Today we welcome Jess Anastasi to Romancing the Book as Entangled Publishing takes over the blog for the week. Before we get to Jess’s guest post, let’s learn a little more about her.
Jess has been making up stories ever since she can remember. Though her messy handwriting made it hard for anyone else to read them, she wasn’t deterred and now she gets to make up stories for a living. She loves loud music, a good book on a rainy day, and probably spends too much time watching too many TV shows. Jess lives in regional Victoria, Australia, with her very supportive husband, three daughters, two hyper-active border collie dogs, and one cat who thinks he’s one of the kids.
I realized the other day that it’s been fifteen years since I first decided I wanted to write a book, and excitedly sat down to pen (or type, as it were) the opening pages, awakening a part of myself that would never slumber again. I still remember that book fondly, a historical romance (because that’s what I loved to read at the time) which I spent a long time thinking was so fabulous, surely I would immediately get it published and be a best selling author in no time.
But as many writers eventually discover, it was not quite as good as I believed, and ended up in the dark depths of my computer files, never to see the light of day again… Until today. I’ve decided to woman-up, put my big girl pants on and share the opening page of the first manuscript I ever wrote, and then gently point out a few newbie mistakes many of us make.
Here we go…
La Coruna, Spain, 1780
The tavern sat on the water’s edge, surrounded by rundown warehouses, brothels and other equally dilapidated premises. Captain Quintin Hawke sat slouched in a rough wooden seat, nursing a goblet of ale. His second in command, Ian Wright, sat across the equally crude table, talking with one of the local fishermen.
“You’re not yourself tonight,” Ian said to Quintin once the fisherman had wandered away. “Were you unhappy with the last job?”
Quintin shifted at the reminder of the deep slice across his ribs earned in a fight with a rival group of mercenaries. It really only hurt now when he twisted the wrong way. Or laughed. Or breathed.
“The last job was fine, it went as we planned,” Quintin finally replied.
“Then what is weighing on your mind?” Ian asked before Quintin could think of a way to change the subject.
Quintin hesitated for a moment. He’d known Ian for fifteen years and knew he could tell the man anything, Quintin just didn’t know if he felt like sharing tonight or not. He took a long swig of beer. What the hell, he had nothing else to talk about.
“I’m not sure exactly. Perhaps I am but dissatisfied with my life,” he tried in a blithe tone, attempting to take the seriousness out of it.
…And now for my top three newbie errors.
1) Prologue — I’m not saying prologues are wrong or bad, in the hands of some authors, they work quite well. But unfortunately, for most new authors, prologue is simply code for “back story info dumping.” Which this entire chapter definitely was. Nothing of any significance happens, but I do waste a lot of pages telling the reader who my hero is and why they should love him, instead of letting the reader figure it our for themselves.
2) Telling — This is one of those things that drives newbie writers crazy, and also made me nuts for many, many years. What the hell is telling? I may have yelled that question at my computer a time or two. Unfortunately for me, it was before they invented Siri, so my computer couldn’t tell me. Now I tend to think of it in terms of a filter. As in, you’re putting up a barrier between your reader and your character. By using words such as known/knew, feel/felt, look, reminder, watch, realize and many more, you effectively keep your reader on the outside of the action, telling them what’s happening inside your character’s head instead of simply being there and experiencing the information directly. You’ll be amazed at how much different your writing will be by taking a majority of these words out and using them sparingly.
3) Speech tags — As you can see in this short snippet, every single speech by a character is followed with said, or replied, or asked. This continued throughout the book, with some sighs and screeching thrown in during the dramatic scenes. Like the filter words, speech tags are better used sparingly. If you need to clarify who is talking, an action tag is usually stronger. Example:
“The last job was fine, it went as we planned.” Quintin took a quick swig of his beer.
Readers tend to skip over speech tags anyway, so they can be used when the pace of a scene needs to be fast. Now, it’s not to say that every line of speech needs an action tag, these too need to be in balance with everything else, and sometimes, the speech on its own has enough impact without anything tacked onto the end.
So that’s a glimpse into my first manuscript. I can barely believe its been fifteen years. I’ve definitely learned a lot in that time and no doubt I still have plenty to learn.
Quantum (Atrophy #2) by Jess Anastasi
Release Date: August 8, 2016
Someone wants Captain Admiral Zander Graydon dead. Like yesterday. Zander’s convinced his attractive assistant knows more than she’s willing to say, and if he can stop running long enough, he’ll find out exactly what she’s hiding. Lieutenant Marshal Mae Petros is determined to keep her CO safe. Before she tips her hand, however, Mae has to figure out if the alluring man she’s protecting is the real Captain Admiral Graydon. Or an alien shape-shifting imposter.
On the run and no one to trust…not even each other.
Captain Admiral Zander Graydon has seen a lot of action, but almost getting killed three times in one day is pushing it. Only the company of his new assistant, Lieutenant Marshal Mae Petros, makes things a little easier to swallow. Except the delectable Lieutenant Marshal Petros is hiding a number of secrets, and her presence might have something to do with the continued attempts on his life.
It’s no accident Lieutenant Marshal Mae Petros finds herself in the firing line alongside the charming but very off-limits Captain Admiral Graydon. She’s taken the job as the admiral’s assistant to determine if a shape-shifting alien has killed the CO and assumed his form. Whether the admiral is human or not, Mae finds herself getting way too close to him as they run for their lives.
Military to the core, Mae and Zander will have to overcome their suspicions of each other to work together, when they realize the fate of the entire universe is at stake.