Friday, October 29, 2010

In Honor of Halloween Weekend...

Isn't that the freakiest pumpkin ever? I love it. It kind of cracks me up, but inspires my semi-evil maniacal laugh at the same time. Muahaha! Muahahahahahaahaha!


In honor of our official scariest holiday of the year, and one of my favorites, I thought I'd share one of the more freaky and intense scenes from my WIP. Enjoy!

Here is a rough bit of background info so you can understand what's going on, since this happens in chapter 4.

Sixteen-year-old Parker spends every night trapped in the dreams of the last person he made eye contact with that day, and it's killing him. He sees what they see, feels what they feel, but he's awake and his body can't take many more nights without real sleep. Mia is his only chance at a normal life because for some reason, he can sleep inside her dreams. (p.s. Finn is his best friend)

The woman at the checkout counter had pale green eyes. They looked sad even as she smiled and told me to have a nice day. Her nametag said Agnes and she’d decorated it with stickers of small blue flowers.

I’d never messed up by meeting the wrong person’s eyes twice in one day—then again, I’d never considered Finn to be the wrong person before. Did it really matter whose dreams I watched if they weren’t Mia’s? I frowned as I loaded the groceries Mom asked me to pick up in the back of my car. Probably not.

Agnes's dream started slow, the room smelled of cleaning supplies and I could hear children’s voices coming from a room down the hall. The TV was showing a game show, but Agnes never turned to watch it. She kept dusting the same tables over again, even though the room was spotless.

This dream was different. The detail was clear, which usually indicated a memory, but there were little items that overlapped. The same coasters were filling five separate places on the oak end table. The game show had different contestants every time I looked at it—-but each was as clear as the last. This dream was several memories overlapping each other.

The front door opened and a thick man with a shirt and tie came in the living room. The emotion coming from Agnes shifted so suddenly I felt dizzy. Pure fear filled my body from my toes to my eyebrows. The sounds of the children down the hall silenced and I heard a door shut.

“Hi, dear.” Agnes smiled and hid the feather duster behind her back. From my position, I could see the feathers twitching as her hands trembled.

He grunted and plopped into the recliner closest to the TV.

She handed him the remote and put the feather duster in the closet. Within seconds she was back with a beer from the fridge.

He grabbed it and nodded without even a glance in her direction. “What’s for dinner?”

“Meat loaf.” She answered and backed toward the kitchen. “It will be ready in a few minutes.”

Her fear was still there, but she seemed a little more confident. I slumped onto the carpet and leaned against the wood paneling on the wall. She might feel better, but I didn't. There was no question that he’d hit her before. It was impossible to miss the signs. She never turned her back on him.

Agnes set the table and called for the kids to come to the kitchen. Two blonde children came down the hall. The little boy was quieter than any child I’d ever seen. He couldn’t have been more than five-years-old. His sister was maybe a year or two older, and she kept moving back and forth in front of her brother. It took me a moment to realize she was placing herself between her brother and her dad.

The kids sat at the table and Agnes brought a plate to her husband in his recliner. The family ate in silence, everyone at the table stared at their plates. Agnes reached over to refill the milk in her son’s cup. He lifted it, but lost his grip.

The glass fell to the table as if in slow motion. Panic shot through the room like a lightning bolt. The little girl was back from the kitchen with a towel before I could blink.

Agnes hurried to clean it up, but the moment her husband glanced back at her, she sent the kids to their room. I could hear soft sniffles coming down the hallway as she continued to wipe up the mess with shaking fingers.

“I’m sorry, Ray.”

He sighed and pushed pause on his DVR remote. When he stood, I stepped in his way. I didn’t want to see this. Please, no.

But Ray was an aspect of the dream, and I was just a Watcher. He walked right through me and I felt nothing. I knelt on the floor, wishing I’d met the eyes of anyone but this poor woman.

“All I ask is that things be clean.” His voice rumbled low and her fear spiked as she backed away from him. He grabbed her shoulder and shoved her against the wall.
She shrank down to the floor.

“I know. It was an accident. I’m so sorry.”

He reached under her chin and lifted her to her feet. “Don’t you want me to be happy?”

She nodded, as choking sounds came from her throat and he threw her back to the ground. Everything ached and I felt the will to fight seep out of my body, the same way it had fled from Agnes.

“Don’t do it again.” He walked back to his recliner and pushed play on his remote.

Agnes whispered, “I won’t,” and wiped her tears from her cheeks as she got unsteadily to her feet. There was a gash on the top of her ear that was bleeding and I could see the print of her husband’s hand against her throat. She pulled her thin brown hair out of its bun and tried to arrange it to hide her neck and ear before she took the plates down the hall to her kids’ bedroom.

As the dream faded, I clenched my hands against my forehead. I couldn’t cope with this anymore. People had dark, disturbing secrets and every time I invaded their minds it drained a little piece of me. I could feel the darkness from other people’s nightmares squirming into my brain. How long before it changed who I was—-my idea of what was normal?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Look At Me! I'm Growing!

So, I just finished another round of edits on INSOMNIA, and I feel like I'm really close to being done. I'm also preparing to start a new project for NaNo tentatively titled: BION. I have to say, I'm excited. I know they say it's all about just writing, writing, and writing some more, but I'm not one to believe anything they say. They are untrustworthy scoundrels--possibly the villains in a future book.

Turns out this time, they were right. With each new step in the process, I'm amazed at how much easier it is than the last time I did it. Now, granted, the overall process doesn't get much easier because I'm also learning new and better ways to improve my work--and those are still new to me--but I'm so much happier with my results every time.

Is anyone else going through a similar experience. Can I get a hip-hip-hooray for improvement!?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hello, My Name Is Jenn, And I Am A NaNoWriMo Virgin

I've decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. My reasons are threefold.

1. It sounds interesting.

2. My weakness (as far as time goes) is my first draft. I have a tendency to think I suck every other page and give up writing for life--or at least for the rest of the day. Hopefully, Nano could help me overcome this.

3. I'm letting INSOMNIA stew for a month or two before I dive in for one last round of edits <--translates to I may or may not need a distraction so I don't start querying before it's ready.

So, my fellow friends of the writerly community... have you done NaNo? Are you doing it this year? Do you think my expectations will be fulfilled? How do you like your eggs in the morning? etc.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pacing--Part Deux

Yesterday we discussed why pacing is important. Today I wanted to discuss how to pick up the pace. I write in YA, primarily Horror or Dark Paranormal--whichever you prefer to call it.

I wanted to drag my reader through the book. There are several tools I used to do this.

1 - Keep it short--my goal for INSOMNIA was 55-60K and it's currently at 61K. If you are trying to drag your reader through, keep it short enough that it doesn't exhaust them.

2 - Keep the tension high--I have a secret, I'm kind of evil. The things I do to my MC.... Let's just say, if he was real then I deserve a special kind of hell.

3 - Release tension appropriately--If you don't release a little tension sometimes (through comic relief or revelations, whatever), then it can exhaust your reader too. Just don't release too much or it can slow the pace as well.

4 - Spread things out--revelations, mysteries, action scenes, compounding pressure on protag, if you lump them all together then you end up with boring spots in between and your pace fizzles.

5 - Trim, trim, trim--cut unnecessary dialogue, use shorter sentences appropriately, use active verbs.

6 - Set the mood--if your mood is relaxed and chill and your pace is flying, everyone feels a little dizzy. Make sure the mood and pace fit together and they will strengthen each other. (setting and style can help with this)

7 - One sentence paragraphs--these can be really powerful, IF used appropriately. If you have too many of them or the sentence doesn't pack any punch, they lose their flavor.

8 - Short chapters with a good hook at the end--If you can hook your reader into wanting to read more, AND they know your chapters aren't overly long, then they are more likely to keep reading. There are good ways and bad ways to do this.

For example:
Wrong way - I walked through the living room to head upstairs, but a creak from the kitchen sent a chill through my soul. <--hook : next chapter--> My daughter stood on her tip toes trying to get a drink from the top shelf of the fridge.

Right way - I walked through the living room to head upstairs, but a creak from the kitchen sent a chill through my soul. The only weapon I could find was an umbrella. When I peeked around the corner, I saw him. A large man in a suit the color of shadow. The stranger leaned back in a chair and puffed on the biggest cigar I'd ever seen. When he turned his eyes on me, I choked back a gasp and he chuckled.
"So, you comin' in?" <--hook : does it really matter what the next chapter is? As long as "the stranger" doesn't turn out to be your Uncle Sal, then you're golden.

The point is. You don't want to leave your reader feeling cheated. Let the twists and turns in your story hook them. They'll love every minute of it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How Do You Handle Pacing?

I am spending a lot of time these days editing INSOMNIA. As a YA horror/suspense/dark paranormal/mocha shake, the pacing is crucial.

I thought I'd take a few minutes this week and write a couple of posts about pacing. Today, our topic is:

Dear Pacing,

Why do you matter?

Much Love, Jenn

Pacing replied with the following.

Dear Jenn,

How rude!

Regards, Pacing

Obviously, I'm going about this the wrong way. Pacing is the speed of a book. It is the rate at which the story flows and it includes things like level of tension, risk to characters, and length of chapters. For me, it ranks up at the same level as character development in importance.

Not everyone feels the same, but even though different genres will need different pacing, it's still important, whether you right hard sci-fi or chick lit.

Different books require different pacing. A romantic comedy is going to take faster pacing than an epic fantasy and slower than a thriller.

In a thriller, or suspense, you want to drag the reader (at times kicking and screaming) through the book. There are several ways to accomplish this, (some I seriously consider to be cheating) which I'm going to post about on Friday.

What kind of pacing do you strive for and why do you think it's a good fit for your genre?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reasons I Think HOUSE Is Doing It Right

I love House. I don't think they've always made the right decisions and to be honest I was quite skeptical coming into the current season. Why? Because it's the first time in seven seasons when the main character, Dr. Gregory House, is in a real relationship.

We've all seen it before. We love a show and we just really want two of the people to get together... but when they finally do, the show loses all it's sizzle. The chemistry they were fighting against was the only thing interesting about the show and now it's gone. We cry into our popcorn buckets and find something else to watch.

Where many others fail. For some reason, House seems to be succeeding. It fascinates me, because his nature alone, makes him horrible in relationships and everyone around him knows it. He's manipulative, selfish, and insulting--truly one of the most flawed characters on t.v. Because of these traits, I was afraid they would have to change him to make the relationship work, and in a way, they did--but they did it masterfully. (in my opinion, anyway)

The creators took these traits and instead of getting rid of them, they twisted them around so he now seems to be using them to keep his relationship going. For me, it really works. We get to see House being his normal, terrible self, AND he gets to be in a relationship. In some ways, it's made the show more interesting.

Anyone else watch it?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

10 Ways To Know Your WIP Is In Trouble

I woke up this morning to a very...interesting note that I decided was crucial enough to write down in the middle of the night. This morning, not so much.

I decided to have a little fun and include it in a list of 10 ways to know your WIP is in trouble. :) Enjoy!

1 - You wake up to a crucial note that reads as follows: IMPORTANT! Add suspense with tooth floss! (Yes, that's exactly what my note said this morning. No, I don't have a clue.)

2 - You keep getting your protagonist and antagonist mixed up

3 - Your love interest decides to run off with your villain because your hero is boring.

4 - You realize your MC and side kick have had the same conversation about five times.

5 - An entire section of your book is written from the POV of a character you could drop and literally no one would notice.

6 - You are going on 60K and can't seem to find a suitable place to end your first chapter.

7 - You'd rather read the phone book than work on your own.

8 - Your blog posts are infinitely more interesting than your plot.

9 - Even your Mom can't stand your MC.

10 - You can't edit out your -ly words because it would cut your word count in half.

Hehe, I don't know about you guys, but I've had at least half of these problems. No, I won't tell you which half. Have a great day!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

And The Winner Is...

Carolyn V.! I love this girl, she's so cute and totally deserves it. Yay!

In case you were wondering, I finally decided on the mystery book. It is *drumroll please*

"Characters & Viewpoint" by Orson Scott Card. It's one of my favorite writing books.

She will also be getting the aforementioned "Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief"

Congrats, Carolyn and thanks for participating!