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? 😉

Writing feedback, how much is enough?

Well, I guess this means I’m blogging again—more or less. I spent my time off thinking, and reading, and traveling. Now, I’ve returned to writing. Though, obviously, I didn’t write a real blog post for today. I just have questions for you.

Well, I guess this means I’m blogging again—more or less. I spent my time off thinking, and reading, and traveling. Now, I’ve returned to writing. Though, obviously, I didn’t write a real blog post for today. I just have questions for you.

Once upon a time, I wrote a novel. At the time, I belonged to a critique group with about fifteen members. After several months, I left that group for one of four because the smaller group could work through a book quicker. A few months later, I also joined a group of seven or eight, but that didn’t last. Now, with my foursome on hiatus, I’m not sure how I’ll get the needed feedback on the stories I’m writing.

Maybe some of you are supremely confident in writing solo, but except for what you read on this blog, I can’t imagine ever submitting, or publishing, something without it being critiqued, edited, beta-read, then edited again. That’s why I’m curious how you all go about getting feedback on your writing.

  • Where do you find your help?
  • Are your critiquers all fellow writers? (I presume you incorporate non-writers at beta-read stage.)
  • How many people do you involve for the initial feedback?
  • Do those answers depend on the length of the work?

Please share your method with me.

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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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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Going back to move forward

As odd as it may sound, my next step forward will be a step backward. With the preparations for the holidays ahead, I know I won’t have much time for writing, but I’ll have time for reading and thinking. Luckily, that’s exactly what I need right now.

I’ve decided to make my first novel fit for reader consumption. I completed it ten years ago, put it away, and haven’t read it since. I scanned through it a few months ago, and even cleaned up the first chapter for submission to my critique group, but I haven’t read the synopsis or even the scene list/outline because I want to read the manuscript with fresh eyes.

I know the book is not horrible, but I don’t know how much work it will take to revise it for publication. This novel started as a paranormal romance, but about a third of the way through, I discovered it didn’t follow the prescribed formula for category Romance, and I scrapped that idea. Obviously, I was not a reader of Romance novels, paranormal or otherwise. What I read at that time was a lot of Stephen King, so …

In the last few months, my writing career has slipped into a sort of depression. It’s time to shake things up. I have other ideas, some plans. I’m not psychic, I can’t say what will work, what won’t, but I’m excited about the possibilities.

Your turn: How’s your writing career moving? Do you ever feel a need to shake things up?

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