24 November 2013

Excerpt #4

You may recall that last month I wrote about outlining a novel before writing the first draft, and how I was convinced it was going to change everything about my NaNoWriMo experience this year. I happily followed along with my outline until about a week ago, when I realized it might not even get me to 50,000 words, much less the 75-80,000 I was aiming for. I knew I would need to go back in and write more scenes, so I started adding the main character's time at the vet clinic she volunteers at, instead of glossing over those parts. I ended up with six new characters out of it, including a tired vet, a grumpy receptionist, and a brand new love interest for the main character (which completely undos the rest of the outline I had planned.) So this excerpt is from the next 10,000 words I wrote since the last excerpt, only this scene is actually from the second chapter of the novel. As always, please excuse the roughness of this draft.

After my classes on Tuesday I bike over to Paws n Claws, the vet clinic I’ve been volunteering at for the past year. The vet, Dr. Ransom, loves to have students help out, mostly because then he doesn’t have to pay anyone to clean up the kennels for the boarding animals. But he’s also a great mentor. I love working at the clinic, and can feel myself getting excited as I get closer.
I let myself in through the back door, and find myself face to face with Jeff, the young-William-Shatner look-alike. He’s tossing a ball for the two black Labs that are staying at the clinic while their owners are on vacation. He smiles at me as I walk in.
“Hey, gorgeous,” he says.
I raise my eyebrows. “Did you forget my name? Let me remind you. It’s Lis.” My no-nonsense tone does nothing to erase his cocky grin. He tosses the ball again, the Labs thundering after it, drool flying in the air.
“Where’s Dr. Ransom?”
Jeff inclines his head toward the break room. “In there. He’s taking a nap. Had a surgery this morning, it wiped him out.”
“Want to play?” He offers the ball to me. It’s covered in drool and teeth marks.
“Nope. You’re on your own.” He shrugs, and resumes throwing for the dogs. It looks like all three of them are having fun. I smile. It’s nice to work with fellow animal lovers.
Dr. Ransom has his head on the break room table. He’s awake, and tapping on his phone. Looking over his shoulder, I can see that he’s playing a game. Nice. He turns his head at the sound of my footsteps.
“Lis! Have I got a job for you.”
I perk up at this. “Great! What is it?” I get excited any time I have a chance to do something more than menial labor.
“Bob Samhain is in the lobby. Go see what he’s brought in today, and get him to go home.”
I groan, not even bothering to hide my displeasure. “Can’t Jeff do it?”
“Jeff is new. Bob would walk all over him. He’ll listen to you, though. Think about it! You can incorporate your interactions with him into your applications!”
“I finished them yesterday.”
“Oh. Well, you still need to go talk to him. These angry birds aren’t going to kill any pigs by themselves.”
I shamble out into the lobby. Bob is the only person there, except for Annette, Dr. Ransom’s receptionist. Her lips are pursed tightly, and she is glaring at Bob, who is leaning over a cage and whispering to it.
“How long this time?” I ask Annette.
“Thirty minutes.” I don’t know how she talks without moving her lips out of their disapproving expression. It’s impressive. I don’t think I could have made it through thirty minutes of that stare. But, Bob is persistent. Or obsessive. Take your pick.
“Hi, Bob.”
“Lis is short for Lisette, actually.” It’s not the first time he’s heard this.
“Take a look at this little guy.” He holds the carrier up to my face. “I think he might have eaten a cigarette butt on campus.”
It takes a lot of self-restraint to hold in a sigh. Bob comes in every couple of weeks with some wild animal who needs “saving.” It is frequently not legal to be in possession of these animals. Today, it’s a squirrel, one of the hundreds that roam the CSU campus. It may be legal to have a squirrel, but it is certainly not smart.
Bob hitches up his pants. He’s wearing his usual ensemble of a pair of overalls over a wifebeater tank top. His hair is thin, awkwardly combed over the top of his head. He looks down on his luck, and my heart hurts a little. It’s sweet how much Bob loves these animals, even if his love is a little… misguided. So today I decide to humor him.
“Hmm. He’s not being as active as I would expect for a squirrel of his… size,” I say, making it up as I go along. “Let me take him to Dr. Ransom.”
“Oh, thank you, Elizabeth, thank you!” Bob is practically glowing. I take the cage from him gingerly and head to the back room. Annette’s look of disgust is now aimed at me. I’m okay with that.
Dr. Ransom sits up abruptly in his chair when I walk in with the cage. “Darn it, Lis. Really?”
“Sorry. He was so upset.”
“Now I’m upset,” Dr. Ransom mumbles. “Do you have a plan?”
“Sort of.”
I take the cage out back, where Jeff is now brushing the black Labs. He looks up at me from where he’s sitting. 
“What is that?”
“A squirrel.”
“Okay.” He resumes brushing. “Why?”
“Bob Samhain brought him in.”
Jeff nods. “Oh yeah. Annette told me about him. What are you going to do with the squirrel?”
I look out into the alley behind the clinic. Not exactly prime squirrel territory. “I was thinking of letting him out and pretending he had so much vim and vigor that he escaped.”
Jeff brightens. “I have an even better idea.” He takes the cage from me. “Allow me, mademoiselle.” He leads me back into the clinic, and starts poking through his backpack. “Voila!” He holds up a pack of SweetTarts.
“I don’t get it.”
“Wait for it, ma cherie.”
I roll my eyes. I never should have told him that my mother is French.
He also digs out a prescription pill bottle and dumps the pills into a pocket of his bag. “Those are souped up ibuprofen. I don’t have any weird diseases, if you were wondering.”
“I wasn’t.” 
Jeff begins to peel the label with his name on it off, using his fingernail to unstick it from the bottle. When it finally comes off, he dumps the SweetTarts in the bottle.
“What are you doing?”
Jeff grabs a Sharpie off of Dr. Ransom’s desk and writes NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION on the bottle. He picks up the squirrel and heads out toward the lobby. I follow him, not sure what’s going to happen or if I should stop it.
“Mr. Samhain?” he asks when he sees Bob. Bob springs to his feet more easily than I would have expected for a man of his size. Jeff holds his free hand out to shake with Bob, who looks dazed at Jeff’s enthusiasm. “My name is Scott Simpson, and I have just the thing for your squirrel.”
“Yes?” Bob leans forward eagerly. “Scott” hands him the pill bottle filled with candy.
“Now, I can’t write you an official prescription, as this is a wild animal, but I can give you these. Feed one to the squirrel every thirty minutes, and when the bottle is empty, let the squirrel go. Sound good?”
Bob nods. “Oh yes, Dr. Simpson, I can handle that. I’ll take good care of the little guy.”
“I’m sure you will. Bye bye now.”
We stand in the lobby and watch as Bob practically runs out the door with the squirrel and his “medicine.” Once he’s safely gone, I turn to Jeff and hit him in the shoulder.
“What is wrong with you?”
Jeff rubs his arm. “What is wrong with you? I just made Bob’s day.”
“By telling him to feed a squirrel SweetTarts! That is so wrong!”
Jeff shrugs. “So we’ll fire Dr. Simpson. The guy’s a dick, anyway.”
I roll my eyes at him and head back to the break room. Jeff hurries after me. Thankfully, Dr. Ransom is back in his office.
“Wait! Lis!”
I whirl around to face him, arms folded over my chest. “What?”
“What are you doing Saturday night?”
My jaw drops open. “Are you asking me out?”
“No, I’m taking a survey.” It’s Jeff’s turn to roll his eyes now. “Yes, I’m asking you out. What, do you have a boyfriend?”
    My cheeks are burning. “Actually, I have plans with my friends that night. Sorry.” A work meeting to see if I want to investigate cheating boyfriends is kind of the same thing.

18 November 2013

Another excerpt!

I passed the 30,000 mark while on mini-vacation in Steamboat Springs this past weekend. I'll post about that next, but in the meantime, here's a snippet from the most recent batch of 10,000 words!
Lis and Will, our main characters, have discovered each other's deceptions. Lis is willing to overlook Will's mistake; he doesn't feel the same way. This is how Lis decides to cope.

I take Tiffani’s advice and spend the weekend getting over Will in the cheesiest way possible. I watch every romantic movie I can find on Netflix’s Watch Instantly list. I buy four different kinds of Ben&Jerry’s and eat about half of it. I can’t bring myself to eat all that ice cream, though, because come on. I’m not crossing the line into completely pathetic. I just want to have some fun with my sadness. At one point I try watching Star Trek because it’s my usual go-to whenever I feel sad, but when Captain Kirk shows up on my screen I burst into tears. I can’t watch Next Generation, either, because every time Riker sits down I think about how funny it is that Will copies him and I start doing this weird laugh-cry thing that always ends in choking on my own snot. So no Trek.
Adele calls me Sunday evening. She hasn’t called me since the whole Wyatt thing happened two months ago. I can barely believe my eyes when I see her name on the screen when my phone rings.
“Hi, Lis.”
“Hi, Adele.”
“How are your vet school applications going?”
“I finished them a while ago. I’m just waiting to hear back.”
Normally I would make more of an effort to talk to my sister, but right now I feel pretty self-absorbed.
“Can you do me a favor?”
“When you come up for Thanksgiving, can you bring some yarn for me? I can’t find the kind I want here in Laramie.”
That’s a common problem for the residents of “Laradise”, but the usual solution is to go to a craft store in Cheyenne.
“Do you really want to wait that long? Why don’t you just go to Cheyenne?”
“I, um, I can’t.”
“Why not?”
Long pause this time. “I got banned from the craft store.”
“What?” Adele finally has my full attention. “What did you do?”
Adele’s voice wavers. “Mom drove me there last weekend, and I found everything I needed but, um, Wyatt was there.”
“In a craft store?”
“He was there with his new girlfriend,” Adele whispers. “And I just got so mad, I started yelling at him and telling his girlfriend she should dump his ass, and then I may or may not have started throwing skeins of yarn at him. Spoiler alert: I did. I hit him in the head.” She pauses. “And the balls.”
“He deserves it.”
“Well, the manager didn’t agree, and now I’m not allowed back in. Neither is Mom, because she didn’t try to stop me.”
“I’m surprised she didn’t throw a few balls of yarn herself.”
“She was busy holding my purse so I could use both hands.”
“Wow, Adele.”
“Yeah. So I need you to bring me some yarn.”
“Well, yeah, sure, but what do you need it for?”
“Oh. Um, I learned how to crochet. You know, while I was spending so much time in my room. So now I make blankets for the kids in the fostering program. I can teach you how when you come home.”
“That sounds great, Delly. I’d love to help you with that.”
She gives me the list of all the yarn she needs before hanging up. I stare at the list in shock for a few minutes. So this is how my sister is getting over Wyatt. Making blankets for kids. Wow.
I’m proud of Adele. It may have taken her weeks of hiding out in her room, but the way she’s chosen to come back to normal life is admirable.
As much as I’ve enjoyed my weekend shotgunning ice cream and sappy movies, I can’t wallow forever. It’s not in my nature to sit around and do nothing. So… what should I do? Move on, find a new guy to fool around with? Resign myself to spinsterhood until I graduate from vet school?
What I really want, though, is Will. And maybe this isn’t the best plan, because my brain has been warped by too many romantic comedies, but I am going to get him back.

16 November 2013

Guest Post- Don't Fall into a Plot Hole, by Connie B. Dowell

Welcome to the back half of NaNoWriMo! I hope everyone is on pace to finish, and if you are anything like me by now you've discovered at least one major flaw in your work! Today, Connie B. Dowell of bookechoes.com is here to talk to us about plot holes and what to do with them. If you like her post, check out her website and follow her on Twitter @ConnieBDowell

Don’t Fall in a Plot Hole! Cover It with a Rug.

It’s the middle of NaNoWriMo, and, as those participating probably know by now, the middle of the month is often the most challenging. It’s when the shine of an idea wears off and the realities of its potentials and limitations set in. It’s when the pretty, smooth road on your story map turns into a reality rife with potential pot holes… I mean, plot holes.
Don’t let those plot holes stop you, though. The best thing to do for a plot hole is to fill it… eventually. You’re sprinting to 50,000 words and may not have time immediately to go back and explain or foreshadow. For now, however, as you delve deep into your story world, there are some strategies to distract from these gaping holes, strategies used by successful stories that actually left those holes in.

Warning! Spoilers below for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Futurama.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

In this book, Harry is chosen for the Triwizard Tournament, a deadly competition for the honor of his school, only to discover at the end that it was all a plot by Voldemort and his followers to get him off school grounds so they could use his blood to give Voldemort a new body… and kill him, of course. When he reaches the cup at the end of the final competition, it turns out to be a portkey that transports him away.

The Hole

Okay. I’m going to give a lot of leeway here. Sure, they could have used anything as a portkey at any time, but the Triwizard Cup is an especially good one for the following reasons:

• The tournament is known for deadly accidents, thus, providing a handy explanation for Harry’s death.

• The final competition takes place at the end of the year, and it took a long time to get Voldemort ready for a new body.

But those reasons still don’t quite cut it. Here’s a much safer route the Death Eaters could have taken:

• Leave Harry out of the tournament. No big spotlight means people don’t notice his whereabouts.

• Do wait for the final competition. It gives the Death Eaters the time they need, and the excitement and crowds of the competition provide much needed distraction and cover.

• Kids get injured—often seriously—at Hogwarts all the time. Come up with a plausible accident (and there are tons) and make it look convincing.

Why you might not notice it

There. Were. Dragons! And mermaids! And a sketchy reporter-beetle. And a creepy maze. Oh yeah, and the dual Bartemius Crouches and oh-my-gosh so much exciting and distracting stuff. Spectacle, pure and simple. Rowling needed Harry in the spotlight for this, even though it was a huge risk for the Death Eaters to take, so she made the competition so interesting that on the first read I didn’t notice the hole. And when I did, I didn’t care.

Futurama, “Spanish Fry”

Fry’s nose is stolen by aliens to sell as an aphrodisiac. Fry, Leela, and Bender visit Lrrr, of Omicron Persei 8, who bought Fry’s nose, hoping to convince him to return it. Lrrr decides he wants a rather different body part from Fry.

The Hole

The Professor has a cloning machine. Fry could have a new nose by afternoon. The crew even brings this up, but Fry dismisses it, with the flimsy excuse that he’d have to teach a new one how to snort milk.

Why you might not notice it

Again, spectacle. There’s a sketchy bazaar where somebody’s roasting an automobile in the background. Then the crew goes to visit Lrrr to watch scary alien Lrrr and his wife bicker over their relationship problems in a hilariously mundane fashion. By the time Lrrr decides to chop off Fry’s you-know, I’d forgotten all about the cloning option.

So, what does this tell us?

If you have to have a plot hole, cover it with flash. Make the world of your story so darn interesting that everybody forgets all about that logical flaw. Now, the middle of a draft, is the best time for that. You should be deep into heart of your story, exploring new facets of the world, really pushing your concept to its potential. It’s no excuse not to try and fill your holes in December (even if you only fill them with an explanation about teaching a nose tricks), but know that popular stories like these prove that spectacle can trump logic.

Connie B. Dowell writes, edits, and tutors in Virginia. For fun, she counts plot holes in books and T.V. shows. One day, she will know how many plot holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. You can find her at http://bookechoes.com/

11 November 2013

Excerpt the Second

I hit 20,000 words last night, so it's time for an excerpt from this set of 10,000 words! Here's the backstory you need: Lis, the main character, has been hired by Will's girlfriend to investigate whether or not he'll cheat on her while she spends a semester in Italy. Lis starts to fall for Will, which is a big no-no. So, she's torn--she wants him to be faithful to his girlfriend, like a good guy; on the other hand, she wants him to like her. As always, this is an unpolished first draft. Enjoy!

The morning of the Biochem exam is the first time I don’t sit next to Will in two weeks. There’s just no way I can focus on the exam when there’s a constant electric tingle between the two of us. Even if I’m the only one feeling it. I walk into class at eight fifty-seven, and by then there are only a few seats left. I squeeze in between a girl with pink hair and a sweaty guy with glasses that keep falling to the end of his nose. Perfect. These two won’t distract me at all. Although pink hair girl does kind of look like she wants to punch someone.
Studying with Will really has helped me. I can tell that he’s really good at figuring out what material will show up on the exam, because we’ve studied everything that shows up on the test. I feel confident after completing the first page, and manage to find a zone that works for me. I don’t lift my pencil off the paper until nine forty-five—actually finishing early! I hand in my paper, giving the professor a big smile. 
“It’s nice to see that someone looks happy,” he comments. “Have a good weekend. Enjoy the game!”
“Thanks.” I beam at him. Tiffani gave me a Rams Volleyball shirt, and I decided to wear it all day to support her. The game tonight is against Utah, one of the other teams in our conference. It’ll be a good game. Mallory, Serena, and I are all going together to cheer for Tiff.
I walk out of the classroom and suck in a huge gulp of air when I see Will leaning against the wall opposite the door. He pushes off the wall and comes over to me.
“How’d you do?” 
“Pretty well. You?”
“I finished ten minutes ago,” he brags, reaching back to pat himself on the back. “We should study together for the rest of the semester.” My heart skips a beat, and all I can do is nod. The rest of our class has begun to file out the door of the classroom. Most people don’t look happy. I start to walk towards the student center, and for once Will falls into step next to me.
“You didn’t sit next to me today,” he says. It’s not a question, but I answer it anyway.
“Well, since we study together, I thought we should split up for the test so people didn’t think we were cheating.” It’s a small lie, but I still feel like dirt for saying it. 
Will looks satisfied, though. “Okay, but on Monday, you should come back to your spot.” I feel warm all over when he says “your spot,” and I tighten my grip on my bag. Will reaches out and rubs the sleeve of my volleyball shirt between his thumb and forefinger. I have to concentrate hard on walking in a straight line.
“Are you going to the game tonight?” he asks.
I nod. Then I realize that this is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for. “Do you want to come with me?” I hold my breath, waiting for his answer.
He gives me a sideways glance, and stuffs his hands into his pockets. “Okay. I haven’t been to a game since freshman year, though. You might have to remind me of the rules.”
My heart is simultaneously leaping and sinking, which feels horrible. “I can do that,” I manage to choke out.
He smiles at me. “Great. I’ll meet you on the north side of the arena right before the game.” I nod, and stretch my lips into something that might be considered a smile.
“Where are you headed?” he asks me.
“The student center. I haven’t had breakfast yet. I was going to get a muffin before my next class.” My stomach rumbles when I say “muffin,” and I hope Will can’t hear it.
He nods his head. “I’m done for the day, so I’m going to head home. See you tonight.” 
When he smiles at me, I think I might actually fall down because my knees have turned to Jell-O. Does he have any idea he looks just like Captain Kirk?  
I wonder if Emma like Star Trek, and if watching it is something that the two of them like to do together. A pang of jealousy stabs me in the chest, making it hard to breathe. I send Mallory a text to tell her about my plan for tonight. I hope I can get this case over with soon. 
My phone buzzes. Mallory says that after the game she’ll report to Emma, and I can be done. I let out a huge sigh of relief. The knot in my stomach untangles a little, enough for me to feel hungry again.
The line at the cafe is pretty long, so I have plenty of time to stand around and think while I wait for my turn to order. I’m really excited for the game tonight, to spend time with Will doing something more fun than studying. But… if he goes to the game with me, does that make him a cheater? Can I still like him, then?
Now I’ve lost my appetite. 

05 November 2013

Excerpt the first!

This year's NaNoWriMo work is a geeky New Adult contemporary romance, tentatively titled Boldly Go. I just passed the 10,000 word mark, so it's time for an excerpt! This is the first time the two main characters meet, and they get to show their nerd sides a little.
A note: This is a first draft that has not been polished AT ALL, in the true spirit of NaNoWriMo. So don't judge me too harshly.

I still haven’t made a final decision on my outfit by eight AM on Monday, which is driving me crazy. I’m driving today so I won’t look all windblown like I usually do when I ride my bike. I pick out a short denim skirt and a bright red button-up blouse with cap sleeves. Cringing a little, I don’t wear a tank top under it like I usually do. The buttons spread apart a little bit because it’s a tiny bit too small, and if I sit on Will’s left, he’ll probably get a glimpse of the black bra I’m wearing underneath. Man. I haven’t dressed this calculatingly in a long time. Looking sexy does give me confidence, which I desperately need today.
It takes me forever to find a parking spot on campus, and I have to hurry to get to class, which hurts because I’m wearing little black ballet flats that don’t support my feet at all. I really need to make sure I get there early, though, so I can get a seat next to Will. I usually sit in the back, and if I remember correctly I usually see him sitting in the front. It’s a big lecture hall, though, with at least a hundred and fifty seats. I cross my fingers for luck.
There he is! I recognize those broad shoulders, probably because I stare at them a lot when lecture gets boring. I smooth down my hair and walk confidently down the aisle to the front row, shaking my hips unashamedly. Bingo! Will is the first one to sit down in the front row, and no one else is claiming the seats next to him. I slide into the seat on his left, just as I planned, and flash him a smile.
“Hi. I’m Lis,” I say. His eyebrows are raised, and I catch his eyes drifting down towards my chest before they snap back to my face.
“I’m Will. Nice to meet you.” He speaks slowly, and gives me a tentative grin. I guess he’s not used to random girls introducing themselves in big lecture classes. I’d be surprised, too. Usually I don’t bother making friends with people in a class this big. 
I drop my messenger bag on the floor after pulling out my notebook, bending down to push it safely under my seat. His bag is on the floor already, and… is that seriously a Starfleet Academy logo pin on the front flap? 
Time for the Fairchild Star Trek True Fan Test, as developed by my father in 2009 when the JJ Abrams movie came out.
“I like your pin,” I tell him, flashing another smile. “Did you like the new Star Trek movie?”
He nods, giving me a look of approval. “I did, yeah. It was great, but I’ll always have a place in my heart for the original Khan.”
My heart flutters. He just skipped the first part of the test and moved into the second phase. “You like the original movies? Which is your favorite?”
He leans back in his chair, crossing his arms and ankles and staring at me with a crooked grin. “I can never decide. I go back and forth between the original cast and the Next Generation all the time. This week, my favorite is First Contact.”
My jaw drops open. He just passed the test, flying colors, true fan award. It’s all I can do not to crawl in his lap and start making out with him right here in class. 
“I like Wrath of Khan myself, but  First Contact is a close second.”
He nods tightly. “Not too many girls have seen the old movies. Most of them just want to talk about how hot Zachary Quinto is as Spock.”
“And then they get all disappointed when you tell them he’s gay,” I add. 
He laughs. “Exactly!”
The professor turns on the projector and dims the lights so we can see his lecture on the screen. I wipe my palms on my skirt, trying not to let Will see. Oh my gosh, he’s hot and he likes Star Trek. This is unbelievable. It’s all I can do to follow along with the lecture notes. I keep peeking out of the corner of my eye at Will. He seems to take really good notes. One time, though, I see his head whip back to his paper when I look at him. My cheeks burn. I feel sick to my stomach in the best way possible.