Posted in Writing, Writing Prompts

Time To Write: Random Words 3

Writing Prompt: Use these Random Words

Write a story using all these of these words: Clock, Combine, Haunt.

Happy Writing!

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Posted in Editing

How To Radically Revise Your Novel

Radical revision is a term to revise or rewrite your current draft. It’s a tool to help your reimagine your story.

This is a method I learned in school when I was working on my English degree. I’ve kept the notes these past two years because I found it to be helpful and a pretty cool method. It didn’t seem so at the time because it was homework, but I do think it helps.

How To Radically Revise Your Novel

What does radical revision do?

The point of radically revising your novel is to try something new, something different you wouldn’t normally do. Rewrite your current draft in a new way and see which one works better.

It may or may not work, but you’re experimenting, getting to know your novel and characters at a deeper level, and you’re practicing new forms of writing.

In a way, I guess you could look at this as a hardcore writing prompt.

Radical Revision Styles

1. Voice/Tone and POV Changes

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve done this before. I’ve had to rewrite my entire mystery novel manuscript to be in the viewpoint of a different character.

So, try rewriting your novel using a different voice or tone for a character if something isn’t working out. If your protagonist isn’t the right fit to be the main character, rewrite in a different point of view.

Test it out by just rewriting one scene or chapter. If it seems to work, go farther with it. It will give you a new perspective on your novel and give you more insight on your characters. You’ll learn a lot about what you’ve created, trust me.

2. Time Changes

Is your novel written in present tense? Try writing in past tense.

Write the novel using flashbacks and flashforwards, allowing plot info to sprinkle about here and there.

Tell the story backward. Start at the end and work your way towards the beginning.

Change the overall time period. See how your characters cope and change.

Changing the time and the way you convey the story can show you a lot about your plot. You’re looking more in-depth at your plot and zeroing in on certain aspects of your novel. Something that isn’t revealed until the end may be revealed earlier. And that could change the entire story, which may not be a bad thing.

3. Layout

Writing a novel? Try writing it as a script. Try writing a chapter as a poem.

It’ll give a brand new look to your manuscript allowing to challenge your mind and possibly switch around some ideas. Plus, writing scripts calls for bare-bones dialogue and quite a bit of description as direction. Switch things up and focus on one over the other and see what happens.

In Conclusion…

As I said earlier, these are kind of like big writing prompts. Still, if you have the time, and you feel as though there’s something not right with your story but can’t figure out what, try rewriting it using one of these methods.

It can’t hurt to try and you’ll learn something new about your novel and also about yourself as a writer.

BONUS

I only mentioned three radical revision styles above, but the notes I have list a few more. I listed the three above because I find them to be the most challenging and straightforward way of rewriting. Still, I thought I’d add the other two methods in case anyone was interested.

  • Genre Change – Turn your story into a fairy tale, short story, recipe, or letters. Or, change the overall genre, turn it from romance to mystery to anything else.
  • Art Piece – Tell your story using pictures or write songs about it.

Is this anything you would like to try? Have you tried it already? Let me know in the comments below!

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Posted in Editing

How To Find A Great Beta Reader You Can Trust

Finding beta readers isn’t as hard as you would think. They’re everywhere as long as you know the right places to look.

But before we go into where you should find your beta readers, let’s talk about the characteristics you would like your beta readers to have.

Because, of course, you want to have the right beta readers on your team, right?

How To Find Beta Readers You Can Trust

Your beta reader should…

  • Be your targeted audience. For example, they should have an interest in the genre you write and be the appropriate age.
  • They aren’t afraid to say what they think. They shouldn’t be afraid to tell you the truth about what they think of your book. If you have a beta reader who has absolutely no problems with your book, chances are something’s not right.
  • They’re not close friends or family members of yours. People close to you will have a tendency to bend the truth a little bit. You want someone who knows what they’re doing and, like the previous point isn’t afraid to speak their thoughts.
  • They’re readers. Find beta readers who read a lot. They’ll know what to look for, know what they’re doing. Bonus if they consistently read the genre you wrote.
  • They’re writers. This isn’t a must, but it helps. Writers understand writing like no one else does.
  • They’re brand new to the manuscript. If someone has already read your book, don’t ask them to be a beta reader. They won’t have that element of surprise or that, “what’s going to happen next?!” feeling.
  • Ideally, they’ll have a good grasp on publishing. They’ll know what makes a book a good one.
  • They have extra knowledge on the topics of your book. For example, if you’re writing about mental illness, ask a beta reader who has knowledge in that field. If you’re writing in a certain location, ask someone who’s been there or lives there. They may know things you didn’t.

Well, then! Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Where do you find these kinds of beta readers?

  • Writing groups. Join a writing group whether it’s online or local, whether it’s a place where writers hang out or critique each other. You’ll make new friends and find a lot of things in common, including your manuscripts.
  • Workshops and conferences. Again, attend workshops. Most writers there are in the same boat as you. Make new friends and help each other out.
  • Social media. Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook groups, other blogs, etc. Writers are everywhere. You just have to strike up a conversation.

How do you get them to beta read for you?

  • Create real friendships. Writers need other writers to survive. Don’t go up to a stranger and say, “Hey, we’re both writers! Will you be my beta reader?” Be genuine. Get to know them, as a writer and as a person. You can help each other out, but you can also just hang out as people together and have a good time.
  • Offer something in return. Don’t find beta readers for the sake of helping yourself out. Beta readers do this for free so it’s only common courtesy to offer something in return. This can be offering to beta read for them when the time comes.
  • Ask questions. You want to know that they’ll be the right fit for your book. Ask they’re general interests, what they typically read, etc. Then you can decide together whether your book would be the right project for them.

In Conclusion…

Finding beta readers is easier than it seems, but it doesn’t go without working hard.

Just keep in mind that you’re not only looking for a beta reader, but you’re looking for a new writer friend as well. It doesn’t have to be strictly business all the time.

How have you found your beta readers? Are you looking for some now? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Posted in Guest Posts

How Reading Aloud Made Me The Teacher And Person I Am Today [Guest Post]

Today’s post is brought to you by Jennie Fitzkee. Thanks, Jennie!

Guest post by Jennie Fitzkee: How Reading Aloud Made Me The Teacher and Person I Am Today

My very first day of teaching preschool in Massachusetts, thirty-two years ago, was both career and life altering. Lindy, my co-teacher, asked me to read the picture books to children each day after our Morning Meeting. Sure (gulp)! I was new, scared and unfamiliar with many children’s books. I had not been read to as a child, except for The Five Chinese Brothers from my grandmother. I still remember the page that opens sideways, with the brother who could stretch his legs. One book, and to this day I remember it vividly.

The book I read to the children on that first day of school was Swimmy, by Leo Lionni. It was magical for me, and for the children. The storyline, the art, the engineering, the words… it was a taste of something I knew I had to have. And, I couldn’t get enough.

The next few decades I consumed children’s books. I realized that the more I read aloud, the more the children wanted to hear stories and be read to. I displayed books in my classroom front-facing, so children were drawn to picking up and ‘reading’ the books. In this way, the children wanted to handle, hold, and turn the pages of books. This was a big deal! It was true hands-on learning, with exploding questions and interest. I was the yeast in the dough, or perhaps the books were the yeast. Oh, our Morning Meetings grew. We had to include a children’s dictionary on the bookshelf so we could look up words that were new. That was fun!

By this time I had become picky about good books. Whenever I read a good book, it sparked so many questions and conversations, that sometimes it took ‘forever’ to get through the book. The first time I read Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky, it took forty minutes to finish reading the book. I started with the inside cover, a picture of the courtyard, and simply asked questions; “Where is this?” “Does this look like Massachusetts?” “What is different?”

Reading picture books triggered big discussions. I often stopped to ask questions. Sometimes I would simply say, “Oh, dear…” in mid-sentence and let the children grab onto that rope. Yes, I was throwing out a lifeline, a learning line, and it worked. It was exciting, always engaging.

Before long, I started reading chapter books before rest time. This was unconventional for preschoolers, yet it felt right because children were on their nap mats and needed to hear stories without seeing pictures. I started with Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, and have never looked back. The first thing children learned was ‘you make the pictures in your head’. This is thrilling because we now have non-stop reading and multiple discussions, without pictures. Thirty minutes of pretty intense reading-aloud. My chapter books include the best of the best.

My teaching had become language based and child centered. Often there were ‘moments’, things that happened because we were reading all the time. Reading had spilled over into my curriculum. The day we had set up a restaurant in housekeeping, children were ‘reading’ menus and ‘writing’ orders on clipboards. I was spelling out the words to one child and listening to questions about the menu from another child. I doubt these moments would have happened had I not read so often in the classroom.

I wanted to tell families what happened, about moments of learning, and of course about reading aloud. So, I started to write more information in my newsletters, and include details. I wrote, and I wrote, sharing small moments and relating those moments to the big picture in education.

I attended a teacher seminar, and Jim Trelease, the author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, was the keynote speaker. As he spoke I wanted to jump up and rush over to the hundreds of teachers in the room, screaming, “Are you listening to this man?” “Do you realize how important his message is?” Instead, I wrote him a letter and included one of my newsletters to families that spoke about the importance of reading aloud. That sparked his interest in my chapter reading, and he visited my classroom to watch. I’m included in the latest version of his million-copy bestselling book.

My public library asked me to direct a library reading group for second and third graders. This was another new adventure in reading. I read The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes, among many wonderful books. Again, these were new books to me, and I loved it. This past summer I embraced YA books, thanks to reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I read every Kate DiCamillo book I could lay my hands on. Everyone.

My reading and reading aloud continue to grow. Thank you Read-Aloud West Virginia for getting the message of how important reading is to the public. We are making a difference.

About Jennie:

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that is most important and exciting. That’s what I write about. I am highlighted in the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.

Posted in Editing

Beta Readers: Who Are They And What Do They Do?

When it comes to writing a book, you may often hear the author searching for and requesting beta readers. This happens during or after the editing process and before the book is published.

A beta reader, also known as an alpha reader, is a reader who agrees to read through a written piece of work, usually fiction. This is to help the author make some last minute decisions with the book before publishing. Beta readers are like test readers to give the author a sense of how well their book may be received by the targeted audience.

So, what exactly do they do?

Beta Readers: Who Are They and What Do They Do?

What They Do

Beta readers can do a lot of things that include, but are not limited to:

  • Checking for spelling and grammar
  • Looking more in depth at the plot, continuity and other elements of the story
  • Give their overall general impressions of the story – what they liked and what they didn’t like
  • Help improve the story overall

You may be thinking to yourself, “This is very similar to an editor.” Well, yeah. I can agree with you on that.

Still, an editor is searching for mistakes. A beta reader is reading your novel as your audience would. They will give their honest opinion and feedback to you about the novel similar to a book review, but with added flare (slight editing).

Beta readers help give your story that extra boost before you hit the “publish” button for all the world to see that plot hole on page 151.

Why else do you need a beta reader?

Often when we write, we know what we’re trying to say. It’s all in our heads, but it may not come out on paper that way.

As a writer, you describe something and think that’s enough because you know what you’re talking about. But the readers sometimes won’t. Beta readers will catch that.

The Report

Beta readers will give you a “report” on your novel. It’s like a cross between a book review and a little editing. They’ll speak their honest opinion about what they liked and what they didn’t like. What there was too much of something in the story, what there was too little of in the story. They really break it down.

The best part? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

That means if you give the same manuscript to three different beta readers, chances are you’ll get three different results.

In the end, it’s your novel, so you decide which pieces of advice to us and which not to us. Still, look at it all and really think about it.

And, if all your beta readers agree that something in the book is not working, definitely take a look at that.

Is a beta reader worth it?

Yes. Yes, I think it is. It’s another pair of eyes looking at your manuscript and it’s your very first reader who maybe become a fan.

Beta readers’ opinions are so important. Take them with a grain of salt, but don’t ignore them.

Have you had beta readers before? What was your experience? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Posted in Short Story Sunday, Writing

Short Story Sunday 160: Late

Short Story Sunday: "Late" | Flash Fiction           

Gwen stepped out of her car and pushed the lock button on her key. The car beeped at her as she turned her back and walked away. She had her backpack strapped to her back, plus her lunch box and a tote bag hanging from her right arm. Her car keys were in her left hand and her water bottle was in her right hand. She staggered towards the door as she tried to hold onto all the weight. She refused to make two trips inside the school even though her arms were burning.

She entered the school and walked through a couple of long hallways before making it to her classroom. Gwen had the day off from work, but she had so much work to do that she wanted to take advantage of the spare hours. Otherwise, she would have just spent the day in her pajamas playing games on her iPad. Of course, she would much rather be doing that but she knew deep down that if she didn’t put some stuff for her classroom together today, she would be regretting it tomorrow.

She had a couple of things that needed to be hung up on all the wall and she had to take down the current bulletin board and put on the new one. It didn’t seem like a lot, but she knew it was going to be time consuming.

Gwen made it over to her desk in the back of the room and dumped all of her things onto the surface of her desk. She held onto her lunch box and stuck it in the mini fridge behind her desk leaning up against the wall. She had brought plenty of food for herself in case she was at the school late. She hoped she wouldn’t be there long and she would be able to eat her food at home, but the last time she came late to work on her classroom she was starving because she didn’t bring any food and ended up being there a lot longer than she had originally planned.

She stood in the middle of her classroom and looked around. Where to start first? Gwen knew the bulletin board was going to take the longest, so she decided to get that done first and get it out of the way.

Gwen opened a drawer in her desk and took out a staple remover. The board she was taking down was all about community and the next unit was talking about being thankful. It didn’t take Gwen long to take down the community board, but now she needed to put up the thankful information.

She had taken home a lot of construction paper and glue to create a giant turkey out of heart shapes. She made a giant heart for the body and a small heart for the head. Using orange and red construction paper, she created the beak and wattle and drew on its eyes with a sharpie marker. She laughed every time she looked at it. She wasn’t the best artist so it looked ridiculous, but she liked how it turned out anyway.

Using red, orange, and yellow strips of paper, she created the feathers. She had also cut out red, orange, and yellow hearts and stapled them to the end of each feather. The following day in class, Gwen was going to have the kids go up to the board and write something they’re thankful for on the hearts at the ends of the feathers. She pictured it to look cute when it was all said and done, but once she put it together on the board is was lop-sided and looked weird.

Gwen inhaled and exhaled standing back to look at it. Well, whatever. She shrugged and turned away from it. These were young kids. They were going to be amazed at the large turkey hanging in their classroom and love the bright colors. They weren’t going to worry that the feathers weren’t even and the turkey had a sleepy look in his eyes.

Once that was done, Gwen cleaned up the stray staples (she used a lot trying to stick it to the board!) and then moved onto hanging everything else up on the wall.

She had some post cards about working together as a team that she had to laminate and hang up on the wall. The kids didn’t pay too much attention to the team building terms so she thought that if she hung them up on the wall, Gwen could reference to them often when the kids weren’t getting along with each other on a project or just in general.

It took her a little while to laminate the cards as she had a crank instead of a full electric machine, but it did its job especially since she didn’t have too much to laminate.

It took Gwen a while to tape the cards to the wall. Every time she did, she would step back and see that one was crooked or one wasn’t centered with the others. Gwen grunted each and every time she had to get back up on her step stool and fix one of the signs.

When it was finally said and done, she began to clean up and gather her things when her cell phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Where are you?” it was her husband.

“I’m at work. I just finished. I’m leaving in a minute.” Gwen replied.

“Do you have any idea what it is?”

Gwen looked over her shoulder and looked at the clock hanging above the door. It was almost nine o’clock. She bit her lower lip. Oops. She didn’t intend to stay in her room for this long.

“Uh,” Gwen stammered, “like I said, I’m leaving in a couple of minutes.”

Her husband sighed on the other end. “Drive safe.”

“Will do,” Gwen hung up. She put her phone in her pocket and gathered her backpack, tote bag, and lunch box. She shut off all the lights and yawned.

She utilized her day off nicely, but she was going to be tired the next morning when she was going to have to go back to work.

Words: 1,029

I hope you enjoyed this story! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Reading

Madam Tulip by David Ahern

Madam Tulip by David Ahern | Book Review

Title: Madam Tulip
Author: David Ahern
Published: 
April 2016
Genre: Mystery
How I got the book: I received a free digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

Out-of-work actress Derry O’Donnell is talented, professional, just a little psychic… and broke. Spurred on by an ultimatum from her awesomely high-achieving mother, Derry embarks on a part-time career as Madame Tulip, fortune teller to the rich and famous. But at her first fortune-telling gig – a celebrity charity weekend in a luxurious castle – a famous rap artist mysteriously dies.

As Derry is drawn deeper into a seedy world of fashion, millionaires, horses and cocaine, she must race to save her best friend from jail and a supermodel from being murdered. Her efforts threaten to destroy her friends, her ex-lover, her father and herself.

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

If you know me, you know I like mystery. So I didn’t really need to think twice about this one when the author had asked me to review it.

rp-plot

Derry O’Donnell is trying to make her way as an actress with minimal success. Inherited from her ancestors, she’s a little bit psychic so she decides (with a little push from her friend) to become a fortune teller part-time. By doing so, she meets a few new people as clients and ends up getting herself into some trouble.

This is a new take on a murder mystery, for me, as the protagonist uses her psychic powers to help her along the way. It did remind me of the TV show Psych, except Derry, known as Madam Tulip, tends to see things by accident sometimes. Still, she uses that to her advantage to figure things out.

I thought it was an interesting take on a mystery and the psychic powers were put to good use, especially since her visions weren’t always completely clear.

rp-characters

I enjoyed following Madam Tulip around as the protagonist. She had a good head on her shoulders and even though she wasn’t a detective it was a classic who-dun-it story.

I also loved her father as well as her friends Bella and Bruce. Bella wasn’t in it too much as she got herself into a bit of trouble, but Bruce was a great supporting character as he helped Madam Tulip figure things out. Even her father, who is a bit out there, did his best to help out, despite not fully understanding the situation.

Each character was crafted wonderfully and they all were unique from one another with a variety of personality.

rp-writing-style

I found the author’s writing style easy to read and follow. The pacing of the novel was well done and I didn’t find any inconsistencies in tense or anything.

My only minor complaint was that there was something going on with Madam Tulip’s parents. While bits and pieces were explained about that I wasn’t sure what exactly it had to do with the storyline. This is the first book in a series so maybe more will be explained later, but for now, I found as though it wasn’t really needed.

rp-overall

This was a good, enjoyable read. I loved the characters and the overall plot and murder was well thought out and executed. I would recommend this book to anyone slightly interested in it and I’m sure I’ll be reading the second book in the future.

Madam Tulip by David Ahern gets…
4 stars book review 4 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“I can only make the promise. You have to decide if you want to trust me.” –David Ahern, Madam Tulip

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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