The Fancy Deep

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

Writing has been a journey that has stretched me in many ways.

Letting go of my own fears has been the MOST difficult part. Sometimes it has felt like those deep-seated little buggers had to be surgically removed.

In a commencement speech for Barnard College, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, asked that question and it has helped me take an offensive position in the war against my own writing fears. I began asking myself if my limitations were real, or imagined (fear).

What would you do if you weren't afraid? Tell me.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The 3-Word Story . . . on a Freeway Overpass

The other day I drove under an overpass (on I-215) and saw a common local phenomena - overpass cup messaging.

I don't usually take much notice of this new form of text messaging because it most often deals with someone's prom or a welcome home for a person I don't know.

This time was different. Above me stretched a three-word message that yanked at my heart--spelled out in red cups were the words, "Dan don't go."

I started asking: Who's Dan? Where is he going? Who loves him so much that they're publicly pleading with him to stay? Immediately, both my mind and heart was pulled into the "story" of Dan, in just three words. This short sentence delivered great emotional punch, suspense and instant conflict = Great storytelling! On an overpass!

Have you ever heard of/read/or written a story in just a few words? Can you create a story in just three? Two? One? Share!

Friday, August 26, 2011

You're a Bad Parent

You may or may not know that I've been revising (and re-revising) my novel The Fancy Deep with my agent Scott to prep it for submission to publishers. So here I am on the cusp of submission (*crossing fingers*) and am wondering "How could I have done this quicker." The answer came through loud and clear . . .

Be a better parent.

You see halfway through the revision process, I lost my main character. I was negligent. She wandered off during an edit and I never called the police. On my watch, she had become (my agents words) "generic" and "wishy-washy" and seemed to "swing from one emotion to another." Amazingly, when I lost my MC everything else seem to crumble around her - the plot, the setting, the suspense, the dialogue all stopped working. Pieces that were once engaging felt far-fetched and even my cool tech elements stopped supporting the emotional thread . . . wait, did I still have an emotional thread?

BIG LEARNING == Your story is ALL About your main character. Be a good parent! Make sure you know what she wants and how she changes in your story. Her world, and your story-telling ability, revolves around that change.

PAYOFF == Faster writing, better stories, LESS REVISING. : )

Have you been a bad parent? Share.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How to Revise & Keep Revising w/o Downing a Whole Bottle of Pills

Revising is hard for me. I'm the right-brained kind of writer. Moving into my left-brain is painful. But I MUST do it!

If revising is hard for you, here are some things I have learned that help keep me sane after many, many revisions.

1) Content First - Changes to plot, setting, character, technology, etc. always come first for me. If it's too overwhelming, I make a list and use that old "Search" feature to find areas that I know are relevant to the change. THEN, once the list is checked off, I go back through and make sure I've tied up all loose ends.

2) Emotion Next - This pass I try to read straight through looking for the emotional path (including peaks and valleys) of the book. I'll notch it back in some places and heighten in others. This needs to happen in a few days (can't set it down in between for long) so I try to block out time before starting.

3) Then Imagery
- The next pass I take is looking at HOW I've described each nugget in my book. I pay special attention to areas where I'm wordy or the image I've selected isn't strong enough.

4) Grammar & Such - This is the really painful one for me. And takes the longest. I make two passes here. I'm a little dyslexic and always miss things on the first pass (and sometimes on the second and third). I have to print it out on this round and I read it OUT LOUD! There is no substitute. Take the time to do it, or you will double or triple your work when it hits an agent or editor.

LAST TIP - Break it up:
The task of revising anything as long as a novel can stop you in your tracks. The secret: Break it up! A friend of mine does 50 pages at a time. I break mine up into the major acts, then rework that section before moving onto the next. This helps me see the emotional peaks and valleys and keeps me from becoming overwhelmed.

Find the best way to break yours up so you feel like you can attack it, not just stack it.

Have revision tips? Please share!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Don't Believe Them - Mythbusting About Becoming a Writer

So, when you set out to become a writer you will hear a lot of crap, junk, folderal, Sheena, shiz about making that choice. Most, if not all, of the advice you get will be myth, legend, hearsay.

Do NOT let that stop you because there are a million and one ways to become a writer and you may have one all your own.

Examples of myths that got in my way:

1. "If there is anything else you can imagine yourself doing, don't be a writer."
Malarcky. In fact, I think that doing other things in your life (even having other careers) makes you a better writer - gives you more to draw on, makes you more balanced and productive.

2. "It's best if you have an English degree."
Okay, this might be half true. You will find it easier to edit and polish your stuff if you took classes in doing just that . . . and having a wide knowledge of literature will give you a lot to draw from. BUT, it's NOT mandatory. I know lots of writers who didn't major in English in college and are great storytellers. Take a look around, you'll find them.

3. "It's all who you know."

Nope. At some point maybe (like when you get a good agent), but you can still break into the publishing industry the old-fashioned way - one word, one comma, one query letter at a time.

4. "Getting published is like winning the lottery - all luck."
Okay, so this one really got in my way until I thought about how many people I personally knew that actually make a living at writing (and just books mind you, not journalists). At the time, (before I'd begun digging into the writing community where I live), I counted six. One was a multi-millionare from his books (Stephen R. Covey). Now I know many, many writers that make a living at peddling their own words. Myth - busted!!

What myths are you hanging onto? How will you bust them up?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Futuristic Friday - In the Future I Hope There Is . . .

As a sci fi writer, my mind is always thinking about what would be cool to have in the future. Here are some things that I want:

1) Robotic closet that packs FOR me before a trip.

2) Anti-gravity Dr. Scholls when my feet are really tired, they actually take the pressure off - literally.

3) NO calorie chocolate cake. Okay, so I can dream a little.

4) The disc thing from Tron.

5) K. It's old school, but I still want a jet-pack. Maybe one studded with crystals?

6) Mr. Fusion from Back to the Future.

7) A household robot that's proud of their profession (That is does NOT feel oppressed, therefore making it susceptible to lashing out at it's employer and subsequently turning evil... and violent.)

8) Ice that never melts in my drink.

9) My own Oompah Loompa (hey it could happen). : )

What do you wish for in YOUR future? SHARE!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Slanging Hash!

One element that adds a lot to a character’s voice is the slang they use.

The MC in The Fancy Deep comes from a part-Japanese mother and an Irish Dad. Using Japanese and Irish slang, I created her own series of words that include mashed-up expletives, personal pronouns and adjectives. She’s also a gem-cutter & jeweler, so I use some of the jargon from her trade as part of the “Aysia-speak.”

While working on the novel, I listened carefully to my friends and family, even myself, to try and discover some unique slang in my real world.

Here are some of the frequent “isms” of friends & family and some of my own:

  1. “What in America?” (This is mine)
  2. “Awesomesauce” (Elana Johnson)
  3. “Frawesomesauce” (Ditto)
  4. “Sheena Easton!” (Instead of the “Sh—“ word.) (Mine again).
  5. “Gotta jet” (Some guy in the cubicle next to my office says this every few minutes. Yet he never does . . . jet, I mean.)
  6. “Burgess Meredith!” (Expletive by John Cusick from my lit agency – love this one)
  7. “Preciate cha’” (Utahns the world over).
  8. “Shushi” (Mikko, our CTO says “sushi” with a Finnish accent. As a result, our entire office calls it “shushi” now).
  9. “Ping me” (All the programmers I work with). : )
What are some of your “isms?” Share!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

You Need Someone to Stalk . . . I Mean Watch!

So, until a short while ago, I never dreamed I would be a writer, let alone a novelist. Mostly because I had a strange belief that it was nearly impossible (like winning the lottery).

Until I met this woman.

Her name is Elana Johnson and she too has been on the journey to publish, just a bit longer than I have. She has been key in my journey to take my story to the streets. What have I learned in the process? No matter what your dream/goal is, YOU NEED AN ELANA TO STALK, er, I mean WATCH!

Here's why:

1) The Runner Ahead of You - She was just a little bit ahead of me on the process, but had been through all the bumps and bruises. Her journey gave me a frame of reference for what was coming and helped me know how hard I needed to push and when. This sense of scale IS SO IMPORTANT when you want to give up!!! She helped me understand how many queries are too many (probably more than 300). How many revisions is normal/doable/bearable (you will do at least ten with an agent and editor - plan on it). What percentage of nibbles should I be receiving on my queries, partials, fulls (4-12% on queries or you need to re-write your letter). You get the picture.

2) ROI on My Time & Energy - When it comes to finding an agent and getting published, there are a million different ways you can spend your energy. Watching Elana has allowed me to trim back to what's important and not waste a lot of time and energy on things that don't matter (FYI - Blogs are more important than you think!).

3) IT'S HARD, BUT POSSIBLE! This is the most important thing I've learned from stalking/watching my friend Elana . . . people do get agents, people do get published, people do see their books on shelves. Even people YOU KNOW! Maybe even YOU! Writing is harder than you think. Editing is harder than you think it will be, but KEEP GOING because IT'S NOT IMPOSSIBLE! (Sorry for the screaming, but I'm a little excited about this point). : )

Today is the birthday of Elana's debut novel, Possession. It's the end of a long, possible road to her dream. I can't tell you how happy I am for her and how grateful I have been for her guidance.

Now . . .

What are you dreaming about? Do you have an Elana to watch?

If not, go find one!!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Making Sense Giveaway - And the winner is . . . Heidi Slack!

Congratulations to Heidi Slack, the winner of my Making Sesne Giveway. She wins a free pair of Skullcandy FMJ headphones in lime green (important Fancy Deep color).

She commented:

I love to listen to music both as i read and as i write. Im no professional writer, but in my own simple journal, poetry, and thought books i use music to float me away to capture the feeling i'm trying to write about. Music absolutely creates the intensity and emotion behind the writing. To me, most of the time writing words without music creates only words, but writing while being swept away in the feeling of music creates brilliance.

Good stuff Heidi. Enjoy the headphones!

Thank you to everyone who participated and keep your eyes peeled for more giveaways in the future!

Making Sense Giveaway - And the winner is . . . Heidi Slack!

Congratulations to Heidi Slack, the winner of my Making Sesne Giveway. She wins a free pair of Skullcandy FMJ headphones in lime green (important Fancy Deep color).

She commented:

I love to listen to music both as i read and as i write. Im no professional writer, but in my own simple journal, poetry, and thought books i use music to float me away to capture the feeling i'm trying to write about. Music absolutely creates the intensity and emotion behind the writing. To me, most of the time writing words without music creates only words, but writing while being swept away in the feeling of music creates brilliance.

Good stuff Heidi. Enjoy the headphones!

Thank you to everyone who participated and keep your eyes peeled for more giveaways in the future!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Making Sense – Contest! FREE Skullcandy Headphones!

When reading, writing or watching a good story, the more senses I use, the better. Today’s contest will help you do just that.

I’m giving away a pair of Skullcandy FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) Audiophile earbuds (a $70 value) in lime green – when you read The Fancy Deep, you’ll know why lime green is important (*Easter egg alert*). : )


1) Follow this blog.
2) Invite your friends to follow this blog through facebook (post about it at least once).
3) Comment on one of the questions below.

That’s it! Easy! Contest ends on Friday, June 3rd at 5:00 pm MST. I will pull a name randomly from qualifying Followers.

Music often helps me find my “tone” and enhances my character's voices in my writing. It can also help me with pacing. If I’m writing action and it doesn’t work with a fast-paced rock song, I know it’s too slow. I also love it when authors tell me which songs inspired their work. I like to listen to those songs before, during or after I read their story. Music adds a whole new layer to the world they are painting.

WRITERS: What is your best writing song? Is it different for each story?

READERS: Do you like to listen to music when you read? If so, what?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Do You Have a "Calling"? Does Everyone?

So, this is something I’m frankly, not sure about. But it's FIND YOUR TRUTH FRIDAY, so I want to know what you think . . .

On Oprah’s final show this week, she talked about how she believed that everyone has a “Calling” in life and it’s our job to find it.

Do we? All of us? And if so,what does that mean? Is a Calling just a talent or a passion or is it something bigger, and with a more specific purpose?

What do you think?

Does everyone have a Calling (big C)? If so, what is your Calling? How did you know? How does one find their Calling?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What No One Tells You - Part 1 - Conflict is The "Easy Button"

When you are new to the world of writing and publishing, there is no single "How To" source. Many things you just have to pick up as you go. This is the first in a series of posts where I'm going to share the nuggets I wish someone had told me when I sat down to write, or edit, or sell my novel. Here goes:


If your plot isn't working, or you don't know where to take your character next, or you consistently struggle with writer's block, chances are, your conflict is mushy.

How to strengthen your conflict:

Conflict Should be Primal: What is at stake should matter on a deep level to both your main character and the reader = family, love, power, intergalactic annihilation. If you're struggling (especially with plot), your conflict may not be primal enough.

Conflict Should Frustrate What Your Main Character Wants Most: Is your MC a doctor who wants to cure the disease killing his mother? Frustrate him with people, funding, world events or another bigger, more deadly disease that not only attacks his family, but the entire world.

Ramp It Up: Once your main conflict is in place, add scope (like going from effecting one person to an entire society) or complexity (Your MC learns that the villain is not only entirely unbeatable, but he's his F-A-T-H-E-R *insert Darth Vader voice here*).

Use Your World: Are there elements unique to your fictional world that can introduce relevant and fresh conflict? = societal rules, flora, fauna, people, laws, natural disaster, etc.

Once you have a rocking conflict, I PROMISE, the writing comes easier, faster, smoother. Stephenie Meyer said, "Once you have the characters and the conflict, the book pretty much writes itself." Yes, she's exaggerating, but the principle is true.

So if you don't know where to start, or you're stuck - push the button.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fiction Quizzes – Guilty Pleasure or Genius Marketing?

Admit it.

You’ve been sitting at work or at home with the door closed and a Pied Piper of a link jumps out at you from the WWW asking, “Gryffindor or Slytherin? – take the quiz now.” Like a junkie, you close the office door, turn off your phone, check for witnesses, then open the quiz.

Suddenly you’re engaged with the author, the story, the characters and you can’t wait to read the book.

This happened to me . . . just today! When I visited my friend Elana Johnson’s blog, I was reading her review for Divergent by Veronica Roth which offered a "Which Faction Are You?" quiz, and gosh-darn-it-all, but didn’t I have to click through and take the bleeding thing. I'm a "Candor" BTW. That was kinda obvious if you've read my manuscript. (*Spoiler alert* - It's about seeing the TRUTH.)

READERS: Are you the same? Do you love taking quizzes to see what category you fit into? What are some of your favorites?

AUTHORS: Do you have a quiz in the works? Share your link and I will post it. : )