Write On

Less narration mo re dialogue. Look for adverbs and adjectives and change the words to describe how the character is feeling. Don’t say the MC (main character) is happy. Say “she turned her head to suppress the giddy smile that was breaking out on her face.” I’ve been thinking of gestures; pursed lips, clenched teeth, flared nostrils, etc. to use to express different emotions to take my writing to a deeper level. Words are key, a single word, the right word, can pull it all in like a piano key strike. Explosions of emote from word choice. ex. I like the word seared. It expresses a specific impression without all the words – heat, hot, burning, sealed, sizzled,

In a review I received the comment was that my entire first chapter was a narration. I have developed a thicker skin and try to put the critique to good use. I haven’t taken the axe to my story yet. I’m working it out in my mind first. I am; however, applying it to all my stories.

I’m waiting to hear from several of the contests I entered many of my stories to, I should hear from several in the next month. Something has to give.

First Paragraph

Maria stopped in the vast hallway outside her father’s chamber. She could hear angry voices. This alone wouldn’t have caused her to despair, for they often argued, but in this conversation she distinctly heard her own name. In the daylight the hall was filled with sun, and the richness of the vermilion color of the walls enhanced the high anxiety she was feeling. As she moved closer to the massive doorway she felt conspicuous, yet she would have no recourse – she was eavesdropping.

Right away I think I can do something with the angry voices. This; however, is the first line of my story, do I want dialogue so soon? The story is about five daughters of the Tsar. Maria is the MC but there are subplots and my idea was to probe the minds of five different people dealt with the seclusion. One of the characters is a well documented historical figure, another plays an important part in the life of the Tsar, the rest are imagined, for they died very young. My stories are well researched, interesting, and have great potential. But, it falls flat as far as entertaining the reader. I have a lot to learn and need a little luck to find the right agent and publisher.

I have to keep writing, a little bit every day, even when I’m struggling — like today. I was on Twitter and got a bit of encouragement in a quote. I’ve reading as well. A lot. Not being the best sentence structure aficionado I’m not sure how much style plays into the basic rules of grammar. There is a lot of information on the subject out there, it’s a matter of retaining it where it counts.

 

Lost and Found

I was lost. Now I am found. This is a frustrating business. Perhaps I have too many irons in the fire. Perhaps I’m too headstrong, naive, or impetuous. Perhaps I’m being redundant. Perhaps I’m showing and not telling. Don’t we tell stories? We don’t show stories, do we? Ignore me.

I only just climbed down from the tree. The giant willow in the front of the house, whose hanging boughs swayed in the breeze while its leaves wept. The tree we hung out in when we were kids. The ‘horrible creatures’ that lived there and earned shrieks from two silly girls perched amongst them. The glorious mother that has since been cut down and will forever live in memory.

Okay, too many irons. Not recommended. I have nine stories that I have written, all shells, first drafts, slug fodder. I felt that way until I received a critique back from my reading buddy. No, it wasn’t attached with a gold star or even a smiley face. But, the criticism was constructive, targeted, and yes it did mention ‘showing’ not ‘telling’ but specifically and not generally. I feel I can tackle it, oh, and I also Googled the keyword ‘telling’ and read about six articles on the subject.

I also found my reading buddy’s story to be exceptional, yes, it was a first draft. I was impressed. But, I also looked up the seven critiques she received online, kind of brutal, it helped me to put a different perspective on the brutal critiques I’ve received on my recent upload of The Tea Room. Opinions are just that, there is someone out there, preferably an agent, who will like your story, your perception of that story, and your delivery of that story.

My reading buddy’s first draft was recently uploaded to YouWriteOn.com, by the time I uploaded my story I had sent out ten queries and on my fourth draft. That is why I used the term impetuous to describe myself.

The phrases; too many characters, it should be a short story, I don’t understand why the character didn’t know that, perhaps x should be the MC, a little more showing and less telling, are a tempest in my head.

In the meantime, I’m re-editing my story for a professional edit The Places You Will Be From (formerly Flaked Tuna) that could cost up to $1,000. I’m going to have to believe in my story quite strongly to forge ahead with the project. I would like a one on one with said editor, I mentioned that earlier in another blog post. I want to learn form the edit, especially at such a high rate.

Okay Vikings premiered last night and I digress.

I say all this only because I want to document the process and I sometimes let it get the best of me. But then, a nudge from above energizes me. I am still reading, constantly. A book, Mistborn book 3 by Branden Sanderson. The requested reads, on YouWriteOn.com, one a day and the book my reading buddy wrote.

The comments that were coming in with a fury have slowed down. Please comment if you have something to add or just want to talk or ask questions. I’d love to hear from you.

Ripple Effect

I’m at it every day. I have had to become more organized or things that are important to me will fall through the cracks. I have mentioned (often) about the website I found http://www.youwriteon.com I have uploaded two of my stories to get and give critiques, it’s great to read stories of writers in a similar situation as me, trying to get past the first page and chapter ‘jitters’ and on to success. I’ve mentioned before about the fact that not the best writers always get published there are many that give up. Well, I feel privileged reading stories from undiscovered writers and I hope they are able to break through to getting published. One of these writers contacted me after I read sample chapters and asked if I wanted to be a reading buddy. Heck yes! So, that’s my ripple effect. I am reading her (excellent story) and she’s reading my shock-disaster that I’ve been getting not so great reviews on. This other writer is strong where I need work and perhaps I can find the solution through this exchange and offer her something as well. If you ask me just getting someone to read your work is a challenge.

Again, no emotion and the pace is too fast, commentary, it seems in all my work. I had received four great reviews and then four not so good reviews. I need to find middle ground and make the necessary adjustments. Although, Curious Allure is a short story and perhaps I crammed too much into it. The other story I uploaded and by chance the one I sent along to my reading buddy; has only two reviews both underwhelming and surprising. I’m treading water on that one, I don’t want to rush in and start making changes until I hear from my rb (reading buddy).

Her story has vivid imagery and it would be a shame if it never sees the light of day. I’m only reading a chapter a day so far because I’m also reading and critiquing, and re-writing my third book. That is the organizational work I was referring to. I’d like to get a few hours to do the read justice. I’m also reading the third Mistborn book by Brandon Sanderson, The Hero of Ages and I’m enjoying the audiobooks.

Then there is my full time job. The golf business, this is the busy season. If I keep my ducks all in a row I should be able to give each an appropriate amount of time.

I hopes this helps, please feel free to comment.

Emotion

I’m coming to the conclusion that I need to add more emotion to my writing. I have received a few critiques on the two stories I uploaded to YouWriteOn.com . That seems to be a common issue. Again, I don’t know how to fix it. I’m thinking more dialog, one more item to work on in the rework of both these stories. Another complaint was too many glue words. I had never heard that term before, so  (glue word) I looked it up. It’s fillers added to the sentence, theoretically there should be less than 25-30% of these glue words. My question is those glue words, and there are lists of glue words available online, are essential elements of sentence structure; however. they can become crutches and need to be used sparingly. I have pasted some below, not sure if it is a complete list as (so) isn’t on this list. Not sure if so is a glue word, it’s one of the seven coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, so, nor, yet and or).

a
again
any
are
as
because
been
could
do
have
his
is
know
many
mother
of
one
only
people
put
said
should
some
the
their
there
these
they
through
to
too
two
use
very
was
were
what
where
which
who
whose
with
would
you
your

I’m now taking random sentences and putting them to the glue test. After reading about commas, independent clauses, phrases and coordinating conjunctions there are more bumps in the road to navigate. I went to school a long time ago and I think rules have changed, and I have work to do to catch up.

I finally did get a response from an agent I had queried in August. It was a no, but a pleasant reply to an email I sent out in November as a reminder. That story I submitted in August has changed and I have been passed over again, but with another message not to give up.

If I were to give advice to new writers I would say:

  1. A first draft MS should not be read by anyone but yourself. Print it out and read it out loud, proofread and spell check. Check the seven structural elements (plot, character, description, dialogue, pov, scene, and sentence) use a check list. Then you are ready for a beta reader or friend to read it through.
  2. Write a synopsis, a biography, query letter and cover. Follow the guidelines for submission and send out ten individualized submissions.
  3. Wait. No, don’t wait. Keep writing, blogging, reading and keep good records of who you sent q’s to.
  4. Get a tough skin, be reactive follow the good suggestions, but remember it’s your book. Believe in yourself.

I have written several stories in different genres, the only genres I haven’t tackled is non-fiction and poetry. Once I get through the vast and getting vaster projects I have (rework of three novels) I may attempt a non-fiction story. I’ll have to find out exactly what a non-fiction story is compared to a memoir, which I have written. Something else to look forward to.

Thanks for listening.

What spurred me on

I have dug into the second most daunting task of my career so far. The rework and re-edit of my story which I’ve been calling Flaked Tuna but needed a new name. It w,asn’t a top priority in fact, I was going to put it out for suggestions, but I have decided to call it The Places You Will Be From it is my Science Fiction Fantasy with a little Romance.

I have gone through a few chapters and making many changes. I had marked up the MS after reading it out loud and then going through it again using a checklist. It’s not that I actually put it off, it was such a daunting task that I found other projects that needed attention and left that floating in the back of my mind.

What spurred me on you ask?

One: The positive feedback I’ve been receiving on YouWriteOn.com on another book I uploaded Curious Allure,

Two: which is actually an excerpt from The Places You Will Be From I had taken 10,000 words and scaled it down to fit an 8000 word limit short story contest.

Most of my stories stem from my first novel because of the extensive research and fascinating facts I uncovered that weren’t covered in my book. And to my surprise weren’t covered in any book I found.

Three: I completed my goal for January and cleaned up my desk — so to speak. I guess feeling good about my work and being in a good frame of mind helps.

It’s a good feeling; re-visiting the characters and seeing improvements that are needed. Originally, it was an all encompassing narrator with dialogue; now I have added a 1ps element to add a more personal touch. That adds a whole new dimension, almost like a diary where the reader will find out what the protagonist (in all her different forms) is thinking.

I’m into at least 12 hours in the last three days and I put in about 16 hours prior to this. It’s major. Six chapters twenty to go. I’m planning to send this out for a professional edit.

I would love to sit down with the editor and discuss my story one-on-one. I have no idea if this is done. I’ll certainly write about my quest to find out. The last edit was hard, reading notes from a cross-platform word doc and that was only 8000 words. This one is over 50,000 words — plus by the time I’m done.

In my critiques I received on my story Curious Allure my strength is in Theme and Plot. My weakness is Description. I am a woman of a few words and it’s hampering my progress. Running into that brick wall again and again will make the difference for me, I am sure. My quote at the top of my weblog illustrates this. I had written a short story Driven to Listen which I entered into a contest last Fall. I never received any feedback. I took that story and cut it in half for a short short American Fiction contest. It was inspired from this quote by Erskine Caldwell.

My first work that needs a serious rework and edit is three times the size of the one I’m tackling now. That one is going to kill me I have so many ‘darlings’ in that compilation. That story Woven In Time has been on the back-burner for about four months, it’s in the Book Pipeline Contest and I should know by March what my options are.

Don’t hesitate to comment on any of the points I have brought up or share experiences. Thanks for reading my weblog.

Write On

I am writing. I uploaded my novel The Tea Room, to a women’s fiction contest that I mentioned in another blog. They only wanted the first 250 words which equals about a single page double spaced. That led me to re-discover that story and I went through it, made changes, embellished it and added about 3,000 words. I wrote this story about six months ago. It’s amazing with all my research that I’m finding structural errors. Since its fiction, not sure if it really matters to anyone but myself. Since it has been reworked I plan to send off a few more queries. I have four out there and I checked the date — one month ago today. It seemed so long ago.

I also uploaded it to YouWriteOn.com hoping for some constructive criticism to continue to improve my story. I was complaining earlier about waiting for everything in this business — it seems. But, I finally did get a fourth review on my Curious Allure story. “Good plot and solid research” however, this reader also wanted to see more in depth descriptions of the main characters. That is a drawback on this website, the reader only gets sample chapters so it’s hard to discern whether it’s an actual point or simply not covered in that chapter. In my case, it’s most likely the former. Again, there are word count limits and after adding some detail I can no longer fit the section I had uploaded earlier. However, I have received four solid critiques.

I have also read one story each day since I joined this site. Today my story was a rough, very rough draft. You are required to be constructive and supportive. It was a diary (another one) with no dialogue and a day to day description and not a story. I have great experience with that since I have a diary 1ps POV in my The Tea Room novel. I had been writing the great and powerful narrator POV and wanted to try something different, but the diary is about 25% of the story and I thought a good vehicle to get into the mind of one of the five main characters. It was fun to do. Now, if I get seven good reviews then it goes up to be reviewed by a professional. I only need four more. Perhaps five, not sure if my scores to date are high enough.

I went through my ninth in the Saxon Series by Bernard Cornwell way too fast. I will definitely read it again before the next one comes out. However, I’m into the second Mistborn book The Well Of Ascension by Branden Sanderson, as the plot thickens I’m concerned my predictions may be a little off. I’m pretty much addicted to that story as well, a little more fantasy than the gritty HF of the Saxon Series.

I am writing, I am reading and keeping myself in it. As I go along I begin to understand the criticisms I have heard along the way. It is really tough digging into your prized possessions (3rd Draft MS) and dropping incidentals that at first seemed key to the story.

I’ve started to think about cover design that is another exciting prospect but has anyone been able to judge a book by its cover in this day and age?

More about writing

Count to ten. hashtagIamwaiting. Everything about this business requires waiting. I’m as patient as they come, but come on. I’ve read about twenty stories of other writers on YouWriteOn.com and have only received three in return. It’s because I’m so anxious and excited about finally getting someone to read my work. But I find myself waiting, again. Of the twenty or so I have read only one was a standout. The rest were like me and some I could hardly get through. However, I stuck with all of them only passing on one. I don’t read horror and wasn’t about to start now, actually not just horror but  sadistic horror.

One story was written co,mpletely in Old English, very cleverly and well done, but I’m not sure who could get through an entire book of it, it was like reading Shakespeare, not that there’s anything wrong with that but it would be an effort.

One was a blog, not meant, in my opinion, for a novel. The same person going to work everyday making observations. again not meant for a novel in my opinion. The third was a satirical romp which was funny in parts, but again in my opinion, not meant for a novel. A couple had slow starts and ended up riveting, how do you get an agent to slosh through the first chapters?

Maybe I have become too serious. My stories are being pulled through a sieve of acceptability, is that taking all the creativity out of it? That is the feeling I get when reading these nubile stories that are being cut off at the start. What about the creativity? I’ll let you know when I find out.

Another bit of good advice suggested on Twitter. I read an article on the four biggest mistakes in opening chapters. Follow the link provided.

https://wordcafeblog.wordpress.com/tag/data-dump/

In my criticisms of the stories I’ve read, getting back to that subject, I wonder if the strict bottom line I have been trying to adhere to is right. There are some great minds out there, and as ‘they’ say the best writers aren’t published, the persistent ones are.

Then ‘they’ say … who’s ‘they’ you ask? Oh, you know the millions of theys that are quoted on Twitter every day. ‘They’ say if you think your writing is good, then it probably isn’t. ‘They’ must be talking about me; because, I think my story is going to win every contest I enter. The latest being a short-short (1000 words) Close Encounter. So far ‘they’ are correct, I haven’t won a thing.

However, years ago I did win an essay contest and won lunch for my entire company with a local DJ. That was cool. Another writing accomplishment came from the birth mother of my two children when she said my letters made her cry. Those were tough letters, twice a year for ten years, then once a year for eight more. That’s a subject I could probably write about if I wasn’t waiting for my writing career to take off, maybe a non-fiction story, I haven’t tried that yet.

Look at this, I had no idea what I was going to say and I’ve already written 550 words. That is why I recommend blogging, It is a freedom, like driving — you and your vehicle alone on a highway.

One day I hope I can tell you that my approach is a successful one. Thanks for all the great comments.