Natasha Raulerson

Back To The Future – On Writer’s Block & Editing

Sometimes finding that next word or that next sentence isn’t so easy. This can happen 10k or 50k words into that work-in-progress. If you’re lucky, it never happens, but for the majority, there is always that moment that catches us. That makes it hard for fingers to brush over the keyboard in fluid movements. Instead, it’s jagged tap-a-taps before hitting the backspace key–and somewhere in between is usually the overwhelming urge to throw said keyboard out the window. Not that the sudden block is the keyboards fault, but let’s face it, keyboards probably get more abuse from writers than anyone else. Mine has so much wear and tear that the letters have worn off the keys, and honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t cracked the damn thing. The keyboard is the medium from which we transport our thoughts to the screen–and sometimes, we’re very, very mean to it when we can’t make the correlation.

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So, what can we do to not only keep the words flowing, but to maybe not beat up the poor, innocent, and too-often abused keyboard?

Well there are some tactics. Maybe pushing forward works for you. Writing crap upon crap until finally it gives way to the diamonds in the rough that make the story flow again. Most times those original craptastic words are deleted and rewritten later, but if that’s the method that works, then that’s the method that works.

I tend to be the person who stares and stares and stares and wonders why my fingers aren’t moving. Then I note twenty-minutes have passed and the most I’ve achieved is three words and being mesmerized by the cursor blinking on the page.

Realizing that this method is not helping me get any work done, I’ve opted to try something new.

GOING BACK TO THE FUTURE!

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So what does that mean in writer terms exactly? Well, I was listening to K.M. Weiland’s podcast and she mentioned that about every third of her manuscript she goes back and edits. She also mentioned that some authors get caught in a sort of loophole where they forever edit what they already have and never continue on. I used to be that writer, so going back to edit while writing makes me reluctant. I don’t want to fall in that loophole again.

However, when I can’t push forward, it makes me wonder if something has gone wrong in what I already wrote, or rather, in the past of my manuscript. How have I wound up struggling so hard to write that next line? Well, the only way to figure that out is to go to the past–or what I’ve already written in the world I’m working on. To read over what I already have and see if I need to change something, or, what’s more likely, I may have forgotten a detail that’s meant to push the plot forward. Weaving together a plot is pretty damn hard. So by going back and rereading what’s already there, details that are forgotten in the whirlwind of the rough draft pop back out, and things are remembered, thus I can change the future of my manuscript. Making notes in the sidebar (I have Scrivener) can definitely help the process of not over editing–something that may keep you stuck in the past.

Instead of adding the actual detail that may be needed to enhance a scene, jot a note down so when you’re going through your first round of revisions, you remember what you need to do. Sure, fix a misspelled word, or maybe add a bit of dialogue if it comes to you, but don’t DO all the actual editing–at least if you’re like me and will get caught in that forever-editing-loop instead of finishing the manuscript.

By reading through the past, new ideas pop to mind. New avenues to take, paths to carves, 10_21_15_alison_greatscottcharacters to enhance or create. You may get through one chapter or four before that “GREAT SCOTT!” moment hits and you’re jumping back to the future of your manuscript to work on that scene with renewed vigor–and a safely intact keyboard.

I’ve learned this method keeps my mind in the manuscript, makes the gears spin in regards to the what has happened as well as what needs to happen, and helps me come up with ideas of where to take it based on where I’ve already been–and just like Marty and Doc, sometimes I wind up finding a nugget that with a little tweaking, lets me change the future into something much better than I originally imagined.

At the very least, I’ve got some notes jotted for when I actually start the full editing process.

Give it a shot. If nothing else, your keyboard will thank you.

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Natasha Raulerson

Query Advice – Do’s, Don’ts, and Structure

It is becoming harder and harder to sift through advice in the writing community. Some is very subjective so it can vary, depending on what the topic is. Other advice however, is not just wrong, but it’s bad–and this can be detrimental to any author, especially those who are going the traditional route and putting a query out there.

Some advice is along the line of, the query shouldn’t be specific.

Yes it should. If your query is not specific then agents don’t know why your manuscript is different than every other story with the same tropes out there.

Another thing is that you have to have comp titles.

No you don’t. You can have them. Doesn’t mean you have to. Especially if you can’t think of anything modern to compare your work with. Sometimes it’s better to let it stand on its own. Other times, comp titles are amazingly useful. It just depends, but don’t think it’s a necessity.

Sometimes, even the query format is jumbled.

Standard query format is as follows:

Dear Agent,

Hook – Think something sharp and witty, like the tagline of a movie. Short and engaging. One to two lines max.

Body – This is the meat. 2-3 paragraphs giving the who, what, why, and of course the stakes. THIS SHOULD NOT BE VAGUE. This should include the protagonist/antagonist/love interest OR best friend. Three names maximum. Anything more than that and it gets confusing.

Even if your story is in first or second person, your query needs to be in third person, present tense.

This is the person, this is what’s happening, but when this happens, things get messed up.

The query DOES NOT give away the ending. It gives the STAKES. Try to avoid clichés such as, “Timmy must decide if finding out the secret is worth risking his life.” This is vague. Mysteries, secrets, etc. They don’t tell me anything. What is the secret? It’s okay to tell the agent. What happens if they don’t fix the problem? If the secret is something that will effect other people, how is it only Timmy’s life at risk? There’s more. You just have to dig a little deeper.

An easy formula to use to help identify the stakes:

Character must do THIS or else THAT (usually a consequence) will happen.

The stakes should finish the body of your query.

Novel Info – NOVEL TITLE is an age category genre complete at XX,XXX words. Comp titles if you want. It is out for simultaneous submission.

Reason For Querying Of Agent – If you so choose. Again, this is not a required field. Up to you. I would say only do this if you have a specific reason to. For instance you saw their post on ManuscriptWishList and thought it would be a good fit. Otherwise, they generally expect that you’ve done your research. Keep this brief.

About Me – A little bit about yourself and any writing accomplishments you have. It’s okay if you don’t have any too. It’s not going to keep you from getting rep. Keep this brief.

Thank you for your time and consideration. (You don’t need to mention the full manuscript is available upon request. You should only be querying if your manuscript is complete and polished–that’s what agents expect, so they already assume it’s available. Also don’t suck up and be like, “I promise you won’t regret requesting my manuscript!” Bad form. Keep it professional.)

Sincerely,

Name
Phone Number
Email
Social Media

Just a note. You can put the novel info and reason for querying at the beginning or the end, but do not break it up. Me personally, when I’m judging competitions, I prefer the novel info at the end so I’m not bias. Some agents prefer it first. Again, this is a just depends, but really as far as I can tell, it’s not going to hinder your chances. It’s the meat of the query that matters.

The meat of your query should be a minimum of 250 words (unless it’s a PB) and at max 350 words. Some go over the 350 word max, and a little bit is fine, but try not to go much longer than that.

Edit: The word count is also becoming very subjective among agents. Some are even now saying 250 words or less. It comes down to researching your agents in regards to submission guidelines.

So, how do you know this is good advice? Well, you still need to do your homework. Read agent websites and blogs. Check out known query resource sites. Ask authors who have managed to snag an agent how they did it. (Honestly, we don’t bite, we’re happy to answer questions when we can.) Follow people who make it into competitions such as Query Kombat, Pitch Wars, Pitch Slam, etc. They had to write queries to get in–good queries. Ones that follow standard format and have all the elements to let an agent or judge know why their story is unique.

Don’t just read one article and assume that’s the end all be all. Even for what I wrote, there’s wiggle room. For instance some people use one POV for the body, others use two. Two is a lot trickier, and I prefer one, but a lot of people have great queries from two POV’s. It all just depends.

One last note.

DO NOT PUT RHETORICAL QUESTIONS IN YOUR QUERY. MANY AGENTS HAVE STATED STRAIGHT UP THEY DO NOT LIKE THIS. 

Here’s some resources to get you started.

Agent Query Connect – this website has several forums that allows you to post your query. You’ll get brutally honest feedback. It’s where I learned quite a bit about query writing when I started.

Query Shark – This is run by the amazing Janet Reid of Fine Print Literary. She has amazing advice. Read through Query Shark. All of it.

Query Kombat – A competition run by Michelle Hauck, Michael Anthony, and Laura Heffernan.  Think Mortal Kombat, but with queries. This competition is currently in progress. So read through the feedback that the judges leave as it may even apply to your query. #QueryKombat

Pitch Slam – Another fantastic writing competition run by Leatrice McKinney. Most recently she is also participating in WCNV giving more opportunities for diverse writers and #ownvoices. Both of these are great competitions to follow and gain insightful information on query writing. #PitchSlam #WCNV

Pitch Wars – Probably the most notorious writing competition to date, created and hosted by the amazing Brenda Drake. There is so much to be learned from this competition. Not only by following the community on Twitter, but also, recently, the mentors have created a blog where we offer advice to the writing community: Writing With The Mentors. #PitchWars

 

 

Natasha Raulerson

It’s An Author Thing: Mood Swings

Writing a novel is not easy. It comes with many parts, layers, plot, characterization, pacing, and more. It can come naturally, or it can be frustrating as hell. The layers may fall into

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Sometimes we might get the urge to print part or all of the story just so we can destroy it. 

place, or they might decide that they don’t fit into this particular jigsaw puzzle and opt to be a pain in the ass. Authors not only have to deal with problems in real life, but with the problems in the world they’re creating. So, yes, from time to time we might lose our shit.

 

It’s an author thing.

There may be days where we’re smiling, whistling, giddy even, because we’ve managed to write 2,000 plus words to finish a scene. A scene that we absolutely love. We celebrate with coffee or wine, maybe add some chocolate in there. It could be on Friday, so we break out the booze early, because it’s five o’clock somewhere. We celebrate, because it’s an accomplishment.

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Cheers to the days when writing comes easy and the characters do exactly what they’re supposed to do. 

It’s an author thing.

Saturday rolls around and when you wake up, the first thing you notice is your possible hangover. Try not to celebrate too hard next time.

There’s another problem though. As your brain was relaxing from the copious amounts of alcohol, you realize that the scene you wrote, may not actually be what the book needs. A thought dribbles in that there’s a better way to do it, or if you do it all the crazy consequences that could shift the entire plot of the book taking it in a direction you don’t want it to go.

Damn it!

That’s never fun. The two choices are to scrap the scene then and there or continue writing to see where it goes. Neither of which you want to do because it was time tumblr_lsx4ddf9ar1qafrh6consuming and yesterday it was perfect, but today–the problems have shown themselves.

It’s frustrating, and you’ve gone from happy-go-lucky to “disturb me while I’m trying to
fix this and I will end you.”

Staring, chin holding, hair pulling, eye rolling, and so many more things happen as you analyze the text, desperately trying to figure out what to do next. Your emotions are fluctuating up and down. When you think you’ve got an idea, victory is in sight, but then, you realize crying-gif-2the five different reasons it won’t work.

So, essentially, in less than 24 hours you’ve gone from happy, to hungover, to annoyed, to angry, to flabbergasted, to sad. All your confidence as a writer is gone. You wonder if you can make it in this business. It’s a roller coaster of tumultuous emotions from being overwhelmed, just because one scene is ruining the whole book.

Oh no, I’m not exaggerating. This happens. To multiple authors. Readers don’t get emotions from novels because we’re cold, uncaring robots. They get it because it took all those emotions just to write the book.

Just as all hope seems to be lost, and you’re hiding under your desk rocking back and forth, hair wild–and maybe just a little drool dribbling down your chin–epiphany strikes. You know just want to do to make the ()#&%#(*$&#( scene work. To make the story work.

You get up, clean up, and sit at your keyboard, fingers going to work. All the previous confidence you lost has now returned. You got this.

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It’s an author thing.

Natasha Raulerson

It’s An Author Thing: Don’t Judge My Browser History

Part Four

We’re not neurotic–all the time. Okay, maybe some of the time.

Stop pressuring me!

Admittedly, it’s a lot of the time. That’s besides the point. If you had worlds forming in your head and characters whispering in your ear, you might be a little coocoo bananas too.

No, we’re not actually crazy….at least not clinically. 

It’s an author thing.

However, if you find one of us watching Forensic Files, a documentary on serial killers, using the internet to look up poisons, strange ways to dispose of a body, or rituals that require human sacrifice, do not fear. We’re not going to kill you or anyone else–at least not in the real world.

Our characters though, well they may have something to worry about.

We research morbid and terrible things to make our stories more compelling. A story can be any genre, but it still has to be believable in that, the reader must be able to aknowledge that the events could happen. Event taking a realistic situation and putting into a novel can be hard. As they say, sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. Strange things happen, but as authors we have to make sure that our story is, on some level, believable. Otherwise, readers will not be happy.

So when we’re at an impass, we pull out our laptops, research how long it takes for rigor mortis to set in, check unsolved murder cases, look for ideas on how to get away with murder (no, not the TV show, actual ways to get away with murder), unique ways to kill people, and well, generally worse things than that.  It’s necessary.

Don’t judge my browser history.

It’s an author thing.

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

A little bit of Christmas Music to start you off.

I woke up, sneezing like bananas way too early this Christmas morning. In my house we have a rule. No waking everyone up till 7 a.m. Thus, I’ve decided to write my final blog post of 2014. It’s been one hell of a ride hasn’t it?

Over all, I have to say it’s been a great year. Sure, there’s been trials and tribulations, but what year passes that doesn’t have those? The trials and tribulations help shape and mold who we are. Recognizing the happy moments in between however, is what makes it all worth wild.

I found a little site called Agent Query Connect. Now, while I rarely frequent it anymore, without it, I would never have met some of the best people in the writing world. I found out about Pitch Wars through people on this site, and was given the courage (especially by my CP Tiffany Hofmann) to put my work out there. I didn’t get into Pitch Wars, but I made some amazing friends, CP’s, and from that, I’ve been able to gain enough confidence in my work to truly believe that one day I will be published.

Pitch Wars also helped me found Whiskey, Wine, & Writing, cohosted with Nikki Roberti. It’s been crazy fun, and in the New Year, we’re even having best selling adult and teen author, Rachel Caine on the show. It’s amazing to think how far a little WWW_profile imageshow came from talking about a contest, to now being a weekly show that has contributors and wonderful people in the writing world willing to be on.

It’s been so humbling to see how many people love the show, and there are so many people to thank for that, including but not limited to, Tiffany Hofmann who help me found the show, Nikki Roberti who is my permanent cohost, Brenda Drake for coming on the first night and helping us connect with the writing world, as well as our wonderful guests such as: Jenn Blackwood, Brighton Walsh, Rhonda Helms, Veronica Bartles, and so many more!

On top of it all, this chick right here, graduated with her Associates of Arts degree just a week ago. I have a focus in English and Creative Writing.wpid-wp-1419505845657.jpeg

In eleven days I start working on my Bachelors at FAU. I’ll be majoring in English with a minor in Film and Television. I honestly, can’t wait to start.

If nothing else, 2014 has showed me that dreams are obtainable. You just have to be willing to work hard for them. I’m still working to obtain mine, and I’m not giving up on them ever. Perseverance is a good lesson to learn.

Other people I want to acknowledge for being awesome are my CP group, EL Wicker, Diana Pinguicha, and Kathy Palm. These wonderful ladies have put up with my hectic schedule at the end of this year, and supported me like champs. Fantastic writers, strong women, and I love them for their honest input on my work.

As 7 a.m. draws closer, and I get maybe just a little bit giddy about seeing my husbands face when he opens his gifts this morning, I’m going to wrap this up, with a big ol’ thank you to everyone who has helped and supported me this year. I hope you have a Merry Christmas, and in the New Year your creativity sky rockets like a boss! Happy writing and have a wildly creative holiday season!

I RECLAIM THEE!

Well, if you haven’t figure it out now, WWWriting is doing pretty damn well. With that in mind, it’s being moved off my person site and being given what it deserves-a site of its own. Yup, that’s right, off my site, and onto its own!

New Website

Facebook

Twitter

Google Plus

Youtube

So, if you’ve been following my personal blog to watch Whiskey, Wine, & Writing (as I suspect you have been because let’s face it, that’s the most interesting thing on this blog!) then it’s time to start following WWWriting at it’s new home, as here, there isn’t going to be much more about it.

But that means my blog is FREEEEEEEE to be mine again. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Yeah, I don’t know what that means, but I suppose we’ll find out. I have a few blog hops to do, but otherwise, I’m gonna have to rethink this. Hrmmmm!

Whiskey, Wine, & Writing – The Return!

Whiskey, Wine, & Writing

is back due to overwhelming request. We are beyond stoked that you guys love the show so much.

That being said, I’ve been trying to work out a schedule and implement things so we have a decent show for you guys each week. We’ll see about maybe getting some guest authors and other awesome people on the show, maybe do some give-a-ways and other awesome stuff.

Right now, I’m hoping to have one show a week–the exact day is still to be determined. With the exception of competition fun (for contests such as pitchwars, etc) the show will only be an hour long. For special occasions it will probably run over.

If you are interested in GUEST HOSTING feel free to email me at: thirtynerdyfabulous@gmail.com

Also, please use the above email for anything blog or WWW related.

Whiskey, Wine, & Writing Topics May Include But Are Not Limited To:

  • General Writing
  • Grammar Stuff
  • Contests
  • Twitter
  • Book Topics
  • Pet Peeves
  • Rants
  • Awesome Authors
  • Awesome Agents
  • Frustration With The Writing Process
  • Drunken Ramblings
  • Things That Occupy Your Desk
  • How To’s
  • Don’t Do’s
  • And Penguin Overlords Ruling The World.

The first show will commense on 9/27/2014 at 6pm EST. 

Leave your comments and thoughts!