Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What Makes You Not Finish a Book?

I’m a writer, so I totally get the months and even years of absolute WORK that goes into making a novel. All the plotting, revising, shaping, and polishing. Not to mention the arduous process of becoming published. Therefore, I try to give books a chance…to read through the sometimes slower parts, to forgive inconsistencies and shrug off odd plot tangents.

I read for pleasure as well as for research in my genre. Yet my time is finite. As benevolent and lenient as I try to be, there are still some books that I find myself giving up on. I relegate them to the “DNF” (did not finish) realms. Why do people give up on books?

1. Slow-paced, uninteresting. This is certainly in the eye of the beholder, as what is fascinating to one person may be highly entertaining to another. But some novels are more inherently gripping than others, with more tension, conflict, and quicker pacing.
2. Violence. I recently read half of an adult novel before giving up on it for its constant and graphic violence. It’s just not my thing. I’m (old and) impressionable, and images stick with me forever. I don’t really want to get desensitized, either.
3. Sex or extreme sensuality. Not my thing, either. I prefer fade to black, where the action and details occur off-scene. That’s partly why I read mostly YA rather than adult novels.
4. Character actions/motivations. If the main character is constantly doing stupid things, it gets old fast. Sure, he or she can make mistakes, but I want the character to learn from those mistakes and not do them over and over. I also don’t want the whole plot to be able to be cleared up by one conversation or act, but the MC won’t do it for flimsy reasons.
5. Love triangles. Some people hate these to the point of loathing. I don’t mind so much if the characters aren’t shallow, and if they are attracted to each other more than by appearance (the “oh-he’s-so-HOT” syndrome).
6. Cliché plots, no surprises. I don’t want to feel I’ve read something before. Like it’s the same plot as another book or movie, except with interchangeable characters. And who doesn’t like a good twist, where you think, “Whoa! I never saw that coming.”
7. Too much description. Some people adore description, particularly lovers of high fantasy. For me, I want a quick snapshot, a pertinent paragraph at most of something to set a scene or mood. My mind wanders otherwise, or else I start skimming.

Have you ever NOT finished a book? 
Which of these things above made you not finish a book? Were there other reasons?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What Are Style Sheets?

BEE organized--use a style sheet!
I like to be organized, but to be honest, I don’t always have a full-blown style sheet for my novels. However, with my latest sci-fi I’m writing, I found it helpful to make one for consistency’s sake.

A style sheet is basically a glossary of terms used for a piece of writing, usually a novel. Open up a document, type in the words (in categories if you like), and save them. It’s that simple. Or use an Excel spreadsheet to have columns to keep track of things pertinent to each character or geographic location.

1. It often makes a copyeditor’s job easier; he or she will love you if you have everything organized into one document.
2. It helps you keep track of your worldbuilding—especially if you write speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, etc). Majorly helpful if your world is complex or extensive.
3. It helps you be CONSISTENT. After you nail down the spelling and words/expressions you want, you can do a search in the manuscript to check for consistency. Did you hyphenate a certain word—or use it as a compound word?
4. To make sure all your characters don’t sound alike, so they speak uniquely. Some characters may not use contractions. Others may say “gonna” instead of “going to.”

1. Coined words unique to your setting
2. Slang particular to the book, setting, or each character
3. Unique spellings appearing in the manuscript, or ones not familiar to the reader.
4. Expressions one character says repeatedly that no other character says
5. Nicknames for certain characters and who uses those nicknames
6. Names or titles of geographic locations
7. Distinct vocabulary for each character, depending on their education or background
8. Historical backgrounds and settings if you’re writing historical fiction
9. Magical incantations, spells, and rules
10. Your manuscript's particular symbolism and what each instance means. 

Do you use style sheets, and if so, do you find them helpful?
Do you think a style sheet would be good to use even for non-speculative fiction?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Words Characters Choose

What words do your characters use to express themselves? Their choices say something about their personalities, age, culture, education, outlook on life, etc. Every character should say things that reflect his or her individuality. Your characters should not all sound the same.

CASUAL TALK or NOT: Do they say Yeah, Yes, or Yep? Gonna or Going to? Don’tcha or Don’t you?

EDUCATION and PROPER GRAMMAR: Do they never split their infinitives? (to really sound educated vs. to sound really educated). Do they say "I’ve got to get some breakfast" rather than "I have to get some breakfast"?

EMOTIONS: When they’re impressed, do they say "Awesome!" or "Fan-freaking-tastic!" or do they use a made up word from their culture, genre, and times—like Firefly’s “SHINY!”

SWEARING: Do they curse like a sailor and throw out F-bombs, or do they erupt with a mild "Oh, for Pete’s sake!" when they’re peeved? In my near-future sci-fi novel, The Body Institute, Morgan’s exclamation of irritation is: “What the haze?” Some characters might not even wait until an annoying moment to pepper their speech; like people in real life, their swearing is a part of their everyday sentences.

EXPRESSIONS, etc: Do they throw out silly words like Zoinks and Yikes and Yoo-hoo? Do they make up words like yummers, nerdify, germ-ful—or brillig and slithy toves (thanks, Lewis Carroll)?

VOCABULARY:  When speaking, do these people choose complex words or simpler ones? Such as compulsory vs. required, insubordinate vs. naughty, docile vs. quiet, hullabaloo vs. commotion—or even simpler, fuss?

CULTURE or ETHNIC INFLUENCES: What your characters have grown up with, such as You guys or Ya’ll. Or Crikey. Whether the third meal of the day is labeled Supper or Dinner. Whether you’re referring to a British Biscuit as opposed to a U.S. Cookie.  

AGE and SLANG: Words come and go, so be careful if you’re older and writing for tweens or tweens. Especially when it comes to slang. "What a drag" and "bummer" and "lame" are apparently not used much anymore, but if you have an older character—perfect! Use those phrases for them. Expressions like "Are you pulling my leg?" and "That’s SICK!" may fast become obsolete and change meaning by the time your book is published. 


I’ve heard it said—and I’m not sure how successful I am about this in my own writing—but you should be able to read a scene in your writing without using the dialogue tags (those things that indicate who’s saying each line, e.g. he said), and be able to tell who each character is. They should sound THAT different.

How do YOUR characters express themselves? Casually, oh-so-proper grammar, or what?
What do you use for slang in teen novels—do you try to stay updated, or do you steer clear?
Have you ever tried reading your scenes with dialogue ONLY, to see if your characters have distinct voices or ways of talking?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mac Wheeler: 28 Novels & Going Strong

I'm happy to feature my blogger friend, Mac Wheeler, today. He's celebrating the release of his 28th novel--that's right, TWENTY-EIGHT novels! Now there's a staggering achievement. His newest is 6 WAYS TO WHERE, Book 3 in his latest series. I've read Book 1 and it was awesome!

Book 3 of the 6 Ways Series

At eighteen it’s tough to decide a life path when the threat of pandemic hangs over the world, your brother is the genius who engineered the plague, and you’re repeatedly drawn into the fight against the terrorists spreading it. Plenty of people would kill an Abernathy on sight so it would be wise for Mar to visit the dojo, otherwise play invisible, but her brother is manipulating her into another adventure.

Purchase: Amazon  Barnes & Noble

If you haven't read Book 1 or 2, and like to start at the beginning...

Alcoholic parents treated Margarite as an unwelcome stranger, then left her at fourteen with her thirty year old autistic brother. At sixteen, things really sour, thanks to her brother. A medical researcher, Reggie engineers the ultimate plague. Fanatics seek to control him. The government pursues them as terrorists. Margarite witnesses ruthlessness, compassion, and competence she couldn't imagine from her brother, but the world needs a miracle. The best she and Reggie can do is wing it.

Nightmares. Panic attacks. Depression. Margarite is hammered by the typical issues of a seventeen year old loner, whose parents sympathized with insane people intending to collapse civilization. The few who care about Mar have more concerns. Her drinking. Fighting. Jumping out of airplanes.
Her brother engineered the plague that’s breaking out across the globe and she holds a little guilt for not stopping it. Or being one of the first to die. Still, conspirators behind what they call The Correction are not done with her.

Purchase: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  

The Author
R. Mac Wheeler writes about characters with a lot of baggage, men who make many men look like wimps, tough chicks that can whip most men...puts them in situations that push them to the worlds that don’t overly stretch the imagination.

A former IT professional,  he now focuses full time on suspense, paranormal, science fiction, and fantasy  that leverages the quirkiness and baggage of real life more often than the far fetched.

Visit his Home Page: WWW.RMACWHEELER.COM

Have you read any of Mac's novels? I've read two!
How many novels have you written total? (it's not a contest of course) I think I've written 16...or maybe 17. I lose track. Only one is published though!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Stuff In Between Dialogue

Sometimes when you’re writing a scene, you need to avoid the “talking heads” syndrome where 2 people are chatting on the pages but doing absolutely nothing to further the plot. They need to have this conversation—but what do you have them do while they’re discussing?

1. Absolutely nothing. Don’t be afraid to have a simple back-and-forth with no action, or even (gasp!) no dialogue tags like “he said” and “she said.” Just be careful not to go on too long or your reader may lose track of who is saying what. It depends on the interchange, but 6-12 non-tagged lines are usually long enough before you have to tag or identify:

A looming presence appears beside my desk, like a specter of doom. “Curtis.”
“Yes, Mrs. Taylor?”
“Your assignment was due last week, and I don’t see it in my homework box.”
“Um…this may sound hard to believe, but my dog ate it.”
“You’re right. I don’t believe that for one microsecond.”
“No, really! I know it’s a freakin’ cliché, but Rambo was locked inside my room while my mom was doing some girlie hair dye thing with my sister—”
“I’m going to need a note from your mother about that, then.”
I slouch in my desk. Oops, definite snag. Used the wrong alibi for that one.

2. Have the character think or do a simple action. Especially useful when writing in first person, this Shows the reader the character’s personality rather than Telling what someone is like. For instance, the last 2 lines of thought in the previous example. Actions also work, such as Curtis slouching in his desk—just be careful not to overdo it and have an action for nearly EVERY single line. That gets old and tedious, fast.

3. Actions that actually propel the scene forward. Integrate the actions into the dialogue so that something is happening to get the characters from point A to point B. Be careful of doing a lot of overused actions such as sighing, glancing, blinking, lip pursing, and hair smoothing. Use these sparingly and make sure they fit the character you are describing.

Also, don’t have EVERYONE have a habit of twirling strands of hair or biting his/her lower lip whilst thinking under pressure. That’s unrealistic. Keep it to one character as his/her specific trait.

How long have you gone on with a dialogue, with no tags in a scene?
Do you find writing dialogue difficult, or fairly easy?
Do you have trouble figuring out what actions your characters should be doing while they are in a conversation, so they don’t sound like “talking heads”?


Tuesday, September 1, 2015


The day has finally arrived, at loooong last! It’s been a 5-year journey, people. My YA sci-fi novel, THE BODY INSTITUTE, is now available for anyone to read. It’s both thrilling and scary to think about.

Thanks to all of you, my loyal blogging friends, for riding along with me on my trip into publication. As a group, you are mentioned in the acknowledgments at the end of my book! I appreciate your encouragement, support, and word-hugs throughout the past years.  

The Body Institute
When 17-year-old Morgan Dey joins up as a Reducer at The Body Institute, her job is to take over another girl’s body, get her in shape, and then return to her own body. It’s innovative weight loss at its finest. Only there are a few catches…it’s not long before Morgan must decide if being a Reducer is worth the cost of her body and soul.
Are we our minds...or our bodies? 

Preorder links:   Amazon  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  Indiebound Powell's Books  

Fun Facts While Writing The Body Institute
1. BUGS. I was writing the rough draft and my grown daughter was visiting. She sat out on the back porch, sunning like a cat, and soon came whipping back in—squawking that some sort of insect had flown into her ear. So, since I happened to be writing a scene where my main character was outside, I incorporated that bug-in-the-ear experience right into my scene. Fun!
2. BEFORE and AFTER photos. I adore them! Even when I was around 9-10 years old, I was fascinated by articles about people who had lost weight, carefully studying the Before and After photos. As I got older, I was also intrigued by before and after photos of women who applied makeup…photos of house renovations and improvements…photos of pictures drawn by people before they read the book Drawing On The Right Side of The Brain (by Betty Edwards) and then after they did the book’s drawing exercises—and so on.

Have you read other YA books that deal with weight and body image?
What do you think of Before and After photos—are you as entranced as I am?
Have you ever incorporated something that happened in real life into your scenes, from either your memories or from something that happened while you were writing?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Release: HOT PINK IN THE CITY by Medeia Sharif

I’m happy to be helping celebrate the book release for my online writer friend, Medeia Sharif. Her new contemporary YA novel, HOT PINK IN THE CITY, releases today, August 19th. CONGRATS, Medeia!!

Asma Bashir wants two things: a summer fling and her favorite '80s songs. During a trip to New York City to stay with relatives, she messes up in her pursuit of both. She loses track of the hunk she met on her airplane ride, and she does the most terrible thing she could possibly do to her strict uncle…ruin his most prized possession, a rare cassette tape.

A wild goose chase around Manhattan and Brooklyn to find a replacement tape yields many adventures—blackmail, theft, a chance to be a TV star, and so much more. Amid all this turmoil, Asma just might be able to find her crush in the busiest, most exciting city in the world.

Available from Prizm Books: LINK
Available on Amazon: LINK
More purchase links on Medeia’s site: LINK

I was born in New York City and I presently call Miami my home. I received my master’s degree in psychology from Florida Atlantic University. After becoming a voracious reader in high school and a relentless writer dabbling in many genres in college, I found my niche writing for young people. Today I'm a MG and YA writer published through various presses. In addition to being a writer, I'm a public school teacher. My memberships include Mensa, ALAN, and SCBWI.


Connect with Medeia – YA and MG Author:

Blog   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads   |   Instagram   |   Amazon

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Have you ever been to New York City, specifically Manhattan or Brooklyn?
Did you know about this YA book before you read this post?
Do you remember using and listening to cassette tapes?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Five-Word Book Reviews

Okay, this is just for kicks and giggles. I’ve seen people who write short-short reviews (or summaries) for movies, so I thought I’d give it a whirl with BOOKS. I mean, really short. As in, five words long…er, short.

Can we summarize the essence of a book in 5 words? Let’s try.

Here are my attempts:
Charlotte’s Web: Pig lives, thanks to spider.
Scorpio Races: Night mares rise from the sea.
Lord of the Flies: Island of boys, primal instincts.
1984: Big Brother is watching you.
What’s Left of Me: Double souls, one doesn’t fade.
13 Reasons Why: Tapes reveal reasons for suicide.
The Body Institute: Losing weight FOR other people.

Can you describe these (or other) popular books in only FIVE WORDS? 
Gone With the Wind
Pride and Prejudice
Hunger Games
Maze Runner
The Book Thief
The Giver
Looking For Alaska
City of Bones
If I Stay
Hush, Hush
Imaginary Girls
Treasure Island
Howl’s Moving Castle
Shatter Me
A Wrinkle in Time
The Lightning Thief
Doll Bones
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Golden Compass
Harriet the Spy
Bridge to Terabitha
The Hobbit
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Go ahead! Give it a whirl in the comments. Do a completely different book if you want.
Have you heard of these books—did you recognize them even without the authors listed?
Can you summarize your OWN books you’ve written in just five words?