Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Borrowing Bits of Your Novels

When you're writing, sometimes certain ideas cling to you. It's possible that you even recycle these ideas into a different work of writing. It's not (necessarily) that you're being lazy; it's just that sometimes you have a hankering to explore these things in more detail, revisiting them and seeing what else they can do.

Obviously you do this if you're writing a series, but some writers do it with entirely unrelated novels. I've done it. Hey, even if no one notices, at least I'm amusing myself with this form of self-plagiarism.

After all, it's totally acceptable to borrow ideas from yourself. I'm pretty sure you won't squawk about copyright infringement!

1. Taking a minor character and making him/her the star of an entirely new novel
2. Taking a concept or idea, such as a unique creature or setting, and fleshing it out in more detail in another novel
3. Revisiting an ongoing theme, joke, or thread in other novels
4. Including an ongoing minor character, such as always writing in one named Joe or Lila, or always having a character who loves to play tennis or who collects pig figurines.
5. Recycling a favorite metaphor or simile from a novel that has been shelved…or not shelved


Borrowing a concept
SAVVY by Ingrid Law, deals with the main character Mibs reaching her 13th birthday, whereupon she acquires her "savvy"--the special ability that everyone in her family has. The subsequent book, SCUMBLE, is about another character who has to deal with his savvy, which has nothing to do with Mibs and her conflict/story. The savvy is the concept Ingrid Law has transferred to her new novel.

Borrowing a character…or two
In Susan Fletcher's DRAGON'S MILK, Kaeldra must fetch milk from a dragon's den in order to save her ailing sister, Lyf. In Susan's next novel, FLIGHT OF THE DRAGON KYN, the timeframe rewinds into a prequel that explores the back story of Kaeldra's grandmother, Kara. Then, the third novel in this trilogy ends up a sequel to DRAGON'S MILK that carries on Lyf's story; it is called SIGN OF THE DOVE. Great trilogy, by the way, if you haven't read the books.

Borrowing details
In one of my contemporary novels, the boyfriend of my main character liked to play a computer game called Battle Ring Seven. I borrowed that game idea, which became the seed-idea for another novel entitled BATTLE RING SEVEN. I imagined what that game world would include, and used those things to provide details for the second novel. This included winged blue witches and nargoyles, enchantresses and ogres.

I've also invented slang in one novel and carried it over into a second novel, e.g., "shrieking catguts." Laziness? Perhaps. But it seemed to fit both places. In some novels, however, such as my post-apocalyptic WIP, this expression doesn't seem natural. In my WIP cats don't even exist in my main character's home town (I know, pretty sad, huh?).

This is something to keep in mind when borrowing bits and pieces of your own work: the pieces MUST mesh with the time-period, atmosphere, and style of the transferred novel.

How About You?
Have you ever borrowed characters from one novel and developed them in another one?

Can you think of other published novels where an author has recycled ideas, characters, or tidbits of info? (apart from obvious series)

Have you ever used a detail or concept from a past novel to jumpstart an entirely new novel?

HAPPY NEW YEAR--see ya on the first Wednesday in 2011!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WORDS and the English Language

If you're blogfesting, see the previous post.

Check this out. The English language is amazingly complex--this is what we as writers have to work with? You may have seen this before, but humor me…I need an easy post since it's close to Christmas, and since I blogfested pretty much all day on Monday with breaks only for meals, a brief fit of exercising, and two loads of laundry. But I got through all 110 entries, and boy, was it fun!

No Wonder English is So Hard to Learn:

We polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
A farm can produce produce.
The dump was so full it had to refuse refuse.
The soldier decided to desert in the desert.
The present is a good time to present the present.
At the Army base, a bass was painted on the head of a bass drum.
The dove dove into the bushes.
I did not object to the object.
The insurance for the invalid was invalid.
The bandage was wound around the wound.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when the does are present.
They sent a sewer down to stitch the tear in the sewer line.
To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
I shed a tear when I saw the tear in my clothes.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
I spent last evening evening out a pile of dirt.

Whew. All I can say is I'm really glad English is my first language. My condolences to anyone who is learning English.

Sometimes when writing a novel, I have to think of different words to replace these kinds of words with. Such as wind (what blows leaves around) and wind (something meandering or flowing through). If the meaning is obvious and clear, great--but if upon first read my critique partners or I think of the alternate meaning or pronunciation, the word has to be ditched.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how do you rate yourself on grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and word usage?

If you don't score high, do you have critique partners who are better at it, to help you polish your manuscript?

Do any of the above-listed mirror words trip you up, and make you have to re-word your sentences for clarity?

My answer: I think I'm about an 8.5. However, that doesn't stop me from slipping up and leaving flubs for my critters to catch. A common grammar mistake I make is doing something like: "everyone walked down the hall, carrying their books," since everyone is singular and thus the pronoun should be his or her.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Be Jolly by Golly Blogfest!

Be Jolly by Golly Blogfest
No, this blogfest post doesn't have anything to do with writing, but it's a fun way to meet friends in the writerly community. And that's what blogging's all about, right? Relationships, not the number of followers or comments we get. So go out and enjoy! You just might pick up some cool new recipes for the holidays while you're at it.

[Yes, I'm posting tonight since I'm west coast USA and don't want to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to have my blog ready for you earlier time zoners!]

To view the itinerary for your Blogfest journey, visit UNEDITED.


Here are cyberpictures of our tree! Topped with a radiantly glowing angel, decorated with our favorite baubles. Ornaments include cinnamon "cookie" shapes that smell SO good, little wooden dolls, shiny spheres of color, doggies hanging in stockings. Made alive with pinpoint lights in green, gold, and blue.

When I was growing up, our special breakfast was French toast drizzled with a syrup affectionately called "white syrup." This is an uber-sweet, to-heck-with-calories kind of treat. Kids adore it. Disclaimer: this does have raw eggs in it.

--approx. 1/2 to 2/3 cup of granulated white sugar
(regular sugar, not powdered)
--1 large egg

Take one egg, beat it with a beater or mixer until good and frothy. Veeeeerrrrry gradually, add white sugar until it's somewhat thick (able to run off a spoon). It's good to add in some sugar, beat for 30 seconds, then trickle some more in. Once it's the right consistency, keep beating for 2 or more minutes longer, until the sugar melts and is not so gritty (careful--too much sugar can also make it gritty).

It might also be possible to add a touch of red or green food coloring for a more Christmas-like look, but I haven't tried that. Enjoy!

My fave holiday drink is non-alcoholic eggnog. Since I'm sensitive to dairy and eggs, I appreciate that some health foodie stores even carry Silk soynog that HAS NO MILK OR EGGS. Scary, no? Actually, it's quite delish, and lower in fat than the real thing. (Hey. Stop rolling your eyes out there.)

Having said that, here's my recipe for regular, REAL eggnog:
1. Get in car and drive to store
2. Go to milk section of store
3. Nab a carton of eggnog
4. Purchase eggnog and drive home
5. Pour yourself and your loved ones a tall cold glass
6. YUM!


Of course Christmas isn't just about gifts, treats, and decorations. With extreme gratitude, this December holiday is dedicated to God, who showed His love for us by sending his Son to become born of a human mother, and to live and die for us as Jesus Christ. This is the Greatest Gift Ever Given!


And now, click for your holiday listening enjoyment: THE CHRISTMAS CAT SONG.

This used to be part of my Christmas tradition with my daughters, playing an audio tape of these kittens meowing and cat-erwauling a wide variety of Christmas songs. Too funny! I still have the tape, but my husband is not amused. LOL Maybe because he's a dog person rather than a cat person?

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Do you have any wacky or unusual Christmas traditions?
Do you think cats should be allowed to "sing" Christmas songs?
Do you adore or loathe eggnog--and have you ever tried soynog?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Middle Grade Page Critique: Richfield

First, a squeal--I won Bekah's Worst Logline Ever Contest! Click HERE to visit and view. Way nice, since along with the honor, I won a $25 Amazon gift card. Yay!

Today's post features a sample page sent to me for a critique. (Yes, these can be anonymous! Just let me know when you send it. See sidebar for how to submit.) This piece would be categorized as middle grade fiction, based on the subject matter and the age of the main character.

The long dirt road to the main road through the wheat fields seems like an eternity to walk. Although I beat my older sister out the door of our trailer, now she's ahead of me. “Can’t you walk any faster?? Come on, hurry up, were going to miss the bus!”

Finally we reach the main road, and the bus is late. I start to wander, looking at the ground. Sis says, “Don’t go too far, you’ll miss the bus.” “OK, ok! I ain’t going far.” Much to my amazement, I find a frog on the side of the road. Kinda flat, but not too bad of shape. “Hmm, wonder what would happen if I stepped on him?” “DON’T YOU DARE step on that frog, that’s just too gross!” So, being the obedient brother, I step on him. Not enough to squish him, just enough that his tongue came out, un-rolled, and exposed a fly at the end of it. So, I released the pressure off his back and the tongue obliged and rolled back in.

“Sis! You gotta see this!, This is neat!!!” “What’s neat?” she responded. I quickly stepped on his back and the tongue rolled out to show his prize. I let go and the tongue rolled in. “I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT! THAT’S GROSS!! STOP IT!” So, I stepped on him again, but this time, I think the stress got to me and stepped a little too hard. Instead of the tongue rolling out, his guts came out his sides. No more toy.

The bus arrives just as my sister finished vomiting on my frog. Poor guy. We get in and I ride to school.

Tenses changed to present tense + a few other bits:
"Can’t you walk any faster, [MC's name]?? [she says] "Come on, hurry up, were [we're] going to miss the bus!”

Not enough to squish him, just enough that his tongue came [comes] out, un-rolled [unrolls], and exposed [exposes] a fly at the end of it. So, [could omit this So] I released [release] the pressure off his back and the tongue obliged [obliges] and rolled [rolls] back in.

“What’s neat?” she responded. [responds/says]
I quickly stepped [step] on his back and the tongue rolled [rolls] out to show his prize. I let go and the tongue rolled [rolls] in.

So, I stepped [step] on him again, but this time, I think the stress got [gets] to me and stepped [I step] a little too hard. Instead of the tongue rolling out, his guts came [come] out his sides. No more toy.

The bus arrives just as my sister finished [finishes] vomiting on my frog.

COMMENDABLE STUFF: The voice of this is nicely chatty and conversational, and sounds believable for this age group. It seems to flow well. I find the bit with the frog quite real and amusing, and this is good since humor often plays a big part in middle grade fiction. Especially boy readers enjoy "gross" things like stepping on frogs with party-favor-like tongues, and hearing about someone throwing up.

GENDER and DIALOGUE: It might be good to let the reader know that the main character is male sooner, perhaps slipping in his name when his sister first tells him to hurry. It would also help readability to begin a new paragraph/line every time there is a new speaker; readers 8-12 (middle grade) are fond of "white space," and lengthy paragraphs can be daunting. Adding a dialogue tag [she says] would be helpful at the very first line of dialogue, since it's not ultra-clear it's the sister speaking.

TENSE: The story starts out in present tense, and slips into past tense for most of the latter part of the story. Make sure this is kept consistent, as indicated in red, above.

PUNCTUATION and WORDS: Use only one form of end punctuation: one question mark or exclamation mark instead of two or three. The word "were" should be "we're" (as in a contraction of we are), and inserting "in" into the "but not [in] too bad of shape" sentence would help clarify. The word "so" is repeated three times close together; omitting one or two would be good, probably the second one. A simple "said" might be better than "responded" for the sister's line of dialogue.

I'm not sure of the official policy of using CAPS, but I find them a little distracting. I think I've seen it done in published books, however. Be careful not to overdo it, because all caps tend to wear the reader out. It looks like shouting, which can make the reader feel numb after a while. This also goes for an excess of question marks, exclamation marks, dashes, ellipses, and italicized words. Don't overdo any of them.

Thanks for the submission of this lively excerpt!

Can you add or subtract any feedback to this critique?

Do you prefer to write in present or past tense?
When you write in present tense, does past tense often creep in where it shouldn't?

Do you use CAPS IN YOUR STORIES? What do you think about using them?

Do you find yourself overusing question/exclamation marks, dashes, ellipses, or italics?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Be Jolly by Golly Blogfest!

Announcing the Be Jolly by Golly Blogfest!

CLICK HERE to find out more and join the fun. I'm excited. This will be my first ever blogfest, and I plan to meet new friends.

Come take the tour of holiday cheer next Monday, December 20!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

GIVEAWAY WINNER + Your Book: The Movie

Thanks to all who entered my 50 Followers GIVEAWAY, and to all the new people who dropped by afterward. Upon a drawing courtesy of, the winner of a first chapter critique is:

Lynda Young!

Congratulations! Lynda can send her chapter to me at artzicarol [at] gmail [dot] com, and I will be delighted to critique it for her. It looks suspicious that the randomizer picked a cyberbuddy of mine from a blog I regularly haunt, but hey, that's what really happened! More chances to win when I reach 100 followers, everyone.

By the way, Nicole at Where Fantasy and Love Take Flight is offering a Critiques for Christmas giveaway. Your choice of query, synopsis, or one-page critiques if you win. Click to visit and enter; this contest is open until December 17.


Surprises Around the Corner
I usually compose at my keyboard; it's something I've taught myself to do, as it's much easier and faster than writing something in longhand. While I'm in this writing mode, I watch the scene unfold as I go, and I'm exploring it as though I'm walking on a path through a garden (or something like that). I do outline and so I know generally where the path is leading me, but often little surprises pop up. The story and characters take on lives of their own. Such as with my WIP, entitled SAFE ZONE, in which I was writing a dialogue scene, and my secondary characters did this:

Peyton gave Leonard a playful shove on the shoulder. "You read too much."
"You drink too much," Leonard said, shoving her back.

Nah, I thought. I don't want to deal with the subject of drinking. Especially since the novel is post-apocalyptic and I'd have to try to figure out how in the world they'd get alcohol--or how they'd make it. I deleted those lines. Tried to write on. The lines came back. I deleted them again. They persisted. I finally gave up and let it flow, and after a while the whole alcohol issue became an integral part of my plot, fitting in nicely with my MC's dilemma. Nice surprise! I had to let the characters do what they wanted. Sometimes characters are just ornery like that.

Voices and Inner Movies
Along with dealing with ornery characters, many writers are afflicted by a strange malady. They hear voices, and see their characters acting out things in their heads.

This occurs to me sometimes. I hear a simple voice in my head saying a certain line, explaining something, having an argument, or being snarky--and at other time I see the scenes happening in my mental moviemaker. Annoyingly, it's usually as I'm driving down the highway or trying to get to sleep at night. This is true particularly for active, crucial, or highly emotional scenes like at the climax of the story, or the point of a Big Reveal. I try to jot down notes about what I've "seen," and when I write that scene, I describe what went on in the "movie" I've watched. Sort of like taking dictation, or transcribing a real movie.

Movies…for Real
Now, what if your novel became popular enough to be made into a movie, like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief ? I'm sure it would play out somewhat different from our inner movies and the way we've written it on the page, but that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. I know many writers have even cast their hypothetical movies (everyone has to dream, right?) with actors and actresses, such as Angelina Jolie as a sophisticated but sultry businesswoman, or Zac Efron as a troubled, chick-magnet teenager.

Movie rights are part of an author's contract with a publisher, after all. Not usually utilized, but there just in case. These are one of the many things an agent will negotiate for a writer.

Have your characters ever insisted on doing something that surprised you? Did you let them?

When you write, do you see scenes play out as though they are happening in a movie?

Have you ever imagined your novel as a real movie? Have you mentally cast the characters with live movie actors and actresses?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Versatile Blogger Award

Note: Don't forget to celebrate with me on reaching 50 followers, and enter my critique giveaway, HERE, if you haven't already. Deadline is December 7, 2010 at midnight PST.

WOW! Maria over at Reading, Writing, Romance has awarded me a Versatile Blogger Award. Not only that, a few days later, before I could even write up a post, Lindsey at Dangerous With a Pen awarded me the very same award! Thanks so much, both of you. Click to visit their lovely sites.

The writerly community is so fun and supportive. I love it!

As per the (slightly tweaked) rules, I will now list 7 new things about myself and then pass the award on to 7 deserving others.

7 THINGS ABOUT ME: Favorites
1. My favorite ice creams are praline pecan and blackberry cheesecake. My hubby and I tried the latter at a little gift store in Bandon this summer, on the Oregon coast. Marvelous stuff.
2. My favorite colors are blue-green and sea-foam green. They remind me of the huge box of crayons I colored with at my grandma's house when she used to babysit me, my brother, and my sister. Fond childhood memories!
3. My favorite car to drive is a Toyota. Ok, so I haven't driven much else, but I still like 'em. My first car (in 1982) was a 1968 Volkswagon station wagon. No comparison.
4. My favorite magical creatures are dragons and mermaids. When I was little, before I went to sleep, I would make up mermaid stories in my head, starring yours truly as the mermaid. Someday, I'm gonna write a mermaid story; I have the germ-seeds for it already. It's called THE GRASSY SEA. Although they won't exactly be traditional mermaids…stay tuned. I'm busy with my post-apocalyptic WIP right now.
5. My favorite music is rock, bluegrass, opera, Christian, pop, new age, classical (especially Chopin), folk, old country, etc. Get it? I have no favorite and I'm extremely eclectic in my music tastes. Depends on my mood.
6. My favorite perfumes are honeysuckle, lilac, and lily of the valley.
7. My favorite candy is Reese's peanut butter cups.

I've recently discovered these blogs in my cyberwanderings, and pass this award onto:

Jamie at:

Joann at:

Tracy at:

Cynthia at:

Rachel at:

Debbie at:

Nicole at:

Go visit, have fun checking out these blogs, and congrat them on their award!

Your turn. What are YOUR favorite ice creams, colors, cars, magical creatures, types of music, perfumes, or candy?? (I reserve the right to change my mind when I see yours, if they're better!)