Tag Archives: manuscript

Feedback, glorious feedback

 

Photo from Girl with computer emerging technologies social media by Walton LaVonda, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Girl with computer emerging technologies social media by Walton LaVonda, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 

Today is a big day for me. Today, for the first time, I read the first feedback I have received for my completed novel draft.

Okay, I admit it, I received said feedback weeks ago. However, what with the Christmas rush, holidays, kids running around my feet and a very real fear of what the document said, I put off reading it. It was from someone whose point of view matters to me and who is in the novel’s target audience. I was terrified they would say they hated it.

Today, though, I forced myself. Found the email. Opened the document. (Okay, I’d opened it before now, and given it a quick glance. But that was it.) And read the whole thing through, word by word. And do you know what? They didn’t hate it.

Sure, they picked out a few things that need working on. Some, I already knew about (or suspected). Some I hadn’t realised were weak spots. But they also pointed out a few things they really did like, and which they thought worked well. That, my friends, was amazing to read. Yes I’ve had reviews before, but this is the first novel I’ve ever thought of trying to get published, so it felt more important.

Naturally, all this pressure was self-inflicted. We are all our own worst critics and we are convinced that every error we see will be magnified tenfold by others. The truth, though, is that this person who is in my target audience liked my story. Said they would read it again. Said the characters were real and vivid and engaging. And that the story flowed and – generally – worked. And that, my friends, is a huge load off my shoulders.

I still have some other betas who have not yet got back to me, and I’m okay with that. The Christmas period is one of the busiest for pretty much everyone and it can be hard to find time to spare to critique someone’s novel. This first one, though, is like manna from heaven. It means the novel isn’t crap, and I haven’t been wasting my time for the past couple of years. Sure, there are a few tweaks that need to be made, but overall it shows promise and potential. And that, I think, is the best Christmas present I could have received.

 

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A NaNo-ing I will go

nanowrimo.org

nanowrimo.org

It has only recently occurred to me that November will soon be upon us again, and that means NaNoWriMo is on its way.

I have had mixed success with NaNo. I’ve completed it twice and failed dismally (at Camp NaNo) once, and I generally avoid it unless I have something pressing that I want to get out. This year, due to my ignoring most things writerly, I had completely forgotten about it until I saw it referred to on a website that I look out for very different reasons. NaNo? Already? I checked my calendar and it is indeed only a few days away.

My first reaction was that I’d ignore it this year: I’ve finished my novel and the short story I wanted to write, and was thinking of taking a break. But then I thought about Novel #2, which has been festering in my mind for over a year now. I’ve got about 10K words written for it, but I’ve done exactly nothing with it for longer than I care to think about. I have, however, started dreaming about its characters again, which is a sign I should probably get back into it. So, with NaNo coming along, I have decided to do the obvious.

Yep, I’m signing up again. The whole kit and caboodle. Fifty thousand words in a month.

I have no idea if I’ll be able to do it. I don’t know if I have 50K words of this story in me at the moment. But I figure it’s worth a try. And if I do, the more I write then the more I’m likely to want to write, as delving into that world is likely to give me more ideas, more tangents, and more scope than I’m thinking about now. In other words, writing is cumulatively addictive, and there is no better way to get new ideas for a story than to immerse yourself in it.

Am I stupid? No. Over-reaching? Quite possibly. But hey, the fun is in the attempt, and who knows? I might actually do it. You never know until you try.

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Getting there … kind of

Matej-writing

Yeah, yeah, I know. I said I’d be back blogging once a week, and that was three weeks ago. But my excuse is that it was school holidays and I was busy. I could perhaps have timed my comeback better, but so be it.

Anyway, I’m here today with my random update of how things are going. School holidays were MAD, but in a good way. I’m kind of glad I’m back at work this week so I can have a rest! We did a huge number of things and had a really good time doing them, but it’s so exhausting. But not to worry. The madness is now over and I can concentrate on other things.

So, what other things, I hear you ask? Good question. I’ve given my novel to a few beta readers already, with some more waiting in the wings until I can give them a hard copy. (I have to print it out at work so I’m doing it 10 pages at a time. It’s taking a while.) I’m giving them until Christmas to get back to me so hopefully by the end of the year I have some very constructive advice as to what I need to do to improve things.  (My offer from last time still stands, by the way. If you want to see my romance novel as a beta reader, let me know.) I’m also preparing to write a short story (10K maybe?) in a completely different genre, in order to enter a short story competition my local writers’ centre has going. It’s going to be a kind of dystopian thing, and it’s based on a rather strange dream I had a couple of weeks back, so we’ll see how that turns out. After all, there’s only one way to find out if it’s going to be any good, and that’s to get started on it.

Other than that, I may have mentioned a while back that I’ve been writing a collaborative action/adventure/fantasy piece with some writer friends, so that’s a lot of fun. I’ve also done about 10K of my next novel, and I’ve been thinking more and more about that story lately so we’ll see how that goes when I actually pick it up again. I’m in no hurry with that – I find it good to break from my normal genre entirely for a while sometimes, so it might be a couple of months till #2 gets going again. I figure that so long as it DOES get going again, it’s okay. Some things you just can’t rush.

So yeah, that’s me for now. I’m hoping to post a book review next week so it may be a little while before you get any more incoherent rambles from me. ;) Either way, I hope that your writing / other creative project is going just as well as mine is.

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O Blogger, Where Art Thou?

Yes, I know. It’s been several months since I posted, and then it was a book review. You’ve heard nothing from me in simply ages. Why? Well, I don’t really know. There are a number of reasons that come to mind, so I’m going to share them with you. Put your hand up if you can relate to any of them.

  1. Lack of material/time. I was finding that blogging twice a week was draining my mind of ideas and cutting into my writing time. I work almost full time and the pressure of coming up with material for two days each week, as well as trying to keep up with other blogs, comments on my blog, and the rest of it was leaving me with next to nothing for my creative writing.
  2. Competing priorities. Update my blog or spend time with my kids? They won’t remember having to muck around the house waiting for me to do my computer stuff, but they will remember me taking them to the zoo. Or the pool. Whatever.
  3. An overall sense of cutting out what was less important. This is an extension of #2. I blogged earlier in the year about cleaning out my cupboards at the same time as I was cleaning up my manuscript, and that attitude still stands. Things that were less important were jettisoned in favour of those items higher up the list. And maintaining my profile as a budding author, while important, felt less so than putting my life in order, spending time with kids (as above), and just generally getting myself in a position that I was happy with. You only get one shot at life so why waste it doing things you don’t want to do?

I know I could have just cut down on the blog frequency, but like a lot of people I suffer from procrastination, and there was also a very real fear that if I started it up again then I might drop back into old habits, which was what was draining me in the first place. And I was drained. I didn’t write a thing for two months, and nor did I do any editing. Nothing at all. My brain just needed a break from all that, and I obliged.

So, what’s changed now? Well, my novel is now at the point where I am happy to send it out to my beta readers for their feedback. I could tinker and fiddle till the cows come home but I don’t think that by myself I’m going to get it much better than it is now. It’s time for new eyes and new perspectives on it. So I’m sending it out for comment, and putting it down till Christmas at the earliest. Then in the new year I can take everyone’s ideas on board to improve it even further.

As such, I’m ready to get back into the world of writers. I won’t be blogging as frequently – once a week will do me, on Mondays like now, with the occasional interview or book review thrown in instead of commentary. It’s a scenario designed to keep me involved, yet help take the pressure off, and to give me more time to devote to novel #2, or the kids, or anything else that seems important at the time. One less post per week will help with my whole-of-life de-clutter that I’ve been undertaking for most of this year.

So yeah, that’s me. Sorry for the long blackout, but fear not, all is good. Oh, and if anyone reading this would like to have a look at my novel in a beta capacity, leave a comment or send me an email at Emily[dot]wheeler02[at]yahoo[dot]com. I’d love to hear from you.

 

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Purging

English: Yard sale on Green Street in .

English: Yard sale on Green Street in . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I quite enjoy a good purge. Cleaning out the cupboards and donating ninety per cent of their contents to a local charity because you just don’t need it is cathartic, exhilerating and frees up vital storage space.

I’ve been doing this a bit at home lately. Only a little at a time, sure, but the church down the street, which has large garage sales every couple of months, is certainly reaping the benefits of my efforts. I’m also selling a few more valuable bits and pieces, in the hope that the spare cash they provide will help pay for an interstate trip for the whole family to attend a wedding later in the year. I’ve made a couple of hundred dollars so far and am hoping to both free up cupboard space and cash flow even more in coming weeks.

That’s all very nice, I hear you say, but what does it have to do with the writing life? Well, I say, plenty. Purging is very much a state of mind. It’s that part of the brain that hoarders can’t seem to access, and many of us only access sporadically. But we’re all guilty. Who among us hasn’t kept something because it was nice, or it might come in handy later on, only to come across it again two years later and wonder why on earth we have it? But, when the purging spirit takes hold, you can rid yourself of a lot. And the same is true in writing.

Purging is only good, really, when you’re in the editing stage. Ridding yourself of the unnecessary when you’re still trying to get the book written can be time consuming and take away some of the creative urge. Doing it when you’re editing, though, is what the whole thing is about. Don’t need it? Cut it. Doesn’t progress the plot? Cut it. Character not adding anything to the story? Cut him/her. I’ve got rid of about 15,000 words, two characters and a whole subplot so far, simply because they weren’t adding value to the manuscript. I’ve got some more purging to do, but this ruthlessness on multiple fronts is feeling good. Cleaner cupboards, cleaner prose and cleaner schedule. It’s a win-win situation.

Of course, not everyone finds it easy to be this ruthless. And this is why I recommend doing the purging on many levels at once. When you’re already in the mindset to clean up that space under the bed and just get rid of things you’re not using, why not get out the manuscript and have a hack at that as well? You’re already thinking in that way. Try to make the most of it!

So that’s me at the moment. Going through what makes up my life and just cutting out things I don’t need any more. It applies to a lot of things and, the way I’m going right now, I should be cleansed and clear in no time. (Sounds like an ad for a face-cleaning cream … maybe I should think about re-wording. Oh, heck. Why not just cut the whole sentence?) (See what I mean?) And it’s my recommendation to anyone who is having trouble with their editing. Don’t just edit your manuscript. Edit your whole life. You might be amazed what you can achieve.

 

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A little here, a little there

Writing

You may have guessed that of late my writing itself hasn’t been at its peak. Of course, it probably doesn’t help that I’ve been working on three different projects, or that in my spare time I’m trying to do a number of other things (like find a venue for a child’s birthday party that doesn’t cost the earth – ugghhh!), but yes, it’s been sporadic at best and non-existent at worst. I suspect this is one reason I’ve been throwing myself in to editing so readily: because the writing thing just isn’t really happening for me at the moment so at least if I’m editing I can feel like I’m achieving something.

Of course, there are a million blog posts out there telling people how to get past writers block. Heck, I’ve written some myself. And I’m sure that if I really applied myself, I’d be able to get a lot more written … but therein lies the rub. If I really applied myself. The trouble is, getting around to applying myself just isn’t really happening.

This is risky behaviour for me. On the birth of my youngest child I gave up writing (and reading, for that matter) for  the best part of nine months. For anyone who knows me, this is nothing short of remarkable behaviour. Me, not read? It’s like asking the sun not to rise in the morning. But, I sense that it might be a very easy trap to fall back into. If I take too much of a break from writing – or reading – then goodness only knows how long it would take before the bug bites me again. Last time it was nine months …  who’s to say it wouldn’t be longer next time?

Yeah, yeah, I know. If I’m to call myself a writer then I have to write. Most people write because they can’t NOT write. Me, well I’ve proven that I can quite happily go without writing for several months. Does that make me less of a writer? I don’t think so, but it does make me pause to think.

In any case, I’m still editing. You know, that zeal that makes you want to get that manuscript just right, no matter how long that takes. Or maybe not just right, because it will probably never reach that peak, but at least good enough to send out into the world. And editing is a key part of writing, so in that sense I’m definitely a writer. And in the meantime, I do find myself jotting down ideas for my other two projects – character traits, things to remember, things to include in the plot arc. And that counts, right?

Yep, a little here and a little there. It all adds up. And that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

 

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Assorted writing tips #9: Sharing your work

Reader

Reader (Photo credit: Thokrates)

It’s happened to all of us. You get a great idea for a story, you spend some time frantically working on it, and then the enthusiasm dies down and you can’t get motivated to keep going. Sound familiar? I thought so.

Now, I don’t have a magic bullet answer to this. Motivation is a fickle friend and sometimes it just deserts us. Sometimes, though, there are things you can do, and today I’m talking about sharing your work.

By sharing, I don’t mean putting it out there for others to use. I mean, instead, finding someone (or a group of people) who are potentially in your target audience, and letting them read what you’ve done. There are a number of ways to do this.

  • Post online. I know that this won’t work if what you are writing is something you would like to get traditionally published one day. If, though, you are looking at self publishing, or just writing for the love of it, then it’s an option. This works particularly well if you’re writing a chaptered book, because if you post a chapter at a time then you can really get people involved. Serialising work like this can get your readers really hungering for more: two hundred years ago it was common practice. (Now, the equivalent is TV shows.) Plus, you can get feedback on how you’re going and what you’ve done so far. If you are getting comments saying things like, “post more, I need to know what happens next!”, then chances are you’re doing a good job. If you get feedback saying, “this isn’t working for me, I find character X bland and the scenarios clichéd”, then there are things you need to work on. Note, this is not for the thin skinned – but then again, neither is writing, is it? So long as people are constructive, though, then you have built-in advice – from people who might buy your work in the future
  • Join a writing group. If you’re not already part of one, this can be really beneficial. Not only do you get feedback on how you’re going from fellow writers, but meeting once a month (or whatever) gives you a deadline to get new work done. If you’re expected to have an extra 3000 words written before the third Friday of the month, you’re much more likely to do it than if you just set an internal deadline. Disappointing other people is something no one likes to do. Again, the feedback is really helpful and if your fellow writers like what you’re doing, then chances are you’ll want to impress them again next time. :)
  • Find a beta. Preferably one who’s not related to you. Ideally, it’s good to find one either through someone else, or online, because the less close this person is to you, the less worried they’re going to be about hurting your feelings. Again, though, with any luck you’ll get them engaged in the story and wanting to know more, so that will make you want to write more. Like I said above, everyone likes to be praised. Besides – and you’ll see this is a common theme – you will get feedback about what the reader likes, and what isn’t connecting with them. Assuming this person is part of your target audience, this is something that’s worth paying attention to.

So there are a few ideas for sharing your WIP and getting some feedback on it. If you’re struggling for motivation to write that next chapter, then maybe letting someone else have a look at it will spur you on to do some more. After all, who is it you’re writing for? Yourself, or your audience?

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Happy birthday to me!

one hundred

one hundred (Photo credit: Violentz)

Well, it’s not exactly my birthday (which, in case you are interested, is later this month), but this is a momentous day for my blog – my 100th post! *cue balloons and streamers* Yes, yes, I know. It seems like I’ve been doing this forever – or, at least, it does for me, which I’m not sure is a good or a bad thing. Anyway, to mark the occasion I thought I’d talk about social media or, put another way, internet engagement. Appropriate, no? :)

I’m the first to admit that I don’t engage as well as I should. In many ways I’m a parasite on the net: I put stuff out there, but I don’t give back. In other words, I post but I don’t comment. Now, I have been trying to be better at that this year, but like all good intentions it has fallen by the wayside a little. My participation is dropping off.

Of course, as Linda Lee Greene discussed so eloquently on my blog a couple of weeks ago, participation in social media can be a slippery slope. It’s all too easy to get sucked in and burn out, or ignore what you’ve been working on. On the other side of the coin, though, is that if you are engaging with people then they are more likely to have positive feelings about you and are thus more likely to check out your work. Talking with people online, and making them feel important, can have direct – and beneficial – impacts on your profile hits, Facebook likes, blog follows and, most importantly, sales.

It might sound callous to think of it like that – these are, after all, people with whom you are engaging – but we all have to be entrepreneurs these days, don’t we? If this is a professional engagement (that is, if you are using a professional Facebook page, Twitter account or blog, for example) then it all comes down to marketing. That’s why we have these accounts, and why we use them. And maybe that’s why I don’t engage as well as I should, because, at this stage, I don’t have anything to market. I know that the more I get out there, the more my name will be known when novel #1 does come out, but part of me feels that I’m pushing  myself on people too much. Sigh. Like Linda, I’m not cut out to be a marketer.

I will, naturally, attempt to work on this. After all, that’s part of what my new years resolutions this year were all about. But I am also wary of the slippery slope of becoming too engaged in social media. If I spend too much time talking to people I’ve never met, I run the  risk of alienating my real life friends, colleagues and family members. If I spend my computer time posting on Goodreads and Facebook, then I’m not going to be writing my novel. And that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?

So today I am using my 100th blog post to think about how I’m using social media. I love to interact with everyone here, and I do intend to get better at it (comment, Emilydarn you!!) but I do think that finding that balance is what I should really be focusing on. Because after all, if I burn out like Linda did, then what’s the point of all this anyway?

 

PS I’m including forum participation in things I should be working on. Yes, Peter, you will hopefully be seeing me around again soon! :)

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What’s in a name?

Title page from the first edition of Jane Aust...

Title page from the first edition of Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

First of all, my apologies for not posting last Monday. It was the end of a long weekend – away, no  less – and I spent most of the morning throwing up. As such, social media and networking was, unfortunately, not really on my radar. Sigh. Anyway, I’m back now and hopefully won’t be having any more days of being AWOL. :(

Today I want to talk about one of the banes of my existence – titles.

I am rubbish at titles. I don’t shy from that fact. Every story I’ve ever written has either had between six and ten titles, or landed the first one I thought of (and hated from that moment onwards). My working titles are as changeable as the weather, and perhaps as reliable too. So I am in absolute awe of anyone who can seemingly pick a brilliant title out of thin air and stick with it, because as you can appreciate it’s not something I’ve ever achieved.

Some of the best stories in literature have amazing titles. Jane Austen, for example, is someone who was incredible at titling her works; the Bronte sisters likewise seemed to have a talent for it. More recently people like Jodi Picoult or Neil Gaiman have impressed me, among others. Or, really, just about anyone who has a book out there – chances are, if it’s published (via a publishing house or by yourself), then it’s got a better title than I could come up with.

Now, I know there are tricks to it. Some people use song titles or lyrics, or variations thereof. Some use lines from well known literature, such as the quote that comprises my title today. Some can just grab a phrase from the book itself that really lends itself to that purpose, like Lee Fullbright did with The Angry Woman Suite, which I reviewed on Friday. But the thing is, when it comes down to it, I can just never seem to get it right. Am I too fussy? Perhaps. Maybe I’m just a perfectionist. But it’s something I wish I could do. Because let’s face it, people judge books on their titles. Without a snappy title, many otherwise excellent books just get put aside or ignored for their flashier rivals. And without an edge to get people to check out my work in the crowded marketplace, what chance do I have?

So here I am, asking for advice. How do you choose your titles? Are you enough of a masochist to title your chapters as well as your books, or do you leave it at the main heading and just number any segments? What tricks or ideas do you use? Because really, I’m getting a bit sick of changing my working titles over and over again until I find something that I don’t necessarily like, but just hate less than the last one. To be honest, I have quite enough on my plate just at the moment, so if I can get the hang of titling, then that’s one less thing I have to think about.

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Being fair

Too much communications ?!?!

Too much communications ?!?! (Photo credit: occhiovivo)

 

Today I’m posing a question that I’d like people’s thoughts on: Can you work on two projects at once and be fair to both of them?

I’ve always been a one-story-at-a-time kind of girl. I have never been able to devote enough attention to two different projects at once and do them both justice. One will be going fine, but the other will be neglected (and in all likelihood complain about it loudly). I’m also the sort who insists on finishing one story before starting on the next one, because otherwise I’d have a whole stable of unfinished tales out there. Now, JRR Tolkein I am not, so having a collection like that doesn’t really inspire me.

What I’ve been doing this year is working on novel #2, which has a working title of Caffeinated. (This will probably change a number of times during the writing process, but I quite like having working titles even if they do swap around every other week. It beats the situation I found myself in a few years back when I was ready to post a novel online and discovered I didn’t have a title, so I just called it the first thing that came into my head. I didn’t like what I came up with then and I like it even less now, but it seems to have caught on so I am loathe to change it.) I gave myself permission to start work on Caffeinated because novel #1 had a completed first draft. That, and I only came up with the premise just before Christmas and it was all new and exciting in my mind.

Trouble is, I’m falling into old habits. I had set aside this year to edit my first novel, the one whose first draft I completed in November. But I’ve been working on novel #2, and as such novel #1 has fallen by the wayside. I haven’t even opened it this year, let alone started editing. And while I told myself it was becuase I was waiting for a book I’d ordered about structure to arrive from the UK, it arrived last week and I still haven’t done anything about it. Yep, I’m finding myself unable to work on two different projects at once again.

I’m a little torn as to what to do about this. Should I quash my instincts and make a concerted effort to work on both at once? Or should I make a deal with myself, alternating with one story one week (or month) and the other story the next? Or should I work really hard to get a draft for novel #2 done by, say, August, and then edit novel #1 after a good nine months’ break?

What works for you?

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