Illusion and Critique

A bit of news in today’s post. First, since I told you all that my novel An Illusion of Trust was a finalist for a 2014 Best of the Independents eBook Award, I thought I should post an update. As you can see from the graphic, the book won in the General Fiction category!

2014win2If you voted, thank you. If you didn’t vote, maybe you’ll consider reading it. You can use the Look Inside feature or download the Kindle sample here.

This is also the day I submitted my first pages to a new critique group. I believe I mentioned, almost a year ago, that I was taking a Women’s Fiction Writers Association workshop on critique to be placed in a group. Unfortunately, that first group didn’t work out. But now I’m in another group which looks promising.

I’ve worked in live critique groups before, so this online group will be a new experience. We’ve proposed to have discussions via video chat though, so I guess it’s sort of a hybrid. Of course, you know from my last post that I’ll be anxious about the chat thing, but I’m determined to do it.

I’ve now produced three and a third novels without benefit of feedback throughout the writing process, and I’m not in favor of that. I’d prefer to have confidence that when I send my work to my beta readers, it’s nearly polished not something that might need major revision.

To me, it makes sense to have a problem pointed out before it’s been multiplied throughout an entire novel. If several writers agree that there’s a problem with voice or tone or plot, I’d rather consider that change early on.

Speaking of critique, my romantic comedy is out for feedback from a friend and former critique partner. I planned this to be a shorter novel than my first two, but the word count ended up less than I intended, so maybe she’ll be able to point out ways to add length. I don’t want to pad it with filler, of course, but I sometimes forget to put everything I “see” on the page. Then again, maybe it’s meant to be a short, fun read.

As I wait for feedback on my paranormal and my rom-com novels, I’ll continue my women’s fiction WIP. Next year is going to be BIG for me.

Whatever you’re doing this week, I wish you well.

 

Linda

Skype with me at your risk!

Okay, so I asked James Garcia, Jr., a nice guy and accomplished writer, to read and give me feedback on one of my projects. Jimmy, as he’ll ask you to call him, is an extrovert. I am not. Though I would have been satisfied with an email exchange, he wanted to discuss his feedback in person. As it turned out, he didn’t get his way—but neither did I.

James Garcia, Jr.We arranged a Skype session on Saturday night. I’m not much of a Skype person. Previously, I’d used it only to talk to my son and grandchildren who live in a different state. But I combed my hair and showed up. He said he thought I might chicken out and not hit the video call button when he rang me. But hit it I did. Jimmy is used to doing podcasts for his readers to enjoy, so he was relaxed. I drank a glass of wine. And then I babbled, like I always do when I’m nervous.

But we talked about writing in general and we talked about my project specifically. And it made me realize how much I miss being a member of a live writers’ group where you can brainstorm and get immediate answers to questions about feedback and all that good writerly stuff.  I think Jimmy would have ended the call at least thirty minutes earlier than we did, but he couldn’t shut me up.

I ended up with some ideas on how to improve my manuscript and little more social confidence. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to Skype with another writer, but I know I could and survive the experience. And if I do it again, I’ll warn the other participant they might need to set a time limit.

So thank you for “pushing” me, Jimmy.

Visit Jimmy’s blog and check out his books.

 

Linda

Taking an Ax to My Old Flame—

While my subconscious works out a problem in my romantic comedy, I’ve been editing the first novel I completed—fourteen years ago. As I read, it became apparent I was a little too fond of the em dash. I think I used at least one on every page. So I decided to run a search for them.

emheartIn a manuscript of 89,000 words, I’d used 543 em dashes! Seriously. Five hundred forty-three. I wouldn’t have thought that possible.

Don’t get me wrong. The em dash is legitimate punctuation. I use it to indicate an interruption, add emphasis, or a sudden change of thought. For instance:

“If you’re asking me to—”

The man—swear to God—had giggled.

She would trust him again—in time.

The party lasted all night—where were you, by the way?

I could use parentheses, colons, and commas in place of some of the em dashes, but my fiction is usually informal, so the dashes fit.

In my defense, I’ve learned a thing or two about writing in fourteen years. I no longer have such a blatant crush on that bit of punctuation. I kept all the em dashes used to indicate interrupted dialogue, but many of the others were not used to good effect and bit the dust. The total now stands at a more reasonable 384, but I still have rounds of editing to do. And I haven’t checked the ellipsis count, yet.

Do you have a punctuation weakness?

 

Linda

Kindle Unlimited and Other News

If you haven’t heard, Amazon has started Kindle Unlimited, a new ebook subscription service that some are dubbing “Netflix for books.” Right now, they’re offering a free 30-day trial. I’m anxious to see how this works out for authors whose books are part of this new service. Since my books are enrolled in Kindle Select, they’re automatically available to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. So if you haven’t read The Brevity of Roses and the sequel An Illusion of Trust, take advantage of the free trial and download them now.

The Brevity of Roses: A man discovers himself through the two women he loves.    AIT_welcome_14

And speaking of those books …

You know those times when you think a task will be simple and quick to accomplish? Yeah, I don’t usually have those. It seems I operate under a different rule—Murphy’s Law maybe? About ten days ago, I got this bright idea to update the interior files for my published books. I wanted to update the cover designer’s name in one book and correct a typo and a punctuation error. No big deal … except.

Except that I can’t take the html that Word creates and upload it directly to KDP or even convert it as is to mobi or epub because I like to use my own CSS style sheet, which has to be fiddled with for each book. Except that I chose a new program to convert my customized html to epub, and I had to learn how to use it first. Except that I couldn’t get the table of contents to work the way I wanted in either ebook. Except that, after conversion, I decided to substitute a different scene break “ornament” in the ebook version of one book. Except that … nah, I’ll spare you the rest. Eventually, I completed the task.

Now that I’ve updated already published novels, it’s time to get back to work on the ones I’m writing now. I had hoped to have the first draft of my romantic comedy completed by the end of this month, but that would take a miracle to accomplish. This month has been more family-focused than usual. I don’t know about you, but I’m at my most productive when I have long stretches of time to settle into writing mode and then keep the story simmering on the back burner during breaks. My usual daily life supports that, but when my routine changes every few days, as it has this month, my creative side retreats.

And since we’re playing hoteliers to three dogs (plus our Maggie) this weekend, I doubt I’ll get much writing done, but for the last few days of July and on into August, I’ll be playing catch up. I believe I said in January that I wouldn’t publish anything this year, but that may not be the case. I might be ready to publish one book before the end of 2014 and then another (or two) in 2015. Maybe I’ll publish some short stories, too. It’s time for me to make a louder noise in this publishing game.

I hope your July has run smoother than mine.

Linda

7-7-7 times 3

Author Dana Mason tagged me for a 7-7-7 challenge on Facebook, but since I’d just posted another challenged concerning my WIP, I decided to post my response—tripled—here, instead. The challenge calls for you to go to page 7 of your WIP, count down 7 lines, and then share the next 7 lines. Since I have three Works-In-Progress, I’m giving you 7-7-7 of all three. Sorry, I’m not sharing titles, yet.

 Book #1 – Paranormal

Julie stared out across the yard. For a moment, the only sound was the clink of ice against glass as she stirred her tea with a fingertip. “Maybe we’ll resume the life we had before Megan was born.”

“Maybe,” he said, his tone so noncommittal it stripped the word of meaning. More than age had made them nearly unrecognizable as the same couple in the wedding portrait hanging in the foyer. He thought about that a lot lately. Had they actually changed or just moved apart? And, whichever had happened, was it too late to reverse it?

 ~~~~~

Book #2 – Romantic Comedy

“Do you require something more, Ms. Shaw?”

The arrogance in his voice snaps me back to earth. “Not from you, Mr. Hi— Pearce.” As I head toward the stairs, I’m aware his door hasn’t closed, and I figure since he’s watching my ass anyway, I might as well give him a better look, so I stop at the top of the steps, turn my back to him, and pull down my sweats to show him the cheetah print thong I’m wearing. His door clicks closed, but not before I hear him gasp.

Game tied.

~~~~~

Book #3 – Women’s Fiction

“We’ve had break-ins, Nicole. You know that.”

“Funny how those break-ins always occur in the middle of the day when I’m at work.”

Curtis kicked the duffle, but then he sat still. After a moment, he looked up at me like a child still hoping to talk his way out of punishment. “Where am I supposed to go?”

I took a deep breath. I could do this. “Why not move in with your scummy girlfriend?” Surprise lit his glance before it hardened to a glare. He thought he’d kept that secret from me. “Let her support your habit.”

 ~~~~~

There you go. I hope something sparked your interest.

I’m supposed to tag seven other writers to take up the 7-7-7 challenge, but I recently tagged writers on another FB challenge, so I won’t choose anyone here. But if you’d like to share seven lines of your work-in-progress, please do so in the comments or, if on your blog, leave a link for us.

Linda

Formula Writing

In certain genres, some successful authors appear to write to a formula. Certain, some, appear … could that sentence be any vaguer? But it also contains the word successful, though success can also be interpreted in many ways. In this case, I mean those authors sell a lot of books.

formula_m

Part of our goal as authors is to create fans of our work, readers who anticipate and buy our next books. So I imagine those successful authors who write to a formula are not selling each of their books to a new and separate set of readers. No, they have fans who buy all of their books and happily read them.

I’ve heard it said that some of these books are so formulaic that little more than the character names and the locations are changed. I expect that’s exaggeration, but I’m not going to waste my time searching for such books to find out. That’s not the kind of formula I’m seeking for my own writing, anyway.

The basic structure that most novels adhere to is a sort of formula. That structure is intuitive to many writers. Not to me. Knowing that I’m going to have to push, pull, squeeze, or stretch the story I’m writing into that 3-act (or whatever) structure haunts me during the first draft.

I probably shouldn’t be thinking about structure during first drafting, but I can’t help it. I haven’t even settled on an estimated word count for the WIP I’m currently working on. Will it be a novella or novel? That’s one of the reasons I love writing in Scrivener. I go ahead and write the disconnected scenes when they come to me and keep them in a designated folder. When I reach the point where they fit in, I’ll drag them into place.

But I write soooo slowly. I follow a few indie publishing blogs and forums and most of the authors hoping to establish their name (build a fan base), talk about releasing new books every six months—or less. I’ve been working steadily on this WIP for four months and have only 35,000 words written. At that rate, figuring in the writing, editing, revising time, I’ll be lucky to have this book completed in ten months. Add to that a couple of months to prepare for publishing and my start to finish schedule is one year.

I have no ‘day job’ or children under my care, so I can’t complain that I don’t have enough time to write. I do have a health problem that sets me back, but usually only for a day or three at a time. So why am I not more productive?

That’s why I’m wondering about formulas. But I think confidence in my storytelling ability is the formula I’m seeking. If I had that, I’d spend less time stuttering and stammering along in getting that first draft done. And I guess that confidence only comes with time and experience. Which means, I should get back to work. Now.

I wish for all you writers a river of words this week. For you non-writers, I wish for you a week full of whatever you need most.

Linda