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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Misplaced Modifiers

No, I don't mean I lost my modifiers, but they tend to look out of place in sentences. They can also confuse the heck out of readers!

A misplaced modifier is a descriptive word or phrase that inadvertently describes/modifies the wrong noun. Remember that if you're showing action, that action has to reflect back to the person/animal/object doing the action. If you're using an adjective to describe someone or something, it has to reflect the right noun.

Examples:
1) Walking into the wind, the snow blew right in her face.

We have a phrase (walking in the wind) that shows action. The way this is written, the snow is doing the action. Can snow walk into the wind? Not the last time I checked! Obviously, "her" is the one walking into the wind. That means the sentence needs rearranging to place the correct noun directly after the modifier.
Possible rewrites:
a) Snow blew right in her face as she walked into the wind.
b) Walking into the wind, she got a face full of blowing snow.

***

2) Too tired to study, his biology book made a better pillow than study guide.

This time we have an adjective phrase (too tired to study). It's currently saying that his biology book is too tired to study. Sorry, but books don't get tired. :) Whoever owns the books is the one who's tired, so we need to place the owner of the book directly after the phrase.
Possible rewrites:
a) Too tired to study, he used his biology book as a pillow rather than a study guide.
b) He was too tired to study, so he used his biology book as a pillow.

***

3) Lonely, the moon made a great listener as he howled.

Who's lonely? This sentence says it's the moon. I suppose the moon could be lonely, but that isn't the intended meaning.

Possible rewrites:
a) He was lonely, and the moon made a great listener as howled out his problems.
b) Lonely, he howled his problems to the moon. It made a great listener.

If your sentence starts with a modifying word or phrase, be sure it's talking about the noun you want it to reflect! We'll take a look at Backstory vs. Exposition next week!

***REMINDER: You can still comment for a chance to win 1 of 5 pdf copies of Playing in the Raine!!! Or drop me an e-mail at mellanieszereto@hotmail.com to enter!***

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Quick Update

I'm making progress on my new foodie series, but the muse is giving me a bad case of WIP-lash lately. Book one--Love Served Hot--is still waiting patiently for a read-through and polish. In the meantime, I'm a third of the way done with book two--Red Hot Pepper--and working on a foodie erotic--secretly titled :) and more than a quarter finished, switching back and forth almost daily. Yes, I'd like to get on with the submission process, but this is a big project and I don't want to rush it. I have three 90K+ spicy novels and six 40K erotic novels planned for this series so far. That's a lot of writing. Trying to balance that with family and homeschooling, I don't need the extra stress of looming deadlines...

Time for butt in chair and hands on keyboard!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Plotter or Pantser?

***GIVEAWAY ALERT--Leave a comment by March 6th for a chance to win one of five pdf copies of Playing in the Raine!!!***

Everybody seems to have an opinion about plotting vs. pantsing. What? You've never heard of this great controversy?

We need some definitions...
Plotter: A writer who plans a manuscript before writing. This can involve outlines, storyboards, character bios, etc. Many of these stories are plot-driven.
Pantser: A writer who writes a manuscript with no preparation, allowing the characters to tell the story. These books are usually more character-driven.

Which is the right way?
Does one work better than the other?
Which are you?

My opinion--There is no right way. I'm not trying to be diplomatic. I really believe each writer has his/her own method that works for him/her. So, which am I???

A Plantser. That's right. I'm a combination of the two.

My process typically involves an idea popping into my head at a most inopportune time, like when I'm in the middle of another WIP. The idea is almost always characters finding themselves in a particular situation that challenges them to work toward a happily ever after. Several scenes develop in my head over a period of days or weeks, forming the most basic of plot lines.
Then I sit down to write. The perfect character names are essential, and usually by this time, I know the hero and heroine well enough to choose fitting names. I tend to use the opening scene for characterization, putting the character in a stressful position to see how he/she handles the pressure. The hero/heroine often leads me in the direction I need to go to reach the next scene. My characters always seem to know when and how they should meet (or realize the attraction if they already know each other), whether it's a confrontation or a crisis bringing them together. With the few basics of the plot line, the story continues toward the final happily ever after. Usually, the plot makes a few unexpected turns along the way and the characters say and do things that surprise me--but I enjoy this method of writing.

However, what works for me doesn't necessarily work for everybody else. Occasionally, plantsing doesn't work for the book I'm writing, and I have to do more plotting and planning. Sometimes, the characters take over, straying from my intended plot.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or are you a plantser like me? :)

Happy Writing!!! And don't forget to comment by March 6th for a chance to win a copy of Playing in the Raine!If you're unable to comment, drop me an e-mail (mellanieszereto@hotmail.com) for a chance to win!

Next week--Misplaced Modifiers!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Easy Supper--Oven-Fried Chimichangas!

I have a new favorite easy-supper entree! Because of my son's tutoring schedule this semester, I've had to go back to menu planning, easy-prep meals, and lots of Crockpot cooking. Here's a dish that falls under easy prep and prepare ahead!

Chicken or Pork Oven-Fried Chimichangas

1 lb. lean boneless pork chops or boneless chicken breast tenderloins
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon unseasoned meat tenderizer or 1/2 tsp. salt & dash of pepper
1 1/2 cups water
4 oz. can diced green chiles
3 large or 6-7 medium flour tortillas
Cooking spray

For pork--Layer chops in a medium saucepan, sprinkling each with tenderizer. Add onions and water. Cook over medium heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain liquid only. Shred the pork and add the green chiles. Mix well.

For chicken--Place chicken, salt, pepper, onions, and water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain liquid only; save liquid for soup, if desired. Shred the chicken and add the green chiles. Mix well.

Filling can be refrigerated or frozen at this point.

Microwave tortillas to soften slightly. Add filling. Fold in sides and roll closed. Place in a glass casserole dish lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Lightly spray tops of chimichangas with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until light brown.

Chimichangas can be refrigerated or frozen before or after baking.

I like to serve them with my version of Mexican Rice--1 qt. of my homemade salsa and 1 c. rice cooked over medium-high heat until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Internal Dialogue

I've been judging contest entries the last couple of weeks, and one particular problem jumped out at me in several of the manuscripts--mistakes with internal dialogue. It's been mixed in with narrative, with no way to discern it from the rest of the paragraph. Some of it has been in past tense and/or tagged, as if it's simply part of the narrative but in the character's head. Less frustrating, one entry had all would-be italicized words underlined.

Let's tackle the minor issue first...
Underlining internal dialogue and other words meant to be italicized is old school. With digital formatting, publishers now expect to see italics where the writer wants italics. Sure, you can probably get away with underlining, but why not show editors, agents, and contest judges you're up to date with what's going on in the publishing world?

Next...
Internal dialogue follows one of the same rules as dialogue. Write it as if it's being spoken in the POV character's mind. Use present tense, but NEVER use dialogue tags with internal dialogue. They aren't necessary. The italics and tense show the reader these are unspoken thoughts by the POV character.

Example:
Tagged--I'm going to wring her pretty little neck he thought to himself.
Untagged (correct)--I'm going to wring her pretty little neck.

We don't need "he thought to himself" since we already know he's thinking to himself. That's what internal dialogue is.

Past Tense--I didn't have time to go chasing after her.
Present Tense (correct)--I don't have time to go chasing after her.

Get inside the POV character's head. If you were thinking to yourself, you wouldn't do it in past tense unless it's something you've already done.

Last...

Don't bury internal dialogue in narrative. Either treat it as dialogue, giving it its own paragraph or put it in the same paragraph with the POV character's action or dialogue. Be sure to use italics!

Example:
Buried--Callum finally spied Jane through the trees, her long hair trailing out behind her as she scurried along the path. She stumbled as she glanced in his direction, seeming to sense his presence. I'm going to wring her pretty little neck. He ducked under a branch to cut her off before she reached the clearing. Six strides put him in front of her. "Stop right there, lass," he hissed, well aware they weren't alone.

In paragraph format (*** denotes paragraphs)--
***Callum finally spied Jane through the trees, her long hair trailing out behind her as she scurried along the path.
***She stumbled as she glanced in his direction, seeming to sense his presence.
***I'm going to wring her pretty little neck.
***He ducked under a branch to cut her off before she reached the clearing. Six strides put him in front of her. "Stop right there, lass," he hissed, well aware they weren't alone.
OR
***Callum finally spied Jane through the trees, her long hair trailing out behind her as she scurried along the path.
***She stumbled as she glanced in his direction, seeming to sense his presence.
***I'm going to wring her pretty little neck. He ducked under a branch to cut her off before she reached the clearing. Six strides put him in front of her. "Stop right there, lass," he hissed, well aware they weren't alone.
OR
***Callum finally spied Jane through the trees, her long hair trailing out behind her as she scurried along the path.
***She stumbled as she glanced in his direction, seeming to sense his presence.
***I'm going to wring her pretty little neck. He ducked under a branch to cut her off before she reached the clearing. Six strides put him in front of her.
***"Stop right there, lass," he hissed, well aware they weren't alone.

The action has much better flow when using paragraph format. The reader can easily tell who the POV character is and that he's thinking as he's moving.

As with all POV-related writing issues, remember to stay in your character's head. Be the character!

Hmm...How about we tackle one of the most controversial aspects of writing next week--Plotter or Pantser!

~I'll also be giving away pdf copies of Playing in the Raine to five commentors!!!~

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Another Retro Release!

The Sextet Anthologies Volume 3: Occupational Hazards is a retro release from Siren today!!! Save 50% off the e-book price now through March 12th!

Dirty Dancing is half price from Siren until March 1st!
Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Crutch Words

A crutch may be helpful if you have a broken leg, foot, or ankle, but crutch words can take away from an otherwise clean manuscript. What is a crutch word???

Like those pesky unnecessary adverbs, crutch words are often used to create emphasis. Some examples are just, very, and that. I tend to throw and, but, and so in the mix as well, because many times they're used unnecessarily.

Examples:
1) Jane was very tired after her long trek through the forest. (very)
2) Jane was exhausted after her long trek through the forest. (stronger verb)

3) If she could just find her way back to the path. (just)
4) If she could find her way back to the path, she'd never try to escape again. (gives clarity to her actions)

5) Callum set his jaw, too outraged to speak. And his teeth ached from the action. (And)
6) Callum set his jaw, too outraged to speak. His teeth ached from the action. (eliminates the use of an unnecessary word and tightens the writing)

7) He heaved the pouch of Jane's dried peas that he'd gathered into the woods. (that)
8) He heaved the pouch of Jane's dried peas he'd gathered into the woods. (tightens the writing)

9) His voice was so loud that the farmers outside the castle wall could probably hear him. (so, that)
10) His voice boomed loud enough for the farmers outside the castle wall to hear him. (tightens the writing)

By tightening the writing, many of these unnecessary words are eliminated. A good critique partner should also notice the crutch words, because they tend to interrupt flow and raise questions about a sentence's meaning. The more you write, the more readily you'll recognize your crutch words and tighten as you write!

Next week, I'll be posting about Internal Dialogue!

Back to work on Red Hot Pepper for me!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!