Tag Archives: Writers Resources

On Priorities, Parks, Parents, and Publishing

Yowzah. Sorry I fell out of the tree again. These have been weeks of prioritizing, and unfortunately if I’m to make any blogging a priority, it’s gotta be the one I actually get paid for. ūüôā In the meantime, while I haven’t been the most attentive commenter on your blogs lately, I’m glad to see you all are keeping busy and doing well, too!

I do finally want to pop in this week, though, before going on hiatus yet again. I’ll be heading Stateside in a few days for a brief visit to my sweet home Chicago before then undertaking the grand road-trip with my parents to Orlando for our big family Disney World vacation three years in the making. We made this pilgrimage many-a time as kids, but we started the tradition of returning with spouses and grandkids ten years ago. This is the first time since that all¬†of us siblings are able to make it again. So factor in me, me mum and dad, two brothers, one sister, two sisters-in-law, one brother-in-law, six nephews, two nieces, and my brother’s parents-in-law, and our grand total is nineteen. Could be an even twenty if my husband’s eleven weeks of grad school this year didn’t suck away all his work holiday and then some. ūüė¶ In any case, leave it to my parents to be the only ones choosing to drive, so I’m making the journey with them to help out—they’ve had a rough year of health issues, and it’s the least I can do when I’m otherwise missing out on everything, the bad and the good, while living abroad. Time to shift my priorities to others, finally.

And who am I kidding. I love this stuff. Fire up the Family Truckster! Cracker Barrel, here we come! Marty Moose! Marty Moose! Marty Moose!

This is no longer a vacation—it’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun.”

In literary news, where my freelance editing work goes, I’ve wrapped up the developmental edit of a very fun YA paranormal novel so will await whatever the managing edit may throw back our way. And the second novel I’d edited has just been published! The author has been making a great effort at social media, so it looks like it’s doing well so far. Three-for-three wonderful authors to work with [knocks wood for next time]. And as for my own manuscript, I’ve been revisiting ms #1 after some time away from it and reckon my next step is consulting with a professional editor—I’ve been really envying the process I go through with my authors and would like to see my story get all buffed-n-polished, too. Regardless, I need to get more momentum behind that one; I admittedly haven’t been trying very hard to query. Dare I say it, I think I’ve settled into contentment with just the process of bringing it into being—I’ve entertained the hell out of myself!—so, where priorities go, getting it published has almost come to feel secondary. Or is that what all the unpublished say when they’re in massive denial? ūüėČ

In any case, I’ll try to pop back at least a couple more times this week before the *Disney magic* beckons me…


Picking My Fleas ‚Äď aka, Constructive Criticism Part 2

* SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen The Sure Thing¬†*

Ah, a little inspiration in one’s life can go a long way in one’s writing…love, love, love that movie.

But to pick up where I left off Monday, here are the last two items covered during my one-on-one sessions at the Festival of Writing with agent Juliet Pickering and author Emma Darwin—

Opening Chapter:  Does your opening chapter compel further reading?

JP – “I don’t have a strong sense of [main character’s] age or experience. She seems fairly calm in this alien place – has she travelled a lot before? Surprised that no wariness when accepting drinks etc.”

ED – “Yes, to some extent. Want to know about the mysteries in the past, and how the prologue fits. Can’t say I care much yet, about [main character] because we haven’t had much insight into what makes her tick, what drives her, why she’s come to [this setting], etc.”

Me: Let me just preface with some context – ¬†as you can probably tell, my first chapter starts out with my protagonist traveling in a foreign country. During our session, Juliet had seemed mildly interested in the chapter, but her lack of feel for the character prevented her wanting to read more. Emma, however, told me she definitely did want to read more, if for any reason because she was intrigued by my prologue in the voice of the historical¬†thread’s main character and how it would come to relate to my modern thread. To repeat (and elaborate on) my last post, I have both a modern and historical narrative. The modern thread is the dominant one accounting for the bulk of the story, but the historical one pops up now and then to gradually reveal its influence on the former. Emma was engaged by the historical voice and the mystery of its cryptic words, but it was unfortunately my modern protagonist that fell flat for her as with Juliet.

I place a lot of the blame on the fact that this first chapter used to be my third¬†one. I’d hacked out a duller, wordier opening and likely didn’t thoroughly think through what necessary elements of character were thrown right out with it. I’ve therefore been working to reincorporate that into the opening chapter; it isn’t all as simple as adding an age reference in there, but showing more characterization (and consistency in that characterization) through thoughts, dialogue, and actions. Bearing in mind the critique of my writing style from last time, I’ve also worked to simplify sentences and present it in a *hopefully* snappier, more engaging way that will make the reader more interested in my gal by virtue of better understanding her personality, background, and motivations.

Next Steps:  Recommendations for the way forward.

JP – “Perhaps add a little more emotion into [main character’s] thoughts/feelings?”

Me: Juliet’s primary recommendation related to the issue above – characterization needs to be strengthened from the get-go. Emma hadn’t written anything down for this, but, in person, she reemphasized to me the importance of my two narrative threads having an impact on each other. She liked my writing (was hooked by the first sentence of Chapter 1—score!)—and just warned against the over-writing that confuses what I’m trying to say.

One sigh of relief was Emma’s validation with the way I shift POV between the two threads – the indie publisher I referenced Monday had an issue with that, but Emma said it was perfectly fine. There is an abundance of stigmas against first-time writers and what we are and are not able to do expertly enough; not that I’m saying I’m handling this case in point “expertly,” but I have a list of reasons why¬†I’m doing it the way that I am that I’m choosing to stand by, no matter what. I can see it making a difference if a newbie tries something just for the sake of doing it, to be stylistic and experimental, but when there’s actual purpose underlying the choices we make, that’s gotta be worth something (see “POV for Vendetta” for an instance of this). We’ll see.

So once again, I ask you, readers, what feedback have you received on your manuscript’s opening that you’ve found helpful? How did you address it?¬†


Leggo My Ego

I am a sensitive artist.
Nobody understands me because I am so deep.– King Missile

I¬†can’t help it
Because I am so much more intelligent
And well-rounded

Than everyone who surrounds me. […]

I stay home
Reading books that are beneath me,
And working on my work,
Which no one understands.”

Yep, there are a lot of divas out there like this, particularly among those of an artistic temperament, so we writers are no exception. Well, becoming a teacher certainly knocked any such pride out of me, reducing me to such a state of humility on a daily basis that I finally learned it’s¬†okay to admit when I don’t know something. No one could know all information, master all skills, and we certainly won’t grow in any respect until we can learn to acknowledge our limitations and accept help from others. 

That’s what I’ve been enjoying so much about the blogging community I’ve shared in for the last year—aspiring writers who are proud of their work, yet willing to put their vulnerabilities and uncertainties out there in their blog posts for all to know and empathize with. By doing so, we’re learning and improving. We also learn and improve from having our work critiqued, be it by peers in a writing group, an informal beta-reader, editor/agent feedback, etc. When taking on such a¬†personal task as writing that inherently possesses so much passion, however, it can be difficult to accept criticism of our babies. What we write is who we are, and who likes hearing that they’re anything less than perfect? I’d say not a single one of us, if I were a bettin’ man (or a man at all, for that matter).

Yet take it in stride we must. It’s hard to control how another will respond to our work, but we can control how graciously¬†we respond to their feedback. I love the tale I’ve written and certainly want to retain ultimate creative license, but as agent rejections already start rolling in (2 so far), I understand that there will always be something to adjust. And in this case I just hope I can handle it as gracefully as the author whose work I’m presently¬†editing. I just got her edits back, along with this lovely email:

“I must say, your editorial was wonderful, so user friendly and in tune with what I was aiming for and didn’t quite reach. ¬†I particularly appreciated how you explained why certain patterns weren’t working or how they could work better. ¬†I believe that your input will benefit my future writing as well, and not just this work. […] I did take your suggestions to heart, and I’m pleased with the result. Really, your editorial was invaluable. I’m looking forward to your opinion of the revised work.”

Not that I’m letting this go to my head ;)…but it was an inspiration, not to mention such a relief! So time now to get over myself and help this author reach her personal best. Ego begone! But confidence, stay.

How about you? Has a dose of humility ever caught you getting a bit too stubborn during the writing process? How do you know when to assert what you believe are your strengths and when to concede your weaknesses?


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