Saturday, November 1, 2014

And So The Sequel Begins...

As you may have guessed from the title, I've finally taken the plunge. I've started the scariest, most dreaded project I've ever worked on. The second book in my Human series is officially under way.

After my initial 'finish' of Only Human last December (if you've been reading my blog, you'll know why I put quotation marks around it), I started right into my sequel. Burned out from far too many late nights writing but eager to strike while the iron was still hot, I got excited a few pages in only to crash and burn two weeks later. None of it seemed to be working. I couldn't stop following the story line I'd laid out for the first one. Continuations of the characters were flat, time didn't feel like it'd passed at all and I was introduced to a new fear as a writer.

Continuing a story.

I'd heard talk of this before on various blogs or author profiles but I'd never been afraid to start a project before. I scrapped it and started over, only to scrap the second one and start over. By June, I'd started three different drafts and stopped. Mid June found me with writers block and the good sense to stop trying to salvage and just delete them all. My writer's block disappeared after a few weeks nursing myself along and concentrating on other projects, but the lingering fact was a book I couldn't get out of writing weighed on me. In September, I made a resolution. Stop trying to force the sequel, finish up the edits for OH, and concentrate on the sequel in November, known to new and veteran writers alike as NaNoWriMo. National November Writers Month is a period of time in which we as writers attempt to write fifty thousand words in thirty days. Breaking it down, it's 1,666 words a day. Not too bad on a day by day basis but skip a day and you end up having to write a whopping 3332.

In the last few weeks, I've been mulling over tons of ideas for Human Nature. I'm so grateful I deleted the other drafts since it was months ago I wrote them and without a reminder, all my previous writing has almost been forgotten to me, giving me a chance for a clean slate. Last week, a light bulb came on in my head for a different setting which made half my hardships easier and it was followed by several more light bulbs on other problems I'd been going over.

Needless to say, I felt a lot of fear sitting down at my laptop and seven o'clock this evening and opening the blank word document. People liked my first book (even in its unedited, immature form :)) but what if they hate the second one? I pushed every negative thought away and starting in the middle of a scene I'd thought up seconds earlier. It's not perfect and quite possibly in six months, won't exist anymore, but the 1731 words I wrote tonight gave me courage I haven't had all year. The courage that people will like it (I hope!) and that I can do an even better job now than I could a year ago and certainly a better job than when I carelessly started pounding Only Human out when I was sixteen.

I want to be a writer and tonight, I took another step close to that dream.

-Anna Leigh

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Back In The Swing Of Things

After a two week break of all things writing (and the summer cold that inspired it), I'm back in and more inspired than ever! I haven't gotten back to OH or HN yet but I'm pounding out some words on a private book of mine. I say private because I'm writing it for my own sake and it will probably never see the light of day. Sometimes I have stories going around in my head that feel too stupid to put out there with my name on them. There's a freeing feeling about writing a book where I don't have to worry about what other people think. It's interesting because I never thought I considered my readers that much but apparently I do!

I haven't been reading too much lately but I have been watching a fair amount of Korean TV shows/variety shows which probably is what inspired my latest book. Mostly, I've been itching for a while to take on the subject of boy bands and I'm taking my chance. It will be filled with my usual sarcasm and wit :)

I've probably mentioned it before but I used to be terrified to write guys. I mean terrified! The few that managed to squeak their way into my stories were only given the shortest lines of dialogue imaginable and they were very uninteresting. I've not only gotten over my fears of writing guys (ish), but I've begun to enjoy it. It's a challenge for me to do my best at making a guy believable. The main male character of my Human series is a smart guy with a lot of responsibility who also happens to have a quirky sense of humor. In some ways, he's a bit like me in his humor and lightness of life's matters in general but in other ways, he's a lot different. He takes charge where I'd be afraid and is made up of bits and pieces of guys I know and have seen in movies. He's just as much a part of me as Abby, just hopefully in a more masculine way :)

In HN, there's a new character introduced whose name is Logan. He's not really the antagonist but he's not really a good guy. Out for what he wants and not caring who gets hurt in the process. It's hard for me to write him as a selfish character who isn't necessarily evil but isn't really good either. I have to learn something new every day.

I worked an election two weeks back and it never ceases to amaze me what kind of material I can collect from spending a day working with strangers. Granted, most of them were a lot older than me (The youngest would have been old to be my mom and the rest would've been my grandparents), but I saw a lot of different personalities, different ways people had lived their lives, and different ways people respond to pressure. Most of them mainly brought the problem to the most responsible person which, that day, happened to me. Sometimes I wish my parents hadn't raised me to be responsible but that feeling only last for half a second before reality kicks in.

I'll write again soon, hopefully before the weather breaks and we're back to cold weather :(

-Anna Leigh

Friday, July 25, 2014

WB - The Dreaded Words

As a writer, there are a few things that scare me. Bad reviews, no reviews, people nodding and smiling when I tell them about my book and saying "Oh, that sounds different."

And then the scariest. Writer's Block.

I've never officially had it in a 'I can't even think of a single word to say', but more in a way of never being able to finish a sentence correctly. Lately, I've learned about just putting down what you're thinking in the first draft and going back later to edit it (thank you Stephanie Morrill and everyone else at Go Teen Writers for backing me up on that one!) but I've hit the sticking point.

I participated in a word war this week. Usually word wars are hour or minute timed things where you and other writers set a certain amount of time and see who can write the most words in said time. Go Teen Writers hosted one this week that lasted for a week and helped me to put 10,120 words into my sequel. I'm at 9,199 after deletions but still, it motivated me to put in some effort that's been sadly lacking in me for weeks. 

Right after Christmas, I was on a high from finishing my last book and really wanted to get to work on the sequel. A month later, with the rambling start of a sequel and the realization I really needed to put some serious edits into my first book, my steam died down a little. Other projects call my name and sometimes I sway to their call but my sights are set on finishing off my two book series and moving on too other things (while hopefully making a name for myself with my books :). As I've said before, I've dived back into Only Human with only occasional moments of depression and this week, I tackled the Big One. Things were going great but today, I'm just plain ole' stuck.

Writing is something I have a love/hate relationship with. I have thousands of stories in my mind, too  many to ever finish just the way I want them. The fact that I have a computer and the time to get some of those stories down is amazing. Unfortunately, I'm not the kind of girl born with words.

Anyone knowing me would laugh at that statement. If anything, I've been born with too many words but no, I mean words. The kind of words that make people stop and reread the sentence because they realize the sheer genius of the simple yet descriptive description. The kind of words that stick in people's mind, make people laugh, make people cry, or make people slam the book shut and ask when the sequel will ever be released. Even in my early teens when I cared less about technique and more about writing my thoughts down, I've liked words. Not like my older sisters who use words like 'fastidious' or 'supercilious' or 'trifling'. I know what all those words mean (thanks, guys ;) but I like simple words that bring a picture to my mind. I like Taylor Swift and one of the reasons I listen to her songs isn't the great melodies, because a lot of them sound similar, but because of the way she has of phrasing things. "I've never heard silence quite this loud", or "But you held your pride like you shoulda held me". Those lines have stuck with me for years.

I want to be that writer. The one whose words stick in peoples minds and make them want to come back for more no matter what the story might be about. 

I'm stuck in a rut right now where I feel like my characters are all carbon copies of each other, my books are boring and the same, and everyone speaks the same way. I know I'm not a terrible writer but right now, I'm not feeling like a good one. No one around me writes, no one around me understands what goes into me trying to put my emotions, thoughts, and work out there, and sometimes I feel like I'm going crazy. 

I want to write. It's the one thing I've stuck with all these years and one of the things that's actually stuck with me. No matter what happens to me, I can put it all in a story and make it all right. The problem is, now I'm having a hard time writing. Am I going to be one of those people who writes forever but never produces anything worth writing? Am I going to write a blog to myself for the rest of my life about writing but never actually reach my goal? 

-Anna Leigh

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ever Evolving Ideas

So, I have a commitment problem.

Not the commitment problem most people would think from reading that sentence. I have a problem committing to one book for longer than three months. And when I say three months, I'm being generous.

My mind is in the constant motion of coming up with new book ideas. Even when I'm not even thinking about my books, I'll be watching a basketball game and the conversation from fans behind me will make four different ideas pop up in my head. Just the other day, I was at an ice cream stand, enjoying my frozen custard with family when I noticed a girl standing near the front. She wasn't stunning but pretty, wearing a short leperd print dress with a bright belt. She was dressed to impress and obviously waiting for someone. Halfway through my chocolate/vanilla twist, I noticed she was still there and kept checking her phone. Crunching down my cone, her face had definitely fallen and she kept looking around self-consciously. She stayed there up until I drove out of the parking lot and then I saw her in line by herself, eating a large cone with a dejected look. Not one hundred percent sure but I'm just gonna say; her date stood her up.

I notice things like that all the time and point them out to select people. If I told everyone, they'd realize what a nut I really am and wouldn't be friends with me anymore. Thankfully, my oldest sister at home likes hearing my crazy ideas, even though she gives me funny looks sometimes when I suggest our lack of water pressure might be because alien sabotaged the lines as a first step to invasion. I never said all my ideas were best sellers :)

I have ideas for multiple different books that over time have to be combined to make one full length book. An example of this is a book I started two years ago about the two sons of a CEO and the daughter of a CEO of a company merging with theirs. At seventeen, my ideas for the book were undeveloped and very vague as to what the company was or what work they did. I had ideas about the plot but was a bit lost as to world building. 

A few months ago, I got inspired to pick the brother angle back up. As long as things don't descend into soap operas, I like brother plot lines where you get to explore the similarities and differences in families. I've also always wanted to write a book where the female MC started out liking someone different than she ended up with. I thought it'd be a good idea to combine these plots and last month, the two brothers got names and a company. And instead of a merging company, the female MC is the daughter of a rival company. Both companies deal in cosmetics and FMC spends a lot of time feeling inferior to the better looking, polished rivals. 

Adding details to characters includes the fact Aria (FMC) loves ice cream, hates makeup, and has panic attacks. Being that she's the eighteen year old daughter of a famous company about to start coming to work, panic attacks have to stay off radar and hating makeup is awkward when it's your business. I've only written a little - because I know I should be editing OH and writing HN - but she is fun! Pretty, witty, full of money, and about to get dumped into a world she isn't prepared for, I can't wait to get into her character. The brothers are fun to since one is friendly and quiet while the other is bombastic and outgoing. 

I've wanted to write out my version of Peter Pan for as long as I've written books and just three weeks ago, I woke up with the most brilliant idea. Unfortunately, for the sake of my unwritten book, I can't really share too many of my brilliant ideas but I can say I'm going for a sciency Dr. Who angle as opposed to a magical land. Can't wait!

I started a book several months back about a struggling book writer (wonder where I got my inspiration? :) who loses a bet to her over confident, published rival and has to write a sappy book following the lines of Korean drama. In order to ensure historical accuracy, she employs the help of a genuine first generation Korean and ends up in a mess of trouble, trying to write her book, not let her rival get on her nerves, and deal with a guy who doesn't even want to help her.

Human Nature is on its third draft, off to a more promising start than the last two. I've found it's very hard to erase previous writings from my head and focus on what I'm doing. Doing editing on OH at the same time does give me different inspiration for writing the sequel though and I am getting excited to getting into Abby's braver side and back to Connor who is always fun to write!

I'll write again soon!

-Anna Leigh 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Continued Edits - Side by Side Comparisons

I have not been as diligent as I ought with editing but life has been VERY busy!

I've gotten back to my editing in the last few days and am doing my best to ignore my word count has just hit 96,000. It'll be a long journey still...

As I edit, I cut and paste into a new blank document so I'll never scroll down through what I've already worked on so my final word count is more like 107,000. Considering I started at 115,000, I'm feeling pretty good about it. I removed my first major scene, reworking to hopefully flow better into the rest of the story. I thought it'd be interesting to be a side by side comparison. The first one is what I published in December and is a 1,505 word excerpt. The second one is what I've been working on and is a 1,502 word excerpt. The  highlighted portion on the second excerpt is a part I still want to rephrase or delete entirely.

I'll write again soon about some new project inspirations I've had!

Anna Leigh

The Tunnel

The tunnel was dark, so dark I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. I reached to the right until my hand came in contact with a wall, then did the same with the other hand. The tunnel was only about five feet across, the walls bumpy like cement.
A breeze caught in my hair, blowing the short layers out of my face. After a minute I realized there was a small ray of light coming from the end of the tunnel, almost impossible to see. I started forward, anxious to get out of this thick darkness and into the light so I could see where I was. I barely caught my footing on the uneven ground, fighting to keep my balance as I tried to walk forward.
I hadn’t gone far when I heard a shout behind me. I didn’t know who it was, but my danger instincts were on red alert. Despite the uneven surface and the darkness I broke into a slow run, afraid to be caught but worried I’d lose my footing if I went any faster. They’re coming after me. They’re going to get me.
I tripped and fell against the wall, dragging my elbow across its jagged edge. I felt the wetness of blood running down my arm but strangely enough didn’t feel any pain. I continued to run but the light was getting more distant and hard to see. At one point it disappeared entirely and I turned, surrounded by darkness and dozens of footsteps pursuing me.
Why am I even running? If I just stopped and let them catch me, at least I’d be out of this darkness.
My legs began to go weak under me and I found I couldn’t support my weight anymore. I dropped into a sitting position. Soon they would be here. Soon, for better or worse, the unknown pursuers would catch up with me.
From out of the darkness, someone took my hand. I opened my mouth to scream but stopped, feeling the strange sensation he wasn’t the enemy.
“You can’t give up.” The voice was quiet in my ear. It was a nice voice. A man’s voice, I thought, but I wasn’t sure.
But I wanted to give up. I was tired. I was bleeding. Besides, no matter how fast and far I ran I couldn’t escape the darkness.
“You can’t give up,” the voice repeated again, the grip on my hand getting tighter. “You have to fight, Abby. You have to fight.”
I frowned. “Fight what? Fight them? How can I fight them?! There are so many…”
“You have to fight yourself,” the voice replied, making me more confused than ever. Why would I have to fight myself?
“If you give up now, you’ll always be surrounded by darkness. You have to fight to see the light. Fight to come back.”
I started to respond but suddenly another voice interrupted, jarring and unpleasant. “You don’t understand what you’re talking about!”
The blackness faded away abruptly and I was opening my eyes with a start. The window to my room was open and a warm breeze blew across me accompanied by the sound of birdsong and someone mowing their lawn. My heart was beating hard as I sat up, reaching over and grabbing the glass of water off my bedside table. Another nightmare. Why hadn’t I just gotten used to them by now?
More annoyed voices carried their way through my window and I realized the neighbors on either side of us must be having an argument again. Mr. Sawyer and Mr. Sullivan seemed to have made a pastime out of finding reasons to fight with each other and the emotional resonance was already starting to give me a headache.
I got headaches from other people’s emotions a lot, but I’d never told a soul about it, not even my mother. She got stressed out if we didn’t have the meat we were planning for dinner: who knows what would happen to her if she found out what I could do.
Uh oh. Dinner.
I glanced down at my watch, my eyes widening when I saw that it was five thirty.
“Great.” I hurried away from the window to check my reflection quickly in my mirror. I hadn’t meant to sleep so late. Mom’s new friend was coming over for the first time tonight and being groggy was not optimal.
I ran downstairs, hearing Mom humming to herself as she worked in the kitchen. I stopped by the doorway pulling myself together. My dad had been gone since before I was born and Mom only talked about him now and then, making him pretty much a total stranger to me. Thinking about the car accident seemed to upset Mom so much she wouldn’t talk about it all, even after almost two decades. She hadn’t ever seemed interested in finding anyone else, either, until suddenly she met Ash. Now things were different.
“Hey, you’re awake.” Mom looked up from her chopping board, her hair back a little fancier than normal and a few extra swipes with her mascara apparent. “Did the two old fighters get you up again?”
I nodded, grabbing one of the carrots she’d cut up and popping it in my mouth. “I really have to remember to keep my window closed if I take a nap. You’d think I’d learn by now.”
“You’d think they would’ve learned to stop fighting over the same things by now.” Mom shook her head, dumping the chopped vegetables into a bowl and pouring dressing over them. “I guess that’s what happens when people get older and don’t have their spouse around to keep them grounded.”
Her happiness dimmed, a twinge of sadness joining it. She’s thinking about Dad again.
“So what time is Ash coming?” I asked, forcing myself to be more cheerful than I felt. I’d had to unload on Callie how much I hated the name Ash. I mean, what things are associated with that name? Ash borer? Ash heap? Cigarette ash?
Callie told me I was being too cynical and I should really be happy for my mom she’d gotten up the courage to start dating again. I didn’t have the heart to say what I was thinking. I didn’t want Mom to date again. I’d always wanted to have my dad come back but since he couldn’t, I’d learned to be happy with just Mom and me. The idea of someone new coming into our lives scared me, especially since I wasn’t exactly normal. Hiding it from one person in my house was hard enough; two would be even more difficult.
“He should be here any minute.” Mom brushed her hands off on her apron as she checked the clock. “He seemed really interested in meeting you.”
“Really?” I smiled. “Good - I’d like to meet him too.”
The doorbell rang right on cue. “You get it,” Mom said. “I’ll check on the chicken.”
I took a deep breath, telling myself to stop feeling so grumpy and be happy for Mom. If she could find someone who made her happy and who would take care of her, why would I want to stop her?
Ash was a bit taller than I’d expected him to be. He was also a bit younger and just a little too good looking to be real. He was standing there with a bouquet of flowers in his hands, everything in place from his hair to his overly shiny shoes. “You must be Abby,” he said, breaking into a perfectly straightened and whitened smile.
So he was Captain Obvious. Oh well. Didn’t mean he wasn’t nice…
He offered his roses and it was only then I realized he was holding two bouquets.
“For me?” I asked. Maybe I was Captain Obvious too. Who else would he be bringing a second bouquet for?
He nodded and I thanked him rather awkwardly, making sure to take the flowers without coming in contact with his skin. The constant stream of random thoughts and emotions had become my norm but skin to skin contact brought things to a whole new level. Contact with another human being, especially an emotional one made my world cease to exist while I was caught up in theirs. I’d never tested how long I could touch someone before I passed out but with the feelings I got from short exposure, I doubted my resistance was high.
I reluctantly stepped away from the door to give him enough room to come in. He wiped his shoes meticulously on the door mat even though there didn’t seem to be any good reason too. Trying way to hard.
“Come on in, Ash. I’m glad you were able to find your way here,” Mom said from kitchen doorway.
“It wasn’t difficult at all - your house is definitely the cutest in the neighborhood.” He flashed her another of his brilliant smiles, making me cringe a little inside.
“That’s quite a compliment,” Mom said.

The Tunnel

The tunnel’s darkness surrounded me, so dark I couldn't even see my hand in front of me. I felt blindly with my hands, stopping as they came in contact with a wall. The tunnel couldn’t be more than five feet across with walls bumpy like brick.
A breeze caught in my hair, blowing short layers out of my face. A small ray of light had appeared at the end of the darkness, almost impossible to see. I started forward, anxious to get out of the thick darkness. I caught my footing on the uneven ground, fighting to keep my balance as I moved forward.
I’d gone a few steps when a shout sounded behind me. I didn’t know the identity of my pursuers but my body screamed danger. I broke into a slow run, jostling and tripping along the uneven path. They’re coming after me. They’re going to get me.
I fell against the wall, dragging my elbow across its jagged edge. Sticky liquid ran down my arm but the inevitable pain didn’t follow. I staggered onward, watching the light recede and become even harder to reach.
A few steps more, just a few more.
Without a sound, it vanished. I turned in a circle, cold fear filling me with the surrounding darkness and my pursuers footsteps.
Why am I even running? If I’m caught, at least I’ll be out of the darkness.
My weakened legs buckled and I dropped into a sitting position. They’d be here soon. I would be at their mercy.
A hand covered mine, forcing a scream halfway up my throat before I stifled it. Friend.
“You can’t give up.” A quiet voice brushed by my ear, warm and protective. He wouldn’t let them take me. “You can’t give up,” he repeated, his grip tightening. “You have to fight, Abby.”
I found my voice. “How can I fight? There’re so many…”
“Not them. You have to fight yourself.” His voice sounded more urgent now. We were both running out of time. “If you give up now, you’ll never get out of the darkness. Fight to come back!”
Before I could respond, another voice interrupted, jarring and unpleasant. “You don’t understand what you’re talking about!”
The blackness faded away as I sat up, opening my eyes with a start. A warm breeze made its way through my open window, blowing across me and bringing the sound of birdsong with it. I breathed in and out, trying to calm my thudding heart. A little calmer now, I grabbed my glass of water and drank it with slow, deliberate sips. Another nightmare. Why hadn’t I just gotten used to them by now?
More annoyed voices carried their way through my window, revealing the owner one voice from my dream. Living between two old, curmudgeony men made for loud summer afternoons. They’d fought with each other as long as we’d lived here. The emotional resonance pounded away at my head, threatening to bring back my earlier migraine.
I still wondered if I’d done the right thing by not telling Mom about what I could feel. She got stressed out if we didn’t have the meat we were planning for dinner: who knows what would happen to her if she found out what I could do.
Uh oh. Dinner.
My alarm clocked blinked five thirty as I swung my legs over the side of the bed. A quick check of my mirrored-self showed all the side effects of a bad nightmare. I pushed sweaty hair out of my face, shoving it into a ponytail. With Mom’s new friend coming over for dinner, being groggy wasn’t my optimal condition.
Mom’s humming reached me as I took the stairs two at time, stopping just outside the kitchen door. She’d gone along fine after Dad’s death before shocking me by launching back into the dating world. Two decades of silence, all my info about the car accident coming from the papers and now this?
 “Hey, you’re awake.” Mom looked up from her chopping board, her hair curled and mascara applied liberally. “Did the two old fighters get you up again?”
I nodded, grabbing one of the carrots she’d cut up and popping it in my mouth. “I forget to close my window again.”
“You’d think they would’ve learned to stop fighting over the same things by now.” Mom shook her head, dumping the chopped vegetables into a bowl and pouring dressing over them. “I guess that’s what happens when people get older and don’t have their spouse around to keep them grounded.”
Her happiness dimmed, a twinge of sadness joining it. She’s thinking about Dad again.
“Ash isn’t here yet?” I forced my tone to stay flat, asking the question out of simple curiosity. I’d unloaded to Callie this morning how much I hated the name Ash. How many nice things were associated with that name? Ash borer? Ash heap? Cigarette ash?!
Callie called me out on my cynicism as she usual, telling me to be happy for my Mom. I’d kept my thoughts to myself, knowing my own selfishness in not wanting her to date again. I’d learned to be happy with just Mom and me. The idea of someone new coming into our lives scared me, considering my total departure from all things normal. Hiding from one person in my house could be hard enough; two would be even more difficult.
“He should be here any minute.” Mom’s voice brought me back to the present. She checked the clock again, running a hand through her hair. “He’s excited to meet you.”
“Really?” I smiled. “Good - I’d like to meet him too.”
The doorbell rang right on cue. “You get it,” Mom said. “I’ll check on the chicken.”
I took my time getting to the door, plastering on a smile before I pulled it open. Ash was a bit taller than I’d expected. His gelled hair challenged an onlooker to find a fault in it, while his chiseled yet youthful face stared back at mine. A good looking smile reflected across his attractive features, making my own smile falter. He had a huge bouquet, far too large for a first home date. Everything from his smile to his shined shoes screamed ‘trying too hard’!
 “You must be Abby!”
I tried not to stare, unsure how he spoke while smiling.
“You must be Abby,” he repeated.
So he was Captain Obvious. Oh well. I couldn’t really count it against him…
He offered out a bouquet, making me realize the huge bouquet had been two.
“For me?” Great. I must be Captain Obvious too. Who else would he be bringing a second bouquet for?
He nodded and I took it with a short nod, my thanks sticking in my throat. Make conversation, Callie had told me. You have to make the effort.
“Thank you.” I spoke a bit late as he crossed the threshold, closing the door behind him. At least I’d managed to take the flowers without touching him. The constant stream of random thoughts and emotions had become my norm but skin to skin contact brought things to a whole new level. Now would not be a good time to end up in his head.
He wiped his shoes on the door mat even though it hadn’t rained in weeks. “He’ll be nervous if you stare at him with the ‘I’ve spent the last week stalking you online’ expression.” Callie might be sympathetic but she didn’t want me to mess things up for Mom. I dropped my gaze, hoping it would seem welcoming.
“Ash, glad you made it.” Mom had appeared in the narrow hallway, her excitement bubbling over
 “It’s not difficult hard to find your house. I just looked for the cutest one on the block.” He flashed another brilliant smile.
“We try.” I gritted my teeth as Mom’s cheeks pinkened.
“I can tell.” He gave her the other bouquet and her blush deepened. Mom had gone from being a practical mother to looking like a girl on her first date. My gaze shifted to Ash. Besides a few things Mom had told me, I didn’t know anything about him. He’d moved to Rosedale six months ago so the normal gossip channels didn’t have much to offer. Callie had even given Mrs. Johnson two free refills to try and get some info but we’d ended up with a lot of speculation and two less cups of coffee.
He unsettled me for more than one reason. I couldn’t feel him. Even without touch, I at least got a prompt, a wisp of emotion from everyone around me. Mom’s excitement would be hard for a normal person to miss but aside from Ash’s quirked eyebrows and boyish laughter, nothing told me he wanted to be here. Maybe my nightmare had done more to my senses than I’d realized.
I followed them into the kitchen, trying to convince myself it as the nightmare. I’d had a few intense ones burn me out before.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Re-editing: A Seemingly Never Ending Journey

I did it. Faced my fears and dived right in. I opened up Only Human, my first completed 115,000 page novel and got to it.

Two days later, with tired eyes and increasingly large dark circles, I'm starting to feel the worth.

I've known ever since Christmas Eve when I first posted my book on Amazon that another edit at some point in the future was an order. I had a deadline - getting it done in time to be a Christmas gift - and I made it. Unfortunately, I had to sacrifice some things along the way.

Up until a year and a half ago, writing had been a casual hobby. I told friends and acquaintances I wanted to be a writer but past that, I had no expectations and very little knowledge about what it entailed. Even today, I'm not sure I understand the full extent.

Being a writer for me isn't something I can do five minutes a week and expect good results. It's not cathartic or relaxing - a way to get my thoughts out there. It's hard work. Rewarding work when you can sit back and admire your project but hard!

I don't like to use big words (please ignore my use of the word cathartic :) but I tend to ramble. A lot. Reading OH after the merciless editing/deleting I've been doing on my novella was like watching a horror film. Every two paragraphs I wanted to scream and cover my eyes. I put Only Human out there, believing it's a good story. I still believe it's a good story but my 'diamond' is surrounded by a ten foot layer of rock, making the beauty difficult to admire. Editing is my jackhammer.

The first thing I noticed is my habit of over describing. Three to four sentence paragraphs were used to describe locations or random thoughts of my MC and I had multiple uses of three to four commas in a sentence. YIKES!

I didn't want to do my find and search of the words 'like, that, was,' and 'there', knowing it would be painful. I started with 'that', coming up with a whopping 1567 times. I'm at 295 now but I'm hoping to get it down even more. I started on 'like' today but my starting point was 525 or something so it should take less time. I'm sure 'was' will be in the two thousands - I overuse it a lot!

A few scenes read stiffly which I'd felt in my initial release but hadn't had much time to remedy. Now's the time for book surgery! I have to be daring and dive in!

I haven't worked on my novella in over a week and should get back to it before I get to caught up in OH. It's a cute little story and with a few more changes, I'll be pretty proud of it.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Way Too Much Information!

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been doing a lot of research on editing and how to properly present a book. With every discovery made, I want to get my hands on Only Human and rip it apart! It needs so much work!

There seem to be several general rules of editing and then everyone's personal rules that they hold themselves to. A few things I've learned/am learning:
  • Telling rather than showing: This shows up quite often in books, especially with first person manuscripts. The biggest way for me to identify my own 'telling' is by going through sentences and getting rid of an overabundance of the word 'was'. "I was looking down into the dark, sad eyes of a young boy." The sentence is okay but gives me more the feeling of being told and not shown."I looked down into the dark, sad eyes of a young boy," has a much smoother flow with the removal of one word! It was an exciting and scary thing when I learned this and did a find and search of my 30,000 word manuscript. 'Was' appeared 400 times!
  • Omitting Five Senses: When going through my first edit, I have to get rid of a lot of 'He said, she said,' and turn things into what's known as an action beat. The reason for doing so is simple. Too many descriptions can bog down a book and distract from what should be quick dialogue. In my instance, I tend to forget to include the five senses. My characters 'feel bad', 'feel angry', 'feel hungry', etc. but they don't make use of the senses that we as humans do. I know dinner is being cooked because I smell it, not because I walk down the stairs into the kitchen and see Mom holding a pot. 
  • Flashbacks/Back-story: Again, this has to do with telling instead of showing. I've read several books where the characters have flashbacks or the impromptu telling of their past that jolts me from what I'm reading into three pages of explanation. I can't be too harsh since I've made this mistake myself but I do recognize it interrupts flow and interest. The easiest way to get around both of these things is to reference things in conversation or a strange comment your character might make that alludes to something that happened to them in the past. Rachel hated listening to classical music since it reminded her of all those nights home alone, listening to the neighbor's Bach album that did little to cover the terrified screams. You could do this since you're not explaining everything but it's an overload of information. I would write the scene rather like this: Rachel shuddered as classical music filled the room, trying to force her thoughts away from the terrifying nights alone and the sounds of screaming. Since I'm still a newbie writer, it's obviously not perfect but much closer to what I'd enjoy reading. You want your readers to ask questions and be at least a bit in the dark about the characters past. Cliche, over explained characters come off as 2-D and contrived.
  • Too Many Thoughts: I write first person 90% of the time. It's very easy in the telling aspect to constantly be going into the characters head and hearing their thoughts about what's happening. I have to resist! No one wants to hear all those thoughts that should be obvious from the MC's reaction anyway. I have one book  where the girl thinks a lot of cynical things she doesn't actually say but even with that, I have to ditch a lot of the thoughts and show how she's thinking in her reaction.
  • Cut The Boring: If it's boring for me to write, my readers don't want it. It can be hard getting rid of stuff you've spent hours, days, maybe even weeks working on but if you get rid of the slack, you'll get closer to the core of your book. Only Human had a lot of baggage - repetitive scenes, useless dialogue, over long explanations, etc. The comment I've gotten from everyone who's read it is how hard it was to put down. I'm in no way a professional writer or even a great editor but I learned to be harsh with my book. I'm getting ready another round of editing and I'm sure more dead weight will be cut away.
  • Favorite Words: Everyone has their favorite words and they show up in their writing. Favorite words are great in moderation but they can get old really fast. If the word is unusual, you should only use it once or twice in the entire story. With Only Human, my Aunt pointed out my constant use of the word 'gingerly'. My characters would 'gingerly get off the chair,' 'gingerly take a sip', 'take a ginger step', and so on. It's a good word in moderation but overuse is just me getting lazy.
  • The 'ly' rule: Words like suddenly, gingerly, happily, excitedly are so easy to throw into a sentence for me. I didn't know until two months ago that it was even wrong to use them too often. Using words ending in 'ly' is a lazy way to describe something. 'The man gingerly stepped forward, not wanting to hurt his leg anymore'. I would change that to: 'The man took care as he stood, favoring his uninjured leg.'
  • Consistent Character Speak Patterns: All my characters have a different way of reacting, speaking, and understanding. In Only Human, Connor is likely to use proper words and the correct grammar while Zack is sloppy and uses more slang. If Zack said, "I would like to have a drink of water," it would sound out of character and stupid. If Connor were to say it, it would be much more accepted. Zack is more likely to say "Get me a drink before I hit you."
  • Over-describing Characteristics, Features: I read a lot of teen books and most of them are filled with romance of some type. One of my personal pet peeves is the constant description of 'chocolate brown eyes', 'powerful physique', 'soft looking lips', etc. Give readers a few pointers as to what the world in their head should look like and move on. Say that a certain character has chocolate brown eyes and then don't say it again. You might mention the occasional, "His dark eyes turned to meet mine," but past that, don't repeatedly make your reader feel stupid by jamming down their throat what the characters appearance is. In first person, it's also a no-no to have a sentence like this: "I pushed back my mid length, golden brown curls, tucking them behind my elf like ears." Yes, it might give a better picture but I don't think of my hair color when I'm pushing it out of my face. If it were me, the sentence would more like this: "I pushed back the golden fuzz of curls around my face, tucking it securely behind my ears." If I'm tucking back my hair, it's either out of habit or because it's fuzzy and annoying me.
There are so many things to learn in order to craft a good novel and these are just a few things. I'm sure in a few months, I'll look back at my lack of knowledge and shudder again. For now though, I'm working with what I've got. 

On a side note, I've been thinking recently about how awkward most romantic scenes in books are. I think a lot of times it's because the author is describing too much of what's happening and it makes you feel like you've crashed a party you weren't invited too. So many authors talk about the 'earthy scent' a man will carry, or the smell of his aftershave. Maybe it's because I don't live in romance land but I don't notice a lot of distinct smells from people. If I do notice the smell of a guy, it's not usually a pleasant smell. Of course, sweat and unwashed socks wouldn't sound too romantic now, would it?

The biggest instance of over telling and awkwardness seems to be in kiss scenes. I don't write kiss scenes for a variety of reasons but if you read books with any romance, they are almost guaranteed to occur. Some are fine, they happen and you hear more about the reaction of the character than anything else. Several are just plain embarrassing with way to much info as to what the kiss felt like. I'm sure that's something to contemplate if it's happening to you which is the effect the writer is going for but to me, it often just makes me feel grossed out and lose any sense of romanticism at all!

-Anna Leigh

Monday, June 2, 2014

Future Projects

It's been an even crazier month than I thought it would be last time I wrote over a month ago. Reading back over my previous posts, I remembered I'd posted some of my character blurbs to a story that's, well, been kind of thrown away.

It was a difficult decision to get rid of six chapters worth of work but seemed to be the best choice in the end. I've since started over but am having a hard time being motivated which means Human Nature is getting shelved for three weeks until I can get my head back in the game. The good news is, shelving my sequel gives me the time I've really wanted to work on all the other books I've started in the last year, namely four that have been calling my name. Since I'm writing today about my other books, I thought it'd be interesting to do a bullet point of all the books I've started writing and a brief description. Names in descriptions are subject to change, as well as POVs.

  • Walking Among Us (WT) 2014: Rose's family is forced by the government to have an alien from DA1 live with them for three months. Rose's father would never have allowed such a thing but it's been several years that he's been imprisoned, leaving her as head of the household. The clash of cultures is evident and Rose is curious as to how an alien can look, talk, and occasionally act like a human. Is the government she's working for really telling her the whole story? (First person)
  • Younger Brother (WT) 2014: Ali was only a little girl when her father brought boy, small and with a mysterious tattoo, into their house and declared him one of the family. Ali felt protective of the younger boy and did her best to take care of him until he was sent away to learn the inner workings of their business. Now eighteen, he's returned to the house to participate in a competition her father set up, a fight between her two biological brothers and him over who will get the business. In the middle of the only three people she really cares about, Ali has to make a decision that will change her future. (First person)
  • Penalty (WT) 2014: Lana is beautiful and talented in many areas - except the one place she really wants. Lana's dream is to become a writer. After losing a bet to her published boss, she is forced to write the sort of story she hates: a romance set in another country. Not only does she have to write it but she also has to obtain a critique from a renowned magazine, one with a critic who is famous for his bad reviews, and get him to love it. Following a friends advice, she hires a native from the country, only to find he's more of a handful than her boss. Will she succeed with her mission or will her dream to become a published writer remain unreachable? (First person)
  • The Outcast (WT) 2012: Jenny wants nothing more than to blend in but her father's fame makes it difficult. She's been in love with Calvin St. Clair since she was twelve years old, only to recently discover he's avoiding her like the plague and his normally cheerful demeanor seems forced. With public events coming to introduce her into the business and the probability of Calvin's engagement to another girl coming up, Jenny's outlook on life is bleak. To make matters worse, Calvin's younger brother, obnoxious and brutally honest Johnny, is constantly calling her out on what she wants in her life. Her eighteenth year is sure to be unforgettable, if she makes it out. (First person, possibly switched to third)
  • Assisted Dying (WT) 2014: Violet is a teen girl living a hectic life. With both grandfathers dead, both of her grandmothers are living in the same assisted living and filling her days with their very different problems. Grandma Jane is anxious worrier, only interested in her life and the things that affect her. Grandma Anne is a sickly women who hates the burden she is to her granddaughter and wants her to get out more. Violet's life is rapidly spiraling out of control and the resident do-gooder, a endlessly cheerful guy who visits residents without families, seems to think she's cynical. With everything that's happened in her young life, shouldn't she have the right to feel sorry for herself once in a while? There's no way a cheerful smile and endless optimism of a guy without a care in the world would change that. (Third person)
  • Makeover (WT) 2014: Carrie is fine living off the profits of her father's construction business - until he sends her out to a remote location to have her help remodel an old cabin. The workers couldn't care less who she is or if she has to break a nail to help out. It's either buck up or get laughed at for the girl who loves order and cleanliness. (First person, possibly third)
  • Vanity (2014): In a society where no one is less than perfect and beautiful lives Aria Mason, an all natural plain girl. If it weren't for her parents connections, they would have been banished from Cumulus as soon as her plainness became evident. Her coming out year has arrived too soon for her liking and everyone is treating her like she has a disease, including her match who only makes evident he isn't interested. When Aria runs into a talented performer, she's unwillingly dragged into the gossip that surrounds him. Things get even more out of hand when they are trapped on a salvage shuttle headed toward Earth, the place that doesn't know of their existence. Will Aria be able to find her way back without the humans finding out who she is or is their life doomed to be discovered? (First person)
  • Fame (2012): Lexi is probably the only girl on Earth who remembers Jackson Park, a one hit wonder who was famous the same year her parents were killed. Moving to a new city with her older sister and determined to have a fresh start, she gets a shock when she runs into a delivery boy with a striking resemblance to the singer who helped her through the hard times and who goes by the name Jack... (First person, possibly third)
  • First Impressions (2014): Carla Marcus lived a normal life until her sister and brother-in-law were killed in a car accident. Left with Taylor, their six month old baby, she is forced to endure the judgmental stares and harsh words from strangers who think she's a teen mother. An innocent day out shopping lands them in a bank being held up. Her and the baby are kidnapped by men with mixed intentions and with police hot on their tails, Carla worries for the safety of herself and the baby she promised to protect. (First person, present tense)
  • Heart (2013): Bare bones outline. A girl who's lived her whole life with a defective heart gets a transplant. Things have only been good since then, leaving her to live the full life she always dreamed of. Every time something bad threatens to happen, it's taken care of and she is continuously protected. After a mugger tries to stab her and is stopped by a guy who seems to know her name, she begins to wonder about all the other things in her life that've been mysteriously taken care of. Maybe she has a guardian angel after all... (Idea only, have never written the story)
  • Older Sister (WT) 2014: Mia and her family have been having a hard time financially, forcing her to rely on the kindness of the local makeup artist to employ a girl who hasn't even attended beauty school. In a strange twist of events, Mia has to work as a temporary makeup artist for EBOS, a boy band traveling through their city. When a murder occurs and the place is locked down to prevent the killer from leaving, Mia is forced to make unlikely allies as she does her best to protect the people she loves - before the killer chose her as the next target. (First person)
  • Books I Didn't Mention: Loyalty (Historical Fiction), A trilogy of retold classics: Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Camelot, Drifting (Contemporary Mystery), Bodyguard (Action/Adventure), 9 (Story about an a girl assistant coach on a men's team), Beaten (Contemporary, a story about a boy whose father beats him and a girl who wants to protect him).
So, I have started a lot of books! I've finished two, a novel and a novella, and am hoping to get back to a lot of these at some points. Several are just a Microsoft Word document with a few facts scribbled in them. Loyalty was one I started a month ago but didn't take the time to write the plot down for. I really have no idea what I was thinking of and have only one page to reference :( A few might be broken down and turned into one book since they are similar to others I have and wouldn't make a strong enough story on their own. I had a genius idea for my Peter Pan remake and my fingers are itching to get back to it. I have way too many in the works to do so right now but I'm still young...

On the interesting discoveries for this month, I have to mention Natural Reader. It's a great program that turns text to speech and has made a world of difference in my editing process. It's so much easier to edit when it's being read to you and computers don't read over miss-spellings or bad punctuation which makes it more accurate than a human.The free version only includes computer sounding voices but the paid version has some very natural voices. I put up with the computer sound since it works find for editing though sometimes the lack of emotions gets to me.

I'll write again when I get a chance about some of the things I've been learning in my editing journey recently. I've read so many different accounts of ways to edit and decided to throw them all at my novella and see how it turned out. With everything new I learn, I look at Only Human and can't wait to get my hands back on it. It gets more embarrassing by the day with some of the things I let go in the editing process!

Anna Leigh

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Fears of Repeating Oneself

So, it's been a while.

My life for the last two weeks has been more than chaotic and I haven't even had much time to write, let alone blog. I managed to start another new book in that time (which I am not working on since I have to finish my sequel) but that was about the height of my creativeness this week in between working and trying to get a full nights sleep.

Anyway, enough about that.

I am filled with two strong feelings every time I pull up my working manuscript for Human Nature. One is excitement; I get to bring back my characters, make them go through new trials, and develop them in ways I never did before. My other feeling is fear. It took me three years to make Only Human what it is and even that seems like it could still use some work. In that time I came up with idea after idea, only to trash them and go with something else. I'm working within a different time constraint with Human Nature. Now I have people who want to read a sequel, people who will forget about the book if I don't have another one done in time and scariest of all, people who have an expectation about my writing. If it's not the same or better as the first one, it will be a disappointment.

I developed characters to a certain extent in the first one but the second book takes it to a whole new level. Connor/Drew isn't just Mr. Impenetrable, he has feelings, thoughts, and wants. Abby isn't the same scared, naive girl she used to be, she realizes there is more danger than she thought and feels a responsibility for helping out the others around her. Zack isn't a robotic bully, he has a purpose to his life and things that hurt him in the past. Callie isn't just a friend, she is a friend willing to die to protect Abby. Abby's Dad isn't dead, he's out there somewhere.

The above ideas fascinate me while terrifying the inner writer. They have to continue to develop, they have to seem real

I liked Abby in the first book, I want to LIKE her in the second book. There were times when I wrote her not going quite as far as the new Abby is willing to go to protect the people around her. Not only has she grown in learning, she's met Drew. What he is and what he believes, much like her friend Callie, has become a part of her.

There are things that always seem to make their way into my book. Main characters getting injured and having to be patched up by another character. It always sneaks its way in! Male MC protecting the girl verbally/physically at at least one point during the story. Little cliches work their way into my writing because it's what I like. Unfortunately, if done too often, especially in the same series, it's going to just be repetitive and boring.

Human Nature is a fresh start, a new book to continue the story but add new twists, new characters, and new cares. The last thing I want is for it to become an updated version of Only Human because I'm now three years older.

Anna Leigh

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Joys and Pains of Editing

I made a hard, fast rule when I finished Only Human. Any book I write now has two word documents associated with it; one for the story I'm actively writing and one labeled with the name and then 'edit' next to it. Every thousand words or so, I cut and paste what I've just worked on into editing and don't look at it again until I'm done with the book. As I write, names and ideas change and I leave random notes scattered through the edit document to remind myself what I want to change it to be.

As I've mentioned before, I read the blog Go Teen Writers a lot and learned from Mrs. Stephanie Morrill that it's best to leave your manuscript for a bit before starting the editing process. She recommended six weeks after your original manuscript is written but I would personally go for a month since it would be difficult for me to wait that long.

Human Nature is only a few months old and already I have at least a dozen notes of changes I've thought of as I've been writing. Today was a particularly painful day in which I wrote over a thousand words, realized the story line was falling flat, and proceeded to delete my last weeks worth of work (About a chapters worth). It's painful but I realized it had to change and there was no point in keeping everything I just wrote. It's much easier to delete words several weeks after you've written them since you're not quite as attached after that amount of time but I just went for the whole thing today, ripping the band aid off without a second thought instead of waiting and fussing over it for a few days. This book as been much better about presenting ways out of writing corners than my last one was. I tend to think I'm a lot more experienced and probably the fact I'm writing so much right now and constantly coming up with new ideas makes a writing dry much harder to come across. Whenever I'm feeling particularly uninspired, I hit up the free kindle books on Amazon which immediately make me want to go back to my own writing. Not that they're are terribly, some are actually quite good but...I know I can do better than that, even if it means I'm only selling a 0.99 book which is quite possibly. Hardly anyone paid that much when Only Human was on sale. I know that it's a new book and an unrecognized author and all but it's still a bit discouraging...

Lately, I seem to be bursting with ideas for random novels. I have a bunch started but am forcing myself to work only on Human Nature unless I have an idea I just have to write out in one of my other books. Every time I think of an idea, usually when I'm washing dishes or on a car ride, I make a document for it, date it, and write down all the ideas I've had. At some point, those book ideas will either be deleted or I will collect enough information to turn them into my next project. It would be nice to start on a fresh project since I've spent so long on OH and now am tied to writing the sequel. Not that I don't enjoy it but I'm feeling more in the mood for fluffy contemporary with cute settings, quirky girls, and guys who are both amazing and good looking than writing thought provoking science fiction.

On a random note, I was reading GTW today and Jill Williamson was covering the subject of writing a good love triangle, something that definitely needs to be addressed in today's writing/film world. I personally dislike love triangles with an intensity but considering my intense like for Asian dramas, especially of the Korean variety, I watch more things with love triangles than not. I thought she had some good advice on what to do and will definitely keep it in mind if I ever go crazy and decide to put one in my book *shudder*.

Write again soon. I meant to write earlier than now but it's been so crazy busy this week and I've spent a lot of time babysitting my niece. Hopefully this week will be a bit calmer...

Anna Leigh

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Short post today in between cleaning the house, making meals, and writing my book. I'm trying to get my word count up since Go Teen Writers is having a word war from today until Monday. I've already put two thousand, three hundred and something into my book today but I'm hoping to do a bit more. I was randomly typing and my fingers brought me to a new plot twist before my brain caught up! That's been happening more and more lately. In the last week I've added another character, randomly written out another one, and added a plot twist which will bring in some characters from my first book! I'm at the exciting stage of writing and I hope I don't EVER hit the bored, blocked for ideas stage.

I did something different with this sequel which I've never done before. Instead of just coming up with ideas as I write and having all sorts of repeats and awkward moments to edit out later, I actually came up with a layout for the book which is pretty much complete. I was feeling really awkward about continuing my character for Drew but as I was working today, my fingers were flying and I was liking what I wrote. I hope my sequel is twice the book my first one is (not that that's difficult to do).

I officially decided that my second book is going to be much scarier than the first. I don't want it to be stupidly scary or seem like a horror book but I want the feeling of the stakes being raised, including people getting hurt a lot worse than in the first one. I think Drew spent most of the first book getting hurt at one point or another :)

I officially have fun writing obnoxious girls! I know, that leaves me open for a lot of comments but I added this annoying girl to my second book to advance the plot and it's kind of fun to write her snippy comments. I tend to like my characters having quick and witty comebacks but I often end up editing a lot of them out since my character ends up sounding more brash and annoying than I want them to be. With Steph, my new character, she's supposed to be unlikable so it makes life easier. Today I had to balance a scene with her, Abby, and four other male characters. Interesting how I had to keep the dialogue going and feeling like the individual characters and not like the same guy. Zack is angry in the conversation and gives short, somewhat biting remarks. Matt is a little uncertain, Won is confused, and Drew is calm and collected as always.

Have to go, dinner calls :) I'll write again soon!

Anna Leigh

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Book and its Setting

I like talking about writing characters, it's no secret. If you've read any of my blog, you'll know how much time I spend with my characters, coming up with them, fine tuning them, and stressing about them. Characters might be my strong point or just my downfall because I worry about them too much. Besides the characters, the setting of a story is REALLY important!

My stories always seem to take place in a small town. It's not like I agonize over the setting and decide to put it there or like I even live in a small town. I live in a county with upwards of nine hundred thousand people. I was talking with my sister about it one day and I realized part of my attraction to writing about small towns is because I have a relatively small social circle I spend time with and not having a job outside of the house or going to high school, my life does exist in a small town type setting.

In Only Human even if Abby had lived in a big town, she lived in a small town in her head. I like the idea of the local gossips to avoid, seeing the same people a the local diner, etc. In my novella, the small town emphasis is much more in the story as the stories about Cameron have spread around to everyone and Maggie being sick effects everyone Alex knows. I've decided along with a book being written in third person, I need to write a book without a small town emphasis.

In the Partials Sequence, Dan Wells paints a very good picture of our world in ruins. It was fascinating and often scary when he described places that had been abandoned and destroyed; places that we frequent today. I thought he did a great job in world building in his book and definitely would like his talent for doing so. I often wonder if my settings feel forced or like an afterthought. His book though is a great example to me of how a setting can really give a book life. His characters are good too which always makes things better :)

I had a great day today in my book history. I got my first review from a stranger, a girl named Alyanna who runs a blog where she reads and reviews books. It was funny reading her review and thinking about the fact that someone in the Philippines is reading my book. The internet is an amazing thing. ' 

Write again soon!

Anna Leigh

Monday, March 31, 2014

What Makes a Character

Writing a good character is essential as I've stressed, well, a few times. The ins and outs of what makes a character seem real are complex for me, often times more than the plot I'm writing. The main character, especially since I tend to write in first person, is a challenge to make have her weaknesses and strengths instead of her just being perfect all the time. It's easy for me as the writer to just have my female MC react to the situation just how I think she should or understand things right when I want her to. The truth is, while fiction is definitely not real life, it can feel extremely contrived when your character is perfect at everything.

Let's start with looking at a personal favorite of mine. Nancy Drew. I like Nancy Drew, I grew up reading the books and talked about them a lot. I didn't care for the mysteries as much as I liked reading about her exotic adventures and her smarts in figuring things out. Looking back at it now, it seems odd to think she's supposed to be younger than me...

Anyway, I digress.

Nancy has it all, smarts, good looks, a fair amount of money, a loving family, a loving boyfriend, and the penchant for always being around when things that need solving (and are stumping the police) occur. Most detective stories that I've read center around characters who always seem to be in the right place at the right time to get caught up in a mystery. It could be totally normal but I tend to doubt it. The other thing that makes Nancy really different (and that annoyed my oldest sister to the point that she read the Hardy Boys instead) is that for every case she encounters, she is able to just 'pick up' whatever ability she needs to know be it tap dancing, (Clue of the Tapping Heels) bagpipes, (the Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes) acting, (The Clue of the Dancing Puppet), etc. She is definitely the girl that every girl would strive to be. Well her prowess always annoyed my sister, it was part of what I liked so well about the books. She was tough, the kind of girl who wasn't afraid of danger, and would think to write an SOS in pink lipstick on the window of the plane she was being kidnapped in.

I've said before that Abby started out being based on me. I like to think of myself as smart, brave, and ready to stand up for what's right, but in reality I think I'd be scared of things as much as the next person. It some ways I think Abby has less courage than me but in other ways, she has a lot more. *SPOILER ALERT* I don't think I would've gotten in front of Mrs. Willis to protect her from being shot. Not that I wouldn't want to save her but I'm not sure I have that sort of selflessness. Stepping in the  middle of a group of bullies to defend someone she didn't know also is possibly braver than I'd be. On the same hand, I hate seeing things that I view as unjust and sometimes don't think it all the way through before stepping in. *END SPOILER ALERT*

Connor on the other hand, is the type of hero that a hero should be. Smart, kind, charismatic, and just a bit good looking. I am of the impression that people with good personalities who take care of the people around them are attractive whether their features are classically good looking or not. I knew when I started writing him that I wanted him to laugh in the face of danger and have a way of getting the others around him to do the same.

He is the bane of my writing life.

Every sentence he speaks is a challenge with me, second and third guessing about whether he would say even the most mundane things like "Let's go." It sounds stupid but I was/am so afraid of making him sound out of character, like a different character entirely, or worst of all, like a girl.

Now that I'm writing the sequel, I want a more comfortable idea of who he is so I can write without the agonizing. I've done character interviews, something I recently picked up as a way to identify and better know my characters. Basically, it's a first person interview by me, the author, and first person from the character. Some of the characters I get really into and are really easy. Connor isn't one of them. Zack is easy for me to get into character for. He's intimidating, more likely to give insults than complements, and generally difficult to win a fight against. Does this mean that my personality more mirrors his than Conner's? Quite possibly. Thing is, I don't want to like Zack more than Connor but since it's easier for me to write Zack, I find myself with more portions writing about him than Connor. I could change my main character but I don't want to. I like Connor's character, I just can't seem to write it comfortably.

This is a lot of obsessing when I need to just finish my first draft and do most of the work in edits but I don't like my discomfort over writing him. Recently, I stumbled over some old first drafts of books I'd emailed myself out of fear for my computer's life (and since I hadn't yet invested in a memory stick) and was enjoying reading some of my work from 2009. I expected to be reading a lot of cringe worthy phrasing and conversation only to get a huge shock when I realized my characters in a book from five years ago had deeper characters and less awkward conversations than characters I have now. As you can guess, it was just a bit disheartening.

Why haven't I gotten better with age? I thought age was to writing like it was to good wine. It only got better.

Stepping back, I observed a few things. One, my old books were all written third person which meant I could give a different spin on people as opposed to the observations from inside someone's head which is what I've been writing since I started Only Human in June of 2011. Secondly, I was much younger and still basing my characters off of people in movies. Dialogue wasn't difficult because I could watch my show and pretty much transfer their way of speaking and words over to my book. Back then, I didn't worry about what people would think if they read my cheesy dialogue; I just thought I'd be the only one seeing it. Now, even though it's at the back of my mind, it's a constant nagging that at some point all my deep thoughts, possibly unrealistic characters as well as far fetched plot twists will see the light of day and the eyes of loving family and total strangers who don't care about trashing the name of a girl they wouldn't recognize on the street. This leads me to something that lies hidden in every character I've ever written. I am extremely insecure.

Insecurity is something that seems to lurk in pretty much everyone in some way or other. I'm outgoing, laugh a lot, and state my opinions without shame. Or so it seems. People are a lot more willing to bluntly, or sometimes harshly, give me back what they think I can handle. I retaliate by trying to be even more confident and outgoing than before when in reality, what they say hurts. It's a stupid character flaw and one I think about quite often.

I didn't put this character flaw in Abby because she was her own character and because at sixteen, I didn't really know I had it. In my novella I wrote in February there were shades of it spread throughout Alex's character. She is outgoing and pretends to be much tougher than she actually is. I realized when I was writing Cameron, the male MC, that he was the kind of guy who could see through what she was doing easily, making him be just the kind of guy she needed as a friend.

At some point, I might be brave enough to put some of my old stories on here but I might wait until I actually have some positive recognition for my released world before I release my fifteen year old writing on an unsuspecting world. And when I say unsuspecting, I mean unsuspecting :)

Write again tomorrow. I'm thinking about posting some of my character interviews on here, at least the parts that won't give away too much of the story. They are subject to change since I might write out characters or change the plot flow entirely so, be warned.

Anna Leigh

Friday, March 28, 2014

Prequel's and Other Works

My older brother came running  out of the basement yesterday to tell me his most recent genius marketing plan: writing a prequel to Only Human I can put up for free. Needless to say, in the middle of planning and attempting to write my sequel and doing my best to avoid working on three other books I want to work on, it wasn't really what I wanted to hear.

Truth is, he's probably right.

Free generates downloads and downloads generate money for the rest of the series if you can spark someones interest. While I don't want to put the three years of work that is Only Human up for free, putting a little prequel to hopefully spark some interest in it is somewhat easier.

My writing has changed a bit since I was sixteen and started Only Human. While I gave it some definite changes, the writing is definitely my younger self and not the person now writing the sequel. As I sat staring at the blank page in a Microsoft Word document labeled 'Prequel', I pondered what would  happen if people liked it, paid for Only Human, and felt gypped because I wrote it at a younger age. Whatever, I can only second guess myself so much.

I wrote it in under an hour though my brother seems to have had more than three pages envisioned. Oh well, after he reads it I'll see what he says. It wasn't too bad to write except that I didn't want to spoil to much about OH in the process. I managed to tie in a character that doesn't come until the second book with the prequel which I was proud of and will hopefully keep even through whatever overhaul it will probably get.

I've started two other stories in the last few months, one that'll probably be a novella and one that's a stand alone novel. The stand alone novel is about the daughter of a man who runs a sort of mafia, making his two biological sons and one adopted son fight for who will control it. She is in the middle of it, not wanting any of her brothers to fight each other and trying to ward off the hostility her two older brothers have toward their younger adopted brother who's grown up on the street. It was inspired by a few different things, mostly the fact that I wanted to write about a girl in a dangerous, powerful family. We'll see how it goes, it might just be too cheesy to finish like a lot of my stories. I've gotten a lot better at fixing ideas recently instead of just scrapping them though.

My other book is one I don't want to say too much about since I think I might really like it or think it's too embarrassing to show anyone. I wanted to put my Korean knowledge to use and found a way I think it might work, mainly making fun of a lot of the dramas and cliches of Korean dramas that I watch. It's not set in Korea or really about Koreans but about a girl who loses a bet to a rival and has to write a book that's like a k-drama, much to her chagrin. She's an upcoming writer and is afraid of pleasing her most difficult critic - a reviewer on a website she frequents. It's quite fun to write since her character is a lot like mine and her sarcasm can be quite funny at times, even to me. I suspect she's going to lost a fair amount in edits since I don't want her - or me - to look like total cynics :)

I don't know if I mentioned before but one of my goals in my writing career (if I ever have one) is to write books in a whole bunch of different genres. I'm used to the authors I like in contemporary, the authors I like in sci fi, and the authors I like in whatever else I'm reading but I think it would be fun to have my name in a whole bunch of different categories. I already have science fiction (thank you Only Human) but I'd like to do a proper, nerdy science fiction one too like aliens, spaceships, the whole thing. Not that it's really up my alley but I might as well try. I guess I'd have to go for a dystopian one at some point too though I really don't care for those.

After finishing yesterday's post I remembered another guy whose character I liked in the book. Dan Wells Partials series is a really good series, one I just finished reading this month and Samm is a great main. I suspect I like him because he was actually written by a man so he doesn't feel like the cheesy contrived hunk that most heroes usually feel. I also liked Ginny Aiken's Shop-Til-U-Drop series and her hero. He starts out seeming like a stupid character, a 'lunkhead' as the heroine describes him at one point but I liked him a lot.

Write again at the beginning of the week,

Anna Leigh