In last week’s post Read This If You Want to Be a Better Writer, I talked about Joanna Bourne. who talked about double tagging dialogue, and Shelli asked a good question in the comments.
Are things like double tagging things your editor is suppose to recommend?
I started to reply on that post and realized my answer was running long, so I thought I’d answer it fully here.
It’s a really good question. And it has a short answer and a longer answer.
First answer, I wish!
Longer answer, not really. By the time writers submit to agents and editors, they’re supposed to know how to write. They shouldn’t need hand-holding through the process of editing a book. And what I mean by that is that authors should have the mechanics of writing down, and if they don’t, chances are the agent or editor wouldn’t be offering representation or a contract because teaching a writer how to write isn’t their job, and it’s time consuming.
But I double tagged in Shades of Treason. (I searched through the first third of the book and took most of them out, and will search the last two thirds before it’s published.) I double tagged in the first two chapters of my current WIP. And, I just opened up to a random page in The Shadow Reader, Page 199, and found this:
He gently closes the door. “McKenzie, talk to me.”
I shouldn’t say anything. I should pretend everything is okay, but something in me snaps.
“Talk to you?” I snarl as I turn on him. “Why don’t you talk to me, Kyol? Why don’t you try telling me the truth?”
(Ohmygosh, I love that scene. It hurts so much!)
Better writing would have been, “Talk to you?” I turn on him. “Why don’t you…”
The fact that I found that double tag so quickly means there’s probably a lot in there. There won’t be a lot in my future books. (Look at me becoming a better writer. :-))
Obviously, I’m a double tagger, and yet no one has ever pointed it out to me. I’d still be double tagging if not for Joanna Bourne’s post and realizing, on my own, that I have a problem. So why did no one point out this writing crime?
I have great beta readers, a great agent, and have had a great editor, and I think the reason no one has pointed this out is because I haven’t done it to the extreme. I am certain one of these people would have drawn attention to the double tagging if I did it five times on every page. The double tagging construction isn’t exactly wrong, it’s just not good writing. It’s putting unnecessary words in a story, and every time you can delete unnecessary words, you should. Okay, maybe not every time, because I will admit to leaving one or two double tags in because the writing flowed better than without it, or because, in a few cases, it felt like it fit my character’s voice in that moment, and maybe I was just making excuses for myself, but in every case, double tagging should be looked at.
A very detailed editor who overly focuses on the mechanics of writing might point out double tagging, but my agent (who has done content editing for me) and my editors focus more on story issues. They want to make sure all the plot points make sense, that the secondary characters are well developed, that there aren’t gaping plot holes, etc. As far as mechanics go, they mostly focus on confusing sentences/paragraphs, asking for clarification or rewrites.
A copy editor might catch it. In fact, I think they are the ones more likely to take notice, but I think they also try very hard not to mess with an author’s voice. Since it’s not technically wrong, and if it’s not overly done, I doubt a copy editor would mention it.
So, there’s my long answer.
And it was fun to answer. If anyone has a writing related question, and you care for my thoughts on it, ask away. I won’t be as knowledgeable and profound as Joanna Bourne, but I’m happy to opine.
I’m not directly imparting wisdom here. Instead, I’m pointing you to Joanna Bourne’s blog.
Joanna Bourne might be my favorite historical romance author. She’s at the very least in the top three, and every time I read one of her books, I learn something new. Her descriptions of characters’ appearances, their actions and mannerisms, are all unique and beautiful and profound. Not only that, but she tells a damn good story, mashing together a good romance with a plot full of action and suspense. I love her books. Whether you’re an author or a reader, go read them now. Then come back and tell me which one is your favorite. I bet you can’t choose. They’re all excellent.
But the reason I’m pointing writers specifically to her blog today is because she has a post on tagging dialogue. Or dialogue cues, if you prefer. I know the technical aspects of how to do this. I know where to put the commas and periods and quotations and all the fun punctuation marks. I know not to use adverbs or have a character laugh the dialogue or to put in some fancy word when a “he said” will do just fine. I know all of this, and yet, when I read through her tagging post, I realized that there were some things I could do more of if I just remember them while writing or revising.
And I learned something I can do less of, as well, and it’s going to make my books stronger.
I am apparently bad at item #10 on her list:
10) Do not double-tag. If an action or other method tags the dialog, don’t add ‘he said’. You will eliminate many ‘he saids’ from the manuscript by following this simple rule. Over a lifetime you will eliminate a small mountain of them.
….. NOT “You watch the door,” he said loading the second musket.
….. BUT “You watch the door.” He loaded the second musket.
Because I had this gut feeling when I read through that point, I went to my current WIP and did a search for “said”. I had double tagging all over the place. In just one chapter, I deleted at least six double-tags. Why did I put them on the page to begin with? I know less words often equals more impact. Did the double tag just sound better to my ears at the time? Perhaps. It definitely doesn’t sound good to my ears now.
So, I’m adding a search for “said” to my edit list.
Hmm. I should probably have an edit list, shouldn’t I? Things that I look for after the book is done? I have an informal one in my head. I search for “smile” and “grin” and “glance” and “look”. I overuse those words.
I overuse a lot of words. Lazy writer, that is me. But I’m working on it. I learn new things with each book. One of these days, my books will be awesomer.
But do go check out Joanna’s blog. You can click on the Technical Topics tag to absorb more of her wisdom. Or you can click on her books and buy them. I recommend doing both.
You guys know how I’m always lamenting that there isn’t the an movie equivalent for Goodreads? On Facebook last week, one of my awesome online friends (thanks, Renee!) mentioned Letterboxd. Despite my searches for some way to list and review and share all the movies I’ve watched, I’d never come across Letterboxd. But I checked it out, lowering my expectations because I’ve been disappointed time and again with other movie listing sites. Some were too complicated, some weren’t very social, and some just up and disappeared because they couldn’t get people to sign up and spread news of the site.
I have to say I’m impressed with Letterboxd so far. It seems like it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.
An easy way to write my informal movie reviews? Check.
A way to follow friends and other casual reviewers? Check.
An easy way to see the movies you’ve reviewed, watched, and want to watch? Check. Check. Check.
I love the simple format of the film diary in the sidebar. I can very easily see what I’ve watched recently. I can also create lists, tag my favorite films, see my films by rating. So far, it’s spectacular. The only thing I need to test out is the social aspect of it. How easy is it to see my friends reviews?
If you have an account, let me know so I can follow you. If you’d like to follow me, I believe you can do so by signing up and going here: http://letterboxd.com/brimfire/ Brimfire is my profile name. You’ll recognize my phooto. (Hmm. Maybe I should have used my author name. *shrugs* )
Anyway, check out Letterboxd and let me know what you think! I have two reviews now: Guardians of the Galaxy and Maleficent. I hope to watch/review Boyhood soon. I’ve heard so much about it this last week.
Every so often, I find myself getting lost when I write. It happened with the Shadow Reader novels. I ended up having to draw a map after creating too many cities for my head to hold, and I drew a sketch of the palace for The Shattered Dark and The Sharpest Blade. I just drew a map for my sci-fi project. Like my hand drawn map of the Realm, this one is hideous. But it serves a function.
Tachyon Capsule Click to Embiggen
Beautiful, eh? Don’t you love my sketch of the Enterprise and TIE Fighters? They’re not in the book, of course; I just drew them in to fill up the big hollow in the center of the capsule. This is how people travel from galaxy to galaxy in Shades of Treason. It’s based loosely – very loosely – on the concept of an Alcubierre drive. Individual ships can’t contain the technology that flits them from one location to the other, so they have to take a ride in a capsule. Here’s how I describe this one in Shades of Treason:
From the outside, capsules were the ugliest vessels in the Known Universe. This one was owned by Starlight Lanes, a pleasure cruise company who took the rich from system to system on multi-day vacations. It was painted bright green and pink, a combination of colors that was guaranteed to make anyone not from the company’s home planet of Esyll sick.
But Starlight Lanes had offered the capsule to help with refugees and other humanitarian services, and even though it wasn’t as big as the military capsules Rykus was used to traveling on, it was capable of holding a dozen full-sized, capital class ships in its hollow interior. In addition to transporting ships, capsules transported individuals, and the inner walls of this capsule would be lined with boutique shops, high credit restaurants, first class recreation areas, and of course, the most elaborate hotel accommodations of any vessel in the K. U. It was a mobile civilization.
I like the capsule concept. So many fun things I can do with it.
(I wish I could write a post on my favorite and least favorite movies of 2014, but I can’t even remember half the movies I watched. I’m going to keep a list of them this year, and since no one has yet developed a Goodreads for Movies, I’m listing them on my blog with my general thoughts.)
Guardians of the Galaxy was the first movie I watched this year. It’s been out on Blu-Ray – I rarely go to an actual movie theater – for six months. My husband has been wanting to watch it since the first trailer, but I balked. I didn’t know anything about the storyline, and the trailer made the movie look comical.
Comedies are a hard sale for me. I do enjoy a good romantic comedy, and I like action adventures and dramas with a comedic element, but movies like Anchorman, Dumb & Dumber, etc. so do not work for me. The Hangover was extremely borderline. I laughed and overall enjoyed it, but would prefer a more serious movie.
The preview for Guardians made the movie seem like it would fall into this category of comedy. I mean, a talking raccoon with a gun? How can that not be stupid, slapstick comedy? Everyone told me the movie was great, that I’d love it, and it wasn’t what I thought it was. Still, I resisted. Until last week.
I’ll admit it: I was wrong about Guardians. Everyone else was right. The director did a great job of giving each character a story. In fact, I was shocked when I nearly cried in the opening scene. I was not prepared for that at all, and it reset my expectations and made me more open to the rest of the movie.
Our heroes have to keep safe a relic that can destroy an entire planet. Nothing ground breaking there, but many stories that deal with this premise go way overboard, ruining my enjoyment of what could be a good story. Toward the end, Guardians edged close to going too far, but it didn’t cross the line.
I didn’t hate the raccoon. I even grew to like him. Oh, he did have a few silly, slow motion fight scenes that were ridiculous, but when you put a talking raccoon into a movie, you gotta have a couple of over-the-top moments. I could see myself becoming a fan of Rocket. I’m already a fan of Bradley Cooper.
I really liked Gamara. I kept staring at her, thinking she looked really familiar. Finally, Trey told me it was the girl from the Star Trek movies, Zoe Saldana. I think I like her! I did a quick search to see what else she’s in. Avatar. And, apparently, they’ve filmed an Avatar 2, 3, and 4. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first one – I got annoyed by the stereotypical, extremely underdeveloped, evil military guy – so I’m not dying to see the next three films.
Chris Pratt was pretty good in the role of Peter Quill. He fit the role well. I haven’t seen him in anything else, so I’m not sure if I’m a fan, yet.
Groot. Yeah. I loved him. And I think this might have been Vin Diesel’s best acting job yet.
Dave Bautista as Drax. This guy is huge. And he was funny. I loved how he went from bad guy I’m-going-to-kill-you-all to hey-let-me-on-your-team. He cracked me up.
Four Stars. This movie had the type of humor I like mixed in with a somewhat serious plot. It definitely surpassed my expectations, had great characters and good actors, and a story that kept me interested. Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy is a good movie that I wouldn’t hate to see again.
Title: Guardians of the Galaxy
Date Watched: January 1, 2015
My Rating: ****
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper,
Director: James Gunn
My Ranking System
* Can I have those two hours of my life back please?
** I hated this.
*** Not great, but I don’t regret watching it.
**** Pretty good. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.
***** Loved! Everyone needs to watch this STAT.
After the long holiday break (extra long because one of my three-year-olds had his tonsils taken out), I needed to warm up to writing again, so I wrote another snippet from Aren’s POV. This takes place right after the first one, which you can read here. I’m not re-writing the whole trilogy from Aren’s POV; I’m just playing around because it’s fun.
Warning: Unedited writing commences below!
The second the bright white light of the In-Between disappears, I know we’re almost too late. The king’s swordmaster is here, and he’s dragging a human from one of the college’s tall, brick buildings.
Beside me, Trev lets out a hiss. He wants Taltrayn and the shadow-witch dead as much as I do, but he heard Sethan’s command: no human witnesses. Taking the girl without every other person here seeing something unusual will be almost impossible.
“We’re doing this,” I say to Trev and the other fae who fissured with us to the rooftop.
“I know what he said,” I cut him off, scanning the paved courtyard and nearby buildings. There’s only one place that might be unoccupied, a structure to the north that’s in the process of being built. It will be difficult to lure her there, but it’s our best chance.
“Force her that way.” I point to the building. It’s surrounded by a metal fence, piles of dirt and lumber, and a few inactive construction vehicles, but there’s no movement I can see. It’s late here, almost dark. Human workers travel home in the evenings. It should be empty.
“How do you expect us to do that undetected?” Trev demands.
I move to the left, following the progress of Taltrayn and the shadow-witch. “No magic. No misses with your arrows. And when you kill, make sure any dropped weapons go to the In-Between.”
“Kill them.” I fissure out before Trev can protest again. Bright light and piercing cold overwhelm my sensations for an instant, then I reappear on the ground below.
And almost get my head taken off.
Sidhe, the swordmaster is quick. I deflect his attack, but my counter is weak.
I disappear out of Taltrayn’s path, step back into the world half a foot away, just behind the shadow-witch. She has long, dark hair. I could reach out and grab a handful of it, but she’d scream. She’d draw too much attention.
I curse again. Surprise should have been on our side, but Taltrayn was ready for us, and he has reinforcements. They’re fissuring in around us as quickly as my rebels can notch and release their arrows.
A fae’s sword whistles by my head. I face my new opponent, dodge another attack.
The Court fae’s mouth is twisted into a snarl. He knows who I am. Good.
Holding his gaze, I open a path to the In-Between, step into the light, then step out at the same point. The enemy expected me to move. He’s already spinning, making it easy to lop his arm off. It drops to the ground.
No time to watch it disappear. Multiple fissures cut through the atmosphere behind me, their loud shrrips far too close. I spin, and my sword slices just below the nearest Court fae’s jaedric cuirass. Blood arcs from the gut wound, splattering on the concrete.
My boot pounds the chest of my next opponent, giving me time to defend another’s attack. I counter and kill, but another fae replaces him then another.
I have no choice but to fissure out of the way, away from Taltrayn and the shadow-witch. It doesn’t matter, though. My fae are doing exactly as I ordered, attacking hard and heavy, leaving the construction site the only potential escape path.
But Taltrayn is still at her side. That has to change.
“Cut them off,” I order as I disappear into another strip of light. Six of us emerge in front of Taltrayn and the human. She’s not a threat; he is. We let her slip past and close in on our secondary prey.
I adjust my two-handed grip on my sword and meet the swordmaster’s gaze. His expression doesn’t change. He looks at us all as if we’re deranged tor’um, unimportant and unthreatening. The arrogance fits him like his well-oiled jaedric armor and that gilded, glistening sword. Noble traem.
“Attack,” I command. My fae are getting better at working as a team. They close in on Taltrayn, giving him no choice but to disappear. Instinct tells me where he’ll emerge and I vanish, too.
I step from the In-Between swinging, and almost get the kill. But my instinct was slightly off. My sword slices through Taltrayn’s side, but it’s only a deep flesh wound.
He doesn’t give me time to hurt him again. He rounds on me with a speed and strength that’s staggering. There’s a reason he’s considered the best swordsman in the Realm. I almost forgot that in my reckless pursuit of the shadow-witch.
I reel backward. His sword passes through the air where my head was, so close I can almost feel the slice of his blade across my throat.
He’s swinging again. My heel comes down on my other foot. I try lifting my sword to block his attack, but I’m not quick enough.
He’s going to kill me.
Shock paralyzes me for the briefest instant, then I hear the sharp shrrip of my fissure opening behind me.
Taltrayn’s blade advances faster than I fall, and when a cold, piercing light sucks me out of the human world, I don’t know whether I’m entering the In-Between or the eternal Ether.
Hope your 2015 is off to a great start. I’m happy for the new year. I’m especially happy it’s January 5th, because my life can get back to normal. December was a brutal, you guys. I was sick twice, my son’s tonsillectomy was so much more difficult than I expected, and my mother-in-law was in a bad car wreck. Add the holiday shopping and party prep, and I was completely drained at the end of the year.
I’m ready for a restart.
Hopefully, a restart that works better than last year’s. I dug up my “resolutions” from last year – this year I’m calling them goals – and found that I made five of them.
Last Year’s Goals
1. Write two novels. FAIL
2. Write a short story. FAIL
3. Make exercise a priority. FAIL
4. Make a business plan. It’s a stretch, but I’ll say I didn’t fail this one. I have a plan; I just haven’t been good executing it.
5. Read 30 books. EPIC FAIL as you can see from yesterday’s post.
Writing and reading-wise, I’m setting the same goals this year. I feel like I’m in a better place to do that. My boys are easier than they were a year ago, and I’m starting the year off with a new project. I know some tricks to get me to write more – get out of the house to write, and make sure my house is clean (funny how I can accomplish anything with a messy house; it messes with my brain).
This Year’s Goals
In addition to the reading and writing goals, I have some personal goals, too.
- Wake up at 6:30, go to sleep at 10:30. The waking up part might be easier than the going-to-sleep part. I’m exhausted after I put my boys to bed, and it’s so, so hard not to be under the covers before 9pm.
- No TV until 5:30. I’ve gotten into a bad, bad habit of using the TV to entertain the boys. It’s how I keep them in place to get them dressed in the morning, how I stop their fits/meltdowns, and how I get a few minutes to myself in the evening. Since it’s become cold – and since we watched TV all day long when Minion M had hit tonsils taken out – we’ve watched it way too much. 5:30 is usually when I cook dinner, so that’s when I’ll allow myself to turn it on.
- Put the cell phone down. Nuff said.
- Stick to a budget! I’m terrible about going over our monthly budget. This year, I want to plan how to spend our money, not spend it on a whim.
- Exercise and eat right. Yeah, this one’s going on the list. Again. There are a lot of mini-goals associated with this one, and this isn’t an all or nothing thing. I want to gradually build healthy habits that will lead to a healthy life style. Take mid-day walks, exercise, run a 5k, add veggies to my diet, stop eating out so much, etc.
I’m taking this on a month by month basis. If I screw up in January, it’s okay. I’m going to forgive myself and allow myself to get back on track. Honestly, the only reason I’m calling these New Year’s Goals is because the new year happens to come at a convenient time when I’m ready to make a new start.
Have you made any goals or resolutions this year?
Wow, this was a terrible reading year. Not because I read bad books, but because I didn’t read many books at all. Goodreads tells me 18 – my worst year ever – but that number is deceptive.
- Four of the eighteen were novellas.
- One was a picture book (I had this terrible idea to start keeping up with the books I read to my kids).
- One was a did-not-finish.
So, twelve books total. Wow. That’s terrible. And one of my new year goals is to double that number.
But I did read a number of great books.
RECKONING by S. J. Harper is the sequel to CURSED, and it’s just as fantastic as the first book. This has quickly become my favorite urban fantasy series. It has a strong heroine, a sexy, gentlemanly hero, and a strong plot. Emma is a Siren cursed by Demeter for letting Hades kidnap Persephone. Awesome backstory, and it creates a strong motivation for Emma to do her job – finding lost kids for the FBI – and a strong motivation not to fall in love.
I’m a sucker for forbidden romance, so I’m totally invested in this story. If you haven’t read the first book, go buy it and make it your first read of 2015.
If you want to give this series a trial run, but aren’t yet convinced to spend the time and money to read the full length novels – you really should be convinced by now – you can get a taste of the characters, the writing, and the great tease of romance in the novella, CAPTURED. This story is just as fantastic as the two books in the series; it just took all the goodness and condensed it into a shorter format. I stayed up into the wee hours of the night to finish this book in a day – something I rarely ever do since my boys have a habit of waking up early whenever I stay up late. But every time I tried to go to sleep that night, I couldn’t because I had to know what happened.
BONUS! At the time of this writing, CAPTURED is currently FREE, so you must click and buy!
I really can’t begin to explain how much I love this sci-fi romance trilogy. It works on every level for me. Devi is a strong female lead who is a legitimate badass. She’s a respectable, highly skilled and trained mercenary. Unlike many mercenary woman I read about, Devi feels real. She doesn’t make stupid mistakes, and she knows her stuff. She has the best armor and guns she can afford, and she loves them so much, I love them. Yes, I love her guns and armor, lol. They might as well be my new book boyfriends.
But then, there’s Rupert. Rupert, a name I never thought I’d grow to love. But, man, that chef is sexy. HONOR’S KNIGHT and HEAVEN’S QUEEN are the follow ups to FORTUNE’S PAWN, which came out last year. The books are just as excruciating and action packed. If you enjoy Linnea Sinclair’s books, you’ll freaking love these. This is the type of book I hope my current project turns out to be. A strong plot with great characters and lots of action, with a big dose of romance to go with it. If you’ve never tried a sci-fi romance, then try this. If you love my Shadow Reader books, I think you’ll love this, too.
The only reason I bought this book – the audiobook, actually – is because my husband and I were going on a road trip. It’s often difficult to find books that we’ll both like. He doesn’t really do romance, and a romance is usually a must-have in the books that I enjoy. But I’ve read Brandon Sanderson in the past, so I gave this one a go.
I’m so glad I did. This was the most intriguing novella I’ve ever read. The main character is a super genius. Like, really, really, really super. He’s so smart, he can’t contain his intelligence. He manifests hallucinations that contain information he learns. For example, he’ll hallucinate up a woman who’s an expert in languages after he peruses a book on a foreign language. Within hours, he knows that new language via this hallucination, who translates for him. The hallucinations are all part of his mind, but he treats them as if they were real, opening doors for them and even ordering food at restaurants even though he knows they’re not really real.
It’s fascinating, and in this novella and the sequel novella, which I enjoyed just as much, he uses his brain powers/hallucinations, to help him solve mysteries. So much fun to read, and the narrator was fantastic. I hope Sanderson is working on another LEGION book. I want to read more about this character.
These were my favorite books of 2014. Have any of you read any of these? Are they on your list of favorites? What was your favorite read of 2014?
I finished draft 3 of Shades of Treason a couple of weeks ago. I went through the printed manuscript and made some more mark ups, and once I get those into my file, I’ll send them to a couple of beta readers. While they’re with the betas, I need something new to work on. I’m trying to decide what that will be.
It should be the next book in the Anomaly series. I need to have more than one ready to go before I publish SoT, but my brain feels like it needs a cleanse. SoT was a difficult book to write.
I know, I know. I say that about all my books, but this one really was hard. I think it might be because I was writing in third person, and first person appears to be my strength. Every time I read the book, the writing feels a little off to me. A little distant. A little blah. It could be that it is off and blah and distant. Or, it could be that I’m just not used to it. Gotta have feedback to know for sure.
So I’m thinking of working on a new urban fantasy series. I hate jumping on band wagons, but it’s a new adult urban fantasy series. It would be the same story even if New Adult hadn’t become huge the past couple of years*, but knowing how big it’s become and what it is might make me emphasize the MC’s college experience a bit more.
Yes, the more I think about it, the more I think I should spend the rest of this year working on that project. I posted an excerpt from the first chapter on my blog a while back. It’s here. I think it might need a more gripping opening, but the voice is there. So is the story. And I’ll get to practice my setting skills. That hotel has to be special.
I’ll keep yall posted on what I’m up to!
*Wait a second. Has this trend already passed? I’ve been living in a cave lately, so it could very well have passed. Ah, well. I’m writing the book the way I want to anyway.
A radio guy mentioned this artist and this song the other day. I don’t listen to music on the radio often, so everyone and their dog might have heard this already, but it’s new to me, and wow. The tears. I sobbed so much I could barely hear the lyrics. But after listening to it on repeat for a while, I was able to make it through it without too many sniffles, and that’s when I let the extra brilliance of it sink in. Yes, it’s beautiful and moving and pain-filled, but it’s also genius from a writing perspective. We don’t see the brother in the video, but I feel like I know him through the little things the surviving brother notices. The half empty Gatorade bottle, the shirt thrown in the back, the baseball cap. This truck is personal. It’s a chunk of who the brother was.
And the song reveals the relationship between the two. His brother would punch him if he saw the tear rolling down his face. That one detail shows me so much about the two. So do the lines, “I drive your truck. I hope you don’t mind. I hope you don’t mind. I hope you don’t mind.” The older brother would probably kick his butt for touching his truck if he were alive.
The surviving brother doesn’t change the radio station. The older bro (I don’t know why I assume the other brother is older) would probably kick his butt for that, too. You don’t touch a man’s radio.
Love this song. I’m going to check out some of the artist’s other stuff.
God, when that little girl peers around her mother at the end… It gets me every time.