Monday, May 18, 2009


Yesterday I briefly mentioned the AutoCrit Editing Software. Here's how that works. You upload a chunk of your manuscript, then run up to 14 reports on it. Reports include: Overused Words, Repeated Phrases, Sentence Length Variation, Repeated Words, Dialogue Tags, First Words, Names and Pronouns, Repeated Phrases Summary, Combination View of Overused & Repeated Words, Cliché Finder, Redundancy Finder, Homonym Highlighter, Readability Suite, and Pacing Monitor.

Here's what AutoCrit found in 4 random pages of manuscript, comparing my writing to word usage averages across "dozens of samples of published fiction":
feel/feeling/felt: 3, 0.1 %EXCEEDED
generic descriptions: 2, 0.1 %EXCEEDED
initial conjunction: 7, 0.5 %EXCEEDED
just/then: 8, 0.4 %EXCEEDED
maybe: 2, 0.1 %EXCEEDED
that: 15, 0.6 %EXCEEDED
was/were: 16, 1.4 %EXCEEDED

I have a little problem with "was." I'm a little too fond of the word, and AutoCrit points out instances for me, since my eyes skip over them. But sometimes it also points out things I've done intentionally, like repeated phrases for effect. Still, this program provides a good place to start looking.

[EDITED TO ADD: When I uploaded an entire chapter, most of these overages disappeared. I think the larger the sample size, the more accurate result.]

Sometimes the Wizard points out things I missed. Sometimes it just reassures me that I caught everything I should have. It's a fresh set of eyes when mine are tired, if nothing else. Perhaps I won't need this crutch after a few more years of practice. But for now? I'm loving it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I am too tired to create original content tonight. (And my internal editor is fried too, even with the support of AutoCrit.)

So, a plug!
I love Brenda Novak's 5th Annual On-line Auction for Diabetes Research. Want a computer? Vacation? Stack of autographed books? Critique of your manuscript? Click on over!

Also, a quiz!
(or two)
I took What Kind of Blogger Are You? and What's Your Blogging Personality?
I got You Are a Pundit Blogger and Your Blogging Type Is Artistic and Passionate, respectively.
Yeah? Apparently not.

You Are a Pundit Blogger!

Your blog is smart, insightful, and always a quality read.

You're up on the latest news, and you have an interesting spin on things.

Of all the blogging types, you put the most thought and effort into your blog.

Truly appreciated by many, surpassed by only a few

Your Blogging Type is Artistic and Passionate

You see your blog as the ultimate personal expression - and work hard to make it great.

One moment you may be working on a new dramatic design for your blog...

And the next, you're passionately writing about your pet causes.

Your blog is very important - and you're careful about who you share it with.

How about you?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Feminist Romance

Part I

I've complained about romance novels before, so today I thought I'd backpedal a little.

I'll start by picking on another genre and mentioning something that drives me crazy about mysteries. I love mysteries, especially clever ones that I have a hard time figuring out then have this big, wonderful "click" moment at the end where it all falls into place and I see how it was set up from page 1. But I hate it when someone dies in a book and everyone around them gasps, then either goes on like it's no big deal or treats it as a purely intellectual puzzle. In my experience, most people - and communities - are emotionally stricken by such events, and the residual effects don't wear off in a day or two.

Back to romance. I've already clarified that I don't hate all romance novels, though there are common genre tropes that annoy and frustrate me. Now I'll go a step further.

In a romance novel, the main story arc is usually . . . the romance. You know, the guy and the girl getting together. I am resistant to any story when I feel like I know how it ends. I didn't see Titanic until it had been on DVD for a couple of years, and then only under duress. (I liked it OK, but didn't wish I'd made it to the theater.) I went to see Apollo 13 at my husband's request and enjoyed it very much, though I was reluctant to see it because it was a true story and I knew how it turned out. And I get annoyed when shows give away too much in the previews, so I spend the whole episode waiting for a scene that turns out to be a big deal at the end. (Looking at you, season finale of Private Practice!)

I'm also resistant to seeing musicals, though I might enjoy them when I finally concede. I still haven't seen Chicago or Moulin Rouge, which I understand is akin to blasphemy.

What about you? What drives you crazy in fiction - be it written, acted, or sung? And what blind prejudices do you have?

Part II

The Eroticization of Equality and Social Justice (Hillary Retig)

This article is a very interesting read, but I'm not sure I am seduced by the premise. (joke credit: Retig)

1) "What do conservatives . . . have against romance?"
Just because conservatives are against something doesn't make it progressive. (And it's hard to argue that conservatives are against romance, anyway, just certain aspects of what broadly falls into that category.)

2) "[R]omance itself is a fundamentally progressive activity."
Not necessarily. For example, there are genre publishers, imprints, etc. that commonly require women to be like X and men to by like Y (e.g. "alpha"). In other words, romance fiction might very well codify and reinforce tired gender stereotypes.

3) I'm also not convinced that the idea of progressiveness = love for humankind is best exemplified by romance fiction, in which one character is seemingly destined for one other character, usually to the exclusion of all others. It's very individually focused and not typically spun outwards into a community experience.

4) "it's also commonly acknowledged in the field that if you were ever to meet one of those Byronic alpha-male romance heroes in real life, he would likely be a real jerk."
I'm not so quick to excuse perpetuating the romanticization of this type of character. In fact, doing so consciously might be worse.

5) "egalitarian partnerships tend to be the happiest, but also tend to lack sexual spark."

But the article is very smart and thought-provoking, and I loved chunks of it. For example:
"More and more, romance fiction is incorporating the ideals and values of progressivism, not just by becoming more diverse in its characterizations and relationship constructions, but by replacing a one-up, competitive model of power, in which I derive my power from your relative weakness, with a between-equals, cooperative model in which power is shared and distributed to the benefit of all. The more it does this, the closer it will come to providing models of ecstatic, loving, romantic, sexual relationships that work in real life - a huge public benefit and radical act."

Why do I spend so much time writing and thinking about romance novels? Because of statistics like this:
"More than a quarter of all books sold in the U.S. are romance fiction, and more than 64 million Americans read at least one romance novel each year (source: Romance Writers of America, RWA). Romance fiction is an enormous part of American culture, and an important transmitter of values."
Romance fiction is obviously hugely popular, and I think it only makes sense to pay attention to something so influential.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Weekend Update

I have had a lovely Mother's Day. I have a bit of a cold, which is annoying, so I took some Tylenol Cold PM after my pre-Mother's Day treat last night and passed out. I completely missed the morning rush (that stuff is effective) and didn't wake up until Paul and the girls brought me breakfast in bed. After snuggle time, Paul got the girls ready for church.

Today was our last Sunday School class before summer break, and our friends surprised us with a nice thank you gift for leading the group this year. After church we had sandwiches at home (my special request was NO MOTHER'S DAY BRUNCH - too crowded, too stressful). Then naptimes, a video for the girls, family dinner, and Paul took the girls to the park while I talked to my sister and did a few things around the house. We had storytime together as a family, put the girls down to sleep, and the rest of the evening will be free time once Ellie deigns to stay abed.

In fact, the whole weekend has been lovely. Paul and I had a date night on Friday (we enjoyed the X-Men movie and a seafood dinner), I had lunch with a friend on Saturday, and we went out to dinner and Ted Drewes with other friends Saturday night. Terribly indulgent, totally fun weekend.

Over the past several days, I have also been reading my draft of Seek Ye First whenever I have a few minutes to spare. Paul printed it out in book format for me, which is rather fun. Now that I'm done with the first read-through, I'm pleased with the second half but think the first chapters need more tension. I need to go through the ms once to make the changes I noted when I was reading, run the Auto-Crit software to get rid of remaining annoyances, then expand the story inserts and drop them in.

The first 2 chapters should be ready to go out to my critique group for next month's meeting! I also need to put together a list of questions and prepare to send the ms off to early readers. It's fun to be in a new stage. Now that the solid draft is completed, things are moving much more quickly and I crave feedback. Maybe it sucks. Maybe it's good. Who knows? Either way, it's a completed novel and I learned from it. The next one will be even better.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Book Review Club - May

This month I'm reviewing Angie Fox's paranormal romance The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers for Barrie Summy's Book Review Club.

Have you heard of the sophomore slump? For writers, this is what happens when you spend years working on your first novel: learning, preparing, plotting, drafting, revising, and workshopping. You submit it, it sells, and wham! you have a two book contract. Now what? You have to write the second novel in a matter of months. You've never done anything like that before; you've poured everything you had into that first, wonderful novel.

Yeah, Angie Fox did not suffer from the dreaded sophomore slump with The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, which published last week, only nine months after Angie's debut novel (and New York Times best-seller) The Accidental Demon Slayer.

Everything that was good in The Accidental Demon Slayer was still good in The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, and the rest was even better.

Fox is just so creative and original. Her voice is fresh, and, hey - geriatric biker witches, roadkill magic, a straight-laced preschool teacher turned demon slayer - what's not to love?

Maybe just two small things. Like the first novel in the series, this one is tight and fast. Sometimes it's so tight and fast that it feels a bit rushed and I wonder - hey, what just happened? How did we get here? I think I missed something. But certainly tight and fast is better than sloppy and dragging, so I'll take it.

My other little complaint is with the romance angle. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about sexy Greek griffins. But Lizzie was a preschool teacher just a couple of weeks ago. She'd never heard of demons or magic, she'd never met her Grandma or smokin' hot Dimitri. Since then, life has been a whirlwind of trying to get up to speed . . . and stay alive.

I get that Lizzie and Dimitri have shared some intense experiences (read the first book to explore that understatement!) but Lizzie's transition to acceptance - and love - was awfully fast. She kept talking about "the old Dimitri," "this new man," and "the real Dimitri" (P. 106). But after only knowing a guy for a couple of weeks, how could she really be sure what the "old Dimitri" was like all of the time?

I'm thinking she couldn't, since Dimitri behaves very unreliably in this novel: disappearing, lying, keeping huge secrets, being undependable . . . and feeding on her without asking for permission. Lizzie sleeps with him anyway, and thinks about love when they mostly seem to connect through sex throughout the beginning and middle of this story. It gets a lot better at the end, don't worry. That's good, because for a while I was thinking that this seemed like a very unhealthy relationship and I was rooting for Lizzie to dump the griffin!

But mostly The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers is great: a clever, funny, creative, surprising, fast read. So let's wrap up with a few more positives, shall we?

Fox did a really nice job of catching up new readers - no easy task in a paranormal - without boring return customers like me. And she has some wonderful turns of phrase throughout this book. I'll close with a wee little quote from the first scene.

"Pardon," I mumbled as I braced one hand on a rust-flecked cigarette machine and eased a black boot up and over the very hairy man who seemed to be using the selection knobs for a pillow. His mouth slacked open and a snore rumbled in his throat. Of course he wouldn't have noticed if I'd tap-danced across his whatnots, but I was raised as a good Southern girl and, well, old habits die hard.

Check out the other reviews this month over at Barrie Summy's!