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The Other Side of the Pen: December 26th, 2016

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As a writer, as a freelance editor, as a reviewer… Well, sometimes Mia gets mouthy, and the fourth week of the month is when she’s gonna let you know just what she thinks!

In with the New

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This is the last From Mia’s Desk post of 2016, and I’m looking forward to 2017. Wolf’s Bane released today, and Ashes will release in two weeks and be my first story of 2017. You’ll get to meet the cast of Hunter’s Point late January/early February. And since I’ll be moving to other areas in my new series, I will probably have different FMD categories. 🙂 Stay tuned!

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The Other Side of the Pen: November 28th, 2016

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As a writer, as a freelance editor, as a reviewer… Well, sometimes Mia gets mouthy, and the fourth week of the month is when she’s gonna let you know just what she thinks!

Repetition & Redundancy

When I was in high school, my mother (who was my teacher because I was home-educated through middle and high school) told me about writing a paper: your introduction is to tell your reader what you’re going to tell them; the body of the paper tells them; and then the conclusion tells you what you just told them.

This is good advice for paper-writing, but less for novel writing when you do all this in one paragraph.

I’ve edited some things that would easily be sent off to the Redundancy Department of Redundancy. They will tell you the same thing about three four times in one paragraph; sometimes with the same words and sometimes in different ways. They always read to me something like this.

“I’m going to tell you this thing, because it’s really important. This important thing that I’m about to tell you is really important. It’s a thing, and it’s important. Do you remember that I am going to tell you this important thing?”

Readers usually have enough of a memory to recall that you told us Character A’s hair is black, you don’t need to tell us three times in three paragraphs. We know their last name, so you don’t have to use both first and last name every time you refer to them.

Try not to start every paragraph with the same word, especially pronouns.

Yes, sometimes you need to repeat things; you have to remind readers about important information. But watch out how often you do it in short spans of times. Are there any other ways to deliver information? Do you really NEED all of those words and descriptions? Do you use the same word that many times? Try to do a “find” function on a word or phrase, and you might be surprised how often you use it. (“Smirk” is apparently my curse.)

So…there it is. Watch out for repetition, redundancy, and reiteration. 😉

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The Other Side of the Pen: October 31st, 2016

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As a writer, as a freelance editor, as a reviewer… Well, sometimes Mia gets mouthy, and the fourth week of the month is when she’s gonna let you know just what she thinks!

Happy Halloween!

Okay, no rant today, ’cause it’s Halloween! While I revere the less cheerful roots of Samhain, I also really enjoy the secular festivities of Halloween, especially since having a child. We dress up as a family and go out trick-or-treating at the mall’s event. Last year, my husband was Captain America, my son was Hulk, and I was Black Widow. It was a hoot!

So instead of ranting today, I’m going to celebrate with freebie flash fiction from Adelheid! Enjoy this quick Dakota story. 🙂

Also check out In Somnis Veritas, the next Adelheid short story that released today!

Halloween Night

The doorbell rang.

I groaned with my head against the back of the couch. I knew we should have spent Halloween night at my place. The house I shared with my brother and his girlfriend was too far back off the road for trick-or-treaters, but Sam’s apartment–the ground floor of a building where all the doors let out straight outside–was perfect for this street. There had been a steady stream of kids at the door.

“You get it this time,” Sam murmured sleepily against my shoulder, poking me in the side. If she had been anyone else, I might well have bitten that finger off.

“It’s your house,” I returned, none too maturely.

“I don’t care,” she said, poking me in the side again. “I’ve gotten all the others. You get it this time.”

I mumbled something unintelligible–well, unintelligible to her because she didn’t speak much German–and leveraged myself off the couch. I did so without pause and let her fall against the couch since she no longer had me to lean against. She didn’t seem to mind, rolling over onto her back with a yawn while Frankenstein–the movie, circa 1994–played on the television.

At the door, I snatched the bowl of chocolate from the small table sitting there and opened the door.

Two little girls stood on the mat. One proudly declared, “Trick or treat!” while the other gawked at me.

I stared at the silent one, wondering what her deal was. Was she always like that, or had I scared her? I didn’t do anything, so I didn’t think it could be that. I scared people all the time, but I usually had to do something first. Knitting my brows, I looked more closely and tried to figure out what she was meant to be.

Her dark blonde hair was sticking up at weird angles with some kind of hair product. It wasn’t as short as mine, but it wasn’t very long–just short enough that product could make it stick up a bit. She had boots, jeans, a black t-shirt and a leather jacket. Couldn’t be more than eleven, although human children are notoriously hard to age.

Under her jacket, I saw a lime green and orange water pistol in what had to be a homemade holster; a cat claw glove on one hand and whiskers drawn on her face.

“What…” I began, blinking. “What in hell are you supposed to be?”

I’m not a kid person.

“I… I…” she stammered.

Her friend jumped to her rescue, her voice practically a squeal. “She’s you!”

My head snapped around to stare at the second girl like she had just sprouted another head AND turned green. Sam came up behind me and I heard her grin in her voice when she said, “That’s so CUTE!”

I looked back at the kid dressed up as…me.

“I… I…” I stammered just like she had.

The very idea that someone might…want to be me had never occurred to me. Horror and humility and being flattered all warred in my brain while I and little me still stared at one another, despite the girls beside us poking our shoulders.

I dumped a handful of chocolate into each of their little plastic buckets.

“Happy Halloween,” I said with a half-smile, staring at mini-me, “hunter.”

Her young face all but split in a smile, then her friend giggled and they spun around, rushing off to the next house.

“See? You really aren’t so bad,” Sam said with a cheeky grin, shutting the door.

I frowned. (I won’t say I pouted. Sam would say it, however.) “I am so…”

 

 

 

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Other Side of the Pen: September 26th, 2016

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As a writer, as a freelance editor, as a reviewer… Well, sometimes Mia gets mouthy, and the fourth week of the month is when she’s gonna let you know just what she thinks!

I Wear Many Hats

Books and words are, almost literally, my life.

I’m an author who writes and publishes my own books. I edit, format, and create cover art for the books of others. I do “hobby” writing. I have a book review blog where I read books for others, and then I read books for pleasure.

The author and editor are the two most prominent, since the latter is my “day job” and the author still my “night job.” Since I do these things in addition to being a mother, and a wife, and maintaining a household, and dealing with chronic illness, the day job that helps pay the bills comes first. This often means that my own writing suffers.

Further, after spending a day working on other people’s books, it can be too much to want to work on my own.

It’s been difficult trying to find a balance between the two. Like most people, finding a way to pay the rent and live our dreams is a hard one. It’s one that I continue to struggle with, pretty much every day.

This is one of the reasons I created my Patreon account, to try to help afford a little weight to the scales and allow myself to write more. Otherwise, I soldier on.

Do other author-editors find this as much of a struggle as I do, I wonder.

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Other Side of the Pen: August 22nd, 2016

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As a writer, as a freelance editor, as a reviewer… Well, sometimes Mia gets mouthy, and the fourth week of the month is when she’s gonna let you know just what she thinks!

Be Bold

While editing, and even in my own writing, I have seen a trend of “over-qualifying” one’s words. It is often unnecessary and, in fact, makes things needlessly wordy. Unless you’re writing in First Person about a character with that kind of personality, don’t do it. Be brave! Be bold!

Instead of saying: “He looked over at her,” say “He looked at her.”

Instead of saying: “She started to walk,” say “She walked.” (The exception to this is if the walking was interrupted immediately after beginning. If that’s not the case, then just let her do it!)

Instead of saying: “He headed toward the wall,” say “He headed to the wall.” (Unless you really mean he was heading in a vague direction.)

Try to avoid “sort of” or “kind of” in sentences, or at least use sparingly and replace with adverbs (though use those sparingly as well) instead.

Use active verbs instead of modifying words when you can. Instead of “ran quickly,” maybe he sprinted. Instead of “looked fixedly,” she stared.

Don’t “give a smile” just “smile.” So instead of, “He gave her a smile” be “He smiled at her.”

These are not hard and fast rules, but things to keep in mind. If you’re confident and bold in your writing, it was make for much cleaner, smoother, and more engaging reading. Don’t be timid!

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Other Side of the Pen: July 25th, 2016

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As a writer, as a freelance editor, as a reviewer… Well, sometimes Mia gets mouthy, and the fourth week of the month is when she’s gonna let you know just what she thinks!

As Opposed to What?

Here is a snark-tastic way to reduce a few excess/redundant words, and make life easier for your editors. Consider a few key phrases and then ask yourself, “As opposed to what?” While there are always exceptions where keeping all the words works better, it’s true in most cases that the excess can be removed.

You might think, “What’s the harm?” But excess words can be unwieldy to a reader and make them less inclined to want to keep reading. Trim the fat so you can really make the meat of your piece shine.

He nodded his head.
As opposed to what? He nodded his foot? “Nodded” implies head and you usually don’t need to tell the reader that.

She shrugged her shoulders.
As opposed to what? People might shrug out of a coat, but usually don’t shrug other body parts.

He pointed his finger.
Unless you specifically say they pointed with something else, people will assume the finger was what had been pointed with.

She dismounted her horse.
If you’ve already explained that your character is riding a horse, they don’t need to hear it again.

He thought to himself.
Unless there is telepathy in your book, you can presume that thoughts were to themselves and not to anyone else.

She peered her head around.
As opposed to what? What else do you usually peer with? Your toes?

He reached out his hand.
This one can be closer to fifty-fifty, but typically, like with pointing, unless you say otherwise, your reader will assume the hand was reached out with.

She blinked her eyes.

I’m not really sure you blink anything else?

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Other Side of the Pen: May 30th, 2016

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As a writer, as a freelance editor, as a reviewer… Well, sometimes Mia gets mouthy, and the fourth week of the month is when she’s gonna let you know just what she thinks!

Special Snowflake Syndrome

“A malady affecting a significant portion of the world’s population wherein the afflicted will demand special treatment, conduct themselves with a ludicrous, unfounded sense of entitlement, and generally make the lives of everyone around them that much more miserable.

The danger of this disease is that the sufferers rarely, if ever, know that they have contracted it, and continue about their merry way under the assumption that EVERYONE ELSE is the problem.

This condition, if left untreated, can radically alter the carrier’s demeanor, to include any of the following: a complete devolution to child-like behavior, temper tantrums, and/or fits of narcissistic rage.

When confronted with an individual suspected of harboring Special Snowflake Syndrome, one’s best course of action is to run away. Further attempts at educating the carrier on the reality of their condition (e.g., quoting Tyler Durden: “You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.”) will likely prove futile, and potentially hazardous to the informer.”

Source: Urban Dictionary

Dear Writers,

I think you’re wonderful, I really do. I’m one of you, but I also am in professions to help you make your books stronger…but please, please, please stop thinking that you’re sitting on the godsend to literature. Stop thinking you’re the only author out there. Please stop thinking that it’s okay to treat your editor like an idiot and a slave. Please stop thinking that your book is a miracle and couldn’t POSSIBLY need any work.

Because you know what? ALL books need some work. It’s just the nature of things. I’m not saying all authors act like this, but many do. And you can make people like me–editors, formatters, cover artists–not want to do the work anymore. That’s not cool, so please, just treat us with respect, with people who have lives outside of your book.

Please. Don’t be a Special Snowflake.

Sincerely,
Mia

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Other Side of the Pen: April 25th, 2016

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As a writer, as a freelance editor, as a reviewer… Well, sometimes Mia gets mouthy, and the fourth week of the month is when she’s gonna let you know just what she thinks!

Pasquinel Syndrom

I grew up watching the miniseries Centennial, with Richard Chamberlain and Gregory Harrison, Lynn Redgrave and Lois Nettleton–just to name a very, very few. It’s a twelve part series that was made in the late 1970s and based on the epic novel by James Michener. My mother loved it, so she watched it a lot while she was sewing and I was just playing around the house. I didn’t read the book until I was an adult, which was an experience of its own and I spent the whole thing with actors’ voices in my head.

There is a character named Pasquinel. “No Jean-Paul. No Henri. No Monsieur. Just Pasquinel.” He is played in the mini-series by Robert Conrad. This character finds loyalty from everyone he meets, including the women he lies to and the partner he is unkind to. He’s a rather awful little man who lies and leaves people in his wake, and although you can’t help but like him on some levels, I never understood the idolization and loyalty he inspired in people.

Unfortunately, this is not that uncommon a thing in books. I’ve read more than one where a character, often the main character, is really not that likable and yet everyone is willing to bend over backwards until their backs break to please him/her, will jump to their defense even when it’s not really needed or they shouldn’t, and just follow them around like panting dogs. We are told via their actions that the character is worth it, but as a reader, we are never really shown anything to prove it to us.

Typically, our main characters need to be at least somewhat likable and someone we can relate to on some level, so we care about them as we read. If we don’t give a damn what happens to them, what’s the point of reading? Yet when I see these characters and have no reason to like them myself, maybe even reasons to dislike them, but all the characters that I do perhaps like are fawning on them? It’s annoying.

And, it reminds me of Centennial. So, I call it the Pasquinel Syndrome.

No, characters don’t need to be perfect. In fact, it’s just as bad if they are. But they do need redeeming qualities to draw us into them. (Even antiheroes and rogues.) And if you want all the other characters in the book to utterly adore them? Please make sure that the readers get to see the reason or find out why, so we can understand it on some level and not just get annoyed.

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Other Side of the Pen: March 28th, 2016

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As a writer, as a freelance editor, as a reviewer… Well, sometimes Mia gets mouthy, and the fourth week of the month is when she’s gonna let you know just what she thinks!

Don’t Overreach

I’m really not sure what it is, but it’s like when a person sits down to start writing a book, they think they have to elevate everything. Suddenly, exposition and dialog are both nothing like anyone ever really speaks. Even in a contemporary story, everything the characters say sound like they are trying to live in a Dickens novel.

Stop it, people.

When you write a book and every other word looks like you had the thesaurus open on your lap while you were doing it, it has the exact OPPOSITE effect of what you were trying to achieve and you do not sound more intelligent as a writer. You just read like you’re trying way too hard.

Even when writing epic fantasy, trying to sound “archaic” in everything you write usually backfires too and just makes your story too dense to understand. Readers don’t want to fight their way through your book. Especially in dialog, don’t overdo it. Read your dialog out loud and think, “Does this really sound like how someone would talk?”

Sometimes plainspoken prose really is not an evil, but a way to convey your point and actually make it get through to your reader.

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Other Side of the Pen: February 29th, 2016

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As a writer, as a freelance editor, as a reviewer… Well, sometimes Mia gets mouthy, and the fourth week of the month is when she’s gonna let you know just what she thinks!

Slow the H*** Down!

Far too often, I get editorial inquiries. “I’ve written a book that’s all these thousands of words long, and I’m not actually done yet, but I need it edited by tomorrow because I’ve already set my pre-order for the weekend!”

This might be slightly exaggerated, but perhaps not by much.

The world of self-publishing is wonderful and it’s opened a great many doors that were not open before. I’ve availed myself of it, and it’s great. Yet it’s brought with it many plagues as well, and one of them that I hit against the most often is that of Author Impatience. Humans are by nature impatient, and when we work on a project and we have a goal, we want to see it through. We want to see the fruits of our labor!

But writing is not a fast thing. If it is, you’re missing a step or two.

Why are you setting a pre-order date before the book is even done and before you know how long it will take an editor to edit it? Do you know the stress is causes an editor when you ask them to bend over backwards because you’ve already set deadlines and they’re about to happen now? I don’t know about the other editors out there, but I have a hard time saying no.

I hate to say no because I worry if I do, authors might decide to go without editing, and that’s not good if you can avoid it. And secondly, I do have bills to pay and a kid to feed. I like to eat on occasion myself, so I need the work, and I’ll try to meet an author’s deadline. But I can’t tell you how aggravating it can be to know that a book is having to be turned around that fast.

When I get a book that has to be edited that fast and was only just finished, I know that it hasn’t had any type of development edit or even beta readers. Seems like there’s not even time for the author to read it over again themselves, and it’s very rare for a book to come straight from the author’s hands to perfection. Most need a few readers to make sure everything works right before it is ready to be edited and published.

But too many authors are too impatient to get their books published, and it leaves out some crucial steps in the process to making a good story.

So, come on, guys. Slow down. It’s really not a race. Try finishing the book and getting some read-overs first, and find out how long an edit may take before your start setting pre-orders, release dates, and tours. Aim for the best story, not the fastest.

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