Ten Ways To Screw Up The Book You’re Writing

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

 

  1. Wait for the muse. Yup, just sit there and wait. Your muse will show up dressed in pink satin and waving a wand. The muse will tap you on the nose three times then spin in circles spraying glitter everywhere and your novel will come spilling out of your fingers onto your keyboard at a rapid rate. You’ll write the best book ever, sell millions of copies, and be adored by fans world wide. Not.
  2. Do not set a daily writing goal. If you write one word or ten thousand, does it really matter?
  3. Only write a first draft. Your mother loves your writing. Who needs to edit?
  4. Never read a book on the craft, never attend a workshop on the aspects of creative writing. You read a fiction book in the seventh grade about a girl detective. What else do you need to learn to write that book?
  5. Believing all stories are worth telling.
  6. Only give your book to your parent, spouse, best friend for feedback. They know you take anti-depressant medication. They’ll be honest.
  7. Forget everything about grammar and punctuation. That stuff just clutters the page anyway.
  8. Rely on spell check to fix misspelled words. Does anyone really know the difference between there, their, and they’re?
  9. Put your hero in a jam and have a gun magically appear to shoot the bad guys with.
  10. Spend the first fifty pages telling the reader about the hero’s life before the book begins because the reader isn’t smart enough to understand your book without your long winded explanation.

How Long Should A Christmas Tree Stay Up?

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My Christmas Tree before January 13. 

My Christmas tree is still up. I’m a slacker. I hate that it’s the middle of January and it’s still in the window. At least it’s naked. I did take down the kids’ tree in the family room, the stockings, and the Hanukkah decorations. But that tree in the living room, facing the road? That bothers me. In fact, every time I pass it, I think, if you were on top of your game that tree would be down. 

I know people whose tree has been down since December 31st. I heard that’s a tradition in Texas. Is that true? Anyway, here in New Jersey, I do know people whose tree is down, put away, and forgotten for another ten months. Why can’t I be this person?

I could say, “I’m busy. I work, have two teens I have to drive everywhere, laundry, blah, blah, blah.” There are plenty of reasons for me to justify why that tree is still up. I mean, maybe I want to hang Valentine’s Day cupids on it. Or I could hide Easter eggs in it. But all the reasons in the world don’t stop me from thinking I should have that tree down by now. I mean, what am I waiting for really? Couldn’t I get up from my desk right now and pull that tree apart and shove it into the bag? I could, but then I wouldn’t be talking with you and it’s almost lunch time. I have to eat every two hours like an infant so I’d have to wait at least until after lunch and then I have to pick Noodge 2 up at the end of the school day for her first activity so I can’t start then. There’s always tomorrow when everyone is home and maybe someone taller than I am could help me.

And the tree still stands.

I don’t waste any time putting the tree up. Every Thanksgiving weekend. So why can’t I make the time to take it down? Not as much fun? The holiday let down? Both. There is so much anticipation as the holidays approach. The festivities, the lights, the presents, time with friends and family. Then after what’s left? Cold and dark January nights. The weeks after Christmas are so anticlimactic. I told myself the tree is pretty and I can sit with a cup of tea gazing over at it as if something magical would appear through its branches while Nat King Cole croons in the background.

I think I’ve been sipping the egg nog punch again.

I can procrastinate with the best of them and I work best with a deadline. I can even impose my own deadlines on myself and meet them. How’s that for anal retentive? So, why is the tree still up? What does that say about me? Failure to meet objectives.  I wouldn’t be getting a raise if I was at my old job. I’ll tell you that.

If I was a young adult, would the inability to finish taking down the tree be a failure to launch from the holidays into the dregs of ordinary life?

I could dare myself to keep the tree up all year.

What’s the solution? Drag it out onto the porch as an offering of a new housing development for squirrels and chipmunks? I could spray paint the branch tips white and pretend it snowed inside. Maybe if I act like it is already down others will start to believe me. I could make them think they’ve been sipping the egg nog punch too.

I’ll try not to pass judgement on myself. I’ll be kinder to those who suffer from the same condition: Tree Removal Procrastination. (TRP) I could start a support group. Save lives. Save the world!

The tree still stands. At least for another day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Make Me Read Your Book – ETT

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I don’t write reviews about books I don’t like. I don’t think it’s good karma since I’m an author too and I know how hard this person has worked to write the book even if it needs more work. Instead, I come here and tell you what not to do when writing your books.

The thriller genre is one of my favorites. I’ve said that before. I read a lot of thriller novels. I’m okay with the book starting out with a killing. In fact, the book probably should start out with the very least a dead body. But the trick is making the reader care so early on. They don’t know these characters yet. There has to be a reason for the reader to keep turning pages. I don’t recommend starting in the killer’s point of view especially if we know right off the bat it’s the killer and he’s about to make a kill. I just put down a book that did exactly that. Right away the killer is on the prowl. He bashes his way into a professional establishment and starts swinging an axe at people. My first thought was, why should I care about this? Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not so cold-hearted that I don’t care about people dying. This is a work of fiction, I hope, and my editor brain never sleeps.

The reader isn’t invested in the story on page two to have the killer describing what the axe feels like in his hands. I’d say if you’re going to be in the killer’s point of view so early on, get right to the point. Leave out the sensory details, blinding lights, smooth handles, the clothing of other people. All the inner thoughts of how he’s moving around the room or perhaps he pulled a muscle while swinging the axe. (I don’t know, maybe the author has a weird sense of humor?) The killer is crazy, he breaks in, swings the axe, the victims try to get away, but fail. Done. Now, get me to the protagonist whose going to stop this madman but not before the end of the book.

All that other stuff? Nobody cares yet. The reader isn’t sympathetic to your villain yet. Remember what I said about three-dimensional villains. You can’t pull that off on page three. I promise. But I tried a few more pages hoping it would get better.

Here’s another tip: Your protagonist, the main character, isn’t going to think about her beautiful hair and how she doesn’t have to fuss with it upon waking up. Do you ever think about that in the morning? Not me. My first thought is usually, why the heck is it so early? Followed by who has to be where at what time? Thoughts of my hair, like do I have time to wash it, are further down on the list. An author needs to hold off on fancy descriptions of hair until there’s a better way to let the reader know what the character looks like. Heck, here’s an idea, let the reader make it up for himself. And if you’re going to tell me your protagonist doesn’t fuss with her appearance, she isn’t mentioning her lovely locks.

I gave up completely a few pages later. The author tells us it’s early winter. On my calendar, that’s December. Anyone else’s calendar have a different date? Okay, the hero, the detective, and his partner and getting in the car. The partner is yapping about a professional baseball game he watched the night before.  NOT IN EARLY WINTER. Major League Baseball finishes in November except for 2001 when a few lunatics flew planes into buildings in this country. Where is this woman’s editor?

I checked to see who published this book. She’s an indie author. That’s okay. I’m an indie author and know plenty of very good indie authors. But if you are going to be an indie author I can’t stress enough the importance of hiring a professional editor. We could argue in circles all the stuff about point of view, caring about the characters, description of appearances, but a professional baseball game in early winter is just too big of a mistake to miss. You’ll lose all credibility if you don’t check your details. A professional editor would’ve red flagged that sentence. And if the editor wasn’t a hundred percent sure when the baseball season was, an editor worth her salt would’ve checked.

I closed that book. I will never recommend it and I will never read another book by that author. Don’t be that author. Be better. Learn your craft. Make me want to read your book until the end.

Any questions?

A New Adventure

I’m always up for an adventure. Well, almost always and it depends on the adventure. I’m not sleeping in the woods for all the chocolate in the factory. But when it comes to writing adventures, I’m pretty much in.

Pull up a seat. I’m going to tell you a little story. A long time ago, in a place not so far away, I worked for a mobile DJ company. It was one of my favorite jobs. I got to play music, dance, and eat at the weddings of total strangers and they paid me to be there! I worked with some fantastic people and have kept in touch with a few of them over the years. Decades, in fact. I am eternally grateful for that opportunity.

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So here I am with the guys I DJ’d with circa 1994. Yes, I was the only girl. It was cool. And yes, I took a picture of a picture. This one is framed. Wasn’t even going to try and remove it. 

Recently, I was asked to be a part of NJs Best DJs owned and operated by my friend and amazing DJ, Dave Nase! Dave has asked me to come on board and handle the writing of his blog. This was an adventure I couldn’t pass up. I’m thrilled to be included.

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Dave and I hanging out, present day, and getting the blog ready. Excuse my deer in the headlights look. 

NJs Best DJs offers a very personal approach to event entertainment. The blog will be dedicated to not just information about DJs and music, but help and advice on all areas of the wedding industry. And of course, we’re going to have a little fun while doing it.

Once the blog is live, I hope you’ll stop by and say hi just so I can see a few friendly faces even if you aren’t planning any event at the moment. (I’ll let you know exactly when that’s happening.) But if you or someone you know are in those planning stages, poke around. We might just have the information you’re looking for. And between you and me, you won’t find a better entertainer than Dave.

I’ll still be blogging here with my editing tips and adventures in motherhood. And don’t forget, my next book, A Second Chance House will be out soon. I won’t be neglecting my editing clients, but like I said, I couldn’t say no to Dave.

Are you ready for a new adventure? What’s on your bucket list for the new year?

 

Holiday Traditions

I love dessert. It’s my favorite meal. In fact, if I could eat sweets instead of real food, I would. My sweet tooth lends itself to my fancy for baking. If you ask me to bake you anything, I will. If you ask me to make you dinner, my skin starts to itch, my eye twitches and suddenly the idea of cutting the grass with a pair of scissors becomes very appealing.

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These are my Tarallis. 

Christmastime provides me a good excuse to stretch my baking wings. All the possible cookie choices! Some years I make more than others, but every year I make Tarallis. Those are Italian buttery cookies my family has made for decades. The Tarallis are a popular southern Italy cookie (my baking family is from Calabria) and can be made in varying ways. My way is best. Just so there’s no confusion and also why I won’t link you to someone else’s site about them. So, if you’re interested in learning more about these or other Italian cookies, you’re on your own this time.

Why are mine the best? Because of my grandfather. Pop-Pop was a baker by trade and an excellent one. (I’m not showing favoritism either. Anyone who ate his pastries and cakes would have told you the same.) He was also one of my favorite people in the whole world. He taught me how to bake. (Among other things like how to drive and to stay away from boys.) He taught me to bake by marching over, assessing my progress, grabbing whatever was in my hand and saying in his heavy Italian accent only strangers heard and with complete love, “What are you doing? Let me do that.” That was when I took a step back and handled the clean up.

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Me and Pop-Pop maybe 1997ish

I lost him seventeen years ago. Christmas and those Tarallis give me an excuse to bake and when I bake I feel like I’m spending time with him. He is the person I think of as I crack an egg, or line a pan with parchment paper, or make sure I stir in only one direction. I don’t like to let this time of year go by without baking something. If I had my way, he’d be baking with me (though he’d be 95 now. Not sure how much baking he’d be doing.) But that’s not the way the story goes. Instead, my holiday tradition has been to bake in his memory and hopefully the results would do him proud.

(Here’s a little irony, I think the original recipe for those cookies that I, my mother, my sister, and my aunt use might be from my Aunt Genny on my grandmother’s side. But who cares?? I’m still baking. sticks tongue out here.)

What are your holiday traditions? What makes your holiday complete? Who do you share them with?

 

Editing Tip Tuesday

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Have you started thinking about your 2017 writing and publishing goals? What are your year end goals, monthly goals, weekly goals? I invite you to make a list of your intentions for the new year. And to keep you accountable, keep me posted with your progress. Post here at the blog with word count goals, finished novel goals, marketing goals, and any other writing goals you have.

Did you join that writer’s group? Sign up for a new conference? Send me your manuscript to edit? Start that new book? Finish the book you’ve been working on?

Let’s make 2017 a happy and successful year.

Any questions?

Why Do We Stop Sending Christmas Cards?

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It’s that time of year again, the time when you scour your photos in your phone for a decent one of you and the kids that you can upload to some stationery company like Shutterfly, VistaPrint, etc, and order Christmas or Holiday cards to send to people you know. Every year I vow I’m not going to do it again.

I was always under the impression Christmas cards were sent to people you didn’t speak with on a regular basis as a way to keep in touch. I’ve found over the years the people I don’t speak with stop sending cards. Is it out of sight, out of mind? Or is it, well, I have to see her in the supermarket, so I better send her another card. People move away, change jobs, whatever. Why would you stop sending cards just because we don’t live around the corner from each other anymore? I mean, if I do run into you at the CVS and we catch up about your sick dog do I really need the card? Yes, I do!

Christmas cards were first sent in the 1800’s by Henry Cole. He was a very busy man and didn’t have the time to answer the letters sent to him at Christmas time. Letters that were filled with stories from friends about their lives during the year. (See, letters from people he didn’t see often.) He had an idea to create a card with the same thing written inside each one and send that instead. Voila!

So, the cards I receive each year are dwindling. I like going to the mailbox at Christmas time in hopes of finding a jewel-toned envelope waiting for me. Let’s face it, cards are way more fun than a bill, no? I’ve lived in five towns in my married life. I should be getting a boat load of cards this late in my life. But that’s not the case. Friends I no longer work with or live near have stopped sending and here’s my hard and fast rule: if you don’t send to me two years in a row I stop sending to you.

Does that sound harsh?  Am I perpetuating my own demise? Could there be some rational explanation as to why someone’s card no longer arrives in the post for me? Could the budget be stretched too tightly that cards are no longer an option? (Have you seen the price of some of these cards?) Are these people boycotting Christmas? Is it pure laziness? And there’s always the famous, “I’m too busy!” (Which is my least favorite excuse for anything. We’re all busy. Take a seat.)

Though I said it myself, each year I consider not sending. Why? Well, for one, uploading photos to those sites isn’t as easy as it sounds. It never goes smoothly. I spend hours trying to get the right photo, upload it, edit it, pick a card. Oh, the picking of a card! That’s torture all by itself. We’re an interfaith family. I try to be respectful of the fact we celebrate Hanukkah as well as Christmas and the people I send to might also celebrate more than one holiday. It isn’t easy trying to find a middle of the road holiday card that I like and that has the appropriate number of photo slots, let me tell you.

If I’m going to get fewer and fewer cards in the mail, is it worth it to break a sweat every year over sending these cards? I could go back to the boxed cards bought in the stores. Eventually, my kids are going to get too old to stick on those cards anyway. It’s cute for a while, but how long can you drag out a good thing?

That might be the answer. Boxed cards! I still get a couple of those each year from people whose children are grown and sending out photo cards of their own. I used to send boxed cards before I had kids and my mailbox was filled with cards of other people’s children. Yes, filled. Where have all those people gone?

I would like to still find those cards waiting for me each cold afternoon as I walk the mile to my mailbox. Okay, it’s not that far. Give me a break, I’m a fiction writer after all. I would like to think those people from years ago still pull my name up on a list and say, “hey, I wonder how her year went? Let’s send her a card.”

I am grateful for the cards that continue to arrive from friends from high school, college, old neighbors, and new friends. Thank you for sending those cards. Keep them coming.