Waiting Game and Writing

Hello, friends,

Since my last check-in, I had the blood work I mentioned.  I expected my iron to be low and possibly my B-12.  But I never expected what happened instead…  My “sed rate” (short for erythrocyte sedimentation rate, also known as ESR) came back high.  It’s supposed to be between 0 and 20, and mine was 125.  (Zoinks!)

bariumSoooo… needless to say, my doctor ordered a bunch of extra tests, more blood work, a CAT scan (hence the nasty barium you see here!), an x-ray, and other stuff.  The x-ray already came back fine.  The second sed rate test came back elevated again.  And I don’t yet know the ANA and Rheumatoid Factor test results, nor the CAT scan results.  As far as I know, I have to go back again next week for yet another sed rate test.  I don’t know what he’ll order next depending on the other results.  But until I know something, I’m still plugging away trying to make it through the day without puking or needing a nap!  I’ll keep you posted as I learn anything.

In other news… Since I’ve been too exhausted to spend much time at the computer writing anything new, I’ve been taking some of my printed manuscripts to bed and trying to commit to editing at least a few pages each night.  I believe I’ve made it through all the obvious typos, misspellings, bad or missing punctuation, etc.  (Printing it out really makes quite a difference in catching these little blunders as far as not seeing the same thing as my eyes have passed over on the computer screen so many times before.)

I’ve let a few people (including a few of you) read some of these manuscripts before, and many of you had some remarkable suggestions.  But there was one manuscript – The Prison – which I’ve only let a couple of people even see.  It was the first one I wrote, and I wrote it before I learned and became obsessed with “The Rules.”  You may remember my frustrations when my exact-word orientation from my Autism got in the way of “just writing” once I learned there were so many dos and don’ts.  I got so hung up on The Rules, that I wasn’t able to “just write” anymore, and as I’ve been re-reading, I wince as I see how much I held back.

Don’t get me wrong, I (now) think The Rules are a good thing (for the most part), though my Autistic brain still wishes they were called “The Suggestions” instead.  What I realized was that my first manuscript had so much more “feeling” behind it and felt less “mechanical” than the others.  When I asked myself why, I came to a conclusion:  I used a lot more similes and strong descriptions in The Prison than I used in my other works.   The sad thing is, I know exactly why I did this as well…  I got so stuck on “Show Don’t Tell” (of The Rules), that I was afraid I was “telling” too much, so I deleted almost all instances of these types of phrases and sentences in my subsequent work.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of my problem was due to an article I read that instructed me:  “In order to show and not tell, you have to write as if you’re describing what’s happening to a blind person.”  So, I did just that.  And in doing so, I added a lot of stage direction (a LOT of stage direction!) as well as clumsy description that sounded as if I were telling the story of cyborgs rather than people!

For example:  After learning The Rules and allowing myself to become obsessed with adhering to them — or else!–, I wrote:

Neil’s face turned scarlet as he jumped to his feet.  His chair fell to the floor, and he narrowed his eyes.  “What did you do?” 

Rivers grabbed her arm as hot soup splattered on her.  Tears formed in her eyes.  “I’m sorry.”

He grabbed her shoulders tightly and put his face close to hers, then without saying a word, he released her and spun on his heel.

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Ugh!  Isn’t that just awful?  It feels so cold and mechanical.  I’m embarrassed to think I actually allowed people to read my work like that!

Now, I’ve changed a lot of sterile scenes like that to be something more like this:

Neil jumped to his feet.  His face was flaming, and he appeared to be six inches taller than he already was. His eyes penetrated Rivers’ as he glared at her with repugnance.  “What did you do?” 

Rivers’ voice caught in her throat, and she began to tremble. “I’m sorry,” she said under her breath.  Tears streamed like twin rivulets down her cheeks as she tried to ignore the hot soup that splattered on her arm.

He huffed and grabbed her shoulders, digging his fingers into her flesh.  He pulled her so close, she could feel his hot breath on her face. 

She attempted to explain, but her voice caught in her throat like a lump of clay suffocating her.  Before she could speak, he grimaced and released her as if she had the plague.

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Isn’t that much better?  The sad thing is, that’s roughly how I wrote in the first place, (though I admit I had a bad habit of changing points of view as well as making the scenes too short and choppy…  Those are some of The Rules that are actually a good idea to follow.)  So, as I’ve been able, I’ve been slowly making the changes to a lot of these old works and trying to get them in their best possible shape once and for all.

 Anyway, that’s what I’ve up to lately, friends.  What about YOU?

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On Editing

A while back, I posted a call to all writers who wanted to share their editing tips, and my friend, Dena, volunteered.  If you don’t already follow Dena’s blog, you’re missing a real treat.  So without further ado, here’s Dena:

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dms

Please share one to three tips or tricks that you use when editing your work, how specifically you use them, and why they work for you.

My biggest tip is to read your work out loud to yourself or use a program that will read it to you.  I downloaded a free text to speech program (if I was at home I could give you the name) and it helped tremendously despite the computer generated voice.  It’s great for picking up on stilted dialogue or scenes that don’t transition smoothly.

What was your biggest repeated mistake when you first started writing? What is your weakest point of editing and why?

My biggest mistake was info dropping.  I wanted to tell my reader everything and it was difficult to learn how to intersperse tidbits of information throughout the story instead of throwing it all out at once.  My weakest point of editing? No questions about it, grammar structure.  I hate commas! I either use them too often or not enough and they are never in the correct places. Grammar was never a strong subject for me.  I’m better at math, but you don’t find a lot of math in romance novels unless you’re doing an “oops I’m pregnant” storyline and you have to add up the months since well … you know!

Have you used any editing methods previously that just didn’t work for you? If so, what were they and why didn’t they work?

I edit as I go.  Meaning, when I sit down to write each day I look over what I wrote the previous day before moving forward.  Sometimes this does slow down the process, but I’ve tried not looking back and keep pushing forward and it didn’t work.  Because not only am I editing it, it’s also a quick refresher of the place I’m at in the story.

Please tell us something about your current work in progress or your most recent completed work (or both), and tell us where we can purchase your book(s).

My debut novel, Drive Me Sane, released last year.  It’s a second chance romance of a feisty female veteran and an up and coming country music star who find themselves facing their past while trying to deal with problems plaguing their future.  You can find it on Amazon at http://amzn.com/B012E7RHOS

My current work is tentatively titled, When Love Goes South.  I’m actually very close to having this finished. A contemporary romance with characters who are a little older and who have dealt with things in life like death of loved ones, divorce and loss of friendships, I think it’s a story that almost anyone can relate to.  It’s also a little more spicier than I’ve written before with characters who are flirty and fun.

If you have any other news to share with us, please feel free to do so now.

Amazon recently acquired the digital rights to Drive Me Sane, so I’m happy to announce it will be re-releasing  with Amazon’s encore program on August 4th.  It has a slightly different cover and a new price (it’s cheaper and this makes me all kinds of happy!).  Print copies are still available through other online retailers.

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Thanks, Dena, for such awesome tips!  Now, who’s up next?  If you’re game, please contact me at:

email

On Editing

A while back, I posted a call to all writers who wanted to share their editing tips, and my friend, Amy, volunteered.  If you don’t already follow Amy’s blog, you’re missing a real treat.  So without further ado, here’s Amy:

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amy phantom writer

Please share one to three tips or tricks that you use when editing your work, how specifically you use them, and why they work for you.

With every edit I complete, I re-read the entire manuscript out loud to myself. This way, you pick up on any typos you might have skimmed with your eyes, but get tangled on your tongue. You can also find how something really sounds when said aloud. Would a character really say that? Does that sound plausible? Do I need to do more research?

Also, as I go through my re-reading, I make a physical list of questions that I have for myself when I’m done reading. Sometimes it isn’t the right time to address a major plot change or overhaul, so I write it down and come back to it.

Lastly, I physically make a list of all the words I seem to overuse and search for them in the document, changing a good portion of them to vary the dialogue, pacing, and variety of word choice to keep things fresh.

What was your biggest repeated mistake when you first started writing? What is your weakest point of editing and why?

My biggest repeated mistake when writing was that I wrote pretty much every single cliche known to man! And I didn’t even know I was doing it until I started reading books on writing. It discouraged me for a while because I thought my ideas were genuinely unique, but alas! I’m better for it now, though, and can see a cliche coming a mile away.

My weakest point of editing is dialogue. I try to make my characters sound realistic, so I try to make them sound like my friends and I (if appropriate), but my friends and I speak in colloquialisms frequently, and those have to go when editing so people know what the heck you’re saying. But I love them and hate to cut them. Because they mean something special to me.

Have you used any editing methods previously that just didn’t work for you? If so, what were they and why didn’t they work?

Editing methods that didn’t work for me: 1. (This is usually prior to editing) Making an outline for my book. I have general outlines or notes of things that need to be included in my books, but I feel too constricted by outlines, so I end up tossing them. 2. Changing every single thing my beta-readers didn’t like or requested I change. While I still take their comments very seriously, it is, in the end, my book, and if I want to keep something now, I do. Outside opinions are crucial, but they don’t know what’s rolling around in my brain so sometimes I have to snuff them out and follow my gut. 3. Adverbs. There’s been a lot of adverb-hating people and editors out there, but you really can’t nix them altogether. They’re very useful in middle grade, fantasy, and YA. And I personally, as a reader, like to see adverbs. Not in every single sentence, but people call it lazy writing, and I just don’t see it that way. Don’t go overboard with adverbs, but they’re not inherently evil as some people say.

Please tell us something about your current work in progress or your most recent completed work (or both), and tell us where we can purchase your book(s).

I have many WIPs, but the one that is forefront is a middle grade fantasy book about a race of magical beings called phantoms that are on Earth to protect humans. It has not yet been published, but I will be sending it out to a second wave of agents in the next month or so. You can read about it at my blog: phantomwriter143.wordpress.com

If you have any other news to share with us, please feel free to do so now.

Sorry, Rachel, I can’t think of anything else. Thanks!

~ Amy

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Thank you, Amy, for such awesome tips!  Now, who’s up next?  If you’re game, please contact me at:

email

On Editing

 

A while back, I posted a call to all writers who wanted to share their editing tips, and Rhonda Blackhurst volunteered.  If you don’t already follow Rhonda’s blog, you’re missing a real treat.  So without further ado, here’s Rhonda:

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Rhonda Blackhurst

Please share one to three tips or tricks that you use when editing your work, how specifically you use them, and why they work for you.

Putting some time between each edit allows me to see more clearly what works and what doesn’t, making each edit more effective. While extra time between edits takes longer to complete the project, that space between edits allows time to work on other ongoing projects, actually making me more productive. After the first draft is written and the manuscript has been tucked in a drawer for a couple of weeks, I like to read through the entire manuscript in as few sittings, and closely together, as possible. During that first complete read through I don’t make any changes, but rather I have a coding system where I jot down in the margins of what needs to be changed and how. For example areas that don’t make sense, where the plot seems to be dragging, inconsistencies in character development, plot or details, if more needs to be explained or areas need to be cut, etc. After tucking the manuscript away for a couple of weeks once again, I then begin the major overhaul, followed by another break from the manuscript and the final finishing touches.

When I get to the editing phase of the project I’m working on now, a novel titled Finding Abby, I’m eager to try an editing process I stumbled across in a writing magazine. Each read through will be spent on one specific area of editing, starting with the biggest issues of plot and character, and ending with the proofreading and glitter. That will allow my brain to focus on one thing throughout the run through with less likelihood of missing something. I’ve learned multitasking a project isn’t the most effective way to edit.

The InheritanceWhat was your biggest repeated mistake when you first started writing? What is your weakest point of editing and why?

My biggest mistake of writing was simply not writing. I would wait for huge chunks of time where I could devote purely to putting words on the page, which resulted in no words on the page. I’ve learned to grab every fifteen minute increment I can and work with it accordingly. Lots of time? Work on my novel. Short amount of time? Work on a character sketch, plot ideas, etc.

As for the weakest point of my editing, I think editing is always a work in progress. The more I read what works for others, the more I find what works for me. Ideas like the one Rachel has here are golden learning opportunities for writers.

Shear MadnessPlease tell us something about your current work in progress or your most recent completed work (or both), and tell us where we can purchase your book(s).

My last book, Shear Madness, is the first in a series. I love a good mystery, so writing one was the most amazing journey! The first draft of the second book in the series, Shear Deception, is completed and awaiting the editing process which I will start after I’ve completed the first draft of the novel I’m working on now, Finding Abby. My current work in progress is a complete makeover of a Camp NaNo project from last year. As much as I enjoyed writing it, when I read through it back then, it just didn’t do anything for me so I filed it away (electronically) and forgot about it. One day when I was running I was hit with an idea of what I wanted to do with it. And that was to make it another series. While I’m working with the same “general” idea, the setting, characters, and plot have changed drastically. And I’m loving it! My first book, The Inheritance, and Shear Madness are both available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Inheritance is also available at Old Firehouse Books in Ft. Collins, CO.

If you have any other news to share with us, please feel free to do so now.

This fall is bringing some fun writerly activities. (I’ve made the word “writerly” a legit part of my vocabulary. ) September 5th I have a book signing at the local bookstore. My postcards and flyers arrived today and my personalized pens arrive next week. September 11-13 I’m attending a writer’s conference. Though it’s not far from my home, I’m staying at a hotel to take full advantage of the evening hours to practice all the gems I’ll have learned during the sessions. (Or to crash from brain overload from all the gems I’ll have learned.) Then there are the new books to read on the craft. I’m a sponge when it comes to learning the craft. Nearly every page I read gets marked with highlighter or pen. And last, two fall vacations, one in Minnesota and one in the mountains (well, the one in the mountains is actually a conference for work, but it’s in an amazing, breathtaking part of Colorado, tucked in the mountains) with lots of time for writing and editing.

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WOW!  Rhonda really has her writing game on, doesn’t she?  Thank you, Rhonda, for such awesome tips!  Now, who’s up next?  If you’re game, please contact me at:

email

On Editing

Tap, tap, tap.  (Tapping my microphone.)  Is this thing on? 

Well, folks, I thought I’d have a nice little Tuesday segment during the summer that all of us writers could participate in and share and enjoy, but I can’t get anyone else to play along.  Don’t YOU want to share some of your editing tips and tricks with us here?  In exchange for your participation, you’ll get a shameless plug for your book(s) as well as a heartfelt thank you from many of my followers.

Too many of you seem to think that you don’t do anything special or you don’t know anything that everyone else doesn’t know.  But that’s not necessarily true.  We all do things a little differently, and we want to hear from YOU.  What do you say?

If you’d like to play along, please email your responses to the following questions to my email address below, and include any photos and/or links of you and your blog and your work so we can purchase it.

  1. Please share one to three tips or tricks that you use when editing your work, how specifically you use them, and why they work for you.
  1. What was your biggest repeated mistake when you first started writing? What’s your weakest point of editing and why?
  1. Have you used any editing methods previously that just didn’t work for you? If so, what were they, and why didn’t they work?
  1. Please tell us something about your current work in progress or your most recent completed work (or both), and tell us where we can purchase your book(s).
  1. If you have any other news to share with us, please feel free to do so now.

On Editing

A while back, I posted a call to all writers who wanted to share their editing tips, and up next on my offer was my good friend and blogging sister, Claire Luana.  If you don’t already follow Claire’s blog, you’ll want to hope on over there right now and hit the Follow button!  Anyway, here’s Claire…

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Please share one to three tips or tricks that you use when editing your work, how specifically you use them, and why they work for you.

When I am hitting a rough patch in editing, I change the format. Somehow, sitting in front of the computer looking at the same screen for hours on end can kill my editing mojo. When I was doing a developmental edit of my current WIP, Moonburner, I started writing plot points on post-it notes and moving them around. When I hit another bump in the road, I created a non-linear map of how all my subplots connected, so I could look at the whole universe of it together.

For my latest edit, I printed my manuscript out and read it like a book. I highlighted areas that tripped me up or didn’t sound quite right, but didn’t go back and edit them until later, to keep myself in “reader” mode, rather than “editing” mode. I have found that the change in perspective from something purely mental to something a bit more tangible has made a huge difference for me when I am stuck.

What was your biggest repeated mistake when you first started writing?  What is your weakest point of editing and why?

I haven’t been writing for very long, so I am not sure I have fixed my biggest mistakes yet! As far as process, it was a mistake for me to over-outline. I am a very type-A person and so I assumed that I would be a “plotter,” not a “pantser.” I spent several months outlining, creating character sketches, even finding photos for my characters to put into my Scrivener folders! But when I actually sat down to write, I couldn’t even get past the first chapter. My overanalyzing of the story before it even began crippled my creativity. I ended up scrapping the whole project and starting from scratch on another idea with a one-page outline. It flowed amazingly!

I would also say it is a mistake (for me at least) to read books on the craft of writing and editing while I am in the process. It makes me start to doubt myself and go back and end up in a revision spiral. It is better for me to read a book on craft, absorb those lessons, and then sit down to my writing and editing with those things in mind. Mid-stream just didn’t work for me.

As for my weakest point of editing, it is definitely large scale, developmental editing. I have spent a fair amount of time in my professional career with copyediting and line-editing; I feel comfortable with grammatical rules and the Chicago Manual of Style. What still feels like a foreign language are the big things: character arcs, weaving sub-plots, theme, etc. All the aspects of editing for what makes a story compelling, rather than what makes good writing. I am still learning how to get my hands around the scope of a novel without feeling overwhelmed. Any tips would be appreciated 🙂

Have you used any editing methods previously that just didn’t work for you? If so, what were they, and why didn’t they work?

Editing from the beginning, over and over again, without utilizing different methods or focusing for different elements. I spent about three edits just plodding through my work, looking for the same things as I edited. I would get increasingly cavalier about my edits as I continued, meaning the beginning of the work is much tighter than the middle or end. I have learned that each of my edits should be unique–focused on a particular element(s) of the work. And if you are copy-editing, maybe start from the end and work your way backward!

Please tell us something about your current work in progress or your most recent completed work (or both), and tell us where we can purchase your book(s).

I am currently working on my first novel, a young adult fantasy novel called Moonburner. The synopsis:

Kai lives in Kita, where female sorcerers, moonburners, are hunted down and killed at birth. Her parents raise her as a boy in order to hide her true nature until she comes of age and can flee to neighboring Miina, where moonburners are trained and fight in the ongoing war with Kita.

Kai’s carefully laid plans are dashed when she is exposed as a moonburner and sentenced to death. In keeping with Kita’s cruel tradition, Kai is left to die in a vast desert bordering the two lands. Against all odds, Kai survives the desert and makes it to the citadel in Kita to begin her training.

As Kai struggles to learn to control her moonburning powers, she begins to realize that all is not as it seems at the citadel, and that the ongoing war against Kita has led the citadel leadership down a dark path that could spell the end of all burners. Kai discovers that her ties to the moonburners run deep, and that she holds the future of both Kita and Miina in her hands.

Moonburner is currently with beta readers and I am hopeful that I will begin submitting to agents in September. I am fully expecting that I won’t get any timely bites from agents, though, so I am also exploring self-publishing options!

I am loving connecting with other authors, editors, and writers, so please check out my blog at shotandahalfpint.wordpress.com!

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Thank you, Claire, for such wonderful tips!  (I really like the part about keeping it in “reader mode” versus jumping back and forth to “editor mode.”)  Now, who’s up next?  If you’re game, please contact me at:

Would You Rather…?

I was honored when my friend, PhantomWriter143, tagged me for the “Would You Rather” book tag tour!

She’s an amazing blogger and writer (and even a physical therapist!), and how cool is it that she started her blog just a couple of days after I started mine?  If you haven’t checked her out yet, go do so now.  You won’t be sorry.

At any rate, this fun little tag-a-thon asks us to answer a series of questions as writers/readers, then we pass on the love to five more bloggers.  Here are my answers, and my tagged victims are below:

  1. Would you rather only read trilogies or only read standalones?

Two of my favorite authors are V.C. Andrews and Beverly Lewis.  Both ladies almost always write in trilogy format (though sometimes they have four or five books in a series!).  So, yes, I prefer trilogies.  It allows the writer to give me more information, and it keeps me from feeling empty when the story ends sooner than I’d like.

  1. Would you rather only read male or female authors?

I don’t think I really have a preference.  As long as I enjoy the genre and the story, I don’t care who wrote it.

  1. Would you rather shop at Barnes and Noble or Amazon?

That’s tough.  Last year I got a Nook and have been trying to thin down my paper book collection and go digital.  However, I do still enjoy going into a physical book store and seeing all the different books “in person.”  Can I opt for a third answer and say I actually prefer used book stores?

  1. Would you rather books were made into TV shows or movies?

Hmm, I’ve got to go with movies.  Honestly, if I’ve read a book before it’s made into a movie, I probably won’t see the movie because it’s never as good.  But sometimes I see the movie, then it makes me want to buy the book.  Although I actually found one of my favorite authors (mentioned above), Beverly Lewis, because I saw a made-for-TV movie about one of her books.  How about this:  Ask me how much I despise when I find a movie I love, then I want to know more, and I discover that the movie did not come from a book!  I hate it when that happens!

  1. Would you rather read only 5 pages per day or 5 books per week?

Duh!  That one’s easy.  Five books per week, no contest.  If I only had the time to make that a reality…

  1. Would you rather be a professional author or reviewer?

Come on!  Do you really have to ask?  An author, hands down!  If you’ve followed my blog for long, you know that I don’t even need to quantify that answer with an explanation.

  1. Would you rather be a librarian or a bookseller?

I think I’d rather be a bookseller.  Better yet, can I own the bookstore?  That way, I could order all my favorite authors to sell, and YOU would probably be among them.

  1. Would you rather read only your favorite genre, or every other genre but your favorite?

Oh, I’d definitely rather read my favorite genre only.  I couldn’t give up my love of Amish fiction for anything.

  1. Would you rather only read ebooks or physical books?

That’s tough.  I want to prefer ebooks.  (As I mentioned above, I got a Nook last year because my physical books were swallowing me, and I wanted to thin the collection.)  That said, I do not like that my Nook is heavier than a paper book and I have to keep it charged in order to read.  If I was forced to choose, I guess I’d reluctantly go with ebooks just to give myself the kick I need to make it happen.

So that’s all there is.  I want to thank PhantomWriter143 again for asking me to play along.  I really love these blog tags, but too often, no one asks me to play in their reindeer games.  (Sigh.)  LOL!

Anyway, here are the bloggers I’m tagging:

Ali Isaac

C.S. Boyack

Rhonda Blackhurst 

Mark Bialczak

Elizabeth Melton Parsons

Thanks, guys.  I look forward to reading your answers!

~Rachel