Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Writing in Layers

What does this mean?

I’ve been asked on several occasions what I mean when I say I write in layers. When I begin a novel I tend to write lean. This means I write the story fast and furious, getting my main ideas out and on paper as quickly as possible. When I’m finished, I’m oftentimes left with a potentially great story, but one that sounds flat and lifeless.

The first draft is called a Rough Draft because that’s exactly how it’s written, rough. As I stated above, I throw it down without any care to grammar, punctuation, details, or any other technical thoughts to the draft. My main goal is to develop a plot, write ‘stick men’ characters (no features, personalities, etc.), and get the story out. I tend to do a lot of ‘telling’ during this first draft, and use way too many adjectives.

Layering is the means in which I put life into a story. Below is my process for writing.

First Revision: This is where I begin to add details. I dig deeper into the characters and flesh them out, breathe life into them, give them personalities, and make them relatable. I think about their environment and bring in as many of the five senses as possible. What are they seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, or smelling? Is there a pot of stew on the stove? Describe the smells and/or taste. Is there an argument going on in another part of the house? I take a look around and describe what the character is seeing or touching.

Then I look at the scenery and do the same thing. Like I said, I do quite a bit of ‘telling in the first draft. Now I pull a complete mental image of where my character is and describe it in greater detail, again trying to bring in senses other than just sight. Here’s an example:

Original draft: Danielle stepped into Charles Simpson’s office and stood in the middle of the room. It looked neat and tidy.

First Revision: Danielle took a quick glance around as she stepped into Charles Simpson’s office. The aroma of a cigar touched her senses the moment she entered and her taste buds puckered. She looked around for the repulsive odor. Her eyes caught sight of a slow stream of smoke drifting up from an ashtray that sat on top of a large mahogany desk between two tall windows on the far wall. To the right sat two dark brown overstuffed sofas placed front-to-front and set on top of a beautiful white plush carpet. An empty green, cut glass crystal bowl rested on top of the heavy wooden coffee table that sat between the sofas. Deep floor-to-ceiling mahogany bookshelves covered most of the walls. The books and model airplane collectables had been neatly and strategically arranged throughout. Danielle wandered over and fingered the leather spines. Charles had an eclectic collection of novels, biographies, and an array of books on airplanes. She smirked and shook her head.

Do you see how the revision has pumped life into the scene? This version gives the reader much more clarity as to where my character is, what she’s feeling, and what she’s seeing. This helps the reader to attached and bond. The character and set become three-dimensional. The reader has more clarity and visual, and can almost put themselves in the room with the character.

Second Revision: I use this revision to concentrate on my grammar, spelling, and punctuation. I also conduct a heavy trimming of adjectives. I use this revision to strengthen and tighten my sentences. I look for ‘purple prose’ and eliminate where possible.

Third Revision: I go through my MS one more time and cut wherever possible. I look for paragraphs that do not move the story forward, carry too much back story, or seem like fluff and remove or revise them.

Critiques: At this point, I get with my critique groups, listen to what they have to say, and revise again.

Beta Readers: I have a group of five people: 2 family members, 1 friend, and 2 acquaintances, read my novel and provide me with constructive and invaluable criticism. Then I revise again.

Copyediting: After the revisions from the critiques and readers, I send my MS off to my copyeditor for final touches.

Now I’m ready (hopefully) to farm it out to agents.

It’s a long and tiring process, but it pays off in the end, at least for me.

I hope you found this information helpful. Feel free to leave a comment and tell us the processes that work for you. We’d love to hear it.

As always, I wish you my best in your success,

Dee Ann

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Plagiarism: be afraid… be very afraid

Most of us know what it is. As a writer, it’s absolutely essential to know what it means.

Plagiarism is the act of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as your own.

Although there are those who maliciously plagiarize another’s work, I believe that for most people it is done unintentionally. The last thing we, as writers, want to do is plagiarize someone else’s writing, conversation, song, or even idea. We’re intelligent, creative people with a comprehension for words and ideas of our own. Why would we need to steal another’s thoughts or words?

I think that it comes down to three major things: time, the internet, and laziness.

Many writers find themselves in a time crunch, needing to get a MS to their editor by deadline, or submitting an article or idea to a magazine before someone else does. Research can take hours, days, weeks, or months. The internet is a wonderful tool for research, but it can also hinder and intimidate. When a website or blog is discovered with the information we’ve spent a great deal of time researching, and is written in just the right language with the exact meaning that we need, it leaves us vulnerable for plagiarism. Once we read the article, oftentimes it becomes difficult to put the information into our own words and get the exact same results.

So we tend to try to rewrite part of it by changing a few words here and there. Not good enough. In order to avoid plagiarism we have to do more than just change a few words. We have to totally reconstruct the sentence, paragraph, or entire article into our own words. And don't forget about concept. If the words are changed, but the concept remains the same, you risk plagiarism.

How, you ask? One information site I came across while searching plagiarism was a site for Indiana University. I found it to be very informative with great examples. Make sure you check this out. Here are a couple more ideas on how to avoid it:

The use of Specific Words or Phrases

Give Credit Where Credit is Due: Know that if you use someone else’s words it is imperative to put them in quotation marks and credit the source.

Common Knowledge or Not Common Knowledge

You don’t have to provide a source for things that are considered common knowledge. Whenever information is considered to be in the public domain, it is considered general standard reference, i.e.; birth and dates of well-known figures, or dates of historical, military, and other events. Another type of common knowledge is field-specific common knowledge. This means the information is common within a particular field or specialty. Before you use this information as your own, you must be sure that it is so widely known within that field that will be shared by your readers.

My best advice is to you is, if there is doubt, lean on the cautious side and cite the source.

Irrelevant to whether the information is general or field-specific common knowledge, if you use the exact words, you absolutely must put them in quotations and credit the source.

Be careful of paraphrasing

Even the best intentions can go awry. If you are paraphrasing a paragraph, you are vulnerable of committing plagiarism simply because you are using large chunks of material and may use ideas without proper citation.

The Don’ts Plagiarism

·         Never cut and paste material from an internet site into your own work
·         Be careful of paraphrasing – don’t retype a passage by replacing words here and there in order to make the passage different enough to pass as your own. This is not good enough.
·         Don’t use ideas from any source without citing it

Check out this link for The Writing Center for some great examples of plagiarism. There you will find links to things like How to Paraphrase a Source, Successful vs Unsuccessful Paraphrasing, and How to Quote a Source.

Here is a short example of plagiarism:

A sentence in a magazine may read: “The use of therapy horses for autistic children has been proven to increase self-esteem” (original sentence)

The plagiarized version might read: “Studies show that autistic children have benefited by improved self-esteem after spending time with a therapy horse”

Why is this plagiarism? Because the concept is the same even though the words are different. Although the second sentence may pass through a plagiarism checker, it’s still plagiarism without proper citation.

Here are some resources to help you avoid this career killer:


Have you ever been accused of plagiarism? Do you know someone who has? Do you have advice on how to avoid doing this nasty deed? Leave a comment and let us know.

As always, thank you for stopping by.

All my best wishes for your success,

Dee Ann

Friday, February 1, 2013

Should you Do a Blog Tour?
Okay, so I’m considering a blog tour for my book The Consequential Element. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into the research end of things and feel that I’m ready to roll. Wait… what’s that? What is a blog tour, really?
A Blog Tour, aka book virtual tour, is when an author visits many blogs – usually ten to twenty – in a very short amount of time for the purpose of promoting his/her book. These visits are called ‘tour stops’.  The author may be asked to do an interview, post an article, or even create a video. The purpose is to provide useful and interesting information for the blog’s readers.
Blog Tours are a lot of work, but if done well, can lead to exposure and sales. You can hire specific novel publicity companies to organize and promote your tour or you can go it on your own.
1.       Without leaving home, you will reach many more people than you would at a traditional book signing.
2.       You can achieve greater exposure than you would via the traditional route.
3.       You will gain followers of not only your book, but also your social media, hence making them future audiences for future books.
4.       You will gain book reviews which are an important selling point for your book.
1.       To organize a blog tour is a lot of work.
2.       Even if you hire someone to organize the tour, it’s a lot of work.
3.       You have to be willing to put in a lot of time, and a lot of work.
To do it on your own will require the following:
1.       Research blogs to find the ones that relate to your book in some way. Their readers will be more likely to be interested in your book
2.       Try to find blogs that have a significant number of followers for the maximum exposure
3.       Make each tour stop as unique as possible
a.       For an interview, try not to answer the same questions as on other tour stops
b.      Do an excerpt or a Behind The Scenes Peek
c.       Have a conversation with your Main Character
d.      Have the interview be with your Main Character or Characters
e.      Discuss your cover art and the reasoning behind it
4.       Have a well done Author Bio with a photo
5.       Create a special synopsis to entice the reader’s interest
6.       Have a give-away – either an online version of your book, a hard copy of your book, or something else related to your book
There are many sites that can assist you in organizing your tour. Take your time and do your research, and this can be a wonderful experience.
Don’t forget to thank your hosts. A special email, mention and a link to their blog on your blog/website, a free signed copy of your book, and a guest spot for them on your blog are just some ideas.
Have you completed a blog tour? Do you have ideas or suggestions you could add to the above? I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope these ideas will get you started and on your way to a successful tour!
Helpful links:
All my best for your success,
Dee Ann J