Battling Back the Beast: How to Tame Your Overlength Novel

HarryPBigSpider2

 

If you’re like me, you feel a naïve rush of hope every time you spot a new article about overlength novels. Then, by the end of the article, you feel crushing despair. Because the answer’s always the same: if you’re a first-time novelist, and your novel’s overlength, your chances of landing an agent or publisher are slim-to-none.

Sadly, it makes sense – extra-long books cost more to publish (extra paper, extra ink). They take up more horizontal space, meaning fewer copies can occupy the bookstore shelf, and they can also be intimidating to consumers because giant tomes are both more expensive and more daunting to read. For a publisher to take that kind of risk on an unproven author (J.K. Rowling and Stephen King can go ahead and relax) doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

The arguments against overlength novels are all very logical. The problem is, if you’re like me, and your novel falls into this category, then you’re pretty much screwed, right? You’ve got a product that is most likely unmarketable to agents and publishers. Sure, you could self-publish, but that doesn’t solve every issue. The length will still be off-putting to readers, and you may have to spend (and therefore charge) more if you’re doing a print edition. Another solution might be to split the novel into two or more parts. This will only work if you’ve genuinely got two or more complete stories contained within your bulky mammoth of a book – which unfortunately isn’t the case for the majority of overlength novels (it wasn’t for mine).

The best option for most writers, even those who want to self-publish, is simply to cut your manuscript down to size. An “acceptable” length for a first-time novel is about 90,000 to 120,000 words, according to Writer’s Market. I’ve heard from other sources that even going above 100,000 words is a risk. For fantasy or science fiction novels, you have a little more breathing room, with the maximum acceptable length being around 150,000 words. (This is to allow for the world-building necessary in these types of books.)

So, if your book is over 200,000 words, and you’re not even at the climax yet, you’re probably feeling pretty darn hopeless right now, because that’s a LOT of material destined for the cutting room floor. I know that feeling of despair all too well, because I’ve been there. My novel’s first draft weighed in at almost 300,000 words. Shocking, I know. Hopefully, most people reading this will get to say, “Well, at least mine’s shorter than hers.” That may be small comfort, however, when reality sinks back in and you’re still looking at 50,000-100,000 words of cuts.

Thankfully, the saga of my overlength novel has a somewhat happy ending: the current draft is in the 150,000-word range, and it’s getting closer to “acceptable” length every day. To me, it’s nothing short of a miracle. A time-consuming, frustrating, and frequently heartbreaking miracle, but a miracle nonetheless.

So, to all of my fellow overlength novelists out there, I came here today to give you back your hope. I came here to tell you it CAN be done: your novel CAN be whittled down into something that would not make an agent physically cringe at the mere sight of your word count. And I came here, most importantly, to tell you HOW this can be accomplished.

The following are some strategies I used to cut more than 140,000 words from my first novel, shaping it into a sleeker, stronger and hopefully more marketable book:

LARGE-SCALE CUTS

Go chapter by chapter. Do a breakdown of the vital information each chapter contains (e.g. maybe Chapter Two introduces an important character, or advances the plot in some way). Identify chapters that don’t accomplish very much. Cut those chapters entirely, and find other places to fit in the few stray passages that were relevant to the overall story.

Go plotline by plotline. If your book’s upwards of 200,000 words, chances are you’ve got not just a main plot, but quite a few subplots and other threads woven in there (e.g. the SPEW storyline in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Choose which are the most important to the larger arc of the book. Cut out the rest. And remember to eliminate all traces and future mentions of scenes you’ve decided to delete. If you’re not careful, you’ll wind up having the main character referring back to some incident that’s no longer in the book. Cue reader confusion!

Learn to make hard choices. You will have to cut chapters you adore. You will have to eliminate characters you have grown to love, characters who feel like real people. You will have to bring the axe down on some of your most breathtaking descriptions, your funniest jokes, and the scene it took you two months to get perfect. Take a deep breath, wipe a tear from your eye, and DO IT. As Stephen King says, “Kill your darlings.”

SMALL-SCALE CUTS

Go paragraph by paragraph. Weed out anything that wanders, meanders or breaks the flow. Cut out any bits that go off on boring tangents that take the reader away from what the scene is trying to accomplish (e.g. backstory is cool, but if you suddenly zip back to a main character’s childhood for three paragraphs right when he’s in the middle of a conversation, the readers are going to lose their place in the conversation). Also be on the lookout for redundant sentences (e.g. “Greg had hoped to find Mandy somewhere in the building, but he was out of luck. He looked upstairs and downstairs and couldn’t find her anywhere.” I mean, do you really need both of those? They kinda say the same thing. Plus, the first sentence gives away exactly what’s going to be revealed in the second. One of these babies needs to go!)

Change passive to active. Zero in on any instances of passive voice and rearrange those parts into active voice (e.g. change “The tests were handed out by Julia” to “Julia handed out the tests”). This usually cuts a word or two, not to mention the fact that most publishers hate passive voice, so it’s like a “two birds, one stone” kind of deal. :)

Go line by line. Check for unnecessary words in each sentence. Like, maybe you have Billy tilting his head back to look up at the sky. Well, if Billy’s looking at the sky, do you really need to say that he’s tilting back his head or do you even really need the word “up?” The mere act of looking at the sky implies his head is tilted back and he’s looking in an upward direction. (Unless Billy’s in an alternate universe where up is down and down is up. Then some clarification would be warranted.)

Learn when to tell instead of show. I know, I know, one of the Golden Rules of Writing is “Show, DON’T Tell,” but you have to know how to apply that rule. A story that tells absolutely everything isn’t going to be very good. But neither is a story that shows absolutely everything. When I was writing my first draft, I took the “Show, Don’t Tell” Rule a bit too seriously, and wound up with long paragraphs describing my character unzipping his backpack, searching around inside it, pulling out his notebook, unzipping a different compartment on his backpack, searching around inside it, pulling out a pen, and then, FINALLY beginning to write in his notebook (after he’d rezipped all the compartments, of course). See what I mean? There are things you must show because they’re vital to plot, character development, etc. Backpack zipping and other mundane tasks like walking and normal breathing are not things that need to be shown in depth. Just do a quick “tell” for those types of things, and you’ll be better off.

MORE TIPS AND TRICKS

Don’t do it alone. Get as much help as you can from friends, relatives, writing group members, English teachers and anyone else you can convince to read your book. Emphasize to these helpers that you need to cut words, and you need their honest opinions about what’s boring, what’s unnecessary, and what just plain doesn’t work.

Set small, reachable goals. Baby steps will get you to the finish line. My initial goal was to cut 100,000 words from my manuscript. However, that was too overwhelming to face all at once, so I broke it down into smaller chunks. I wrote the number “100” on a piece of blank white paper. When I’d successfully cut 1,000 words, I crossed out the “100” and wrote “99.” I chugged steadily along, cutting 1,000 words at a time, and then rewarding myself by getting to cross out the current number and write a lower one. Finally, one amazingly joyful day, I got to write “0.”

Once I’d completed the massive 100,000-word cut, I set a new goal: 10,000 more. This time around, instead of measuring by the thousands, I decided to cut 100 words from every chapter. Since my novel has just shy of 100 chapters, 100 words from each would result in a 10,000 word cut. It worked!

Cut anything that’s not awesome. You want your whole book to rock, right? Well if there’s a paragraph that doesn’t “wow” you, why not just get rid of it? Do the same for chapters, dialogue, plotlines, etc. Make the entire novel sparkle by slicing away any parts that don’t shine quite brightly enough.

And finally:

Remember what you’re fighting for. Sure, you want to get published, and to have a marketable product that people will want to read. But honestly, deep down, that’s not the main reason you’re doing this. Try to remember, through all of the cuts and the long hours and the heartbreak, that what you’re really fighting for is a better book. The very best book you are capable of writing. A book you would be proud to send to an agent, hand to an editor, or simply put out into the world with your name on the cover in nice, bold print.

And however much of your novel you need to cut in order to achieve this, you will get there.

One word at a time.

HarryP Little Spider

 

 

The Race 2014-2015: The Results (Dun-Dun-Dun…)

RaceImageWell, it happened. Not sure I wanted it to happen, but it did. This year, a new show raced past old favorites to clinch the top spot. Not that this will shock the pants off of anybody, but that new show was Forever. I fell noggin-over-feet in love with the pilot, and my adoration only grew bigger and brighter over the course of the season. ‘Course, then it got CANCELLED, and I still don’t know what to do with that horrible decision on ABC’s part. The fans have been fighting for the show like pissed off cats all summer long, but a few days ago Forever‘s creator, Matt Miller, basically told us it’s all but over.

Forever wasn’t the only loss, either. Far from it. Other victims of the “axe” included Stalker (CBS), Red Band Society (FOX), Battle Creek (CBS), and – one of my all-time favorites – The Mentalist (CBS). In other words, it was a bloodbath out there!

But this review isn’t about what happened after the season ended. It’s about the awesomeness we got to watch while our shows were still on the air.

So, in that spirit of celebration, I give you the final results of this year’s 2014-2015 TV season, ranked from highest to lowest.

Forever: 9/10

This one just grabbed me. Right from the get-go. And it held on tight all season long. The commercials really didn’t do Forever justice (probably a big part of the ratings issue). While the ads (which became rarer as the season progressed, and non-existent at the end) focused on mundane case-of-the-week details, the true beauty of this show is in the small moments between characters, the richly-textured flashbacks, and the clever way in which past, present and future weave together for a character who has all the time in the world.

There are too many phenomenal individual scenes to list them all, but some end-of-season highlights include the final showdown in the tunnel with Adam, the touching moment when Henry learned that the slaves had not died because of him, Henry and Lucas’ final scene together in the lab, Jo and Henry saying what they mean to each other in the car, and Abe’s poignant search for his missing mother.

But the biggest, most epic scene for me was when Henry actually physically found Abigail’s remains at long last. It was just pure, straight-up heartbreak as he ran down that slope, flashing back to all of their moments together over the span of their relationship. Such a beautiful and well-developed love story, resolved in a powerful and satisfying (if utterly devastating) way. If Forever doesn’t come back to life on some network, sometime, in some form, it will be a crime.

The Mentalist: 8/10

As evidenced by the copious amounts of fanfic I’ve written for it, this show has been one of my absolute faves for years. It wasn’t easy to say goodbye, but we knew it was coming (unlike Forever, grrrrr) and we at least got some decent closure. Both the writers and the actors did a fantabulous job of making viewers fall in love with a whole new team at the FBI. Wylie was an instant favorite, Abbott morphed from dangerous adversary to amazingly loyal friend, and Michelle quickly won over our hearts by being her own woman – a real woman who made mistakes, learned things from them, and improved as an agent. Her Cho-worship was pretty endearing, too. If I were on that team, I’d be fangirling Cho, big-time. He owns cool.

Of course, we did lose Michelle. I have mixed feelings about that creative decision, because it didn’t serve the purpose I expected (driving Jane away from law enforcement for good). I guess her death was just something to remind us of the darkness in life, and how you can eventually step out blinking into the sunshine and feel warm again.

The end of The Mentalist‘s 7.5-year run was warm. It made me feel good. I loved the revival of the fake psychic stuff in the final eps. Not sure about the wedding, though – it seemed too soon for Jane and Lisbon to tie the knot, seeing as he had, seemingly just days before the wedding, decided to leave town (and wouldn’t even return her calls!). Also, they hadn’t resolved a major, deal-breaker issue in their relationship: Jane wanted Lisbon to quit the FBI due to the danger of her profession.

Nonetheless, as RedFi over on the Paint It Red Forum aptly pointed out, it was like the show came full circle – when we met Jane, he’d lost both his wife and his child, and when we left him, he had a new wife and child. A whole new beginning. Also, Simon Baker acted the freakin’ crap out of that scene where he found out Lisbon was carrying their child. Wowza. He looked unearthly beautiful in his wedding attire, too. That vest really brought out his eyes in wonderful ways. Lisbon looked gorgeous, too (loved the dress!!!), but Cho was clearly in the bathroom when she picked out that veil/headpiece thingy. Not sure what it was supposed to look like, but it missed the mark by about fifty yards.

In the end, The Mentalist left us with a fresh new start, all options wide open. It left me with a smile on my lips, a feeling of hope in my heart, and a strong hankering to write lots more fanfic.

It also left me asking, “Why?” Because, as my mom kept loudly repeating over the course of the season, “This is still a great show! Why are they taking it off?” Why, indeed?

Realizing The Mentalist had been on for seven-and-a-half seasons made me also realize that this is the first time in all those years that I fell in love with a new show (Forever). Great TV, for me, is that rare. There are so few shows I would write fanfic for…

…And two of them just went off the air. Wonder how long it’ll be before another great rises up. And how quickly it, too, will get cancelled in favor of mindless, cheap-to-produce reality junk.

:(

Supernatural: 7.9/10

At least this old battle-horse is still in the race! I honestly don’t know what I’ll do when Supernatural is gone. No need to think about that now, though – my final remaining “fanfic show” will happily be back next year for its eleventh season.

As for Season Ten: strong overall. The beginning was a bit on the rocky side, but after that I was a pretty satisfied customer. The theme for the year was obviously “family” and the writers found interesting and creative ways to carry this over to all of the different characters. Cass went on a quest to locate and help his vessel’s troubled daughter, Claire. Crowley, meanwhile, had to deal with his hilariously horrible, literal witch of a mother, Rowena. And of course, Sammy spent the whole season trying to save Dean, which just fills up our glasses with delicious brotherly love.

One thing that tainted the whole family vibe – Charlie’s death. I didn’t see the necessity of killing her off, and I sure as heck didn’t like it. Also, it happened in a stupid way. Stupid deaths are just the worst. AlsoX2, I didn’t fully believe that it happened (still don’t) because of the way they didn’t show it onscreen. I would not be surprised (just really, really elated) if she showed up next year, our bad@$$ hacker with the D&D tattoo, returned from having faked her own death.

As it was, I couldn’t even cry at her funeral. I felt like an emotional pancake – totally flat. Something about the way it was filmed, maybe? Or just the fact that I didn’t completely “buy” the death? I don’t know. FYI, I actually didn’t cry at Bobby’s death, either (hey, stop throwing stuff at me!). It’s not that I didn’t love him. It’s just due to issues of how the episode was written/filmed. Bobby’s coma was compared to two different situations: Dean’s coma (from which death was the only escape) and Rufus’ coma (from which death seemed like the only escape, yet Rufus found a way to wake up and survive). When Bobby flat-lined, I didn’t think there was anything necessarily final about it, because the ep didn’t do a good job of making that point clear.

Anyhow, back to Season Ten – some stuff I LOVED from the last few episodes: Sam trying to kill Crowls, and Crowls busting out with the red eyes and saying how he loved every minute of being evil. **happy sigh** Great stuff. Also, everything with Cass and Claire – that was really touching. The Stein storyline was also clever and very cool.

One nitpick: Dean should not have been able to whup Cass’ butt so thoroughly in their fight! Especially without the blade. So, what the crap was that? Maybe Cass was letting Dean win to see how far he’d go? Not sure.

And of course I hated Dean being horrible to Sam (“It should be you on that pyre”…Damn!), Dean letting another hunter die, Dean almost killing Cass, etc, etc. I know the mark was poisoning Dean, but it still hurts. Guess that’s how Sam fans felt in Season Four, when Sam was all meany-pants. I feel your pain now, Samgirls!

The finale itself was good. My only complaint here would be that this was the first season finale that didn’t seem EPIC, you know? It mostly just felt like a regular episode. The whole “darkness” thing was cool, but it should maybe have been touched on earlier in the season so it didn’t feel like the writers were just pulling it out of their…well, you-know-where. I did love Dean saving Sam and killing Death (major repercussions, anyone?). Oh, and Cass – you better not kill Crowley, okay? We need the King in Season Eleven!

iZombie: 7.9/10

Though I don’t think iZombie could ever take Forever‘s place in my heart, this new CW offering is definitely a balm on my cancellation wounds. I was already looking forward to this show before it aired, thanks to a synopsis in TV Guide‘s special Comic-Con issue last year. I am happy to report that iZombie did not disappoint. In fact, it rose above my expectations in surprising and wonderful ways.

Two moments in the pilot episode when I knew this show was something special:

1.) When Peyton (Liv’s roomie) said something like, “I know I should have just written you off by now, but…you’re my freaking heart, so, if you could step up?”

2.) When Liv looked surprised upon hearing that Ravi was trying for a zombie cure. And Ravi said, “What, did you think you were going to stay this way forever?” Awwww.

Sometimes this show – which typically oscillates between comical, creepy, and outright disgusting – has these moments of such pure heart that it makes my breath catch and brings actual tears to my eyes.

More cases-in-point:

-Liv holding the hand of her dead college friend while Ravi begins the girl’s autopsy.

-Lowell’s sweet mouthing of “I love you” before getting his head blown off on a suicide mission.

I hated that they killed him, btw. He was one of the real highlights of the show. Lowell and Liv were SO great together – zombie love!!! Also, he shouldn’t have had to die. Liv just totally choked in front of the sniper rifle – first time I ever felt truly disappointed in her.

Overall, though, a very strong first season. The finale wasn’t quite as epic as I wanted (not sure why – they really pulled out all the brains – er, stops). There were major revelations, people turned into zombies, zombies turned back into people…I don’t know, I guess I just thought it would end with Liv locked up in a Max Rager lab or something.

Still, some really good cliffies for next season. (And yes, thankfully, there will be a next season).

Only thing I hate about this show: it looks really real when they’re eating the brains. Like, it makes me almost puke. I feel a little nauseous right now, just writing about it – no joke. Fewer brains next year, please! My stomach can’t take it!

Castle: 7.8/10

Looking back on the epic season opener (and all the hopes and expectations that sprang from it), I have to say this season ended up in the “good” category, rather than the “phenomenal” one. I confess to feeling a little let down by the partial explanation/resolution of Castle’s disappearance. Not sure if they’ll ever pick it up again, but there’s definitely more story to tell on that front (we still don’t know how he got shot). At least we got to see the case that made Castle become a mystery writer – been waiting for that all season long, and it didn’t let me down like the other storyline did.

End of the finale was a bit anticlimactic, though. Maybe because they didn’t know whether they were coming back. Those either/or season/series finale thingies are always tricky.

Unless you’re Supernatural, and it’s the end of Season Two, and you manage to pull out a masterpiece of an episode that gives impressive amounts of closure while launching some great new storylines at the same time. Still my all-time favorite ep…**happy sigh**

Back to Castle, though – my wish list for next season: more storylines that shake up the status quo (e.g. this season’s arc about Castle becoming a private detective), more scifi-themed eps (e.g. the invisibility suit, the parallel dimension artifact, the simulated mars mission, etc), and please, please don’t kill off any major characters! Thank you!

Red Band Society: 7.8/10

Another one bites the dust. It did go out with style, though: Jordi found the courage to go through with his surgery, Dash fell for his “unicorn” (and realized he could never harm her), the whole society rallied around Leo (especially Emma, who completely let go of the whole Kara/sex thing and showed herself to be a hero of a friend), Kara and Hunter’s love story spanned the gap between life and death, and Charlie TALKED!

Favorite exchange:

Hunter: “One day, you can take your kids to Paris, and it’ll be for a good reason. You can tell them what I did for you, and what you did for me.”

Kara: “What did I do for you?”

Hunter: “You lived.”

Awwwwwwww.

And of course, the ending was perfection: A new patient entering the pediatric ward, scared and alone, about to join the Red Band Society.

Wish this one could’ve gone on. Shows with real heart and soul are becoming an endangered species these days…

Grimm: 7.6/10

Man, this show had a much higher rank for most of the season. The last few eps got very dark, though, with Juliette sailing past the point of no return. She actually let Nick’s mom get decapitated. Not just killed, decapitated. Holy $#!T. And then Trubel killed Juliette with a crossbow (still hoping she’s not really dead). I don’t think Juliette was actually going to kill Nick, and the presence of those agents makes me suspicious that something else was afoot. Maybe the actress (Bitsie Tulloch) wanted off the show, though…

(Why????)

Up until Kelly’s murder, I was loving dark!Juliette and her awesome new powers. But now I’m just sad.

Only bright spots in the closer:

-The little girl escaped the Royals

-Sean lives, and he’s no longer harboring a murderous spirit in his body – yay!

Still, overall, a total bummer of an ending. Nick holding his love’s lifeless body…Waaaaayyyy too dark for me. Hope next season’s a touch brighter. Note to writers: this is supposed to be my fun show. If I want to be depressed, I’ll watch Supernatural‘s Season Five ep, “Abandon All Hope.”

Chicago PD: 7.5/10

Prepare to witness history. For the first time ever, CPD‘s final season score is higher than big sister CF‘s. PD was just plain stronger this year. The crossovers are special highlights, but even the regular eps are more focused than CF‘s and when CPD kills a character, they do it for the right reasons. I HATE that Nadia’s dead, but I don’t hate the show for doing it, because the resulting storylines were good – Erin’s downward spiral, Trudy’s fight to get Nadia recognized, etc. Plus the fact that Nadia was a beloved supporting character, not a beloved lead.

I do have an itty-bitty confession to make though. I haven’t actually seen those two eps (SVU and CPD) where Nadia meets her horrible end. I have them on tape, it’s just…every time I go to watch them, I think it’ll make me too sad…

(Miss you so much, Nadia!)

So, maybe it isn’t even fair for me to rank this show. In fact, it almost certainly isn’t. Nonetheless, a trusted fellow fan has told me the eps are heartbreakingly excellent and I don’t doubt her.

PD was all strength and no weakness this year, plus they added a little touch of joy at the end to lighten things up and make my shippy heart all aflutter: Burgess and Ruzek got ENGAGED!!! WOO HOO!!

They even got their own ep, earlier in the season – well technically it was a Burgess and Roman ep, but Ruzek was worried about her, and that’s how she and Roman got saved! Romance. Yum. Good stuffs.

P.S. In that same ep, did anyone else want to see where Jay got tazed? :/

This show really has it all – heartbreak, love, violence, and the funnies. Congrats, CPD, on outshining your big sis!

Gotham: 7.4/10

Gotham probably deserves a higher rank, but to be honest, I don’t enjoy this show that much. It’s gloomy and super-violent and easily more disgusting than the brain-eating on iZombie. Barbara butchering her own parents (Btw, is she dead now, or just knocked out? Methinks dead.), that crazy girl snapping bird bones, Selena shoving that guy out the window, Penguin making that old married couple fight each other to the death (or pretty much anything else Penguin does)? All of it equals a big, fat EW.

And yet, despite its grotesque nature, I am compelled to continue watching. Gotham makes you need it, even when you don’t want it. But…will it still be the same gripping drama next year, without the vital presence of Fish?

I’m not sure, but I’ll definitely tune in to find out.

Elementary: 7.3/10

Still a good, entertaining show. I enjoyed many of the eps this season, but the “personal” ones are the ones that make me sit up and pay attention, and once again, there were too few of those. I’d love some more continuity and ongoing storylines that span between eps, so it’s not just a long line of stand-alones.

The high points:

-Kitty and her storyline
-Andrew’s murder and the subsequent fallout, eventually resulting in Joan moving back in with Sherlock (they’re better together)
-Artificial Intelligence ep, Settlement $ ep, Zebra ep (yeah, I know they weren’t zebras, but I don’t know how to spell what they were)
-Sherlock’s budding friendship with his sponsor Alfredo
-Ep where Sherlock had to revisit a case he handled at the height of his drug abuse days

The finale was strong, and very personal – definitely suited to my tastes (and hopefully a glimpse of things to come next season!). The end was super-dark, though, and I wasn’t sure if Alfredo was still alive after transport to the hospital (I couldn’t read the text on Sherlock’s phone) and I really needed to KNOW if Alfredo was alive (I think he was?). Also, the end was a bit ambiguous for me. I’m guessing that Sherlock succumbed to his addiction after holding out for the whole episode. They never showed him take the heroin – just the aftermath. The whole thing was horrible (yet very compelling and well-written), taking Sherlock to all of those places, making him find the girl dead like that, when her brother already knew (great twist, btw).

So, after some interesting (and not-quite-as-interesting) standalone eps, we’re now back firmly in character-driven territory. Despite a mediocre score for Season Three, next year looks HIGHLY promising.

Meeting Sherlock’s dad at long last? I vote “YES.” Hope it happens for real. Other wish list items: Moriarty’s return, Watson gets to do more medical stuff, Mycroft’s return, more personal stories for Gregson and Bell. Oh, and Alistair comes back from the dead. I know that last one can’t happen, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

Chicago Fire: 7.2/10

Yeah, I’m being mean to this one right now, putting it in dead last. I’m just still not over Shay. And now Peter’s gone, too! It’s like, first the writers pulled out the show’s heart, and now they’re slowly dissecting it!

Yes, Severide is still may favorite character on either of the Chicago shows, but it’s hard when you can’t get attached to anyone involved in his storylines – they all just leave, in one way or another. The man is a freaking island. (And I want to build a bridge there, dang it!)

At least I don’t feel so bad about Lindsay dumping him anymore. Apparently she just likes dumping guys (ask Jay, he’ll tell you all about it).

Aside from major, BELOVED characters leaving, another thing this show suffers from is misleading advertising. I noticed it several times over the course of the season: ads showcasing one minor scene and making like the whole episode would revolve around that scene (two notable examples: the Severide Gets Trapped on a Train Episode and the Severide Gets Crushed Inside a Van Episode). If you’re wondering which eps those are, I don’t blame you – both situations were brief, quickly resolved, and NOT the focus of the whole episode.

I’d love to blame the people who make the ads, but in this case I can’t. The issue, unfortunately, was that many of the episodes didn’t really focus on any one particular rescue, event, or storyline – there were just a bunch of minor ongoing storylines and random rescues scattered throughout.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that this show has so much continuity, and that storylines carry over from ep to ep, but each episode should also be a complete story in its own right. This is where PD has a big advantage – being a procedural, they follow one case from start to finish every episode. Fire can’t do it quite so neatly without having a MAJOR disaster every episode (unrealistic), but they could probably do it better than they have been.

Good examples of eps this season include the explosion in the ER (although having Jay’s brother black tag Severide was a little stupid – there were few serious injuries and TONS of docs around – no need for black tagging in that situation). Nonetheless, it was an emotional, complete storyline. Another good one was Herrmann’s ep where he bonded with a little boy’s father, then found out the father was BAD NEWS. I love Herrmann.

So, more eps like that. Oh, and the one that started the most recent crossover event (that I haven’t watched the last 2/3 of)! That one was really good, with the guy who thought he started the fire having a breakdown and almost killing himself – and Gabby saving the day! Great stuff, and for once CF wasn’t the weak link in the crossover chain.

Wish list for next year: More “complete” episodes (but still keep up with the great continuity), bring back Peter, bring back basically anyone in Severide’s life, and don’t you dare kill off Matt (The undercover story is ridiculous, btw. Why? Because firefighters don’t go undercover! He’s not a cop! He has no training! Grrrr.)

So…there you have it. Hopefully I didn’t forget any important episodes or details, but knowing me I probably did. If so, feel free to point it out in the comments section. In the meantime, I’ll be busy basking in my summer shows, Beauty and the Beast (Thursday, 8pm, CW) and Aquarius (David Duchovny! Thursday, 9pm, NBC).

Don’t forget to tune in next fall for all of our returning faves. And if your fave got cancelled, at least know you’re not alone. Lots of other fans are bumming with you. And really, that’s the great thing about being part of a fandom – you always have someone to talk to about your latest obsession, and you never truly have to say goodbye. After all, the best shows will always live on in message board discussions, fanfiction and art, and, most importantly, our hearts.

 

 

New Interview, Plus Two GREAT Writing Resources

SaveForeverKitty

Many apologies for my recent absence, but I promise it was for a good cause. As my fellow Foreverists know, our beloved show was canceled following the wonderful Season 1 Finale. So, I have been busy trying to #SaveForever and help it get picked up by another venue. If you want to learn more about that effort and what you can do to help, this site usually has up-to-date info:

http://argylepiratewd.tumblr.com/saveforever

Be sure to check out the Facebook pages listed on that site for even more current info. Twitter is also a very happenin’ place when it comes to saving Forever, so look for trending events and other info on there, too.

And now, putting my fangirly stuff aside for a moment (yeah, like I ever really do that), here is my recent interview with Strange Musings Press:

http://giovannivalentino.blogspot.com/2015/04/author-interview-gretchen-bassier.html

We talked about the writing process, rejection, favorite authors, The Muppets, and in the end I went all fangirly (surprise, surprise) on Forever.

Since one of the questions in the interview pertained to writing resources, that sort of smacked me in the head and reminded me that I still haven’t mentioned two of my favorite sites for writers. An oversight that will be rectified right now!

For those just starting out or mired somewhere in the editing process, I cannot give strong enough recommendation for the site Superhero Nation. Don’t let the name fool you. Although Superhero Nation is geared toward helping authors write superhero novels, I have found that the bulk of their advice and articles apply to writing in general. And it’s darn good advice, too. So good that after reading one of their tips, I immediately rewrote a portion of my novel’s first chapter to incorporate their suggestion. As a bonus, this site is for fans, too, and features many reviews of superhero movies and other goodies. Go check out their numerous useful articles (including the awesome 10-part series “Common Mistakes of First-Time Novelists”)!

For those done with editing (does that ever really happen?) and ready to place their work, I highly recommend The Submission Grinder as one of many useful tools in finding the right market for your story/novel. Basically, The Submission Grinder is a free version of Duotrope. It has the same layout and everything. Right now they are only a database for fiction markets, but will soon be adding non-fiction and poetry. And the best part: The Submission Grinder has vowed to remain FREE for all users. I’ve had a lot of luck finding good markets on this site, so definitely worth a look.

Best of luck with your editing and market-hunting!

Up next on ATHF: Stay tuned for some major TV reviews, fic recs, and other fun stuff!

Hysterical Realms Release, Science Fiction Submissions, and Six Degrees of Jensen Ackles

 

Hystericalrealmscover

Alternate Hilarities 3: Hysterical Realms cover image designed by Aimee Maroney. Image used with publisher’s permission.

It’s finally here: Alternate Hilarities 3: Hysterical Realms was officially released yesterday, and, thanks to the awesome people who contributed to the Kickstarter, we raised enough funds for a print edition, so WOO HOO! Thank you so much to everyone who participated in that, and if you’re a reader who enjoys funny fantasy stories, definitely go check out the anthology:

Alternate Hilarities 3: Hysterical Realms

They also interviewed the authors for this book, so I’ll post a link to mine when it’s up.

In the meantime, Strange Musings Press has just opened up submissions for their newest anthology, Weirder Science. This time around, they want humorous science fiction stories. They are also having a contest to potentially rename the book, since they are not married to Weirder Science. Thus, everyone who submits a story can also suggest an alternate title, and the prize for the winner is pretty cool. So, go check that out, too:

Weirder Science Submission Info

And if you happen to be more of a “serious” science fiction person, there is another anthology currently accepting subs for their My Favorite Apocalypse collection. They are accepting short stories of any length (though they will likely regret that when they see how long my submission is) as well as poetry, but the deadline is coming up fast for that one: April 30th. Yeah, you’ve got just nine days, so better make it short:

My Favorite Apocalypse Submission Info

Don’t worry, you can make it if you really hustle! And, while I really should be getting back to my own apocalypse story, I just had to share a fun fact I discovered while browsing the Strange Musings Press website:

One of their previous books, Vampires Suck, contains a story by none other than Nicholas Knight – an author who is very well known to anyone who’s ever picked up an issue of Supernatural Magazine. He’s got a least one article in every issue, and has also written all of the Supernatural season companions. Before the fire, I never missed a single issue of Supernatural Magazine. I also own several of the season guides, and have always loved Knight’s articles and interviews. You can just tell he is a huge fan, and truly knows the show backwards and forwards.

He has also done probably hundreds of interviews with the cast and crew of the show. Which naturally got my fangirly heart making some pretty wild leaps. Because, after all, Nicholas Knight and I now share a publisher. Which means I am about a degree away from knowing him. And he knows Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki! He’s freaking met them and everything! Like, numerous times. So, by the way my delusional mind works, I am roughly two degrees away from knowing Jensen and Jared.

This is almost as cool as the time I shook hands with William B. Davis at the X-Files Expo back in ’98. The other actor giving autographs that day was Charles Nelson Reilly, who played Jose Chung on the show. Right when Davis was finishing shaking my hand, Reilly said something to him, so Davis looked over, and, in doing so, accidentally made a black dot on my hand with his marker. It was a Sharpie, too, so it didn’t wash off completely for several days. Oh, how I cherished that little dot…**happy sigh**

Wait. Hang on a second. William B. Davis was in Supernatural, too. He acted in a scene with Jensen in the Season One episode “Scarecrow” (one of the all-time scariest eps!). So [insert fangirly drumroll here] I shook hands with someone who, years later, acted onscreen with Jensen Ackles.

One degree, anybody? :)

 

Up next on ATHF: Race Results for February and March (will include my thoughts on the new CW show iZombie), plus my Strange Musings Press author interview

 

Care and Feeding of Your Forever Obsession

**Post inspired by “TERESA LISBON: The Owner’s Maintenance Guide” by Aeidhryn.** (go read it, it’s hilarious)

Care and Feeding of Your Forever Obsession

So, you’ve recently become obsessed with one of TV’s absolute best shows: Forever. Congratulations – you have great taste! With the proper care and feeding, your new Obsession should live a long and healthy life. Emphasis on the LONG. Forever Obsessions can easily live for hundreds of years; in fact, the oldest one on record is over 2,000 years old and still going strong!

Taking care of your new Obsession is, thankfully, an enjoyable task. The main goal is to keep your Forever Obsession active and excited by frequently feeding it show-related material: watching new episodes of Forever, re-watching previously-aired episodes, discussing the show with other fans, reading Forever fanfic and looking at Forever fanart and fanvids. If you’re not sure where to find the proper nutrition, I highly recommend these places as starting points:

-Your TV every Tuesday night at 10pm
TV.com, imdb.com, abc.com, Twitter, Facebook – read and participate in fan discussions on any one of these forums
-ABC.COM – Watch FULL episodes of Forever FREE right on your computer: http://abc.go.com/shows/forever
FanFiction.Net and Archiveofourown.org – browse for awesome fic and art on your own, or start with these AMAZING fics I have already picked out for you:

-“Of Sons” by rockpaperscissor

-“A Magic Trick” by knittersrevolt

-“The Doors of Perception” by idelthoughts

-“30 Day Drabble Challenge – Forever” by idelthoughts

Failing to regularly feed your Obsession can result in weakness, and even the possible death of your Forever Obsession. If your Obsession does happen to expire, DO NOT PANIC. Simply grab a towel and some extra clothes and drive to the nearest body of water. Your Forever Obsession will wash up naked, reborn, and cold. It is also best to bring some cash with you, in case the police find your Obsession first and arrest it for indecent exposure. In that case, you may have to bail your Obsession out of jail.

Needless to say, allowing your Obsession to die frequently is not recommended. It is stressful for your Obsession and costly/time consuming for you. Best to keep your new companion happy and healthy.

Frequently Asked Question From New Owners: Will my Forever Obsession survive if the show itself does not get renewed?

Answer: Yes, it can survive without the show, but it will probably die more frequently and be less healthy overall, as it will have no new episodes to sustain it. The best thing you can do for your Obsession, therefore, is to help keep the show on the air by:

-Telling ABC how much you LOVE Forever: http://abc.go.com/feedback
-Signing a petition to help get the show renewed: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/551/491/327/tell-abc-reschedule-and-renew-forever/
-Voting for Forever to be saved on usatoday.com: http://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/sos-2015/
-Watching beloved episodes on ABC.com to boost the show’s online ratings: http://abc.go.com/shows/forever
-Spreading the word to friends, family and strangers about how great this show is! Tell the world, too: http://tvseriesfinale.com/tv-show/forever/comment-page-22/#comments
-Watching Forever LIVE instead of DVRing it. Don’t let a show you love get cancelled just because your DVR’s record button happens to be convenient. Watching live is important!

Best of luck to you and your new Obsession! May you enjoy a long and happy relationship with the most AWESOME new show on TV! :)

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom cover design and layout by Brian Taylor, Pneuma Books, LLC. Image used with permission.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom cover design and layout by Brian Taylor, Pneuma Books, LLC. Image used with permission.

Tomorrow is a special day. Yes, I know it’s St. Patrick’s Day, but March 17, 2015 is special for another reason, too. Tomorrow is the day Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom will officially hit the bookshelves. And my story “Honest Love” will be sitting there on page 302 for all to read!

For years, my mom has worked tirelessly at the tasks of being my editor, my sounding board, the person to whom I gloomily confess all of my rejections, and the person who has to read every single freaking draft of every single freaking story (even the ones that stink like last month’s dirty socks).

And what does she usually get for her efforts? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not a beautiful pitcher of flowers. Sadly, my poor mom has had to absorb the brunt of all my writerly mood swings, including the times I curl up on the couch and stare morosely at the wall. She’s endured me snapping at her and telling her that her ideas are not appreciated, because “it’s my story, and I like the way I originally had it.” She’s had the unfortunate job of breaking the news to me when a story just isn’t good enough for submission (because no one else would have had the guts).

She’s also been with me through the slow, painful realization that my stories, 99.9999% of the time, are not better the way I originally wrote them. That honest feedback isn’t something to be shunned or even just accepted grudgingly, but rather, it is to be horded like precious chips of gold, sifted from the dirt.

If my mom hadn’t given me tough love when I needed it, I wouldn’t be published today. If she hadn’t transformed my skin into leathery elephant hide, I would’ve quit submitting after that first rejection.

If you’re a writer, and you have someone in your life who not only reads all of your stories, but cares enough (and is brave enough) to give you helpful, honest feedback – even though it might earn them nasty looks and a week’s worth of undeserved silent treatment – then please, take a moment to say “thank you.”

I’m so glad I finally did.

-Gretchen

 

 

Hysterical Realms: Kickstarter and Submissions

Hystericalrealmscover

Alternate Hilarities 3: Hysterical Realms cover image designed by Aimee Maroney. Image used with publisher’s permission.

I posted about this anthology last year, remember? Well, guess what? My story “Seeing is Believing” made the cut! :) The anthology is currently set for a May release…and there may still be time for your story to get in, too! They briefly reopened for submissions, so if you’ve got a short fantasy humor tale lying amongst the dust bunnies under your bed, pull it out, blow it off, and send it in! Even if you don’t have one lying around, maybe you could still whip one off in time. You have until March 10th. Speed-writing, anyone?

More info on submissions here:

http://www.strangemusingspress.com/p/alternate-hilarities.html

In the meantime, the Kickstarter campaign to fund a print edition of the anthology is in full swing right here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/809941908/alternate-hilarities-hysterical-realms

Only 11 days to go on that – I really hope the funding comes through! I only just discovered Kickstarter a year or so ago, and what an amazing discovery it was. Though I’m a writer at heart, and always will be, I have secret hopes of someday being a publisher, too. There’s something so uplifting about the notion of helping other writers get published. When I didn’t have a credit to my name, Every Day Fiction took a chance on me and published my work. They made my dream come true, and wouldn’t it just be the most awesome thing if I could do that for someone else? If I could be the one who says “Yes!” after years of other publishers saying “No!”?

So, yeah, I’ve had some thoughts about becoming a publisher, even some very specific thoughts about publishing a magazine featuring writers from my home state. I even picked a title for this imaginary magazine. But I doubted it would ever happen, because how would I ever finance it?

Enter Kickstarter. When I saw what crowdfunding was all about, I knew that my dream of making other writers’ dreams come true might not be so far-fetched after all. If you’ve never looked at a Kickstarter campaign before, definitely go check it out. Kickstarter is a reward-based crowdfunding system, and the prizes for the Hysterical Realms campaign range from a free eBook and your name in the contributors section to signed hard copies of all three of Strange Musings Press’ anthologies, plus a character in the new anthology NAMED AFTER YOU. How freaking cool is that?

So, yeah, go check it out. And don’t forget to submit your fantasy humor shorts by March 10!