Are Tiny Houses Creepy?

Tiny House Plaid Zebra

With the final book in my YA mystery series published and my latest psychological suspense manuscript sent off to my agent (hooray!), I’ve begun major revisions on another suspense manuscript I wrote last year. The story is partially set in a tiny house in northern Michigan. My latest round of revisions comes after receiving feedback from a few editors who thought the twists and turns at the end of the story weren’t “big” enough. I’m working on fixing that. They had positive feedback, too, and I was struck by one observation made by more than one editor–the tiny house made for a creepy setting.

While I was happy to hear the setting unnerved them (the novel involves an older widow who begins to believe her new best friend in the tiny house might be a murderer.) Still, I’d never thought of tiny houses as being inherently creepy. Admittedly, my knowledge of tiny houses comes mostly from watching episodes of Tiny House Nation on the FYI network. I originally placed the character in the tiny house to emphasize her free spirit, nomadic lifestyle, and belief in minimalist living.

The more I think about it, however, those editors might have been right about the creepiness factor. It’s something I’m going to play up in the next draft of my manuscript. For example, why would the young woman choose to live in a house on wheels? Maybe to make a quick getaway? Is she running from someone or something? And then there are all those secret compartments–drawers hidden in the sides of staircases, tables that fold out from the wall, storage bins built underneath the bed. What’s she hiding? At one point, her friend even observes, “My, you have plenty of hiding places. Don’t you?” And, in case you’re wondering…Yes. She is hiding something.

Aside from the abundance of hiding places, there’s also the sheer claustrophobia that might come with living inside a 200 square-foot space. I’m all for paring down my material possessions, but I’m not sure I could live in a house smaller than my modest-sized living room. There’s literally nowhere to run or hide.

Finally, the location where the tiny house is parked comes into play. In my story, it’s parked on field next door to a lonely widow’s farmhouse. The farmhouse is located on a ten-acre parcel of land “out in the boonies,” as the widow describes it. Maybe the house would have different vibe if it were parked in town next to a park? Or overlooking the ocean? I placed it in a remote location purposefully, to add a sense of foreboding to the story.

While I plan give an even more mysterious vibe to the tiny house in my story, my underlying view of tiny houses probably won’t change. Tiny houses are cool! Okay, maybe once in a while they can be creepy. What do you think?

Revise, Revise, and Revise (Again!)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about my current works-in-progress. Maybe that’s because I was hoping to wait long enough to share some good news. While I’ve spent the last ten months diligently writing my newest manuscript, a psychological thriller entitled, THE SPACE BETWEEN, my agent has been submitting TOP PRODUCER (my completed suspense novel) to the larger publishing houses. We’ve spent weeks patiently waiting and receiving bits and pieces of feedback–some positive, some negative, but so far no “takers.”

After three months, my agent and I had to decide what the next move would be. Keep submitting? Or…revise based on the feedback I’ve received from the editors who’ve read TOP PRODUCER.

A part of me wanted to keep submitting, hoping we just hadn’t found that one person who could connect with the characters and see the brilliance of my writing:) Admittedly, this desire may have been spurred by the harrowing thought of digging back into a manuscript I thought I’d already completed. Something deep inside me knew what I had to do. Revise. Again.

chalkboard_quotes_twainIt might be important to note that I’ve already rewritten Top Producer three times. Three times! But after having a year away from it and armed with feedback from some major editors, I felt a renewed burst of determination and inspiration to make it better.

With the two comments I received from multiple editors–1) I wished the main character was a woman, and 2) the pacing in the first half of the book is too slow, I’ve begun digging back in. Some friends have joked that my revision is as simple as doing a find and replace of “he” to “she.” Oh, how I wish that was the case! As it turns out, changing my leading man to a leading lady alters not only the character, but major plot points of my book. I’d become attached to my main man, so killing him off was a little bit painful. Surprisingly, I’m beginning to love my new main character (her name is Mara) even more. She’s insecure, but determined. She does some dishonest things, but for honorable reasons. She wants to shed a few pounds, but she loves chocolate and beer. You get the picture.

Secondly, going back over my manuscript after a year away from it has been an enlightening experience. There are so many places where I’ve been able to enhance the description, cut out unnecessary back story (thus increasing the pacing), and create more likeable, well-rounded characters. I’ve even been able to add a few scenes to up the stakes and make the reader realize early on that there is something very wrong with Mara’s new “dream” job with this successful Chicago realtor.

As for my more recent manuscript, THE SPACE BETWEEN, I’m almost finished with my first round of revisions and am hoping it will go out on submission soon. I’ll keep on revising TOP PRODUCER while we wait. Oh, the joys of writing and publishing! But as they say, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” I’m trying to remain hopeful that “luck” will find me soon.

How is your work-in-progress going? I’d love to hear your revision success stories!

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo!

PrintIt’s that time of year again. The leaves are falling, a chill whips through the air, aging pumpkins sit on every doorstep, and grown adults take on the personas of interesting and outlandish characters. No, I’m not talking about Halloween. I’m talking about National Novel Writing Month! For writers, November can be the most exciting and challenging month of the year. What could be more motivating than accepting a challenge to write a novel in thirty days?

This will be my third year participating in NaNoWriMo. I consider my first two NaNoWriMo years successful, even though I did not reach my 50,000 word goal in thirty days either time. In 2013, I ended up with a great starting place for what would later become my now published YA mystery, Trail of Secrets (Dark Horse Series, Book 1). In 2014, I wrote the bulk of the first draft of my adult thriller, Top Producer, which I recently finished revising (for the 800th time) and am currently submitting to agents. This year, I’m diving into NaNoWriMo with high hopes of writing the first draft of Book 2 in the Dark Horse series.

In order to prepare for the challenge, I’ve drafted a rough outline of my general storyline. I’ve fired up my Scrivner software. I’ve created my profile on NaNoWriMo.org to track my word count. Now all I need is for my kids to go away to boarding school for thirty days and to move Thanksgiving to the month of December. Oh yeah–I’d love to connect with some other NaNoWriMo participants for mutual motivation and support. Find me on NaNoWriMo.org under my username, LWolfeWrites, and add me as a writing buddy. LET’S DO THIS!!

Stay tuned for my NaNoWriMo mid-month update and end of the month results.

Do you have NaNoWriMo success story? Tell me about it!

Revision Tracks

I’ve been writing my newest novel–an adult thriller set in the world of real estate in downtown Chicago–for about a year now. I finished the first draft six months ago, and then added to it and revised it several times, including paying for a Revising-Your-Manuscript-4-Easy-To-Use-Revision-Techniquesprofessional edit. I knew my novel still needed a few tweaks, but I patted myself on the back thinking it was basically finished. After setting the manuscript aside for a few months, I blew away the cobwebs about a month ago, and asked a trusted and knowledgeable writer friend critique it. I so badly wanted him to tell me that it was perfect, that I should go ahead and send it out to agents, that it would be a best-seller. However, this is real life and that’s not what happened.

At first, some of his comments about my writing made me defensive. This book had become like a baby to me. No one likes to be told their baby is ugly. I spent a few days thinking about his suggestions, however, and realized many of his criticisms were correct. My main character did need more of a motivation for his actions, I did use too many similes, I did explain too much, etc. The realization my novel was not only incomplete, but that I might have to rewrite the entire thing, made me want to find the nearest tall building and jump off. The task before me seemed insurmountable. I had completely wasted a year of my life. What was I thinking? I crawled into bed, vowing to never write another word again.

Athletics_trackThankfully, I have a husband who is experienced in talking me off of ledges. He reminded me that he loved my book and that the two other people who had read it also enjoyed it. Yes. Maybe it needed some tweaking, but if I focused on one thing at a time, I could get it done. That’s when I remembered something I’d read a few years ago about “revision tracks”. Following different tracks of revision translates to reading through a work-in-progress several times, only focusing on and revising one thing each time. Changing just one thing isn’t so difficult, right?

I’ve already begun my first revision track–reading through my novel for unnecessary similes and removing them. Next, I’ll tackle creating a deeper back story for my main character which will make his later actions seem more believable. Then, I’ll move on to something else. You get the picture. The point is, now my revisions seem doable, and I’m actually excited about them! It’s simple and straight-forward–breaking an insurmountable task into smaller pieces is the best way to make it less daunting.

Have you struggled with revisions? What strategies worked for you?