Writing Tip #1: Don’t Overuse the Word “Suddenly”

Don’t overuse the word “suddenly”.
I had the pleasure of sitting and chatting with a Literary Agent from Simon and Schuster at a conference last year. During our conversation, she had mentioned that she once stopped reading a manuscript all because the word “suddenly” appeared excessively.
“Everything was suddenly this and suddenly that,” she explained chuckling.
Aside from “suddenly”, I think it’s wise not to overuse any words.
Recently, while editing my manuscript, I noticed I used the word “realized” four times in one page. Yikes! Glad I realized it. 🙂

When Do We Stop Editing?

Write. Edit. Rewrite. Repeat.

I was writing the second draft of my second novel a few weeks ago, but something prompted me to read my first novel again. Now I’m stuck editing the first novel, when what I really want to be doing is working on my second book.

A few months ago, I believed my first novel was ready to go. I thought the manuscript was completely edited and that I was satisfied with it. But a lot of things can change in a short amount of time. After I flipped through the pages of my manuscript, I realized that there were parts of the book that needed polishing, and I couldn’t just close my eyes and pretend it was fine, because it wasn’t. I needed to go back and start rewriting immediately.

But when do I stop editing?

Tonight? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month? I don’t know. So I’ve decided to set a goal and make an “editing promise”. I promise to finish editing my first novel by the end of March. Whatever happens to it then, is it. I think it’s a good plan. It will hopefully push me to work harder and focus. And then I can happily move on to the next book.

When did you know you were done editing?

We will all get better at our craft, as long as we continue reading, writing, and living. At some point, we will look back at some of our writings and say, “I could have done better.” Sure, but we can’t always go back and rewrite things. Sometimes, they are simply meant to be the way they are, and that’s that. And other times, we will look back at our writings and say, “Wow. I wrote that?” I look forward to those moments.

Read. Write. Live. Repeat.


A Must-Have for Writers

Last year for my birthday, my pops gave me a book, and not just any book. It was The Little Red Writing Book, by Brandon Royal. 

From first glance, I knew it would be a helpful tool in my writing adventure, but silly me
didn’t touch it until recently. I opened it a few weeks ago and am now wishing I did it sooner.

This book covers everything you need to know about writing. It talks about structure, style, readability and grammar, and the sections are organized and easy to read. There are also examples and exercises that help you learn with ease.

I thought I knew a lot about writing, until I read this book. I’m using what I’ve learned so far and am writing and editing my manuscripts differently. (Thanks pops!)

If you want to improve your writing skills—get this book! It’s a must-have for all writers.

Happy reading!

Are You Telling or Are You Showing? Why You Need to Self-Edit.

I recently decided to go back and read a manuscript I hadn’t touched in about 8 months. It was of my first novel.

A lot can happen in 8 months. You read more books, you write more, and in the process, you learn more. What I thought was an edited manuscript, turned out not to be. As I flipped through the pages of my novel, I discovered sentences and paragraphs that needed rewriting. I realized that in some instances throughout the book, I was simply telling and not showing.

What’s the difference, you ask?

TELLING is more like an outline. It’s technical and not exciting.
Example: “The mother was frightened. The girl was scared. She wanted her mother do something about it.” (Yawn).

SHOWING keeps the reader interested. It shows them exactly what is going on and how the character is actually feeling.
Example: (taken from the book, Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay)
“The mother pulled her daughter close to her. The girl could feel the woman’s heart beating through her dressing gown. She wanted to push her mother away. She wanted her mother to stand up straight and look at the men boldly, to stop cowering, to prevent her heart from beating like that, like a frightened animal’s. She wanted her mother to be brave.” (Wow).

What a huge difference. I definitely prefer the second example. What about you?

Of course there are also instances when telling is better than showing. Sometimes certain things don’t need need to be described in detail. The key is to know when to use them properly.

I found a very helpful post online that I’d like to share. There are a lot of great tips and examples on how to improve your writing.

Check it out:
http://www.eclectics.com/articles/selfediting.html

Self-editing is important. It’s part of being a writer. It helps us write our best, and our best is what we want our readers to read.

Keep reading books, keep writing and then keep writing some more, and edit your work. Pause once in a while and don’t touch what you have written. Go back to it in a few days, or in a few weeks, or in a few months. You’ll see the difference. And then ask yourself, “Are you telling or are you showing?”

Happy editing.

An Interview with Samantha Sotto, Author of Before Ever After

A few days ago, I mentioned that in order to answer one of the most common questions writers have regarding getting an Agent or getting Self-Published, I would interview two authors—one who got a Literary Agent and one who is
Self-Published.

I was fortunate enough to snag an interview with the talented Samantha Sotto, author of Before Ever After. Samantha went with a Literary Agent, which worked out well for her.

Check out our interview below:

COREY: When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
SAM SOTTO:
After I typed “The End.” The dream of becoming a published writer took shape after I finished writing Before Ever After. Prior to that, it was simply a fun thing to do while waiting to pick my son up from school.

COREY: What inspired you to write Before Ever After?  
SAM SOTTO:
There are two ways you can deal with traffic: you can sit in your car and slowly go insane, or you can plot out a novel.

It might have been the Dr. Who marathon I had just emerged from or the “hangover” I was nursing after reading the Time Traveler’s Wife (I couldn’t stop crying about Henry!) or a combination of both that made Max, my main character, hitch a ride with me that afternoon. I didn’t know much about him then, except that he had a talent for staying alive, had a soft spot for chickens, ran an offbeat European tour, and was not a vampire.

I began to wonder more about his “lifetimes” and the people he had met along the way. That’s when I discovered that he had a wife, or rather, a widow – who had no idea who he really was. I knew then that I had to hop aboard Max’s Volkswagen van and take a detour into his and Shelley’ s story.

You might say that the research for this book was done years before I even had the idea to write it. I lived, studied, and traveled through Europe and have always been drawn to its crooked cobblestone alleys and tucked away corners. These forgotten nooks whispered stories that the history books left out. The “gaps” I found between by my travel scrapbooks and formal research became the places and times Max filled in with his secrets.

COREY: If you were to tell us about your book in one sentence, what would it be?
SAM SOTTO:
It’s a quirky fairytale for grown-ups about love, loss, and all that comes before ever after.

COREY: How long did it take you to write your novel?
SAM SOTTO:
About a year.

COREY: Did you ever consider Self-Publishing or did you always know you wanted to send your manuscript out to Literary Agents? How did you decide?
SAM SOTTO:
I only started researching about the publishing when I finished the book. I knew absolutely nothing about the process so when I saw a second hand copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published on sale, I bought it. That’s where I learned that I needed to find a literary agent. By default, that’s what I pursued.

COREY: Describe the process of getting published. How long did it take you to find your Agent? How long after you found your Agent did it take to get your book published?
SAM SOTTO:
Google became my best friend during my three-month agent hunt. I scoured the web for agents whom I thought would be a good fit for my book. I made a shortlist, sent out my query letter, and crossed my fingers and all appropriate appendages. But I didn’t send out my letter to everyone on my list. There was an agent that I particularly liked and so I decide to “save” her until I got feedback from the other agents. I was rejected a number of times, but luckily, I also received requests. When about four or five agents had my full manuscript, I found the courage to send my letter to her. She read my query, requested for the full manuscript the next day, read the book overnight, and made me an offer before the other agents had finished reading what I had sent them. She asked me to make a few revisions and when the book was ready, she pitched it to publishers. After about a month, she sold the book.

COREY: Who read your manuscript before you sent it out? Did you have it edited? Were you part of a Writer’s Group?
SAM SOTTO:
I sent the finished chapters to my mom and husband. They read the book in “real time” as I wrote it. My mom made sure that my T’s were crossed and my I’s were dotted. I was not a part of a formal writer’s group but I did join support forums online.

COREY: Have you joined any writing competitions?
SAM SOTTO:
Does an essay writing contest in 6th grade count? 🙂

COREY: What genre does your book belong to?  
SAM SOTTO:
Is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle a genre. No? Um…okay. The book crosses over genres – mystery, history, romance, humor. It also has a little bit of magical realism on its mother’s side. 🙂

COREY: Describe your writing style.
SAM SOTTO:
Quirky with a hint of lime.

COREY: Who is your favorite author, and why?
SAM SOTTO:
Neil Gaiman. I want to be him when I grow up. He builds worlds I want to live in.

COREY: Define a good book.
SAM SOTTO:
I like books that have characters that walk around in your head long after you’ve finished reading.

COREY: Define a good writer.
SAM SOTTO:
A good writer is an invisible one.

COREY: What is your favorite book? What are you reading now?
SAM SOTTO:
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. (Sorry, Neil.) I’m not reading any book at the moment. Sadly, I can’t read while I’m writing. My imaginary friends are a chatty bunch and take up the limited space in my head.

COREY: How has being a published author changed your life?
SAM SOTTO:
It hasn’t. I just get a whole lot more email – that I promise to get to. Pinky swear.

COREY: How do you balance being a writer and being a mom?
SAM SOTTO:
Being a mom comes first. I only write when the kids are in school.

COREY: What inspires you to write?
SAM SOTTO:
The fire-breathing deadline I have at the end of the month.

COREY: Are you working on your second book?
SAM SOTTO:
I’m wrestling with it now. It has me in a choke-hold. Send help.

COREY: What tips can you give other writers who are waiting to get published?
SAM SOTTO:
Show up for work even if inspiration calls in sick.

Thanks Samantha for allowing me to pick your brain. It was a lot of fun.

If you’d like to check out Samantha’s blog and/or buy her book, check out her website for more information:
http://samanthasotto.com/

Before Ever After is also available on Amazon.com. 

Come back soon for my upcoming interview with a Self-Published author.

To Get a Literary Agent or to Self-Publish, That is the Question.

So you’ve finished your manuscript and you can’t wait to get it published. Now the question is, do you get a Literary Agent or do you self-publish? This is a question I have been asked many times and my usual answer is, it all depends. Depends on your book, and what your goal is as a writer.

But there are many reasons why some writers get an Agent and why some self-publish, but what are they?

To help answer this question (and other questions), I decided I would interview two authors—an author who got a Literary Agent, and an author who is self-publishing or is self-published.

I am happy to announce that the author I picked who got a Literary Agent, and who  agreed to an interview with me, is Samantha Sotto. She is the author of the novel, Before Ever After. She will be my very first guest on my blog and it is an honor to have her.

Check back soon to read my interview with Samantha Sotto.

Formatting Your Manuscript

Sometimes writing a great story is still not enough. If you want your story to be read and considered, you have to make sure you format it correctly. Follow the right guidelines and make it as professional as possible. No colored papers or fancy fonts. Remember, Agents and Editors and are after your story, not your pretty stationery or pretty text.

When it comes to formatting your manuscript, a lot of questions can come to mind.

I came across an article on formatting on Writer’s Digest that I found very helpful. I hope it helps answer your questions.

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/what-writers-need-to-know-about-formatting-faqs

Also, you can check out the book, Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript.

Literary Agents

I have always been curious about how writers get their books published. What process did they go through and how long did it take them?

Nicholas Sparks shares how he found his Literary Agent in his website. I love reading about his experience because he makes it sound so easy. Attached is a link to his site.

http://nicholassparks.com/ForWriters.asp?PageID=3

How did you find your Literary Agent? How did you get published? Are you still looking for an Agent? What has your experience been like so far?

Of course everyone has a different experience. I’m still going through mine. I’ve written a book that I love, have sent out queries, attended a Writers Conference, pitched my book and luckily got a few requests for my manuscript, but yet I’m not quite done. I am constantly trying to build my platform however way I can. Despite distractions and life’s challenges, I never stop writing.

In the perfect world, I would be writing every day—sipping espressos, sitting outside cafes with nothing but my laptop and a plethora of inspiration around me. But reality is different. I have chores and responsibilities like the rest of us. But I try. I try my best to write as if I was in a café… in Paris, people watching, when I’m really sitting on the couch watching my 2-year old daughter who I love dearly. Besides, isn’t that what writing is for? It’s for creating different scenes at different times based on your imagination. I like creating, that’s why I chose to write fiction. I prefer to write in a café in Paris on a beautiful spring day. I think I’ll stick to that for now and let my imagination run wild.