Posts Tagged With: deadgirl

The Asshole’s Guide to Editing: #2

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Start at the beginning with the 1st Asshole’s Guide to Editing.

Last time: Solin woke up and left his house, which took 1,000 boring words.

EXCERPT

“Blacksmith!” Solin shouted. (Good thing Solin said this. I hadn’t mentioned this new character’s profession in at least one (1) seconds).

Jayne raised an eyebrow and leaned across his workbench, “Layabout!” (This is just a good opportunity to point at that “raising an eyebrow and leaning across a workbench” is not a dialogue tag. Turn that comma into a period).

Solin frowned.

“Don’t fret,” Jayne said, “Nothing personal. Sure could use a bit of help, though.”

(While we’re on dialogue attribution and formatting, apparently I didn’t know how to do it. This is an actual draft I sent to people, too, which is a real shame. “Don’t fret” is a sentence, so “Jayne said” ends with a period. The rest of his dialogue is a new sentence. The only reason to cram that comma in there is if the dialogue tag is breaking a sentence, as in, “We could go outside,” Mister Roboto said, “if we want to get eaten by giant space frogs.”)

Solin crossed the cold cobbles in a heartbeat. He stumbled in the predawn gloom (weird wording, like he’s tripping in a vat of physical gloom) and nearly cracked his head on Nathan Jayne’s anvil. The burly blacksmith (really?) caught him, righted him, and brushed imaginary dust off his shoulders.

“Thanks.”

Jayne waved it away and walked deeper into his shop. Horse shoes, hoes and rakes, and even a plow blade hung from the walls. Wooden beams crisscrossed just over his head, and Solin wondered how the place hadn’t caught fire yet. In the back, a black forge glowed with the first morning embers the big blacksmith must have stoked. The smell of metal oil and char filled the air.

(This would have been the first, ideal place to hint that Jayne is a blacksmith – Solin, our dull main character, is seeing something physical. Let the reader discover that, give them something to do other than roll their eyes. It’s not a big deal, obviously, but a book can be interactive if you let it be. Readers enjoy deducing things, give them a chance.)

“What do you need? I’ve never made anything before,” Solin said.

“Yeah,” Jayne laughed, “That’s still gonna be true tomorrow. Just help me haul these crates out to the front.”

He indicated two waist-high wooden crates, filled to the top and beyond with what had to be finished products. Tools and the like, work their owners would soon be picking up. (Oh lookie, this backbirth forgot what perspective the book is written in. You can see him/young-me almost going third-person omniscient here. How the hell does Solin know what’s in these crates or what they’re for?) Solin nodded, reached down, and pulled. Something popped in his shoulders, his back, and probably his head. Solin wondered if arms could grow back. The crate, undaunted, remained in place.

“Just warming up?” Jayne asked.

“Nope,” Solin said, “I think that weighs more than my house.”

“First lesson, blondie,” Jayne said, and grabbed a dolly from the wall. He leaned down, tilted the crate, and jammed the hand truck in the gap. The crate came down on top of it, and the wheels creaked. Jayne’s fingers, already dirty, Solin noticed, (unnecessary, obviously Solin is the one doing the noticing, it’s his perspective) wrapped around the handles on the top.

“Tools, right,” Solin said, “I’m getting it, I’m getting it. Put the weight on wheels, not on your spine.”

“Not totally hopeless,” Jayne grunted.

He tilted the dolly and backed out of the narrow passage. Solin pulled another hand truck off the wall and dropped its front metal plate just at the edge of the box. He mimed cracking his knuckles, set his hands on the lip of the crate, and tugged. Leaned back. Shook. Jumped up and down. The crate, bolted to the ground, he was sure, did not move. Didn’t even blink at the assault, actually, a fact Solin found even more frustrating. (This isn’t super-egregious, but it’s an opportunity to be better – don’t tell us Solin is frustrated, like you’re the ring-side announcer. If we’re seeing him trying his hardest to move this crate and its achieving bupkis, we can guess he’s frustrated. Or have him kick the thing. Don’t just vomit the feeling on the reader.)

“Jayne! Jayne I-“

A voice floated back to Solin, cutting him off, “Grab a lever. A pull bar. Right there. On the wall.”

Solin found the described instrument, a long black metal bar with a crook in it. (You can just say crowbar, Solin isn’t an alien). He hefted it, pretended to swing it at the blacksmith’s distant head, and bent down. The tip of the bar fit right under the box, and he shoved his weight down on the bar (delete “on the bar,” redundant and repetitive). A strip of wood at the bottom of the crate broke off and soared through the air.

“Hmm.”

“What?” Jayne shouted back.

“Nothing.”

Solin tried again, kicking the tip of the pry bar even further under the box. He crooked the bar, and with only a little creaking this time, the crate rose an inch off the ground. The problem, he realized, was lack of hands now. He stared at the hand truck, willing it to glide under the gap he’d manufactured. But he discovered it didn’t respond to pretend magical abilities. A foresight by its creator, he decided.

Solin hooked the dolly with his foot and pulled. It moved awkwardly, top-heavily, but he nudged it into place. He dropped the box onto the metal lip of the dolly. So far, not bad.

(Okay, let’s take a step back from the nitty gritty and look at the scene – why is this scene happening at all? Why are we infecting some poor reader’s mind with this? At best it’s flirting with being amusing, and SHOWING that Solin is a fuck-up rather than telling us. It’s a good idea in theory, but this scene is never-ending. There are like four paragraphs dedicated to the mechanics of using a dolly – this is self-indulgent fluff of the highest order. Just have him try to lift the crate, knock it over, done. We don’t need a resplendent ode to dolly-usage.)

Solin stood up and got the hand truck fully in place. Underestimating the power of wheels and leverage, Solin yanked back on the top of the dolly’s handle. Also, he didn’t hold the front of the crate in place. Solin turned a dolly into a catapult. The crate of tools bucked up, made half a rotation on one corner, and crashed to the floor on its side. (I’m so relieved you described the exact rotation and orientation or else I wouldn’t be able to understand how a crate could fall over. You’ve saved us all from confusion, thank you.) A hundred tools Solin didn’t recognize crested in a wave (“crested in a wave” is at least redundant, if not outright moronic, which it might be) and rattle-ring-jangled across the floor with surprising power. (Actually not a criticism, I think “rattle-ring-jangled” is kind of a perfect way to describe that noise. Kudos for doing at least one thing right.)

Nathan Jayne walked back into the shop, his face a brand new shade of red. Solin would have been amazed by the sight, that is, if he wasn’t too busy being horribly mortified. (Literally two sentences spent on describing a red face. Two.)

“I’m so sorry.”

“Nnn,” Jayne said. Or he might have said. It was the closest approximation of the grunt bubbling out of his lips. (Brevity, assface: “Nnn,” Jayne tried to say).

“I didn’t think…,” Solin said, the guilty dolly still gripped in one hand, “…that. Wow. Look at all those tools.” (The punctuation makes me want to die. Just use dashes to represent the choppy interrupt, or better yet, just use a comma and let the reader figure out the pacing).

“Get. Out.”

“Wait, I can help,” Solin said.

He crouched to pick up a hand saw. A rake was trapped under it, and when he pulled, it spun and cracked its wooden handle into Jayne’s shin. (The rake has a wooden handle? That IS odd, I’m glad you took time to describe that). The blacksmith howled and dropped to one knee to cradle his shin. Unfortunately, his knee landed on the claw-side of an old hammer. Jayne buckled and fell backwards, his back smacking hard into the stone floor. (“Fell backwards” onto “his back.” “Fell backwards” onto “his back.” “FELL BACKWARDS” onto “HIS BACK.” I’ll cut you).

He stared up at the ceiling for a long moment, his face surprisingly calm.

Solin watched him in horror, too afraid to talk.

“Solin,” Jayne whispered.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Solin.”

“Yes sir?”

“There is a back door, Solin. Take it, quickly. If you try to pass by me when you leave, I don’t think I could restrain myself.” (I get the joke, I guess, but this line of dialogue is long and not punchy and certainly doesn’t sound like its being spoken by someone who just fell down and hurt themselves pretty badly).

“Sir-“

“Back door!”

Solin spun on his heel and bolted for the aforementioned door. It slammed open (On its own, you passive-language using wanker?), and a hinge twisted and cracked (ON ITS OWN? What magical phantom is creating these effects?) and gave the door a maniacal tilt. (I guess Solin has super-strength now? Don’t worry, this doesn’t get touched on ever again. Also “and gave the door” is implying that the maniacal tilt was created in addition to the hinge twisting and cracking. There’s no easy fix without having it rewritten entirely, hopefully by a human with at least a thin slice of brains.) Solin looked back into the shop, his hand over his mouth. Jayne’s head still pointed skyward, but he had clearly heard the sound.

“I’m so-“

“Out!”

Solin ran down the street.

/EXCERPT

Overall this is an improvement from last week, where Solin’s most exciting moment was dropping a book on the ground and then picking it up again. The passage also gets a few points for effort, because this young author, still in his salad days, at least TRIED to “show not tell” us that Solin is a lovable screwup.

However, it becomes more obvious as the book progresses that the entire town knows how much of a human disaster area he is, so Jayne conveniently forgetting he’s a screw up so the readers can see he’s a screw up is lazy and contrived. Realistically, Solin should have OFFERED to help – thus establishing him as a good kid – and Jayne should have warned him away with horror in his eyes. That establishes the information WAY FASTER without any ham-handed dialogue or contrived long-ass scenes about proper dolly usage.

Anyway, come back next week for the continuing adventures of “Solin’s Barely Notable Morning Walk.” Maybe he’ll go to the bathroom at some point, or even, oh the excitement, think about stuff.

Next: Read “The Asshole’s Guide to Editing #3.”

Last Week’s “Asshole’s Guide to Editing.”

 

 

 

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Categories: The Asshole's Guide to Editing, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Asshole’s Guide to Editing: #1

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For HashtagThrowbackThursday, I thought it might be fun to go through my first, unpublished, piece-of-shit fantasy novel one chunk at a time. I wrote it when I was 19, but that’s really no excuse. I’ve since improved, thank God, with published books like this one and this one. 

At first I just wanted to share my editing-snark with someone who isn’t me, but I realized that this ungodly manuscript might actually be of some use as a teaching tool. Better than sitting in a drawer, I suppose.

Let’s dive right in, folks. The red ink represents my current thoughts and feelings, and the black ink represents a bad novel.

If this is remotely interesting to you, I might make this a weekly feature. Let’s do dis.

EXCERPT

 

Fools and Lyres

Chapter 1

            Solin didn’t like dying. It was a foul way to wake up.

(Jesus, man. Starting your book with your main character waking up from a dream? Painful Cliché #1. Don’t do this. The only good thing about this is that Past-Bobby – Aged 19 – spared the reader from actually being exposed to a tedious dream that had no bearing on the plot.

Also, the writing is just bad. Your first line needs to be clever, memorable, brutal, or poetic. This one tries to be all of them and fails miserably. Also, you couldn’t keep passive language out of the first paragraph? Yuck).

His eyes, fuzzy with sleep, strained to decipher the dark, hulking shapes around him. (Not a terrible line. Maybe start the book here, if you must start it with a dream, which you absolutely should not do). He wasn’t on some distant, broken plain. He wasn’t an old, grizzled knight. (Old and grizzled paint the same feeling, delete one). And he wasn’t impaled, through and through, by black metal.

(Okay, well, kind of spared them from the dream. Don’t give Bobby-19 too much credit, this is like a 5th draft. I’m pretty sure I originally did force the whole dream on the reader. Luckily, even a young, beardless me discarded it as useless.

 Ooo, dream of dying as symbol for change? Painful Cliché #2). 

Solin was in his room. A small room, in a small house, in a small town.

(The hero of the fantasy story is from a small town? Holy shit! Bring me more fascinating originalities, you pile of wet hair. Painful Cliché #3. Also notice the passive language, “Solin was in his room.” There’s a lot more of this coming, coming right for our faces).

He sat up slowly, his back and neck protesting the movement. Keepsakes from a night spent thrashing and twisting. Seventeen isn’t really a popular age for chronic back fatigue, he thought.

(This is just confusing. I start by SHOWING the reader something, a good start: He’s got an achey back and neck. Okay, this is an old character, or one who’s seen a lot of miles . . . wait, he’s 17?

 I try to hang a lampshade on that bare bulb by actually mentioning his age, but it just ends up being two contradictory sentences that don’t illuminate anything. I would just delete that whole thing).

When he adjusted to the dim light in his room, he swung his legs out of bed. An old book, perched on his lap, sailed and cracked into the wall with the movement. He whispered a curse and untangled himself from his sheets to retrieve the thing. Sleep had claimed him like a ravenous predator the night before, and he forgotten the book he’d been reading.

(Problem: I keep describing him waking up. I’ve basically rephrased it like four times already, for some reason).

His fingers closed over the rough fabric of its cover. He plopped back on the bed and turned it in his hands. (Ah Christ, we’re back in the bed again. You paid for the whole seat, Dear Reader, BUT YOU ONLY NEED THE EDGE). The book was dark green with white lettering that said ‘Sir Vayrun Trak and the Birth of a Nation.” As a boy he’d memorized it. (So the main character is super boring, okay, got it). But that was a long time ago. (Not if you’re 17, dipstick). He was told that he was too old for such things. Heroes and tales of magic were childish things. (Same sentence, twice in a row).

He smiled with nostalgic glee as he opened it and rifled through to try to find and mark where he’d left off. (Awful run-on sentence that is terrible and bad. Also, he “smiled with…glee”? As opposed to, what, smiling with rage?). It didn’t take him long; he knew the book backwards and forwards. (You said this already, but kudos on trying to use a semi-colon. I guess that’s something).

After Sir Vayrun was knighted, but before he rode off to bailiff the Kings Council. He vaguely remembered, before he’d drifted off, reading the part where Vayrun saves Princess Alair from the pack of wild marauders.

(God, even the story-in-the-story is cliché and dumb).

“’Turn back,’” Solin quoted, “’Flee or I will release you from this mortal burden.’”

A fist thumped his wall from the other side.

“Sorry mom,” he said.

The wall thumped again, a softer, forget-about-it sound.

(Probably the first time this book woke the hell up. You can see I was trying to create an amusing juxtaposition, contrasting his self-serious and nerdy dramatic reading with the “sorry, mom.” It almost works).

Time to go, Solin decided. She had a lot of work to do with Fair Day tomorrow, (the small town is having a festival? I bet something unexpected and violent won’t happen to kick the story off! Painful Cliché #4) he knew, and she didn’t need him rooting around the house and ruining her last moments of sleep. Solin found his place, shut the book, and slid it back under his bed. It ended its brief journey and nestled against ten more books just like it.

(Eh? Get it? Do you GET IT?! HE READS A LOT DO YOU GET IT?!!!)

Solin threw on his clothes. They were of fine quality, if simple. His mother, a seamstress, made all of his clothes. And most of the rest of the town’s, too, now that he thought about it. It came from being the only professional seamstress within a hundred miles. (You basically communicated “she’s a seamstress” four different times in three sentences. Cut it.)

He remembered the awful week he’d tried to help her around her shop. Needless to say, she hadn’t passed her gift onto her son. Solin had actually sewn his hand into a pair of pants once. It shouldn’t have been possible, according to his mother.

(Almost funny, but it’s like, move the fuck on already. Solin has now spent like ten minutes of precious reader time sitting in bed thinking about his life. If you really want to communicate that Solin is a screw up, do it in dialogue with his mother. Maybe she brings this anecdote up in response to something. Don’t just dump it out of a sack like it’s a rat you caught for supper).

Solin finished his dressing and left the house (Jesus, finally) as quietly as he could, which entailed knocking out both a lamp and a serving tray.

His house was near the middle of town. His mother was well-off, being the only seamstress in Bowen’s Rest, and their house reflected it. (WE GET IT SHE’S A SUCCESSFUL SEAMSTRESS FUCKING SHIT) It had two bedrooms, quality but humble (!!!), and was the only home Solin had ever known. It was his mother’s and father’s before he came into the world, and Solin wondered if his children might someday live here too. Not that Solin wanted children anytime soon. Or a wife. A girl might be nice though.

(This inner monologue is about as enticing as following the comptroller of Fort Wayne, Indiana on twitter).

His eyes wandered the streets as he went. Already a number of the town dwellers were awake; Bowen’s Rest had no shortage of good, strong workers. (Sumbitch, keep up those semi-colons, good on you). Nathan Jayne, the blacksmith, was already stoking his forge as Solin passed by, though his hammer strokes would not ring through the town for another hour.

(Hold on. Hold the fuck on. I have to break this sentence down, because it is the perfect example of terrible writing.

 “Nathan Jayne, the blacksmith, was already stoking his forge as Solin passed by – “

 Okay. If Nathan Jayne is STOKING HIS FORGE, I think we can guess he’s the blacksmith. There’s not a lot of forge-stoking in, say, needlepoint. Cut that piece of ham-handed exposition and move on. Trust the reader a little.

 Nathan was after all a smart man who knew that waking the town so early was possibly very dangerous. (You can see another problem with this book – the voice and tone is all over the damn place. Hell even the perspective is in question.

“Nathan was after all a smart man – “

Did we switch to an omniscient, old-man type narrator? Is this story supposed to be cheeky? A children’s book? What’s happening?

“ – who knew that waking the town so early was possibly very dangerous.”

Okay, ignoring the back-to-back adverbs and passive language – actually, no, fuck that. Let’s not ignore that.

First off, don’t use fucking “very.” Ever. Don’t ever use the word “very” because it’s very, very fucking lazy. You might be thinking of an exception in your head right now, but it’s wrong. Don’t use “very.”

Let’s move to “possibly.” Adverb, so it’s already bad. Why are adverbs bad? Because they’re evidence that you’re not confident, and that you’re hedging your bets.

For instance, the sentence above is saying “Waking the town so early was possibly very dangerous.” Okay, we’re engaged in hyperbole that is trying to be funny. It isn’t, but that’s not really the problem. The problem is that it doesn’t commit. Saying that “waking someone up is a dangerous proposition” is amusing because it’s hyperbole. The person likes sleeping, it doesn’t mean they’ll actually cut your Achilles tendon if you wake them up. Saying “it’s possibly dangerous” to wake someone up is a nothing-sentence. “Possibly dangerous?” You can’t even commit to your own joke? Just say it’s dangerous. Go big. And give us examples, like the Achilles tendon thing above.

The big sin here is the phrase “possibly very.” Whuff, what a stinker. Those two words placed next to each other is a greater crime than the Trail of Tears.

What you’re seeing is unconfident writing at its finest/shittiest.)

Not everyone in town was so productive so early, and like anyone who works hard, enjoyed sleep above most worldly things. Solin waved to Nathan, who raised a burly hand in greeting before sliding his leather apron on.

(There are some subject-verb agreement problems here, but I don’t want to get into grammar stuff too much. This paragraph is bad because it’s more nonsense filler written by someone who didn’t know how to write.

Every thought that popped in my brain went on the page, which is a common mistake for beginners.

Not every thought is gold. Not every book is good. Especially not this one.)

/EXCERPT

Come back next week and we’ll keep trying to slog through this shitheap together! If God is good, it’ll at least be educational.

Next Article: “The Asshole’s Guide to Editing: Part #2”

 

 

Categories: Diary, The Asshole's Guide to Editing, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My first book signing’s on June 27th!

So, I’m having a book signing. My first one, actually. And, as the Aztec Eagle God of Fate, Tetzlilopuatli, would have it, it’s also my 30th birthday!

The only present I want for this auspicious day is to see your relatively good-looking face. Come chat with me, take a look at the book, get some free bookmarks, whatevs.

Deadgirl Signing

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Deadgirl Sale and Anthology Out, or, Sorry About the Spam

Howdy! Happy New Year! I hope your hangover has abated, somewhat, as mine has. I’m not saying I’m tip-top, but there’s no longer a stage show of giant red-ant fire jugglers cartwheeling through my skull. Anyway, I’ve got a lot going on today, publishing wise, so I thought I’d consolidate all my spam in one location. I appreciate your tolerance, greatly.

Deadgirl, by first novel, is on sale for $0.99 at Amazon right here from January 1st to January 3rd. If you check it out, I can write more, work less, and craft more hangover jokes in wacky blog posts. It’s about Lucy Day, a girl who dies on her first date, gets better, and has to deal with one very pissed off Grim Reaper. Plus her own new powers and her confused maybe-boyfriend and worried parents she disappeared on. One-part ghost story, one-part superhero story, and a wee dash of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’d be much obliged if you’d check it out. And right now it’s the same price as a chicken soft taco, but way less calories.

The Curiosity Quills short fiction anthology, entitled “Chronology,” came out today. One of my stories is in there, along with a new piece by fantasy bestseller Piers Anthony, and a few dozen other amazing writers. You can grab that right here to learn about Hog McMasters, ex-astronaut, former samurai, and world-record holder for pec firmness as he takes on mummies, empanadas, and the power of friendship.

Okay, that’s enough spam from me. Thanks for hearing it out. You may continue eating breakfast burritos and lamenting last night.

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A Wild Deadgirl Cover Appears!

Remember when I said my first book would get a new cover with its relaunch at a new publisher? No? Well, it will. Actually, it has.

Check it:

Deadgirl

Deadgirl CoverThe cover was designed by Andy Garcia and I think she did a great job. It’s hard for the author to not be a picky, unpleasable ass, but I was pretty damn excited about this one. If you don’t mind a bit of self-advertising, the book is out November 6th, and it’s about Lucy Day, the girl too stubborn to die. One part urban fantasy, one part young adult coming-of-age, one part teen romance gone horribly, horribly awry.

If you want to add it on Goodreads for when it comes out, you could do that around here.

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Deadgirl Cover Reveal

It’s just three days until the new Deadgirl cover is revealed to the Universe and the Spaces Beyond. That’s September 25th, if you’re reading this from the future or even the past. Whatever your deal is.

Anyway, Deadgirl is my YA love letter to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’m not big on the self-promotion, but I thought I ought to mention it, because it’s my first novel.

If you like quippy chicks who don’t take sass, high school wackiness, and teenagers getting in supernatural undeathy adventures, you might dig it. It comes out beginning of November, but you can judge it by its cover in three short days.

Okay, peace out!

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Lucy Day Tweets

So, Lucy Day has decided it’s time for the world to hear her tweets. God help us all.

Follow the main character of Deadgirl, if you like stream-of-consciousness insights from a witty teen girl who may or may not be undead.

Click here for that stuff I just talked about.

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Deadgirl Deleted Chapter – Puck, Revisited

So, Deadgirl, my first novel, was originally an extremely long book. Which is a funny thing to say, because it’s already a significant novel in it’s current state.

Every book need to be cut, and for my books, that rule applies double. Or triple. My windbaggery is well documented. I do go on. It’s been said.

In the original version of Deadgirl, there was a chapter that outlined Puck’s pre-death life, a mini-biography sitting right smack dab in the middle of a young adult adventure. Ultimately it didn’t fit the tone, and it forced the reader to take a break from the action (just before the climax, no less) to hear the tale of a side character who had no bearing on the action in the third act. 

Though I love Puck, and he remains one of my favorite characters from the book, the chapter had to go. And like all deleted scenes, I really believe it’s best deleted.

Still, the chapter exists, and after a little polish, I’m HAPPY to provide it for readers who wanted to know more about the gangly old man with the crimson scarf.

Check the story out at Wattpad, right here, if that sounds like something you’d be into.

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Interview with the Deadgirl

Interview – LUCY DAY

I had the opportunity to sit down with Lucy Day, the main character of Deadgirl. Deadgirl is a young adult paranormal novel that just recently came out on paperback and e-book, available on Kindle or Nook.

Continue reading

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