Holy Crap! I Wrote a Book.

Standard

Let me just take a second to freak out! Holy crap!! I wrote a book! At 74,000 words, I finished my first draft of Spark. I can’t believe I made it this far. It is insane. I can’t even begin to explain the emotions I feel. It’s a whirlwind of excitement and terror. Now it’s real.

I have a million questions bouncing around my brain but, one sticks out more than the others. What if once all my revisions and editing is done… it sucks? That’s a hard hurdle to get over. At this point, I have shown very few people any of my work, and it was only a scene or two. I know every writer goes through these stages but this is my first time and it’s scary.

What am I doing to get over this? Well, I don’t know if it something you can “get over.” However, it’s something that I will use to drive me to make my story the best it can be. I don’t want my work to suck, so I’m going to do everything to the best of my ability to make sure it doesn’t. Then when I feel confident I’ve done everything I possibly can, I’ll get help from my beta readers and then editors. When it’s finally released, I will probably still have that same concern. I don’t think it will ever go away.

However, today I want to talk more about what I learned in this whole process. Here are the top five things that I learned while writing my first draft.

1.) I am an underwriter. That means I will be spending a lot of my revision time expanding on scenes and adding more detail. I’ve read that the first draft is for your eyes only and I think I took that to heart because it is awful. I rushed through to get it down on paper, and now I’ve got a hot mess to deal with but, you have to start somewhere.

2.) I HATE character descriptions. Some of them are “blue eyes and blonde hair.” (Because I’ll come back to that later) Not even a joke. I wish it were a joke. I dread them… but when I sit down and figure it out, I think they come out pretty good. So here’s to hoping I don’t drink myself into an alcoholic when I start fixing those.

3.) I love dialogue. It is so fun for me to write! I get into a flow, and I could go all day. I think it is the strongest part of my writing.

4.) I use contractions way less then I should when I write. It’s a weird thing… It’s not all the time, but I noticed it when I was writing dialogue that I tend to spell them out (cannot/do not and the like) and that’s so far from natural. It’s just a weird thing I picked up on when reading over some of my old scenes.

5.) I come up with the best ideas when I am writing or in my car. While I’m writing, I’m able to be submerged in their world, and I can feel and see my characters. I think that’s why I could never be a complete “plotter.”

In the car, I just talk to myself… or them… (looks to the side to make sure no one is watching.) Either way, it’s where I get the most creative, and it works for me.

I’m so excited to be able to share this with you. I would love to hear what you have learned about yourself through writing.

As always don’t forget to follow my page on the way out to keep up on the progress of my novel and any writing tips I find along the way. If you have a topic, you would like me to cover on a future blog feel free to drop a comment below, message me on the comment page or tweet me @shauna_philp.

How do I Start?

Standard

Whoo! I’m running a little late today!

I wanted to address a question I often see in my writing groups… “I have a story in my head I just don’t know where to start,” or “I don’t know how to put my story on paper. Help!”

There comes the point when you’ve been thinking about your story for so long that you have a million things going on in your head and you can’t possibly keep them straight. When this happens, you need to get your thoughts down on paper. Once you have all the thoughts out that are bouncing off the edges of your brain, then your mind will be clear to do fun things like plot and character build.

I know the easiest way for me to brainstorm is to start writing a scene I already expect to happen. For example, maybe I’ve figured out the climax. I will write up the scene and brainstorm from there, adding bits and pieces until I have a decent guideline to follow. This scene will change by the end of the story and may not even end up in the book, but it’s a perfect place to start because you’re confident in it. I am also able to get in touch with my characters and understand who they want to be.

So where to start?

I guess you have to figure out if you’re a pantser, plotter or somewhere in between.

Definition time

  • Pantser: Someone who writes by the seat of their pants. They just go where ever the story/characters take them.
  •  Plotter: Someone who plans every little detail out before putting one word on paper.

For me, I’m somewhere in between. I get a general outline of where my story needs to go, but I leave it up to my characters to figure out how they are going to get there. This mixed method has worked wonderfully for me so far. I don’t think I could be strictly one or the other. I feel more creative when I’m writing, but I need to have definitive checkpoints.

When I notice I’m having trouble writing a scene, it’s usually because I need more coffee… and also because I haven’t planned it enough. When this happens, I take a moment to plan the scene out in more detail.

For example, in the last scene I wrote, I knew that Gabby and Charley had to get into Victor’s office. However, I also knew they couldn’t just walk in and get what they needed. I had to spend some time brainstorming to figure out a creative way that they could infiltrate the office before I was able to write anything for the scene. I was able to link the scene back to something that happened earlier in the story, so that was an added benefit of planning ahead.

However, my strategy is not the greatest. The beginning of my manuscript is all going to have to be rewritten. Not only because it’s the first draft but because I changed some of the minor plot lines further into the story and I’m a firm believer of not going back to edit. Big things like, Charley decided she wanted a different character to be a love interest than one that I had originally planned for her. I’m also, strengthening another plotline and I am going to have to add a ton of scenes for that. (Holy cow, that’s going to be a lot of work!) Don’t get me wrong I love where my story is now, but I am going to spend a lot more time editing than a plotter.

My plan is to make a cork board outline to get this hot mess organized once my first draft is complete. I’ll keep you updated when I get that going.

The ultimate goal, no matter if you are a pantser or plotter, is to get yourself writing. Figure what works for you and start.

If you found these tips helpful give me a like below, it really helps me out. Please, comment below if you have any additional questions about where to start.

As always don’t forget to follow my page on the way out to keep up on the progress of my novel and any writing tips I find along the way. If you have any other questions feel free to reach out to me on my contact page or tweet me @shauna_philp, I would love to hear from you.

Happy writing.

Shauna.

The Elysian Prophecy Cover Reveal. 

Standard

I am so excited to be helping a fellow aspiring author achieve her dream of becoming a successful self-published author! 
Here’s a little about Vivien:

Vivien Reis grew up all over the world and started out as most writers do–voraciously reading every book she could get her hands on ,and writing as soon as she could wield a pencil.

Nowadays she’s a mechanical engineer by day and a writer by night, doing her best to help other aspiring novelists reach their full potential through her website and YouTube channel.

She started writing her debut novel, The Elysian Prophecy, during a Camp NaNoWriMo event in July 2015. The YA dark fantasy will be available for purchase in Spring 2017. Feel free to join her newsletter to be among the first to hear of any Elysian news!

You can check her out on any of these platforms: Twitter | Goodreads | Website | YouTube | Instagram

It is my pleasure to announce the cover reveal of her debut novel: The Elysian Prophecy 

Isn’t it the prettiest thing ever!? ❤❤❤

Synopsis:

A mysterious island. An ancient evil. A society determined to gain power.

Fifteen-year-old Abigail Cole and seventeen-year-old Benjamin Cole never thought one day could alter their lives forever. After a violent attack leaves their father in the hospital and their mother goes missing, both discover there’s more to their family history than mental illness.

But when Abi is abducted, she learns the attack wasn’t random. Thrust into an exotic and beautiful world part of a multi-millennial feud, Abi must decide who to trust in a society built on secrets. Enlisting the help of a boy connected to her in impossible ways, Abi uncovers a family secret stretching generations–a secret her abductors have also discovered.

With Abi gone, Ben tries his best to search for both his sister and his mother, but his hold on reality is fading. Something dark has latched onto him. Violent hallucinations and paranoia force him to believe he’s next in line for the family curse.

Set in a world of magic and fatal powers, failure can result in unthinkable damage. With the clock ticking, Abi and Ben must decide what’s right in time to save themselves and those they love.


When darkness is coming, who do you trust?


To read an excerpt of The Elysian Prophecy, click here!


Eeeek! I’m so excited to read this. I hope you all enjoy. 


Happy Writing.

Shauna

Get Involved in the Writing Community… Yesterday!

Standard

Hello all!

Today we are going to talk about the importance of getting involved with the writing community. I know, if you are an introvert like me, you are cringing at the thought of actually having to socialize with other humans, but I promise it’s not as bad as it sounds. I’d say I’ll hold your hand as we get started but that would invade a personal space bubble that I’m just not comfortable crossing. So instead, I’ll tell you how to start from my comfy chair behind my computer screen.

“But Shauna…why do I have to get involved?”

Well, you don’t… I guess, but you definitely should. It is a great place to meet other writers who are going through the same steps of the process as you are. Let’s be honest, family and friends don’t always understand why you are writing or even support you. That’s why being involved in the writing community is so important. It’s filled with people who have the same understanding and passion as you do.

Not only that, but it is also filled with people who have been in the industry longer than you and are so graciously willing to help. Can you say information overload?

Last but not least, if you ever want to eventually sell your novel you are going to need people who want to read it. Writers are readers. Now, this should not be your only goal when getting involved but it is an added benefit. It’s never too early to start gaining a following. But that’s for a later Blog.

The easiest way to get involved is social media of course! All of the platforms make it easy to get in contact with other writers, just like you. I’m mostly going to talk about Facebook because that is my preferred platform, but I will also touch on Instagram and Twitter.

download

Facebook has thousands of groups that you can get involved in, from very specific to very broad. Three of the groups I’m in have over 15,000 members. A publisher runs one group, and the other two are run by editors. Not only are they very accomplished but their administrators are filled with published authors and editors. These are people you need to be involved with.

Fiction Writing is run by a publisher. He does an anthology (The one right now is A Haunting of Words) compiled of short stories from the group. How amazing is that? For me, an unpublished author, this is an incredible opportunity to become a published author. I only joined this group three months ago so I won’t be entering into this anthology but he announces the next on April 1st, and you can bet I’m entering something in there.

Writing Fiction is another great group. This group like Fiction Writing is filled with publishers and editors. They are doing a similar project within the group that I did enter in. This is a little different because it is more geared towards unpublished writers. In this project, we had to submit a short story, and we are currently going through the first round of the editing process. The goal is to teach you the steps from rough draft to publication. At the end of the process, I have a chance of being published in the final work. By the end of the year, I could be a traditionally published author! <— Amazing!

I also found my fantastic critic partner in this group. I needed someone to be able to talk to about my work and bounce ideas off of. More importantly, someone that understood the writing process. We get along so well, and he is absolutely brilliant! I’m so thankful for the friendships I have grown from all over the world in these groups.

Other groups do similar things, some do training courses for free or low cost. Some are just great for the support. You can do a simple search to find other groups if these are not exactly what you are looking for.

I also found my fantastic critique partner in one of these groups. I needed someone to be able to talk to about my work and bounce ideas off of. More importantly, someone that understood the writing process. We get along so well, and he is absolutely brilliant! I’m so thankful for the friendships I have grown from all over the world in these groups.

downloadtwitter

Instagram and Twitter.

Hashtags are your #friend! You can search hashtags to read the recent posts of those that have used them. The most useful to me are #amwriting and #writing. If you use no others, at least use these two. Not only when searching but on your own work. This will make you visible to other writers as well. Like their posts or dare I say… comment on their work. Follow each other it’s great to support other writers too.

The writing community can be such a supportive place, especially for an aspiring author. There are so many people at the same exact spot you are that are looking for someone to connect with.

If you found these tips helpful give me a like below, it really helps me out. Please, comment below if you have any additional communities that you are involved with on social media that you have found helpful.

As always don’t forget to follow my page on the way out to keep up on the progress of my novel and any writing tips I find along the way. If you have any other questions feel free to reach out to me on my contact page or tweet me @shauna_philp, I would love to hear from you.

Happy writing.

Shauna.

P.S. I have a special treat for you coming out later today! My friend Vivian Reis is doing her cover reveal today, and I’m helping support her! #writerssupportingwriters

6 Tips to Improve Your Dialogue.

Standard

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Thanks for stopping in. This week I’ll be talking about one of my favorite parts of writing. Dialogue! I know… I’m a freak, right? No, but seriously, it’s my favorite.

Good dialogue can be an excellent way to show your character’s personality, convey information, add humor and many other things. But bad dialogue can be a total disaster and make your reader want to gouge their eyes out and we don’t want that. So, I’m here to help you make your dialogue the best it can be. These are not the only things to consider when creating dialogue but these are the tips I found most useful.

1.)     Act it out.

strange_look

Image Credit

I’m sure I’ve gotten my fair share of strange looks when I’m arguing with myself in my car, but you know what, it works. I like it because I can try out different ways of conveying the same message without having to write and rewrite.

Hearing the words out loud make phrases that aren’t natural stick out. And that is key. You want your dialogue to sound as natural as possible.

2.)     Let it flow.

Once you have acted it out and got the basics of what you want to say figured out, pop the cork and let it flow. Once you start, don’t stop. I found that sometimes it’s easier to just write the dialogue and go back later to add action and tags as needed. During this phase, your goal is to get your script laid out, so don’t stop. You can go back and make it shine like a diamond later.

3.)     Listen to people talk.

So, I realize this sounds a little creepy, but I love eavesdropping. It is the best way to get ideas for dialect and speech patterns. Every person speaks differently and so should your characters. If everyone sounds the same, that’s boring, and it makes it harder to distinguish who’s talking.

Here’s a scene from my current WIP:

After about half an hour Mrs. Silvano emerged from the office with a stack of papers and approached the front desk. “Mr. Lucas said I could leave some of these fliers up here.” She called from halfway across the lobby. “We’re having a blood drive next weekend, and we’d like to get the word out. Hopefully, we’ll see you there?”

“I’ll be there.” Blue ink noted the drive on my calendar already. I have blood type “AB-” which only shows up in about one percent of people. That fact alone makes me feel obligated to try to make it to as many as possible. “If you need more volunteers, I’ve helped with registration many times.”

“Actually, I am a little short. What was your name again darling?” She set the fliers on the counter and began rustling for something in her oversized Chanel bag.

“Charley Beckett.”

She pulled out a small wire-bound notebook and a purple pen and scribbled something on a page. “Splendid. Plan on being there at nine.”

“Okay.” I smiled, “I’ll hang some fliers up at school for you too.”

“You’re a doll. Thanks so much.”

Do you notice how Mrs. Silvano and Charley speak differently?

Mrs. Silvano tends to use quite a few affectionate names (“Darling,” happens to be her favorite) and words like “Splendid” and “Superb” can be found in her daily speech. Charley would probably never use those words. You don’t have to make them sound drastically different, something as simple as that can give your characters their voice.

On a slightly different note, people don’t usually sound like this:

“Hello, Jane. How are you?”

“I am good Tom. How are you?”

“I’m doing well.”

giphy

Blah! STOP. That is so boring. Unless you are noting some type of inflection in their voice, don’t bother. Try something like this:

“Jane, it’s nice to see you.”

“Oh, hi Tom.” Jane peered down at her drink and swirled her straw making the ice clink against the glass.

“I’m sorry to hear about Steve. Are you alright?”

Now, I don’t know what happened to Steve, but this skips all of the pleasantry boring stuff and gets right to the point in the same three lines of dialogue.

So, Next time you are out grocery shopping, out to dinner or on a date at your local vampire bar 😉 take a listen to someone around you. You might find some inspiration.

4.)     Avoid the Infodump/large blocks of text.

This is where you back your information truck up and dump it all over the page. I hate to tell you, but those usually get skipped. They are boring so don’t use your poor character as a way to convey a ton of information all at once. Limit the amount of information to what is necessary at the time.

If I only need to know that your fairies magic is tied to a lightwell and I don’t need the whole history and interworkings of the magic right at this moment, then sprinkle that fairy dust throughout.

This section also includes letting a character speak for too long. Unless, they are Mr. Speech who never lets anyone else talk, then break that up. You can do so in a few ways:

  •       Break it up with action.
  •       Change the speaker. If Joe is telling part of the story, let Alice chime in to tell another piece.
  •       Have someone interrupt or ask a question.

It’s not too difficult, just break up large chunks of text but it makes it so much easier for your reader.

5.)     Limit the use of dialogue tags.

Using dialogue tags can be very helpful when trying to address who is speaking quickly, but they can also pull your reader from the story. I personally prefer to use an action if possible, or nothing at all if it is a back in forth between two characters.

For example, I am currently reading a book, and the author uses “said” after every single line of dialogue. This is not necessarily bad, I mean she is a best-selling author, but man is it distracting. I prefer to limit my use of tags but if you absolutely must add a tag stick to “said, asked or replied.” If you’re going to use dialogue tags, keep it simple. I know your second grade English teacher is cringing.

Example:

“You look stunning! I can’t believe you’re my date,” effused Alex.

For one, it’s kind of redundant because you should be able to tell from the dialogue that Alex is excited. And two, how many of you had to look up the word “effused”? You don’t want your reader to have to get out a dictionary consistently. Keep it simple or don’t use them at all.

Try this:

Alex bounced off the recliner he’d been waiting in as Mary entered the room wearing a sequenced blue dress. His eyes traveled from her bouncy brown curls to her silver stilettos, “Wow Mary… You look stunning.” He released the breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding. “I can’t believe you’re my date!”

Doesn’t that give you more of a picture of what’s happening?

6.)     Don’t say things your characters should already know.

In Spark, Charley finds her parents murdered when she was eight. She is diagnosed with a delusional disorder which her sister already knows about when the story takes place fifteen years later. So, it would be weird if she sat there explaining her disorder to Alma.

Obviously, this is an extreme example, but I think it conveys the point. In most cases, you can explain these types of situations through narration, and it’s best to keep them out of the dialogue unless explaining to a new person.

I hope you found these tips helpful. If you have any other questions about dialogue feel free to leave a comment below or if you like you can add a tip you found helpful, I would love to hear it.

As always don’t forget to follow my page on the way out to keep up on the progress of my novel and any writing tips I find along the way. If you have any other questions feel free to reach out to me on my contact page or tweet me @shauna_philp, I would love to hear from you.

Happy writing.

                                                                                           Shauna