More Rejection

September 5, 2010 at 5:42 am (September Blog Tour, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’m currently faced with a decision. To keep agent hunting with my MS in its current form, or to overhaul the MS and see what happens. Technically I’ve only been rejected from four agents, which isn’t bad and two of them were not form rejections, which is better than when I first started trying to get Death’s Daughter published but still, I’m tossing up in my mind whether I need to go back and refine the work or whether to give a few more agents a try.

I guess what it is going to come down to is whether or not I actually think I can make the MS better than it is. One of the comments I received was that the beginning felt a little generic and so there is the question of whether I can change the beginning and make it better. If the answer is yes, then I should. However, I started sending the MS out because at the time I thought I had reached the limit of what I could do without further guidance and I was happy with how the story worked.

Before I send out another submission I will definitely be re-reading the MS, particularly focusing on the opening. I will probably make minor changes (just because  I never read anything I’ve written without changing something), though I may be facing another round of rewrites.

At the end of the day, I can only do what I can do. As long as I’m happy I’ve put my best effort out into the world, things will be alright.

How do you know when you need to revise more? How do you decide your MS is ready?

In other news, if you missed the start of the tour:

September first I visited Eric’s blog and he guest posted here.

September second I visited Geoffrey’s blog while he guest posted here.

Yesterday I visited Lua’s blog and she guest posted here.

Join me on the 7th on Sonya Clark’s blog.

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5 Things To Do With ‘Bad’ Writing

August 21, 2010 at 5:20 am (Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

We could probably agree that very little writing is actually bad in the sense that at least words are getting written and it is a lot easier to make bad writing good than to make a blank page turn magically into good writing. However, if you’ve decided once and for all that what you’ve written is terrible and all you want to do is make it go away, here are five things to try that just might make you feel better.

1.  Line the bird cage, rat cage, any other animal cage you can think of, with the print outs. Technically this is recycling and not only will the writing be well and truly gone, you’ll get that warm and tingly feeling from saving the planet.

2.  Blow it up on the screen and then print it out. Cut up all the words and then stick them back together in random order. Read repeatedly to whomever you can trap long enough.

3.  Cat toy. This one I have actually done. Cats love chasing scrunched paper, particularly over hard surfaces because the paper makes a great scratching sound that keeps them intrigued for minutes. Once they start getting bored all you have to do is throw it again and they’ll dive after it. If you really feel the need you could probably read the writing to your cat first, then scrunch it and throw it.

4.  Art work. I don’t study art and don’t know what the style is (I could probably have googled it but I wasn’t really in the mood) but you can always paste various parts of your writing into the background of your painting. Call it something depressing and hang it up somewhere prominent.

5.  Finally – something actually useful to do with bad writing – put it in a nice yellow folder on your desk top called ‘Junk’ and save it for the day when you just might decide you can do something with it.

What do you do with ‘bad’ writing?

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Blind Draft

August 19, 2010 at 5:46 am (Editing, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I seldom read over what I’ve written immediately after I write it. Mostly because I usually hate every single word and delete it rather than giving myself the space I need to read it and see the good in it and preserve the good while carefully editing.

That said, I read a scene that I drafted the other day immediately after finishing it. Not so much because I wanted to delete it but because I had a nagging feeling that something was terribly wrong and the feeling wouldn’t let go of me until I’d read it. For once I didn’t reach for the delete key right away. Instead I started thinking through all the sensible questions. What was I trying to accomplish with this scene? What perspective was I trying to tell the story from? How did this scene fit into the overall story I was trying to write?

Then I reached for the delete key. Not because I hated what I had written but because I suddenly knew exactly what was bothering me about the scene.

The point of the scene was to introduce the character of a new player in the story and establish her relationship with an already established character. This relationship is going to be built out and has quite a history that will unfold throughout the story but at this scene just needed to establish where their relationship was and not how it got there.  So the question I was left asking was why exactly this new character’s family history was being explained in extremely dull exposition, meanwhile the relationship was so played down as to be non-existent within the scene.

Two rewrites later and I think the scene is now serving its purpose. It still isn’t good. It is very much in a rough draft stage and no doubt I will have to rewrite it many more times before I’m actually happy with it, but just getting rid of all the excessive and useless information that was cluttering up the scene and making it drag has made it that much better and easier to read. It’s also helped to highlight what is actually important within the scene.

I don’t think I’m going to do this with every scene during the first draft stage. I’d probably never finish the first draft and end up in an endless cycle of rewriting, but an occasional surgical look at specific problematic scenes definitely served its purpose.

What’s your drafting process?

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Reasons Why Writing A Novel Is Not Like Baking A Cake

August 18, 2010 at 5:34 am (Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I promised I would go back and look at why writing and baking must indeed be two totally separate events are not anything alike. So here goes, my list of why writing a novel is not like baking a cake.

1.  It takes a lot longer – unless you are the world’s slowest cook and you aren’t worried about your eggs going off. The time commitment you are making for writing a novel compared to making a cake is enormous. One is something you do on the spur of the moment because you are bored and it’s raining (or because of some event like someone’s birthday) while the other is one that should almost never be jumped into without at least a little thought.

2.  If you follow the recipe for baking you will end up with a half-decent cake (hopefully). However there is no recipe or magic formula for making a brilliant novel. There are basic plot outlines and various tools and break downs of the essential elements and some genres are formulaic however if there was a step by step manual to writing a best seller, everyone would be doing it.

3.  Cake mix tastes pretty good even if you don’t finish cooking it. A half-baked novel is just that – half-baked.

4.  Even if you don’t like the taste of your unused cake mixture, chances are someone else will or the dog/cat/whatever will eat it. Very few people will swallow an unfinished novel.

5.  Nobody stares at you strangely when you answer the question, “what are you doing?” with “baking a cake”. Unlike when you answer that question with “writing a novel”.

6.  When you finish baking the cake you may criticise it but odds are you aren’t going to pull it apart and try to fix what went wrong. There is no revision process. There is accept what you have or throw it out and start over. The novel is a bit more malleable.

I still like my reasons why writing a novel is like baking a cake but I think it is important to be thorough.

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Am I Editing, Revising, or Rewriting?

August 17, 2010 at 5:25 am (Editing, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Sometimes it is difficult to know.

What starts out as a simple search and destroy for typos can suddenly become a revision of a clumsy scene which can soon morph into an entire rewrite of an act of a novel. I think the problem here comes from not being able to focus on only one aspect of the writing at a time.

For me, I like to start with the big stuff and work my way down to the small. While I’ll correct typing errors as I see them and move punctuation that is truly being offensive, editing the nitty-gritty is kind of the last ditch run through, mostly because if I revise or rewrite I know I’m just going to put more errors into the text.

So I begin with the rewrites. I may stay in the rewriting stage for the rest of forever with some manuscripts. Rewrites, for me, are the massive changes. The adding characters, taking them out, changing direction entirely, cutting scenes, adding scenes, moving scenes. All of the things that give you a huge headache when it comes to checking for continuity errors and will usually have you rewriting chapter after chapter to accommodate the change you made way back in the beginning.

Then I revise. These are the more surgical changes. Adding an emphasis here, changing the wording of that exchange of dialogue there, altering a description in that chapter. Sometimes these have carry on effects but normally it is just tightening up the overall story that has already been rewritten (many times) and checked for continuity.

Then, should I have made it this far and not put the project aside, comes the editing.

Still, despite wanting to work from one layer down to the next, down to the next, I end up jumping back and forth between the three.

How does your process for revisions work?

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Why Writing a Novel Is Like Baking A Cake

August 13, 2010 at 5:37 am (Planning, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Okay – before you jump on the attack I am going to counter this soonish by explaining why writing a novel is not like baking a cake.

There are many reasons why writing a novel is in fact like baking a cake:

1.  There are certain ingredients that must be present or it will not work. You can argue that there are eggless/flourless and everything-else-less cakes out there and some of these are very, very good. However, for the most part, leaving out critical ingredients in a cake or a novel will just get you into trouble and have your taster (reader) wondering what went wrong.

2.  The better you plan it out before beginning, the better the process goes. This is true for me, I know.When baking a cake I do a lot of pre-organisation and pull all the ingredients out and line them up on the bench. I even measure most of it out into various cups and bowls and have it all just sitting and waiting to be added. Far too many times I’ve entered the cooking process and go to the cupboard to get out the… Forgot to buy it. Now I have to go to the shop and get some more, meanwhile the oven is heating, and I forgot the shop is already shut. Plus, I know what sort of cake I’m making if I plan it out. I don’t get mid-way through and think I’d like to add some apple but then I’ll have to add more flour because the apple will make it too moist and I’ll probably add too much flour and then I’ll have to add a dash more milk. This all relates to novel writing in that I can plan out my characters, their motivations and goals out before the story so I won’t get too many surprises during the writing. I can make sure I’ve researched any vital plot points and have that research at the ready. I also know what sort of story I want it to be. So I’m not getting midway through and thinking, wouldn’t this be better if I just went back and rewrote the whole thing (though sometimes the plan fails and despite all the careful thought we do have to go back, and back again).

3.  It takes time. Okay, cake time to novel time are really not comparable but they both take time and rushing the process makes for a bad cake/novel. It takes as much time as it takes.

4.  The right tools help get the job done faster and better. In cakes this means whisks, pans, bowls and ovens that actually heat evenly and consistently. With writing this means at least a basic understanding of language and probably a word processing program of some sort that includes some basic editing assistance (such as spell check). The writer’s tool kit also includes their knowledge of the genre and plot conventions and all the other things you need to write the story.

5.  The proof is in the pudding. The taster of the cake can tell you if the cake is good. The reader of the story will tell you if the novel is good. Yes, you can pre-taste (read and evaluate yourself) but you are probably not the best judge. Like with cooking you will either be too harsh (I’m a terrible cook) or far too generous in your evaluation (its awesome and only burnt on two sides…).

There you have it. Five reasons why writing a novel is like baking a cake.

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Back on Twitter

August 9, 2010 at 5:18 am (Weekly Review) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Midway through last week my internet was back and so I resumed posting some of my favourite blog reads on Twitter. Here are some of the posts I found this week:

My recommendation for this week:

Elspeth Antonelli – 10 tips for characters: http://elspeth-itsamystery.blogspot.com/2010/08/10-tips-for-non-perfection.html

Other great reads:

And a reminder that the blog tour schedule is up for september. I have to add acouple of late entries to the schedule but otherwise the tour is set.

Have a great week and I look forward to reading your blog posts this week.

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Query, Query, Query

July 18, 2010 at 5:31 am (Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

I’m going to admit right up front that I am terrible at writing query letters.

A query letter is kind of like writing a cover letter of a resume when applying for a job and I was never any good at that either. For one fairly important reason. I can’t talk myself (or my work) up.

Even when I say something nice about myself or my work I have this niggling need to qualify it or use low modality to devalue the statement. This makes it really hard to write a half decent letter at the best of times. Add in a dab of anxiety about the possible outcome and a smattering of anticipation and what you have is a perfect recipe for word muck and nothing good is ever going to come out of that.

I know I am not alone in the being bad at writing query letter’s department. I’m quite certain there are a lot of people also blundering around in here with me. So how do you write a better query letter? Clearly I haven’t figured out how to write a brilliant letter yet but I’m going to share some advice with you and it is the advice you will find nearly everywhere online if you look for ways to improve your query letter.

1.  Read the guidelines every time you submit. Don’t read the guidelines for one agent/publisher and assume the guidelines will be the same on the next one.

2.  Even if like me you can’t write a brilliant query letter, you can at least check the basic spelling and grammar of the letter.

3.  Visit lots of author blogs. Lots of authors out there have written their list of tricks and guides for writing queries and a lot of that information is really helpful as to what to include and what to leave out.

4.  Be professional. As I said at the beginning, writing a query letter is kind of like writing a cover letter for a job and you always need to put your best foot forward. Set the letter out properly and be relatively formal and professional.

5.  When in doubt, ask or search. Don’t guess. If you don’t know what they actually want in your query letter, read the submission guidelines again, the frequently asked questions and anything else that may tell you what you are and are not to include.

The reason I’m remembering how bad I am at writing query letters is that I’ve finally decided to try to get a manuscript I shelved last year published. I’ve been dusting it off and cleaning up the rough edges but it was more or less ‘complete’ when I shelved it and decided to focus on other things. A friend of mine recently asked what was happening with it and was shocked when I told her I’d put it aside and that was enough to make me want to revisit the project. So here I am, writing another query letter and hoping I don’t stuff it up too badly.

Best of luck to everyone out there writing query letters.

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Writer’s Fatigue

July 9, 2010 at 5:30 am (Replay) (, , , , , , , )

I’m on holidays at the moment but I’m reposting some of the more popular posts from my old blog, Darkened Jade. If you leave a comment I’ll be sure to catch up with you when I get back.

Suffering from writer’s fatigue?

You know the sensation. Your fingers are sore, your eyes are stinging, and your shoulders feel like they’ve been locked in place. You have just spent the last three hours sitting and typing, desperately trying to convert the ideas in your head into something coherent, and you know, given another hour or two, you might actually have something brilliant in front of you, but you can’t make it. This is writer’s fatigue. (It applies even if you hand write, only it is your neck that is going to be killing you.)

I used to hit this wall, a lot. It isn’t that I don’t have ideas, it is just that the physical act of trying to write is going to cause me pain. When I stand up, if I stand up, I will probably fall right into bed and have a terrible nights sleep and wake with a neck cramp. It wasn’t until I set myself a strict deadline of a month to write the first draft of a novel that I really worked on getting through writer’s fatigue.

Some simple solutions to increase your staying power with writing:

1. Stand up.

Obvious really. Every half and hour, or scene, or page, or whatever unit of time you set, stand up and pace around the room. I use the time to look out the window, refill my water, or chase the cat away from whatever she is tearing up. Doing this I can spend nearly all day writing and I determine when I take my breaks.

2. Before you write do some sort of gentle exercise.

I like yoga, because it stretches out all the cramps from the previous day and gets my circulation moving, while not causing me to sweat too much. Also I can do it at home. However any relaxing, physical activity, will get your body ready for the day, and work out any of the stress from the previous day.

3. Change what you are writing.

This is odd, but sometimes it isn’t that you are writing, it is that you are writing the same thing that is the problem. When my brain starts feeling stressed and the tension in my shoulders increases, I send a message to a friend, or write a quick short story, or something else, and I can feel myself relaxing as I move away from something my brain is urging me to finish. After you feel relaxed again, return to what you were working on with fresh eyes.

4. Eat.

This is probably bad, but have food with you when you are writing. A lot of the time, the problem is you are burning through fuel because your brain is working really hard, but because there is limited physical movement you don’t get the right signals to tell you to eat. Obviously healthy fruit or nuts are best, or a sandwich. Personally, I go for straight sugar, but eating is essential for getting away from writer’s fatigue.

5. Have a friend drop in.

Usually we like to be left alone while writing, and it is essential that we can focus. Have someone who will drop in on you in a few hours, just to make sure you have taken a short break. They can talk with you, even if the talking is about the writing, and you can recap what you have done, all the while you are rejuvenating and getting ready to write some more.

6. When all else fails, set an alarm.

Set yourself a limit. Know that at this time you are going to… do whatever it is you do. Set an alarm and stick to only hitting the extend on that alarm once. That gives you a ten minute grace period to finish that all important sentence, save your work and leave.

From my own personal experience, I know that when writer’s fatigue is coming on, everything I write needs to be rewritten the next day when I am feeling fresh. Dealing with writer’s fatigue, taking breaks and eating, ensure that there are less errors, and the writing feels more energised.
Leave your own comments on how you deal with writer’s fatigue.

And here’s the link if you haven’t yet checked out the blurb or excerpt for Death’s Daughter.

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Nouns as Verbs

July 8, 2010 at 5:30 am (Replay) (, , , , , , , , , )

I’m on holidays at the moment but I’m reposting some of the more popular posts from my old blog, Darkened Jade. If you leave a comment I’ll be sure to catch up with you when I get back.

This is a post for the language nut hiding deep inside all of us.

Recently (and not so recently) it seems that every noun is up for grabs. You no longer hit people with a glass, you “glass” them. You don’t search on the Internet using Google, you “Google” something. On and on the list goes of nouns that have been shoved (somewhat forcefully at times) into the position of a verb. You could wonder where this will end up. Will we be telling our kids to “tie their laces” in the future, or will we say “hurry up and lace”. This might sound ridiculous but let’s explore the idea of telling someone to “shoe” themselves. We already “shoe” horses, so why not.

This argument highlights the dynamic nature of the English language and its marvellous ability to be reinterpreted and re-imagined. The only problem is, it is being re-imagined inconsistently, and frequently by people who didn’t understand the original rules to begin with.

I find my biggest problem with this, is that people insist on using ‘hybrid’ forms of ‘new’ English in formal documents and it doesn’t belong. A formal report or essay has to be written in whatever the current standard is in order for it to meet the requirements for that genre, and to be understood by whomever the intended reader may be. Admittedly, many of these terms have already become a standard, in many ways, but the speed at which new language is introduced is at times overwhelming.

I opened the discussion on Twitter for those who had an opinion and admittedly responses were few and far between. The one’s I did receive were as follows:

I guess, as with all language choices, writers need to consider the following:

  1. Who is your intended audience and what will the accept?
  2. What is your intended purpose and what language will help you achieve it?

And here’s the link if you haven’t yet checked out the blurb or excerpt for Death’s Daughter.

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