HEAR THAT, LADIES? I'M ON MY WAY! *clicks on editing tools* *cracks knuckles* *spits*
Aaaand, in the spirit of blog linkage, here is one more: Elodie is giving away two books to one lucky person, one for you and one for someone younger than you, so you can share your love of reading. How awesome is that?
    So, that's how my March is shaping up. How about you?

    **This goal will help me get halfway to my goal of finishing this draft of my MS by May 1st, so that I'll at least have something to work with if I decide to go to the LDS Storymakers Conference. (Any thoughts on this conference? Would it be worth the five-hour trip? Are any of YOU going? *friendly creepy eyes*)


    Dirty Houses and Messy Manuscripts

    In the past six months, I've had the chance to meet two awesome women, my CP/BFFs Christine and Julie.

    I know what you're thinking.

    Yes, they are as awesome in real life as they seem online. Yes, I am actually taller than Julie. Yes, Christine does make the most a-MAH-zing scrambled eggs.

    And no, I didn't watch them sleep (tempting) or hold them hostage in my crawl space when it was time for them to leave (also tempting).

    When Julie came, I had just moved into my new house (living there for over a month still counts as JUST moving, right?) and there were still boxes everywhere. Within five minutes of our meeting, I had her and her husband helping me stuff boxes in a closet so we'd have room to hang out.

    When Christine was here, she did my dishes on more than one occasion. She also babysat my kids while I picked my husband up from work.

    Although our visits were--overall--super fun, I mention these lame things because inviting your best friend into your disheveled house is kind of like turning over your disheveled MS to a crit partner. It's not perfect. There are rough spots. There are embarrassing parts. There are things that don't work. But it's okay, because they are your friend, they love you, and they're there to help.

    Turning a rough draft over for anyone to read is hard, but giving it to someone who cares about you takes away some of the pain. They have your best interest at heart. They don't want you to strain your back carrying those heavy boxes by yourself. They want you to try eating crab that's cooked right so you can get over your seafood phobia. And they want your story to be the best it can be.

    It might be mortifying at times. It might make you feel like a dork. But, when the boxes are cleared, the dishes are dry, and the manuscript is fresh and tight and beautiful, you see that the most daunting tasks are better with a friend or two.


    I've been tagged! I know that comes as a surprise to all of you. Who plays tag anymore, and on the Internet? Dangerous. It's all fun and games until someone trips over their spell checker. Thanks to Gina, Jenna, and Amber for tagging me!

    Since I was tagged three times, with 11 questions each, I've decided to pick five from each tagger to answer. So, here we go:

    1. What is your favorite YouTube video? At the moment, this one: ^
    2. What was the greatest live music experience you've ever had?  This will make me sound like a super lamey lamerson, but I've never actually been to a concert, except my own in high school. So, I'll have to say, high school choir solos were great. Oh, and once we sang the national anthem at Candlestick Park in California, which is where the Beatles did their last public performance. So, there you go.
    3. What was your worst date ever? I was brought to the realization this summer, after a therapeutic discussion with a friend, that all of my worst dates have included frozen yogurt. The Frozen Yogurt Dates. Those are the worst ones.
    4. If money is no object, what would your dream vacation be? I would love to go on an African safari, the kind with the open air jeeps and the lions chasing me and giraffes eating leaves out of my hand. My plan, after high school, was to go to Africa and become a safari guide but that fell through. On my way home, I'd stop in Greece, Italy, and New Zealand as well.
    5.   Would you rather live in a crowded city or small town? Small town, but not too small. Although, my other plan after high school was to move to New York City and live in a tiny apartment, just me and a gray cat. This also fell through, in part because I'm allergic to cats.**
    6. If you could choose the manner of your death- but not the timing- what would you choose? I would choose a skydiving mishap. Then, on my 95th birthday, I would bid my family and friends farewell, get in the plane, and jump to my destiny. And enjoy the ride down.
    7. Redvines or Twizzlers? Pfff, Redvines. NEXT QUESTION, PLEASE.
    8.   With your iPod/MP3 on shuffle, what's the first song that comes up? "Sleeping to Dream" by Jason Mraz. What can I say? I like angst.
    9. You're the producer for turning any one book into a movie, which do you choose to do? Good grief, The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness, for sure. As producer, I do get to make sure the story isn't mangled, though, right? Because that would be a shame.
    10.   Flowers or chocolate? Flowers. I love flowers.
    11. Favorite book, movie, and TV show? Favorite books: The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine, I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. Favorite Movies: Stardust and Hairspray. Favorite TV show: Survivor. I will be on it someday, as soon as I get more buff and more crazy.
    12. Would you rather have free Starbucks for five years or free itunes for life? I don't drink coffee, so iTunes wins hands down. I love me some music.
    13. What inspires you more, music or visual (ie: photography, scenery, etc)? Music influences a lot of my creativity. But so does a long, hot shower...
    14. Would you rather be able to talk to animals or to be able to speak and understand any language? I think it would be cool to talk to animals. I used to talk to dogs about my woes when I was in those awkward teenage years, so it would've come in handy.
    15. Did you cry in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part two?  Was one of the times when Dumbledore asked Severus, "After all this time?" and Severus responded, "Always. "  And if not, are you sure you have a soul?  I don't let myself cry during movies unless I'm alone. If I feel the emotion rising, I chant, "It's not real. They're only acting. It's not real. They're only acting." I have vulnerability issues. As for the condition of my soul, well, let's talk about Fred Weasley and see how well my chanting works. 
    Since I'm so late in the game, everyone else has been tagged, I think. So, I'm tagging...YOU! Pick one of the questions and answer it in the comments! (And if you haven't been tagged, consider this your tagsignation. [I don't know why I keep making up new words. I must be showing off for the new guys.])

    **the real reason my plans fell through: I fell in love with my husband in high school and didn't want to leave him. Curse you, true love!!


    Signs You're Not Ready to Query

    Way back when I was riding on a high of finishing my first draft, aka ohmylandsthebeststoryEVER, I took the next obvious step and began researching agents.

    Because, you know, I was ready. Heh.

    I found an agent who was looking for my book. She didn't know it, but I had EXACTLY what she wanted. I planned to do a read-through, catch grammatical errors and misspellings, and send my manuscript on it's merry way to the bestsellers list.

    Thankfully, at about the same time, I met my first critique partner, Christine. If you don't know her, go check her out NOW. My words can wait. She's brills for reals, guys. (I just made that up. Is it funny to anyone else?) More on the awesomeness that crit partners are later, but to sum up, after I sent her some of my perfect story, she very kindly but very firmly sent me back a "This isn't working." It wasn't ready yet. I had a lot of changes that needed to be made.

    Since then, my first draft has been relegated to the File of No, where all first drafts belong. And even though it's painful to read now, I'm glad to be able to see all I've learned since I wrote it. Hopefully, I'll know when I'm ready to query for real someday.

    So, compliments of my first draft (and a few other stories), here are signs your manuscript isn't ready to be queried:
    • Your own mother doesn't even finish reading the entire draft.
    • It starts with waking up.
    • Your protagonist has to look in the mirror and reassess that she still has sparkling blue eyes just a shade darker than the Mediterranean, white-blonde, wavy hair with that one crazy kink by her right ear, and the slight dimple in her chin.
    • The climax is a very earnest discussion with the antagonist where everyone politely agrees to disagree.
    What are some ways you knew you weren't ready to query?


    I'm BACK!!

    I've been gone for a long time! But let's not dwell on that.

    You guys, I missed you. Watch for my comments to start exploding onto your blogs. It's happening. I promise.

    In other news, I just joined Rachael Harrie's Fourth Writer's Platform Building Campaign. Yay for peer pressure*!

    If you've never done this before, go check it out. You can still join until tomorrow. If you have done it before, well, you know how awesome it is, so go join! This is an great way to meet new writing buddies, the kind who don't think you're crazy if you cyber-stalk someone just because THEIR SMILE LOOKS JUST LIKE YOUR MAIN CHARACTER'S SMILE!!! (that...is purely an example. *cough*) Writer friends are the best! Who doesn't want more?

    So, I'll see you over at Rach's blog, yeah?

    *no actual peer pressure involved, actually. In fact, my peers were all, "No pressure," and then I was like, "Ugh, okay, FINE, I'll do it!"