Vivid Scenes

One of my weak points is vivid scenes. I have a tendency to have the images in my mind but fail to put it in my story. I have mentioned many times before that I believe the reader has the ability to imagine these scenes on their own; however, there is a huge gap between those two concepts.

I have turned back to The Tea Room in an effort to get it ready to enter another contest. It’s a women’s fiction contest found at: http://tinyurl.com/z5njvsp provided by:

@ChuckSambuchino

I thought I would take a scene and post it here and see what I can do to enhance it; meanwhile, it may help those of you who are like me and minimally describe a scene.

ORIGINAL

Back in her room Maria pulled out her diary and read the two previous entries. It reminded her of how precious her life outside the terem was – she had taken it for granted. How she wished she had paid more attention and written about everything. The description of her old room – the nursery, was vividly laid out and the picture that was formed in her mind, made her smile. She shared a bed with Sofia then, they were close, but something changed in Sofia and now they hardly spoke. Sofia was smart and had all the answers to the musings of her younger sisters.

 

ENHANCED

 

Back in her room Maria pulled out her diary and read the two previous entries she had written before the move to the terem. It reminded her of how precious her life was – she had taken it for granted. How she wished she had paid more attention and written about everything in such detail. The description of her old room – the nursery, was vividly laid out and the picture that was formed in her mind, made her smile. Fairies and angels adorned the walls, the aroma of ointment, and the softness of Mierda’s many layers of clothing as she cuddled and sung to them. The beautifully carved wooden cradle and the small bed she shared with Sofia then. They were close, and she read to her at night by candlelight. However, something changed in Sofia and now they hardly spoke. Sofia was smart and had all the answers to the musings of her younger sisters.

 

ORIGINAL

Almost immediately a group of Streltsy guardsmen entered the establishment that was known for it’s loyalties to the young Tsar. The obvious leader of the gang who’s sole purpose was to cause trouble, Vasilly Starostenko, had hesitated outside to heckle a passerby. He was delayed long enough for Heidi to move Maria and her escort into the back room and out the alley door — unseen.
“Maria I am afraid your clandestine activities are no longer a secret. I would have picked up that book for you. What are you reading that you had to risk so much to get it?”
Maria looked at him and didn’t quite know how to explain.
“You wouldn’t understand,” was her response.
Kirill, who had sisters himself, knew not to reply to that comment without risking his good standing.
Her afternoon adventure had left quite a story to tell in the first entry of her new diary, but she hated to part company with the real-life, quite capable, and handsome warrior dragon-slayer. Kirill solved her dilemma by suggesting another meeting.
“I will be out by the lake tomorrow with the Tsar, perhaps you and Fyodora could come by and watch the boys launch their sailboats.”
Knowing that any more time spent together within the walls of the palace could effect any future meetings because of protocol, she gleefully accepted his invitation and ran to tell Fyodora the good news.

ENHANCED

Almost immediately a group of Streltsy guardsmen, resplendent in their red uniforms, entered the establishment that was known for it’s loyalties to the young Tsar. The obvious leader of the gang, who’s sole purpose was to cause trouble, was the dashing, Vasilly Starostenko, who had hesitated outside to heckle a passerby who looked at him with disdain. He was delayed long enough for Heidi to move Maria and her escort into the back room and out the alley door — unseen.

Hidden in an alcove along the alleyway he pulled her alongside himself.
“Maria I am afraid your clandestine activities are no longer a secret. I would have picked up that book for you. What are you reading that you had to risk so much to get it?”
Maria looked at him and didn’t quite know how to explain.
“You wouldn’t understand,” was her response.
Kirill, who had sisters himself, knew not to reply to that comment without risking his good standing with her.
Her afternoon adventure had left quite a story to tell in the first entry of her new diary, but she hated to part company with the real-life, quite capable, and handsome warrior dragon-slayer.

Kirill solved her dilemma by suggesting another meeting.
“I will be out by the lake tomorrow with the Tsar; perhaps, you and Fyodora could come by to watch the boys launch their sailboats.”
Knowing that any more time spent together within the walls of the palace could effect any future meetings because of protocol, she gleefully accepted his invitation and once they made it back to the safety of the fortress she would tell Fyodora the good news.

 

Not sure if the new paragraphs will make it into my story, but I’m thinking if I did that to all the scenes my book it will easily double in size. I read somewhere, and I keep repeating this, a story isn’t finished until it goes to the publisher. I have read and re-read my stories and I have found errors and/or made changes every time.

I have completed my goals for January 2016. I have uploaded all the stories I had earmarked for contests and I am getting ready to tackle the major re-work, edit to my story Flaked Tuna. The one I plan to send out for professional edit and re-submission to the agent who passed it by. This will take a few months and by then I’m hoping that I will have heard from one of these contests I have entered. Something has to give.

 

Tying up loose ends

It’s getting to the end of the month and I am on track with the goals I set for myself. I wrote a new story last month, edited it myself and then sent it out for a professional edit. There was a question if I would be able to get it ready for the upload, but I’m confident that it’s ready to go.

Another area I have been spending some time is at the website YouWriteOn.com. I have uploaded a partial of my 8000 word story Curious Allure; because, they only allow 5000 words for a short story and 8,000 words for a novel. It’s a sampling for other writers to review; however, I have received three reviews. If you follow my blogs you’ll know the struggle I have had simply getting someone to read my stories. All three were positive, and made a few suggestions to help improve my writing. It was very helpful and I was able to make the correx and re-upload the changes.

I have also been reading other writers stories and give my reviews. I have read nine or ten, that gives me bonus points to put my story up for review. It’s a great way to see what other writers are doing and helps to understand why one story affects you more than another. I did turn down one review, they allow that. It was a psyco-murder thriller which I usually don’t read.

I feel like a human turnstile, my stories are everywhere and I have to review where they are and when to rethink my decisions. I have a fear I may be spreading myself too thin, but I need to be productive while some of my stories are on hold (contests, queries, back burner for edit, etc.).

I am also happy to be reading the ninth in the Saxon Series by Bernard Cornwell  Warriors of the Storm. I don’t know why I enjoy these stories so much, it is Historical Fiction which is my favorite genre, but I get so wrapped up in the books, everything is done well. I listen to audiobooks and the narrator does an excellent job. Sometimes, that can make or break a story.

Another Day of Blogging

During the roundup of all the places I have placed my various MSs I found some good information on PandaMoon, and gave them credit below. I have posted similar information in earlier blogs but this is more comprehensive and shows that nothing is written in stone.

http://pandamoonpublishing.com/pandamoon/wordcounts.html

    • Short Story: 100-25,000 words
    • Novella: 25,000-55,000 words
    • Full-Length Novel: 55,000-90,000 words
    • Epic Novel: 90,000+ words
    • 5,000 words = 12 pages
  • 10,000 words = 23 pages
  • 15,000 words = 34 pages
  • 20,000 words = 46 pages
  • 40,000 words = 88 pages
  • 80,000 words = 178 pages
  • Stephen King: 430,000
  • Harry Potter: 257,000
  • Ernest Hemingway: 68,000

Here are the word counts for some NY Times Bestselling Fiction Books:

  • Fifty Shades of Grey: 105,000
  • Gone Girl: 86,400
  • The Racketeer: 70,400

Here are the word counts for some NY Times Bestselling Non-Fiction Books:

  • Eat to Live: 102,000
  • Zombie Survival Guide: 57,600
  • Heaven is For Real: 32,600

These various figures are important when you are trying to categorize your MS for submission and trying to follow guidelines or starting out to write a novel, epic novel, or novella.

On a completely unrelated subject; we had braced for snow, but have received none so far. In Western Massachusetts we had no doubt that the snow would come. The comments on facebook show a lot of snow has fallen elsewhere. Thoughts and wishes of enjoying the snow, and staying safe.

Getting back to our topic. Some comments have mentioned that I must be an expert in this subject. As I tried to explain before, I am an expert in this subject, because this is my reality. I have done all these things and shared them with you. I chose to blog about my experience, because I am not an expert in the business of writing and getting published. However, by the end of this I may be.

In comparison to others on the same path as me. I am still a novice after only one year and eleven days. I have sent out many queries on three different books. Never to the same agents and waiting the three month, waiting with baited breath period, for each.

I have about eight Q’s out on The Tea Room and I’m revising my fifth MS Summer Palace that I plan to send out to Q as soon as I fine tooth comb it one more time. My third MS Flaked Tuna is burning a hole in the pit of my stomach. It’s a really good story and I have spent the most time writing, re-writing, editing and submitting with the same results. I may have jumped the gun in the early days. However, I’m focused on it, dedicated to it and the characters that live there.

I hope I can tell you of successes, before April, as I’ve mentioned before. A milestone that needs to have a successful new career attached to it. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Over the Hurdle

Well, I made it. I took the critique I was given and went through my 8000 word short story and lived. I could have argued some of the points but the editor was not sitting next to me. I thought who am I writing this for? Then I decided; this is my story, but I do want others to read it, and if I’m not being specific enough ( I do believe people can draw their own conclusions) I need to expound. So I bit my lip and went through each and every correction. Some were embarrassing, I can’t believe I spelled lose wrong; I had loose and can’t expect spell check to fix that. Now, did I make more errors, fixing the first errors? Probably, that’s why I’m not going to look at it for a few days. Then a quick review and upload.

I haven’t heard a word from any of the queries I sent out for The Tea Room, other than the WD Popular Fiction Short Story Contest I haven’t heard from any of the contests I entered in 2015, most of the recent contests I entered/will enter won’t be announced until June or July. So, instead of waiting I’m going to try some of the new grammar lessons I learned in the edit I just finished and apply it to every MS I have written so far, plus one more professional edit on Flaked Tuna (name change required) which is 50,000 words and it’s going to cost me about $400. I hate to admit it , but it’s well worth the investment. If you start off will a short story; like I did you’ll see the depth of work that goes into it for a quarter of the cost, and you’ll find out if you like to work with that editor. If you’re really lucky the editor may have connections with an agent or a publisher.

 

Discovering my revisionary self

I’m in day two of tackling the suggested revisions on my short My Wildest Dreams. Comments in the side margins and corrections in dimmed type throughout the doc staring me in the face. I agree with most of what is noted and I have gone through three chapters.

This brings up an important point. How perfect does your MS have to be before it is ready to be presented to an agent? These days; it has to be crafted with no obstacles getting in the way of the story and its readibility.

So I forge on. I’m hoping this exercise in revising my work with a professional’s eye will help my future writing and revising. It was a reasonable price to pay if I’m able to take the corrections to heart and learn from my mistakes. It puts the common errors in perspective, and highlights bad habits that have accumulated over the years. By the third chapter I’m beginning to get the gist of the marked up text and working through the doc at a better pace. I’m mindful that this was an 8000 word short, if it’s no where near that when I’m done then I will adjust.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I signed on to a website that allows uploads of stories to read and critique. I have critiqued five so far and I have received one critique in response. It was a very nice short remark, the reader enjoyed the story and had two suggestions for corrections. I was able to rework those areas and upload the edit. My short story of 8000 words was posted with a max word count of 5000 words, so a good portion will be read and reviewed. I accepted reading assignments randomly and read stories I wouldn’t have read otherwise. I was pleasantly surprised and saw some of the common mistakes that my professional edit noted. However, I didn’t let the speed bumps stop me and focused on the stories. In my review I did mention the need for grammar check, but tried to focus mainly on the content. After all I am not an expert on grammar. Interestingly, it clearly shows the two aspects of writing a good story, the first draft phase and the necessary edit that follows.

Other flaws in my writing are the use of ‘a’ and ‘the,’ passive voice and comma splices. I have never taken a fiction writing class or workshop. I’m not sure if that disqualifies me from the novice class of writers. I didn’t set out to write a best seller, I simply had a story to tell. To my surprise; I wanted to share it with others, thus my dilemma.

Whatever I need to do to get there I will document it in my blog so others can learn from my mistakes.

In the Meantime

I have had a few comments on my blog requesting guest bloggers and asking me to blog on other sites. Right now I’m too busy to think of expanding my horizons. I have a full time job as well as writing and blogging. This blog, is not an expert opinion, well, I guess it is because I’m writing about me and my experience of writing and trying to get published.

I do have a few other areas where I might consider myself and expert and that would be as an adoptive mother, because I’ve been one for twenty years, I also work with my husband, that would be a novel in itself. We have a golf marketing business and right now we are preparing for our Golf Expo season, February – March.

I get a lot of comments to keep doing what I’ve been doing since last summer, documenting my experience and hopefully helping others along the way. I have questions about spam, and yes, I get a lot of spam, but that is the price you pay when you leave your self open. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t want to restrict my blog, but when I get tired of trashing all the spam I will reconsider.

Although, I haven’t gotten over that ever-looming hurdle of getting an agent; I’m glad I accomplished what I did over the past year. Blogging is the biggest part of the progress I’ve made; it helps to speak in words and put them down. It forces you to get to the point where words are meaningful. Communicating with words; being able to transmit your thoughts to others.

I have also taken on reading chapters of new writers, I have had a hard time getting someone, anyone to read my stories and give feedback. YouWriteOn.com gives you the opportunity to upload your stories, while reading others stories.

I have read sample stories from three different authors. I accept them randomly, I can skip over the ones selected for me, but so far I haven’t. I’ve read two chapters in two stories that I never would have read otherwise, and was intrigued. The third story was right up my alley, historical fiction. I’m not sure if my critiques helped anyone of these authors, but it did remind me of my own stories and where I need to make improvements. I actually look forward to reading more. It only takes an hour or so and as I build up points I can upload more chapters for review in my book. It seems to be a fair exchange. I haven’t seen any critiques on my story so far. I have banked 3 credits and I believe my story will be up for review soon. I hesitated to upload my short story Curious Allure but after reviewing the stories I find they are somewhat raw, and the authors are looking for a critique to help improve their writing.

I have three short short stories that I’m editing to upload to a contest, 1000 words each. I was busy with that over the weekend. Now, I’m ready to tackle the professional edit on my latest story My Wildest Dreams which came to life right here on this blog. It was suggested I beef it up to make it a novel, but I think I’m going to scale it down to make it a better short story. I don’t have the sense of needing to tell more like I did with Summer Palace. I wrote it as a short story and kept on writing after it was submitted. I’m still writing it and thinking of a sequel.

I have a tendency to jump in head first, and while I’m drowning I realize there is a ‘floatie’ drifting by to grab hold of. Right now I have one under each arm, and I’m treading water. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

I have a huge milestone coming up in April, and my goal is to have one of my stories in the capable hands of an agent who loves my story. I will certainly keep you informed.

 

The Reality of it all

This was not a good review. It seems my work is riddled with common errors new writers often make. The MS I sent out won’t be ready for the plans I had for it. It’s basically not a short story, but another one of my novels trying to be shoved in a smaller format. That created problems of its own. I was directed to some helpful sites that review telling, showing, and the comma splice. That is my challenge now; to get past that basic level, and apply what I have learned to everything I have written.

I am somewhat discouraged; as you can imagine. I ‘m also using semi-colons trying to implement what I’m learning as I go along. In the back of my mind I still have a plan. My stories are good, and I’m told creative. I only have to bridge the gap, and get a complete package.

On another note I found a web site that allows you to upload your short story, or a few chapters from your novel to get a review. There is also an opportunity to review other writer’s stories and rate them. Over time the ratings are calculated, and you get a great idea of how your story measures up.

I found one story to review, I looked for my genre and a short description of the story caught my eye. http://www.youwriteon.com

It was an experience; a little insight into what an agent does. This particular story was disappointing to start, but in the second chapter the story hit its stride. There were some typos and wrong word choices, but I’m glad I stuck with it. The story did redeem itself, and had potential.

I’m someone who doesn’t sweat the small stuff, but obviously I should. It’s the small stuff that makes the first impression, and it needs to be good. My plan, after a day of trying to avoid the subject; is to review all my work, and check for these small, easily corrected issues.

AM Coffee

This morning I feel like talking. I’m excited that my goals for January 2016 are within arms reach of being completed. I have one last contest to enter, my story is being professionally edited as we speak. Then I have ten Qs to send out for my Summer Palace story after a quick re-edit of my own.

In February, (It’s always a good idea to have goals set) I have to tackle the ominous job of re-editing my (third time is a charm) edit on Flaked Tuna a 50,000 word Sci-Fi Fantasy story that hasn’t caught the eye of the Sci-Fi genre agents so far. Obviously a name change is due, but the concept is what got the story down on paper in the first place. A strange result from the original concept. It’s a good story, a twist to the time travel theme  and some great characters. I hope I can get it to the point where an agent has no choice but to pick it up.

This is the story that I used to start the online Re-edit course provided by Joan Dempsey, http://www.joandempsey.com/revise-your-writing/, where I picked up some tools to help in the overwhelming process. In the meantime, blogging, reading and social media will balance out the work on my MS.

You know the Fast Trax line at the amusement park? I wish I had one of those for this experience in my life. When I first thought to write for a specific purpose, my novel Woven In Time, I had no idea of the depth of commitment I was getting into. If I had one of those Fast Trax tickets I could go to the front of the line and get on the ride, looking back at all those poor roller coaster riders looking back at me with envy. However, there is no such easy way writing a book and getting it published, unless of course you hit pay dirt and you find yourself in a trend with a lucky moonshot. No amount of money or a Fast Trax tix can purchase that.

While I’m in line waiting for my ride on the roller coaster, and people in the Fast Trax lane are passing me by, I have to move along, do my diligence to keep up and eventually be standing when they ask me for my ticket.

Of course if anyone with a Fast Trax ticket wants to lean over the caution tape and hand me one, I”ll be ready.

One more thought: about me and my personality, I am spontaneous, quiet, and explosive with my creativity. I’m impetuous as well, that gets in my way. The structure of an organized process has helped me, slow down, cover all the bases, cross my Ts and dot my Is. If any success is going to come my way, I believe that it will stem from the recent discipline I have learned.

I hope spilling my guts continues to help.

Another Milestone

I just hit send on my S/S MS Wildest Dreams going out for a professional edit. This is actually my second professionally edited work. The first was sponsored by the contest, I had my 4000 word MS edited and entered it, a short story Memoir, Fairview  Bungalow.

When you are in this position, trying to break into a business where the commitment goes so far beyond your sphere of expertise. Speaking for myself, I read a lot of tips and guidelines to help you along the way.

WORDS

Don’t use adjectives, adverbs, just, too many pronouns, actually, etc.

Even spell check, or Proofreader doesn’t approve of some of my word choices. I do have to laugh at the amount of  common words I use, even though I realize it going in they still show up on the page. However, when I want to use the word WIFE Proofreader wants me to say SPOUSE, When I want to use QUEEN, Proofreader wants me to say RULER. Sometime JUST is okay to use I think. Are these words going to extinction because of Proofreader?

Another touchy subject is Description, I went into this somewhat in yesterday’s blog. When I write my story this imagery is in my head. There is a thin line between too much description and too little. I think that is also genre driven factor, some readers prefer more background and some would prefer to create the people, places and things in their own mind. Books I pick up to read would never be read by my sister for instance. To make a long story short, know your readers and publishers of the books you like to read. It may JUST do the trick.

Day 12 into the New Year and nothing has happened yet. I have two more stories to enter into contests and two major re-edits. One of the recommendations I have received is to write short stories, this has made the difference for me. Everything is on a smaller scale, and of course there is information about, how to write a short story and all the things that go along with it. I haven’t gone there yet. I keep heeding the advice that works for me.

Another piece of advice is “Write about what you know.” There are two sides to this coin. If you only write about what you know then you learn nothing. If you write about what you don’t know you can spend years doing research.

The Middle Ground

My first novel Woven In Time although still unpublished, took me to world’s I knew nothing about. I had to learn that one horse can’t pull a loaded wagon over down a dirt road. Flintlock guns were around in the year 1700, however too cumbersome for the Calvary. Russia was about to embark on its journey to become a world power and much more.

In Fiction you can add some elements of what you do know into your fantasy. In my Wildest Dreams Short I gave my protagonist a job in a Print Shop, which by the way I also introduced into my first novel. I worked in printing for many years, many industry improvements by 2016, the equipment may have changed but the people haven’t.

An inkling, an idea formed from researching one topic can form a “spinoff” which it did for me, at least two stories are born of that spark. If these stories never reach the light of day, I at least investigated these things that inspired me, in a creative way — by writing the stories.

I’m going to FIX my Summer Palace Novella and send it out to ten agents as was recently recommended, one will be the agent who suggested the idea on Twitter.

My Flaked Tuna story (Needs a Tile Change) is going to take months to edit, I’m going to send it out for a professional edit and re submit it to one of the agents who originally  passed on it, that was also suggested in a Tweet.

One bit of information that is true is KEEP WRITING it does work toward that voice that needs to be in your writing. READ, that will expand your mind and fill it with the necessary weapons for your arsenal.

Thanks for reading my blog and keep the comments coming.

Building a perfect story

It sounds like I might be an expert in this subject, far from it. I have been spending time trying to learn from all the excellent support that is out there.

I’ll be the first to say that a story must come from the heart and no amount of magical formulas can manufacture one. However, the facts of structure to aid in your story telling can make a good story great.

Using the checklist that I received from Joan Dempsey in her online course on re-editing your MS. I see the value of making sure these eleven points are covered.

Voice

Structure

Plot

Punctuation

Description

Grammer

Dialogue

Theme

Point of View

Word Choice

Character

For me, some of these points are obvious, and can be tackled by using spell and grammar check (to an extent). Some like POV took a little research, there are five possible voice’s from which to articulate a story and I recommend trying all of them.

I have the most trouble with description. I found in my first review of my MS. These images are in my mind, but don’t find their way into the story. I’m not totally convinced, yet, that this is a bad thing. My characters siting around a kitchen table, red Formica top with silver metal legs bolted together with silver screws. Should perhaps, in your view, be a homemade trestle table with a gingham tablecloth. Where does my vision end and the readers begin?  I recently read a description of a black cornea, underneath a thick lash. I have to work this out.

When I’m in the middle of a series and the movie comes out, the characters I envisioned in my mind all change. I just thought I’s put that out there.

One of my strong points, I believe, is dialogue. It allows my voice to show through, which I have recently discovered.

My most recent story Wildest Dreams is reviewed and edited using this method to the best of my wavering ability. It’s going out for a professional edit, yes I’m taking the plunge. Then I’ll enter it in a short story contest, complete at 8000 words.

I must say that it felt good putting a critical eye on my story, seeing where I can improve it, checking for consistency and all the elements that can fall through the cracks in a first draft. Having something concrete to hold on to is a great help, something to work out for yourself in your own story.

The biggest area of rework was adding descriptions to some of the areas that seemed a little bare.

I have another story ready for a re-write, but that will be a huge undertaking. I may go through the process with my 21,000 word story to get more practice. Then I’ll send out ten queries, as was recommended by one of the agents I follow. The bottom line being you, and your success. I only recommend ten carefully constructed queries not form submissions with a Dear Agent greeting.

I’m excited for the professional edit. My purpose in entering contests is to get my stories read, but getting results or feedback has been non-existent. I believe it is a reasonable price to pay after learning how the industry works and my desire to get an opinion of my writing. I will definitely let you know, it’s all part of the process.

If you read my blog and are going through a similar experience, don’t lose heart. It’s the perseverance that will make the difference in the end. That is what I depend upon.