How do you hone a skill you don’t have?

Pity party. I was lambasted again by a critique. Wow, just when you think it’s safe … you know the rest. Sometimes, I use this platform to free write. I need to get better at scenes and writing descriptions. But, then there is so much to keep in mind … I truly think there is always someone out there to reel you back into reality. They are not kidding when they talk about a thick skin. Who are they? Anyone, you choose to listen to I suspect.

Lately, I have been spending my time re-writing my best chance for notice on YouWriteOn.com. I have to quadruple the word count in order to resubmit it to PandaMoon. Another novel, recently spit back out of the Pipeline, is on hold, until I can manage treading lightly toward it while wearing a tin-foil hat.

For every step forward there are two steps back, it’s all about the balance. Opinions and a nickle still get you nothing. It used to buy a lot, but that’s just alluding significantly to my age.

I’m going to describe me, writing at my workstation using vivid imagery. Then I’m probably going to plug in my audio book and go to bed. It’s early but it’s a day of fast. Most times, when I make such a statement — usually to myself, I find I’m still at it at midnight.

MY BLOG and all its STUFF

My mind is full of things I want to say and as a private person, except for this expose of thoughts, I’m not sure if my thoughts are worthy of publication. While in college, I never completely filled a blue book, meanwhile, students to the left and right of me are going up to the professor’s desk several times to take more.

Currently, I write the thoughts that come into my head and glance over at an empty coffee cup. It’s red, it’s the perfect size, I hate small coffee mugs. This one however, has it all. A sturdy handle and a wide mouth. My mug not me.

My words filter through a Mac screen of 21″ necessary for my other work but a nice size. I design websites and logos and anything else that comes along. I grew up using, omg, I can’t remember the Adobe product from ancient history. Got it, Adobe PageMaker, then I moved into Quark Express which is still a favorite — yes, it’s back. I worked in the industry of printing in which Quark was the most compatible for a turn. Aldus Freehand was my favorite illustration program creating those vector images that eventually get rasterized in PhotoShop. I soon fell behind by clinging to Freehand ignorant to the advances of Adobe Illustrator. I never learned that program properly. My hair is turning grey as I reminisce. My keyboard of white letters on a black surface has no real effect on me one way or another. I just know those keys have been pounded on for quite some time now. (Thanks guys.)

The shadow that is cast over my moving fingers is from my free standing five barrel lamp that casts enough light for me to keep going. My desk is cluttered for the best part of a month until I have to find something I jotted down on the corner of a scrap of paper that has started to clone itself making all strewn papers look alike, then its a frantic search for the Dollie of clones, the original. Phew, I found it. Then I proceed to put it back amongst the rest hoping that it is never needed again.

My wireless mouse is purple.

My mouse pad is imprinted with Van Gogh’s Starry Night, as is my iPhone case. I am a fan, what can I say? I also have two prints hanging in my house, just saying.

I can see the lower rim of my glasses, there is actually no rim but its the thickness of the glass I’m actually referring to and they’re kind of crooked because of the bump on my nose. A casualty of eighth grade English class when the teacher stepped out of the room and I was slammed in the face with a notebook — metal rimmed, by a boy on the gymnastics team.

I never had it fixed.

I still remember their names, the teacher and the boy, and if I’m ever searching for a character’s name in a future novel I’ll keep those in reserve. For an evil genius and his sidekick.

A box of Kleenex is always handy for a coffee spill or the occasional cold. It fits snugly between my monitor and the edge of my dresser, yes, my office is in my bedroom. My husband always insists on sleeping in my office — go figure.

Not sure if I’m accomplishing what I set out to do here. I kind of doubt it. Am I not showing people what I do on a daily basis, or am I telling again. A few words. As long as they are the right words. The desk is a folding table. A white one with a crease down the middle which I can only see part of due to the clutter and the objects, necessary that they are.

Wires and plugs are a big part of the scenery as well. Right now my iPhone is charging, my printer is connected. My mail is positioned on the corner of the 3′ square desk waiting for me to fill the order and mail it on my way out in the morning.

I’m going to stop now, and read what I’ve written. That is usually the plan.

Sometimes I’m inspired to expound on some of the points I brought up. Other times I just hit Publish.

Down Time

The problem with spilling your guts, the theme of my very first post, is that they remain all over the place for all to see. One of these days I’m going to get some good news, and if you’ve been following my blog, you know I’m running out of time. I have set a goal for myself and I may have to re-think it.

I have one iron in the fire still, and a few briquettes are still glowing but the fire has dimmed significantly. I am at a crossroads and the quality of my writing is hitting me in the face. If you’re not writing, you are not a writer. A little humble pie is a good thing, I suppose. My very first novel, it seems, is not the work of genius I thought it was. What was the purpose? the joy I felt while writing it. Was it for my benefit alone? At this point I have moved so far along from the story, and the intimate relationship it created, that it seems like a vaulted thing better left vaulted. Since I have been mulling over book 3 I know the depth of work in a 60,000 word novel. There is a lot of ground covered.

I am also confused by all the rules, regulations, and opinions of what is correct grammar usage. While critiquing other authors’ work, I see all kinds of ‘poetic license’ being used. I have book 3 being professionally edited and I am going to ask and settle on a style of writing that is best suited for me.

Never start a sentence with And, it happens all the time. Incomplete sentences are not acceptable until they are. Commas, don’t get me started. At quotes end; comma, end quote, lower case ‘she said.’ Grammar check is politically correct. And on and on. (That last sentence is an exercise in rebellion.)

Tense, POV, so much to consider when writing. For me, a lot will depend on this professional edit of the first sixty pages of my MS, I did have to submit sample pages and was encouraged to continue. I also learned that the encouragement given in agents’ rejection letters is a common script. It looks like this latest rejection is taking hold, tough skin, stiff upper lip, duck’s back, etc.

I’m learning that a writer needs to walk in the shoes of their characters, feel the physical expressions. What constitutes a smile? What does a feeling of happiness look like? What about a unique habit of biting a lip or twirling a strand of hair on the end of a finger? There are layers of depth when considering a person’s reaction to different stimuli. There’s the person herself, the room she just walked into, the scents surrounding her and the effect of the weather on her hair and clothing. The fabric she’s wearing, the color of eyes, hair, and shoes all add to the scene and the mood you are trying to portray.

Showing, sad, weary, angry, thoughtful, it’s kind of a science being able to explain a person walking across a wooden deck besieged by rain on a cold November morning. What would that be like? The wind, feeling wet and clammy, the smell of the sea because the deck is attached to the summer home that you are closing down for the winter. Isolation comes to mind, and the end of something wonderful, or sadness because of a death, the person on the deck is the daughter of the man who lived there year round and now the rain, cold, and the frigid feeling is personal. However, you can still be sad on a sunny day on the same deck, in the middle of summer. The water stain is only under the eaves and the rest is bleached from the sun.

I have recently gone through another story of mine trying to add such detail, to conversation to personal attributes and scenery. It has almost doubled the word count. My stories are too fast paced. I am a woman of a few words, and I have to learn to embellish.

I am trying.

A Big Step Forward

I finally took the plunge and sent my story off for a professional edit. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford the complete edit and opted for an edit of the first 60 pages. There will be a 90 minute conference call and an edited manuscript as well as a query and synopsis evaluation. Then I plan to send out ten queries one of which will be a re-submission to an agent who said to resubmit any Q’s that have been reworked and professionally edited. So, wish me luck.

I have also been getting an invaluable education on YouWriteOn.com where I have uploaded sample chapters of three of my stories and review the works of other authors in exchange for points that I can apply to my stories to get reviews.

Feedback, I have received some invaluable feedback. Other authors get assigned your work and comment on it. They are encouraged to be constructive. I have gotten good and bad reviews on the same story. A good lesson in ‘tough skin’ and how opinions differ. Genre readers are steeped in their idea of a good story and that must be taken into account. Ex. a fantasy reader might not be into a historical fiction. You are able to pass on a story. I have three times. I don’t like serial killer thriller novels.

Critique, I have read 30+ stories. Of that I would say five were excellent with very few errors. Quite readable and enjoyable.

Ten were good, few errors some syntax errors which got in the way but otherwise enjoyable.

Ten more were okay, but needed proofreading and rework. However, there was potential and I found ways to be encouraging.

Five more were hard to read and get through. I gave up on one after reading it twice and found nothing encouraging to say about it.

Recently I read three in a row and I was getting discouraged. I suggest if you decide to submit work, at least print in out and read it out loud to pick up on those awkward errors we all make. Also hard copy sometimes makes you look at your work a little differently and you may pick up on other inconsistencies, etc.

In one of my stories I was alerted to the fact that I spelled character’s names differently throughout after I rushed to put it up.

Rules made to be broken

Right now, I’ve taken on many projects. One of them is reviewing and critiquing works of fellow writers. As I have let it be known. I’m not a grammar expert — far from it, but I’m trying.

I notice some writers are using incomplete sentences for emphasis. “Of course.” Not sure if it’s for effect, if it’s allowed, or intentional. The same with starting a sentence off with “And or But” technically not allowed but used very often. If it’s intentional, then it’s okay? is my only reaction, so blatant it must be intentional. Colloquialisms are another matter.

My story, I’m preparing for a professional edit, is going to cost quite a bit of money and it’s only a partial my story is 58,000 words and the first 60 pages will be edited. The plan is to continue the edit on my own using the momentum from the first sixty pages to carry me through the project. I’m excited for the critique. I have toiled over this particular story and believe it has all the elements necessary to find an agent willing to take it on once it is as polished as a shiny new apple.

I’m reading a book which is in a pdf format a really good thriller by Ken Humphrey, The Killing Face. It has soared to number three of the YouWriteOn.com Top Ten list. I can see why, it’s a hit. I’m also reading an audiobook. I was so happy to realize that Angus Watson had written the third book in the Age of Iron series Reign of Iron. There is much humor amongst all the blood and gore of the Roman conquest of Britain.

That actually sounds pretty horrible, but I’m a history fan and even though it was a cruel time in our history I find it fascinating and the characters are great. Doug … that’s all I’ll say, I don’t want to spoil anything.

I have uploaded another story to YouWriteOn.com, now I have three. I received two critiques one great and one not so good. A writer must have a tough but porous skin. I have to work on lengthening a couple of my stories, recently written. That will keep me writing, the editing I’ve been doing can be considered writing because I’m finding so much more to say even on the fourth pass. I realized I had made a very big error, so embarrassing. In reworking it I have added quite a bit of words when I started I was at 50,000 and have passed 58,000 words.

Rules to be broken. If you paint inside the box, then you will find many opinions swaying your decisions. Pick a path and follow through and be consistent. The more you write the decisions you make will become second nature and less of a mire at the editing table.

I haven’t entered any contests lately, but I am anxiously awaiting results. They should be coming in the next few weeks.

Keep the comments coming.

Building a Foundation

I’m working hard trying to build a foundation for a platform when I finally get one, or more, of my books published. One good source has been YouWriteOn.com. I have been reading works of other writers offering constructive criticism (I hope) and getting some in return. Two authors I reviewed reached out to me and gave me some pointers to improve the story I have uploaded to the site. It’s good to build relationships with other authors, you never know when you could help them or they could help you in the future.

I am currently reading The Killing Face by Ken Humphrey it’s a crime thriller and one of the books I reviewed, one of the best. After reading sample chapters I was able to download the entire book and I’m almost half way through and its a good page turner that I recommend. The book is available on Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com. My other contact is more at the stage I am right now. First Draft MS and rework.

One thing I did do, like I said I was going to do in an earlier blog, is to contact a professional editor for my 55,000 word and growing MS The Places You Will Be From. The process was: my initial contact, which I got from my Guide To BOOK by Jeff Herman, the editor replied to my query requesting ten sample pages after I did that she replied that she would like to talk to me about the project and give a quote to do the work. I liked this editor in particular because she’ll work one-on -one with an author and that appealed to me. I will keep you informed about the process and progress.

I did have two previous edits done on short stories but I feel I need someone who can move my creative work into the realm of a sell-able item. I did hear back from the WD Short Fiction Contest in which I didn’t place. That entry was the beginnings of a sequel to the Summer Palace which is now submitted to PandaMoon.com. I had uploaded it in January but somehow didn’t complete the process, so now I’ll wait an additional eight to ten weeks to hear from them. That is a good lesson to learn, make sure you follow through or a long industry wait becomes an even longer industry wait.

I am also reading another book (audio) A Bride Most Beguiling by Deeanne Gist and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. A Historical Fiction Romance, my genre. At this stage in my writing I’m starting to pick up on what makes a great read, I only need to apply it to my own stories.

After my conference call with the editor, scheduled for tomorrow, I feel like I’m stepping up my pursuit of becoming a published writer, I’m also going to be stepping up my financial commitment to my work. However, if I was to self-publish there would be a substantial cost to that, so I’m choosing my own direction. I think what could be wrong with my novel, getting it off the ground, is workable. My grammar is horrendous and embarrassing how I have forgotten even the simplest rules of grammar, but I still maintain that some of the rules have changed since the dawn of time.

Please keep reading and commenting I appreciate your time.