Tag Archives: writing blog

War of the Worries and Warm Fuzzies

Just an utterly random post when I should be working to generate new creative material, but alas, my stomach is flipping and expanding and contracting right now with a frantic brawl going on in there. No, I didn’t eat too many beans. As my title says, the contenders in this ultimate cage match are:

Worry VS. Warm Fuzzy

I’ve always known myself to be riddled in dichotomy, and at this moment in time, the conflict has entered my emotional realm. I’ve tried to shake some of it out of my brain, which then trickled to my heart, which doesn’t want to deal with it either, so it’s all been kicked to the curb and plummeted into my belly. It’s nauseating. But let’s get on with it.

“In this corner, we have Worry! Brought to this ring thanks to unsuccessful queries and the usual insecurities that plague a first-time writer!”

Worry clasps its hands and shakes them above its head as though already victorious. The crowd boos and hisses. Empty and crushed cans of Schlitz fling into the center of the ring along with the errant tomato that accidentally takes out the bikini-clad model who was about to hold up the “Round 1” sign.

“And in this corner, coming all the way from the empathic people whose opinions matter an endearing amount, ladies and gentlemen, we give you—Warm Fuzzy!”

Whistles and cheers and feet drumming on the floor fill the arena as Warm Fuzzy bashfully hides its face behind boxing gloves. Chocolates and flowers sprinkle the ring.

With my unfortunate front-row seat, I sit here in as much anticipation as the crowd as to the outcome of this match. For you see, my morale is a little depressed as a result of this submission process. I know it’ll pass, that regardless of the rejection that comes, I’ll stand straight, relax my shoulders, stretch my fingers and get them typing about alternate realities once again for the sheer fun and love of it. But not yet, I guess. What’s enveloping me in comfort and giddy flattery in the meantime, however, are the thoughtful, encouraging words of those who know me personally or perhaps just as the Monkey…including two that have recently bestowed sweet recognition, so I thank you, Nicki Elson (Not-So-Deep Thoughts blog) and Milo James Fowler (In Media Res blog) for the Stylish Blogger and Write Hard nods, respectively. Any positive words are for certain taken to heart at this time :).

And so, in return for both of the above (which have been added to my blog award trophy case), I share my 7 random things here and pass the Write Hard torch (see rules here) to other writers who should receive it if they haven’t already:

1. Nicki Elson at Nicki Elson’s Not-So-Deep Thoughts

2. Eva at Write in Berlin

3. Tahlia at Lethal Inheritance

4. Cities of the Mind

5. Ollin at Courage 2 Create

6. Glen at Glen’s Life

7. Melissa at Blame it on the Weatherman

Each of the above (and Milo, I hope you realize you’re likewise included in these sentiments—you, too, Alannah, when you’re back to blogging again) continue to be so honest about their writing processes, sharing the ups and the downs as well as take-away advice for how to stay on the up with one’s writing. They’re perseverant, prolific, and have provided me with thoughtful feedback. I appreciate the time they take for—and the interest they take in—me and reckon with this backing, no matter how much of a deflated nerd I may feel at times, I won’t go down without a fight.

DING!


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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?


WordPress Picked My Fleas – 2010 in Review

The stats helper monkeys [FaMo’s Note: I swear this is their phrasing, not mine…as much as I love any chance to exploit my theme] at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 4,500 times in 2010. That’s about 11 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 86 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 102 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 20mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was August 6th with 101 views. The most popular post that day was The FaMo Awards.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were blogcatalog.com, twitter.com, milo-inmediasres.com, WordPress Dashboard, and nickielson.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for the fallen monkey, fallen monkey, back to the future polish, cluedo, and cluedo board.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The FaMo Awards August 2010
19 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

2

Monkey with a Mission January 2010

3

Human Persona May 2010
2 comments

4

The Shotgun-Shack Story: Nowhere to Hide August 2010
21 comments and 2 Likes on WordPress.com

5

If Truth Be Told… August 2010
22 comments and 3 Likes on WordPress.com

[FaMo’s Note: Well, guess I’m glad I used that Clue board photo in my “The Kitchen Culprits” post to get those Google referrals 🙂. Am also amused that people have directly searched for me, unless I’m intercepting visitors for another fallen monkey out there…that poor, forlorn creature laying in the grasses somewhere for someone to see it has fallen, while instead they read my nonsense…At any rate, cheers to Milo and Nicki as well for the referrals! I had a hell of a fun year picking the grey-matter lint from the folds of my brain and piling it up here and look forward to more in 2011! Thank you, dear readers, for stopping by my tree.]


Swinging Into the Christmas Tree…

I’m going to be swinging from a looong vine tomorrow that’ll land me in arctic Chicago. My visits home are always filled with monkey business, but I’m hoping to still curl up at my parents’ labor-of-love dial-up internet connection and play with some writing prompts like I’ve wanted to for a while—very excited to generate new material of any sort after the long process of revising the same work.

No updates on that project in the meantime. I’ve submitted to two independent publishers so far, one in the US and one in the UK, so that I can go into the next two weeks of festivities with some semblance of peace of mind that’ll enable me to just play for while. On my return, I’ve got two US literary agents on my list to query as soon as their holiday hiatuses lift. And then, *gulp*, I’m going to attempt the challenge that brave Mister Milo has set out for aspiring writers: Write 1 Sub 1, for which we write one story and submit one story every week of the year! (I believe he and his partners-in-crime are offering a monthly variation, however, of which I think I’m going to take advantage). Microfiction counts, so I’m excited to monkey around with that again.

All this said, I’m pooped…and I haven’t even flung any yet today. Time to climb my tree and rest up for the big swing tomorrow morning—I love this time of year when I get to live in a Christmas tree, though I always get in trouble for eating and/or throwing the ornaments.

Happy Holidays, my lovelies!


The Mind’s Eye

Now that I’ve confessed to initiating my submissions, I think it’s rather timely that I caught a film on TV last night that delivered a little perspective.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Seen it or read it? I had read it about three or four years ago, and I’m not saying I think it’s a masterpiece or that the author is entirely likable, but the fact he wrote what he wanted to write and surmounted a massive obstacle to do so is commendable enough for me (not to mention makes me wonder what the hell I have to whinge about…).

The book is less than 150 pages, but if you’ve read it, you understand that there was nothing “short” about the process. If you aren’t familiar with the premise of the book, it chronicles the memories of a man (Jean-Dominique Bauby, former editor of French Elle magazine) diagnosed with “locked-in syndrome,” thus paralyzed from head to toe, other than the ability to blink one eye. The prison of his own body, then, became his enclosing “diving bell,” and after initially suffering an understandably defeatist attitude, he came to realize that his greatest mobility and freedom—his “butterfly”—was his mind and the imagination and memories it held. He learned that in this way he could escape to anywhere in the world, dine on the most sumptuous feasts, and do whatever else met his fancy. And thanks to the persistence of a hospital therapist, he learned he could write a book.

Unable to speak, unable to move, this man wrote a book. And I speak of him in the past tense because he passed away within days of this book’s publication in 1997. But it wasn’t about the publication; it was the process itself that helped preserve his will to live.

And, clearly, the way it came about is remarkable. In my second-to-last post, I talked about editing on a chapter-by-chapter, to paragraph-by-paragraph, to sentence-by-sentence, to word-by-word level; well, how about writing on a letter-by-letter one? As the woman transcribing his memoir would read through a special alphabet (arranged in order of the most frequently used letters), he would blink when she said the letter he wanted. Now imagine approaching writing this way; this is a time-consuming, surely exhausting effort, so you’re certainly not going to waste any words getting to your point. Yet it’s the presence of description that I remember astonishing me when I read the book. He “wrote” vividly, expressively, demonstrating that some detail is worth working for; it’s necessary to conveying the true idea.

So as I’ve written before, as we hack into our own pieces and try to reduce word count, it’s important not to strip those ideas of their joy. Every word needs to matter, however, so we must be discerning in our choices. And we must remember what we’re doing it for. Is it in the hope of being published so everyone knows our name and kidding ourselves that it’ll make us rich? Or is it the sheer achievement when the odds may have been against us? The joy of the act itself and of sharing it with others? Think of the celebration it is to pen the triumph of one’s mind, capturing in words the life we’re infused with through imagination and memory. It is tremendously difficult work, yes, and yet doesn’t inspiration sometimes flutter through us in a blink…peppering our pages with butterfly kisses from the lashes of our mind’s eye…


Serving My Fur-Balls up on a Platter

Or at least my brain and heart

You see, the Monkey is having difficulty throwing its own poop today.

Why?

Because it’s a difficult if not impossible action to undertake when one has scared oneself shitless.

Why?

Because I’m setting myself up for the first in a series of rejections on my manuscript this week, at long last. Isn’t that exciting?! It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for!

In all honesty, it does feel really good to finally be at this stage (or deluding myself that I’m ready for this stage). I’m certainly no diva who is staring down my novel and basking in its perfection…but I know I’m past my “Fraying at the End” point and have reached instead where I’ve read it over and revised so many times, walked away from it a while, walked back to it and read it over and revised so many times more that I personally am quite satisfied and happy with it. Yet I humbly also think it’s as far as I can take it myself until it falls in someone‘s nurturing hands, whether it’s actually picked up by an agent or publisher (dare I even think it?!) or me shelling out the cash for an editing service should I go the route of self-publication. My lovely beta-reader was tremendously helpful as I shaped up the early drafts, so if it meets with rampant rejection in its current form, she’ll surely be called back in for more consultation :). I once feared someone else’s suggestions would make the story less than my own. But through the beta-reading process and now developmentally editing another’s work for publication, I’ve come to see how nice-n-polished-n-perdy a tale can become from this outside input (my recently published sister likened it to a “spa treatment” for her novel). Not that I’m expecting to get any sort of feedback through the submission process. I know I won’t…

This is a rather vulnerable stage, isn’t it…in some way empowering, yet also feeling like sending one’s child off to school for the first time…*sniff* *sniff*…or to the gallows ;)…

I’m going to give my mind a little break on this for a bit, as I’ve written and revised to blindness, and rather than dwell on the negativity my Inner Critical Beeyotch may eventually spew, what I know right now is that my manuscript in its present incarnation passes the test I’ve had for it all along:

Is it the story I wanted to write? Check.

Is it a story I would want to read? Check.

Did I enjoy the process? Check.

Does it reflect who I am as a person and a writer? Check & Check.

Is it something I’m committed to strengthening further down the road for the sake of its own existence as its best self? Check.

Started during my first months living in London and spanning the two years I’ve lived here so far, there’s a lot in this work that encapsulates my own experiences and observations (hence, my “From Sentiments to Sentences” posts), so at the very least it will be a special little time machine for me take a spin in when nostalgic in the future.

Beyond this, I reckon it’ll be time to bring my blog back to its origins for a little while—i.e., belching out the randomness of my mind in response to short writing prompts. I’d originally started the blog to do just that as, at the time, I was caught in a writer’s block. Well, at this point, I think the creative rescuscitation will do me good in not only eventually revisiting this first manuscript and getting rolling with that second novel idea that’s been flitting about in the cobwebby corners of my cranium, but also, quite simply, writing for writing’s sake.

Those prompts could be just the laxative the Monkey needs to keep my throwin’ arm warmed up, after all…


The Manuscript Manicure – Part IV: On Publishers & Publicizing

“Throw gloom over your shoulder.”  – Wendy Robertson

All right, we’re in the home stretch of my Manuscript Manicure miniseries! On to approach publication in the absence of gloom…

Okay, then. Next topic for convo at the Room to Write workshop dealt with researching publishers and agents. Again, no one-size-fits-all remedy, they merely directed us toward the Writers and Artists Yearbook (I guess Writer’s Market would be the U.S. equivalent). As you peruse these comprehensive listings, read carefully for the genres preferred by each representative to get a feel for who would be most receptive to your story. Newer agents are typically listed last. Regardless how you slice and dice this abundance of information, make sure you isolate a specific name to whom you address your query. My impression was that the facilitating authors didn’t seem keen on using an agent, but they acknowledged the obvious benefit of their industry contacts as well the validation your work is good. They favor big agencies over small, finding the latter to be unreliable or at least more likely to be. They also recommend doing a punt with the publishers (well, those accepting unsolicited submissions, that is), as their slush piles are probably smaller than agents’ these days.

As for those publishers…the workshop highlighted independent publishers. These are the ones most likely to accept unsolicited submissions, and in some cases you can send your entire manuscript straight away. The cons with this avenue are: 1) the odds – small publishers might purchase only a handful of books a year, and 2) promotion – the bulk of this burden may still fall on you; indeed some independent publishers require a proposal of your self-marketing plan concurrent with your submission.

And there’s the alternative route becoming ever more prevalent: self-publishing, or, as Wendy prefers to call it, “Private Editions.” I love that :). Pros to this are: 1) getting to see your book in print and finally share what you’ve been up to all this time with others, and 2) greater control over your editing, cover design, etc. Cons are obviously: 1) cost, 2) rigorous self-editing, and 3) rigorous self-promotion. This last aspect is not something all writers are comfortable with, so one of our fellow attendees, Jackie McKenzie, offered the following media tips from her journalism experience:

[These 10 steps are all directly quoted; I’d use the quote box, but it’s too awkward.]

1. Seek out the media – they won’t find you. Be brave and proactive, not pushy, just quietly methodical.[…]
2. Research which media to contact – […] Start with local papers and radio plus titles relevant to the book. Try titles relevant to new writers and ones that publish book reviews.
3. Think online as well as offline – there are more opportunities for coverage in online publications than traditional printed ones. […]
4. Prepare the pitch – write two opening sentences suitable for a quick introductory phone call. Start with “I have a news release that you may be interested in…” then sell yourself and the book, one sentence for each!
5. Get named contacts – use the two-sentence pitch to phone news desks directly and ask who you should send the press release to. Named emails are more effective than generic ones. […]
6. Prepare a news release – keep to one side of [the page]. Use the same two lines from the pitch and include a bit about the storyline (blurb) plus some background on you. Highlight any topical issues or local landmarks etc. that may be of interest. Include any links to any relevant websites, blogs or social media that may help to sell the story. Include your contact number and details of where the book is being sold. (“It’s not all about the book; build a story around you!”)
7. Send out the release as an attachment – include a jpeg photo of you holding the published book or a visual of the front. […] Keep the message in the body of the email very short. If you have spoken to the journalist beforehand refer back to the conversation.
8. Follow up emails with a quick call – after two days contact each journalist [to ask] if it is of interest and offer to send them a copy of the book. If they are not interested end the call quickly.
9. Send out email invites to the launch – use the same media contacts. Most will decline but it adds credibility. […] If they can’t attend ask if they are interested in a post-launch news release. If so, it may be worth paying a freelance press photographer to come along to the launch. […]
10. Prepare a post-launch release – re-cap on the details from the first release but refresh the story with an opening paragraph about the success of the launch, numbers attended, etc. If anyone of local interest is there […] borrow them for the photograph and ask them for a quote to add to the release. If a reputable press photographer has been used mention them by name on your email message (anything to persuade them to consider the picture).

A good book launch is a must. And after the launch, keep going! Consider scheduling monthly events.

As of this workshop, three writers in attendance were on the verge of launching their own first novels. All three for their own reasons chose self-publication—I mean, private editions—and two of which published through their local HPM Group, a Durham-based printer that I have to say produced two of the highest quality self-publications I’ve yet to see. Their books look like any to be found on a major retailer’s shelf, and one author had the creative license to use her own painting as the cover image, so I was very impressed with the creative and physical production possibilities given the right printer and the right amount of coin—you get what you pay for, after all. In any case, to give a quick shout-out to these ladies in congratulations:

Anne Ousby – Patterson’s Curse
Erica Yeoman – Devil’s Drove
Eileen R. Elgey – The Smile of Deceit

Wendy Robertson also just launched her memoir, The Romancer: On Being a Writer.

To close with more of her pearls of wisdom as we embark down this rocky road to publication:

“Every book and every short story you write is part of your apprenticeship.”

“There are good kinds of rejection. Don’t pore over the nasty ones; piece together the best bits of the good ones.”

PART I – Macro-editing

PART II Micro-editing

PART III – Submitting a Manuscript


The Manuscript Manicure – Part II: Micro-Editing

All-righty, finally back with my next installment on editing a manuscript (refer to Part I if you missed it). Once again, this is all thanks to the ladies at Room to Write for sharing insights that might be new to you or least validating of what you already know. Nothing compares to that face-to-face conversation, but I love the interaction that occurs between writers online via blogs. As they said at the workshop, there is so much to be learned beyond our own work, after all—it’s as important to listen to and learn from the projects and experiences of others.

It also teaches us to peel back our skin and not be overly protective of our work. I had to laugh when author Wendy Robertson spoke on all the emotional loading that goes into the critique when we offer it to others for feedback; she said something to the effect that when we give our work to someone else:

“You’re giving your critiquer the power to upset you.”

Ain’t it the truth. Perhaps this is why when I sent the full edit of my first assigned manuscript to its author this afternoon, I cushioned my email with empathy and compliments of everything that was done well, hoping she’ll receive my suggestions for improvement in stride and be willing to work with me constructively.

Anyway, when it comes editing for ourselves, remember that we must become self-conscious of who we are as a writer and what it is we want to achieve. To do that best, we need to identify our style and describe it in a few words. If you read 50 pages of your own novel, what comes across on the page? Is your style spare, lyrical, conversational, whimsical, direct, abstract (to offer a few), or combination of more than one?

We are now shifting from macro-editingto micro-editing and need to explore our style in relation to our content:

– I mentioned the “shape” of the novel last time, which relates to your story arc. This might continually ascend like a surging wave or start thin (yet interesting) and thicken in density to an explosive climax—Wendy likened this to the body of a whale, with the tail being the interesting opening and the blow-hole the climax. Or maybe your chapters are individual stories unto themselves that link together in some way to provide continuity and relevance, like a chain with a large loop toward the end where this progression culminates into the climax (Blackbird House is an example of this shape).

Shapes can vary, but there should always be conflict (tension), climax (crisis), surprise and revelation. And from a micro-editing standpoint, this needs to apply to each of your individual chapters as well.

– Speaking of chapters, as mentioned last time, ensure there’s continuity between them, yes, but also within them on a paragraph-to-paragraph, sentence-to-sentence level.

– With continuity maintaining our story’s consistency and logical progression, we must also make sure the words and sentences flow. This concerns the musicality of the language itself, and the best way to determine this is to read it aloud so you hear it.

– Your musicality and style will be greatly impacted by your sentence construction, so evaluate your writing on a sentence-by-sentence level. Is the syntax effective? Does it flow? Does it make sense? It’s important to ensure you’re applying correct grammatical conventions through punctuation and arrangement of clauses. Use commas, semicolons, and colons for sentence variety and make sure they’re used correctly.

Of course, creative writing allows for creative departure from conventions as well, but make sure that if you do deviate from the rules, there’s a specific purpose for it that strengthens what you’re trying to say. If it’s not producing the intended effect, revisit it and, all else fails, run with the convention rather than muddle your ideas in unclear writing.

– The language you use is the building block for everything, so you need to evaluate your writing on a word-by-word level as well. Make every word count, the strongest choice it could be (English in particular is too word-rich to not take advantage of it!). And obviously don’t allow excessive repetition, incorrect/inappropriate use, or incorrect spelling distract and otherwise undermine your writing.

– The “look” of the page is important as well, so ensure ample inclusion of “white space” now and then to allow your reader’s eyes to “breathe.” This is usually achieved through dialogue that isn’t overly bogged down in paragraphs of description. Section breaks provide white space as well to help accentuate shifts in time/setting.

And if you’re cutting down for word count or tightening, rather than prune on a word/phrase level, they seemed to opt for removing whole chunks, if not lifting an entire chapter to see if the story even misses it. I would suffer some major separation anxiety in that case, but I know some of you have said in your blogs that you’ve done it and lived to tell the tale. And it might not be a matter of ridding of it entirely. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying:

“Don’t throw your babies out with the bathwater.”

Well, they warned us of this as well, and it’s actually why they cautioned not to overly prune on a word/phrase level—making our sentences sparser could deprive the story of some of its joy! And even lifting an entire chapter may just be a structural change by which you drop it into a different place in your manuscript. (Now that I have done, and it works so much better!) At any rate, they said:

“If you kill your darlings, don’t put them in the bin—save them for something else!”

Another novel, a short story, a poem, who knows?!

All right, folks, if I haven’t successfully made your eyeballs roll out with all this reading by now, keep them sucked into those sockets—I’ll be back with a little bit on what they had to say about manuscript formatting, publishers, and self-promotion.

PART I Macro-editing

PART III – Submitting a Manuscript

PART IV – On Publishers & Publicizing


The Manuscript Manicure – Part I: Macro-Editing

Hiya! I’m back to redeem that I.O.U. I gave you last week. See, my word’s good as gold ;)…

As I mentioned, I attended a writing workshop with Room to Write over the weekend that was geared toward prepping a novel manuscript for submission. The full-day conference was divided into two primary parts—Editing and Publication—the first of which I’ll address in part now and break the rest down into separate posts. But, first, I’ll start with some general notes I jotted along the way to get us in the proper mindset:

One thing they stressed is that, above all:

“Editing is a creative process.”

Yes, it involves the nitty-gritty technical stuff, but we’re not merely playing the role of English teacher grading for grammar with red pen in hand—revising our work requires every bit of imagination and innovative thought as writing our initial draft does. For as they said, when the first draft is finished:

“You’re only just beginning.”

Ah yes, it does feel that way doesn’t it…my question is, when the hell does it end???

Anyway, in order to become our own editor, we have to become a “self-conscious” one. No, not as in insecurity-ridden—I think I’ve already mastered that one just fine :). What they mean is to be conscious of the kind of writer we are and the audience we’re writing for. The better aware we are of this, the better  we’ll be able to edit our work with this focus in mind.

Macro-editing is concerned with the overall  novel as a cohesive work. It’s our opportunity to step back from our first draft and contemplate whether it has achieved what we wanted it to and is structured effectively. They encouraged us to print a hardcopy of the manuscript to initiate this stage, as reading your words on the page is truly a different experience from reading them on screen. (I wouldn’t have expected this, but wow. There’s so much more that I catch with that ms in hand.) You will also want to list your themes, summarize your entire book in three sentences, and keep these with you as you journey back through your text to ensure you aren’t straying from any critical elements.

Key aspects your self-conscious-editing self should look for (not only in the novel as a whole, but in every chapter and scene as well) are:

– A compelling beginning, a hook that makes the reader want to continue. The first chapter in particular should be compelling in an action sense, but also in a literary way—it needs to be beautifully written. Subsequent chapters likewise need their own hooks and should be varied in how they start (i.e., beginning with dialogue, beginning in the middle of action, etc.)

– Action, drama, or “trouble,” as they called it.

– Appropriate pacing.

Three-dimensional characters that are brought to life and desire something;

— Characters are “thinly veiled versions of the writer” (sound familiar?), but we must immediately establish distinction between them and from ourselves if they are to appear as separate people; if they’re all clones of us, then they’re clones of each other.
— If you can “see” the character in your mind (consider gathering clippings from magazines and such for reference), then they will come across on the page.
– Provide physical descriptions of your three main characters, enough to help visualize their traits, but not full-bodied detail. Leave something to your readers’ imagination.
— Characters should be consistent from start to finish (i.e., if you reveal or yourself learn something new about them later in the novel, are these traits present at the beginning as well? If not, try to introduce them at least subtly).
— We should see growth in the main character.

– Clear sense of when and where each scene partakes.

– Long sections of description/exposition that could be cut.

Changing up the writing between exposition, narrative, and dialogue.

– A sense of atmosphere and appeal to the senses that lends texture.

– Something in each chapter that surprises the reader.

Continuity between scenes and chapters; ensure nothing is missing.

– Evaluate the “shape” of your novel/chapter in terms of story arc. Shapes can vary, but there should in general be a rising sense of action/conflict until the climax, then a dip toward resolution (so check for any sagging in the middle).

– Evaluate the ending and ensure a sense of resolution. They advised us to look at six novels we personally enjoy and look at their endings as a guide for managing this successfully. They also admitted that, in the interest of keeping your ending brief (the resolution should just be a “flick” after the climax) as well as ensuring your reader understands what has happened, the resolution may indeed warrant more telling than showing.

Throughout your macro-editing assessment, then, you will want to sit back and assess whether this is the story you wanted to write in the first place. I suppose it doesn’t hurt if ends up morphing into something even cooler than you thought it could be, but if it seems to fall short in some way, pinpoint where it diverges and contemplate how to get it back on track. Another very important point to consider outside of yourself is if it is the story your reader will want to read—how will they experience it?

I’d better cut this off here until my next installment. Many thanks to author Avril Joy for guiding us through this session of the workshop! More to come…

PART II Micro-editing

PART III – Submitting a Manuscript

PART IV – On Publishers & Publicizing


I.O.U. – Going, Going, Gone Until Next Week

Writing a blog post here to tell you what I’m going to write in blog posts next week. Why do something so asinine? Because I’m shorter on time than I’d like to be today, and after my previous lapse in blogging, I really wanted to get a post in this week to represent, yo.

What I was going to write about this week (and will now have to next week) was the beginning of my editing process on someone else’s manuscript now that I’ve received my first assignment as freelance developmental editor. I respectfully will refrain from discussing this author’s specific plot and leave it purely to the general suggestions I’ve noted that are likewise duly filed away in me noggin for my own manuscript (and may be useful for yours).

Which brings me to another topic I was going to write about…my manuscript status. Not super interesting at this stage, other than I’ve had it printed and bound as-is to whisk away to the English countryside for another workshop with the Room to Write organization I met in March. This is the first time I’ve seen those words in print, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t catch a typo and sentences begging to be cut on first cracking it open. It’ll never end will it…Ah well, the focus of the workshop is manuscript revision and submission, so it’s just as well that mine is still a work-in-progress.

Which brings me to what I was going to write about next week anyway: the workshop. I promise to share what insights I take away from it (and I can cram an extra scone in my pocket for ya if you’d like).

Ah, and in catching up on some of your blogs, I see that I’m going to fulfill the reqs of receiving the “Honest Scrap” award from Milo James Fowler over at the always-enjoyable In Media Res blog. Thank you, Milo! So now next week in addition to the usual fur balls, I’ll be coughing up 10 random things about myself.

Until then, I owe ya…Happy Weekend, everyone!


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