2017 Pitch Wars Wishlist

PitchWars

Selling my first book was one of the best days of my life and it’s something I want you to experience as well. Before I get into all the things that give me grabby hands, allow me to introduce myself. If you’ve visited my Pitch Wars pages in the past, you’ll see I continue to want a lot of the same things…

My Backstory:

My name is Natasha Neagle (that’s Nagel like bagel), but most people on the interwebs call me Nat. Either one is fine. I’m married with two not-so-tiny humans (Evil Genius and Mini Me), four demented cats, and three dogs. I’m a diverse author of YA, who makes my characters far more badass than I could ever be. My first YA fantasy, THE BODY PARADOX, is coming in 2018 from Entangled Teen. Read an interview I did about selling it before I’d even written it here.

By trade, I am a teacher. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s in Curriculum & Instruction. I am currently seeking my Ed.S. in Educational Leadership through Old Dominion University (where I also received my BS in Biology). For the past few years I have been teaching middle school science, but I am returning to high school to teach Biology and Ecology this September and cannot wait.

This is my third year participating in PitchWars. I didn’t participate in 2015 due to personal reasons. Anyway, enough about me. Now on to the good stuff.

 

YA

No NA or Adult.

FYI: Make sure you have a synopsis available! It must include any surprise twists you have in store. Don’t worry if it sucks, a terrible synopsis will not exclude you from being picked. In fact, if we pair up, I’ll make your synopsis shine along with your query and manuscript.

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The following will give me grabby hands and fill my heart with happiness.

DIVERSITY & #OWNVOICES

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The novels on our bookstore shelves do not represent the world. They never have. This is a problem. I want novels that could have helped me when I was a teenager, trying to understand why I felt the way I did and who I was in the world.

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Does your book feature LGBTQIA? GIMME.

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I’m particularly interested in bisexual main characters, but I’d love a trans character to shine in the spotlight. Basically, if you have any LGBTQIA main characters represented in your novel, I WANTS IT.

Does your book feature a physical or mental disability or illness? GIMME.

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I’m particularly interested in characters with mental illness, but I’d love to read from the perspective of characters with physical disabilities, as well. If you have them in your novels, I call dibs on your manuscript.

Does your book feature POC? GIMME.

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We don’t look the same and our books need to reflect this. For years, my students have complained to me that they can’t see themselves in books.

If you have diverse characters within any of the genres I’m looking for below, I need your novel in my life.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy & Horror.

These will always be my first love. I became hooked on reading fantasy and horror when I bought my first Christopher Pike book from the bookstore when I was 8. My first manuscript was a fantasy that featured alternate histories (drooling for this in my inbox, BTW) and the first novel I sold was a fantasy.

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If you know me at all, you know I’m 100% in love with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and the TV show. I even used it as a comp title for one of my novels. Sidebar: If you are an Outlander fan, we MUST follow each other on Twitter because HELLO, SEASON 3!

While I may not be the best fit if you’ve written an epic fantasy, plots that mesh time travel with romance and feisty ladies with gorgeous guys (kilts not required), DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200. GIVE IT TO ME NOW. Also, I’d really enjoy this from a male POV.

 

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I swoon over supernatural and sci-fi characters thrown into an otherwise normal world. Especially when they are the love interest. On a random note, the X-MEN characters will forever be my favorite. As for horror, I want to be afraid. I want to question EVERYTHING…

Have you taken a person from history or plucked a story from the headlines and worked it to have a fantasy/sci-fi/horror twist? If so, I need to see your manuscript!

Thrillers and Mystery.

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Besides writing fantasy, I’ve written a few YA thrillers and mysteries. I’ll read a good psychological thriller ALL DAY LONG. Any story that will make me wonder who dunnit is my jam. Unreliable narrators are my favorite! I enjoy reading books where I refuse to stop reading because I have to know if the characters are going to get out of their current situation. I want to be shocked. I want to keep guessing until the end when you totally pull the rug out from under me. Make me go back and reread, looking for clues once I reach the end.

Contemporary.

I found that I like to write a bit of everything when I wrote my YA contemporary. I’m a fan of books that show how young adults handle romance and heart break because when they fall, they fall hard. One of my absolute favorite couples is NALEY from One Tree Hill. If you’ve written characters that have gone through even a fraction of what these two went through, then I NEED TO READ IT! If it’s diverse, even better!!  I’d also kill for a novel about friends, siblings, road trips, music or summer/training camp. I always wanted to work in a coffee shop, movie theater, or amusement park, so if you’ve written something that deals with any of these settings, send your query my way.

Your Genre Not Listed?

That’s okay! If your novel is filled with the voice of quirky characters that will make me laugh, ugly cry, or feel ANY emotion, then GIMME. I’m not a huge historical fiction (unless *cough cough* time travel or some alternate reality is involved), but that doesn’t mean I won’t read it. Because I have. It makes me happy when books surprise me, and I love them. If your manuscript has any of the elements I mentioned above, definitely consider me. If you think I might be able to help you take your novel to the next level, consider me.

If you’ve written from a male POV, multiple POVs, have dual timelines, reverse timelines, etc. please consider me for your mentor! I eat that stuff up with a spoon. And not a little spoon, I mean, the big serving spoons!

When in doubt: QUERY ME. PICK ME. LOVE ME.

What You Can Expect From Me:

My feedback will be honest, just like the feedback you will receive once the book is published. I always offer up suggestions when I find an error and turn things into teachable moments (the teacher in me will never die) or ask questions to make you think outside of the parameters of what you’ve written. My former mentees will tell you, I will push you to revise and resubmit until I think it’s perfect.

If I don’t like something, I will tell you.
If I love something, I will tell you.

I will help you edit your manuscript and point out the following:

      • lack of voice/internal dialogue
      • plot holes and continuity issues (especially if they are science related)
      • telling
      • passive voice
      • filter words
      • overused words/phrases
      • words/phrases used too close together
      • lack of setting/missing details/pointing out where you could expand a scene
      • grammar

Some of my favorite books (this list will probably change next year):

  • The Handmaid’s Tale (I’ve loved this since reading it in college) by Margaret Atwood
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  • Outlander (books 1 & 3 are my favorite) by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Season of You & Me by Robin Constantine
  • The Mara Dyer Series by Michelle Hodkin
  • My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
  • Red Queen Series by Victoria Aveyard
  • The Harry Potter Series (OF COURSE!) by J.K. Rowling
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King

I have so many books to read (and listen to on audiobooks), but the only books I’ve been reading on a regular basis this year have been educational textbooks. Le sigh.

Some of my recent favorite TV shows/movies

  • WONDER WOMAN
  • Outlander
  • One Tree Hill
  • The Night Shift
  • Stranger Things
  • Timeless
  • Scandal
  • Riverdale
  • Pretty Little Liars
  • Supernatural
  • Lucifer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • Gossip Girl
  • Veronica Mars
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Doctor Who
  • The Walking Dead
  • Arrow
  • iZombie
  • Game of Thrones
  • American Horror Story
  • SO MANY MORE – just tweet me and you’ll see

I’m a multi-fandom kind of girl and love each show/movie/book and the ships I sail. Feel free to tweet me with questions or comments. Click here to return to the main blog hop post.

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I Sold My First Book!

You have no idea how hard it is to keep quiet when all you want to do is scream from the rooftops that you’ve sold a book. But the day has come for the announcement and I still can’t believe it’s happened. 

I’m really looking forward to working with Stephen Morgan and Entangled Teen to bring the story of Adrian and Ezra to life!

2016 PitchWars Wishlist

PitchWars

Signing with my agent was one of the best days of my life and it’s something I want you to experience as well. Before I get into all the things that give me grabby hands, allow me to introduce myself.

My Backstory:

My name is Natasha Neagle (that’s Nagel like bagel), but most people on the interwebs call me Nat. Either one is fine. I am repped by Michelle Richter of Fuse Literary. I’m married with two not-so-tiny humans (Evil Genius and Mini Me), four demented cats, and two dogs.

By trade, I am a teacher. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s in Curriculum & Instruction. I am currently seeking my Ed.S. in Educational Leadership through Old Dominion University (where I also received my BS in Biology). I teach eighth grade physical science (think basic chemistry and physics) and used to teach high school Biology.

This is my second year participating in PitchWars. I didn’t participate in 2015 due to personal reasons.

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YA

No NA or Adult. Sorry folks, maybe next year.

Make sure you have a synopsis available (don’t worry if it sucks) because I will ask for one this year.

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The following will give me grabby hands and fill my heart with happiness.

DIVERSITY & #OWNVOICES

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The novels on our bookstore shelves do not represent the world. They never have. This is a problem.

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Does your book feature LGBTQIA? GIMME.

pride

I’m particularly interested in bisexual main characters, but if you have any LGBTQIA characters represented in your novel, I WANTS IT.

Does your book feature a physical or mental disability? GIMME.

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These characters are missing from books. If you have them in your novels, I call dibs on your manuscript.

Does your book feature POC? GIMME.

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We don’t look the same and our books need to reflect this.

If you have diverse characters within any of the genres I’m looking for below, I need your novel in my life.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy & Horror.

These will always be my first love. I became hooked on reading fantasy and horror when I bought my first Christopher Pike book from the bookstore when I was 8. My first manuscript was a fantasy that featured alternate histories (drooling for this in my inbox, BTW) and the last one I turned into my agent was a fantasy with romantic elements.

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If you know me at all, you know I’m 100% in love with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and the TV show. I even used it as a comp title for my latest novel. Sidebar: If you are an Outlander fan, we MUST follow each other on Twitter!

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If you’ve written anything that meshes time travel with romance and feisty ladies and gorgeous guys (kilts not required), DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200. GIVE IT TO ME NOW.

 

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I LOVE supernatural and sci-fi characters thrown into an otherwise normal world. Especially when they are the love interest. As for horror, I want to be afraid. I want to question EVERYTHING…

Thrillers and Mystery.

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Besides writing fantasy, I’ve written a few YA thrillers. I love any story that will make me wonder who dunnit. I enjoy reading books where I refuse to stop reading because I have to know if the characters are going to get out of their current situation. I want to be shocked. I want to keep guessing until the end when you totally pull the rug out from under me. Make me go back and reread, looking for clues once I reach the end.

Contemporary.

OSU Band Moonwalk (1)

I found that I like to write a bit of everything when I wrote my YA contemporary romance. I’m on a romance kick, so if you’ve written one (especially if your character is diverse), I’d love to read it. As a former band geek and the parent of two saxophone players (one in his school’s award-winning marching band), I’d love to see a contemporary that deals with marching band. I’d also kill for a road trip or summer camp novel. If you’ve written something like this, then I WANT IT.

Your Genre Not Listed?

That’s okay! If your novel is filled with the voice of quirky characters that will make me laugh, ugly cry, or feel ANY emotion, then GIMME. I’m not a huge historical fiction (unless *cough cough* time travel or some alternate reality is involved), but that doesn’t mean I won’t read it. Because I have. It makes me happy when books surprise me, and I love them. If your manuscript has any of the elements I mentioned above, definitely consider me. If you think I might be able to help you take your novel to the next level, consider me.

If you’ve written from a male POV, multiple POVs, have dual timelines, reverse timelines, etc. please consider me for your mentor! I eat that stuff up with a spoon. And not a little spoon, I mean, the big serving spoons!

When in doubt: QUERY ME. PICK ME. LOVE ME.

What You Can Expect From Me:

My feedback will be honest, just like the feedback you will receive once the book is published. I always offer up suggestions when I find an error and turn things into teachable moments (the teacher in me will never die) or ask questions to make you think outside of the parameters of what you’ve written. There’s no sugar coating or ass-kissing here, but I’m not mean either.

If I don’t like something, I will tell you.
If I love something, I will tell you.
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I will help you edit your manuscript and point out the following:

      • lack of voice/internal dialogue
      • plot holes and continuity issues (especially if they are science related)
      • telling
      • passive voice
      • filter words
      • overused words/phrases
      • words/phrases used too close together
      • lack of setting/missing details/pointing out where you could expand a scene
      • grammar

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Synopsis Writing Made Simple

Synopsis. It might as well be a four-letter word in the writing community. Everyone hates to write them.

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Unfortunately, they are part of the process as many agents and editors require them. To make matters worse, the lengths vary based on where you’re sending them. The post from PubCrawl was the post I used over and over again to help me write my synopsis. It’s available here.

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If the Star Wars example post above doesn’t help you, consider doing what I now do when I need to write a synopsis. For starters, I write my synopsis so that I can have all possible page lengths, which makes it less heart ache for me in the end.

Here’s what I do. It’s not rocket science and many of you might roll your eyes at the simplicity of my method. It works for me. Maybe it will work for you. What’s great is you can do this before you write (if you are a plotter) or you can do it after you finish your novel.

Using either my outline or my completed manuscript, I tackle the main character’s storyline chapter by chapter. I don’t focus on page length in the beginning. I simply focus on the main plot, only introducing the major characters. The rule of thumb I follow for this aspect of synopsis writing is to ask myself if I need to mention their name. What will I gain by adding them to the synopsis? Are they mentioned more than one time? If not, their specific name isn’t needed, but stating Lacy’s best friend does XYZ should work.

Once I’ve gone through every chapter (this requires me scrolling through the completed chapter and summarizing what takes place in the main plot in as few sentences as possible), my synopsis is pretty long. The same is true if I’m trying to write my synopsis before I write the novel. I pull the main plot from my outline and do my best to summarize what I plan to happen. Naturally, this will need adjusted after the novel is completed because things usually always change.

After the long draft is finished, I then go back and make sure I’ve included the main elements to the story an agent and editor will want (including the ending). From there, I clean up the grammar, wording, et cetera, and then start cutting it down until I get the desired page lengths (usually five, three, and one).

This is just my process, but I wanted to share because I like writing a synopsis. Doing it this way makes it easy for me. Good luck in your synopsis writing!

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I’ve been asked to do this before and because of one thing or another, I never did. But when YA and NA author, Jamie Rae asked, I decided it was time to do it. So, thank you Jamie!

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Be sure to follow Jamie on Twitter | Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Tumblr | Goodreads

 

What are you working on?

I just finished writing a YA Mystery that fans of the shows Veronica Mars or CSI: Crime Scene Investigation should enjoy. I’m in the process of a monstrous book hangover where I don’t want to let my characters go, so I’m plotting a book two for this series. The characters keep talking, so I must listen. I’m also plotting a YA psychological thriller.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I can’t help but write strong female characters that don’t want to be a damsel in distress. My characters know exactly who they are even though they are teenagers. For one reason or another, their pasts have helped them define themselves in such a way, they know what they want. They all have a hint of darkness to them, but in the end and after they’ve been put through the ringer, it helps them survive. I’m not afraid to hurt or kill my characters either.

Why do I write what I write?

I love reading YA and when I can’t find the book I want to read on the bookshelves, the next best thing I can do is write it. I want to create situations for teens that require them to rise above, deliver the message that failure is not an option, and to always be their own hero. I also aim to feed the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement because all of my novels have a diverse cast.

How does my individual writing process work?

I have blogged about my emotional status as I write a novel here.  I’m a plotter all the way. I’m guessing that’s because so far every novel I’ve ever dreamed up has been a series. I try to place breadcrumbs in each book and to do that, I have to know what’s going to happen. If I write something three books later, I want the reader to remember something from book one and have their ah ha! moment. I use outlines and what I’ve called a background bible. Everything I could ever want to know about my characters goes into this document. Demographics, favorite colors, school schedules, back story, what the house looks like, what their bedroom looks like, etc. I also write my synopsis and pitch before I write (this is something new I tried with my last novel and it worked well for me) and follow a detailed outline. I will add to my outline as I’m writing if new details pop up, but I generally follow it.

I have to have caffeine, music, and a candle burning if I want to get a large word count in. I also purchased a pair of Beats to help me focus. With them on, productivity doubled and I finished my latest novel faster than I thought I would.

Now it’s your turn!

I am going to step outside the box and not have specific people lined up to do this already, but make it an open invitation. If you haven’t answered these questions on your blog yet, please do and send me the link so I can read it. If you don’t want to blog about it,feel free to share your writing process in the comments.

Novel Playlist: THE SATURN KILLER

Music is my muse. For THE SATURN KILLER, I found some artists on Spotify that Pandora failed to introduce me to. Below are the songs that helped me set the various teen party scenes and find Emily’s voice while she worked to uncover the serial killer torturing her OBX (Outer Banks) town of Saturn Pointe, North Carolina.

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Taking You There, Broods
Devils Touch, TIAAN
Red Cup, Katy Tiz
Brother, Matt Corby
La Di Da, Lera Lynn
Alone Together, Fall Out Boy
Wake Me Up (Ruben K Remix), Avicii
I Hate You, Shawnee
Crave You (Adventure Club Dubstep Remix), Flight Facilities
Song for Zulu, Phosphorescent
Chandelier, Sia
Ain’t It Fun, Paramore
Hurt, Nine Inch Nails
Burn, Ellie Goulding
I’m Coming Home (Arion Dubstep Remix), Skylar Grey
Fader, The Temper Trap
People Help The People, Birdy
Black Beauty, Lana Del Rey
Wake Up, Arcade Fire
Stay With Me, Sam Smith
Letters From The Sky, Civil Twilight
Goodnight and Go, Imogen Heap
Miles Away-feat. Kellin Quinn, Memphis May Fire

Now hear them on repeat, which is what I did while writing.

THIS NOVEL IS DONE

After I sent DLS to agents for consideration, I focused my attention on a New Shiny MS. I had an idea about a serial killer and it wouldn’t leave me alone. Right around the time I started my first page, I received my first offer of representation. Needless to say, that stopped me from starting the new novel.

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Once I signed with my agent, I needed to stay busy. ICYMI, you can read about my experience here. Hello New Shiny!  I’m a plotter. I pulled out the pitch, synopsis, and outline and started plugging away. Yes, I wrote both the synopsis and the pitch before I wrote the novel. Try it, if you haven’t. I wrote this novel faster than I wrote DLS. In 43 days, I keyed 80K. I know there are writers out there that write 3X as fast. I’m not one of them. I edit while I write, even when I tell myself not to. My first draft is very close to my final draft. For me, this is a huge feat.

THE END

I spent a lot of time with my characters before I started drafting. They started talking to me while my CPs had DLS. As with all my novels, diversity is present in a variety of aspects. Even though I knew my character’s back story as I started writing, I learned some interesting things about them as the pages unfolded. All I can say is my poor MC.

Now, it sits with my CPs to make sure I didn’t pull a  Jack Torrance.

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How fast do you write?

The Writer’s Roller Coaster

Do you love to ride roller coasters?

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If you answered, no and are a writer, I challenge you to reconsider.

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No, it’s not. Just stick with and I’ll explain. Promise.

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As a writer, whenever we draft, revise, and edit our work, we  battle the writer roller coaster. Not once. Not twice. Nope. I wish. I’d be totally fine with that and wouldn’t complain. Hell, if I looped my writer roller coaster ten times, I’d shut up and call it a day. For many writers, we’re stuck on the ride that’s determined to take us straight to hell and back again at eleventy billion miles (or kilometers) an hour and the only way off is to finish the project.

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It’s okay, cry it out. It’ll get better. Just make sure you don’t jump off the roller coaster before it comes to a stop. Don’t torch your manuscript because the ride will come to a stop and you can safely exit.

Allow me to elaborate and show you what my writer roller coaster looks like.

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First, I get an idea.

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I have to tell the plot bunnies to shut up because they love to attack while I’m drafting something else. I don’t work on my idea right away because it needs time to develop into something more than just a pitch.

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When they attack again with a more detailed plot, I start drafting.

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Everything is great. I love ALL THE WORDS.

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Until I don’t.

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And the only thing I can think of doing is destroying my computer.

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But just before I do that, a character or a scene reminds me they love me.

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And, I’m back to owning all the words.

tumblr_inline_n43e08vTcS1r1k3kq Everything is beautiful. I love my characters. And then…

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They suck. I come to conclude my writing is terrible. The book is awful. There’s no way anyone would want to read it.

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There’s only one thing I can do.

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Because the words are so terrible, I don’t want evidence left behind.

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But, like the evil villain that can’t be killed, I am reminded that I love my New Shiny, and don’t light it on fire quite yet.

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  So it’s back to work. Drafting, editing, revising ALL THE WORDS.

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And then I write something that makes me want to crawl into a hole. Or board a space ship.

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And at this point, I’m an emotional wreck.

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So I have a talk with myself. I say, “Self…”

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I can do this. I can write all the words and make people laugh, cry, or smile. And whenever the part of me who wants burn my New Shiny emerges, I threaten it.

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Oh yeah, it gets ragey in my head. But it’s all good because I push through.

tumblr_inline_n2bf0oLy6P1sw2o2jUntil the roller coaster comes to a complete stop and I get the hell off. I’m a bit dizzy and shellshocked for a minute, but I’m off. And I feel amazing. 
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And I ride that wave of accomplishment for as long as I can.
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 UNTIL…

tumblr_inline_ml1nt4bZN41qz4rgp So have a hug and know you are not alone.

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He Said, She Said: Dialogue Tags & Saidisms

So you had an idea and now want to write a book?

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CONGRATS!

When you write, nailing down your character’s dialogue is a major accomplishment. If you are writing a young adult novel, you want what the characters say to sound like that of a young adult and not like the forty-something you might be. Don’t mind me, I’ll be celebrating the anniversary of my twenty-fifth birthday FOREVER. If you want a novel that people are going to enjoy, you have to make sure the dialogue works. Not only does it have to be in the character’s voice, it has to be written properly.

The first thing you have to remember is that the dialogue is your character.

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 When a tag is added, that’s the writer.

Rule of thumb: Don’t let the tags distract the reader.

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When in doubt, stick with the simple: SAID and ASKED.

“You look hot,” he said.

“Why wouldn’t I?” she asked.

There are a handful of ways to write your dialogue. The trick is to make it come across on the page so the tag is invisible. If you have too many tags associated with action or adverbs, you pull the reader out of the story and the dialogue loses it’s purpose. Make sure as the writer, you aren’t explaining too much within your tag. If you have to explain too much, consider the dialogue. Is it appropriate? Is it really doing the job and capturing your character’s voice?

What’s the real purpose of a dialogue tag?

  • Identifies which character is speaking
  • Keeps the reader actively involved in the scene
  • Breaks up the conversation

As I write my dialogue, I remind myself not to interfere with my characters by adding too much to my tags.

Dialogue with Action

Don’t spend all your time writing action with your tags. The best thing you can do is a writer is to keep your words active and show the action. Sometimes, action associated with the tags is necessary and the easiest thing to do, but that doesn’t mean it should be on every page or every tag.

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“You look hot,” he said, taking her hand.

OR REVERSED

Taking her hand, he said, “You look hot.”

There’s nothing wrong with the examples above. Unless you do it EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. If it’s a situation where we know which characters are speaking, don’t over use the tags. Especially when you have action associated. For instance, if it’s clear which character is speaking, remove the tag and go with the action. Or rewrite the sentence so that there’s an action beat to let us know which character is talking. Action beats are great ways to show us how the characters are handling the conversation while breaking it up, because people don’t usually talk in long drawn out monologue’s.

He took her hand. “You look hot.”

In the example above, the writer could show the action better instead of being so telly, but I’ll save that for a different blog post.

Dialogue with Adverbs

Be very careful when using adverbs with your dialogue. They have their place in writing, but use them sparingly. When you attach adverbs to your dialogue, you are telling and missing the opportunity to show. This can lead to angry agents and editors, not to mention readers.

“Who are you talking to?” she asked angrily.
“It’s Jake, from State Farm,” he said defiantly.

As a reader, I’m much more inclined to care about the characters involved in the scene if you show me what the anger and the defiance looks like. It’s easier to just tell the reader the emotion, but as a writer, is that the best you can do? Probably not. Showing the emotion will help the reader connect and–crap, that’s a different post. Back to dialogue.

Formatting the Dialogue

There are rules to writing dialogue.

Proper punctuation

 Make sure you have the comma and the period in the appropriate location.

Don’t write: “You have a beautiful smile.” He said.
Write: “You have a beautiful smile,” he said.

Dialogue interrupted by speaker’s action

When you write your dialogue and your characters own actions interrupt them from speaking, use the em dash. It shows the characters are doing something and then continuing their dialogue. You don’t need the comma in the first part of the dialogue since you aren’t adding a tag. Don’t add spaces between the quotation marks and the dashes or between the dashes and the action/thought.

“If he’s guilty”—I pushed my finger into his chest—“you can bet I’m going to make sure he’s convicted.” 

Interrupted dialogue by another speaker

When another character interrupts the first, you show this in your dialogue using the em dash. There is no need to say it He cut her off or She interrupted him. The dialogue shows it for you.

“I loved you—”
“You think you did.”

Dialogue that trails off

If your character loses their train of thought or doesn’t know what to say, use the ellipsis. Make sure you don’t abuse these.

“I wanted cheesecake, but . . .” This diet is for the birds. 

Names in your dialogue

Make sure you use a comma before and/or after the name if your speaker is addressing someone directly in dialogue. This includes pet names, non-proper names. 

“Are you okay, Emily?”

“Come here, honey.”

“Logan, she did that for you.”

Don’t be redundant.

“RUN!” she exclaimed.

You have an exclamation here. This tells us the character is shouting the word run. But as the author, you added a tag. It’s almost a case of showing and then telling because you show us with the dialogue and then you turn around and tell us with the tag. Don’t do it. Trust your reader. If you want to use the dialogue tag rewrite the sentence.

“He mean to tell me he—”
“Yep,” she interrupted.

The interruption is obvious from the use of the em dash. You risk pulling the reader out of the story. They might think there is a glitch in the matrix because you told them the same information twice.

Saidisms

These are words designated to replace the word said with the purpose of providing additional information not given to you in the dialogue. They become an eyesore and distract the reader when used frequently. Trust that, for an editor, using said or asked over and over never gets boring. Murmured and whispered are tags that are accepted because of the argument that you can whisper and murmur words. However, you don’t need to tell the reader the character whispers every time. You can show it other ways. Keep in mind, the tag is supposed to tell you who is speaking.

An editor once told me: You can’t snarl or smile words, you say them.

So as a writer, why would you say:
“I love you, ” he smiled.
“No you don’t,” he snarled.

Exceptions

In writing, there will always be exceptions. Some genres are more accepting of a variety of tags beyond said and asked and want their writers to use them. Romance is an example. If you are a romance writer–and I don’t mean young adult fantasy writer that has romance intertwined–then being restrictive with your tags isn’t necessary. From what I’ve seen published and read on various editor blogs, varying your tags in romance is encouraged. Even outside the romance genre, varying your tags from time to time is acceptable. When in doubt, talk it over with your CPs. Check out twitter and writing forums. Editors have blogs and tumblrs, just waiting to be read.

DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS Novel Playlist

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Sometimes when I write, it has to be totally silent. However, 99% of the time, music is required. Next to water, music is my muse. For DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS, I discovered right away, my protagonists voice came out the easiest whenever I listened to classic rock. I was A-OKAY with that. There are so many amazing bands to choose from, while paying homage to the amazing music of the past.

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Music has it’s own role in this novel and some amazing songs are referenced. Even though I wrote this novel quickly, I found myself like this:

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Below is what contributed to my madness as I wrote.

 

Pretty Hurts, Beyonce

Fortunate Son, Creedence Clearwater Revival

Gold On The Ceiling, The Black Keys

Dream On, Aerosmith

Bleeding Out, Imagine Dragons

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Rolling Stones

Unconditionally, Katy Perry

The Needle and the Damage Done, Neil Young

 Secrets, One Republic 

Highway To Hell, AC/DC

I Will Possess Your Heart, Death Cab for Cutie

Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin

Nothing Else Matters, Metallica

Seven Wonders, Fleetwood Mac

Creep, Radiohead

Fat Bottomed Girls, Queen

Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey

  Counting Stars, One Republic

Every Breath You Take, The Police

Stan, Eminem

Hey Hey What Can I Do, Led Zeppelin

 Now, listen to them below!

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