The Power of Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman LogoAbout a month ago, Daniel (my husband) and I went to see the new Wonder Woman movie. No spoilers, I promise. Because Daniel’s a huge movie buff, I let him share his DC fanboy analysis first (basic message: “That’s the movie Man of Steel should have been — hopeful, optimistic, awe-inspiring, untouchable!”). As we pulled into the pet store parking lot (exciting errands for this married couple), Daniel asked for my thoughts.

And without warning, I burst into tears.

This is why I’ve waited so long to write this post. I’m embarrassed by my reaction, and I don’t even know if I can put words to how Wonder Woman made me feel. But Daniel insists that you (especially the women) will appreciate my thoughts and so here they are.

For whatever reason, at that exact moment in my life, Wonder Woman was the superhero movie I didn’t know I needed. In the most basic ways (sometimes subtle, sometimes not), Wonder Woman overcame and surpassed the negative stereotypes and tropes that often define female superheroes (and characters in general). At the same time, Wonder Woman embraced Diana Prince’s womanhood and sexuality — even made them an asset for our hero — while still portraying her male allies in a positive light. The movie made me proud to be a woman, and as I watched the scenes unfold, I couldn’t help but feel like some kind of invisible weight had lifted.

Writing this now, I’m starting to become insecure. I can already imagine the ways in which I might be ridiculed for my reaction:

“Crying proves that women are weak!”
“Please, honey. You’re still white, cisgender, straight, American, abled, etc.!”
“Um … there are plenty of other strong female characters out there!”

To the first, I shake my head and move on.

To the second, I say, “I know!” I’m lucky to have been born with certain privileges, and having this experience has given me a new empathy and respect for those who feel underrepresented or excluded from our entertainment culture.

To the last, I say again, “I know!” That’s one of the reason I’m so boggled by my reaction. I grew up watching Xena Warrior Princess, and I’m a proud (albeit recent) member of Buffy’s Scooby Gang. I’ve read myriad books and graphic novels with strong, leading women. So why now? Why did Wonder Woman mean so much to me?

Honestly, I’m still not certain. Maybe it’s because Diana represented my brand of Feminism (which sometimes feels like it’s giving way to more radical, arguably misandristic perspectives). Maybe it’s because I’m in the middle of a bunch of huge life changes and needed affirmation of my strength. Maybe it’s because the other recent DC movies have been underwhelming for me. And maybe, it was just a damn good movie that manipulated my emotions as the master marketing team intended.

Whatever the reason, after a tearful episode in the pet store parking lot and a quick purchase of cat laxative (I shit you not — poor Thomas!), Daniel and I made an unplanned stop. We went to Target to find me a Wonder Woman shirt, because I wanted to emblazon her logo across my chest. If you knew my “thrifty” self, you’d know that a $20 impulse buy is a BIG financial upset in our household. We didn’t find one I liked. The search continues but the fact remains …

Wonder Woman blew away my expectations. As a movie, it was fast-paced, charming, funny, packed with intense action (that trench warfare scene!), and satisfying (except for, perhaps, the final battle … but I promised no spoilers). But more than that, it tapped into a subconscious need that I didn’t even know I held. While other strong women have held the stage and Hollywood still has a long way to go towards equality, Wonder Woman was a step in the right direction and meant so much to me. If I can write just one character or one book that gives someone a modicum of that joy and pride, then I will be thrilled with my author career.


How did you feel about the new Wonder Woman movie? What other movies or books have held special meaning for you? Know where I can find a bad ass Wonder Woman shirt (seriously!)? Share it all in the comments.

Month-End Update: June 2017

Earlier this month, I had lunch with a close friend. As we visited, she told me about her experience training a new employee at her work.

“She’s asking a lot of really great questions — ones that I never thought to ask,” my friend said. “It makes me wonder … when did I stop asking why?”

Her question made me think, have I stopped asking why with my author journey? The answer: sometimes, yes. I’ve always been an ambitious person, prone to pushing myself too hard and occasionally getting tunnel vision. Sometimes, I can fall victim to “fear of missing out” (FOMO), which convinces me to do things that don’t align with my goals. Likewise, when I set goals for myself, sometimes I feel like changing them — even if they no longer align with my larger aspirations — means failure.

This conversation with my friend occurred on the cusp of a cross-country move. It’s my second in two years (perks of having a husband in graduate school!), and they’ve both caused me to reevaluate myself. Like starting a new school year or getting a new wardrobe, this move is a chance for rebirth. I’ll be meeting new people, exploring a new city, and establishing a new routine — a totally fresh start.

The conversation also coincided with writing/editing my third novel. For some reason, Desertera #3 felt different. I felt more comfortable and confident in my writing ability, style, and system. The third book also marks a milestone for the series– at least, that’s what I’ve read from successful authors (“Three books is the first tipping point. Readers know you’re serious.”).

All this is to say that I’ve done some reevaluating about my personal self, my author self, and my goals. And you know what? I’m refreshed, realigned, and excited to get back to it!

As a first step, I redesigned my author website. While the previous template was effective, I felt like it lacked personality. This design is a little more me, but I’ve still got some work to do in the graphics department.

As a second step, I revised my New Year’s resolutions. I treat them more like short- and long-term goals than traditional resolutions, and some of them no longer reflected my aspirations for 2017.

Here’s my new list, complete with my regular updates:

Writing & Publishing

  1. Create 5 days per week — a little behind, due to bereavement leave and my move
  2. Write Desertera #3 — done!
  3. Edit Desertera #3 — in the proofreading stage!
  4. Publish Desertera #3 — planned for early August
  5. Write a second novel — totally possible, I can’t wait to start my next series idea!
  6. Edit a second novel — probably can’t publish it, but I should be able to start editing
  7. Start writing Desertera #4 — a long shot
  8. Make 2018 publishing schedule — I need to start thinking long term!

The BIG change: I’ve decided I don’t want to pursue a new nonfiction book at this time.

Business

  1. Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press — on track
  2. Create freebie for Writing Newsletter subscribers — done!
  3. Create short story for Reader List — my July Camp NaNoWriMo goal!
  4. Blog 1x per week — reduced from 2x per week
  5. Maintain content marketing schedule — restructured and reduced
  6. Diversify existing products — pending research into new audiobook distributor
  7. Do 12 marketing promotions — changed to focus on book launch
  8. Read 52 books — hoping to catch up this summer!

The BIG change: reducing my content marketing efforts to focus on writing and publishing.

Personal

  1. Work on positivity — going really well!
  2. Exercise 3x per week — hahahaha, I need to get my shit together …
  3. Break a bad habit — starting a new routine to help today!
  4. Recoup savings account post-Yale — we’re pretty much there!
  5. Make post-Yale plan — done!
  6. Visit final NYC sites — done!
  7. Visit new state — planned for August!
  8. Visit new country — done! Oh, Canada!

No changes here … but obviously I still have some work to do!

Goals for July & Camp NaNoWriMo

  • Write a Desertera short story
  • Get Desertera #3 ready to publish
  • Start outlining new series
  • Rewrite my long author biography
  • Read and review (on Goodreads/Amazon) four books

How do you handle evolving goals? When is the last time you took stock of your aspirations and routines? Are you participating in July’s Camp NaNoWriMo? Share it all below!

Month-End Update: May 2017

I can’t believe I survived May.

As you cleverly inferred from the radio silence on this site and social media, May swallowed up all of my work time, then lapped up my free time for good measure. But you know what? It was a blast, and I’m so excited to share my many updates with you and get back to our regular programming.

So … what happened in May?

On the writing front, I finished the first draft of Desertera #3 and sent it off to the editor. She’s already returned round one of edits, and I’m floored and humbled by her feedback. This week, I’ll dive into the manuscript to make her changes and keep moving forward. Depending on how the next few rounds go (and when I finally select a title … I know, it’s my creative Achilles Heel), the novel should be on track for a late July or early August release date! More soon.

Rainy graduation day in a flattering blue poncho!

The second half of May revolved around my personal life. As you know, I’ve been living in Connecticut while my husband worked toward his Master’s at Yale. Well, Daniel graduated (so proud of you, honey!). My mother-in-law and her friend flew over from Australia to celebrate, then the four of us took an epic road trip around New England. (I’ll share more later, or you can check out some pics on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.)

And it doesn’t end there. Daniel begins his PhD at Stanford this summer, so we packed up our apartment and started our cross-country move. While I’m sad to leave our New Haven friends and the best ice cream on the planet, I’m thrilled for our next adventure together. Again, I plan to talk more about this transition later, once I’ve had time to process and establish a new routine. (Sensing a pattern yet?)

What will I do while Daniel studies? Well, obviously, I’ll still be writing, blogging, and building my author business. I’m also elated to report that I have been able to take my day job with me, so I’m still a copywriter for a fantastic wine marketing company. I love my job (and wine, duh) and getting to do it without three hours of commuting every day is awesome. While I’ll miss writing on the train, I won’t miss the train itself, the bus, other commuters, or braving the elements to get to the office!

Looking forward to June, my top priority is editing, titling, and starting the cover design process for Desertera #3. Second on the list? Establishing a new routine that balances my author work, my copywriting job, and my personal life. I’d also like to catch up on my favorite podcasts and my ever-growing to-read list (a big shout-out to all my fellow authors waiting on reviews … I haven’t forgotten you!).

Have a great Monday (or whatever day you’re reading this), and best of luck with your own goals! As always, I’d love to read what you’re working on in the comments section.


What did you accomplish in May? What are your goals for June? Share in the comments!

Month-End Update: April 2017

Well, I’m back from Camp NaNoWriMo, covered in bug bites and stuffed to the brim with smores. While I didn’t win (darn it!), I did add nearly 40,000 words to my draft of Desertera #3. This puts me well on the way to done, and I should have the manuscript wrapped up over the next week or two.

To be honest, most of April is a blur. Specifically, a blur of Scrivener documents, penciled outlines, and story discussions with my alpha reader. Still, I managed to sneak in a little bit of fun. In preparation of my husband’s graduation from Yale, we’ve started a taste tour of local restaurants and have had many fun double dates and friends’ nights.

It’s definitely been a challenge to balance writing, business, my day job, and my social life, but I’m doing my best. That’s all any of us can do, right? As for May, the first half (and a bit) will be focused on getting Desertera #3 to the editor. Over the second half, I’ll be celebrating my husband’s graduation and spending time all around New England with him and our parents. It should be a lovely (and well deserved) break!

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – back on track!
Write Desertera #3 – almost done!

Thanks to the pressure of Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve made fantastic progress on my manuscript of Desertera #3. My main goal this month will be finishing it up and completing the necessary content edits before it goes to the professional editor in the middle of the month. Because I’ve been editing as I write, this process should be pretty easy!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Blog twice per week – slightly behind
Maintain social media schedule – slightly behind
Read 52 books this year – slightly behind

As tends to be my pattern, I struggled with balancing my writing and other business activities. However, I did blog at least once a week, and I did participate in two separate marketing events. Given my editing deadline and upcoming personal commitments, I anticipate more unevenness this month. Luckily, I should have plenty of time to get caught up in this area over the summer.

Books Read:
None

Book in Progress: Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – great!
Exercise 3x per week – better than zero
Break a bad habit – on track
Make post-Yale plan – pretty much done

Even with all the craziness and uncertainty coming up, I’ve stayed in positive spirits and haven’t fallen back into bad habits. Most excitingly, my husband and I have made our plan for after his graduation from Yale, and while we still have a few minor details to iron out, we’re in good shape for our short- and mid-term future. We’ve also planned two fun mini-vacations for the end of the month, so watch my Instagram for photos!

Goals for May
Send Desertera #3 to my editor
Enjoy our post-graduation mini-vacations
Keep refining my balance between writing and other responsibilities


How did my fellow NaNoWriMo campers fare? Any exciting plans for May? Share in the comments!

Guest Post: The Dos and Don’ts of Dialogue Tags by Ryan Lanz

Today, I’m pleased to host author and blogger extraordinaire Ryan Lanz. His article is packed with tips on how to correctly use dialogue tags. As someone who struggled with this as a beginning writer, trust me when I say: this is great stuff, and I wish he had written this post years ago! Over to Ryan …


Writers use dialogue tags constantly. In fact, we use them so often that readers all but gloss over them. They should be invisible. However, there are ways to misuse them and make them stand out.

In an effort to avoid that, let’s take a closer look at dialogue tags. Toward the end of “Tag travesties” is something I sorely wish someone had told me before I started writing.

Why do we use dialogue tags?

The simple answer is that we use them to indicate who’s speaking. In visual media, such as movies or television, the viewer can easily tell who’s talking by lip movement and camera angles. When reading a book, obviously that’s not an option.

Tag travesties

There are certainly ways to misuse dialogue tags. When I was a new writer, I felt compelled to overwrite. I’m sure every new writer goes through a version of this. I observed how successful writers used simple tags like “said/asked” and thought to myself, that’s boring. I’m going to be an awesome writer by making them more interesting. You don’t have to admit it aloud, writers, but we all know that most of us have. Let’s look at an example of this:

  • “We can’t cross this river,” Alanna exclaimed repugnantly.
  • John crossed the room and shouted disgustedly, “I’ll never take you with me.”
  • “This has been the worst day ever,” Susie cried angrily.

For those of you who still aren’t convinced, let’s up the dosage with a paragraph:

Hank crossed the room and sat down. “We should have never waited this long for a table,” he seethed, leaning over to glare at her. 

“If you wanted a better spot, you should have called ahead for a reservation,” Trudy returned pointedly.

“Well, perhaps if you didn’t take so long to get ready, I could have,” he countered dryly.

Can you imagine reading an entire book like that? *shiver*

So why do new writers feel the urge to be that . . . creative with their dialogue tags? Back in the beginning, I thought the typical tags of “said/asked” were too boring and dull. It didn’t take me long to realize that dull (in this context) is the point.

Image your words as a window pane of glass, and the story is behind it. Your words are merely the lens that your story is seen through. The thicker the words, the cloudier the glass gets. If you use huge words, purple prose, or crazy dialogue tags, then all you’re doing is fogging up the glass through which your reader is trying to view your story. The goal is to draw as little attention to your actual words as possible; therefore, you keep the glass as clear as possible, so that the reader focuses on the story. Using tags like “said/asked” are so clear, they’re virtually invisible.

Now, does that mean that you can’t use anything else? Of course not. Let’s look further.

Alternate dialogue tags

Some authors say to never use anything other than “said/asked,” while others say to heck with the rules and use whatever you want. Some genres (such as romance) are more forgiving about using alternate dialogue tags. I take a more pragmatic approach to it. I sometimes use lines like:

“I’m glad we got out of there,” she breathed.

The very important question is how often. I compare adverbs and alternate dialogue tags to a strong spice. Some is nice, but too much will spoil the batch. Imagine a cake mix with a liter of vanilla flavoring, rather than the normal tablespoon. The more often you use anything other than “said/asked,” the stronger the flavor. If it’s too powerful, it’ll tug the reader away from the story and spotlights those words. In a full length book of around 85,000 words, I personally use alternate dialogue tags only around a few dozen times total.

By saving them, the pleasant side effect is that when I do use them, they pack more of an emotional punch.


Related: How to Write Natural Dialogue


Action beats

I have a love affair with action beats. Used effectively, they can be another great way to announce who’s talking, yet at the same time add some movement or blocking to a scene. For example:

Looking down, Katie ran a finger around the edge of the mug. “We need to talk.”

That added some nice flavor to the scene, and you know who spoke. The only caveat is to be careful of not using too many action beats, as it does slow down the pacing a tiny bit. If you’re writing a bantering sequence, for example, you wouldn’t want to use a lot of action beats so as to keep the pacing quick.

Dos and don’ts

Sometimes, action beats and dialogue tags have misused punctuation. I’ll give some examples.

  • “Please don’t touch that.” She said, blocking the display. (Incorrect)
  • “Let’s head to the beach,” he said as he grabbed a towel. (Correct)
  • Sam motioned for everyone to come closer, “Take a look at this.” (Incorrect)
  • Debbie handed over the magnifying glass. “Do you see the mossy film on the top?” (Correct)

Conclusion

Like many things in a story/novel, it’s all about balance. Try alternating actions beats, dialogue tags, and even no tags at all when it’s clear who’s speaking. By changing it up, it’ll make it so that no one method is obvious.


About Ryan

Ryan Lanz is an avid blogger and author of The Idea Factory: 1,000 Story Ideas and Writing Prompts to Find Your Next Bestseller. You can also find him on TwitterFacebook, and Tumblr.

Image courtesy of Onnola via Flickr, Creative Commons.