writing

So, I can admit that the beginning of the year was a lot busier than I expected (A LOT busier).  I pubbed my middle grade noir mystery, Harper Madigan: Junior High Private Eye.  I expanded from doing commissions on DeviantArt to an actual Etsy business.  I was taking grad school classes.  I spent my spring break working a (stressful) temp job.  And I finished up another temp job earlier this month.

If I never work another 9-5 job, I will not be shedding any tears.  I am seriously not cut out for it.  Probably most of us aren’t.  I keep reading about how more and more of us are turning to freelance work, so I know it’s not just me.

But anyway!  Some of you have been asking about The Trials of Renegade X and how it’s coming along.  And now that my workload has mellowed out and the nervous breakdown meter is no longer on orange alert, I’ve finally been able to sit down with this book again and make some progress.  (For those of you not reading this directly from my site, the word count bar is up to 5,700, about 8% of the expected total.)

And this isn’t really a surprise, but I LOVE this story.  Even though I’ve had it planned out for months, it’s hard to get back into writing when I haven’t done it in a while, and especially when I haven’t been writing regularly.  But the more time I spend working on this, the more I love it and the more into it I am.  I’ve crossed the threshold of “Juggling all this stuff is hard! *WHINE*” to “OMG, I can’t wait to put in this and this and this, and THIS cool thing goes here, and wait, there was a better way to phrase that sentence I wrote five pages ago…”  It’s like the difference between pushing a piano upstairs and sliding down the banister.  (Not that I can slide down banisters.  But, you know, if I *could,* then I’m sure that’s what it would be like.  For the record, I’m pretty sure I can’t push a piano upstairs either.  In fact, I’m more likely to pull off a really awesome banister slide than I am to move a piano at all.)

And The Trials of Renegade X now has a Facebook page.  It’s where I’m posting my daily word count.  Go there, press like, and you can watch the book grow (and shrink and then grow again, as books are wont to do…) and show your support and tell your friends and all that.  I mean, you do have friends, don’t you?  And you wouldn’t want to be accused of depriving them of something awesome, right?  RIGHT? *makes squinty accusing eyes*

Ahem.

Anyway, you might be wondering when this book will be done, and, more importantly, when can you have it???  Well, according to my estimations–*types random numbers in giant calculator with one of those paper rolls coming out the back*–I should be done with the first draft in 2 – 3 months.  But you never know when I might get crazy obsessed and not be able to stop myself from doing anything besides writing.  But you also never know when life will get completely overwhelming and get in the way.  So, yeah, 2 – 3 months.  Then there’s editing and revising to do.  And then–THEN–you can have it.  And by my calculations, that means it will be out some time this fall, late November at the latest.  Which means it’ll be out in time for the holidays and you can surprise all your friends you “forgot” to link to the FB page with copies and you will be crowned the best gift giver ever.  (Or at least until next year.)

So that’s the scoop on the sequel.  I’ll know more about the release date as I get closer to finishing the book.  In the mean time, go read Harper Madigan.  It’s awesome and it made this Top Ten Underappreciated Books List.

Taking a break from work and school related deadlines to answer another publishing question!  Mel asks:

If I sent my manuscript to an agent about a year ago (who requested a full) , but since then have significantly revised it, would you suggest resubmitting it?

Definitely!  Just make sure to be up front about it in your query letter and mention it’s the book they’d seen before, only significantly revised, and mention some of the big changes.  They may say thanks but no thanks and not want to see the new version, but it’s worth a try.  A year is plenty of time for you to have given your manuscript an overhaul and for this to not come across as pushy or annoying.

Now, if this agent in question has had your full sitting around for a year and hasn’t responded at all, then that feels a bit more iffy.  That might not be the case here, but I want to address it anyway, for anyone who might be in that situation.  Not that you can’t resend your manuscript here (you can, just mention that since they hadn’t responded to the full, maybe they haven’t had a chance to read it yet and would they like to see the new and improved version?), but a year is a long time with no communication.  I would do more research on them and find out if this is a typical wait time and how responsive the agent is with their clients.

I say this because I had a bad experience with my first agent.  She’d requested a full of one of my manuscripts, by phone, and then never responded.  Six months later I contacted her because I had a new book (Renegade X) and asked if she’d like to take a look at it.  She apparently had finished the first book I sent her and liked it, but wasn’t sure if she could sell it, and just never got around to telling me any of this. :/  I thought, “Hey, aspiring authors are supposed to be treated like afterthoughts… she’d be way more attentive if I was her client.”  Well, I did eventually become her client, but she didn’t become any more attentive.  We never spoke on the phone again, and I never stopped feeling like an afterthought, though again I thought, “Once I make a sale, THEN I’ll be worthy of her time.”

Not true!  For the record, if you’re a client, you’re always worthy of your agent’s time, whether you’ve had a sale or not.

But anyway, back to the story.  This agent only got more aloof as my book gathered up rejections.  Eventually she stopped talking to me all together and ignored my request for a status update on who had my manuscript.  So I fired her!  It was scary, but one of the best decisions of my life, and one that lead to a new, super amazing agent and a book contract.

So that’s my tale of caution on super slow responders.  Some agents do have a lot of backlog, and emails can get buried and forgotten about.  It happens.  But a full is a big deal, and you should get a response, even if it turns out to be a form letter.  But if an agent’s M.O. is to show their lack of enthusiasm by never contacting you again, I’d think long and hard about giving them another chance.

If you’re submitting your novels to agents or editors, or even thinking about submitting, you’ve probably had to deal with query letters.  And, if you’re anything like I was when I was sending out query letters, the thought of having to write one probably makes you want to tear your hair out and curl up in the corner and die.  Maybe you’ve got a couple queries under your belt, but you’re not getting requests when you send them out.  Or your beta readers go over your letter, say it needs “something,” but can’t tell you what that something is.  Or maybe–and this is my personal favorite–you’ve got a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, telling you all sorts of spices and vegetables that need to go into your query soup, so that what comes out after all your revisions isn’t so much a soup as a puddle of unappetizing goo.

Sound at all familiar?

Don’t worry, it gets easier.  Writing query letters is a craft, which means you can learn it.  And you can bet mine used to be embarrassingly bad.  I was practically the poster child for unreadable query letters, and I dreaded every minute of writing them.  Tips like “make sure it has the same voice as your novel” or “less is better” weren’t very helpful.  For the record, you do want voice in your letter to match the voice of your book, but it’s like saying that in order to make soup, you need to put in salt.  Great!  Very true!  But… does that really tell you how to make soup?  It’s a tip on how to make it taste better, to liven it up, but it doesn’t tell you what you really need to know to create it.  The same goes for “less is better.”  It’s true that you don’t want to bog down your query letter with everything that happens in your novel, but what do you put in?

Before we get started, let’s go over what a query letter is.  You probably already know if you’ve gotten this  far, but I want us all to be on the same page.  The short and kind-of-bland version is that it’s a polite business letter in block format that tells an agent (or editor) what they need to know about you and your book to decide if they want to even read your work, let alone take you on as a client.  There are straight up facts like your word count, genre, and contact info, but the tough part, and the part we’re concerned with here, is the story blurb.  It’s the description, similar to what you read on the back of a book, that tries to hook potential readers.  This is where it gets scary and where I used to get tripped up.  You query letter has to sell your book to someone.  Someone who sees thousands and thousands of letters just like yours, and what if you leave out the one detail that would have made them hit the request button instead of delete???

Relax.  First of all,  if there are thousands and thousands of letters out there that all sound the same, that’s awesome, because yours isn’t going to sound the same as everybody else’s.  And second, the details aren’t what’s going to sell your story to anyone, so put them out of your mind for now.

So what does sell stories to people?  The same thing that always sells them: characters and conflicts.

Start your blurb with your main character.  Tell me what they want.  Then tell me why they can’t have it.   This is important because what a character wants conveys a ton of behind-the-scenes info about who they are.  My cat Teisel wants to win fights and feel like he’s better than everyone.  I could tell you that Teisel is furry and has both stripes and spots, but that’s not what’s important about him, and it doesn’t tell you anything about his personality or why you should care about his struggles.  And if after telling you he wants to win fights and feel like he’s better than everyone I add that he’s lost every single fight he’s ever started because he’s too worried about winning to actually act, now we don’t just have a character, but the makings of a story.  It poses the unasked question of “What happens next?”

It’s easy to fall into the trap here of actually telling us what happens next and just listing events.  For the most part, you want to forget about events.  And you certainly don’t want your blurb to read like a laundry list of plot points.  I could say Teisel gets in a big fight.  He loses the fight.  He feels even worse about it.  You might notice how boring those sentences are, even though they’re about a fight, but the real problem with them is that they don’t give us a reason to care about it.  Again, what makes us care are characters and conflict.  For example, a conflict-focused version of the previous list of events might start out like this:  Teisel challenges his worst enemy, Kitten the Undefeated, to one final fight to see who is permanently crowned king of the cat tree.  Technically, there is an event here–a fight over a cat tree.  But that’s not what’s important about it.  What’s important is that Teisel is challenging his worst enemy (and this tells us a lot about him as a character, because even though he’s too afraid to act in a fight, he’s still bold enough to make this sort of challenge), who we see is undefeated (meaning Teisel, who has a 100% losing streak, has no chance of winning), and we see that there are consequences to losing this fight (the loss of the cat tree, which is also a high up place where Teisel can look down on others and feel important; losing both the big fight and his claim to the tree will mean he has no way to achieve his goals).

Pile on your conflicts, showing us the obstacles your character has to face to achieve their goal.  Give them impossible odds to overcome, and make sure we know what will happen if they fail.  Piling up the odds is no good if we don’t know the consequences, and the consequences are only as good as how badly they screw things up for our characters.

You don’t need to tell the whole story in the query letter.  It’s okay to leave out or fudge things that are too complicated to get across in the two or three paragraphs you have for your blurb.  And it’s okay to leave off the ending.  My favorite way to end a story blurb is to leave the character with an ultimatum, one that could go either way and that leaves the audience wanting to know which choice they’ll make.  This is easiest to do by giving them two equally important goals and a reason why they can’t have both.

So, to sum it up:

  1. Give us a character.  Tell us what they want, why they can’t have it, and what will happen if they don’t get it.  While doing this you’re sneakily showing us who they are and what their world is like.
  2. Focus on the conflicts and opposing forces your character has to deal with rather than events.  Keep ’em coming until achieving their goal seems impossible, but make sure we know why they absolutely have to succeed.  Whatever will happen if they fail will be worse than facing all those impossible odds.
  3. Throw in a complication that makes the character have to choose between two things that are important to them.  They can’t save their childhood sweetheart and the kids in the orphanage across town where they grew up–they have to pick one, but both are important to them, and both are choices they could actually make.  Leave us there, desperate to know which one they’ll choose.

 

You can read the story blurbs I’ve written for my books on my site, www.chelseamcampbell.com, under Books.  The blurb for The Rise of Renegade X is what I used in my actual query letter, and what my publisher ended up putting on Amazon.  But I also wanted to give an example not based on a real book, to show that it doesn’t really matter what the story’s about, so I leave you with this:

Winning the world figure skating championship is boy’s only chance of winning a college scholarship and getting out of a lifetime of working at his family’s bean farm as soon as he hits eighteen. But when his girlfriend and figure skating partner breaks his heart by selling her skates to buy a guitar and go on a cross country road trip without him, boy scrambles to find someone else in his one horse hometown who can take her place, at least on the ice if not in his heart.

Just when boy thinks he’s found the right girl for the job—his goth girl neighbor who wouldn’t be caught dead in a frilly skating costume even if she didn’t hate him for pulling an embarrassing prank on her when they were kids—he sprains his ankle while attempting the super triple skate flip, the one move he’s sure could beat the odds and win him his scholarship. With the competition fast approaching, he’ll have to not only skate while injured, but pull off the most complicated move in the book.

Boy finally wins back goth girl’s trust, confessing that he only pranked her because he had a crush on her, and convinces her to skate with him.  Romance kindles between them just as his ex-girlfriend whirls back into town with a new pair of skates in hand. She’s ready to take him back and do their old routine together, certain that, with his injured ankle, boy needs her skills now more than ever if he wants to win.  Boy thought winning the competition and the scholarship was everything, but is it worth it if it means betraying goth girl, the only girl who’s ever stuck by him and might just be his one true love?

I said I had another post on writing coming up, and here it is!

So, last time, Julia asked:

Do you think you could do a post on sentence-by-sentence spice-adding, in terms of dialogue and such? The problem I often have with writing is that my plot either moves too quickly and I can’t think of what to put for actual descriptive meat, or I get bogged down in descriptions and dialogue and lose the plot there. Any tips?

I think the answer to both not having enough dialogue and description and of getting bogged down in it is remembering that every line of your story is an opportunity to strengthen characterization.  Plot itself can be extremely short and simple.  “A stranger comes to town” is an easy example.  This sentence implies potential conflict–who knows what kind of trouble a stranger coming to town might mean.  Depends on the town and the stranger.   You’re probably already picturing some kind of conflict, though, like a retired sheriff riding into a lawless Old West town in desperate need of someone to stand up against the bad guys.

I picked a sentence-long plot to show that a plot can be told in one sentence.  (All plots can be.)  Obviously when you’re working on your book, you’ll expand that plot and branch it out in more detail.  But the point here is that “plot” can be used up really fast, and if you’re relying on plot to make up the meat of your story, you might not get very far.  One way to think of it instead is to build the meat of your story on conflicts.

Let’s take our Old West sheriff for example.  What if the woman running the saloon is his childhood sweetheart, but they never got married and life took them in different directions, and now he’s a man of the law (or was, since he’s retired), and some of the goings-on in her saloon aren’t exactly on the right side of the law, but she’s happy to look the other way because she makes a good living off her less-than-savory customers.  She and the sheriff are still attracted to each other and longing for the past, but their current beliefs and situations are going to put a rift between them.  This is going to have an affect on every conversation and every description of the two of them.  A plot point could be that the retired sheriff witnesses a crime while in the saloon.  He could walk in, see the crime, and walk out, just like that.  But there’s a difference between describing an event and exploring conflict and characterization.  The ex-sheriff and the woman who owns the saloon are probably going to have some pretty interesting conversations, especially if they haven’t seen each other in years.  It might get even more interesting when he witnesses a crime take place, and he knows she knows about it, but that she also doesn’t care.  But he cares, even though he’s retired and has decided to stay that way and not get involved in keeping the peace here, even if it goes against his better nature.  So he’s not only struggling with the decisions she’s making, but with his own inner conflicts.  He can’t be with her and uphold the law.  And he can either be retired, which means letting things go, or he can step up and become the sheriff of this town, but he can’t have both.

That’s where your meat comes from.  Not from the event itself, but from the characters’ conflicting wants and their goals they can’t quite reach.  I think this approach would help with getting bogged down, too, because each line of dialogue and description are opportunities to add to our understanding of this situation.  It’s a chance to show us the characters’ opinions about each other and the world around them.  So every line that goes in will have a purpose, and that purpose is more than the sum of its parts.  A sentence describing the counter at the saloon needs to do more than just tell us what it looks like.  What it looks like needs to tie in to the characters, either by showing us their opinions of it, or showing how it fits into their lives.

The saloon was dark and dimly lit, a sharp contrast to the blazing sun outside.  He’d seen these types of places before, and this one was no different–shady and rotten to the core.  He’d heard it was hers,  that this was the kind of life she’d set up for herself after all this time.  Knowing she’d get involved with a no-good place like this, with gamblers and outlaws at every table, giving him hard looks, came as a shock.  She’d changed.  The girl he’d known wouldn’t have put up with these types, and not with the mud on the floor and the smoke clogging up the air either.  But as he sidled up to the bar, he noticed the counter.  Unlike everything else in this place, it was clean.  Spotless.  He smiled to himself, thinking maybe she hadn’t changed so much after all.

I could have just said he walked in and sat at the bar and noticed it was clean.  Or I could have gone on describing how everything looked until I lost track of why he’d come into the bar in the first place.  But what I wrote here tethers all the description to the characterization, whether it’s giving us a glimpse into the characters’ personalities, the conflicts between them, or both.

First things first, since you’re wondering, I put a progress bar for the Renegade X sequel up at the top of the site. My word count is so far embarrassingly small, but what I have is awesome, and I want to be more accountable for it. And I want you guys to get to see the progress I’m making. I have a tendency to take on too many things at once, and right now I’ve got too many jobs and am wearing too many hats, and not really getting anywhere. (Did you see that episode of Parks and Rec where Leslie was trying to juggle both her full time job and a full time campaign? Yeah, that was kind of a wake up call.) So anyway, it’s time to put some of those hats away and get focused on what’s really important.

And what you can’t see from the progress bar is that I’ve got a full synopsis, a bunch of notes, and detailed scene plans written up, so even though my word count is so far embarrassingly small, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. And, of course, there will be more words. Lots more words. I will attempt to update the bar at least once a day so you guys can follow along. And because I like getting to add to progress bars. ^__^

We now return to your regularly scheduled blog post…

So, I got to hold my new book for the first time yesterday. Check out the previous post for the video. It’s not the first time I’ve ever held my work in book form, but it’s the first time I’ve done it as an indie, and holding that proof copy of Harper Madigan was just as amazing as holding the ARC of Renegade X. For different reasons. With Renegade X, it was validation. It was “somebody deemed this story worthy and waved their magic wand and turned it into a real book!” With Harper Madigan, it was more “OMFG, I MADE this! And it’s here–it’s real!”

Traditional publishing can be slow. It’s a lot of rollercoaster. When you’re up, you’re way WAY up. Getting the call was probably the most exciting moment of my life. And getting to see my cover for the first time, and getting to hold my ARC… those moments were SO amazing. But there were months and months of nothing in between. Not that nothing was going on behind the scenes, but for the author… there’s a lot of waiting. And even though it’s an exciting process, it’s hard to maintain that level of energy for, say, the year or two or three that it takes for a book to actually come out. When Renegade X finally “debuted,” it felt more like the end of a journey, rather than the beginning of one. At least for me, as the author–for readers, of course, it’s different.

The indie process is different. With self-pubbing there’s been less of a crazy rollercoaster–at least so far–and no months long lulls of nothing. In fact, since I already had this book finished and pretty much ready to go, the whole process from deciding I wanted to publish it myself and holding it in my hands was only two or three months. And those were busy months of editing and finding the right stock image for the cover and laying out the interior for the print copy and coding the ebook. So when I held the book for the first time, the excitement was still fresh. This still feels like the beginning of this book’s journey for me, and I’ve been so involved with each part of the process that it feels very hands-on and made getting to hold the finished product that much cooler.

Is it more exciting than having Renegade X come out? Deciding to self-publish was not more exciting than getting The Call, but releasing the book as an indie has been much more exciting than the final, official “release day” for my traditionally pubbed book. Up until I decided to self-publish the Renegade X sequel a few months ago, I never saw myself self-publishing. And I certainly didn’t expect it to be so fulfilling or to be so exciting or to come with such a sense of accomplishment. I thought, “When I hold my book, it will be ho hum, because it’s not ‘real.'” But then it was here, and it’s VERY real, and it turned out holding it was just as amazing as getting my first ARC. And I never expected that.

Harper Madigan: Junior High Private Eye is out today!  *happy dance*  Harper Madigan is a noir detective story set in junior high.  See below for a more detailed description.

To celebrate, I’m giving away 10 free ebook copies (winner gets the format of their choice), and one grand prize of an ebook copy and a signed paperback once it’s available later this month!  The contest starts now and runs through Sunday, March 4th.  I’ll announce the winners here on the blog on Monday, so be sure to check back.

How do you win one of these marvelous ebooks?  It’s easy–I’ll be I’ll be tweeting the entry tweet from my account (@CampChelsea), and you can either RT me or copy and tweet the following message:

 

RT for a chance to win an ebook or print copy of #HarperMadigan: Junior High Private Eye! Full details at http://bit.ly/zK6HfA

 

Winners will be chosen randomly.  You can enter once each day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for a total of three entries.   And if you can’t wait and want to read NOW, you can sample and purchase the ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  Goodreads and Smashwords for $3.99.

 

7th grade detective Harper Madigan works alone.  He doesn’t need the vice principal assigning him a new partner to keep him in line, especially a stuffed-shirt wannabe-journalist who totally cramps his style.

And he especially doesn’t need his troublemaker ex-girlfriend showing up out the blue and asking for his help. She’s accused of attacking the star of the school musical, and with her less-than-sparkling track record, she’s only one suspension away from getting expelled.

Only Harper believes she’s innocent, and now it’s up to him to prove it, even if it means making an enemy of the PTA mafia, risking his agency, and confronting the mistakes of his own dark past. But when his new partner insists on doing everything by the book, and his old nemesis–the one bully he can’t catch–starts harassing his clients, it’s going to take more than just detective work to solve the case.

 

I’ve been meaning to write this post for over a week and for various reasons haven’t gotten to it. But I’m here now, so let’s talk revision!

On an earlier post, Maya pointed out:

What I realized a lot is that many websites talk about how to fix your story line by line, not really how to make it better as a whole such as choosing what to cut and what to add.

The straight up, annoying answer is that if something’s not moving the story forward, cut it.  And if there’s somewhere where the story could be moving more, add.  This is true, but it’s also the kind of answer that doesn’t really explain anything, and I hate those kinds of answers.  I like to know how things tick.

You might also notice that the two options I listed above are two sides of the same coin.  So basically every time you find something in your novel that isn’t moving things along or adding any oomph, whether it’s a sentence, a paragraph, a conversation, a scene, etc., you have the option to either cut it or add to it.  It’s like a sugar cookie.  You can either chuck that boring sucker or add frosting and sprinkles.

But before I get ahead of myself, let’s talk about what “moving the story forward” actually means.  For me, it means that your scene (I’ll use scene for sake of argument, but this applies on all levels of a manuscript) has more than one type of information going on.  A scene can further the plot (or subplot), deepen characterization, or enhance worldbuilding.  But what a scene needs to do is at least two out of the three.

This is also what a sentence needs to do as well.  This is what agents/editors/authors mean by “missed opportunities.”  Every line of your book is a chance to not just, say, describe what someone’s wearing, but to show what they’re wearing reveals about them (characterization), and it’s also a good opportunity to throw in some worldbuilding (what does what they’re wearing say about their world or their particular situation?), and possibly even plot (is that a bloody glove hanging out of her pocket?).  These things can also be achieved by giving us a character’s opinions about themselves and the world around them.

A scene as a whole can have these missed opportunities, too.  Maybe you have a scene you really love and all it is is your two favorite characters talking at the kitchen table.  And in all honesty it’s not really moving the story along, but you like it and you think it has potential.  And yeah, yeah, I know–kill your darlings.  Whatever.  But anyway, you argue that this scene has characterization.  This is where the main couple makes gooey love eyes at each other for twenty minutes.  But we already knew they were in love, plus… twenty minutes?  What is this scene really giving the audience?  Nothing.  It’s not deepening characterization if it’s not revealing anything new.

So what do you do to save this scene?  Change it up.  Add conflict.  Not necessarily between the two characters.  It can be an outside conflict.  But whatever it is should fulfill two of the requirements I listed.  Maybe while they’re talking at the table, having a normal boring conversation, but one of them is surreptitiously checking their phone every five minutes for a text that will call them away to their super secret spy job that the other person knows nothing about and that they probably won’t be coming back from this time.  It deepens characterization because now we’re watching how this person is handling the situation.  How do they talk to their loved one while knowing they might be permanently called away at any moment and the other person has no idea?  Do they get overly sappy?  Do they act super normal and don’t let on at all?  And what choice will they actually make once they get the text?  This also deepens plot because OMG, what is this spy mission?  Why is it so dangerous?  What is so important that they could even think about walking away from an ooey gooey love such as this?  It may even deepen worldbuilding, depending on what we already know and what’s going on, but it could be a great place to slip in some details.  An army of steam-powered robotic unicorns are heading towards the president’s dirigible and are going to shoot lasers at it and bring it down!

Now this scene is moving things along.  And you could easily take it further and add in more issues that make the choice for our gooey spy lover even harder.  You could up the ante on the plot and say if our spy doesn’t go on this mission, their love is going to die, and now it’s not much of a choice for them (though how they handle it still is), and they have to break their lover’s heart to save their life.

And okay, you might be thinking, “That’s great if I have a scene I want to save, but I still don’t know what to cut!”  An easy list of things to cut is anything you feel “has” to be in the book, but that is ultimately boring.  Like, say, a character walking to their friend’s house.  Or a wandering group of minstrels traveling across the countryside to get to the castle.  You may catch yourself going, “Ugh, I hate this… but it has to be here!”

Why?  Because the audience needs to see how the characters get from point A to point B?  A simple line stating “The minstrels spent months traveling all across the countryside, but now were finally here at the castle to play music for the king” (or whatever it is they’re doing there) works great.  Anything that is just there because “the audience” supposedly needs it is most likely filler.  It’s easy to fall into the habit of showing everything your characters do, but leave it out and save room for the good stuff.  And don’t force yourself to write something boring because you feel it “needs” to be there.  You have my permission to skip that scene and write what you really want to write about.  You will be happier, your characters will be more interesting, and you’ll have a better chance of drawing your audience into your story.

If you get stuck, don’t agonize.  Just try something and see if it works.  If your equivalent of the dull kitchen table scene is someone walking from point A to point B and all the books say don’t show that, but you really like that scene and feel it’s important, but OMG, what will people think if you leave it in?!?!  Leave it in.  Spice it up if you need to.  But you might not even need extra spice.  If it’s meat and not filler, then it’s meat and not filler and there’s no reason to cut it.

Following these guidelines on all levels will strengthen your book and make it less swampy and more zingy.  And honestly, I could go on about revision for several more posts, so if there’s something I haven’t covered or you have questions, just ask!

Fellow Tenner and local author friend Denise Jaden made this post today about focusing on what we love about our writing, instead of picking at ourselves over what needs improvement.  As she says:

As writers, I think we spend a lot of time thinking about the areas we need to improve. And that’s necessary, it really is, but I don’t think we take enough time to balance out the scale and spend some focus on what we do well. Many a motivational speaker will tell you that what you focus on will be what flourishes in your life, and so it makes sense that if all we ever do is pick ourselves apart, our faults might just get worse instead of better.

I completely agree!  So today I’m making a list of what I love about my writing.  I can’t even remember the last time I made a list like this or really even thought about it.  And it’s important to think about it.  I think in our culture, and especially in the writing culture, berating yourself for never being good enough is the norm.  How can you be getting better if you’re patting yourself on the back?  I still remember in creative writing class (BARF) when the teacher said it was good that we were all making mistakes because that gave us so much to learn from. O__o  Honestly?  I don’t learn from mistakes nearly as well as I learn from someone who’s done something really well.  But that’s another post for another day, so onto what I love about my writing!

–I LOVE my voice.  Whichever character it is, even though they’re different from each other, they’re all still very me.  And, in a way, I get to be them for a while.

–I love reading my own writing.  I’ve known artists who could never stand their own work, whether it was visual art or writing or whatever, and while that might make them strive to get better, the thing is, it wasn’t a matter of being good enough or not.  And I know at least some of them gave up and stopped making art.  So I take the fact that I love reading my stuff as a good thing.  No matter what happens, I’ll always have at least one reader.

–I love my characters.  This ties into voice too, at least for the POV characters, but I love the others, too.  I love how over the top they can be, how realistic and down to earth, how funny or sad or angry.  I love that they’re all great people to spend time with.

–I love that I’m a fast writer.  And that I write better when I’m writing fast rather than slow.

–I love that I write about boys.  I don’t know why girl MCs fall flat for me when writing, but they do, and the boys take center stage.  Sometimes I wish I could write girl books, because maybe they’d be easier sells, but the truth is, I love writing about boys, and I love that I love it.

–I love that my books are quirky and campy.  I need the camp.  Without it, I am bored to tears.

–I love that I write great action scenes.  I dread writing them, which I think is part of why they end up working out so well.  Once I get to them, I just want to get them over with, which means they don’t drag on.

And… that’s probably enough love for now!  Go check out Denise’s post and tell her what you love about your writing!

I updated the title on Goodreads, so I thought I’d do an official announcement here!

The title is….

THE TRIALS OF RENEGADE X

Did I mention I got to see the rough sketch of the cover a while ago?  I don’t think I did, but it is kick ass.  I’m not going to show it off until it’s done, though believe me I am itching to share the awesome.  Newsletter subscribers will get to see it early, so be sure and sign up if you want a sneak peek before anyone else.

In the mean time, I am writing away and loving spending time with these characters and this world again!  I might try and write up a blurb about the book soon, or I might put it off because blurbs are not my favorite things to write and I just wrote one for the Harper Madigan book–that gets me a blurb free pass for a while, right?  Right?

I’m also going to be putting up a Renegade X sequel FAQ, so be sure to comment or email me (Chelsea@ChelseaMCampbell.com) your sequel questions, and I will do my best to provide answers!

I am proud to present the cover and description blurb for one of my upcoming March releases! The blurb was written by me and the amazing cover art was done by Chloe Tisdale.

7th grade detective Harper Madigan works alone. He doesn’t need the vice principal assigning him a new partner to keep him in line, especially a stuffed-shirt wannabe-journalist.

And he especially doesn’t need his troublemaker ex-girlfriend showing up out the blue and asking for his help. She’s accused of attacking the star of the school musical, and with her less-than-sparkling track record, she’s only one suspension away from getting expelled.

Only Harper believes she’s innocent, and now it’s up to him to prove it, even if it means making an enemy of the PTA mafia, risking his agency, and facing the mistakes of his own dark past. But when his new partner insists on doing everything by the book, and his old nemesis–the one bully he can’t catch–starts harassing his clients, it’s going to take more than just detective work to solve the case.

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