“Working Title”

Hello, my poor neglected blog. I’m so sorry that I use and abuse you the way I do. I post to you only when I need something these days, then forget about you as soon as you’ve served your purpose. And for that, I apologize. But you see, you’re like the whiny, clingy college sophomore who begs for attention from post-grad guys when those post-grad guys have their sights set on wildly successful, popular women. And lately, I’ve been working with a manuscript that has the potential to be a wildly successful, popular woman. She is SO much more mature than anything else I’ve yet to complete (since, you know, everything else I’ve written is YA. And this, my friend, is no YA.). And she even has a few agents asking after her (EEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!). This dirty mistress has been keeping me up at night, making me ignore my children, stealing any time she can get. But believe me, she might be worth it. So, dear blog, you have been given the cold shoulder. Until now. Because I need your help. 

You see, this manuscript needs a “working title,” which is a temporary name given to a project during its development. I need to stop calling this manuscript “the new one,” because what would I call it when I start working on the next manuscript? And I really need my husband to stop calling it the “sex and murder one” because my children are starting to ask questions. Besides, it’s more than just sex and murder. I’ve just yet to write anything else with sex or murder in it. But I digress. 

Blog, I’m using you to reach out to my friends to help me come up with a working title. So here are some things my friends might want to know in order to suggest a name:

1. The initial inspiration for the plot came from this Sara Bareilles song entitled “City” 

2. My Twitter pitch that hooked a few agents’ attention went something like this: “Sia always had her reservations about using her Siren Song to kill, but after falling for her last mark, she knows she can’t save everyone.”

3. That’s right, Sia (one of my two dual-perspective main characters) is a siren. Who kills people with her wickedly dark talents. But not by choice, really. She works for someone. But you’ll have to read the book to get all those juicy details. 

4. There are a lot of musical references, as well as Roman Catholic influence, and several times characters are found speaking Italian. 

5. If it weren’t for the “Hush, Hush” series, I would use “Crescendo” for a title and life would be great. But I can’t. 

I think that’s all that needs to be known at this point. Of course, after hashing all that out, I think I have a potential title in mind. But I’d still like to see if anyone out there can come up with something better. 

Thanks, blog. You’re tops. Let’s go catch a movie sometime, k? I’ll text you later. 

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Does everybody know what time it is? #Pitcharama time!!!! I’m so excited to have a completed manuscript to submit to the lovely ladies at Aussie Owned and Read. They’ve been a delight to follow on the Twitter. So, here goes!


Manuscript Title: Jade

Author: Sarah Kay Steele

Age group: YA, baby!

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Word count: 72,000

250 word blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Em Perkins never wanted much more from her annual summer vacation than two parent-free weeks with her aunt and uncle, and a decent tan. But an unexpected summer fling with a mysterious boy changes her life– and her world– forever.

When Em first meets Finn Leith at the lake, it is by pure random happenstance. Still, the meeting proves a lucky one. Not only do they share a musical bond, a passion for running, and a love for the water, but Finn provides Em with a wonderful distraction when her ex-boyfriend shows up at his new girlfriend’s cottage next door.

Life starts to get more complicated when Em discovers a bag of fourteen enchanted jade stones. The stones end up putting her life in jeopardy and begin to unravel the mystery surrounding Finn and his family– starting with the fact that they are not his family. They are sentinels that traveled with him from a realm called Aldion, and they were sent to protect him because he is the rightful heir to the priesthood of Aldion. Finn also reveals he has a gift of healing that he has been learning to use for the majority of his life.

While Em is enthralled with her summer fling, she feels a need to help Finn find a way back to Aldion to salvage what is left of his home. And while Finn knows his priorities should lie with his world and his charges as a Priest, he also knows his loyalties and heart belong to Em.

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“Jade” Cloud…

So you know my blogger friend, Karen, right? She just did this really fun post using Wordle on her novel. I’ve used Wordle before (with family names and such), but I never thought to do this. Fun, no?Karen had a good point. Not only is it fun, you get to see words you over-use. I’ve been analyzing mine for verbs…specifically passive verbs. Also do you see right there, to the right of “Finn,” where it has “started” and “stopped.” I wonder how many unnecessary times I have my characters starting and stopping things. That’s something I can easily show instead of tell.

What does your word cloud say about your WIP?

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The Importance of Research…

So a while back, I was having some serious blocking issues with a few scenes of my WIP. You see, my characters spend a good ammount of time on a boat. I myself never having been on a boat, was undaunted by that because, after all, I am a writer. I make things up for a living.

But I was seriously struggling. Sure I could make it up…who was standing where and what it was like to have your hair flying in the wind behind you…but I started having the problem where I was telling instead of showing (yet another upcoming post). Because that’s all I could do. Having not experienced being on a boat and everything that comes with it, I ended up telling more about the blocking. And that is a problem.

Well, I am lucky enough to have a friend who is lucky enough to have a family with TWO speed boats and a houseboat on Lake Powell in southern Utah/Arizona. And back in October, she invited me along for the weekend! Aside from it being a GLORIOUS trip (without my kids!!!), I. LEARNED. SO MUCH.

Not only was I able to get the feel for the layouts of countless types and sizes of boats (boaters are really friendly people and any random stranger is more than willing to let you on his or her vessel to scope it out!), I was able to take away with me the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings boating can bring. Sure it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time, but it was also an experience that has made my writing and descriptive scenes SO much better.

I was also fortunate to have my friend’s uncle (AKA Cap’n Kev, as I started calling him) ready and willing to answer any and every question I had. I learned common boating lingo (did you know you don’t park your boat at the dock? You tie it off in a slip!), and got prime instruction on how to drive. And drive I did. But as fun as it was, I had just as good of a time watching the other people driving and riding in the boat. Because, as a writer, that’s what I do. I show the characters doing what they’re doing…and what better way to do that than to have observed it?

Yeah. That’s me. Driving Cap’n Kev’s boat.

Anywho, doing research is great. In any capacity. I’m not saying if you’re MC is a sky diver that you should go out and do it. (Unless you want to…tax write-off, right?) What I’m saying is a little research can’t hurt. For instance, in the very first chapter of my WIP, my main character hears a Bach song being played on a cello. Sure, I’ve heard Yo Yo Ma recordings before, but it had been a while. So as I was writing the scene, I simply pulled up a Youtube video of someone playing the particular song on the cello and listened as I wrote. Making your scenes more realistic for you as a writer can only help to make them more realistic for your audience.

So go. Research. Write.

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Just when I thought it was getting good…

I love my critique group here in Seattle. They are a really great group of really talented gals. And I was SO EXCITED for them to read my submission this last week because it is one of the big reveals of the story and this chunk of 20 pages was just SO GOOD. I couldn’t wait for the praise to start. For the, “Why did you stop here? I want more! You’re such a fantastic writer!” And the me blushing and “Aw shucks”-ing…

But here’s how it really went down…

Me: Readying myself for applaud

MK: It was good. But your protagonist needs to me more, well, proactive. She’s just too reactive.

KM: Great reveal. But I think your main character needs to be less reactive. She needs to stop letting things happen to her and start making things happen.

CS: I wished that she would have been the catalyst for the reveal by questioning and pushing him to be honest with her.  Since this is something I struggle with, a reactionary protagonist instead of a proactive one, it is something I noticed right away.  So far she’s been pretty good about forging ahead and being proactive, but this scene seems to happen TO her instead of BECAUSE of her.

Me: So…no applause?


Lessons learned here? 1. Critique groups are AMAZING. They keep you focused, give you encouragement, and bring you back down to Earth when you tart to think too much of yourself. 2. Your Work in Progress is just that…in progress and always needing revisions. 3. Reactive characters suck. And that’s the one we are focusing on today.

In order to have an effective, compelling protagonist, that character has to be proactive and make the story happen.

It’s easy as a writer to slip into the dangerous, murky waters of “reactionism,” in which you think your MC is being proactive because you have created all of these obstacles for him/her. Imagine your character as one of those plate-spinners. You, as the author, have given your character who knows how many plates sitting atop of those bendy poles. And sure, it can be impressive when there are a few dozen plates twirling around. But does your MC just stand there and hold them?

So, 3 ways to make sure your protagonist stays proactive:

1. Make sure you keep your MC’s goal at the forefront of your audience’s mind. Whether the goal is an over-arching goal that encompasses the whole story, or just one pertinent to that particular chapter, it needs to have attention drawn to it. That goal is important and defines your character.

2. Show how your character pursues that goal. This does a lot for character development because your MC can act alone if he/she is smart and cunning enough, get help from friends if he/she is popular and well-liked enough, is forced into it…the list goes on.

3. (And here is the one that got me, apparently) Make sure your MC is ACTIVELY PURSUING the goal. Not just how like in my second point just above, but you have to MAKE YOUR MC DO STUFF. I know that doesn’t sound very professional, but it’s the truth. Don’t let things just happen to him/her. You need to make your MC go out and actively do stuff. Make him/her look for clues. Make her openly flirt with the guy she likes. Make him research how to cast magical spells…then cast them. Whatever it is…make your protagonist DO IT. Not just let it happen.

When writing for a YA audience, another thing you have to take into consideration about your protagonist is that those young adult readers want to idolize your character. And so often in a teen’s life, they are forced to be reactive…decisions are being made for them, rules are being set for them…that they don’t want just another character to empathize with. They want to read about someone who sets his or her own goals and is proactive enough to make them happen.

So now that I’ve told you how to do it, it’s time for me to be proactive and make it happen in my own story. Then maybe my next submission will get the applause and undying admiration I was expecting this time!

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“Little Victories…”

So I have a friend (who I couldn’t find on facebook just now…where did you go, Liz?) who has a little writing blog like myself. (Yes, I know I seem to have a few of those writerly friends with blogs that I shamelessly promote. Moving on.) So she will occasionally do posts called “little victories,” and I have a little victory of my own I feel the need to share. Because it’s also insane. Like the type of “insane” only other writers will understand.

You see, I have a scene in my WIP that I have been avoiding for over a year.

(So just leave it out, dummy.)

(Well, I can’t. It’s pretty much the climax of the story.)

And I just wrote it. Sure, it’s a crappy draft. Well, hardly a draft. It’s more like word vomit that makes up the skeleton of a draft. But it’s there. All 1802 words of it.

And the insane part? I started it at 2:30 this morning. It is now 5:45. I haven’t gone to sleep yet.


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A Book is a Journey…

No, I have not posted in quite some time. And no, I’m not going to make any excuses for it. Though I have plenty.

I just got out of the shower. Literally. My hair is still up in a towel. And I came downstairs to see what toy was causing all the contention and crying and yelling between my two sweet angels. (It’s a Toddler DJ sound machine with a keyboard and records and faders and everything, just in case you were wondering.) And after I asked them to share and be nice or the toy would get a time-out, I was about to go upstairs to do my hair (ok, let’s be honest, run a brush through it and throw it up in a pony tail), when I noticed there was a new blog post in my Google Reader. It was from one of my favorite blogs, “Throwing Up Words.” So I sat and read.

Carol Lynch Williams offered her opinions on “Ten Reasons to Just Write,” and one really caught me and reminded me of something I need to focus on more and keep in mind as a “Big Picture” type of thing.

“9. Remember that a book is a journey. You won’t be the same person at the end of the book as you were when you started writing it. And neither should your main character.”

Huh. So that’s why I started writing my current piece of work. Thanks for the reminder, Carol. Maybe now I can finish. You see, I’ve hit that point where the end is in sight. I’m about to hit that climactic moment and while I assume that is a fantastic place to be for most writers, I haven’t wanted to touch my WIP since I knew it was coming. I don’t want to do it. It’s going to be too painful. But both myself (and my main character) need it to happen. We aren’t the same people as we were when that first chapter was written. And I hope, after people read my novel after I’m all published and famous and all that, my readers aren’t the same people they were when they started reading it either.

That being said, I just finished “13 Reasons Why,” by Jay Asher (and by “just finished,” I mean while my kids ate breakfast this morning). That one definitely took me on a journey in which I ended up being a different person at the end of the novel. And while my subject matter isn’t nearly as intense as suicide and bullying and all that, I still want my audience to feel whet my characters feel. What I felt and had to go through. That’s what good writing does, right?

So, there we have it. A book is a journey. And I need to continue forward with my journey and stop ignoring it. So do you. Go write something.

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