Monday, February 28, 2011

The Elusive Voice

Don't forget your chance to
win HAUNTED by Joy Preble! Time is running out...


Look it up online and you will find a million different definitions, explanations, and how to's. We may not know how to define "voice", but we do know how important it is. It's about as difficult to catch hold of as Bigfoot. So how DO we find it and trap it?

Be your character. If you aren't truly in your character's head you will never understand her voice. Many say there are two voices - the author's voice (which I equate to the tone of the manuscript) and the MC's. I believe the two are not mutually exclusive. Your character's voice is altered by the tone, just as you react differently depending on the situation you are in. So I am focusing on Character Voice here.
  • Attitude - You can't just throw a bunch of snark out there and call it attitude. That's not character, sorry. You'll only end up putting your own Big Foot in your mouth. What you need to know is how your MC views the world and how she reacts accordingly. Now if she does that through sarcasm, great! Use it. But only in the WAY she would at the TIME she would. Capiche?
  • Mannerisms - We all have them, though we don't always know about it. What your character DOES speaks volumes. Habits, knee-jerk reactions, etc.
  • Thought processes - Otherwise known as INTERNAL DIALOGUE. What is the character thinking? How does she think? Need an example? Let's take one of my own favorite characters. His head is all over the place. Think "squirrel!" from the movie UP and you pretty much have a handle on him. I love that about him. He's easily distracted. And at the right moments that provides some excellent comic relief. It also makes him vulnerable.
  • Speech - Ahh, dialogue. I love writing dialogue. Some people don't, but I think it really goes hand in hand with character and voice. The way your MC says something is as important as what she says. Who she's speaking to will also alter the dialogue. Do you speak the same to everyone? About everyone? Maybe your character is lacking an internal filter and spews whatever pops into her head. Maybe we see what she's thinking and it's the opposite of what she says. So much can be revealed by her interaction with others. Embrace that as an opportunity, don't fear it.
  • Reactions - Not just the physical, as mentioned above in mannerisms (though that's certainly a part of it). But the emotional reactions too. Yes, your MC should absolutely instigate turning points in the plot. But there will also be those things out of her control, and how she reacts to them says a lot about her.
Okay, I believe I've covered quite a bit. There's always more of course, that's part of the beauty of writing. Let me try to boil this all down for you though...

If you have a strong, dimensional character, their voice will automatically come through. Spend your time on developing the MC fully, not on trying to interject bits of "cleverness" throughout the manuscript. That part will naturally evolve if you have the character down.

Did you catch Bigfoot? Hopefully not in your mouth...

Thursday, February 24, 2011


First for the winner of the anthology PLAYTHINGS OF THE GODS and a ten page critique - CORINNE!

Yesterday on Enchanted Inkpot I had the opportunity to interview the amazing Joy Preble. Consequently I also had the opportunity to read HAUNTED, the sequel to DREAMING ANASTASIA. And since Joy was kind enough to send me an autographed copy... I'M GOING TO PASS IT ON TO ONE OF YOU!!

All you have to do is be a follower of this blog. Hopefully spread the word. AND leave me a comment telling me your favorite fairy tale (and email so I can tell you if you win). That's it! Contest open through next wednesday and I'll announce the winner Thursday.

Now to help me review the book, I've asked the one and only, Evil Stepmother.

Me: So, Evil Stepmother, what makes you uniquely qualified to review this book?

ES: Well with a title that includes the word "evil" I completely understand where Baba Yaga, the witch, is coming from. We get a bad rap. Think of it from my point of view for a minute - here I am, a single mother, which in those days was even more difficult, trying to find suitable husbands for two - let's face it - less than desirable daughters. And who do I get saddled with? A blonde, goody-two-shoes, that talks to rats. But I digress.

Me: Uh huh. So what did you think of the book?

ES: Well I absolutely loved it! Especially that we got Baba Yaga's viewpoint along with the others. Just because she's eaten a few interlopers, doesn't mean she's all bad after all... And detachable hands? I never got any cool powers like that. Not that I'm bitter.

Me: Well thank you for being our guest!

What did I think? I absolutely LOVED it. I devoured the book. It isn't often that I can honestly say I liked the second book of a series better than the first. This was THAT good. I loved the characters, and the unique subject matter (Russian folklore).

Don't forget to leave me a comment with your email so I can contact you if you win!! It's THAT easy!

Monday, February 21, 2011


Before I start - last chance to enter my contest is Wednesday the 23rd.

Now as the Franken-Novel - no I don't mean I'm Mary Shelley. More like Dr. Frankenstein. See it occurs to me while working on this WIP that it's sort of like having a patient on the operating table, guts spread out in all directions, waiting to be pieced together again. Only it's more than just your average patient. I am in some ways playing God - trying to breathe life into something inanimate.

We have to be able to take this thing, slice it up, reattach and insert things, and leave no visible scars. So how do we do that? How do we keep the soul of thing intact?

Bet you thought I was going to start listing pointers here, right? Well, the truth is that in this case I'm not sure there are any. We can (and should) study craft, review and dissect the work of others, take classes and go to conferences and workshops, and do any of the other worthwhile things writers do. But there's also a heart to this folks. I don't mean to sound all existential or anything, but they don't call it "art" for nothing. Because at the end of the day, when we've done all but (and maybe including) bleed into the manuscript, it's that little bit of our own soul that's transferred over, and in this writer's opinion, that's what ultimately makes it breathe.

So don't go running out there screaming, "Lisa said it's art so I don't have to work so hard anymore!" Uh-uh. Nope. Not what I said. What I AM saying is, in your obsession (because let's face it we tend as a group to obsess) to follow all the rules, analyze plot and structure, character, hooks, and everything else under the sun - DON'T FORGET THE CREATIVITY. Therein lies the soul I've been talking about. Don't lose that. Please.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Write What You Know

First - don't forget to enter my contest and check out my story in PLAYTHINGS OF THE GODS.

Okay - write what I know. That's why I constantly talk about vampires, werewolves and mermaids.

Allow me to clarify, see when you hear the old adage, "write what you know" it doesn't mean what you might think.

Not clear? Let's try it a different way. Say I'm writing a scene where a vampire lurks in the shadows waiting to attack our innocent MC. Does that mean I have to have experience being stalked by vampires to do the scene justice? Let's hope not.

What it really means (in my humble opinion) is that I have to have knowledge of what the character might be feeling in this situation. A deep and all consuming fear? Powerlessness perhaps? Well, heck - I know those! I bet you do too. The situation I was in when I felt these things might be different from the one my MC is in, maybe not even half as dramatic. But the raw emotions are the same. So that's the experience I draw on. It's important to be able to generalize your experiences and feelings enough to recreate them in your manuscript. This may sound pretty simple, obvious even, but sometimes it's difficult to see what's right in front of your nose.

A second relevant interpretation of "writing what you know" has more to do with NOT writing what you DON'T know. In other words, I have full license to create an entire new world with my own laws and customs and people. But if I plan on writing about a member of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, I better either have first hand knowledge of law and the court system, or do my homework! Because no matter how artistically you can weave a story from your imagination, there will be others out there that see right through it because they DO know.

So do your research. Please. If you choose an actual location for your setting, and you haven't been there, find out as much as you can about it. Example: I've used Google maps street view. I've also pretended to be shopping for a house and searched online for information about certain neighborhoods and schools. And all for a tiny part of a single paranormal manuscript. But I wanted to make it as believable as possible. I wanted to feel like I was really there with my characters. Never did I take the attitude that since one of my characters was a demon, I didn't need to make the rest of it realistic.*

How can I expect readers to become invested in my story and characters if they can't put aside reason, at least long enough to fully immerse in my story and world? It has to feel real no matter how fantastic it is. And knowing what you're talking about makes that hurdle a lot easier to tackle.

*Side-note here - don't go overboard. Meaning, find out as much as you can to make the picture in your head complete when writing, but only put in the details that are important to the story and characters. It can be a tricky balance to maintain.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Yes, I know I never post on Tuesday but this is important!

PLAYTHINGS OF THE GODS an E-book anthology from Drollerie Press is being released today! (Buy it here) And why all the exclamation marks you ask? Because it includes a story by yours truly entitled, CURSED.

The book is a collection of re-tellings of Greek Myths for YA. Mine is based off the story of Cassandra and Agamemnon.

AND SINCE I LIKE TO SHARE WITH YOU WHEN I HAVE GOOD NEWS I'm having a contest!! You can win your very own copy of this E-book!! I'd sign it but uh, I doubt you want me coming over to write on your computer or e-reader... So instead, I'll throw in a critique of up to 10 pages!

Fine, no more exclamation points I promise. Just fill in the form below to enter, and be a friend and help me spread the word. You will need to comment as well telling me why you want to win. And also because I get lonely and like it when you say hi. :D

This contest will be open through Wednesday February 23 (which happens to be my birthday for all those inquiring minds out there) and I will announce the winner on my blog Thursday February 24.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ahh Love

In honor of Valentines Day I thought I'd share some pics (fan art) of some of my favorite couples in paranormal YA fiction. Which is your favorite and why?

Clary and Jace from Immortal Instruments

Franny and Luc from Personal Demons

Patch and Nora from Hush Hush

Ethan and Lena from Beautiful Creatures

Sam and Grace from Shiver

Rose and Dimitri from Vampire Academy - ADDED BY POPULAR DEMAND!

I wish I were half as talented as the people who created these!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

When To Take Advice

We all know how vitally important it is for us to open our work up to critique. You HAVE to do this if you truly want to be a writer. Period. But wait! Before you go rushing out to change your manuscript because you're a good listener, you should think it through.

I've said this before - and I'll say it again - I LOVE my critique group. And those who have been generous enough to beta read for me. Does that mean I have made every single change and/or correction they've ever given me? Nope. *Gasp* I know. Have I seriously considered every one of them? YES.

So how do I know when to make the change? Well here's a little checklist that helps me out.
  1. Is it something that resonates with what I've been feeling? Many times (you'd think I'd learn by now) when I get a piece of advice I think, yes, that's what I thought but I didn't want to acknowledge it on a conscious level. Somehow hearing it from someone else forces me to make that leap.
  2. Does more than one person have a problem with the same part of the manuscript? Even if the comments are different, you can see that SOMETHING is wrong with this section. Look at it again closely, there's something there that may not be obvious, but I guarantee it exists.
  3. Is it logical? Writing may be creative but there is a good deal of logic involved. Especially in plotting. And you may be filling in details in your head because, well let's be honest, you KNOW everything about your characters and world. But perhaps you haven't done as well as you thought imparting this knowledge to the reader.
  4. Does it feel wrong? I know, this is the exact opposite of number 3. But seriously, trust your gut. There's a big difference between not opening yourself up to constructive criticism, and forcing yourself to make the change even though it makes you feel sick inside. And you're the only one that truly knows whether you're just being defensive of your baby or you know it isn't right.*
  5. Conflicting advice. Person A loves the gnome (you knew I had to throw something in somewhere right?) and person B is emphatic that it doesn't work. Well guess what? You decide.
*If you notice yourself hardly ever taking advice or making changes based on critique, you probably ARE having difficulty with opening yourself up to critique.

Ultimately this is your work, so it is your decision. Just be sure to give everything serious consideration. If you've done that you'll know what's right and what isn't, and you won't second guess it.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Do I have your attention yet? The question I want to address today is - how far is too far? Do you write YA? Read it? Do you censor yourself when you write?

I used to. When I started, I worried about that. Then I got more comfortable with the stories in my head. I realized that I put in what was true to the story and to the characters, no more and no less. And I let myself loose, knowing that I could always change it in the next pass.

That's the key. Making sure you aren't adding it just for shock value, or because you think it will sell better, or because you think that's how teens are. Teens, like adults, are individuals and they cover a wide range of types and experiences.

Well, the opposite it true as well. Did you NOT write the scene the way you know it should have happened because you were worried it was inappropriate? That's a shame in my opinion. Don't try to sensor yourself. Have faith in your readers, and be true to your vision.

You can't make everyone happy all of the time. We see that in reviews all over the place. What one person likes, another doesn't. That's fine. The right audience will find the right work for them. Don't change what you're doing because you're too concerned about offending others.

It all comes down to one thing. Write what you love, what you have to write, and what you would want to read. If you do that, there will no doubt be others out there that share your tastes and values. And your writing will come from your passion, not feel forced, censored, or otherwise beaten down.

Treat your readers with respect. Expect them to "get it" and don't try to protect them from themselves.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Avoiding the Bite of Revision

Yes, that's right, revision has a nasty bite. It can fester. I know gross, right? It's sort of like Hagrid's Monster Book of Monsters, you have to know how to approach it. And if you do it just right, you won't come away with a scratch, just a shiny new manuscript. So how does it work, this safe approach?

1. Prepare
No, you don't actually need special gloves, or a cattle prod, what you need is a game plan. Start with this checklist:
  • Have I let it sit long enough to give myself some space? This could mean different things to different people, but you definitely need to put it away and do something else for a while - whether that's reading a book, or writing something new, or just going shopping.
  • Have I had it critiqued? You have to have other eyes look at it. Period. There are things that you just can't see since your mind automatically fills in spaces because you know it so well. Beta readers are great for this as well as a good and steady critique group.
  • Am I prepared to do what I have to to make it its best? Meaning chopping, injecting, and otherwise mutilating it.
2. Read.
Yep. Read it. Some people find it helpful to print it out first. I like using my Kindle. Either way, read it like you're reading a book, and make note of ANYTHING that stands out. You may have to make a separate pass for each topic. That's up to you. There are many questions to address when doing this, but here are a few major ones:
  • Plot - does the story follow a predictable and logical arc? Have you answered all the questions presented and does everything come together smoothly? Have you used foreshadowing and clues, without hitting the reader over the head?
  • Character - How soon do you really empathize with your MC? This can be hard when you are so attached. But pretend you're just meeting and give it a go. Are your other characters fully developed? How can you add dimension?
  • Dialogue - Is it natural? Too conversational, or does every line count? Is it clear who is speaking? Have you broken it up with enough description and action (look at the physical page, is it line after line after line of dialogue?)
  • World - Are you characters constantly interacting with the world around them? Do you weave the world into the story or does it come in clumps of descriptive paragraphs. Do you go overboard (be honest) or is it just the right amount? Does the description reflect the mood? Can it be an obstacle in and of itself?
  • Info-dump - How'd you do? Did you take a bulldozer and let her rip? Or did you trickle the info as needed? Did you get us invested first? Did you try to add it through dialogue when both characters already know what they're saying and they're simply reviewing it for the reader's benefit?
  • Is each scene both tight and complete. Is each sentence necessary? Have you used too much passive wording? Have you varied sentence structure and length
I'm going to stop now because this could get REALLY LONG. But if you have something to add or a question please - that's what the comments are for!!! I love hearing from you.

3. Get to work!
This means no putting yourself down. It was a rough draft. Those happen. :D This is where you prove you're made of tougher stuff. If it feels too overwhelming, just sit and do one chapter at a time, and only re-work it for one issue per pass. Don't forget to save all versions just in case! Once you get back in, you'll no doubt feel much better about it. You might even *gasp* ENJOY revisiting your baby.

And you're going to LOVE how it feels when it's done. Am I right?