Got/Get: The laziest words.

I don’t write a lot on craft in this blog. I’ll share editing books I like and tell you over and over again that no matter what you do, ads, graphics, book promotion sites, what have you, if you’re not selling a good book, you’re not going to make it. I don’t mean a well-written book that doesn’t resonate with some readers. You’re not going to please everyone, and that’s just how it is. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been able to keep going in the past few years of writing. Certain people may not like my stories–I’ve never written a character people hate more than Jax in All of Nothing, but never in any review have I ever read of my work has anyone told me I’m a bad writer. So whether or not people don’t agree with my characters and all their flaws, at least I can hold my head up and know I’m a good writer.

I’m not sure where I was going with that?

Oh, so I don’t offer much craft advice. That really should come from your beta readers, your writing group, your editor. What you choose to take from those people is your own business, and as one editor I know says, “It’s always going to be their book.” So yeah, I don’t like craft advice very much, at least, not giving it.

Lately I’ve been reading more on my Kindle. I pay for a KU subscription and I signed up thinking that I would keep up with my comp authors that way. A lot of romance authors are in KU and it’s always a good thing to keep up with what’s selling. That was my intention anyway, but I paid for a few months of it before I charged up my Kindle and decided I was going to take advantage of my subscription. I read a lot of non-fiction and reading in KU is a lot cheaper than buying paperbacks.

Anyway, so I finished a mystery/thriller the other day. It’s written in first person present, which is why I chose to read it. I’m writing my own stuff in first person present and for me, it’s easier to keep in that POV and tense.

It didn’t take me long to get annoyed. This author really, I mean really, liked the words GOT/GET/GOTTEN. Not short for Game of Thrones, like we associate that word now, but the. . . I guess it’s a verb? . . . got. Gotten. Getting. Get.

She’s got an open black peacoat revealing black slacks and a gray blouse beneath.

When I got in last night, (character name) was in the middle of working on a story.

I need to get to that hospital.

While everyone else has pictures or knickknacks on their desk, she’s got nothing.

I don’t need to do anymore, and it didn’t take me long to find these. The author turns sloppier toward the end of book, like he was tired of writing it and wanted to finish it as quickly as possible.

Maybe it’s just me because that word has already been a pet peeve of mine, but it really turned me off. There are better verbs you can use, and they aren’t hard to reach for–She’s wearing an open black peacoat . . . Even as something simple as changing out GOT for HAS. While everyone else has pictures or knickknacks on their desk, she has nothing. Maybe it’s not any better, creatively speaking, but to me it reads a lot better.

He was able to comb through her devices after we got them from her parents.

It just sounds all around clunky and I’ve hammered it out of my writing. I know how easy it is to slip into easy language, and sometimes that’s all right. But the more you do it the more you can fall into “telling” a story rather than “showing” it. First person is particularly difficult because we’re writing someone’s thoughts, and people’s thoughts are messy and not particularly sophisticated.

And of course, I didn’t tag any dialogue because that’s how how speak. “To make it on time, we have to get going.” “We really gotta go now.” And if you’re speaking to kids, “We really gotta go NOW.”

I’m not blaming this author–I blame her editor for not catching it, or not caring enough to catch the repetitiveness of the word and asking the author to perhaps do a word search of her document and swap out the word where applicable. This wasn’t an indie published book, and unlike some indie where you’re not sure if an editor has gone over the book, this one has. It’s too bad because the word ruined a story I could have enjoyed.

In my own unfinished WIP (67k+) I used GOT 19 times. All but one time is in dialogue. In this particular conversation I used it to express character:

“You got balls, doll, but I guess you’d have to, to lie to so many people for so long. It’s not going to be that easy for you, either, once your secret comes out. What got you into that mess, if you don’t mind me asking?”

Murray Jameson, from an untitled WIP

I can search through that book and find GOT maybe every three pages, and I wanted send out a warning. Words like putting, getting, put, got–those are lazy words and you can do better. If you can’t pull the word you need out of your brain while you’re in the zone, I don’t blame you and you shouldn’t let it derail you. Keep going but make a note, maybe an actual note so you don’t forget, that you’ll need to do a sweep for that word in edits.

I don’t write literary fiction, and I’m not out to be the next Margaret Atwood, but I do want my books to read clean and give the reader a chance to immerse herself into my story. I don’t want sloppy grammar to pull her out.

I got into plenty of trouble after Hannah died.

So easily remedied: I found plenty of trouble after Hannah died.

I know we all have our voices, our own styles, and if you want to use GOT go ahead. There is a time and place for it, and I know that. But too much of a good thing can be bad.

And that is my craft post for the month.

“Got” a pet peeve that you’ve discovered in books? Let me know!


Getting Stuck and Losing Momentum with your Novel: What you can do to get moving again.

All of us go through slumps. It’s difficult to be creative when we’re stressed out and worried about things. I’ve heard a lot of stories on how writers just have not been able to get the words flowing since COVID. I can’t say as I blame anyone. If you don’t know where your rent is going to come from because you’ve been laid off and the government has stopped the extra funds from coming in, I wouldn’t be able to think about my next project either.

I’ve been stuck working on my book the past few days. I haven’t wanted to work on it, would rather binge Lucifer. But the problem with that is, I enjoy writing, and I also think of my books as a business. If I go through a slump, so does my business. My books aren’t great earners right now. Without any type of ads whatsoever, my books make pennies a day, but I’m definitely not going to make any money on books I don’t write.

My slump, fortunately, has nothing to do with COVID. If you follow my blog at all, you’ll know that I just came up for air after writing six books back to back. I started last year, in December of 2019, and finished them up about two weeks ago. I’m letting them breathe now, which is why I’m starting a different project. Almost 40k into it, I haven’t felt as excited or connected to this book as I have past projects. Wondering why, I came up with this list. If you’re having a problem with connecting your book and your characters give these ideas a try:

Get to know your characters again. When I started writing I only had a shadow of an idea who my characters are. When thinking up a new story, writers will come up with plot first, then characters, or characters, then plot. I try to think of both of them together. The characters, who they are and what they want, drives the plot. I didn’t plan out who they are as carefully as I usually do, and I need to go back over my character notes and familiarize myself with who they are as people. This would maybe be a good time to try to create an aesthetic and dig through stock photos to find models that would remind me of what my characters look like.

Remind yourself of the stakes. Sometimes if you’re struggling with a story, it helps to remind yourself what the stakes are. What do your characters want? How are they going to get it? And what is standing in their way? I write romance, so the characters want each other. But what is standing in their way? A lot of time it’s their own personal demons that prevent them from needing who they need to be to take what they want. It’s no different in my current WIP. Colt’s father abandoned them to live a life Colt doesn’t approve of. Ever since then he’s worked his butt off for what he wants. What he wants prevents him from seeing what he NEEDS. So going over what you have and reminding yourself what the stakes are and what is standing in their way if they can’t have it will help keep your story moving.

Keep your head in the game. Lately because I haven’t felt like writing, I’ve been binge-watching Lucifer on Netflix. It takes a lot to hold my attention (I can list a million TV shows I’ve stopped watching because I got bored) but so far Lucifer has kept me entertained. I suppose it helps that Tom Ellis is hot, and his accent is hotter. The only problem is, when I did take a break from watching Lucifer to write, it wasn’t an accident then that my character started to sound like him. Lucifer is catty, and my character, Colt Jameson, isn’t. So it felt very out of character for him to sound snarky after I watched five episodes of Lucifer. I know lots of people can watch and read books while writing their own work, and I never had a problem with doing that either. But this time around because I don’t know my characters very well, it was easy for me to turn them into people they aren’t supposed to be. That gave me a feeling of disconnect from my book, and in turn that made me wonder if what I’m writing is even any good.

After reacquainting yourself with your characters, reread what you have. It probably won’t be as bad as it seems, and if it is, take a very deep dive into your characters’ personalities and fix it. Whatever your views on editing during writing are, I know that if I don’t feel good about what I’ve written, I can’t write more. I do not like to rewrite. My first drafts, besides minor changes and proofreading, are usually my final drafts when it comes to story/plot, at least. I don’t have GREAT IDEAS I need to implement after my book is done. I don’t think, “THIS STORY WOULD SOUND SO MUCH BETTER IF THE ENDING WENT LIKE THIS!” No, no, and no. I write it how I like the first time around and then, the end. So I can go back and read what I have so far and reshape some of the scenes when the characters don’t sound like themselves, or if they sound like they have forgotten their own stakes.

Don’t worry about word count. This is a major one for me because I’m worried about word count the minute I open a new Word docx. Anyone will tell you that’s a terrible way to write, and I don’t make up scenes to reach a certain goal (and have never needed to). But for some reason I need my manuscripts to fall into the range of about 70-90,000 words. I always worried more when writing third person, and it seemed harder to reach that 70,000 word mark. First person is a lot easier to reach that 70k mark and my six books in my billionaire series, they all fell between 84,000 and 90,000 words. It is a terrible habit of mine to worry. And I shouldn’t. My WIP right now is at 39k, at least half of what this book will turn out to be, and I know every plot thread that needs to be wrapped up before the end.

I didn’t take a long enough break. Six books is a lot. The plot just came to me out of nowhere, and I wrote those books as fast as I could. They consumed me for almost a year, and all I did was live, breathe, and dream about Stella, Zane, Zarah and Gage. They were my entire world for a long time and the minute I finished the first set of edits on those books, I jumped into Colt and Elayna. I started a new project to let those other books breathe and I want to edit them again with fresh eyes in a few months. I should have taken more of a break. Taken some time to read a few books, or go for walks, since the weather right now is actually quite lovely. But I jumped in because it’s not my nature to take a break, and now with that disconnect I described, I am feeling a bit burnt out.

Remember why you started. This sounds trite, but we all started writing for the sheer love of writing. I love to write, to tell my characters’ stories. We can get so swept up in the money, the marketing, our sales rank, what are ads are doing, the newest and best promo sites, and newsletter building that we forget it’s about telling a fabulous story! I want to tell Colt and Elayna’s story. I want them to find their HEA. That’s why I wanted to be a romance writer. I want my characters and their readers to fall in love again and again and again. My characters are my friends and I want to enjoy them.

So what I’m going to do is remember who my characters are and what their stakes are. What is the end game. I don’t have the ending scene in mind yet, and I should figure that out to give me something to write toward. Like I said, I know everything that needs to be included to wrap things up, it’s just a matter of getting it all down on paper. This book also has series potential, and I’ll need to figure that out before I publish if I want to keep going. Elayna’s suitors should each find their own happily ever after, but that would require at least four more books. Since I’ve already created this world, it would make sense to keep going, but that is a blog post for another time.

Do you ever lose momentum? How do you find it? Let me know!