Archive for the ‘Creating Coldcuts’ Category


I is for Incubate

   Posted by: Faith

How long do you let ideas incubate in your mind before actually attempting to write them down?

infant-incubatorSometimes I get a story idea and keep it to myself for awhile, letting the concept simmer. If things start to take shape, I’ll write it down in an idea journal (or, let’s be honest, whatever random scrap of paper happens to be around at the time).

Then, it’s incubation time. You know those ideas—the ones you’re sure you’re not ready to write yet, that need more time for development.

It may take a week, or a month, or several years before I’m ready to write it—not counting those stories that demand to be told immediately. But those are far and few between.

I think it’s a good idea to let concepts take a bit more shape before putting things down on paper… it’s akin to mental outlining, ensuring we don’t move into the story too quickly, before we really know what we want it to be about.

That said, the idea baby has to come out of the incubator eventually! Even if we’re not quite sure we’re ready for it… because, in all honesty, who ever is?

And don’t worry, you’re not alone in this. Author Neil Gaiman blogged his experience in getting ready to write his now award-winning story, The Graveyard Book:



Worth waiting for…


In 1985 or 1986, watching my son Mike wheel his tricycle around the graveyard next door to our house that we used because we didn’t have a garden, I thought of an idea for a story about a small boy who wandered into a graveyard and was raised by dead people.

Then, deciding I wasn’t a good enough writer, I didn’t write it.

graveyard bookOver the years I’d pick up a scrap of paper and try to write a scene from near the beginning, conclude I wasn’t good enough yet, and put it aside.

Recently I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t getting any better. So I wrote a short story called "The Witch’s Headstone", which will probably be chapter 4 or 5 of the book.

And today I finished writing Chapter One of The Graveyard Book, and it’s a real book. I know it’s a real book because there are all sorts of things I don’t quite know yet, and I can’t wait to find them out.


It’s okay to let our ideas incubate! But we have to let them out eventually…


C is for Courses

   Posted by: Faith

Anyone taking any interesting writing courses this spring / summer?

TheCallingIt’s been awhile since I’ve taken one, but I took the plunge and signed up for “Intensive Creative Writing” with Brian Henry (his website is also linked on the sidebar of this blog). Brian Henry had a big influence on author Kelly Armstrong’s development, and from what I’ve seen she speaks very highly of his courses and ability to help writers think critically about their work.

I’m hoping this course is what I need to re-jumpstart my stalled writing. I did so well for 3/4ths of last year, but then the stress and other commitments kicked into high gear, and writing hit the backburner.

That’s got to change!

So, here’s hoping.

If you’re in Southern Ontario and free on Friday afternoons, come join me!!! Open-mouthed smile


Flash Fiction

   Posted by: Faith

I have a review coming up later today on a book that’s been getting quite a bit of buzz lately, but until that’s posted, why not head over to Fantasy Faction and read my article on flash fiction? :D

Five Common Mistakes: Writing Fantasy Flash Fiction

Enjoy… and thanks for reading! And come back later for more :)


P is for Purses, Satchels, and Bags

   Posted by: Faith

A few years ago, I was reading an adventure/thriller book, and enjoying it immensely. Our Heroes were deep in the Amazon, had just retrieved the item they’d spent the entire book trying to locate & keep away from The Bad Guy, and were running for their lives, Important Item tucked safely inside a canvas bag. bridge

Our Heroes come to a bridge. Oh no! Bad Guy is on the other side. And his men are behind them (“headed off at the pass”, is a nice cliche for it…).

What to do? The item can’t fall into the hands of The Bad Guy, and surely he’ll kill them all, even if they try to make a deal.

In the midst of the action, Our Hero crosses the bridge, and as he fights off Goon #1, he tosses the bag further down the bridge (so it doesn’t impede his ability to fight)… and continues fighting and coming up with a plan.

Needless to say, the plan is a bit predictable: lure The Bad Guy onto the bridge, cut the ropes, find another way around. Day saved, yes?

The plan seems flawless. Our Heroes manage to execute the plan, with much drama and tension and near-death.

In the end, they manage to get safely to one side, while The Bad Guy plunges into the canyon below. Huffing and puffing, they congratulate each other on a successful adventure, sling the bag over a shoulder, and go on their way to complete the Expected Storyline Denouement.

But WAIT!!!

canvasbag What about the bag?!?

If the bag was on the middle of the bridge, and the heroes had to get back to the original side they started on—then lure The Bad Guy onto the bridge—and then cut the ropes, wouldn’t that mean the precious artifact would plunge into the gorge along with The Bad Guy?!

Yes. In fact, it does mean that.

At no point during the entire climactic scene did one of the heroes retrieve the bag before heading back to safety… y’know, the bag containing the very item they spent the entire book trying to find. The very item the book was titled for.

Moral of the story: If your character has a purse, a bag, a briefcase, a suitcase—any personal item that you’ve specified he/she carries regularly—you must know where this item is at all times.I'm not saying what book it was. But it MIGHT have had one of these involved. Perhaps. Heh.

Even running from the bad guys. Even during a car chase. Especially during one-on-one action scenes.

Otherwise, you’ll have the magic disappearing and reappearing bag, which—evidently—the editing team might not catch, resulting in a reader who’s disappointed and frustrated at the author’s carelessness… instead of turning that final page thinking “what a darn good adventure story!”


Do YOU know where your Hero/Heroine’s bag/purse/satchel is?


Self-Editing #7: Redundant Pleonasms

   Posted by: Faith

…and yes, that title is an example of a pleonasm. In case you were about to point fingers. HAH!

So, what the heck is a pleonasm, anyway? Sounds to me like some kind of strange bacteria you’d go to the doctor to get medication for.

“Sorry, ma’am, but you have a serious case of the pleonasm virus. It’s been going around, so don’t worry, I’ll write you up a prescription for that…”

But that is NOT what a pleonasm is. Nay, a pleonasm is defined as such by the ever-reliable


[plee-uh-naz-uhm] Show IPA


1. the use of more words than are necessary to express an idea; redundancy.

2. an instance of this, as free gift or true fact.

3. a redundant word or expression.

Ah… okay, now it’s making more sense. I think. Now, not to repeat myself (har har), but it appears that a pleonasm is a word or phrase that repeats itself.

This is really easy to do in first drafts, and I bet we all do it without thinking. Here are some more examples (redundancies in italics):

  • “It cost $10 dollars.”
  • “He saw it with his own eyes.”
  • “We got to the bar at around two a.m. in the morning.”
  • “The table was square in shape.”
  • “He yawned tiredly.”

Yes, I’m guilty of this… anyone else? Fortunately, this is really easy to cut out of the manuscript, though not always as easy to catch (that’s what critique partners are for!).

As always, thanks to the lovely agent Kelly Mortimer for inspiring this post and the others in the self-editing series. Her grammar guide made me think long and hard about certain things in my own work, and I wondered whether others had similar issues… so hopefully you’re learning things along with me! :)


Self-Editing #3: Color, Color, Everywhere…

   Posted by: Faith


Color. What does that have to do with your manuscript?  

Nothing, if you’re writing contemporary fiction.

Everything, if you’re writing historical fiction.


The issue of color was brought to my attention by none other than Kelly Mortimer of Mortimer Literary, Inc.. So, what’s the deal?

Not all color names existed at every period in history. If you’re writing a historical romance set in the Middle Ages (ie. Medieval Period; commonly designated as the 5th – 15th Centuries), and your heroine pulls a moss green gown from her wardobe, pairing it with a jade necklace that happened to be a gift from courtly visitors… well, sorry honey, but you’re writing in the wrong time period.

That’s not to say that the gown isn’t green and the necklace doesn’t have this precious stone inlaid, but the fact of the matter is your character wouldn’t think of the colors in those terms.

Language isn’t static – it’s fluid, and changes over the years. Just because you wouldn’t use the term ‘vehicle’ or have a character say ‘what’s up?’ in your Medieval fiction, doesn’t mean that every other word is fair game.

Color names are particularly important in order to realistically set the scene and establish credibility for yourself as an historical fiction writer.

How do you find out if the word you wanted to use was in use during the time period you’re writing about? Word study!

You can:

  • Google the information (make sure your source is reliable)
  • Visit a university library
  • Send an email to a university professor who specializes in the time period (honestly, they’ll probably be thrilled to answer your question, or could direct you to another reliable resource)
  • Send an email to a local history group in your community

There are plenty of ways to figure out whether ‘primrose’ was used as a color name before 1759 A.D. or not… and living in the internet age makes getting the information you need a whole lot easier than it used to be – so, no excuses!

Get your colors right, and you’ll write a better story!

Question: If you’ve written a historical… have you considered color names before? Is this something you’re actively checking on when you write?


Self-Editing #2: Character Description

   Posted by: Faith

Here we are at post #2 in this little series on things to look out for when self-editing. Again, this is in the copyediting stage – not editing for content or rewriting. However, these little things can often make or break your manuscript!

Today we’re looking at…

Character Description in POV

What’s wrong with this?

Jacqueline waltzed into the office, her dark brown hair swishing across the back of her blouse. She dropped her attaché onto the mahogany desk and paused, listening to the sweet sound of employees hard at work.

She glanced at her delicate gold watch. It’s not even nine and they’re already on task. I love Mondays.

Pursing her glossed lips, she pulled her cell from the attaché’s side pocket, flicked it open, and dialed.

First question to ask is: Whose point of view is this?

Second question to ask is: How can the person whose POV we’re in see themselves?Mirror, mirror, on the wall... whose POV are we in, anyway?

Obviously, they can’t – or else I wouldn’t be asking the question – but it’s surprising how often  this pops up in our own writing (mine, anyway). It’s natural for us to want to describe our main character, but it’s unnatural for someone to think “oh, I’m going to brush my long, blonde hair now”. No, you’d think “I’m going to brush my hair”, right? Same for your character.

One way writers try to get around this is the “mirror scene”. You know what that is – that’s where your character stands in front of a mirror and describes himself or herself. Unless you have a darn good reason for doing this (like I’ve said before, there are exceptions to every rule), this is cliché and you want to avoid it like the plague! (Another cliché, don’t use that either…)

Instead, bring out your character’s description through the eyes of another character. Don’t use them to list every detail at once, but bring it out slowly, and only when or if it matters.

When it comes to character description, less is more.

(Unless you’re writing a fantasy or sci-fi with created races, and then it’s a whole other ball game entirely. But I’m not getting into that right now…!)

So… have you ever written a mirror scene? Or described the character in her own POV? Don’t be shy, we’ve all done it too.


Beginning and Doing

   Posted by: Faith

Self-editing… ah, the bane of my existence. Why do I love working on other people’s writing and cringe when it comes to my own? I have no idea. No, that’s not entirely true – maybe it’s the horrors found within my writing that I don’t want to face. Passive sentence structure! Telling! Misplaced modifiers!

To help combat my penchant for putting off edits, this week I’m going to post on some particular things to look out for when self-editing. And a note: These are copyediting things to look out for, not content… I might look at content later in the month.

Here we go…

Beginning vs. Doing

In most cases, when your character begins something, what you mean is that he’s actually doing it.

Example: “He began running toward the store.”

As soon as he starts running, he’s already doing the action. Beginning becomes doing immediately!

Change to: “He ran toward the store.”

This is more active, clearer, and keeps up the story’s pace.

Of course there will be exceptions – there are times when beginning something is the logical description – but in the majority of cases, beginning becomes doing the moment it starts.

Get out that red pen (or, uh… your track changes option) and look for all instances of:

  • starts, started, starting
  • begins, began, beginning
  • commences (*cringe*)

And with that… begin editing! Er, I mean… edit!


Is this a particular habit for any of you? I’ve corrected at least two instances in the last five pages of the MS I’m working on…


June Boot Camp: Day 4

   Posted by: Faith

Three days have come and gone… I’m sitting at 4203/35,000.

I’m planning for this to be a novella that sits on the hard drive — one of those projects you write for the sake of self-indulgence — but it’s been fun so far, and I love having an excuse to turn off the inner editor and just write (I know, that should be all the time… but easier said than done!).

Here on Day 4, the team I’m on — The Preternaturals — sits in 8th place out of 17, so not too shabby! And that’s based on yesterday’s totals.

Today, I plan to research a little bit more about:

  • cleaning a neck wound
  • varieties of wolfsbane (there are over 250!)
  • immune systems — ie. purging toxins and fighting viruses
Ah, yes… can you tell what genre I’m in? Only 27 days to go!
How about you, anything interesting you’re planning to research or write over the weekend?

The Edit Monster

   Posted by: Faith

I’m at that point in How to Revise Your Novel where we sit down with the manuscript and, tools at hand and preparation done, actually cut our manuscript. This is the one-pass revision where I take my novel from the place it is to the place I want it to be.

And that’s a terrifying concept. What if I get it wrong? What if all this lead-up just means failure? What if I make the wrong changes?

Then I think… they’re just words. I’m not physically deleting or throwing anything out, and once I do the type-in I’ll save everything in a new document.

I have my snacks, drinks, blank pages, pens, scissors & tape, worksheets from several months of analysis and prep work. Now all I need is to get over the hurdle of *doing* the revision.

A few weeks from now, I hope to have a fully revised copy of my NaNoWriMo novel from 2007.

Then I’ll do the query, synopsis, etc., and send them out the door. I don’t have high hopes for this one, since I think the market for it is in a very low point, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on it — instead, I’ll think of this revision/query process as a “practice” run.

If I don’t get any bites on it and the market for it picks up in a few years, I’ll do a second pass.

So that’s the plan! Much easier said than done, that’s for darn sure. But learning to revise properly and figuring out where my own weak spots are has been worth every penny I paid for the course…

But here’s where it all comes together and we find out if I can practice what I’ve learned.

Revisions, Day One… go!


How do you approach the editing/revision process: do you do analysis/prep work first, or do you dive on in and just start cutting?