Revision and The Art of Shaving

One of my favorite parts of writing is doing the research--and not just the kind which involves cracking open a book or Googling. I love research which is hands on, or when it’s like a treasure hunt where you have to contact one person, then another until you get the information you need.


For a novelette I had published in Orson Scott’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, I asked a glassblower if he could create a heart out of glass, then watched while he actually did it. For a short story, I talked to the Vermont State Archeologist about how clay was harvested and stored by early 18th and 19th century potters, then did some river slogging to remind myself what climbing up a clay bank felt like.


Right now, I’m revising a manuscript—but that doesn’t mean I’m beyond the need for research.


In an attempt to simplify the story's details and make each one have more weight, I decided to replace a jackknife that the main character just happens to have in her suitcase with a straight razor which is important early in the story  . . . (read the rest on my sister blogspot)


Clichés: the good, bad and the hmm-maybe

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I’d already been thinking about clichés in manuscripts, when I read this fantastic post about blah queries on Taryn Albright blog . It pretty much drove home the ideas which were rattling around in my brain.


The thing with clichés is that people use them commonly when talking, so they sound natural when writing dialogue or a character’s thoughts. Clichés are used in advertising to such an extent that they slide into queries without any effort and sound like they belong there. 


The truth is--there is nothing technically wrong with using clichés.


But--as Taryn brought out in her post--they have stopped meaning anything because they are used so often.


For example: his fate was sealed.


This cliché works in either a manuscript or query. But it doesn’t add the depth or uniqueness that a more specific sentence can.  It can be applied to a starship captain who has just flown into a dark hole to save earth--or to a child whose parents have died and she's been sent to live with an aunt who's a pedophile. These are very different situations, but the same cliché does work. Rewrite this same sentence using details specific to the story and it would take on depth and power instead of blending into the background.


So what do you think? I personally think that queries require specificity, so clichés should be avoided. I think they can be used in manuscripts, but only when the writer has a specific reason for doing so—not just because it’s easier than trying to come up with something new.

What? June's almost over?


It’s been a wild month for me, again. All the normal end of the year events at the flower shop, coupled with working on weddings.  My husband bought an estate and we’ve been sorting through things. Loads of cools stuff.

( LOL--this post sounds an awful lot like my last one. )


(this week's wedding bouquets: leamony and textured) 

Writing wise, I’ve sent MH off to a couple of CPs and am tackling the synopsis and query.


I feel negligent. Alice Beesley nominated me for a Versatile Blooger Award and I haven’t managed to fit it in—that definitely isn’t normal.


In the middle of all this a new story idea has been pestering me. Time to shift into whatever comes after high gear.

A Photo Shoot, an Award and a Crazy Month


Phew, May has been insanely crazy


Not only have I been busy with revising MH, and end of school proms and graduation flowers, but we bought another estate full of antiques . . .  Basically, my blog has had to take the back seat.


But I had to stop by and post some pictures from a  photo shoot. As most of you know, I write for Vermont Bride Magazine.  I have an article on tablescapes and terrariums coming out in their summer issue and they asked me to create some examples for a photo shoot.



I ended up suggesting we use the amazing commercial displays at Green Mountain Florist Supply for the backdrop.



(There's a tall terrarium behind the photographer, if you're curious)

I’ve missed you all—

Oh, and other big news, I now have reliable wifi for the first time ever. Yeah, I’m in the boonies. Yay, blog cruising just got 100% easier.




 Deirdra Eden awarded me with the Brilliant Writer Blog Award. Stop by and check out her blog. Loads of cool stuff, great posts and promotional ideas for writers and illustrators  Thank you very much, Deirdra.


Revision Links for Inspiration and Fun

When I need to clean out the cobwebs and dust off the brain cells, I do a bit of focused internet cruising. Here are some links to posts and tools designed to rekindle your energy during revision or inspire you to look at your story from a new angle . . .  if you'd like to check out the rest of my post, it's over on my sister blog

(warning the post does include a cute lion video at the end )

Taking your writing to the next level: Marketability

Over the years I’ve spent a great deal of time fretting about how to move my writing to the next level. I usually attempt to do this by taking a class which will address a specific problem area or with focused reading. I don’t recall ever knowing the exact moment when the jump to the next level occurred. That was, until ten days ago during a query critique at NE SCBWI.

Deep in my gut I might have suspected how I could strengthen my writing. And I did have specific questions I wanted to ask during my critique. But it still surprised me how the answer hit home and effected how I looked at my writing.

First off, my query (and first pages) got very little criticism from the agent (or editor), almost none. But they didn’t recieve an ecstatic reaction either. This gave me the guts to ask my question—and, seriously, as silly as it sounds it took guts.

I think I know what the hook is which makes this manuscript unique and marketable, but I’m not sure if I’m right. What do you think? Then I told him the hook.

I got an ecstatic ‘I could sell that’ reaction to the hook. This reaction was a huge boost to my self-confidence. I knew what was wrong with my pages(and manuscript) and query. I knew how to fix it and-- if the hook doesn’t fly in this novel—I know how to make the next novel marketable even in these tough times. What hit home and jumped my writing to the next level was a new awareness of how pov choice and writing what you know can combine to create marketability. Of couse knowing doesn't mean I'll succeed, but I have the tools.

Also I realized I could enjoy writing something other than fantasy, that I shouldn’t shut the door to something I hadn’t given a fair chance to.

How do you work toward taking your writing to the next level?

Have you had any eye opening writing experiences lately?

I've Been Tagged: The 7-7-7 Challenge

Over the weekend I was tagged by my writing friend, Lora Rivera, --if you have a moment, check out her 7 sentence post. She has a wonderful gothic brewing.

The 7-7-7 Challenge:
Flip to page 77 or page 7 of your current WIP.
Find line 7.
Post the 7 sentences that follow.
Tag 7 more writers.

One of my goals for this past weekend was to work on a specific character. The challenge sentences happened to be a setting description which involves that same character. So I posted my quick revision, not polished, but not the old draft either.

My WIP is a YA gothic, MOONHILL:

. . . A crystal chandelier hung down from a hammered tin ceiling and the tall windows revealed a view of the crescent-shaped hillside and the ocean to the south.

The antiques were as amazing as in the rest of the house, but here they reflected a love of the Empire period, and someone’s obsession with silver tea sets and eggs--marble eggs and jeweled eggs and amazing eggs painted with intricate designs, displayed in primitive carved boxes and under glass domes.

“We’re in the den,” Olya’s voice came from an open doorway.

Olya, Zachary and a man I assumed was my uncle David sat on cushions around a low table which looked like it belonged in a Japanese restaurant. It was the least formal room I’d seen since I’d gotten to Moonhill, pretty much a normal den with cushy chairs and big couch, a huge television and computer desk. And a fish tank full of what looked like rat-size leaches. They had to belong to Zachary.


My 7-7-7 authors are:

6. Suzanne
7.If you’d like to take part please do so. The more the merrier!

I’d love to read what you’re working on. But if you don’t feel like participating, please don’t feel like you have to. No pressure, really. Regardless, I’m sending tons of good writing vibes your way.

If you decide to play, then let me know when the post goes up because I’d love to read your lines!

As a bonus here’s a hint about the character change I’m making. Sometimes research is just plain fun—well, most of the time.

April at The Cabinet: Tossing Out Old Writing Habits

Throwing Out the Kitchen Sink

By Suzanne Warr

April's theme is house-keeping the writer's way here on the Cabinet, which some of you may think means no house-keeping at all! lol Thank goodness we're not talking about organizing your closet and decluttering your kitchen--my personal take on that sort of thing is leave it til the next move or the next flood, which I guess is one reason to be thankful I've always moved so much!

No, this theme deals with de-cluttering your writing life and tossing out those old habits that are standing in your way. Here we are in April, the fourth are those New Year's resolutions coming? Are your writing goals on track? If you suspect that your writing habits are hamstringing your progress, maybe we can help!

First up this month is knowing when to toss out old writing habits that aren't working--also known as being willing to write garbage. This is difficult as a beginning writer, but I think is even more challenging once a writer has been around the block a couple of times . . . Read the rest over on my sister blog


So guys, I haven't been around a lot because I'm up to my elbows in revision. After brainstorming with Jaye Robin Brown , I've decided to change two of my characters' personalities and looks. Hopefully, this will add clarity and tension to the story. I'm not sure why my brain resists making changes, but it seems to. What's the worst that can happen? I have to go back to the old version or try another one?

How about you? Are you willing to make a mess and try something new?

Thoughts On The Gothic Genre

Some people view gothic novels as tacky and without merit because they often include sinister settings, tempestuous romances and supernatural elements. But that’s far from the truth. Gothic novels have their roots firmly planted in the finest of literary fiction.  
I’m not saying that there aren’t novels which fall into the gothic subgenres of romantic suspense and gothic horror which have mediocre writing and are formulaic, but there are also tons of classics and skillfully written stories . . . read the rest of my post on my sister blog: