Contest, Critique, Feedback, Writing

I’m running my own danged contest!

This contest is now closed. The winner will be chosen by Random.org.

Surprise, surprise, I’m not asking you to promote my book again. You don’t even have to read another of my Q & A sessions. Today, I’m offering each of you something—a chance to win a free critique. However, if you’ll all give a little something to each other, then everyone will win.

I’ve never done anything like this on my blog, so let’s hope it works well. If you want to participate, all you have to do is post your “logline” in the comments section. The term originated for movie scripts. Here’s one for a movie you’ll probably recognize:

A boxer with a loser mentality is offered a chance by the world champ to fight for the title but, with the help of his lover, must learn to see himself as a winner before he can step into the ring.

My definition of logline is a brilliant summary of your book or short story in approximately 50 words. Not easy, I know. Another term for this is an elevator pitch meaning what you might say to catch the interest of an agent or editor if you found yourself in an elevator with one. It’s what you want to have on the tip of your tongue when someone asks, “What’s your book, or story, about?”

I invite you to astound us all with your pitch in the comments section. If you’d like, leave comments on each other’s entries. Does the pitch interest you? If not, can you offer any suggestions for improvement?

The prize for one lucky contestant is a critique of either the first chapter of your novel or one short story of 7,500 words or less.

Ready, set, pitch!

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Blog Stuff, Contest, Critique, My Books, Novel

You, too, can be a winner!

Two contests have ended, but you until midnight (PST) today to enter the third to win a copy of The Brevity of Roses. The link is right over there –>

I’d like to congratulate the winners of the first two contests: Christi Craig and Darlene Foster. Enjoy the read, ladies.

Stick around, there will be more giveaways, including a chance to win a critique from me. I’m giving you a heads up on that one. To enter the contest, I’ll ask you to post a comment on my blog—but that’s not all. In your comment, I’ll ask you to share your “logline.” More details later.

 

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Advice, Craft, Critique, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Novel, Revision, Writing

With a little help from my friends

My self-confidence in some aspects of writing never falters. But some tasks so overwhelm me, I’d rather scrub my shower with a toothbrush than tackle them. Query letter writing was one of those. The latest is composing the back cover blurb.

First, I looked at my query letter and took a chunk out of that to transform into a blurb. With fingers flying, I whittled and expanded, clarified and obscured. After several versions, I thought I had a fairly decent start, and asked for feedback.

I couldn’t decide if I should give this group of writer friends credit by name or protect their anonymity, so I’ll just paraphrase their response. They said, “I like your blurb … but let’s change 80% of it.” You gotta laugh. I love these guys.

I know what I’m good at, and I’m not good at writing succinct and sizzling descriptions of this novel. I needed their input, and I’m grateful they generously gave it. After nearly two dozen group emails back and forth—Try this word. No, try this word.—this sucker is finally looking good.

When I first joined a critique group, I felt a little guilty getting feedback. If I needed help, my inner critic told me, I wasn’t a real writer. Because of her harping, I think I resisted some good advice early on. But now, I don’t have a problem acknowledging my writing weaknesses and seeking help for them.

I don’t write by committee, that’s a solo job, but when it comes to editing, I’d be stupid not to take advantage of other writers’ knowledge—especially when their strengths are my weaknesses. Each time I ask for their help, I learn something. My weaknesses grow weaker.

Your turn: Do you know your strengths and weaknesses? Do you seek help from writer friends?


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Critique, Editing, Editor, Feedback, Fiction, Novel, Revision, Writing

When your editor suggests surgery …

After I sent my manuscript to my editor, I received an email from her indicating I should be patient in waiting for her feedback. Less than a week later, I received another email from her. She said though she had planned to work on my book in spurts, fitting it in with other work, once she started reading, she found it hard to stop. That’s good, right?

I opened the attached file and scrolled through. She noted a few places she felt needed clarification or enhancement. She questioned a thing or two. She also found many errant commas, absent quotes, and those tiny missing words that your eye fills in when you read: a, in, of, etc. As I neared the end, I thought, That’s all? Great! Piece of cake edit ahead of me.

But then …

At the end, she’d written a long note. She declared Parts I and II a go. What about Part III? Bottom line—she suggested I cut. CUT!!! Not the whole thing, of course. But, but, but, I thought, I’ve never had to cut before! Well, yeah, maybe a sentence or two. But this was nearly 2,500 words she wanted me to surgically remove!!! Ten pages!!!!!

So, yeah, I freaked.

While I tried to get oxygen flowing to my brain again, the phrase “kill your darlings” swam before my eyes. But when I I could think again, I realized this wasn’t a darling she had told me to cut. It was more an acquaintance. To be honest, I was never 100% sure of that part myself. When I thought about it more, I remembered that a former version of this section was the only one my critique group had ever uniformly given a thumbs down.

She cited solid reasons why this section should go. It delayed the resolution readers would be hungry for at that point in the book. And, probably, this section featured one rejection too many and might turn readers against one of the characters. How can I argue against that?

I’m sad to lose a few lines and images from that section, but it’s history. Now, I just have to put my writer/surgeon hat on and suture that wound.


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Critique, Doubt, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Novel, Writing

Ooo … ooo … I know this one!

Let’s play a little game, shall we?

Linda: I’ll take felicitous discoveries for a thousand.

Alex: I do have writing talent. Linda?

Linda: What is … What did I discover while editing?

Alex: Correct!

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you know I suffer from a lack of confidence in my writing ability. It’s largely self-inflicted. My inner critic prides herself in perfectionism. To make matters worse, she’s an expert at rationalizing away any praise that comes my way.

I think most of us lack confidence to some degree. We play that comparison game and believe we’ll never measure up. We get one tiny bit of negative feedback and blow it out of proportion until we see every word we’ve written as garbage. (Or is that just me?)

Today, as I edited my novel, I found myself smiling—grinning, to be honest. Not at any particular “darling” as in, My god, has there ever been a more brilliant metaphor?! No, I was happy because I could honestly say, “This is good writing.”

That may sound like I’m full of myself, but I’m not. What I discovered today is I suffer doubt most when I don’t read my work. When I set aside a work, whatever faults I know it has magnify in my mind until I convince myself I’m hopeless as a writer. I’m discouraged from even starting something new because, well—I can’t write!

When I finally open that file and start to read I see it’s not perfect. I find weak verbs, flabby sentences, bad syntax, but I also find decent writing as a whole. It’s never as bad as I imagined it to be. Yet I’ve allowed my doubt to waste time, fuel jealousy, and even downright depress me.

Why do we writers do this to ourselves?


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