Everything You Need to Know About My 16th Book, “The Manager”

Well, it looks like once again I’ve fallen off the blog bandwagon for a while. While I may have stopped blogging frequently, writing is something I’ll never quit doing. I mean, I’ve already written 15. Why stop there? 

As I prepare to start writing, here’s some insights and sneak peeks when it comes to my “sweet 16” novel, The Manager! 

So our story takes a break from the action of my past novels and steers more towards comedic relief. It follows 20-year-old Carmen Rodriguez, a college student who works at a hardware store in her hometown of Miami. Carmen’s store, number 7711, (an homage to my hardware store which is number 1177 in the chain), has struggled for years. 

Carmen, although she is just a seasonal cashier at her local “DIY Depot,” nicknamed the “Double D,” loves her store and the people who work there. With another store manager being fired, the 5th in just three years, the store is in danger of closing. No one is willing to step up and save the store. Carmen, wanting to save the jobs of store 7711’s 100 employees, along with making sure the store she loves stays afloat, agrees to drop out of college and train as a manager. 

Although 7711’s employees love Carmen, they have serious doubts about her ability to manage a failing store. However, driven by her love for the employees of 7711, she searches for ways to cut costs that aren’t at the expense of employees, and finds new, yet original ways to create success for her store. Carmens strange and unconventional methods, from motivating her employees with expensive gifts to taking the store’s delivery truck on a road trip to hire the homeless, may actually turn out to be more effective than the store may have planned. 

But with managing a store comes more stress than Carmen originally thought she can handle. Carmen constantly battles with herself emotionally, trying to stay awake during 14 hour shifts and staying calm during all the customer complaints. As the youngest and first Latina manager in DIY Depot history, she also has to deal with pressures and judgement from the higher-ups at corporate. As time goes on, Carmen begins to wonder how long she can actually go on as 7711’s manager. Eventually she still wants to finish her degree, but if she leaves 7711, the store will end up closing. 

So there you have it! The full, non-spoiler details of my sweet 16 novel. More info on The Manager will be coming up soon! 

How to Stay Interested in Your Book

Imagine having a great idea for a book, but not necessarily planning out the whole thing. You’ve got your setting and main character, you know what is going to happen to them throughout the book, but you start writing and just don’t feel that same passion. This happened to me once, and I hope it never happens again.

Writing a book you’re not passionate about can be a total drag. Of course, if you have OCD about finishing your books like I do, you can’t just stop writing it. After suffering through the writing process of a book I didn’t feel connected to, I devised a list of five ways to change your book so that you can not only make it to that last-chapter finish line, but have fun getting there!

1. Go Outside Your Comfort Zone

There’s nothing more interesting than writing something you haven’t done before and have no idea about. It’s fun to research and then apply what you’ve learned into your book. In my current novel, Fangs and Fortune, my main character Taliah is an expectant mother. I chose to go this route because, well, I’ve never done it before! It’s helped me get excited about the book and learn about something I didn’t know much about.

2. Write About Something Close to You

Grief, loss, and trauma happens to everyone at some point in life. If you can’t think of a struggle for your character, try incorporating something that was difficult for you in life. Maybe they were bullied or had anxiety. Maybe they lost a loved one or were a victim of a crime. If your character shares the same experience, no one knows how they feel better than you.

3. It’s Okay to Change Course

My action story, Saving Flight 926, was originally going to be the thrilling tale of my main character Arabella, an aviation-obsessed 17-year-old, landing a plane full of people and becoming a hero. When the plane landed on page 30, I knew I had to have a different approach. The second half of the story describes her struggle with PTSD. If something isn’t working in your story, just try something else!

4. Bring Out Your Fun and Crazy Characters

Now I’m not talking actual characters here. I’m talking about real people. In high school, I loved incorporating people I knew into my stories (and sometimes still do). Bringing in people from your real life takes away the process of having to think of personalities for all your characters, and for me, was a ton of fun to write. I loved incorporating common things they said and their personality traits. Just be sure to have them go through a name change.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

We all like to think of ourselves as novel-writing geniuses. And then we hit writer’s block. After the plane landed in Saving Flight 926 and Arabella was home with her family, I had no idea what to do! So, I reached out to some friends for help. One said, “Why don’t you have her struggle with PTSD?” It was the “eureka” moment for me. I never even thought of that! I truly believe that it would have taken me so much longer to finish that book if it weren’t for the help from my friend. Friends and family help us when we’re stuck in life. They also help when we get stuck on books, so reach out to them!

 

 

Get to the Point…of View! 

For this week’s post, I wanted to focus strictly on the point of view, or POV, in a story. Here’s the rundown of what options you have when writing, as well as some tips for how to execute them properly. 

These are four of the most common POV types: 

1. First Person

This is, as I’ve said before, my go-to when writing just about all of my stories. This POV is told from your main character (or characters if you change narration throughout your story). This narration uses “I” during a story. Just remember, while there’s no I in team, there is an I in First Person. 

2. Second Person

To cut to the chase, second person POV is “all about me!” And by me, I actually mean “you.” Second Person POV refers to the reader directly by using “you.” While it is technically uncommon, I’d love to write a book in second person. This narrative puts the reader directly into the action of the story. 

3. Third Person Limited

Third Person Limited is similar to First Person in the sense that you’re only following one character. However, the narrator refers to the character they’re following as he/she/they/their name. In this scenario, the narrator only knows as much as the author knows. 

4. Third Person Omniscient

I call this the “all-knowing” POV. The narrator knows everything going on with everyone, narrating again from the he/she/they perspective. The thoughts of every character are open to the reader instead of the thoughts of just one person. 

Tips to Remember: 

• Don’t suddenly change your POV mid-chapter with no transition

•If using narration from multiple characters, keep the transition of who is talking consistent (every other chapter, etc) 

• Stick to the plot: if you’re talking through different characters, make sure the storyline is continuing on

The Seven Deadly Sins of First Chapters

A first chapter can make or break your story. In the publishing world, the opening line of your story could mean the difference between the person judging your story moving on or setting it aside in the rejection pile. After being an online editor and critic for nearly five years, I’ve seen my fair share of bad story openings and have compiled this list of openings so terrible that they’re practically sins. 

1. The Alarm Clock

I’ve seen many stories starting of with things like “the alarm clock started ringing” or even “BEEP! BEEP!” The first line of your story should be exciting and drawing the reader in. Instead of the noise of an alarm clock, start off with your character being late for something important. It’s still extremely cliche, but at least a little more exciting. 

2. The Fashion Show

Most of the time after said alarm clock goes off, I see teenage characters getting ready for school. The authors tend to get a little carried away, describing the character in full, including each individual element of their wardrobe, including jewelry, makeup, and even nail polish. Remember, first chapters need to hook the reader. I’m sorry, but as nice as your character’s outfit is, it’s just not that interesting, and as a matter of fact, neither is the whole school thing, which brings me to my next point:

3. School Time!

I’ve seen way too many normal characters heading to normal high school on a normal day, which makes for a very uninteresting first chapter. Of course, there’s a lot of exceptions, like being a new student or having something exciting happen at said school. 

4. Being Different and Letting Everyone Know

As writers, all our characters are special in their own way. Every main character has something we love about them that sets them apart from everyone else in the story. That’s why we chose them to be the star. Every main character in every story is different from the rest of the population in that story in some way. Never start off with your main character explaining how “different” they are. Stay focused on action and leave all those explanations where they belong, in chapter two. 

5. Breakfast

I’ve had to critique and edit stories where all of the above happened except for the character actually getting to school. Unless your character’s breakfast is crazy or something really important happens during it, the best thing to do is just save those sit-down meals for a later time. 

6. The Big Backstory

A lot of things need to be explained in stories, including a character’s background. However, every detail of your character’s life doesn’t need to be said in a first chapter. Again, save all the mundane details for the second chapter. 

7. Super Exciting Letdowns

Imagine reading a great first chapter. It’s interesting, exciting, and you can’t wait to see what happens next. You’re reaching the last few lines of the chapter, ready to turn the page to chapter two, and suddenly the character has just woken up, about to get ready for school. A word of advice: readers do not like being disappointed! 

Fellow authors, I guarantee if you stay away from these writing sins, your first chapters will benefit! 

Time Traveling Through Your Old Stories

Last night I was snowed in and bored here in the Northeast. I thought it would be entertaining to read a book that I haven’t touched in years. I settled on my fantasy story Euphoria that I finished back in 2012, when I was 18. Back then, it was my only story that didn’t receive good reviews. I couldn’t figure out why. I created a whole different world and had a main character that was vastly different from anyone else I’d seen. 

Now, after finishing my writing degree, I caught on to every mistake, every repeated word, every time I told instead of showed. In a way it was completely embarrassing. People had to sit through and suffer through chapters of repetitive facts, info dumps, and my main character, Violet, who had to tell readers multiple times that yes, she was smaller than everyone else. 

I guess the main point of this is that we shouldn’t feel ashamed of our own stories,and we shouldn’t be scared to go back and read them (a problem that I’ve always had). Our old stories show how much we’ve grown as authors. They’re part of our journey to achieve whatever it is we want to do in the writing world. Back in the day, I was extremely proud of Euphoria, And I still am. 

Of course, now reading it had inspired me to go back and update all my old books, but that’s a project for another time. 

When Your Character’s Snoring is Totally Boring

While doing some rewrites on my novel Misconception this week, I noticed a common theme. A whole bunch of chapters ended with Taliah, my main character, falling asleep. At first this seemed fine. Taliah traveling into dreamland at the end of all these chapters was a great, easy way to wrap things up for the time being. 

It wasn’t until last night that this particular thought ocurred to me: Does this ending make my readers want to read on? 

No! No it doesn’t! This is terrifying! How else am I supposed to to wrap up a chapter? If this applies to you, I’ve got you covered. Here are some ways to wrap up a chapter other than your character simply falling asleep. 

1. A Forshadowing Nightmare 

Yes, it’s very cliche, but a nightmare that leaves readers questioning will prompt them to keep on turning those pages. 

2. An Interruption

Imagine just about to close your eyes after a long day, settling into bed, turning off the lights, and then there’s a knock on the door. Or a crush coming from downstairs. Maybe your character forgot something? Or perhaps, someone else is in the bed. An unexpected surprise will leave readers on the edge of their seats. 

3. Make It a Sleepless Night 

A chacarter that tosses and turns is a lot more lively than one who just lies there. Ending your chapter with a character occupying their sleepless self can help you transition into the exciting stuff that happens in the next morning. 

4. Just Think of Something Else

If it’s nighttime in your chapter and you really just want to wrap things up, skip ahead to the next morning or find a different exciting way to end your chapter. 

I used all of these methods to get Taliah out of bed and on her way to doing something exciting. Try them out and see if they work for you guys too. See you all next week. 

Warning: Construction Zone

This morning I thought of the analogy that editing a story is like renovating a house. You may think that you’re only doing some cosmetic changes like a new floor and a fresh coat of paint, when really, you are suddenly motivated and find yourself changing the entire layout of the house and building an addition.

This is what I have discovered while working on my story Misconception this week.

I went into editing hoping to just give the book a quick refresh, fixing grammar, changing some sentences, and lightly touching on the plot of the story. Well guess what? I found myself deleting almost an entire chapter and writing two new ones.

The goal of this was to make the story appear more logical, (since everyone knows what a stickler I am for trying to have my stories make sense.) So, without spoiling the end, here’s what’s changed in Misconception this week:

1. Introducing the Candlelight Vigil: 

Originally, chapter 8 featured a small few paragraphs about Taliah, our main character, attending the memorial service for Molly, the girl she supposedly killed, during the day at a park on the college’s property.

I got myself thinking, “Wait. How could the school have a memorial service if they weren’t entirely sure that Molly was dead?” No body was ever found. If the school didn’t know that she was dead, a memorial service would make no sense.

This is where the vigil comes into play. Readers are introduced to Megan and Giovanna, two friends of Molly who make two very different speeches about their “missing” friend. This is the game changer that caused the entire layout of my analytical house to be changed.

2. Everybody Knows Something New:

Before writing the vigil chapter, readers and Taliah thought that Molly was of course, dead. Now we all learn at the vigil that that is not the case. This requires me to write a brand new ending, as well as some searching scenes.

3. Beware The Vampire Hunter:

Chapter 8 started with the memorial scene and included the entire vampire hunter scene. This was of course, changed to expand on the vigil and include a bit of Taliah looking downtown for Molly.

Originally, Taliah was invited to a fake “faculty party” to lure her into a banquet hall where she would battle the vampire hunter. She essentially walks into an empty room at first before the lights go out.

Taliah is a lot smarter than that, so I had to put in a little more effort to try and convince my vampire gal that there was a possibility of a party going on. This included a lady near the doors handing out name tags, two doormen (who chain the doors shut after she enters) and speakers throughout the room with recorded voices on them. So, as Taliah descends down the long hallway towards the hall, she hears the noise and starts to believe that there may actually be a party.

Stay tuned for next Sunday’s update! I can’t wait to see what new ideas I’ll come up with as I keep working this week.