Life Is A Whirlwind

Writing Life Header

A lot of exciting things have been happening in my writing life in 2018. For one thing, I actually got a bite from an agent! I have been querying Heritage Lost for about 2 1/2 years, off and on. After taking a break, I’d picked up querying at the beginning of this year, and unlike past querying cycles, I wasn’t getting form letters … I was receiving silence. I’d rather have the form letters than the silent rejections.

Then, while I was on a business trip to California in April, I woke up — one of those situations where the brain is just awake. Unable to slip back to sleep, I did what any person does in the 21st century: I went to browse my cellphone, and I saw the email. My innards instantly cringed upon seeing a response to one of my queries from February as I just expected a form letter rejection. I opened it, and I could not believe my eyes. It was a FULL manuscript request. I won’t lie after reading those words, I was jumping up and down in that hotel room, quiet screaming. I did not go back to sleep afterward, even though it was pretty early in California.

I’m still waiting to hear back from the agent on that manuscript, but it is my understanding that they have a fairly large backlog, so I can patiently wait. But in the meantime, I continue to focus on other projects.

New Short Story On The Way

"Long Way Down" is coming to Amazon Kindle on Friday, July 6. Be on the look out for more information!

“Long Way Down” is coming to Amazon Kindle on Friday, July 6. Be on the lookout for more information!

Back in 2014, I had participated in a micro-fiction contest that Tipsy Lit (which appears to be no more) had held. The contests (weekly or monthly, I can’t recall) limited submissions to 500 words, and each one of these contests had a specific theme, which made it a lot of fun. The theme for this particular week/month was “Choices, Choices,” and my piece — Long Way Down put three unattended children, trapped in a war zone, into a rather precarious situation. The piece stuck with me, and over the years, I have been expanding it to its current state.

Having no word limit, I enjoyed being able to dive more into Yuu’s character: a preteen who has lost her family and has been surviving on her own for so long that she struggles on whether to help a pair of siblings trapped in similar circumstances or not. Continue reading

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Reflecting A Real World

I’d briefly mentioned the importance of offering a diverse cast of women in the post about “agency,” and now, we are going to explore that thought in depth. Diversity is an important component to include in any story — and not just with female characters, of course — because it is good for the reader and it is good for the writer.

For readers, diversity offers a greater possibility that they will develop a personal connection with at least one character — and through that connection, the story becomes more personal. It is also a way to introduce readers to walks of life they might not be familiar with. As for writers, it stretches the creative writing muscles and allows us to step into an infinite supply of new shoes, as it were. I also believe a diverse cast opens the way to a more interesting story that sometimes takes writers down paths we might not have considered for the plot beforehand. It also opens the opportunity to shine the light on women who aren’t always portrayed in fiction — or positively portrayed.

Often times, women in fiction get pigeon-holed into set molds, particularly as damsels, femme fatales, or the unfleshed out “strong” woman (just check out TvTropes.com for the basic feminity tropes).  Women in real-life are a full spectrum with different interests, goals, physiques, strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, and personalities. By showcasing those differences in fiction, a layer of realism is added.

A multitude of different women can also reduce the “wedge” effect discussed in Monday’s blog post. By having women that a FMC can relate to, get along with, or simply work with, it lessens the starkness of the only other woman within the covers of the book being viewed so poorly by the FMC as she has other women in her life that she likes and/or values. Of course, there is no excuse for not fleshing out that antagonistic character or villanizing them without supporting actions within the narrative’s framing.

Diverse female casts allow for the exploration of various relationships and how people from varying walks of life might interact with each other. There is also the opportunity to further explore different choices and how characters have a right to their choices even if others wouldn’t necessarily arrive at the same choice or even agree with them. It can make for interesting drama (not the junior high type of drama) and a chance to really push readers’ (or even the writer’s) own understandings.

For some reason, women characters have picked up a reputation for being hard to write — not everyone is of this opinion, of course. Really all it takes is pausing, looking at all the women in your life, or going to a coffee shop or some other public space, and actually watching and listening. Or as Campbell Soup would say, reflect the “real, real life” happening in front of your eyes on the page.

Women’s History Month Writing Prompt: Galentine’s Day

In the spirit of Leslie Knope, our Patron Saint of Waffles, throw a Galentine's Day celebration. It might not be Feb. 13, but this is the perfect opportunity to explore your fictional women's relationships.

In the spirit of Leslie Knope, our Patron Saint of Waffles, throw a Galentine’s Day celebration. It might not be Feb. 13, but this is the perfect opportunity to explore your fictional women’s relationships.

I’m a huge fan of Parks and Recreation, and while it is March and not Feb. 13, I felt Leslie Knope’s Galentine’s Day would make a great foundation for “Women in Fiction” Week’s writing prompt.

The Prompt

You will be gathering your fictional women (from one book/story or across a collection of your works) for a Galentine’s Day celebration. They will talk with each and interact with each other, for better or for worse depending on their relationships. Conversations should pass the Bechdel Test, or not center around the men in their lives (Brief mentions are OK). Use this prompt as a means to explore character relationships and, of course, have fun! If you choose to share your response to the prompt on your blog, please share a link in the comments below — I’d love to see them.

Agency, Why It Matters

Agency header

No matter if they’re slaying goblins, concocting the medicines of the future, or staying at home with the kids while also exploring their passions, I prefer my FMCs to have agency over their own stories. (Background image MorgueFile.com)

A lot has been made of strong women lately in literature. It’s a trend I like, but sometimes, I think it pigeonholes female characters into one mold — we will get into that during a future post this week where we dive into diverse fictional women.  Rather than using the term strong women in my wish list, all I really want are women who have agency.

Among the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definitions for “agency,” No. 3 fits what I’m looking for: a person or thing through which power is exerted or an end is achieved. The female main character needs to have some exertion of power over her story, whether through strength, wits, dogged determination, etc. Often times this agency is lost to the male characters within the story, and everything the FMC does is based on what the male characters want or are doing. Continue reading

Women Don’t Need To Be Wedges To Each Other’s Happiness

Header photo of a wedge being driven in

This rant is a long time in coming. You’ve probably seen the trope yourself: Two women — sometimes the only two in the entire book — one is our heroine, the other, well, she’s mostly a four- or five-letter word . . . you know the words I’m talking about. The latter usually earns this title for flimsy reasons and because of her proximity to the female lead’s love interest. The narrative itself often offers very little reason for why readers should hate this other female character.

Continue reading

What Writers Can Learn From The KonMari Method

Letting go good characters and clutter words header

When I’m sleep deprived, I spew out random things, and sometimes, just sometimes, they stick. In this case, a friend, while talking about reaching the end of her series, noted how sad she’d be to let go of those characters and their world. My response (knowing she’d also read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up) was to say that she needed to KonMari her characters.  Namely, thank them for the time they’d spent together and the joy they’d sparked inside of her, and then let them go, making room for new stories and characters that will bring her just as much joy. Continue reading

Scene Building: Setting The Pieces Into Motion

Header for scene building series

We are continuing our scene building series, which started at https://wp.me/pbN5v-jE.

We’ve discussed the pieces that are needed to build a good scene, but now we are going to dive into the actual process so we can see them in action. I will be using the very first scene in chapter one from a book I wrote in junior high — let it never be said that I’m not a good sport! At the time, I was hopped up on Tolkien and it really shows; however, it is perfect for this exercise because young Sarah was just beginning to learn the ropes. So let’s break it down. Continue reading