Advice, Critique, Doubt, Feedback, Writing

A letter from my Muse

Listen up, Linda!

I’ve taken all I can take these last three weeks. Your emotional roller coaster is making me sick. Chill the heck out. You’re a writer. Writers write. And writers, if they’re smart, let trusted writers read their work and give them feedback. And if those writers are any help at all, they give you honest critique. Got it?

So they told you the book isn’t done. So they suggested more than a few little tweaks. Get over it. Stop this rush to worst case scenario. You are not a fake. You are not the worst writer in the world. You are not too stupid or too old to learn (though you just might be too stubborn). And you are not going to delete your blog, your Facebook page, and your Twitter account.

And, above all else, you are not going to throw this book out and start another one.

Get a grip. Quit your whining. Stop your bellyaching.  Walk out on the pity party and lock the door behind you.

GET TO WORK.

You have a good story, but we’re about to make it fantastic. Got it? Okay. Let’s go.

Signed, Your wise and patient Muse

Geez, the stuff a Muse has to put up with.

Editing, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Revision, Writing

Imminent book demise averted!

You may have noticed, it’s been over a week since I last wrote a real post—and if you didn’t notice, please don’t tell me. I’d like to keep the illusion that you’re all hanging on my every word. Anyway, I’ve been busy editing and revising An Illusion of Trust.  The editing was no problem. Then along came revisions.

Actually, part of those went well too. I added two short scenes and made minor revisions to another. But the biggie stumped me. So I took a break and read—a whole book. I still couldn’t think how to revise. So I looked at a few thousand stock images for the cover. Still nothing.  So I printed out my scene synopsis and marked the four problematic ones because seeing something in print often wakes my Muse.

This time she only opened one eye and mumbled a few words. So I did the logical thing. I decided not to revise those scenes. I’m just kidding, of course. I decided to toss the whole book.

Over-reaction? Maybe, but I was frustrated. However … I took one last stab at the four scenes. I decide there were good reasons not to change one of them, but I made notes on ways to subtly revise the other three. I knew that wasn’t enough. It wouldn’t fix the problem my alpha reader cited. So I started an email to tell her I wasn’t a good enough writer to salvage the book. But then I decided, before I gave up, I’d show her the only changes I came up with. And …

She said, “You need to take ‘I’m ready to just walk away from this book’ out of your vocabulary forever.” She also said the revisions I’d suggested were “perfect”. So … yeah. I’ve made those revisions and now I’m doing another read-through before I send it off to beta readers.

Want to hear something funny? Over-reaction was the issue she wanted me to fix. Now can you imagine me having a character do that? 😉

Fiction, Novel, Writing

Self-sabotage

I suppose there are many ways to sabotage your writing. I’ve done it a couple of times. Ahem. Partly because of that, I’ve progressed with my current novel at about the same pace I could chisel it in stone.

Apparently, my latest obstacle was a scene I won’t get to for several chapters.

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This scene is a big moment. A black moment. My protagonist’s worst fear come true. I’ve been writing steadily toward it, laying the groundwork. No worries, right? Okay. Part of my brain has been preoccupied with it. Dreading it. Partially paralyzed with worry over it, evidently.

I didn’t realize that was my problem. I’ve been laying the blame on other things. Maybe the structure is off. Maybe the voice isn’t quite right. Maybe the story is just plain stupid.

And then this past Thursday night, as I was falling asleep, I thought about the three “frame” scenes that I wrote a year ago. The second one connects to this black moment. In this scene my protagonist tells her husband she no longer trusts him. That word trust seemed to jump up and down saying, “Me, me, pay attention to me.” I fell asleep thinking about trust.

The next morning, I opened my WIP to where I’d stopped writing the day before. I wrote a couple of sentences, and then checked email, Facebook, and my blog reader. I finished that paragraph, and then explored new blog themes, added notes for a few scenes to my WIP’s timeline file, and looked around on Goodreads. You get the picture. I squeezed out 142 words in all.

While I took a break for dinner, the word trust popped up in my mind again. I considered what it meant for my protagonist to trust someone. And POW! I heard her say: You destroyed the thing I needed most from you. And that was just the beginning of their conversation.

“I have to get this down,” I told my husband. I rushed to the keyboard and typed out 1,305 words in a non-stop frenzy. I sat looking at it, amazed. I even posted my accomplishment to my Facebook page. I couldn’t believe a scene I thought would be difficult to write had flowed so easily.

But the best thing is, after I got that scene out of the way, I went back to the point I left off in my manuscript and the words kept flowing. In all, since Friday evening, I’ve added 5,103 words to my novel draft.

So, yeah. I’m a happy writer this morning. And like I said on Facebook, this is another reminder not to curse your Muse when it seems she’s being stingy. She’s probably hard at work in the background. Possibly while you sleep.

Blog Stuff, Feedback, Fiction, Short story, Writing

Research, revision, and redecorating

I don’t know everything, and sometimes, I realize I don’t really know what I thought I knew. So if I want to write believable fiction, I have to research. A recent blog post by Christi Craig started me thinking about what I’ve researched lately.

  • Common sayings using the phrase quicker than or faster than. I didn’t want to use a cliché, but I hoped reading some would help me come up with something original. Still hoping.
  • Modern techniques for inscribing grave markers. I did this late at night after I saw the movie Woman in Black and had to stop because I started imagining ghostly sounds in my house.
  • How alcoholism affects the kidneys. I need to know if a man only two years sober can donate a kidney to a family member.
  • The tobacco growing process in the 1960s. I eventually found my way to YouTube where I listened to people talk about how the process has changed since they were young(er).

Those topics were research for three different projects, but now I’m looking at them and see that I could fit them all in one work. But no. I do not need the distraction of another story idea.

I’ve finally wrangled a few people into giving me feedback on some short stories I want to include in a collection. Then I’ll have to revise/edit them. Sometimes that’s easy, but other times my brain refuses to deal with it and I have to back away for a while. I know I could ruin the story if I force it, so I’ll trust my Muse to sort it out and get back to me.

A non-writing note. I don’t know how you other WordPress bloggers respond to your comments, but I use my Dashboard exclusively. I try to avoid looking at my blog too much because when I do, I want to fiddle with it. In the early days of this blog, I changed themes every couple of weeks, which I’m sure was a bit disconcerting to my new followers. Then I realized that if I didn’t actually see my blog’s “face”, I left it alone. Recently, when I uploaded my new book cover and saw it on my blog, I got that old urge to give it a whole new look.

The problem is, even with dozens of theme choices, none of them is quite what I want. So I’m using one of my private unused blogs to audition each possible choice to see what comes closest. Anyway, don’t be surprised if you come here and fail to recognize the place one day soon.

Hmmm, I guess that’s a kind of research too. What about you? Have you researched anything lately?

Craft, Fiction, Short story, Writing

My muse ain’t lazy

If I’ve learned one thing about myself as a writer, it’s that I’m impatient. I want to write faster, I want to edit faster, I want to get feedback faster, I want … well, you get the idea. So I get impatient with my Muse when she doesn’t seem to be cooperating with my “I want” schedule. I tend to forget she could be working behind the scenes.

Frequently, usually when I’m driving or in the shower, a single line or a great story title comes to me. When I’m lucky enough to get those written down before I forget, I file them in my Opening lines and Titles folder. Sometimes, when I need a jumpstart for a story, I browse through that file to see if something jumps out at me. It’s nifty when I realize an opening and a story title fit together.

Such was the case for the short story I finished a couple of days ago. I had matched the two many months ago, and even made a couple notes, but never actually started the story. I thought about it once or twice through the months, and then forgot it again. But it came to mind when I wanted to write another story last month.

As is my habit, I opened the file, read the first sentence, then closed my eyes and waited for the scene to play out. Before long, I’d typed the first three paragraphs, but nothing more came, so I closed the file, expecting to get back to it later that day. Then I got distracted with the process of the new cover design for Brevity, and didn’t return to the story for three weeks.

A mental flash of the main character in the story is what reminded me to get back to work on it. I saw an angry woman, an indignant woman—a woman scorned. I sat down at the keyboard and she took over. Within a few hours, I’d written the draft and did a first edit. Fun stuff. I mean, this rejected woman cleverly redeems her self-respect—what’s not to love about that?

The ease with which the words flowed, once again, demonstrated that my industrious Muse had worked on the story while I was off doing who knows what. My advice? When your Muse tosses you a line or title, pay attention. Something’s probably in the works.