Vlog: How to Write Without Filtering

Want to make your writing feel more authentic and immediate? Today I'm sharing some tips on writing without filtering.



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Do you use these tips while revising? 

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Want to make your writing more authentic & immediate? Author @Ava_Jae vlogs about writing without filtering. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #26

Photo credit: Cade Buchanan on Flickr
We are, bizarrely, just days away from September, which is actually great because I am so ready for the cool down. But more importantly, it means the time is here again, to critique another first page here on Writability.

As per usual, I'll start by posting the full first 250 excerpt, after which I'll share my overall thoughts, then my redline critique. I encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques in the comments (because I'm one person with one opinion!), as long as it's polite, thoughtful, and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be unceremoniously deleted.

Here we go!

Title: CONNECT THE DOTS

Genre/Category: YA Mystery

First 250 words:
"I opened my eyes, sat up, and immediately winced. Somehow I had moved from the Underworld to underneath the light board backstage. Plus I now had yet another bruise to add to my quickly growing collection of bumps on my head. I got out from under the light board and stood up. I started to reach for my backpack to get an ice pack only to realize that it was gone. Whoever had moved me had also taken my backpack for some reason. I reached into my pocket to check my phone to see what time it was. To my horror the screen of my phone was completely shattered. It must have been crushed when I was knocked out by the staff. My dad was going to kill me when I got home now. I walked out onto the stage and realized that the production was not going on. There was no one anywhere and it was pouring rain. Everyone must have been hiding in the museum. I decided to make a beeline over there so I pulled my cardigan over my head and ran to the door. I was soaking wet by the time I got across the museum courtyard. I pushed open the doors and saw the astonished faces of Xenia and Thanos look up at me from what looked to be a shipment of more pieces for the exhibit. 
Xenia ran up to me, 'Nancy! Where have you been? Are you alright?'"

Okay! Interesting opener. The biggest thing I'm noticing right away is there's a lot of wordiness especially in the form of filter phrases, which is inflating that paragraph quite a bit and creating some distance between the reader and the protagonist. I'm curious about what's going on, but the writing could definitely use some condensing and refining.

Much of which I'll do next, so let's dive into those line edits.

 "I opened my eyes, sat up, and immediately winced. Somehow I'd had moved from the Underworld to underneath the light board backstage. Plus I now had yet another bruise to add to my quickly growing collection of head bumps on my head. I got out moved away from under the light board and stood up. I started to reached for my backpack to get an ice pack only to realize that but it was gone. Whoever had moved me had also taken my backpack for some reason. A lot of these changes so far are condensing. Check out my "How to Condense Without Losing Anything Useful" post for reasons why these changes help. I reached into my pocket to check the time on my phone to see what time it was. To my horror  [Insert horrified description/reaction—what does this emotion feel like? How does she physically react? For more on this, take a look at "How to Write Emotion Effectively."] the my phone's screen of my phone was completely shattered. It must have been crushed when the staff I was knocked me out by the staff. Made adjustment to make the sentence more active. 
[Insert paragraph break—your intro paragraph was too long and visually weighed down the passage.]
My dad was going to kill me when I got home now. I walked out onto the stage but and realized that the production wasn't not going on anymore. Adjusted to remove filtering. There was no one anywhere and it was pouring outside rain. Added "outside" because at first I thought it was raining inside or the stage was outside. Everyone must have been hiding in the museum. I decided to make a beeline over there so I pulled my cardigan over my head and ran to the door. Removed the first half of that sentence to remove unnecessary filtering. I was soaking wet by the time I got across crossed the museum courtyard. I pushed open the doors and saw the astonished faces of Xenia and Thanos looked up at me, astonished, from what looked to be a shipment of more exhibit pieces for the exhibit. Bonus: instead of "astonished" describe what that astonishment looks like on Xenia and Thanos. 
Xenia ran up to me, 'Nancy! Where have you been? Are you alright?'"

So this is a really great start—I think plot and intrigue-wise, this opening is definitely on the right track. The main work it needs lies in the line edits, which is 100% doable. If I saw this in the slush, I'd probably pass because the line edits required are on the heavy side, but I'd certainly be interested if it went through more revision first.

I hope that helps! Thanks for sharing your first 250 with us, Emily!

Would you like to be featured in a Fixing the First Page Feature? Keep an eye out for the next giveaway in September!

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.@Ava_Jae talks condensing, removing filter phrases, & showing emotion in the 26th Fixing the First Page Feature. (Click to tweet

On Traditional Publishing If You Don't Live in the US

Photo credit: jbachman01 on Flickr
So one question I get asked with surprising frequency is whether or not international authors can get published within the US. These questions often come from writers who live anywhere outside the US and worry that they can only be agented by the tiny pool of agents in their country, or published by publishers in their country, and thus won't really be able to get a fair shot at traditional publishing.

As this has been a frequently asked question, I figured I'd write a post about it.

The easy answer is this: agents and editors within the US work with people from all around the world all the time. It's absolutely not a requirement to live in the US to get traditionally published by a US publisher, or to be represented by an agent living in the US. Most of the work that gets done between authors, agents, and editors is all done either via e-mail (where contracts and manuscripts get sent back and forth) or on the phone to discuss all manner of things. A lot of American authors haven't even met their agent or editor in person—or don't for several years—because the truth is not much really needs to be done in person.

This also works the other way—there are agents who don't live in the US but work with US clients and publishers all the time. This probably happens less often than the other way around, but just off the top of my head I can think of several agents who do this, and again, it's not a problem.

So if you're a writer living outside of the US and you're worried about your location complicating your ability to get a US-based agent and publisher, don't be. It's a pretty common scenario and shouldn't be an issue at all. :)

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Live outside the US and worried you can't get a US-based agent or publisher? Author @Ava_Jae says don't be. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Winner #26!

Photo credit: demandaj on Flickr
Yet another quick Thursday post to announce the winner of the twenty-sixth fixing the first page feature giveaway!

*drumroll*

And the twenty-sixth winner is…


EMILY GRASSO!


Yay! Congratulations, Emily!

Thank you again to all you fabulous entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there will be another fixing the first page giveaway in September (September!!), so keep an eye out! :)

What I've Been Reading

So somewhat unsurprisingly, this month I've fallen behind on my yearly reading goal. I say somewhat unsurprisingly because I'm revising on deadline, and also have been sick more than usual, and also it was the Olympics (which ate up a bunch of my reading time) so I was kind of expecting it. But that said, I have still been reading and while I haven't had the chance to write up any formal reviews, I figured it'd be fun to talk about some of the books I've read recently a little about why I liked them.

So here we go!

Photo credit: Goodreads


The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

I've been wanting to read this one since I first heard about it, and it was beautiful. The writing, the incredibly unique fantasy incorporating Indian mythology—gah there was so much about this book that I was just heart eyes over. I've heard some people say they found it a little hard to get into at first, and all I've got to say is keep reading if you can because I really loved this beautifully complicated world and the truly gorgeous imagery and writing that went along with it, even as I was initially incredibly frustrated with the protagonist. ;)


Photo credit: Goodreads

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys edited by April Geneviece Tucholke, with Stefan Bachmann, Leigh Bardugo, Kendare Blake, A.G. Howard, Jay Kristoff, Marie Lu, Jonathan Maberry, Danielle Page, Carrie Ryan, Megan Shepherd, Nova Ren Suma, McCormick Templeman and Cat Winters

I mentioned reading this anthology before, but I hadn't finished it last time I talked about it and now I have! I really enjoyed this anthology—and I can say a story scared me for the first time ever because while I was fine while reading it, as soon as I turned off the lights and glanced at my open closet...I had to get up and close the doors for reasons. I have maybe been closing those doors more than ever since I read a particular story in there. >.<

Anyway, these stories were disturbing, and unsettling, and creepy, and I definitely give it a thumbs up if you like scary stories.




Sekret and Skandal by Lindsay Smith

I just recently finished Sekret and I've just started Skandal and they've been a fun read! I don't often read historical stuff, but this is historical fantasy, and this blend of fantasy—psychic spies—was just too awesome to pass up. I've never read about telepathic teens quite like this before and seeing Smith's unique blend of psychic writing plus the Cold War era has definitely been entertaining thus far. I'm curious to see how the duology ends!

So those are my most recent four books that I've read/been reading—what have you been reading over the last couple months?

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What are the last couple books you've read? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet

Vlog: 4 Non-Writing Writing Tips

On things you can do to improve your writing that don't involve writing.



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What non-writing writing tips would you add to the list? 

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How can you improve your writing without actually writing? @Ava_Jae vlogs 4 non-writing writing tips. (Click to tweet)

Keeping Track of the Details

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Consistency errors are nefarious little demons. From randomly changing eye colors, to ages skipping around, to remembering this made up word over that one and whether or not you capitalized your novel-specific term, as they say, the devil is in the details.

This has become especially relevant as of late, as I've revised a sequel for the first time ever, and I have to say I'm glad I took careful notes the first time around because they will definitely be saving my hide in the months to come.

For Beyond the Red I primarily used two programs to keep track of the details, though I'll probably migrate to just one in the future. The programs I use are pretty different, though—WorkFlowy is a bulleted list type program that I wrote a post about ages ago, and Excel is, of course, the spreadsheet program Excel.

Initially, I used WorkFlowy more for brainstorming, but it became a place where I stored details mainly because I came up with a lot of details while brainstorming in the program. I like to keep it there, though, because the collapsable bulleted list layout that makes up WorkFlowy keeps things neat and easily accessible. That's where I keep track of world and culture details, everything from how long a day is on Safara to which monarchs are ruling where.

Meanwhile, I use Excel for the more nitty gritty details—all of my language notes are in there, as well as a record of what everyone looks like, how old they are, so on and so forth. Both lists have proved completely invaluable especially as I've been working to keep things consistent, and I can't imagine trying to tackle a series—or even a single complicated book—without them. It's far too easy to forget little details, and having to go through a manuscript to try to find the answer is way more time consuming if you don't have a list set aside with your answers already.

How do you keep track of details in your manuscript?

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How do you keep track of details in your manuscripts? @Ava_Jae shares her method. (Click to tweet)
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