My Writing

The Return of Rae!

Posted on July 13, 2011. Filed under: Editing, Musings, My Writing | Tags: , , , , |

Hello all you people in the blogdom!

I am exhausted, intrigued, excited, and thrilled. And I am home! After a year (more or less) abroad in the wide, wide world of China, I have returned to the wonderful US. It’s been a wild ride, but if you’ve kept up with my other, China-centric blog, you already know that.

After all that time away from home, I’m back and ready to revamp this blog of mine! I will probably be working on a few concepts that have been floating around my brain while participating in all kinds of things to keep me afloat. I have to get a job, of course, which could take longer than I really like to think about, but in the meantime I’ll be keeping up my online activity as well as my writing.

Speaking of writing, what was the first thing I did when I arrived home? Oh, that’s right: I gravitated instantly to the box with my CreateSpace proof copy, courtesy of the NaNoWriMo winner’s page. It arrived long before I did back in the States, and when I opened it up, I got my first taste of just what a book that I wrote could look like.

I would actually recommend purchasing a proof copy of a draft if you are an aspiring writer. It means so much more to have a professionally bound copy of your book with your name on the front in your hands, and it’s given me more motivation to edit and revise the book now that I’ve seen just how awesome it has the potential to be.

Fire & Ice Bound - Cover of my Proof Copy

As you can see, I decided to take a picture of my proof copy with my dog, Harley. Seriously, though, the cover was gorgeous. I will go ahead and admit I probably could not use the cover art if I were to self-publish the book because the amazing artist who designed it (another NaNoWriMo participant) mentioned the artwork potentially being licensed in such a way that I would need to pay for it. However, as this book is just for me at this point, I’m thoroughly enjoying the gorgeous cover.

Title Page of Fire & Ice Bound

I took quite a few photos of this to link to the NaNoWriMo forums, but the point is that seeing my name (or my pen name as the case may be) in print is enough to motivate me towards eventually ironing out all the kinks and making this shape up into a real novel.

The end result of this proof copy is a 333-page book on cream paper with few stylistic designs apart from the chapter font. The lines are spaced at 1.5, and the font is 11-point Times New Roman. It’s a little over 90,000 words long, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed rereading it since I haven’t read it since I finished writing it in February 2010 (written originally for NaNoWriMo 2009).

Random Inside Pages of My Novel

It’s stunning to see my novel in print. Like I said, I sincerely urge you to get a proof copy of your novel printed. With CreateSpace, you do nothing until you approve your proof for sale, which means you never have to approve your proof copy. So in essence, you can finish editing, revising, polishing that proof copy until you get it just right, and then you can start sending it in to agents.

A proof from CreateSpace is actually rather cheap when you get right down to it. Basic shipping will get it to most places in the States within a week of ordering, and I think it’s a definite investment in the future of my writing career to see what I’ve written in book format and really get a chance to read it like I would a novel.

The Back Cover of My Novel

I’ll probably update with a little more about how I’m using this proof copy to edit and revise my novel. I think it might be fun to do a few visual presentations on my editing process, especially if it becomes as “colorful” an experience as I imagine it will.

I thoroughly intend on doing a revision of the novel, printing it out on paper, revising again, doing a sweeping edit of grammar, and finally paying for a second proof copy from CreateSpace that will hopefully be the most polished version of the book.

Until then, there are novels to be written (in August), resumes to revamp (next week), blogs to write (soon and very soon), and other things that have to be finished.

I hope this visual blog post has warmed your little writer hearts and reminded you that I am, in fact, not dead. I will be around more soon, and hopefully we’ll see this blog revamped in the interim.

Looking forward to more posts soon –

– Rae

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Novel Planning

Posted on May 5, 2010. Filed under: My Writing, Style, Uncategorized | Tags: |

Today is a good day to talk about novel planning, don’t you think? I think so.

Because I love writing and am addicted to NaNoWriMo’s forums, I’ve been reading a lot of people talking about saving ideas for the next National Novel Writing Month and working on planning them with vigor for months at a time. So I figured I’d take a poll.

Feel free to answer the following questions in a comment:

1. Have you written a novel? (If no, thanks for taking the poll, and get on that novel writing!)

2. When did you begin planning your novel?

3. How did you plan your novel?

4. Just for fun, how long did it take you to finish writing your novel?

And now I’ll tell you how I planned the novel that is begging to be edited for content and grammar.

I started planning Fire and Ice Bound in October 2009. Now I have to admit I got the idea for it about a year before that and had a few illustrations made by Desteni, who was kind enough to give me one that I tucked away for future use. When I began thinking about NaNo2009, I remembered my random fantasy story idea and dug out those illustrations from among the pile of bank statements, university papers, and other odds and ends.

The illustrations are really what reminded me how interested I was in the story. So I waited until October when I was beginning to gear up for NaNo to work on my planning. And then it came, and I had four glorious weeks of planning.

So what did I do? I spent hours thinking about who my characters were, where they lived, how they acted, and what they did. I devised big plots concerning entire countries and small subplots that would last only half a page but have important consequences. And throughout the planning process, I daily added notes to my master outline.

It’s kind of a lame term, but I call it that because it wasn’t so much an outline as the basis for everything I wrote in my story. Within this one 12-page document, I wrote down every name of every character, mentioned or not, that was important to my story. I grouped them according to where they fell (student, teacher, parent, electorate representative, townsperson, etc.) in my story. Then I wrote a number of pages of what I termed plot points: those things that needed to happen in order to move from Point A to Point B in the story.

What else did I put in my master outline? I put the obvious: the progression from beginning to end. Though I didn’t really have much of an ending when I first began planning. I also put some random things in. I wrote facts and figures about the three main countries. I detailed where the countries were located and what the governments were like. I wrote a page on the three different creation theories plugged by different groups as well as the different religions that had risen out of these theories. And none of the religions come into play in the actual story.

By the end of October, I’d started a character profiles document as well. I put in the names of every character, even the ones that weren’t referenced in the book, as well as their vital statistics. I recorded eye color, hair color, height, weight, age, and some other random information. Most of that wasn’t important in the actual book, but it makes all the difference to me in making my characters come alive. The character profile document was at least 5 pages long, so it was still a pretty hefty document.

I think the best thing I learned about planning my novel, though, came as I was writing it. Like most people participating in NaNo, I began writing at midnight on November 1. I wrote like a madwoman throughout the month, but as I referenced my notes I noticed two important things. First: my planning brought the story together in a way I never expected and allowed me to write freely without worrying too much about what would happen next. Second: planning doesn’t end when the writing begins.

Planning is an integral part of writing a novel for me. Knowing the steps to getting to the end of the novel was a huge part of my writing, but when I finally got around to writing the end of the novel, I realized I hadn’t planned for a few of the things that had managed to worm their way into the novel. So a few chapters out, I was planning once again, trying to figure out how best to end the story.

Personally I can definitely see the advantages of planning a story. What about you? Let me know and feel free to answer my questions as well. I’m kind of curious.

Next up should be a book review. Then I’m not sure what will come after that, but hopefully I’ll find something interesting. 😉 Hope you’re all doing well, and I promise I’ll be getting my rhythm back soon!

-Rae-

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History of the Author Part 5

Posted on March 30, 2010. Filed under: About Me, Books, My Writing | Tags: , , |

Here it is, the story you’ve all been waiting for!

History of an Author:

As it’s the last Tuesday in March, I’ll be posting today about how I got into the world of long, original fiction. Obviously you’ve read about my start in poetry, my love of books, my foray into fanfics, and my short stories. Now I have to admit the truth.

All of that was just the path I took to novel-length fiction. It’s true. I’ve always wanted to be a novel writer ever since my first look into a Lori Wick novel. Even as a little kid, I knew I had what it took to be a novelist.

I admit that I’ve taken a rather circuitous route thus far to achieving my goals. A lot of that is due to my grandparents who always made a point of telling me what I could and (more frustratingly) could not do. I’ve always been easily influenced by the opinions of those closest to me, and knowing that my grandparents thought I would not make it in an artistic field has shaped a lot of my choices.

Thus I earned a Bachelors of Science instead of a Bachelors of Arts. I majored in business and am now qualified to run your business as a manager, and I’m sure I’d do a darn good job of it. I know the ins and outs, have taken the financial classes, the logistics courses, and the information technology classes to give me the edge. I’ve made presentation after presentation and learned business communication techniques to make me formidable in the office.

But my heart isn’t in business, and it never will be. Give me pen and paper, and I’m at home. Offer me a computer and word processor and I’ll be happy as a clam.

That’s why I am where I am now: lack of confidence due to family opinion. But I’m getting to the point that I believe in my own writing, and I’m willing to pursue it.

With that in mind, let me tell you a little about how I started writing my first novel.

It was through NaNoWriMo, as you might have already guessed. I had some harsh circumstances hit me in the middle of fall 2008, and I’d dared two friends to do NaNoWriMo with me. I figured they would back out and I wouldn’t have to do it. They didn’t back out, though, so I was stuck on November 2 trying to sign up for the event and figure out a plot.

I needed some catharsis after some personal trauma, so I started writing my story. I changed names to protect the innocent and wrote in the style of a diary entry. The story wasn’t completely autobiographical, but it was definitely heavily influenced by my circumstances and relationships at the time. And as it was supposed to be a novel, I came up with a title for what I was considering “Chick Lit” in the genre category. So what did I call it? Insert Witty Title Here. Yeah, it was a cop-out, but I actually like that title and think it would be great for a book someday.

During NaNo2008, I managed to write about 34,000 words before life happened again and I quit. To be fair, the two friends who were writing with me also quit that year, too. It didn’t bother me either considering it wasn’t a novel I believed in.

By the early fall of 2009, I was in a much better place. Lots of things had finally come together for me, including a graduation date from the school I hated. And I dug out some old notebooks while cleaning that led me to my notes on a fantasy novel I wanted to write. I even had my friend come up with symbols and character sketched for me. Two of my friends had created characters for the book, and I had the basis for a pretty involved story.

I started looking at my notes and realized I wanted to write this story. It wasn’t just for myself, but my own selfish pride was definitely a big part of why I wanted to write it. I already had a number of characters mapped out, and my only problem was figuring out a plot. I’m sure when I first started brainstorming for this story a year or two ago I had a great plot idea. Unfortunately I never wrote it down, so I began brainstorming again and came up with a number of different ideas that were pretty viable with the world I’d created.

I titled my story Fire and Ice Bound, and I made plans to write it during NaNo2009. By the end of October 2009, I had a blog dedicated to the story to keep me motivated, several friends agreeing to participate with me, parents who wanted to see how the story would play out, and the piece de resistance: a 12-page Word document full of outline, plot, character, and miscellaneous notes. I also typed up a separate character profiles page as well as various other related sets of notes. I had the whole story outlined in my mind, and it was enough information to comprise three different and distinct books.

***

The forum banner I made for my novel - I'm obsessed; yes, I am.

Synopsis of Fire and Ice Bound:

Brenn Redoix is a 19-year-old fire-bonded living in Devalt, Ezer Kenegdo. She’s been attending Devalt’s elite preparatory academy since she was 7 and is preparing to graduate with a number of her peers. All that’s left for these exceptional element bonded students is to take their legitimacy exams. Once they’ve received the legitimacy certification, they’ll be eligible for government service.

In Ezer Kenegdo, the government is ruled by a number of ‘old’ families, including the family of Brenn’s best friend Levi Devalt. Brenn and Levi, however, have always entertained the notion that the government is slowly tightening its grip on the rest of the country. Policies concerning inter-element marriages and laws declaring a person can only bond to one element have solidified the two friends’ stance on their government, and while neither particularly wants to work with the shady electorate, they have no choice now.

As the legitimacy exam draws nearer, strange things begin to happen. A negotiator from Ezer Kenegdo is killed by neighboring Pridemos Nald. A state of heightened alert is sounded throughout the city, and the electorate begins discussing changes to the legitimacy exam. When Brenn and her 13 classmates hear from their instructor that the exam had been changed to a more practical version, she and Levi know something’s amiss.

That’s when Levi overhears a conversation between his father and Devalt’s representative: the exam has been changed in order to oust a student they believe is multi-bonded, or bonded to more than one element.

Now in even more dangerous territory than before, Brenn and Levi begin training doubly hard for their mysterious exam. But what is it? A harrowing trek through Centrale Foraois, a no-man’s volcanic wasteland in the center of three bordering countries. The students are divided into two teams on a competition to answer a set of clues, but what they encounter in the forest is more deadly than any of them expected.

***

Because I’m still trying to pin down a good synopsis, that’s what you get. 😛 I figured some of you might be interested in hearing what my novel was about. Ezer Kenegdo is a world of 10 elements. There are a lot of technical terms that I didn’t use in the synopsis because it makes more sense to simply read the story.

This first book is more of a coming-of-age tale. It’s tragic and dark, and my main character, Brenn, learns more than she expected. But it’s also the lead in to the sequel: Water Based. That book will be even darker with mentions of warfare and runaways, dangerous chases and deadly enemies. I’m not sure when I’ll write it at this point, but I want to give Brenn her due in Water Based because there’s a lot I didn’t cover in F&IB.

With that said, now you know where I’ve come from. My stories are all rather odd, and my background is fun. I don’t know how interesting a book like Fire and Ice Bound would be to the mass market, but I like the concept. It’s been fun to write, too, and if I never sell it, I’ll still be glad I wrote it. After all, this was a labor of love for myself, not for anyone else.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? What do you think of the synopsis? Let me know!

-Rae-

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History of the Author Part 4 – I think

Posted on March 23, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, My Writing | Tags: , , , |

It’s been a good day so far. Things are finally winding down a bit, and I am happy to say my mom is definitely on the road to recovery. It’s a good feeling, and my family is happy she doesn’t look nearly as pale or in pain as she did.

That said, I’m going through some weird stuff. I’ve been having three headaches a week on average and been extremely queasy and dizzy lately. Not to mention tired. I’m not sure what to make of it besides the fact I need more sleep. Ah well, that’s life, isn’t it?

Onto more exciting things!

History of an Author:

I figured today I’d talk a little about how I decided writing long fiction was for me. And that begins with a wonderful trip down memory lane. Full steam ahead from high school newspaper work, take a left at the manga, follow the s-curve to the little camouflaged sign reading “Fan Fiction” and hang a right. See it?

Yep, I started writing fan fiction. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I started writing fanfics in high school. For anyone who doesn’t know the term, fan fiction refers to stories written about published, licensed, copyrighted, or other works of fiction, such as plays, movies, TV shows, novels, anime, and manga.

Guess where I started…

That’s right: I started writing fanfics for one of my favorite animes. It’s called Rurouni Kenshin, and I wrote several fanfics for the series before attempting my first big fic. It was probably around 30,000 words long all told, and I had fun writing it.

But I ended up wiping out all the information on my FanFiction.net account and going away for a long time. When I came back, I started writing for a new series. It started out small and simple. I began writing a story for the manga Ouran High School Host Club. That quickly grew into several different stories that went from only a few thousand words to more than 80,000 words.

The one that I like the most? It’s a story I titled “Htelobbihs: Can You Say It?” The story is all about a kidnapping, and it’s not just any kidnapping. By the end of the second chapter, it’s revealed that the kidnappers have managed to nab 7 people total, and our unlikely heroes are forced to follow the clues to find the people one by one, in a particular order.

One slip up, and the last person on the list goes missing forever. Of course, this just happens to be the most important person to our group of heroes. In addition, the kidnapper isn’t exactly the sanest person in the world.

What I like about fanfics is the ability of the author to gain feedback. You can learn a lot about your writing style and how it will be received by posting fanfics. Develop a solid fan base, and they’ll give you tips, catch grammatical errors, and cheer you on as your write more of the stories they fall in love with.

I think “Htelobbihs” had over 100 reviews by the time I posted the last chapter. And it was a joy to see how people reacted when I revealed the clues that led to the conclusion. I also tend to be a bit of a devious author, too; I like to write things that leave you wanting more. Cliffhangers are my friends.

In any event, I developed a lot of story ideas from my fanfic days that never finished. One of my favorite ideas is one I had for a fandom practically everyone will know something about: Harry Potter.

Did you feel cheated at Sirius’s death? I know I did. So I came up with an idea that would meld the Harry Potter world with a bit of fancy and classical writing.

The story, which I began writing but did not finish, followed Harry, Ron, and Hermione through their sixth year. Sirius, of course, is dead, and Harry is grieving as it’s still summer at Number 12 Grimmauld Place. Hermione is reading every book she can get her hands on, including a fascinating classic titled The Picture of Dorian Gray. But this book leads her on a whirlwind adventure that she never expected.

Tucked behind a large book in the bookshelves, Hermione finds the diary of one Lord Henry Wotton, who, she comes to find out, was a wizard. Lord Henry’s diary tells the story of his encounter with a muggle named Dorian Gray and how he chanced to create a spell that went awry, changing Dorian’s portrait to age while allowing Dorian to stay forever young.

The results of Henry’s research? Grief, murder, pain, betrayal, and loss. But not all is hopeless, as Hermione discovers. Lord Henry and his friends were researching potions and spells to return the dead to life, but there are several catches.

Can you guess where the story’s going? I actually did a lot of research on it, and I wrote about 7 chapters before I stopped writing. It was quite fun if I do say so myself.

In any event, my experience writing fanfics was positive enough that I grew confident enough to venture into the murky depths of original fiction. And that is where I’ll continue next week!

Thoughts? Comments? Snide remarks? Let me know!

-Rae-

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FFF – Accepting Cat

Posted on March 19, 2010. Filed under: My Writing, writing | Tags: , , |

Once again I’m attempting to break into the flash fiction world.

Today’s fiction is something I just came up with at the spur of the moment. It’s probably not done very well, but I blame it on not having a moment to myself due to keeping tabs on mom all day. I finally got a moment to myself and sat down to write. So this is what you get.

Enjoy, and feel free to comment or critique.

***

Accepting Cat

“Cat, are you going to prom?” Janna asked, blue eyes twinkling with mischief as she watched her best friend.

The blonde arched a carefully lined eyebrow at her brunette friend. “Of course, I am,” she said in response. “It’s senior year. We can’t miss prom.”

“Well, who are you going with?”

Cat grinned and stuck a tongue out at her friend when Janna opened her mouth. “I know, I know,” she said, hands up in front of her, “Cheshire Cat.” It was the nickname Janna had given her in the eighth grade when they met.

The girls had gone to the same Cleveland, Ohio, middle school after Janna moved to town. Remembering her own difficulties adjusting to a new town, Cat befriended Janna. But it was Janna who made her own mark on Cat, immediately claiming the blue-eyed girl’s grin reminded her of the Cheshire Cat. She’d scowled, but the nickname stuck and was eventually shortened to simply Cat.

“I’m going by myself,” Cat finally responded when Janna prodded her side with a pen.

Her friend’s brown eyes widened in horror. “How can you go to senior prom alone?!”

Cat slapped a hand over Janna’s mouth in chagrin. She had squealed that last bit, and Cat looked around the mostly deserted cafeteria with a blush to see if anyone heard her. No one else was there, so Cat sighed and let go of Janna’s mouth.

The brunette gave her a reproachful look. “You can’t go to your own prom alone. It’s simply unheard of! We’ve got to get you a date fast!”

Cat hedged, “There’s really no one I want to go with…”

Her voice trailed off as she thought of the person she would go with if he’d been around.

“Chase won’t mind if you go with someone else,” Janna said fiercely, voice promising she’d make sure of her conviction. “After all, he’s how many miles away? Ten thousand?” She crossed her eyes and struck a tragic pose, one hand against her heart as she said it.

Cat laughed. “No, he’s only 100 miles away, crazy. And he already told me if I wanted to go with someone else I could.”

“Well, there you go, that’s settled,” Janna remarked, grabbing her bag and carrying it into the theater as the director called for the rest of the cast to come in.

Cat followed more slowly, thinking about her boyfriend, away in Indiana for school. They’d met when she was a freshman and he a junior.

In fact, it was Chase who convinced Cat to confront herself in a number of uncomfortable ways. She tossed her backpack onto one of the old theater chairs. The director rambled on about dress rehearsals, all information Cat already knew. She tuned out.

When she’d arrived at Ben Johnson High, she signed up for a mixed chorus class her first semester. Janna signed up as well, but her course schedule wouldn’t allow her to take the class. The friends reluctantly parted after their third period with Mr. Duff in geometry, and Cat ran her hands through her newly layered blond locks before walking nervously into the choir room.

Mixed chorus was a class for everyone. Literally. Cat found herself seated by a guy she knew had to be older than her and a girl from her first period biology class.

“Hi, what’s your name?” The guy asked her, smiling down at her. He was several inches taller than her 5’6” frame, and she was surprised to see matching blue eyes meeting hers.

“Cat,” she mumbled, eyes moving to her lap.

“I’m Chase,” he said, smirking at her when she chanced a glance up at him. He certainly had confidence. Cat nodded and listened as he talked to the girl on her other side. Sara, at least, was more outgoing.

When class began, Ms. Kling took roll, and Cat waited again, feeling that same sense of deja vu that had filled her as a child. There were at least 80 people in the class.

“Chase Jamison,” Ms. Kling called.

“Here,” said Chase, raising a lazy hand in the air. Cat filed away his name for later use.

A moment later, she heard, “Decatur Jones.”

“Here,” Cat called, also raising her hand.

She ignored the speculative gaze Chase gave her.

After class, he stopped her. “So your name’s Decatur?” She nodded, for some reason shy around this guy. “Cool name.”

Her expression caught his attention. Cat’s eyes rounded in shock as she stared at him, mouth open. “Are you serious?” Her voice trilled out.

“Um, yeah,” he said, sauntering to the door at the tail end of the class. “I like it. It’s different.”

Cat continued staring as he left, surprised speechless.

By the end of the year, she and Chase became good friends, and Cat was feeling more accepted for who she was. She knew Chase liked her and her unique first name. It made her more confident and willing to own up to who she was.

When she turned 16, Chase told her he wanted to date her. He was 18 and incredibly good-looking. His body had filled out from his soccer playing, and Cat thought he was amazing. She accepted, and once again, she found herself marveling that Chase cared about her so much.

Two years later they were still dating. They’d had a few kinks with his choice to go to college in Indiana, but he emailed her and responded to letters she sent. Cat felt more loved than ever before.

Rehearsal ended, and Cat walked out to her car, squinting into the fading sunshine. Her cell phone buzzed in her pocket, and she pulled it out, mouth breaking into a grin when she saw who it was.

She flipped it open. “Hello?”

“Decatur.”

Her stomach erupted into butterflies. Chase was the only one who ever called her by her first name. Every time it brightened her day. He’d helped her accept herself after all.

***

Meh – I’m not too inspired by it, but as you can see, it’s kind of related to the flash piece I posted last Friday. For what it’s worth, I’m tired and sore, so I did work hard to put together something that would go along with my ideas about Decatur. She seems like the kind of girl who would be able to get over her own aversion to the name and find how it makes her special, don’t you think?

Any comments, questions, or snide remarks can be directed below. I’ll be happy to hear your opinions!

-Rae-

P.S. I’m thinking of making a separate page to host my badges on so that people can find official places to grab them. I’m not making them “professional” by any stretch of the word, but I thought a separate page might be easier to find than a post. Besides, I like my posts to have more content…


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Wednesday Edits – On Read-Throughs

Posted on March 17, 2010. Filed under: Editing, My Writing, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , |

It’s time for your favorite and mine: Wednesday edits.

Wednesday Edits is a series of posts for those aspiring authors who wish to share their tips and tricks of the self-editing trade. I invite anyone who wants to pick up the series on their own blogs to snag the button and link back to this page. In addition, please let me know by commenting on this blog if you pick up the button for use, and provide a link to the specific post.

I’ll put a list of rules up later. For now, the gist is simple: on Wednesdays, you will be writing about editing. Post stories, tips, and other editing-themed items, and let the rest of the world read your thoughts on self-editing–anything from novels to school essays.

Moving right along, then – here is my bit to contribute for today.

Editing a novel is slow, tedious work. I’m finding that out now, and it’s one of the more interesting things I’ve discovered. I’m not even halfway through the first read-through and basic edit, and I don’t know when I’ll get there. But I am trying.

So far I’ve learned that my editing technique is pretty simple.

1. Read the chapter.

2. Use Scrivener’s annotation function to annotate red-pen notes to myself about continuity or excessive scenes/paragraphs that need rewriting and fixing in later drafts.

3. Catch grammatical errors, misspellings, and unclear sentences during the read-through. Fix those as I go.

Pretty simple, eh? It sounds easy enough, and it’s been a delight to reread my writing since it’s been such a long time since I wrote those first chapters. I’d forgotten a lot of what I wrote, and rereading is always good for me.

So I have a question for you: do you tend to hate what you wrote when you reread it? Or are you on the opposite end of the spectrum – do you love your writing? I’m curious because most of what I’ve read in the NaNoWriMo forums talks about hating the editing process mainly because the authors dislike their writing.

Personally I’m enjoying every minute of my reread. Even the parts that need editing are a delight because I get to pick and choose what would work better, how to rework the sentences, and what should be rewritten in its place. At the same time, though, I honestly hate to edit my writing this way.

I may be the most biased self-editor ever. I love my writing to death and hate changing any of it, unless of course it’s a misplaced word or grammatical error. But shortening, tightening, losing some of the verbiage? That’s akin to blasphemy.

So to conclude this little ditty, I have one piece of advice.

Editing Tip # 707: If you’re editing something a bit smaller than a novel-sized work, consider using this tip from my old high school English teacher: Instead of reading over your work from beginning to end, start at the end and read up to the beginning. This keeps you from reading what you meant to write instead of what you did write by forcing you to read it differently. It works well in two ways.

First, it allows you to catch grammatical errors from sentence to sentence. Second, it helps you make everything cohesive. If the last sentence and the sentence above it don’t allow for clarity and understanding, you might want to work on rewriting.

I’ve used this technique especially well on college essays. It helps me catch problem areas every time. I haven’t tried it on my novel. If I do, I’ll wait till after I do the rewrites and do a scene at a time. It might drive me batty, but I’ll see if it works.

That’s my tip for the day. You can take it or leave it, but it’s a fun one to do in practice. Have you ever tried reading one of your college essays from end to beginning?

-Rae-

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History of the Author – Part Three

Posted on March 16, 2010. Filed under: About Me, My Writing | Tags: , , , , |

Surgery is not fun business. My mom’s currently ensconced in her darkened bedroom, curled up in bed under covers and a robe, trying to sleep off the rest of the nasty anesthesia medications she received yesterday.

I’ve been trying to help, but it’s hard to know what’s best to do. My dad hovers like crazy, trying to make sure she’s got everything she needs, and my grandparents are making sure to have food cooked and talking to her when she’s downstairs.

Eventually it’ll be just me and mom when the grandparents go home and dad has to go back to work. Maybe then I’ll feel more useful than I do now.

Anyway, today is Tuesday, so it’s time for:

History of the Author

We’ve covered a bit about my creative writing past, but I’ll bet you didn’t know that before I graduated college I had a double major. For those of you who don’t know, I majored in something called “enterprise management.” And while I like to crack jokes that my major qualifies me to captain the Starship Enterprise, it really only qualifies me to do some general management and entrepreneurship.

But before I finished that major, on a lark, I decided it would be fun to double major in journalism as well. Let me back up a step, though.

In my junior year of high school, I joined the newspaper class. I liked writing and didn’t have many opportunities to practice otherwise, so I figured it would be fun to join the newspaper class. The blissful thing about this was that high school newspapers are generally nothing like real, for-profit newspapers. By senior year, I was the only senior in the class and was elected by the older group to be the editor-in-chief.

Jump to sophomore year of college: I remembered how much fun writing was but didn’t want to deal with all the excess general education classes I’d have to take for a regular B.A. degree, so I jumped into some basic journalism classes. It was a whole different world.

I went from writing cutesy stories about new high school principals (i.e. “The Big Red Dog Meets The Big Blue Beaver” – yes, an actual article title for the school paper) to learning about AP Style and carrying the hallowed handbook around. I learned editing tips and the key to writing concise sentences. (I obviously don’t use that rule here!)

What were the results of this year and a half excursion down the journalism major road? Published writing.

Yes, that’s right. I can claim to have been published and not just in some two-bit high school newspaper. Or even in some online college newspaper, though I was published there as well. I scored, through a fair bit of serendipity, an internship with a local community newspaper that lasted a year.

I’ve got piles and piles of newspapers under my desk that I kept on the off chance I’d need them for a portfolio. There are articles about churches and red lights, volunteer fire departments, and giant garage sales, all stacked in the pages of these newspapers. For what it’s worth, the papers are widely read around here and are distributed once a week.

I got very used to working under a deadline, and I really fell quite in love with it. Interviewing is a breeze, and while I worked for the paper, I got the chance to interview a local talk show host who complimented my interview skills. He mentioned I had a knack for turning an interview into a comfortable conversation.

And my work with the newspaper wasn’t without its adventures.

It came with a side job of organizing the high school intern program. During the summer, we had about 15 high school juniors and seniors (and one sophomore, I believe) who joined us and wrote pieces on their excursions learning about the world around them.

Long story short? I was almost required to catch a fainting boy when he passed out in a hospital during a tour. I started to grab him because he looked rather pale and was swaying with these very vague, unfocused eyes. When he fell, I and two orderlies who happened to be walking by, managed to grab him before he could hit the ground.

And let’s also not forget: that was the job where I learned about lecherous old men.

“Excuse me, sir? I was wondering if you could come with me to get that picture of you in front of your painting?”

“Of course. I’ll come with you, but it’ll cost you.”

I studiously ignored that last comment and walked into the library with the man whose hand rode dangerously low on my back. I took a step to the side; he followed. We arrived in front of the painting.

“I told you it would cost you.” A pause for effect. “The cost is seduction.”

Needless to say I didn’t stay at the library much longer.

On the bright side, though, my venture into the journalism world also landed me a freelance writing position for a few months. Nothing big, mind you, but enough to get my writing out in bright, shiny publications.

What about you? Have you had any jobs that bring back savory and not-so-savory memories? What about serendipitous positions? Tell me about it!

-Rae-

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FFF – Accommodating Lindsay

Posted on March 12, 2010. Filed under: My Writing | Tags: , , |

Okay, so I’ve been paying attention when Ganymeder writes about Flash Fiction, and last week I posted my first attempt at flash. This week I thought I’d be good and attempt to actually do the Friday Flash Fiction thing.

I’m not on Twitter yet, so I’m not doing it as part of the Twitter group Ganymeder is a part of, but I’m just experimenting and seeing if I like writing it. And because I’ve gotten a thing for badges, I made one for myself for the flash fiction.

My Friday Flash Fiction (FFF) Badge!

So? What do you think? Anyway, with no further ado, here’s my FFF for today!

***

Accommodating Lindsay

“Before I take roll, I want to tell you how my classroom policies work,” Mrs. Mason said from the front of the room. “You’re all growing up rapidly, and I believe you should be able to handle more adult rules.”

Lindsay frowned. Sixth grade must be all about growing up, she decided, slinking down into her seat as she fiddled with the pencil on her desk. She glanced around the room, taking in the new faces and noticing when some of those faces were glancing her way. They quickly turned away when she caught their eyes, but she knew they were wondering who the new girl was.

“I do not allow mischief in my classroom,” Mrs. Mason continued, leveling a stern gaze on the class before her. “You will be given two warnings before I will send you to the principal’s office. Is that understood?”

The class stared at her, Lindsay included. When her gaze turned to a glare, some of the students rapidly nodded their heads.

“Class,” she began again in a sugary tone, “when I ask you a question, I expect an answer. ‘Yes, Mrs. Mason’ will do nicely or ‘no’ if you don’t understand. Now, let me ask you again. Is that understood?”

A rumble of voices in stilted unison replied, “Yes, Mrs. Mason.”

Lindsay looked at the boy sitting next to her. His bright green eyes were lit with amusement as he pulled a piece of gum out of his mouth. She could see it was from a Bubblicious package with how large it was. He turned slightly her way when Mrs. Mason’s back was turned and gave a crooked grin as he stuck the gum underneath the desk.

Lindsay made a mental note that this boy was not someone she should be playing with if she didn’t want to get in trouble.

“I’m going to take roll now,” Mrs. Mason said from close by. Lindsay looked up in surprise to find the woman with the slightly blue perm standing next to the red-headed boy’s desk. Her large lips had flattened in a very ugly way, and she was staring at him as he squirmed, one hand over the top of the desk where his gum was stuck beneath.

Yes, Lindsay decided, it would be a bad idea to disobey Mrs. Mason. Especially after moving from Georgia. Her blue eyes followed the woman’s movements as she marched back up to the front of the desk.

Picking up a folder, she said, “When I call your name, you will answer ‘Present’ and raise your hand.”

With that she began calling names. Lindsay’s face soured. Soon she’d hear it and have to answer. She really didn’t want to, but she’d have no choice. She wished her brother were here to explain to the teacher.

“William Barstow,” Mrs. Mason called.

The brown-haired boy in the front row raised his hand. “Present,” he began and then added, “but my mom always calls me Will.”

Mrs. Mason paused in her checking of the roll and raised a gray eyebrow at him. Will squirmed. “I do not call students by nicknames,” she said in a grave tone of voice. “If your parents named you William, you should be proud to be called that. I will call you by full first names only. Is that understood?”

A second, quieter chorus of “Yes, Mrs. Mason” echoed in the room. William shifted further down in his seat. Lindsay followed suit with a suppressed groan. How was she going to get out of this now?

Mrs. Mason continued taking roll, and Lindsay held her breath as the names drew closer and closer to the J’s. Back home it would have been a simple thing to explain to a teacher that her mother was crazy and she shouldn’t be called by–

“Decatur Jones,” Mrs. Mason read.

Lindsay cringed and put up a hand. “Present,” she said in a meek voice.

Mrs. Mason nodded, made a notation in her folder, and moved on.

Lindsay, on the other hand, wished she could crawl in a hole. The other students were snickering. She rested her elbows on her desk and put her chin in her cupped hands.

How would they like it, she wondered, if their mothers had named them after the city they were born in? It was really very rude to laugh at someone who couldn’t help how she was named. Lindsay glared at the red-headed boy next to her who was crossing his eyes at her.

At least Charleston had a good name, she thought. Her brother, Charleston Timothy, was named for the South Carolina city he was born in. He didn’t really mind and had never been teased for his name. Most people who met him thought he was named after some actor Lindsay didn’t know, so he just let them say what they wanted. And now that he was in high school, Charleston thought he was cool and wore his unique name as a badge.

Now she sat in the classroom in Ohio with her new classmates and the teacher who would not call her by her middle name, and she pouted. It was all well and good for Charleston to be proud of his name, but she was named Decatur! She slunk even lower in the seat. Who wanted to be called Decatur anyway? It was a stupid name for a city.

“Decatur,” the teacher called, shaking Lindsay from her thoughts, “would you please help me pass out these books?”

As she stood and answered, “Yes, Mrs. Mason,” Lindsay heard the whispers of her classmates. Walking to the front of the room, she knew it was going to be a long year.

***

Silly, I know, but I had this idea and wanted to use it, so I jotted down some notes and created Decatur. I figured she’d be perfect for a flash fiction piece, even if she doesn’t like her first name.

So, feel free to leave comments on my badge or my story. I like critiques as much as the next person. 😉 I’ll be back tomorrow with more for your viewing pleasure.

-Rae-

P.S. The badge and the story are © Rae Reneau 2010. Please do not use either without asking first. Thanks!

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History of an Author: Part Two

Posted on March 9, 2010. Filed under: About Me, My Writing | Tags: , , , , |

Last week, I trailed off by talking about how my writing developed through poetry, and then I shared a couple of poems here for your viewing pleasure. I think this week would be a good time to start talking fiction.

First, let me repeat that I have a very vivid imagination from years spent in childhood by myself, coming up with unusual one-person games, reading as many books as I could get my hands on, and generally being the kid that came up with all the fun games. As a result, I was the favorite cousin of my younger male cousins: Taylor and Matt.

I’ll allow a short diversion to say that their favorite game was something I came up with called “Captain.” It was rather convoluted, and with Taylor’s imagination (he’s now in college studying creative writing as a major – I’m so proud!) added into the mix, the game shifted constantly.

“Captain” was a game we played at my grandparent’s house. I was, of course, the Captain since I was the oldest, and Taylor, being second oldest, chose to play the role of Crockie, a talking crocodile who traveled with the Captain. Matt, as the youngest, was dubbed First Mate, which I think thrilled him because he had two names to go by and sounded official. The outside swing set served as our ship, which in our minds was a magical wooden boat with a forcefield around it, propelled by Crockie and First Mate on the swings, it sailed through water, air, and space to unknown destinations. (Sounds quite fanciful, doesn’t it?)

Our destinations were a number of places, generally made up or pulled out of Taylor’s collection of sci-fi teen novels. We hunted aliens, ran away from bogeymen, attempted to climb mountains, and operated covert missions, all from the humble backyard at the house my father and his siblings grew up in.

As you can imagine, my imagination was the guiding force for these games. So it’s no surprise that when I got into high school I wanted to take the one creative writing class my school offered. Unfortunately it wasn’t offered to freshmen as they typically weren’t considered good enough writers to get in. But I submitted the application and got in the second semester’s class my freshman year.

Ms. Holt was our teacher, and she taught this class that had all four grades taking it. There were different focuses throughout the semester including poetry, fiction, and scriptwriting, and being a high school class, it was very amateurish indeed. That’s probably a good thing, looking back, because of the students in the class, the majority of them were angst-ridden teens with the tendency to write dark, violent, suicidal poems and stories. (I’ll admit to being rather shocked by some of the things I heard in that class!)

Ms. Holt’s class is where I wrote my first short story. It was a very short story now that I think back, but it was such fun to plan. I remember not knowing exactly what to write about, and it was our big assignment for the fiction segment of the class.

I ended up writing something I titled “The Indy 500 Massacre,” which was, as you can probably guess, a mystery. I don’t remember my characters’ names, but I do remember the synopsis of the story and the twist that I threw in after consulting my mom.

The story began with a murder victim and my murderer, who had a peculiar fascination with the Indy 500 race. When this murder victim was found, most of the detectives had no idea what could have been used to kill the man. Thus, I introduced my main character: a detective with an eye for details. He was the one, of course, who proposed that the murderer had stabbed the victim with an icicle. (Yes, a little fanciful, but it’s high school!)

More murders happened, of course, but the most interesting part of these other murders is that they were ruled natural deaths. My poor detective ran himself ragged trying to figure out how the murders connected to a betting pool around the Indy 500. Eventually, and almost too late, he discovered that these so-called natural deaths were truly murders being performed through injections of a substance called physostigmine. This particular drug (according to my mother) has the effect of slowing down the heart rate until the heart eventually stops beating. It leaves the blood stream in 10 minutes, is untraceable unless by some coincidence a blood vessel ruptures, and makes it look as if a heart attack was the cause of death.

My detective discovered, of course, that the identity of the killer could only be one of two possible people. And, then, the killer just happened to show up, having figured out that the detective was too smart to not see the connection. Long story short: a poorly aimed bullet and a very determined detective managed to trap the killer, stopping the murders and saving the day!

I look back at that poorly written piece and see how much I’ve changed in my writing over the years. The style is just being developed, the vocabulary desires much growth and fleshing out, the timing is stilted at best. But it’s my first short story, and I’ll never let anyone else read it, but I’ll keep it to prove I’ve improved.

To be fair, for a high school freshman, a plot like that’s somewhat impressive. We were allowed to send our stories around to different students to get their critiques as part of our grade, and I’ll never forget what one girl wrote on my story.

“Great story! I really liked the whole murder mystery thing. It’s a little disturbing that you know so much about killing people. But I know you wouldn’t!”

Do you have any amusing responses to things you’ve written? I’ve gotten several over the years, and it’s always with great entertainment that I let people read my work and ask for feedback.

-Rae-

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Cooking For One – Flash Fiction

Posted on March 7, 2010. Filed under: Musings, My Writing | Tags: , |

I’ll be honest. I’m still a little confused about what goes into flash fiction pieces.

I’ve looked it up and read different things about it. From what I can gather, flash fiction is generally considered a self-contained story that is less than 1,000 words in length. It can be in any genre, about any subject matter, cover any length of time or space. But it must be a complete story within the limits of word count.

I’m still a little iffy on whether there’s a low end to the word count. Wikipedia says the lower end is around 300 words, which I can understand. So I thought I’d try my hand at some flash fiction within the parameters of a 300-1000 word limit.

So with no further ado, here’s my little flash fiction piece for your viewing pleasure.

Cooking Like You’re Single

I’ve always thought it would be easier to cook better when I was out on my own. At home, my mom was always a little slow on the uptake. Growing up, she had troubles boiling water and frying eggs, let alone making a complete meal for dinner. One time she tried to make pork chops–at least, I think they were pork chops–and managed to almost set fire to the entire kitchen. Dad came charging in with the fire extinguisher blazing, and mom looked like she’d gone swimming in sticky snow.

Now that I’m on my own, though, I’m not so sure I was right.

The refrigerator’s full of things I never ate at home. Even on our worst nights, Mom always had something cooked. But at 27 it’s hard to justify spending money on something delicious to eat when I know it’s only me eating it.

I look in the fridge and see the items I picked out for dinner tonight. I need to begin cooking. It’ll take a bit more time than I’m used to spending on my dinner.

Maybe it’s because I’m single at 27 and have no prospects. I didn’t plan things this way, and if Ben hadn’t left, things would have been my way. I heard recently that he got married to that girl from his accounting firm. Apparently they’re very happy together.

I pull out the purple plate. It’s chilled nicely since I put it in there earlier. Behind it is the vegetables. That’s what I need. The water’s already boiling.

When I left home, I wanted to do well at my job, find a man, get married, and have kids. I did well at my job; I’ve even gotten three promotions in the three years I’ve been here. But the rest of my goals kind of tapered off after Ben, and I fell into the single slump.

It was only supposed to last a few months. Find a new guy, start dating again, and get back on track. That’s what Jessica told me she did, and now she’s engaged. Unfortunately, there was no new guy. And if there was, he got lost along the way, and I started to classify things into categories of “Do After Marriage” and “Do Pre-Marriage.” Somehow cooking got thrown into the “Do After Marriage” category.

A lot of things fell into that category that I never intended. Traveling, going on vacations, cooking well, taking care of myself–all good things that never should have made that list. My vacation time has been piling up since I started working. It rolls over, so I’ve collected almost two weeks of time I can use.

I check the timer. Thirty minutes left on the oven. Walking out the back door, I carry a lighter and quickly light the gas grill.

When did I start thinking that everything had to wait for marriage? I’ve had dreams since I was a kid, and I’ve managed to just shove them aside instead of actually trying to achieve any of them. When did a man become crucial to my plans?

It’s been a long time, but I think I’m ready to live my life now.

An hour later, I’m sitting in front of the TV watching Take the Lead while cutting a steak. The baked potato and steamed asparagus are delicious, and the wine tastes fruity. The movie shifts in scene to one that’s familiar, and the tickets for the Caribbean cruise I booked are sitting on the coffee table next to me. I signed up for ballroom dance lessons on the cruise–I’ve always wanted to take ballroom dance.

Looking at my meal, I realize cooking like you’re single doesn’t have to mean popping a TV dinner in the microwave. Maybe cooking like you’re single means doing for yourself what you’d do for your husband before you meet him. Or maybe it just means eating well because you’re worth it.

Either way, I like this cooking like you’re single.

End.

I have no idea how long that is. If it’s longer than a flash fiction piece is allowed to be, sue me. And it’s probably not a proper flash fiction piece, but I enjoyed writing it.

Anyway, I just wanted to throw that out there. Take it for what it is: a very quick piece written specifically for your viewing pleasure. Oh, and on a side note, I made steak, a baked potato, and steamed asparagus for my very alone dinner tonight. And I watched Take the Lead as well; unfortunately, the whole unemployed status makes it impossible to schedule that cruise, but I’ll do it someday!

-Rae-

(All flash fiction pieces are copyright 2010 to Rae Reneau. Please do not repost without acquiring permission from me to do so.)

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