Monday, July 30, 2012

Your Character's Values

It is election time and these past few months have seen both parties’ candidates carve out their positions and create stories about themselves. Seems to me that both candidates get into trouble when their positions are hazy. So whether Democrat or Republican, each candidate has gone to great extents to give himself certain characteristics –whether it be the economy man, the change candidate or the anti-establishment candidate – and more importantly, values –Christian values, middle-class values or be it family values.

As a writer, you know you have to give your characters traits and values. The reader has to get your characters and remember them. But how? For some, all characters sound the same on the page. For others, such as me, it’s difficult to make the characters three dimensional. I try to make everyone perfect. A perfect MC. A perfect best friend. A perfect villain. Then, instead of picking a value or two I ply them all kinds of values. This results in readers not being able to distinguish or remember characters. Whether it is your heroine, your villain, your sidekick –all of them need one or two memorable traits even if it’s their name or that they could potentially have secret bank accounts in the Cayman Islands.

So during rewrites I tried ways to flesh out my characters in the following ways:

1.       Show AND tell: I’m a big fan of show and tell. Recently, in How to Write in the New York Times Colson Whitehead talks about showing and telling. Not just showing. I tried to work that into my story to make my characters sharper. I started to push my MC, Priscilla Mayfair, into situations and show how she was able to navigate them. At the end of scene, I’d add a thought or two from Priscilla’s POV to give the reader a little extra. The reader now knows that Priscilla is capable and can problem solve. With a little bit of telling, my readers also understood that Priscilla was scared but brave and had got lucky with her problem solving. My MC would have to prepare and learn more if she had to successfully reach the end and solve the mystery.

2.      Don’t make her perfect: Make your characters humans. Yes, just like I have, you’ve heard it a thousand times. But it so difficult! It takes me so much time to add a flaw, to get my characters make mistakes, to purposely lead them into a tight corner or have them lie. The bottom line is you have to stay true to your character. So if your character is truly 3D she is going to mistakes. She won’t be able to be all things to all people. You cannot re-draw her like on an Etch-A-Sketch. After all, the human element has the final say in an election.

3.      Your character’s motivations: Always ask why your MC is doing what she is doing. What are her motivations? Fears? Dreams? This one is tough for me. For a while, Priscilla was a too perfect sleuth. Her story arc wasn’t compelling enough for the reader to flip the page. So I stopped writing and instead journal-ed from her point of view for a few weeks. For fun, I also used the Myer-Briggs test to see whether she was introverted or not, how she would behave with other people and whether she would be methodical while solving problems. Finally, I asked debate like questions: What if… what if a nuclear power plant had a meltdown, how would my MC react? If Priscilla lost the race and wasn’t able to solve the mystery, how would she react? If Priscilla was President for a day, what would be the first things she’d work on?

In what other ways do you bring out your character’s values?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cool Contest!

If you write YA or MG, check out Write On Con to compete for $1000.00 and a chance to have your work reviewed by an agent! Good luck!

Thursday, July 26, 2012


This topic is close to my heart because I am currently revising for my wonderful editors at Spencer Hill Press. For me, revision comes easy. I love revising and improving my manuscript. The way I do it is simple—I read through the suggestions, whether they come from my betas, critique partners, agents, or editors. Then I take the simplest suggestion first and implement it, then the next easiest, then the next easiest, ending with the hardest change to make.

For example, I received a revise and resubmit request from a wonderful agent last fall. It was three pages long, and it did wonders for my manuscript. Though she ultimately passed, she did like the changes I made. I did, too. How did I tackle those three pages? Like I said above, I made the easiest changes first. One suggestion was to remove a scene that was hokey, so I simply deleted it. Another easy suggestion was to delete a few scenes that had been repetitive, so I went through and deleted half of those scenes. Easy!
The harder suggestions took more thought and planning. For example, this agent suggested developing the relationship between two characters further, so I looked for areas in the manuscript in which I could show some of their history and current interactions and added more depth and detail. The overall result? A better manuscript that landed me my book deal with Spencer Hill!

Don’t fear revision. Embrace the changes that make your manuscript better. If you disagree with them or they don’t match the tone or theme of your story, then the choice is yours. But if they make sense to you, or they even excite you, or more than one person makes the same suggestion, consider moving forward with them to make your story shine. Our beta readers, critique partners, agents, and editors are here to make our books better. Let them guide your book to publication!

Kimmy :) 

TRIANGLES, Kimberly Ann Miller, Spencer Hill Press, June 2013

Monday, July 23, 2012

Authors and the Books that Take You Places!

Cynthia Willis is the author of the Middle Grade novel, Buck Fever, published by Feiwel and Friends. Welcome Cynthia! We here at TheWritersbytheshore blog believe in BIC (butt in chair), but we also think that writing (and life) should take us and our readers to fun destinations. So here we go...

Tell us a little about your book. Will we need our passports?

In Buck Fever, Joey MacTagert’s dad wants his son to carry on the family tradition of hunting and use this special skill in tracking animals to hunt down the elusive big buck that roams the local woods. But Joey hates the idea of killing animals. He is more interested in art and hockey, two activities that his dad barely acknowledges. Yes, Joey knows how to track down Old Buck and has even gained the deer’s trust, but he’s kept this secret. However, when Joey and his older sister find themselves in the middle of tensions that they don’t understand, Joey tries to conquer his buck fever to keep the peace in his family and make his dad proud. Since this story takes place in Pennsylvania, no passport is needed here, either.
Wow! Sounds great. So, if I was going to have dinner with your main character, what exotic locale would we be dining at?

If you were to have dinner with Joey, from Buck Fever, you would probably be eating beef jerky and jelly beans, or pizza. Unfortunately, things are a bit unorganized and out of balance in Joey’s home, which explains how he gets tangled in so much trouble.

Who is the character you would vote as "Most likely not to make it through customs" and why?

Sam Hector, the villain in Buck Fever, would probably end up arrested if he tried to get through customs. In addition to his aggressive and argumentative personality, he is usually carrying pocket knives and other items considered dangerous.
If your main character was stranded on a desert island, what would be an essential travel item for them to take along?
Cub would need fresh water. They are both survivors and accustomed to outdoor living, but fresh water is tough to come by on a desert island. And as an author who adores her main characters, I’d be worried sick if either of them ended up stranded without fresh drinking water.

What advice would you offer to other writers embarking on their own writing adventure?

Pack lots of books to read along the way, don’t let the delays and the travel snags keep you from your destination, and enjoy the ride.

Thanks, Cynthia and Bon Voyage!

Toni De Palma

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Balancing Writing and Summer Vacation

Photo Courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos
Balancing every day life and writing can be challenging, especially during the summer months for those with children. To keep myself on track I do monthly evaluations of my writing progress to see what I accomplished the previous month and create goals for the coming month. When I first began this evaluation process I had a tendency to set lofty writing goals. Over time I have adjusted to more realistic goals.

When I opened my planner early this week I realized I am way behind my anticipated goal. So far behind I have been forced to re-evaluate my current plan of attack. I would like to have my current wip polished in time for WriteOnCon.

When I set this goal back in May I truly believed I had more than enough time, possibly time to start polishing a different project. This got me thinking of how I would meet my writing goals. 

Here are five ways I've decided to use as means to meet this rather lofty goal.

1. Schedule Time To Write - Set aside time each day to write and stick to it. Don't schedule other activities at that time. Being summer sticking to the same time each day is difficult. Try varying the times each day.

2. Hold Yourself Accountable - This works great with critique partners. Talk weekly and ask each other how you are doing.

3. Set Goals - Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals. This is something I find difficult during the summer months. Vacations and kids at home slow down the writing tremendously. Make sure your goals are not too outrageous. Keep them realistic for the situation.

4. Reward Yourself - It could be celebrating with a brownie or cupcake. Or even going out to lunch or dinner as a celebration. There's always my personal favorite, buying more books.

5. Ignore The Internet - (This is the one I'm finding the most difficult to adhere to.) Don't allow yourself to check your emails or log on to the various social networks you use until after you have met your daily goal.

What are some ways you balance writing during summer vacation?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Let's Begin

Once a week I go for a kickboxing class. I’ve been doing this for a couple of months. When I’m in that class I try to be all fly, like the instructor. I try to kick as high as I can. I try to keep my punches and cross jabs sharp and clean. I try to bend low and jump tall. The word to keep in mind is try. I try and most of the times I don’t make it.

Those sixty minutes are tough. Forget the sharp punches. I’m happy if I manage to move my arms. Forget those ambitious kicks. I’m glad to just be on my feet. My kickboxing instructor, both intimidating and inspiring, encourages, shouts in my ear and pushes me. She does everything she can so that at the end of the sixty minutes I know I’ve tried my best. Exhausted, with that burn in my legs, when I exit the class, I feel better. I feel better even though I know I could have worked harder. Punched harder. Kicked harder. I even rate myself sometimes. 3/10. 5/10. 4/10. But when I leave the class, no matter, how low the rating, I feel better than before I entered the class.

It wasn’t always like that. In the middle of my kicks and jabs, I used to tell myself that I should have got this down by now. I know the routine. I’m building strength. I should have the stamina. I would be so dejected that I wasn’t getting better that some weeks I’d skip class because going to class made me feel worse. But then, the next morning, I’d feel even worse that I didn’t go to class. That I didn’t try. That I wasn’t taking the steps to become better.

So somehow I learned to leave judgment at the door. When I was in class I silenced my inner voice. I listened only to the instructor. At the end of the hour, I made only one promise. That I would return. And when I returned, I made only one promise. That I would stay.

It’s the same with our writing. Whatever you may call it –Butt in Chair. Two pages a day. One hour in the morning. It’s okay if you type nonsense those 60 minutes. It’s okay if you miss one day. It’s okay if you aren’t able to make it to the fifty-fifth minute. It’s okay if you get distracted by the view outside your window. Just get back there the next day. Put your shoes on. Bend your knees and start fresh with those cross jabs. All that matters is that you are there, trying, learning, improving, every day. Just doing it day after day, even when it seems tough and feels impossible. As long as you are doing it there is the chance that you are improving, becoming better at your craft, finishing that first draft and polishing that last revision.

So as my kickboxing instructor says, “Let’s begin.”

Thursday, July 12, 2012

QUERY CORNER – Successful Queries

Today I’m going to post another query of mine that received a lot of requests. I have since shelved this novel, but the query I wrote really did a good job of getting attention. Since this was my very first try at querying, I posted my original query on the forums at and got some wonderful feedback. I encourage everyone to enlist the help of other writers in the querying stage and to take the advice of those who have had successful queries. They can point out any issues with the query and help to perfect it before you send it out. Here is my query for Soul Stalker:

Dear Agent, (Of course, here I put the agent’s name)

High school senior Liz Grayson is no stranger to love triangles—she just doesn't know it yet.  When perfect-in-every-way Mina Manson moves to town and tries to steal Liz's boyfriend, Chris Edwards, the real challenge isn't keeping Chris.  It's dealing with the proof that they battled for his love in another lifetime.  And somebody ended up dead. (This paragraph, and last sentence, should hook the agent/editor and make them want to read more)

When Mina first starts flirting with Chris, Liz is unaware of their unusual history.  Soon Mina catches Liz alone and makes a baffling demand: hand Chris over.  Liz seeks advice on how to deal from the new guidance counselor who believes in karma and reincarnation as much as college planning.  With her help, Liz uncovers the evidence that she'd been involved in a dangerous love triangle with Chris and Mina in another lifetime.  Fearing for their future and her life, Liz searches for ways to stop Mina's interference before someone ends up hurt, or worse, dead again.  What Liz doesn't know is that Mina has her own reasons for going after Chris, and they aren't what she thinks. (This paragraph should read like the back cover a book—it should sound enticing and interesting without giving too much away)

SOUL STALKER is a 67,000 word young adult paranormal romance.  This novel is a standalone with series potential. (This paragraph includes the title, word count, genre, and lists any submission guidelines that were followed)

Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work.  I look forward to hearing from you. (It is always a good idea to thank them for their time and close the letter professionally)

Kimberly Miller (Following my name would be my contact information—address, phone number, email address, and website, social media links)

Kimmy :)

TRIANGLES, Kimberly Ann Miller, Spencer Hill Press, June 2013

Monday, July 9, 2012

Authors and Books that Take You Places!

Alissa Grosso is the author of the YA novel Ferocity Summer published by Flux. Welcome Alissa! We here at TheWritersbytheshore blog believe in BIC (butt in chair), but we also think that writing (and life) should take us and our readers to fun destinations. So here we go...
Tell us a little about your book. Will we need our passports?

My new book, Ferocity Summer, takes place in my home state of New Jersey with the exception of a road trip to Florida. So, no passports are required, but you should definitely pack some sunscreen.
Wow! Sounds great. So, if I was going to have dinner with your main character, what exotic locale would we be dining at?

Oh, boy. In the book my main character does eat at least one meal at the Budd Lake Diner in Budd Lake, NJ, which I'm pretty sure doesn't qualify as exotic. That said, you can't go wrong with their feta cheese omelette. 

Who is the character you would vote as "Most likely not to make it through customs" and why?

That's a tough call. Scilla's best friend Willow is battling drug addiction. So, there's a pretty good chance she wouldn't clear customs. Then there's Bill who is busy spending his summer building a bomb to overthrow the government. Really, the more I think about it, I'm not sure if there's anyone in this book who would breeze through customs. 
If your main character was stranded on a desert island, what would be an essential travel item for them to take along?

Like me, Scilla is a reader. So, she would definitely want a good book to read. Of course, like me she tends to be pretty voracious in her reading habits. She might have a tough time picking just one book to bring along. Has anyone come up with a solar powered e-reader, yet? That might be a good solution.

What advice would you offer to other writers embarking on their own writing adventure?

First and foremost, I would say write the book that you want to read because the most important thing is enjoying the journey.

Thanks, Alissa and Bon Voyage!

Toni De Palma

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Words To Avoid

One of the best things that ever happened to my writing was joining a critique group.


They catch all of those pesky little words that I use too much, or words I really should not use at all. I edited that last sentence of those words and then added them in to show you how often and easily they creep into my writing.

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I have a short list in "Currently Editing" folder.
  • that
  • just
  • seem
  • like
  • really
  • feel
  • start
  • already
  • felt 
  • very
This worked fine - for a while. Then a few months back I read a post by Rachelle Gardner about cutting words. Although her post was about cutting words in an attempt to cut word count, I applied it to advice I've seen numerous times on agent and editor blogs.

Cut unnecessary words. 
Every word counts. 

Gardner gives a list which I have now plucked more words from to add to my own list. 
  • actually
  • almost
  • appears
  • basically
  • close to
  • eventually 
  • exactly
  • finally
  • kind of
  • nearly
  • practically
  • simply
  • somehow
  • somewhat
  • suddenly
  • truly
  • utterly
She lists more, but these are the ones which tend to sneak into my writing more than the others.  And, leaving them out only tightens my sentences.

Your Turn -> What words sneak into your writing too often? 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012



When invaders brutally massacred the women and children of the Varner, Caleb witnessed loss and destruction on a scale few can comprehend. As the leader of a race on the brink of extinction, his only hope for survival is gaining acceptance into the Shadow Shifter Kingdom. Struggling with new customs, he meets Tabitha, a woman who challenges his limits.

Refused the right to join the king’s guard because of her gender, Tabitha must be stronger than the men to prove she deserves to be the first accepted female Warrior in the kingdom. She believes Caleb will help improve her abilities, until she learns her goals conflict with the foundation of his culture.

When the realm is attacked, Tabitha and Caleb must come together not only to fight, but to find the strength to win against an evil with the potential to destroy everything they revere most--including each other.

Add DENIED as To-Read on GoodReads!

Kinley Baker is the author of the fantasy romance novel, Ruined. She read her first romance at the age of thirteen and immediately fell in love with the hero and the genre. She lives with her husband and her dog, Joker, in the Pacific Northwest. As a firm supporter of all supernatural lifestyles, she writes fantasy romance, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy. You can find Kinley at