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Archive for the ‘writing in general’ Category

 

I’m just realizing that no matter which writing phase I’m in, I mumble to myself that I wish I was at another stage. Seriously, this is the pattern that is revealing itself:

  • I begin writing my first draft (I wish I was editing, that is sooo much easier!)
  • I start to revise (I wish I was already sending it the editor since my delete-hitting finger goes numb)
  • I get all my corrections back from the editor (I wish I was blurb writing since I pop Motrin endlessly to keep the headache from seeing so much red at bay)
  • I have to take a whole novel and sum it up in a few attention-getting sentences (I wish I was promoting already, can I just pay someone to do this?)
  • Release,  promotion, and attempting to get reviews (I wish I was writing again, that is sooo much easier!)

The sad thing is that this took me three books to figure out. Honestly, I kept thinking the next step was going to be so much better. Only now, I realize that every step has its challenges. I even keep hearing this in the back of my head, “Take a break from the series, this next idea is going to practically write itself!” I’m learning not to trust that voice, it’s an immature, impulsive voice with no long-term memory, bent on distracting me. If I listened to this voice nothing would get done.

So, I know now that every step of self-publishing is tedious. Even a passion can be tedious since any worthwhile art is not created without sweat and tears. I think this is why writers have to fight that rush to get the book out and off their minds.There is such freedom once you move on to the next release.

Do you agree? Is there a step that is pure enjoyment for you or do you find yourself praying to move on to the next phase only to
find you struggle with that one as well?

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So, the moment has arrived where J.K. Rowling has released the cover and excerpt of her new book (and made it available for pre-order of course…at 17.99 for the ebook *cough, cough*).

Here is a glimpse of the cover and blurb:

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.
Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

While many are posting about how over-priced this ebook is, I’m more upset that Rowling has switched genres (fantasy to black comedy). Although the description sounds intriguing and I have no doubt that Rowling will make each character memorable and deep, this deviation has really let me down.
I LOVED the Harry Potter series—like stood-in-line-at-midnight-for-the-next-book loved—and I was hoping her next book would evoke the same feeling of wonder and sentimentality of the Potter series.

This made me realize something important. I always thought that I would try different genres. I didn’t want to be limited to one. I love historical/reincarnation fantasy, but so many ideas have fired up my creativity and I wanted to explore them. I thought if my readers enjoyed my voice and style that they would come along for the ride, exploring different genres with me. All that changed with reading Rowling’s new excerpt. My heart sunk when I saw that it was a black comedy, reminding me of a plot for new tv series. I know she is a great writer, but I don’t want to read about this sort of world. I want to read her fantasy.

It hit me—I don’t want to do this to my readers. My readers’ most frequent compliment is that they enjoy the historic immersion and little known details in my books. How can I switch to young adult paranormal or a paranormal thriller and think that these fans wouldn’t be surprised and let down? They would be hoping that I bring them what they enjoyed from the books they know.

This has altered my plans and convinced me of writing a historic fiction piece to follow my series. This is a better match with what my readers might expect from me. I can probably venture into other genres later, but while my readership is still young and growing, I don’t want to alienate them at the end of my series.

 
What about you? How do you feel about Rowling switching genres? Do you think it’s important to slowly evolve your genre?

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After I finished writing my first novel, I stared at the pages, not knowing what revising entailed.

It’s perfect I thought. Exactly the way I wanted it.

But then I started to research the process of revising and it dawned on me that I had to completely slash away and polish every sentence, analyze every word, make sure every punctuation was just as I wanted it before querying.

I found some fantastic books and websites, but none helped me more than Caro Clarke’s in-depth advice.

If she taught a class, I’d take it. The way she explains everything and the topics she thought to include, astounds me. I read each and every one of her writing articles and if you have a little time I would check them out. How could you not, with unique article titles such as:

Just to name a few.

Caro truly knows her stuff and I promise you that you will come away a better writer after you have read through them all. I took her advice so seriously that I felt the need to thank her in my first novel. Best of all, the advice is free!

(Although it would be nice to purchase her novel in thanks if you find her advice as helpful as I do).

Just writing this blog has made me realize I should reread all these articles again before I revise the next book in my series. I’m sure I’m in need of a refresher course.

Thank you, Caro, for taking the time to write these extremely helpful articles and for sharing them so graciously.

Have any of Caro’s tips helped you? Whose writing advice has made the biggest impact on your writing?

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About.com on Fiction Writing defines writing style as, “the way you write, as opposed to what you write about (though the two things are definitely linked). It results from things like word choice, tone, and syntax. It’s the voice readers “hear” when they read your work.”

Wikipedia (the definite source on writing :)) defines writing style as, “the manner in which an author chooses to write to his or her audience. A style reveals both the writer’s personality and voice, but it also shows how she or he perceives the audience, and chooses conceptual writing style which reveal those choices by which the writer may change the conceptual world of the overall character of the work. This might be done by a simple change of words; a syntactical structure, parsing prose, adding diction, and organizing figures of thought into usable frameworks.”

I have had a few reviews lately that have commented on my style and it’s surreal once you hear how others hear your words. All of the below excerpts were taken from Amazon reviews:

“The writing is clean and direct with very little flourish.”

“I was quickly entranced by the writing style as I partook in this unique, fascinating adventure. L.E. Waters captures scenery and dialogue with such ease that it’s easy to picture in your head, everything rolls naturally. No stilting, no rushing, no forcing.”

“I had never thought I would enjoy historical fiction however, it is written in such a way that it flows within the story and is very realistic.”

“The author’s writing is clean and well-done, and Waters does an excellent job giving a richness to the worlds her characters inhabit, while still staying historically accurate (at least as far as my somewhat meager knowledge of ancient cultures goes). Her characters are nicely complex while still being likable (that is, they’re not goody two-shoes, but neither are they evil).

“I found the writing to be somewhat flat; it didn’t feel like there was much action going on. I enjoyed the premise, but found the implementation lacking.”

(Oh well, you can’t make everyone happy)

I’ve looked up what clean writing implies and it seems it’s a direct, uncluttered delivery with minimal descriptions, that’s easy to read. So I can see why some may like this non-flowery narrative and others may detest it.

Did I set out to write like this? No. I really wasn’t aware, but I do tend to get itchy reading all the detail in a Dickens or Austen novel (yet I still love them!)  and I have been known to roll my hands rudely when someone tells a story in such a way, “Last Monday night—no, I think it was actually Tuesday and it was late afternoon…”

When I was researching how to revise and attract an agent I read that it was best not use adverbs, slash out needless words, and never use more than two adjectives to describe something within the same sentence. So I obeyed, and with the long list of characters I have it’s probably best to keep everything else simple. But I also write from two male POV and one Spartan female POV(more masculine than most females) in the first book. In these three lives I tried to be more direct and laconic. I wonder if readers noticed that I softened things slightly with the last female POV? I’ve yet to receive any comments about style on my second book but I’m curious to see if my ‘clean’ style is consistent.

Dashiell Hammett, author of The Maltese Falcon, once said, “It is the beginning of the end when you discover you have a style.”

Are you aware of your writing style? Have reviewers or classmates surprised you with comments on your style? Have you ever attempted to change your style? Is it the kiss of death to realize your style?

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I’ll admit it. I was one who balked whenever I read others suggestions to write at the same time every day for a certain amount of time/word count/chapters.

Isn’t it better to just pick up your computer and write whenever you got the chance? That must be more productive. And what about writing when inspiration overtakes you? How can creativity be clocked-in?

It wasn’t until I read Catherine, Caffeinated’s fantastic post, Don’t break the Chain, on advice from Jerry Seinfeld about having a daily writing goal, that I wondered if I should give it a try. Everyday. No cheating.

Weeks ago, I was furiously writing (for five days!), then life interfered once again even though the inspiration was still there. How was I going to be productive while still spending time with my kids and giving them a happy summer?

I needed to try something different, so I folded and decided to join Catherine with my pledge of five hundred words a day. No matter what. I know, that’s not a high aspiration, but as with diets, it always helps to keep things reasonable if you want something to work long-term.

Well, it’s been a week and I haven’t broken the chain as of yet!

Funny thing is, I’m writing more than ever. You see, I give myself about an hour everyday to write five hundred words. I don’t spend the time checking all my favorite blogs, books sales, messages, emails…etc. I give the whole hour over to writing. I start writing and quickly reach five hundred words. I say then, okay, now you can stop whenever you want after this, but I usually fill the whole hour and reach three times my goal. The best part is I tell myself that I’m done writing for the day. I can do chores around the house, play with my kiddos, go for a walk without ANY work guilt! It has freed me up completely and I’m more productive.

So now, I’m sorry to all those I chuckled at when I read about writing goals. All those wise writers surely have something there. And if you’re laughing at me right now…please, just give it a try!

…Now, in a totally different direction, I happened upon this picture of the day. Oh boy! I’m sure all you writers out there could have a field day with a flash fiction piece on this one!

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I think about my favorite writers all the time. I try to dissect what makes them so great. As if I discover these secrets, then all my struggles as a writer will be solved. I try to go deeper than unique characterization, compelling dialogue, plot development, and good pace to the very underpinnings—the atomic layer beneath.

What makes these elements fantastic? What is it exactly that makes a made-up world tangible to readers?

After much pondering, I decided that the following three traits transforms a good writer to a great writer.

 

1) Self-awareness

In order to understand the motivations and reactions of characters in your imagined world, it is essential that you understand your motivations and reactions in your world. Only through knowing yourself (the nitty-gritty) can you create characters that others can identify with.

2) Observation

Writers need to listen closely when others speak, overhear strangers talk, notice how people move when they are reacting. What do people look like when they’re mad, embarrassed, impatient, depressed…etc? In order to take your readers from the clichéd universal descriptions, a great writer needs to pay attention to all those little things many don’t take notice of.

3) Exceptional Memory

Of course memory is essential. No one pulls dialog purely from their imagination. It all comes from memory. Maybe not one specific memory where everything you wrote actually occurred, but it all comes from memory of all the observations that you have gathered over your lifetime. How far would a writer get with a bad memory?

As much as writers can improve their writing skills from attending classes, reading whatever they can get their hands on, and instructional books; these three traits are unfortunately not learned. I believe these are the gifts great writers are born with. Do you agree? Are there other inborn traits that make a great writer?

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I’ve mentioned work-shopping on my blog before, but I realized I haven’t described what goes on in one and why I think it’s important. Back when I was considering one, I would have appreciated someone letting me know what to expect. I already finished my first novel and wanted to get some feedback before I self-published. I found a promising writer’s workshop fifteen minutes away from where I lived that meet once a week for a few hours. They had so many different classes ranging from the basics of writing to advanced courses. One class offered feedback on finished novels and the time it meet at night worked out for me.

I was a month pregnant a the time and knew that I would be going through the worst of morning sickness during the workshop, but I knew I needed this help if I was ever going to release my debut novel. I was so nervous. I had no idea what I signed myself up for. Was everyone going to be more advanced than me?

I got an email a couple of weeks before the first class requesting that we send everyone our first ten pages. My finger hesitated over the send button since no one outside of my circle had read my book. But if I was seriously thinking of publishing I was going to have to get used to it.

*click send*

I was both impressed by my fellow workshopper’s first ten pages, and assured since I saw that each person could improve. I wrote all my comments on the side and printed them out to bring with me. Yet it didn’t dawn on me until I walked into the small, crowded room that I was actually going to have to say those criticisms to their faces! All nine of us sat down with the teacher who immediately began with the person to his right. He wanted to go around to table and let everyone give their impressions and improvements out loud…while everyone was watching you. It was strange to match up each writing piece with the face, having learned intimate emotional details before you’re casual acquaintances.

Of course, I could only mention my positive critiques. I curled up my page slightly so no one could see my real notes on the page. However, the negative criticisms rolled off these workshop veterans tongue. I kept my composure long enough until the workshop ended and then I shut the door of my car. I called home and cried like a two-year old. I almost didn’t return. But I decided to lift my chin and steel myself for more. I quickly learned that it was better to hear these things in the workshop and not on the review page. It took me a few classes before I flattened the paper and said it all. When the first class ended I signed up for more. I needed to be sure that my whole book was looked over.

The most important things I learned there:

  • Exposure: You need to have many eyes look over your MS before sending it off to agents or self-publishing. If you were only writing for yourself than it would be fine to keep it to yourself, but if you are writing for the market than you must get as many different types of people to let you know if something isn’t working.
  • Revise, revise, revise: I remember when the teacher actually held my MS up and proclaimed, “This is a great first draft.” I replied like Milton from Office Space, “mm…mm..m…my final sir.” I laugh now because it really was a draft, not even close to finished! But I truly thought I had revised it to death at that point. I sent it to all the best agents! How could he say, “first draft”? So I learned that lesson. Now matter how many times you think it’s done…you need to hear that it’s looking good from others…so many others! Each time I sent in those ten pages I picked through it, measuring every word, changing a comma to five different places before I settled! You do some great revisions when you think a whole table-full of writers are going to nit-pick it.
  • Workshop teachings last: I can’t write anything without the echos of all their lessons rattle around in my brain.
  • Negative criticism: This is the most important thing. I wouldn’t have been ready to handle the reviews and judgements of readers before these courses. I’ve reached the point where I’m ready for anything. I actually enjoy a critical review since I’m so open to how different people interpret my story and I know I can always improve something. I usually say, “You have a good point there. I’ll try to fix that going forward.”
  • Positive reinforcement: Yes, I actually received just as much positive support, but I seem to remember the negative things more. Only when someone is dishing out improvements left and right can you be assured that the positive things they see are indeed true. I have no doubt those people would have looked straight into my eyes and said, “This isn’t any good.” But they didn’t, they said things like, “If you just changed this, this, and this, you could really have something here.” I really trusted their opinion and if they thought I was ready to publish at the end, I knew I was.
  • Problems: They let me know when something was missing, where there was too much explanation or where there was too little. They let me know when a scene needed more description and even voted that they thought first person present was the way to go (I originally had it in first person past). They were right. It helped make my readers feel like they were experiencing everything themselves and I haven’t had one reviewer say they didn’t like the first person present and it’s usually not thought of well.
  • Camaraderie: There were so many times we just laughed. Laughed at the process, at ourselves, and the struggles we were all facing. We all got to know each other and at the end it was like we were a writing family. Writers NEED support of other writers. We are all facing so much rejection, so much self-criticism, so much outside criticism. The reassuring word of a fellow writer of simply telling you that they’ve been through the same struggles are golden.

I really miss my workshop and the fantastic writers I met there. If I had the extra money and time to invest I would, but for now I need to put that time and money toward bringing my next book to market. Thankfully, though, I have all my writing friends on my blog to help fill the void (I love you guys!) I appreciate what that teacher and fellow classmates taught me and I’m sure my first novel is better for it. I can only hope I’ll take what I learned from that class and apply it to all my future projects.

So all of you out there, if you’re close to sending your first project out or if your creative well has run dry, I strongly recommend looking up your local writing workshop and see if you can afford it. It is money well spent 🙂

Have any of you taken a workshop before and how was your experience?

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