What’s Up Wednesday: Sep 5

Oh hi blog world!

So I’m a bit out of practice when it comes to this whole blogging thing. But here’s what I’ve been up to since we last spoke:

1. Still not dead. Yep, alive and kicking

2. I finished a major rewrite of a YA Thriller that takes place in Tokyo. My writer’s group’s frequent feedback was it wasn’t following enough of a thriller track and after some hard looks I had to agree with them. So I pondered and pondered for months. Part of my process is basic outlining, because then I know where the paths lead and if that’s the path I want to take or not. I feel like it’s a combo between plotting and pantsing.

It didn’t turn out exactly the way I had thought, which was fun. And I ended up creating a new character because of it, but I think it made sense. Plus I seem to have a habit of creating characters and then not really using them, but in this draft I brought an underutilized character to the forefront. I understand the appeal in imagining you can get it right the first time, but when you realize that writing is a journey and rewrites are going to happen if you want a good story, you sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Well, okay, most of it. There are those moments where you want to pull your hair out because the rewrite still needs some tweaks. But overall, worthwhile.

3. Finished a short article for a magazine. Another writer friend of mine said she thought it was the best thing I’d ever written. I’m going to submit it to the magazine this week and see what happens. Fingers crossed. And of course I’ll keep you updated.

4. The hubs and I are trying something called My Miracle Tea which is supposed to be like a major detoxifier. What does that mean? You get to poop, a lot. But it’s supposed to help with your liver and kidneys which, if too junked up, may contribute to stomach weight gain. We both feel like our stomachs could use a little extra help. I’ll let you know more about that as we go along. Why did I even get on this tea in the first place?

5. Foot zoning! It sounds like witch doctoring, but I feel like it’s legit. What is it? Someone gives you what is likely the most painful foot massage of your life and is able to tell you what’s going on in your body. I might still be skeptical of that much, except she knew stuff I hadn’t even mentioned. But to add to that, I also went to see a hormone specialist and they pointed out and recommended the same things.

Now granted, I’ve only been one time, so I can’t attest to the validity of all of it. But the friend who recommended me has personal stories of migraines going away after drinking teas this lady recommended, as well as discovering the lactose intolerance of a kid that doctors hadn’t pointed to. You can still skeptic away if you want, but I’m keeping an open mind after hearing and experiencing all of that. Besides, I’m more of the homeopathic mind when it comes to health these days.

That is NOT to say I think all pharma is bad. Some people really do need the medications they are on. Are we overprescribed in general? I think so. But does that mean all pharma is bad. Nope.

And that about covers it. I’m letting the rewrite of item 2 get cold before editing it. So in the meantime I’m kicking around another idea. I don’t know if you’d call it urban fantasy. Or steampunk futuristic, but it’s more of a middle grade story. And it’s weird. But I’m really liking it.

Okay, that’s what’s up with me? What’s up with you?

Row80 Check-In Oct 29

Saw this coming into work one day.  Sometimes I feel like everyone else is oblivious to these changes. I’m fascinated with these colors, but it’s hum-drum to the people around me. I don’t get it. Can someone explain it to me?

And now the goals:

  • Write at least 3 short stories intended for publication.  I’ll probably try my hand at several more than three, but the hope is to find three gemstones among the rocks.
    I got some more feedback on Magic Color Tree, which included a great suggestion for a title, Trick or Tree.  Those who have read the story will known it fits it perfectly.  So long temporary title!  Hello fun, new one!  I haven’t written any new short stories yet, but I’m thinking it may be best to just focus on Trick or Tree for awhile, especially since the contest is coming up soon (Nov 15).
  • Read the helpful books to prepare me for the editing fest that will be late November early December on Shade.

    Received King’s On Writing in the mail and glanced over it a little.  I’m busy with McKee’s Story, but I’m eager to take a look at On Writing.  To be honest, I’ve been a bit of a slacker lately.  I can’t seem to get up in the mornings, which throws my whole day off schedule and often I have to drive into work instead of riding the train—where I get my reading done.  Hopefully Wednesday’s check-in will prove more fruitful.
  • Have read all 201 available Anton Chekhov’s short stories from ibiblio, sprinkled with Hemingway and Bradbury.

    I’ve read 22 of 201 Chekhov short stories.
  • Once December hits, tear Shade apart and polish it to pure awesomeness!  Coming in December…

Just had one of those weeks last week.  What can I say?  I think they’re a normal part of any writer’s life, so no need to beat myself up about it.  Instead I’m hoping to make up for it this week and make real progress.

How are you doing on your goals?  Did you have one of those weeks last week or did you feel pretty productive?

Row80 Check-In Oct 24

All right guys, I’m a little late with my Row80 check-in, but I got a little distracted, you see, by this:

Yeah, I’ve probably watched it a dozen or so times already.  At this point I’m good with Iron Man 7, but I guess we’ll see how we progress with Iron Man 3.  And then, just as I was sitting to write down my progress, I got a little distracted with this:

Unfortunately it isn’t playing in my city… yet.  We tend to like these kinds of films here in Utah, so I won’t be surprised if it gets here soon.  Now with that out of the way, I can finally share a delightful fall picture from the complex where I live.

jae scribbles fall leaves

And now, the goals:

  • Write at least 3 short stories intended for publication.  I’ll probably try my hand at several more than three, but the hope is to find three gemstones among the rocks.I’m currently on draft #3 of the short story tentatively titled Magic Color Tree.  Although it’s a placeholder title, but I think it’s growing on me.  We’ll see as drafts progress with this little baby.No new short stories yet, but I think with a few drafts on MCT I’m ready to move on to new ideas.
  • Read the helpful books to prepare me for the editing fest that will be late November early December on Shade.

    One of my favorite quotes from this week’s reading is: “If exposition is a scene’s sole justification, a disciplined writer will trash it and weave its information into the story elsewhere.”  (I occasionally tweet quotes as I’m reading and sign them -RM)  Also I feel like I’m building a solid check list for things to improve on Shade when the time approaches.  Still haven’t received King’s On Writing in the mail yet, but I’ve got plenty of Robert McKee reading to keep me busy.
  • Have read all 201 available Anton Chekhov’s short stories from ibiblio, sprinkled with Hemingway and Bradbury.

    I’ve read 16 of 201 Chekhov short stories.  Been a busy week and usually I ride the train to work, but had to drive in for a couple events.  Since they don’t recommend I read while driving…
  • Once December hits, tear Shade apart and polish it to pure awesomeness!  Coming in December…

I took Magic Color Tree to my writer’s group last night and got some good feedback, both constructive and encouraging.  It’s interesting sometimes getting feedback from multiple sources, because if they all have a pattern then you know there’s a problem you must fix no matter how resistant you are to it initially.  The sign of a true writer, I think, is fixing it in a way that satisfies the concern, but doesn’t necessarily follow on the line every suggestion you were given.

How about you?  Any progress on your goals since Monday?  Any new and exciting news?  You know I love the new and exciting news, so dish!

The Plan

Major rewrites on Shade, my current WIP, are at 95% but that last 5% has been driving me nuts.  I’m not sure how it’s supposed to end.  I really wanted to get it done, even if it was extremely far from perfect so I could put it into cold storage for awhile, but nothing is coming.

The BFF suggested I put it into cold storage anyway and that perhaps time away from my WIP will reveal my ending to me at a later date.  So after a week of doing nothing but blogging and feeling frustrated, I’ve decided she’s right.  Into cold storage you go Shade!

jae scribbles carbonite

That suddenly frees up a lot more time, but time that won’t be wasted.  I’ve always wanted to try my hand at writing short stories.  I even began prepping for it a few months back, cramming my head full of Ernest Hemingway and Ray Bradbury short stories.

This time I still intend to cram myself full again of short stories from the masters, but now Anton Chekhov is on the list.  Since I’ve heard from a number of sources to make sure to read his stuff, I will attempt for the next month or so to get through his 201 stories available on Eldritch Press for free.  We also have a massive Hemingway book I can dig into as well.

I’ve already started reading A Living Chattel.  Not typically my kind of story, but it’s amazing how well these stories are written considering most are 100+ years old.

I also plan to read Donald Maass’ books Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction as well as Robert McKee’s Story, and perhaps Stephen King’s On Writing, and take copious amounts of notes for improvement on Shade while it remains in cold storage.

So, here are the official goals for October/November/December:

  1. Write at least 3 short stories intended for publication.  I’ll probably try my hand at several more than three, but the hope is to find three gemstones among the rocks.
  2. Read the helpful books to prepare me for the editing fest that will be late November early December on Shade.
  3. Have read all 201 available Anton Chekhov’s short stories from ibiblio, sprinkled with Hemingway and Bradbury.
  4. Once December hits, tear Shade apart and polish it to pure awesomeness!

I’ll keep you updated on my Fall Goals as time goes on.  I think this will be a great time for short story inspiration as well.  Especially when you have sights like these:

jae rainbow tree

This fabulous sight I’ve dubbed the Rainbow Tree I see every night I drive home from work, though only recently have I taken notice of it.  I know, the red isn’t technically part of the tree, but it’s the whole package that counts.  There are some other beautiful trees in my complex that take until almost winter to change, but they turn into real rainbow trees.  One of them I’ve nicknamed Rainbow Brite.  But I’m digressing into my love of Fall…. Focus Jae…

So yes.  I’ll post my progress here.  Maybe I’ll join up with Row80.  In fact, let’s consider this my post for Row80.  My goals are stated, I’m in.

How to Write a Novel – Pt 7: The End is the Beginning

My drink of choice is Raspberry Coke.

Did you get it all out?  Have you finished that first draft?  Toast yourself with your drink of choice and let’s say it together: Cheers!  Put that first draft away, at least for a few days, but I’d say a week and give it a chance to rest.  In the meantime, do whatever.  Go on vacation, play video games, read books, revisit your social life, etc.

Okay, now that you’ve enjoyed yourself and patted yourself on the back repeatedly for getting it done, here comes the hard truth: your first draft is only the beginning.

One of the first lessons of being a writer is learning that your work is never finished.  Even when it’s published there will be things you wished you changed.  At some point you have to let it go and be finished.  But now is the time to make sure what you let go is the best you can make it.

The reason you put the novel away for a few days is for the chance to let it get cold.  When you’ve had a few days away from your baby and the crystal clear vision of your story has dimmed a little, you’re more likely to see what you’ve done with actual clarity.

I plan to get into the details in an upcoming polishing the novel series in early October.  This month will be mostly occupied by my vacation in:

Hawaii beach

That’s right, I’m heading out next week.  I know, I know, it’s a rough life, but somebody has to live it.  On the docket is snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, boogie boarding/surfing, and whatever else me, the BFF and our friends can cram in.  I intend to blog from there whenever possible.  We usually pack it in tight and I’ll only have my portable keyboard and phone, but I promise to share delightful pictures of fantastic Hawaiian wonders and maybe sum up with scribbles and videos after we’ve returned home.

I’m going to try working on my novel while I’m there, though I suspect most of the work will be done on plane rides and not on the beach.

We’re going to the Big Island and Kauai, so if you’ve been to either two, recommendations are welcomed below.

And of course I’d love to hear what you thought of the How to Write a Novel series overall.  Anything you would like to see more of in future series?  Any topics you’d like covered in the future?  Let me know below.

I Won a First Chapter Critique!

So I stumbled onto the blog of Aimee L. Salter a while back via Twitter and in addition to finding very helpful writing advice, I also discovered she holds a contest called the First 500 Critiques.  If you’re brave enough, you submit the first 500 words of your novel for Aimee and anyone who reads her blog to critique.

I took a chance and tried to be as helpful as I could to my fellow brave submitters and by chance won the comment lottery for a first chapter critique.  This is something Aimee does for free out of the goodness of her heart.  (I have a feeling karma will be bringing her fantastic returns).

I found her advice on my first 500 to be very helpful, if not reinforcing what I was hearing about it.  I think it aided me in gathering the courage to make some major changes–changes I believe are for the better.

The whole situation reminded me of something I think some of us writers tend to forget, and that’s community.  Networking is so much more important than we give it credit for.  We have to think beyond the direct path to publishing and somehow realize there’s this whole community of writers now easily accessible thanks to technology with a wealth of advice and information.  I’ve learned so many things from fellow writers I may not have discovered on my own.  I’ve learned how to utilize social media tools, editing techniques, query letter advice, story mechanics advice–the list goes on and on.

I think a lot of us have that personality that wants to keep these things private, but when you shut yourself off to the community you’re closing yourself off to one of the best support groups you could possibly have.

And something else I’ve learned is there’s room for everyone in this business.  Just think about it.  Sure, there are the Harry Potter books and the Hunger Games and the Twlights but once a reader has devoured them, that’s it.  They want more and we’re potentially there to give it to them.  I truly believe we all have good stories in us, it’s just the translation part–the getting it from our head to paper in desirable form–that holds us back.  But there’s room for all of our stories, once we get them right on paper.

Anyway, I just wanted to share my elation and both encourage you to check out Aimee’s blog and find your own way to contribute to the community.  Remember, the energy you send out does return to you.  Make sure it’s positive helpful energy.

If you want to do the first 500, you’ll likely have to wait until next year as it has passed for this season.  But polish your work in the meantime and search her articles for advice on how to do that.  I believe she also offers her services for critiquing your work.

And what about you?  Have you found contributing to the community to be helpful in your writing journey?  What new discoveries have you made interacting with other writers?  Let us know in the comments below.

Keynote by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (BSKP Notes)

Lauren was a great end of the day keynote.  I think many of us were feeling overwhelmed by how far we needed to go with improving our books and Lauren was that bright ray that said: Don’t worry, you can do this.  I recommend you check out her book “The Twin’s Daughter.”  I’m maybe halfway through and so far I’ve enjoyed the imagery and story she’s weaved together.  You can find Lauren here.  Now onto the notes!

Don’t chase trends.  Write what you want to read.  If you try and chase a trend by the time you have a book written the trend will likely have come and gone.  Set daily goals for yourself in your writing.  Doing this is taking control of your writing career and moving forward.  And if at first you don’t succeed, write another book.  (And personally I think you can shelf a book you created and come back to it later.  You never truly have to “throw them away.”)

Gather all the wisdom you can so you are able to make the best decisions about both creating and polishing your work.  The two biggest mistakes you can make: 1) listen to all the advice you’re given, 2) ignore all the advice you’re given.  It’s a happy medium you must determine yourself.

On agents, ideally they want to work with you on improving your book.  Ask your agent about any questions they have as well as some of your own on the feedback they might give you.

HOW TO TAKE CRITICISM

Don’t get teary-eyed.  Don’t have a knee jerk reaction.  The best thing you can do is to say, “Thank you.  You’ve given me a lot to think about.”  What she means is don’t get defensive about your work.  The feedback might be right, or it might be wrong.  Give yourself time to really consider the suggestions you’ve received so you can know whether to accept or ignore it.  Also, you don’t want to discourage beta readers from ever helping you out again.  You need them to be honest.  Your chances of getting published are much better when you’ve polished your manuscript without your ego getting in the way.

She had a 3-tiered approach to revisions:

  1. Make minor changes first.
  2. Then make the mid-size changes
  3. Now the big revisions.

Sometimes you may feel discouraged by all the changes you need to make.  Starting with the simple things, like typos or grammar errors gets you into the groove to move onto the rest.  (I’ve found this to be true in my own experience).

When it comes to editorial advice, she says there are three kinds of changes:

  1. The obvious changes.  (This is likely grammar or typos–anything that once pointed out you easily agree need to be changed).
  2. Lateral changes.  (Where you please them, but it doesn’t change the book that much.  I think another way to approach this is assessing what it is exactly they’re saying doesn’t work and then applying your own ideas on how to make better.)
  3. The hell no changes.  (These are the changes that would alter your story past recognition to where you hate it.)

You have to balance out your writing.  Always write as an artist, but also write as a professional.  I think she meant be willing to take and apply criticism but remember that at the end of the day it’s your art, not anyone else’s.

When it comes time that you’ve been published, she said to apply the 5-minute rule.  That is to only give the reviews 5 minutes of your time.  Five minutes and then back to work.

YOUR ONLINE LIFE AS A WRITER

We’re in the digital age, which means most of what we post online is usually permanent.  Don’t talk back to reviewers.  It makes you look unprofessional and thin-skinned.  The only instance when you should talk back is when they’ve accused you of plagiarism, but that’s it.  Don’t feed the trolls.  There will always be people who hate you, and often a lot of those people are generally miserable anyway and want to make you the same.  Don’t fall for their games.  Don’t look down on what other people write.  We’re all at different stages in our writing careers.  Be encouraging and building, not discouraging and destructive.  And don’t take it personally if other people look down on you.  We all have different tastes, and you can never please all of the people all of the time anyway.

Never tell an unpublished writer that it just takes talent.  Never say that published writers are lucky.  We are all one lucky break away from being published.  It only takes one yes.

Keep your mind running on two tracks at the same time.  On the one track, you want it to be published, but on the other track be pleased with progress, even small progress.  You cannot be a good writer without being a good reader first.  Get to know your market.  And lastly, the only person who can take you out of the game is you.