2015 is Slipping Away . . . Getting Ready for 2016

Dec 15, 2015 by

I just checked the calendar and noticed that it is a mere ten days until Christmas.

And a week after that is New Year’s Eve . . . that time of year to begin making resolutions and goals for 2016.

Fortunately for me, I had an early nudge from my instructor, Kristen Fulton of Nonfiction Archaeology, who asked each of her students to set up goals for 2016. read more

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Telling versus Showing

Jun 17, 2015 by

I had an epiphany today.

With an increased workload, some days I have more to do than there are hours to accomplish the work. Because this happens on a regular basis, I look for ways to increase my productivity and my satisfaction in the writing I produce.

On Monday my instructor and my critique group said, “you’re telling, not showing…”

And we all know how big a mistake that is.

The idea is to SHOW . . .

. . . not tell.

Right?

I used to think so.

But now, I’m going to veer from the general caveat.

 

Those so-called experts are WRONG!

 

In order to get a lot of writing done as quickly as possible, it is absolutely OK to tell rather than show.

In fact, it is BETTER to tell than to show.

Why?

Because by telling, you get the story down and you get it down fast. You get all those essential bits in before they disappear…and we all know that when components of a story or bit of writing decide to disappear, they’re pretty much gone forever.

So the deal is this . . .

. . . write it down as quickly as possible.

And if you’re telling rather than showing, then good for you!  You understand the point of the exercise.

But wait, you may object, aren’t we supposed to show and not tell?Vintage typewriter

Sure we are!

But ONLY in the final draft.

When we begin to write something for the first time, the idea is to get it down as quickly and in as much detail as possible without worrying about getting all the “showing” just right. Get the action down. Get the message across. When you go back to edit, you can do all the showing you want. And you’ll be able to relax and actually write really well.

Why?

Because you are no longer worried that you won’t be able to remember what comes next.

When we spend all the time in the world to get those show words right, we come back to our writing and then wonder, “Where the heck am I?”

And that’s the death knell of the creative brain.

I know for myself, when my brain wants to be creative, it can boggle even my own mind. But that kind of creativity isn’t infinite. In fact, it only comes in spurts and blasts, and if I’m not smart enough to record my brilliance, or have people in my critique group remember what I said, it’s pretty much gone. That flash of brilliance that might have placed me in the hall of fame of writing brilliance is simply gone.

But when I just allow myself the luxury of telling, going step by step, point by point through a story…whether I’m writing a magazine article or a mystery, then the story and framework is there. I can sleep and come back to it the next day. I can go on vacation and come back to it in a week or a month…and the amazing point is that I REMEMBER what it is I was thinking at that point in the story.

The showing is the fancy work.

It’s where we can take the time to find the PERFECT word to describe that scene at the crisis point of your story.

Because I KNOW where I’m going, I have the luxury of spending whatever time I need to fancy up my writing and do all that “showing” not “telling” that we’re all told to do.

What they forgot to tell you in the first place is that sometimes it is in the telling that you actually FINISH the story…enough so that when you go back to edit, your showing words sparkle because you’ve told the story on paper and you won’t get lost.

The next time your critique partner/group says “That’s telling, NOT showing…” you can sit back and say, “Great!  Because I know where I’m going from here.”

 

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How Querying an Agent is Like Dating

Mar 11, 2015 by

I’m a mom, and I have three kids who are of an age where they would really, really, really like to meet someone to spend the rest of their lives with…

OK perhaps just the rest of the month, or the  year with, but I’m sure you get the idea.

In order to find someone special, you have to spend time going out on dates with them to find out if you have more than that initial spark of interest to keep things interesting beyond the requisite “I have to use the restroom” break where you text or call your nearest and dearest friend to let them know if you’re going to stay on the date, or if they need to call and rescue you with some sort of trumped up emergency to get you out of this fix.

I recently found a great agent blog: Linda Epstein, The Blabbermouth Blog.  She’s very direct, almost abrupt. But by darn, you know where you stand! Read this interview about how to “Query, Sign, Submit on Write for Apples blog. She’s looking only for serious relationships.

So it is with looking for an agent to represent you.

You’re not looking to just hook up.

Seriously! You’re not!

You’re looking for a relationship. One where you and the other party in question pretty much fall in love with each other. Otherwise, it’s just not going to work.

We’ve all seen the relationships where one person is ready…oh so ready. But the other one is checking their phone for a text, an email, an “emergency” phone call.

The thing is, you both have to love each other.

Why?

Because things are going to get rough after that short honeymoon phase is over.

What? You don’t like that I keep a week’s worth of dirty underwear on the floor? What’s wrong with you anyway?

And your agent is going to tell you that your baby is ugly…your baby, that manuscript you’re holding so protectively against your chest that you’ve created, nurtured, sweated blood and tears over…yeah, that one. As good as you think it is, your agent is going to know whether it’s ready or not for the big time…to be paraded before the various publishers you want to court.Couple walking on a dutch beach

That is their job!

You don’t want an agent who can’t be bothered to tell you your work isn’t up to par. When that happens, they take your latest submission, read it (maybe), sigh, and toss it aside.

They don’t call.

They don’t write.

And when you ask if anyone’s interested, they say, with apparent sincerity, “I’m sorry, but no one seems interested in it at this time.”

OK, maybe you have an agent like that, and it works for you…but I know that’s not what I’m looking for.

I’d really rather an agent tell me my baby’s ugly so that I can do some revision, er, prettying up before we send it out into the cold cruel world.

Why?

Because you’re up against some really intense competition. And if your agent isn’t going to champion you, get you to be at the top of your game, you’ll both fail.

So before you query an agent, start to do some investigating…and I mean more than J.K. Rowling did by just looking at Writer’s Market and selecting two that looked good. Heck, the agent who took her didn’t even represent children’s books.

And that is the exception that proves the rule.

But your agent, or the ones you’re querying, won’t want to be that exception. If they represent only adult paranormal, don’t bother sending them a children’s book. Really, why bother?

As with dating, you need to do a little research. And sometimes you have to go out on a lot of dates before you find one that looks promising.

If your agent returns your manuscript with a note that says, “Nice, but needs revision.” What is your response? Do you just jump up and down and curse their neanderthal sensibilities that they don’t recognize your genius? Or are you going to see just what it is about your work they don’t like. If they don’t represent that type of work…look for another agent. If they want to know if you know how to revise, then SHOW them you do!  They’re courting you too, and as with any date, if you don’t pass the “meet the folks” test, you are in for a very short run, and then back on the market.

Not sure of the answer…Read Linda Epstein’s Response here on her Revise and Resubmit posting.

Don’t be so desperate that you’ll date just anyone.

And don’t let an agent think you’re that desperate either.

In both dating and querying, your future partner needs to know that you’re mature, capable, interesting, and committed to the relationship.

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Immediate Reset for a Bad Day

Nov 11, 2014 by

OK, I didn’t really have a bad day, but I know that when I do have a bad day, what happened tonight would have immediately reset everything.

My daughter said, “I need to make vegan chile for the pot-luck at work tomorrow.”

“Let’s start the beans in the crockpot.”

“We need a smaller crockpot.”

I headed into the other room to get a smaller crockpot.

My daughter screamed at the top of her lungs:

 

“MOM! GET BACK!”

 

I don’t have to be told twice. My daughter isn’t one to sound an unnecessary alarm. I backed up immediately.

Truth be told, I jumped back about nine or ten feet. (She wasn’t specific about the danger, I wasn’t taking any chances.)

“What is it?”

“SCORPION!”

I had to see for myself. Please don’t blame me, but I shrieked when I saw it. I’ve been in Arizona for six years and while I’ve seen them outside, this is the first one we’ve had in the house. I will admit to a certain amount of disappointment that neither of our nearby fire-fighter neighbors came over to see what we were screaming about…though we did limit ourselves to one full volume scream/shriek apiece.

“What do we do?”

“Kill it!”

“How?”

“We have to trap it first.”

I was good with that. I managed to toss a bowl over the scorpion…but once it was out of sight, I think it grew exponentially.

“I’m getting my hiking boots on and I’ll STOMP on it!”

I approved of this plan.

I stayed behind, wearing sandals…it’s 80 degrees here, of course I’m wearing open-toed sandals.

My daughter returned, wearing her hiking boots.

“OK. Now what?”

“We have to put a perimeter of water around it, they won’t go fast through water.”

I have no idea if my daughter had any idea what she was talking about, but I was proud that she used the word ‘perimeter’ correctly.  As I preened, she grabbed the tea kettle and made a very nice moat around the upside down bowl.

“NOW, what?”

Really…how were we going to pick up the bowl? How did we know the scorpion hadn’t suddenly developed super-spidey powers and is now clinging to the inside of the bowl?

There was a real risk of getting stung.

A nice long grill spatula did the trick. And surprisingly, the prehistoric little brain of our scorpion guest didn’t perceive that the sudden change from darkness to bright light was a sign of impending doom.

Now, I knew what was next and only cringed a little when my daughter stomped on the scorpion with great enthusiasm. But then when she lifted her foot, no scorpion!

“Where is it?”

“It’s got to be on your foot.”  I grabbed a piece of paper towel, and had her wipe her boot on it. There, in exquisite squished glory, was the scorpion.

“BOO-YAH!”

We’d triumphed.  Then as my daughter said, “We need to call an exterminator,” I found on the internet that in certain tests that kill just about everything, cockroaches, lizards, and yes, you guessed it, scorpions survive.

It’s a warning. I’d forgotten anything that had been difficult earlier in the day…and…no more sandals for a little while.

Now I’m eyeing anything lying on the floor.

The blanket that slipped off the chair last night.

The pile of towels waiting for the wash.

My shoes.

Really, where IS it safe from a scorpion?

Truth be told, unless I begin to see one a day, it’s not going to really make me lose sleep, but I might keep slippers on my nightstand and no longer walk around barefoot at night.

Really…it wasn’t a bad day.

It IS nice to know that we do have concerned friends…they are sending us real estate listings.  One even suggested, “MOVE NOW! Don’t even pack!”

I appreciate our friends…very much!

Scorpion isolated on white background

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NaNoWriMo

Nov 7, 2014 by

Yes, it’s November.

Usually November means the holidays are coming, that means cleaning, decorating, food preparation, family, friends, parties, and gatherings.

Unless, that is, you are a writer.

When you’re a writer, you have developed a rather unusual malady…

It’s called OVERLOAD!

Almost all writers I know want to get some things done before the end of the year. Maybe a poem. A short story. A picture book. What about a novel? Sure, that’s totally doable isn’t it?

Before I heard of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writer’s Month – I would have put off starting a novel until January at least. And we all know what happens in January, right? We make resolutions, we intend to keep them, but without a plan, most of those resolutions end up being recycled and repurposed next January first.

So NaNoWriMo came along and I thought, “Why not?”

It’s all on me.

I have a daily word count of 1,667 words to write for the 30 days in November to finish a 50,000 word novel.

So I did it.

Call me crazy.

I did. My husband did. My family did.

But I had 50,000 more words written for a project that I’d not have done if I hadn’t started NaNoWriMo.

Oh, and along the way, I learned a lot of lessons on how to stay motivated, how to “free write” how to meet a daily goal even when I didn’t want to. (Usually, if I didn’t write those 1,667 words a day, the number the next day was even more intimidating, so I learned to fear that “snowball” effect and got my writing done.)

I’d never before produced so many words.

Were all the words good?

Nope. Not at all.

But what it did do was give me a draft…and it’s that first draft, from beginning to end that sets you up to finishing a real book.

So, yes, I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year…because of all the positive lessons I learned by putting myself in front of the computer and getting something done for the day.

Even on days when my other writing suffers, I know that I have 1,667 words to work with later. And that makes me feel pretty productive.

 

Participant-2014-NaNoWriMo

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