Go Tell it on a Mountain

You’re a writer right?  Even if you are unpublished you still consider yourself one right?  Well don’t be shy to tell anyone you have a friendly acquaintance with.  No matter the subject you write, unless maybe you write erotica because many people are sensitive to that, don’t feel like they will think less of you.  There will always be those not interested in the genre you write but even those that might not be possible buying customers someday will find it fascinating that you do write and ask questions.  I say tell them because you never know what may come of a simple conversation.

Case in point for me, my neighbor has known for years I write.  When her daughter was in her early high school years she expressed an interest in the same genre as me and we did some exercises together.  Later the daughter quit because compared to my writing, hers was not stellar (her words not mine).  I still encourage her to keep doing it because she will get better the more she does it, so far she hasn’t.  However my neighbor occasionally asks how my writing is coming along and we discuss it for a few minutes.

Yesterday I get a message from her on Facebook; she was speaking with a co-worker of hers about the fact that I have a book completed which needs editing.  The co-worker has a brother in the same state but a few cities away who writes a different, although similar, genre and the co-worker said might be willing to look my novel over and give me some advice for making it better!

This is not something I neither requested nor asked about but due to some simple conversations the chance is there.  So get out there and let everyone know you write because you never know what it might lead to.

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Shout it out Loud

As promised in my last post, I read out loud; let me tell you that was interesting.  I don’t do different voices publicly well, I am a written story teller not a verbal one, but just listening to how things sound as they are spoken does make you realize errors that reading do not bring to light.

I only did the first chapter, I figured that was best.  I caught several mistakes which should have been obvious but weren’t until I had to listen to them.  I also had one sentence that bugs me to no end because it sounds “wrong”.  I can’t tell you what is wrong with it but the wording sounds funny coming out of my mouth and so I know I need to fix it, I just have to figure out how.

I plan to do a second reading once I have gone through once and let someone else go through it once as well.  Why?  Well just because the first time I made changes, once its edited again there might be more to make the story tighter.

Regardless I am very glad that I tried this and will continue with the rest of the novel before hitting the computer again to edit.  I truly recommend this approach to anyone out there.

Silence is Golden…or is it?

Editing a novel can be a complete pain in the rear.  As the writer you don’t see the glaring and especially the non-glaring errors that others do.  It can make you want to run screaming the other direction when you are told to go back and edit your novel again, because you’ve done it once of course you found all the mistakes the first time around.  If only it were that easy.  In thinking about my own novel and how I don’t want to start editing the second one yet I have come to the conclusion that it is time to try one of the tricks you read in books and hear from people a lot.  I plan to read my novel out loud.

Now if you are like me, you don’t feel comfortable doing this in front of ANYONE.  I want to do it when I am alone so when the obvious to others but not me mistakes come out of my mouth, I will not feel stupid for missing them in the first place.  So I have decided that I will do one chapter per night I am alone.  It may take me a while to get through the whole novel this way, I really don’t know how many chapters I have since I didn’t number them, but I think the benefit will be worth it in the long run.  Some of the chapters are shorter than others so it may end up that some night I read more than one.

I do have another hope in doing this; I hope that I can find what doesn’t work to distinguish some of my characters from another.  I have a feeling I will be surprised at the ones which sound the same.  I think this will also make the novel better.

So I’ll let you know how it goes next week since tomorrow night I will be able to put this in affect.

How much do you “Borrow”?

Speaking with a friend about my novel recently we were discussing where some of our characters come from.  I told her there are some where I know exactly where they came from; they are not so blatant rip-offs of characters I have seen in other stories.  That might sound bad but I don’t really think it is.  I am not taking the character and just dropping them into my story.  No I am changing some things to make that character mine, but the basis has been “borrowed” from another writer.

This one character I am speaking of I have wanted to create since I read several books with her original.  Yup it’s female.  I won’t say which character or which books I took her from but she appealed to me, even if I despised her for being the villain, because she was a strong, fiercely independent woman who went after what she wanted.  In much of the stuff I read, I don’t see a lot of that.  Or at least I didn’t used too, there are now books coming out or becoming popular which DO have a female like that.

Anyhow this character floated around my consciousness for years.  I never intended to use her; I just wanted to use elements of her.  Well when I decided to make my short story in to a novel, I needed to figure out exactly why the one character was where she was.  It occurred to me she was similar to the one I had read so many years ago.  So I used the other female as a basis for my own.  She is not a doppelganger by any means but if you put them side by side, you would notice how alike they are.

Am I worried about revealing this?  Not really.  Is she the only one?  Nope, I have others although none as heavily borrowed as my female.  I am trying to distinguish them in ways so that they do become my own characters and not a copy of someone else’s work.  Some characters this is easier to do than others.  For now though I will take my inspiration where I can find it and not worry about what someone thinks.

The Pen is Mightier than the …Computer?

When I was editing my manuscript a few weeks ago I realized something, I cannot write by hand and I cannot edit on the computer.  Prior to this realization, I had never given either process much thought.

When I did NaNoWriMo in 2010, I started with a notebook and my pen the first few days.  I got stuff written but I realized that I was going to have to do the work all over again when I typed it in my computer.  Also, my writing is atrocious so deciphering what I scribbled as my brain was throwing out the story proved difficult.  So I started using my netbook to write during work at lunch and the desktop at home.  Low and behold, my word count went up considerably.

Now granted I still edit some thoughts on the screen (if you’re a NaNoWriMo purist sorry) but it’s not true editing so I don’t count it as such.  This kind of “rewriting” is much better for me because I’m not scratching over the wrong word(s) and rewriting something that might be illegible later.

As for my editing, well I have to have that piece of paper in front of me with a red pen to mark on.  I actually prefer red to any other color, even from someone else editing, because it’s easier to see the corrections and suggestions.  Editing on screen doesn’t work for me because I can make notes on the page and refer to them later if I know something needs a change but not exactly what that change needs to be right then.  Plus I can edit anywhere with pen and paper.

It’s stated, and is true, that editing is a different kind of thinking than writing.  I see it in myself as when I write I tend to sit up straight and go.  When I edit I slouch and usually have one hand one my head, sometimes running through my hair (the result of which is my hair becoming a total mess).

While it sounds silly, I think that learning these things about my writing process has made my work better.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Writers Group

A little over a year ago, thanks to a friend, I joined a local writers group.  I had always wanted to join one but didn’t know any around.  That’s not entirely true, one of the bookstores had one but from what I had seen of it, I wasn’t impressed.  Plus they met at an inconvenient time.  So my friend gets me involved with this group she’s a member of, I go to the first meeting, and I am glad I took the plunge.

Now I have been, and am, a member of several writing places online.  Some I have used in the past and some I never got around to exploring the website very much.  Honestly some sites are more difficult than others to peruse and figure out how to use them to help you as a writer.

This group is great because we meet every month and it is the same people over and over.  Or at least many of the same people since life can get in the way of people returning or coming to meetings some months, plus right now we are seeing a HUGE growth.  Consistency is what I like here.

I don’t always take my work for critique but I have many times.  The first piece was a short story which became my first novel.  I don’t think without going to this group and brining that piece I would be where I am today as a writer.  The biggest comment I received was that there was a story there; it couldn’t end where it did for the short story.  That was September and come NaNoWriMo of said year, I decided to find out what that story was and haven’t looked back.

I have received some good and bad feedback from people when I’ve gone.  One such incident was a novel I have since decided to not finish, where I was told there was too much exposition and not enough action.  So I cut it down and returned the following month, to be told there wasn’t enough exposition (no this is not the reason I decided to stop writing this novel) much to my aggravation.  However other times I get things which do improve the writing or at least make me think how to do something differently, especially when it’s not something I saw on my own.

The biggest disadvantage though, is we have a three page limit.  So that several people can bring their work in for critique it makes sense and I understand it, but the need to have the entire thing read is crucial for someone to critique the piece effectively.  However with the new blood in our group came an idea for those with novels to have a different group, within the current one, so that one person CAN read your manuscript all the way through.  Yeah what a novel idea, no pun intended, but something that wasn’t really addressed or offered this way previously.

I do think writers groups are highly valuable and worth to join, provided you can get honest criticism and not take it personally (we have had one person who did and never returned).  It’s just a matter of finding one which works for you and dealing with whatever constraints there are.

Now What?

I finished the first edit of my first novel last week.  Since it was a holiday weekend, I decided against attempting to do anything else involving any writing or editing, too many other factors get in the way of me accomplishing anything with it.  Now that the new year is upon me I am faced with a big question, now what do I do?

This may seem like a silly question but there are many options with my writing here.  I have a second novel written but not edited yet, I could work on that.  I don’t want to do a second edit of the first novel just yet but I do have some things to flesh out and change in the story so that the world is more mine than a copy of someone else’s (not that it is a copy but there are elements).  There are characters to develop further now that I know something more about them.  There is also a world to expand upon.

So the question becomes which do I do first.  Editing the second novel might be a bit premature since it has been only a little over a month since I finished it.  The world still rather daunts me (although I am getting over that) however I am not an artist so drawing it up is difficult.

The characters and fleshing out the story seem the most logical areas.  It might be best for to jump back and forth, so I do not get stalled out on one or the other.  So time to pull out my character background sheet and get working on some of them and then jump to the first novel to fix some glaring errors I found (which someone else reading might not catch since they are character/creature based).