Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The words that subtly ruin your writing

We all know when we read something terrible. The less literarily inclined will likely not understand what it is about the thing they're reading which is making it bad, they just know it is. Even some who read often, or have written books, will not understand what it is that's subtly making the work they're reading, or writing, horrid.

It feels strange for my work to continue making leaps and bounds. Every time I feel like I've gotten to an acceptable level, I'll write something new, then look back, and realize how awful the last work was. It's confusing. How could I think something is good, then three months later realize how bad it is?

I digress, for a bit of a purpose. I've recently realized I use many words in my writing which slows down the read, makes it clunky, and all around... bleh. We'll start with the number one offender.

THAT

If you can imagine, I scanned for the word "that" just before I typed the headline. I, in fact, stopped dead in the last paragraph as I typed out "tha" in place of the word "which". Then I hit "cmnd+f" and searched for it. I've become hyper aware of THAT.
I didn't know, but it's so completely unnecessary. Let me give an example.

There are things that you don't know about me, Detective Jones.

How did that read. Alright-ish, yeah? It's fine, whatever. But now, read this:

There are things you don't know about me, Detective Jones.

So much better, is it not?

Not convinced? It's OK. I'll work harder.

The grey house that was at the end of the street had always had a strange look about it, like there was a cloud that hung over it, casting shadows in frightening ways.

Writing the above took me a considerable amount of time. It's easy in the heat of the moment to craft a terrible sentence, but when on the spot, I couldn't conjure the words. OK. The sentence is truly bad. Here's the fix for "that".

The grey house at the end of the street had always had a strange look about it, like there was a cloud which hung over it, casting shadows in frightening ways.
OR
like there was a cloud hanging over it, casting shadows in frightening ways.

Take the word "that" away, and if it reads alright, you didn't need it in the first place. If you take "that" out and it doesn't make sense, sub in "which" for inanimate (non-sentient) objects, and "who" when it's a sentient object. For example, if the cloud was our main character, with feeling we'd say: like there was a demon cloud who hung over it, casting shadows in frightening ways.

I don't know why it was a demon cloud, but when it's a demon cloud, it's a "who", but if it was a demonic cloud, back to "which". 

Or maybe you do a bit of rewording magic and remove the need for either/any.

Next offender.

HAD

Let's just take the last sentence, and write the better version of it, sans "had".

The grey house at the end of the street always had a strange look about it, like there was a cloud which hung over it, casting shadows in frightening ways.

The first "had" is totally unneeded. If you want to take it a step further (not farther, even though we're stepping... it's a metaphorical step...) we'll remove them both.

The grey house at the end of the street always looked strange, like there was a cloud which hung over it, casting shadows in frightening ways.

Bleh, it's used improperly so often.

SO

So, this post is getting too long for my liking... much too long. Not sure if you noticed after reading that headline, but I've used "so" several times throughout this posting.

"So completely unnecessary"
"So much better"
"So often"

None of those "so's" do anything for the sentence other than emphasize it. If you want to emphasize something, don't use "so", use a different word.

"Utterly unnecessary"
"Infinitely better"
"In multiplicity"

Alright. There's more words, but this post is, as said, drawing on. Night kiddies. Don't get into these pitfalls of words.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Nightmares Unhinged - A Review

So... I finished reading Nightmares Unhinged a bit ago, but sort of dallied around writing the review. I should have written it sooner so they were all freshly on my mind, but I quick scan through the pages and I was back in with them easily.

From the clutches of Hex Publishers, edited by Josh Viola (my author idol - fangirl barf withheld for your ease of reading), I'm please to present my loose opinions on all of the works therein. I would suggest that everyone at least borrow the book from someone they know, if not buy it outright themselves. I'm super lucky to have a signed copy by many of the authors and the lone wolf artist, Aaron Lovett.

You can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Nightmares-Unhinged-Twenty-Tales-Terror-ebook/dp/B013JAPZVQ

Without further ado:

The Brollachan - Steve Rasnic Tem: 3.8/5
The story was devoid of gore or sexual situations. It was engaging, though it did drag at some points. The reveal was a bit hollow, because the conclusion was obvious several pages before then. Writing style was easy to get into, and flowed well. I enjoyed the concept, and the "old wives tale" come to life sort of feel in the story.

Fangs - J.V. Kyle: 4.6/5
I really liked this story. Also devoid of sexual situations and gore. It had a very fun, even playful, concept. It plays a bit on addiction, which is a very welcome addition to the story. The only reason it didn't earn a 5/5 was that I saw it coming a few pages in. The writing style was on par with what you'd expect for a horror short: snappy, and quick paced.

Be Seated - Keith Ferrell: 4.2/5
Very odd story. Again, no gore or sexual situations, but something... cultish... about it. You never really discovered much about what it was going on in that chair, in that house, by that hearth, but I think that made it all the more intriguing. I think the mystery was a lot of what the story had going on for it. The blank space used to talk about the narrator's subject matter, "Mr. A____", was a bit jarring to read so many times, and so I felt the flow suffered a bit because of it.

The Man Who Killed Texas - Stephen Graham Jones: 3.8/5
This story was only a tiny bit gory, but no sexual situations. It was a fun read, and very near to how I think the actual situation (post viral outbreak) would go down. It was a bit longer than necessary to convey the story at hand, but was still effective and interesting, not to mention sad. The style was easy to read.

Scarecrows - Josh Viola: 4.2/5
No gore or sexual situations, but triggers if bullying gets you. The story was touching, and vengeful. The writing was easy to read, and flowed well.

Zou Gou - Mario Acevedo: 4.6/5
I'm a sucker for sci-fi, so my rating might be a little biased. Both gore and sexual situations present in this one, but it didn't detract or distract from the story. I cringed about twice, the first time so far for Nightmares Unhinged. It was interesting and odd, deserved much more than a few pages. I've heard there is a full length novel to follow, which I'm drooling for in anticipation if it meets the quality of this short.

Needles - Josh Viola & Dean Wyant: 4.8/5
Sexual situations, and rape triggers, and a splash of gore at the end. I cringed unendingly at this story. I get a bit eeeeeeeee about rape, so that had me crossing my legs. It was creepy as hell, flowed great, but could have been paced better (probably the reason for falling short of 5). Another story with heavy addiction mentions.

The Projectionist - Jason Heller: 4.4/5
Did I just do drugs? Like... all the drugs? This is possibly the goriest story of the lot, and contains not only sexual situations, but... I think incest. I'm not sure how else to feel about this other than it was extremely interesting, but also confusing. I was left with a lot of questions, much like "Be Seated". I cringed at this one quite a bit, but the pacing and writing were both excellent.

The Wolf's Paw - Jeanne C. Stein: 2.6/5
I suppose my assessment of this is not completely fair, since I know this short was pulled from a longer work. However, it is not a very good standalone. The story was not well told in the few pages it was given, and I did not enjoy the writing style. The entire thing was quick, snappy, and there was no pause. I'm assuming the entire work was not written this way, and this was just one very quick, intense part of an otherwise well paced story. I'm not able to tell, since I did not read the full work.

Danniker's Coffin - Keith Ferrell: 3.6/5
No gore or sexual situations for this one. It was not scary, or cringe worthy, yet quite sad. So, so realistically sad. It was a bit drawn out, but I think that lent to the depressing nature of it. The story was slow and long, as said, but flowed well.

Deep Woods - Aaron Michael Ritchey: 4/5
Gore present, but no sex. I liked this take on the "monster in the woods" kind of story. I was pleased with the way it ended. The pacing was great, and the narration easy to read.

Diamond Widow - Dustin Carpenter: 3/5
No sex, not really gore either. I wanted to like this story, but from the title and first two paragraphs, I knew the whole story. That's pretty depressing... =( I don't like being able to predict what's going to happen, it takes all the fun out. It was well written and paced, and a fun play on a damsel in distress.

The Camera - Josh Viola: 3.8/5
Some sexual content, not much gore. This story made me seeth a bit. It's narrated by a female whose fiance is a douche turd. I wanted to punch him in his douchy face. Fortunately, that wasn't necessary. There were some unpredictable elements, which was nice after Diamond Widow, but I did foresee the end. It was well paced and written.

Lost Balls - Sean Eads: 3.6/5
Here's another one I'm biased on, simply because I disdain golf, and it played a decent roll in the story. Please don't tell my grandfather, but it's the most useless, boring "sport" on the planet. The pacing was a bit slow, but when it picked up, it really picked up. I did get a chill, and I could see the environment around the bridge, so that was all very well done. Damn it, why'd it have to be lame golf >.<? No sexual content or gore.

Bathroom Break - J. V. Kyle: 4/5
Sexual content abound, but no gore. This story... upset me. The lead character went against one of my strongest, highest held morals, for the duration of the story, in detail. I understand what it was trying to convey, but couldn't depart from my own feelings of hatred towards the lead throughout. When it looked like he was about to get a happy ending, I almost put it down. Hmm... I suppose I should adjust my rating. If it was able to elicit such levels of emotion, it probably deserves more than what I've given it. Rating adjusted.

Marginal Ha'nts - Edward Bryant: 3.8/5
No gore or sexual content. I was very amused by this story. I would love to believe that I could react the way that the narrator does. It was a tad slow, but well written. There was a very fun and playful air about the story, almost bored, even.

Delicioso - Warren Hammond: 3.8/5
Some sexual content, but that's it. I was able to predict how this was going to go pretty early in. I should probably stop reading so much =( or maybe turn my brain off so it's not constantly trying to figure out the ending. It was well written and paced, devilishly dark and devious, downright dirty to the depths of its demented soul. Ok, I took that one a bit far, but wanted to have fun with it. Delicioso was another damsel in distress story flipped on its head. I enjoy those, but needed a bit more to keep me wondering how it would end.

The Librarian - Josh Viola: 4.2/5
A nice follow to Delicioso, which I figured out quite quickly, this one I could not. I even put it down for a bit and tried to think of what it could be. I did have a decent guess part of the way through, but then an even cooler, new secret was revealed. I was a bit disappointed in the reaction of the narrator at the reveal, as I would have been more surprised, but it was amusing to read her indifference to the situation. Well paced, fun to read. No sexual content or gore.

Gurgle. Gurgle. - Mario Acevedo: 3.6/5
This was hilarious. I laughed many times, and therefore, it's not really horror to me. Once I start laughing... the horror is dead. It was a fun story though, with a great moral surprisingly. Pacing was alright, just a little slow, but the writing was easy to read. No sexual content, but a bit of gore.

Taking The Dare - Gary Jonas: 3.8/5
There was a lot of emotion to this story, like several others. I was hoping it would have ended differently, but I was satisfied. Because of the nature of short stories, it was a bit predictable, but not so much. Pacing was good, there were two main peaks of tension.

Overall, enjoyable works of fiction.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

All the edits, and so little time - Pick your battles and hills to die on

Since my edits came in for The Mill before I'd officially started blogging, I decided to not write on it at that time. But now, edits for Sway's Demise are in, and by god, they're good.
Also, hello, long time no see. I'm sorry I've been so absent. I promise to do better and write to you more =)

Step one in receiving edits - Don't get mad, bro

You just paid someone to read your work and tell you what they think, not tell you what you want to hear. If you want to pay someone to tell you what you want to hear, you should buy a hooker. Hmmm that was a bit dark. Anyway.
Do not get upset when you're reading the feedback from your editor(s). You have paid them (maybe) to help you, and that is what they're trying their damndest to do. They don't want to purposefully hurt your feelings after you've given them money (or trusted them to give them a free copy instead of payment):
A) It's bad for them. If you think they're just going to take a dump on you every time, you will likely find someone else to edit your works, unless you're a sadist... but that's another topic for another time.
B) It's exhausting to write feedback. They're not going to go through all of that out of spite. They're doing it to provide you with some kind of valuable takeaways, so you'll want to use them in the future.

This, of course, isn't to say once you start reading through the feedback you can't feel hurt for a bit. I do because there's ALWAYS something that needs to change. I mostly laugh at my misspellings/grammar errors, as I feel like such a derp (but very grateful they were found). It's the story components getting ripped up as "a useless trope" or "unimaginative cliche" which really stings.

Step two - You're in control

Just because you paid this person (or didn't) to read your work and provide feedback, doesn't mean you have to follow all of it, or most of it... hell, or any of it. If you truly believe at your core their suggestion is not valid, do not follow it.
At the end of the day you must figure out what feedback, no matter how bad it hurts to consider, is something you feel your target audience might think as well. If your target audience doesn't get it, doesn't like it, wants to read something else... maybe reconsider your target audience, but also consider making some changes.
I've included some pretty realistic militia and post apocalyptic situations for Sway's Demise, but found out through one of my editors, that she wasn't getting it (and she's mostly within my target audience range). This is super valuable, and super sad. I'd spend a considerable amount of time crafting some of these situations to be real, but the only ones who will recognize it or care will be the very few females that are into survivalist and military stuff. I'm guessing that the number of women aged 15-25 interested in sci-fi/action books and also have working knowledge of militia makeup/behavior will be... hmm... one. And that one is me. Wait. I'm 27. Sh*t... Zero.

TL;DR It's your choice what feedback you accept. Always keep that in mind and you'll be a much happier writer.

Step three - Bring it all together

If you have multiple editors, wait to make story altering changes until all edits are in. Yeah... that's all I have to say on that. I think I could go into more detail as to why, but I'm pretty sure you can figure the reason our for yourself. Just like you wouldn't submit a report on life altering diseases without all the research coming in, don't do that with your story. You could make grave errors.

Step four - Resubmit

Not all editors are going to be thrilled at the idea of re-reading your story and going through round two of edits, but it's crucial. Make sure when you're engaging with the editor that a "round two" or even three is covered in your payment (or agreement). It's vital for the editor to see the changes made, and be able to give additional feedback on it. Sometimes 3 rounds are necessary, but if you let them know the suggestions you've declined in round 2, it will probably be the last one you'll need.

I'm currently on step three. Man... one of the bits of feedback is to change the voice of the story. That is a massive undertaking and so I'll do a trial chapter to see if it works out. I didn't get that feedback directly from the other editor, but I asked about it. We'll see if it's something I need to do. But then again, at the end of the day, I'm in control. It's my choice to not change the tense, but I have to truly believe in my gut that changing to third person won't improve the story in a drastic way.

Blerg... night kiddies.