Everywhere you hear about how Women don’t have the same opportunities as men. And although there might be some truth in this and there is a lot still to fight in terms of wages equality… More
Loved this talk! For all of you who still hadn’t found out your passion or know what is your passion but are too afraid to pursuit, then this is the talk for you!
Actually, this is the talk for all the people who want to have a goal in life and achieve it!
Professor Larry Smiths presents, in quite a peculiar way, a talk that changes lives and inspires. He is a professor of economics at University of Waterloo. A well-known storyteller and advocate for youth leadership, he has also mentored many of his students on start-up business management and career development. The most notable start-up he advised in its infancy is Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry.
Invest 15 minutes in this talk and it will be an investment for life!
The best moments when I read a book is when I find myself laughing due to the author’s wit and good sense of humor. As I hear my laugh echoing through the room where I read, without any apparent reason, I feel lucky to be enjoying something “secret” or “hidden” that people around me in public spaces won’t probably never get to know. I get to enjoy characters only to myself which (in a selfish manner) I don’t get to share with those around me. Those are the times when I mostly appreciate good humour in Literature, either intended or not.
After enjoying these moments, I find myself wanting to write as these authors. I want people to enjoy my stories as I do when I read others. But then I ask myself, could I ever write a comedy? It’s hard enough to come up with one witty remark, never mind the entire length of a comedy-based novel. I’m pretty sure those who achieve writing in the “comedy” genre can be named genius. Maybe some writers are born to write in this genre. Maybe only people like comedians are the ones who should answer this call.
No more than a week ago, I started my first “comedy genre” book. For those curious about the title, I’m reading Timur Vermes “Look who’s back” which had a book cover that promised to deliver “a comedy of all sorts”,”clever, funny,” book and so on. Please, don’t go into questioning my book selection. I know the book has become controversial, so I won’t go into discussing why I’m reading this book. Just let me tell you, that I’m reading it with an open mind and in the effort to understand more about this literature genre . But as far as I gotten into the book (one-third of its lenght ), I haven’t laughed much. Is it because I don’t understand the book’s sense of humour? Maybe the fun style has been lost in translation (the book has been translated from German) But if this is not the case, and if different people react different to diverse styles of comedy, then how can you write a fun, clever book that appeals to a vast majority? Is there a secret, hidden recipe somewhere to tackle all funny bones in the whole population?
If it weren’t possible , the comedy genre wouldn’t prevail. I don’t believe there’s a successful formula. But I might have detected one possible self-barrier. Whenever I come up with a funny remark while writing, I usually erase it almost immediately, afraid it will sound stupid or even insulting to some people. Without noticing, an internal judging voice makes me consider any funny statement. And I bet most writers face this challenge. Writing comedy is for the brave, for the ones that laugh at life, at oneself, and don’t care much about criticism . They don’t care if people don’t laugh; they are aware not all of them will do. But they still go out there.
By not laughing at Vermes’ book, does it make me a different person to please? Does that make me a writer with more difficulties to write comedy?
Lastly, I would like to leave you with Chris O’Dowd’s quote:
And you, how do you go about writing funny remarks or comedy?
According to Wikipedia, this is the definition of a metaphor:
A metaphor is a figure of speech that identifies something as being the same as some unrelated thing for rhetorical effect, thus highlighting the similarities between the two.
There’s nothing more beautiful than reading good literature and finding genius metaphors and similes. As a writer, I find myself wanting to produce my own ones. But reality hits and I realize I’m not good at them. I suck at them.
Good metaphors are for the mind of extremely creative people. Imagination prevails in this realm. And writers have no other choice than to develop this skill. Would that mean I’m not creative enough? or that I don’t have enough experience as a reader and writer to produce clever metaphors? Maybe, It all comes to how I interpret the world. I don’t tend to compare or establish similarities between situations. Would this mean that I’m not programmed to create metaphors? Regarding of the answer, skills can be improved. It’s all about a practice, experience, and finding your creative side. Writers are supposed to navigate towards those waters anyway, aren’t we?
So what have I done to improve my chance of coming up with clever metaphors? Whenever I’m writing and I find myself describing situations or settings, I pause, close my eyes and try to imagine the situation in my head. What does it look like? Does the person or objects remind me of something? Is there another way to describe it in a more interesting way? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I see the situation or setting for what it is and fail to produce a similarity that enables the figure of speech. But practice makes the master. I must persist.
Interestingly enough, I found that our creative side comes easier whenever we find our writing voices. That is when we allow ourselves to show our feelings and inner paradigms through our characters. That’s when one gets to be more creative and hence more prone to bringing good metaphors. But our unique writing voice improves with time, practice, and nothing else. When I review my first drafts, I find almost no existing metaphors. In those first pages, my writing is not funny, is not filled with surprises, is not page turning, it is boring. But when I review the latter drafts, I tend to smile to myself more. Not because I’m nailing every sentence, paragraph, and chapter, but because I seem to like my writing each time better. I seem to enjoy my story even more. Metaphors and similes start to appear.
I might not be “natural” at metaphors. But I got the tools to improve it. I only need practice and persistence. After all, everything in our lives is about endurance, isn’t it?
And if you’re striving on understanding metaphors, then you can check out this complete guide with very helpful examples from Grammarly.
And you, do you have any good tips or methodologies for writing good metaphors?
Last post When old habits are hard to abandon… I’m looking at you procrastination was eye opening. For some reason, I always believed that being “multi-tasker” was engraved in my system. I even felt proud of it. I could face many tasks at work or while writing without any problems. I even used as one of my qualities (whenever I needed to talk about myself, my strengths,etc… case point: CVs). This happened until many days ago, when for some miracle, I landed on the Coursera course: Learning how to learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects. If you ever have time to check this free online course (which you could also pay if you want a certification), then do it. The course suggestion came to my email inbox the same day I wrote about my procrastination/multi-tasker post. And surprise, surprise: It turns out being multi-tasker is not as good I as thought it was. In fact, it’s not good at all.
I’m not going to go into specifics in the course. Besides, I still have a couple of lessons that I still need to go through in this course. But so far, it’s been one of the best courses I’ve taken through this platform. Going straight to the point: multi-tasking only burns you out, it stresses you, it makes you slower, it lowers the quality of your work, and tires you faster. But it can be changed. And since I’ve started this new plan to reprogram my brain from its default multi-tasking mode or even close to some sort of attention deficit disorder, my capacity to focus and concentrate has grown exponentially. My writing tasks are back on track again and with good perspectives!
There are tons of courses, methodologies, articles online about this topic. Many great sources of information. If you’re looking to get rid of procrastination, improve the quality of time you spent on your important tasks (writing, I’m looking at you), then I suggest you get rid of any multi-tasking habits. I’m looking forward to polishing these skills, and maybe in some weeks time, to be able to say I finally left procrastination in the past.
Procrastination has been affecting my life since I can remember. Fortunately, these last couple of years, I’ve been suffering less of it or else I would’ve never achieved a novel’s first draft (it should be treated as an illness!). But I haven’t gone over it yet. I might now put a daily effort on my writer goals, but it’s not enough yet.
The one to blame, the Internet.
I could use the computer and disconnect, but I depend heavily on thesaurus.com I could get a physical copy, but certainly working with the website allows me to easily navigate from word to word’s synonyms and definitions in a matter of seconds, without losing the inspiration or the sentence idea that troubles my mind at that point. I’ve tried using printed copies of dictionaries and thesaurus, but they’re not meant to be used on every single minute. And yes, I still use it a lot. Especially, since English is not my first language, many times I just want to make sure I got the correct definition and that the synonym I’m choosing to use is accurate.
So if thesaurus.com wasn’t such a good tool and as dependent on internet connectivity as it is, I would probably disconnect from Wi-Fi. But if this website helps my writing, what is the real problem?
My mind is used to multi-tasking. As a result, thoughts, ideas, and hyperactivity flood my brain almost 24/7 (If mental hyperactivity could be translated into physical hyperactivity… I would be the best athlete in the world… but that’s another topic). My mind doesn’t really switch off until I go to bed. And sometimes, I find trouble sleeping trying to unplug my mind from its endless ideas, worries, etc. So while writing, it’s normal for me to get distracted by other websites; afraid (maybe an excuse word) that I will forget later what I wanted to buy in Ebay, that I will miss what’s going on Facebook, and that there are still tips, blogs, and websites I should be looking at for my next trip (in 2 weeks – Tripadvisor, I’m looking at you!), I open the browser and proceed to search, look, and verify other issues while in the middle of writing.
The result: guilt invading me at around 10:00 pm when my eyes are starting to feel the burden of the day and I have to choose between:
- Giving up and going to bed
- Continue the writing until almost midnight or until my eyes are hyper red. The direct consequence: I cannot invest any more reading time in bed if I want to give my eyes a proper resting (after all, I spend the whole day in front of the computer)
Maybe I’m too anxious for vacations these days, and I cannot move forward without taking out of my mind all the issues that should be arranged or known before traveling. Maybe after my holidays, my mind will be clear enough to continue working. But who am I kidding? There will always be a next trip, a next activity, or a next excuse. If I’m going to take the writing career for good, then I’d better eliminate the word Procrastination from my vocabulary. Any advice?
Welcome to my first participation in a Blog Tour, so far I’ve been enjoying it very much. I was lucky enough to be today’s tour stop for “IA: Initiate” by John Darryl Winston. The Blog Tour is running this week (March 21-25) and you can find the participating bloggers and schedule here.
You can find “IA: Initiate” at Amazon.
IA: Initiate is origin story and a hero’s journey that follows thirteen-year-old orphan Naz Andersen and his nine-year-old sister, Meri. They live in a present day alternate Detroit/Chicago-like city known as the Exclave where they are surrounded by poverty, gang violence threatens every corner, and drug dealers rule the streets. Naz thinks he is ordinary except that he hears voices, has nightmares, and walks in his sleep.
The most important thing in the world to Naz is protecting Meri and getting her out of the Exclave and into the prestigious International Academy. But Naz has a secret, one that he is oblivious to, and only Meri knows. When Naz becomes the target of a notorious street gang he begins to discover the voices in his head, the nightmares, and sleepwalking are actually telekinesis and telepathy at play, a gift from his father of whom he has no memory.
Interview with the Author
John Darryl Winston was kind enough to answer some of my questions. Enjoy the responses of this very talented author:
Tell us a bit about yourself. For instance, how did you start writing?
Writing can mean so many different things, but I’ll try to put them all in a nutshell as one. I started creating stories and telling them to people (parents, siblings, and friends) as far back as I can remember, but never wrote anything down. I hated reading and writing in general. Once I realized writing things down came with telling stories, I decided I wanted to write screenplays, as film is my first true love. When I became a parent and teacher I started writing stage plays for my kids and students. But I only started writing in the novel form about 4 or 5 years ago.
How did you come up with the idea for “IA Initiate”?
There are several things that I can point to that led me to the IA series. First there was “Superman the Movie” with Christopher Reeve. I was never into Superman before that. It was the origin part that sucked me in. Then it was “Batman Begins,” again the origin part. I began to toy with an origin story of my own with the premise, how believable it could be, thinking again about the tagline to the Christopher Reeve movie “You’ll believe a man can fly.” I wanted to write an origin story that brought the imagination into play but felt truly possible. Hence my tagline, read it and believe.
What do you like most about your character Naz? Is there some trait in him that you identify with?
What I like most about Naz is he’s so flawed, and I’m never quite sure what he will do next. He wants to do the right thing, but like us, he’s not always sure what the right thing is. So we get to go along with him on his journey and ask ourselves, what if?
Do you think the Exclave anticipates what may come in our future?
I think the Exclave like Gotham or Metropolis is the here and now, more or less. I had one publisher who was reading my manuscript call into question the authenticity of the Exclave setting. He felt that a middle school in such a downtrodden place would never have a basketball team much less a chess club. Of course he’s probably never been to Marcus Garvey Academy in Detroit. Welcome to my world.
What is your ideal place for writing?
My ideal place to write is some place unfamiliar that’s not too quiet and not too loud, a place where I can sit back and silently observe, or not, life in motion. I’m a people-watcher and much of my inspiration comes from that pastime.
Do you have a special process to get inspired or get in the writing mood?
I don’t have a goto process but there are some things I’ve done in the past and may or may not try in the future. I like to take extremely hot baths in complete darkness with a tape recorder running and talk to my characters. Sometimes when I’m exercising the muse approaches me. Then there’s the old glass of wine or two to get the juices flowing, but I avoid that when I can, afraid of developing a vice or bad habit. And then there’s trusty meditation.
What are your next projects?
Three projects: The first is “IA: Union,” the final book in the IA trilogy which has me frustrated right now. The second is a sci-fi called “Ultima Humana,” about the last human along time from now on a planet not too far away, lol. The third is a sci-fi called “Patriarch” about a scientist who has found a way to endow his son with supernatural powers in a natural way. Sound familiar?
What would you recommend aspiring writers?
I would recommend aspiring writers to read, Read, and READ some more: books by great authors, not-so-great authors, and everyone in between. Read in and out of the genre you intend to write, and read critically and analytically, always having a highlighter around to mark that book up until it’s unrecognizable.
Any tips or writing recommendations?
Get some craft books. “On Writing” by Stephen King and “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White is a good place to start. Develop a thick skin and find people you can trust to be critical of your writing. That’s all for now.
More about the author…
John Darryl Winston is a recording artist, turned educator, turned author. He dates his love of storytelling back to reading the bible with his father and sisters and later when he first saw Superman The Movie as an 11th grader in his high school auditorium. He got the idea for his debut series while piloted a Boys’ Read program as a Detroit Public School teacher. He is the founder of the Adopt an Author program, which has as its mission to create an atmosphere where boys and girls learn to love reading and writing.
He has written songs with and for Grammy winner David Foster and record mogul Clive Davis. He has been a recording artist on Arista and Polygram records, and has written and/or produced songs for Gerald Levert, Jordan Hill, Gerald Alston, and many others.
He’s a graduate of the Recording Institute of Detroit, The Motion Picture Institute of Michigan, and Wayne State University. He has his MA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and will be graduating, June 2016 with his MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes. He lives in Detroit with daughter, Marquette and plans to buy an African Grey Parrot when he conquers his irrational fear of birds and name him or her Tony or Toni.
You can find more information about John at:
Those who know me are aware I’m a slow reader. Few books grab me well enough to finish in a couple of days, the norm is usually a couple of weeks, but “IA: Initiate” was one of those exceptions. I finished the book in a couple of days because it had the flow and pace that allowed me to devour the book without noticing.
Naz, a thirteen-year-old boy, lives in the Exclave along with his nine-year-old sister, both are orphans and live in a foster home. Sleepwalking might not be the only problem Naz is facing, he lives in a dangerous part of the city, and he can’t remember much of his early past. But he’s convinced of one sole objective: to protect his little sister from anything and to take her away from the decadent Exclave.
As the story develops, we learn Naz’s untrusty and insecure nature might be a result of his past and of the deaths of his parents. The story develops in parallels between fragments of Nobel Prize winner Dr. Cornelius Andersen and his achievements in the fields of neuroscience. Usually, when novels display two parallel stories at the same time in different time settings, one tends to distract from the other without intertwining properly. This was not the case. The author manages to increase the mystery and flow of the story as he narrates both of them. As we get to know the past of Naz and his sister, we also start to realize the implications of their world, the Exclave, and some possible explanations for Naz’s behavior.
I enjoyed reading the book. The characters were compelling, likable, and complex enough to want to know more about them. The story offers so many possibilities that I felt it was natural to have a series of books derived from this first part. I’m certainly eager to continue with the next books. Winston is very talented, and in his writing not only, I was able to understand the Exclave and the rest of their world around it; but also I delved into the story with eagerness to know as much as possible from the potential turn of events.
John is offering e-copies of “IA: Initiate” to the 5 winners of the following Rafflecopter. Click here to enter it.
I always describe myself as “weird”. People around me hear “bicho raro” an expression in Spanish that would mean something like “weird bug.” Some friends are fast to point out that I’m not weird but “unique”. I appreciate their good intetions, but I actually don’t feel bad about being weird. I love being weird. I embrace my weirdness.
So what do I mean by being weird? I thought it would be to check up the exact definition of the word:
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/weird says: Strikingly odd or unusual, especially in an unsettling way; strange. Suggestive of the supernatural.
But I like the definition of the Merriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/weird :
And I’m almost sure the latter is the best reputable source as well.
When reading the first two definitions, one would see why people react to the word “weird” as a bad adjective. This word for them describes something not very nice – an “unsettling” word. The expression “weirdo” is a commonly expression used to tag people in a despicable way. However, I insist on relying on the Merriam-Webster definition: “supernatural, extraordinary, fantastic, unusual… etc.” In this interpretation, I love the word; it describes how my usual perspective towards life is.
I always like to believe I don’t fit social standards as normally other people do. I love going against the trends and against the expected behaviors. Even the way I dress, reflects in some way, who I am as a person. And if people expect you to celebrate a holiday, I do exactly the opposite. But for me this weirdness is not about being stubborn or trying to make a point, it’s only about behaving according to my feelings and without regard to social expectations. For me being weird is nice. It’s about expressing myself in the most extraordinary fashion, living my life defying any social foolish conceptions. It would be nice for a change people wouldn’t chastise or try to fix weird people.
I haven’t read Isabel Allende in a while. It’s my favorite Spanish speaking author. I remembered how I used to devour her books when I was a teenager. Her stories were so profound, her characters so alive. I haven’t read all of her books, and this reminds I might not be a proper author fan/follower. But I’ve always been into exploring new authors.
Since she’s a Spanish speaking author, I read her books in their original language: Spanish. No translations. However, in my effort to improve my writing in English, I haven’t read books in Spanish for a while, probably for the last three years. It’s been hard to remain truthful to this objective. I could easily get Spanish translations from John Grisham, Stephen King, and other famous ones in the bookstores of my city, but my encounters with horrible translations have pushed me to insist in improving my English when possible. Now, I usually shop for books online or buy them whenever I travel. The effort has paid off. I used to read books in English with dictionaries searches every two minutes. Now, I don’t need need them anymore.
Anyway, I was excited to read Allende again. The book I picked up was one of her latest ones: “El Amante Japonés” or “The Japanese Lover.” I really enjoyed the book but it was a writing/learning experience more than anything. Unfortunately, I no longer remember enough to testify for other Allende’s books. But in this book, I found a couple of writing style observations along the way that made me question the writing rules I’ve been learning lately. My reading perspective has changed significantly over these two years of reading books about writing, listening to webinars about writing, attending to writing online courses and even going to a writing conference in English. I would have never imagined these writing rules I’ve been following at heart could be non-existent in the authors I loved the most. It was an utter surprise.
But what exactly were these rules I found non existent in “The Japanese Lover”? In fiction, I’ve been taught to write scenes from a single point of view. If you want to use other character’s points of view, then it’s better to do it in another scene or even in another chapter. In “The Japanese Lover”, Isabel Allende mixes multiple points of view from one paragraph to the other. One paragraph you are inside one of the main character’s head and the next one you are in another, in a blink of an eye. At the beginning, I found this quite off-putting. I was mad that one of my favorite authors was writing like that. I began to question, Was it always like that in her previous books? (I still need to check this out of curiosity) Was this something it didn’t bother to me before? Was it because I didn’t know of these rules many years ago? But I learned a lesson quick. The rule about not mixing points of view exists because we don’t want to confuse readers. But we must never misjudge readers’ reading capabilities. After a couple of lines, it was easy to realize which character were being described. And after the first chapters I didn’t find this annoying anymore. Sometimes as writers, we struggle too much in trying to ensure our readers won’t get confused. We write with such detail (succumbing to exaggerated description and slow flow) to ensure readers follow the plot line easily that we sometimes forget our readers are perfectly able to grab implicit details without the need of us describing them word by word.
After overcoming my own self blocking rule in the fist chapters of “The Japanese lover” and forgetting about any other writing rules, I began to submerge into the story. I found out that Isable Allende is still one of my favorite authors. It didn’t matter she changed POVs every second; I read her book hugely entertained and finished it in a couple of days. Of course, the book is not perfect, there are other issues that bothered me at some level, such as the excess of themes in one single book and the highly dramatic backgrounds in each character – too much to be believable at some point. But the book had alive characters. That is something you cannot always achieve by following the rules.
As a result and as part of my writing improvement process. I’ve learned that bending the rules is not always bad. I still prefer to keep one POV for each scene, but now I feel myself free to break some rules and allow my writing to become alive.
Brandon’s code of writing is magnificent. I wanted to share it here in my blog.
A list to remember, a list to remind. A list for those of us already here. And those still behind.
And I swear:
- To help those who have just begun. To do what I can to create new writers.
- To encourage potentials to write, and write strong. To find a new kind of joy in creation.
- To criticize only to help, and never to tear others down with my words.
- To respect the power my words have. And to use them to help this world, even if it’s by pointing out its flaws.
- To call myself a writer. To own that title.
- To never belittle what I gave up, what I fought for to become an artist.
- To constantly seek improvement in my craft, and to seek new horizons.
- To understand that by my very nature I am a dreamer and a storyteller.
- To not lie to myself. To take…
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Although, I know a lot of what not to do when writing fiction, it doesn’t necessarily mean I know how to do it. As odd as it sounds, it happens.
Realization came on me these days. I don’t know if this is a normal stage writers arrive to as they spend more time writing, but it’s a hard to accept that the path may be longer that expected. It falls in the area of “the more you know the less you understand…” But how can this be possible? Let me explain it with examples and detail:
So far, I’ve learned these rules for good fiction writing: (mostly grammar and style rules)
- Avoid using the “be” verb, try using stronger verbs.
- Avoid using adverbs or at least decrease their usage as much as possible.
- Avoid using redundant expressions: “the fact that”, “he is a person who”, etc.
- Show don’t tell. A hard one to understand but finally sinking into my neurons.
- Preferred using the simple tag “said” rather than “opined, implored, wailed, etc”. There are times when you don’t even need the tag, you could just use the action performed by the character.
- Avoid when possible using passive voice, give more strength by using active voice.
- Vary the length of sentences in a paragraph. Combine short ones with long ones.
- Vary the type of sentences in a paragraph. Use variety and mix different forms of sentences.
- Don’t mix POVs in a single scene. It’s confusing.
- Find the voice of each character. Characters should be sound different from the other. They should be dimensional, not flat.
- And so many others rules to follow…
I’ve been reading many books on how to write, how to improve writing, how to create compelled characters, good plots, how to nail punctuation, etc. And in spite of this information, I find my writing is not yet where I would like it to be. My paragraphs don’t read as beautifully as Harper Lee’s or Alice Munro’s. They’re structured well, but I still find them simple, and far from being mesmerizing. I realize this is perhaps due to my scarce experience or the fact that I still need to improve my vocabulary. I realize the above rules are not enough to know how to write.
I understand these are the natural consequences of trying to find your own voice and that the only solution rests in getting more experience, reading more, and writing more. It gets harder, but that is the point in life, isn’t it? It would be boring if everything would be easy as pie.
And you, have you ever reached this realization?
It’s as simple as that: good writing matters a big deal. As I dig more into this writing career, I realize how much I still need to learn.
I’ve always been for thrillers and mysteries. I’ve always loved fast-paced books with lots of action: books that I could see in my mind as the next big Hollywood blockbusters. But lately, I’ve realized that there’s also another side of reading. A reading where words enchant you and make you want more of this world of beautifully written words. Now, I believe that good storytelling doesn’t exist without good writing.
I must confess I haven’t read much of Literature Nobel prize winners before. Except from “One Hundred years of Solitude” from Gabriel Garcia Marquez (which I didn’t like), I wasn’t drawn into these awarded authors. It was like Oscar movies: not all Oscar movies winners are good. In fact, some Oscar winners are actually weird and not in my taste of “awesome films.” But this time I bought Alice Munro’s: “Lives of girls and women”, a Nobel prize winner, and I can’t believe I did it by mistake.
The purchase was done when I was coming back from NY’s Writer’s Digest conference. I’ve written down all those titles that during the conference attendees were advised to read. One of the panelists highly recommended to read Alice Hoffman. In the airport, when I came across Alice Munro and read the label “Nobel Prize winner,” I really thought I got the right “Alice.”
I realized of my mistake when I came home. But as a bookworm, I’m never sad for having a new book to read. So I give it a go to this book. And I loved it. Munro’s writing is completely beautiful. The way she starts describing everything and how characters develop in this beautiful written prose was such a relief and rest from the fast paced books I’d been reading before. It made me love writing and reading even more. It made me realize how much, still, I have to learn from writing in English.
This blog post was meant to be a review of Alice Munro’s “Lives of girls and women” but as I came across the blog, I realized I mostly wanted to express the lesson learned while reading this book, and how it has influenced my writing learning process. I’ve also realized how important is for writers to read out of their genre, how it makes you grow professionally. There’s still a wonderful world of written words out there.
And you, have you come across with these beautifully unexpected books that made you want to grow even more as writers?
The first post of this year! 🙂 I couldn’t be happier. Isn’t it funny how some numbers in the date can affect your life perspective goal wise? If we think of this well enough, years, months, dates, etc. are only numbers. We really don’t need the first of january of each year to assess our life objectives, but we’re human influenced by numbers, and our nature, and society partly, makes us reset every beginning of each year, restart our goals, focus, and start fresh.
The last days of the year have been surreal, with some (not serious) health problems, a minor surgery, and medical rest, but enough for me to assess how much I take care of myself physically.
2015 has been all about my book and writing as priority number one, and this year it will continue to be. But I’ll have to work this year on a forgotten goal: exercise and good eating habits. I have been telling myself that the latter were not priorities at all. That exercise would only take me time away from my writing objectives. That life was too short to not eat what I like. But I confess that a lot of lazy writeless time has gone through 2015 that could have been used for physical activity. And that not eating well has its consequences no matter the age…
In addition, I’ve been assessing other aspects as well. I’m not for vanity and long is the time that I indulged myself in taking care of my looks. In the name of saving for my trips, I’ve left many self-care aspects forgotten. I don’t mean to spend now tons of money on hairdressers and related stuff, but once in a while won’t do bad. So 2016 has to bring a little bit more of pampering, exercise, and good eating habits in my life. I won’t have another life to look fresh and radiant, will I?
I hope to find better balance this year. I hope to strive through writing even more. But more than anything, I hope to seize each day! Carpe Diem!
As the holidays are about to arrive and people start getting ready for the long holiday vacations, 2016 also strikes in. And of course, new year’s resolutions can be a common topic around this time. Many people here at my work are counting the days for the holidays to start. I’m not. Although, a rest is always well received, I still don’t want 2015 to be over. I feel like time is going too fast. I still want to make the most of what is left of 2015, even if it’s only a couple of days.
I know that age and time are just numbers, but in certain ways, they always tick and remind me of my goals in life. This year was intensive, and I did many things during it. I really wanted to have my novel done in 2015. But I’m not there, and I will probably work on it for a couple of months more. In some way, I haven’t met this year’s resolutions and I can’t avoid feeling a little bit sad about this. Moreover, I’m finding it difficult to go back to my book. As you know from previous posts, I stopped writing for more than a month, and now, I find it hard to get back into the writing routine again. If it were me, I would try to finish the novel in these days. But I’m aware it’s not possible.
Do you usually have this feeling when it’s nearing the end of the year?
It’s been almost two months since I didn’t work on my thriller novel. Some fellow blog readers may know that I’ve been working on it quite a while, since last year most specifically. After I finished it, I gave it to a couple of beta readers, and then passed it to my editor. I got the book ready. I pitched it at Writer’s Digest conference in New York and I got the attention of seven literary agents. I sent the requested material to them and got four rejection replies already. The three remaining never replied. But the harsh truth is the book wasn’t ready. It wasn’t yet.
This is my first book, my first attempt, and you can tell I’ve been impulsive with it. I’ve fallen into the most frequent mistake most amateur writers do. I knew how important it was to make sure the manuscript was ready before pitching it. And here I was making the same mistake, trying to do it as fast as possible, not letting the book rest for a while before doing the last rounds of edition. Hurrying up too much.
When I pitched it, the book was quite acceptable from the writing point of view. I made sure the words were accurate, I tried not to tell but show, I triple-verified all grammar rules, and I hired an external editor. I also made sure the plot moved fast, had twists everywhere, and that the “theme” was cohesive and there were no plot holes. What went wrong?
In October, I managed to contact a very good beta reader on Goodreads. He gave me great feedback from the technical point of view (the book is about hackers) but also gave me great advice from the literary point of view. My weakest point was clear as water: Character development. They felt flat. The main characters were completely unidimensional. And I started seeing the flaws I haven’t seen before. I realized the book was not ready. I wasn’t satisfied with it, I knew I could do it a million times better. I had pitched too soon. (And I’m still crossing my fingers that the reason the three literary agents never replied was because my manuscript got lost in their email folders. This way, I can still have them in my pitching list for when the book is finally ready.)
I started to review my manuscript yesterday, from scratch, rewriting practically everything. As I did It, I understood also what was missing in my writing. My voice. Although, the story is action packed, it’s actually dull. There’s no magic in the words. There’s no humour, no irony. It’s not witty. I can do this better. I can make more complex characters, ones that make people surprise, gasp, hate, love, laugh. The book was never ready.
November was a month of no writing. Since most of us writers have a full time job to maintain, I was involved in a work project that left me zero time to write. I’d never believed this time away from writing was actually what I needed, that No writing for some time would be more productive than a full month of continuous writing. I see the point now. Let the book rest.
So I’m re writing the whole manuscript. But this time the story will come alive like a true story should do.
I’m thankful I realized this before precipitating myself into insisting with more agents, or even considering self-publishing. Now I know the true. The book will be ready when it’s ready.
Did you have any similar experiences? If you’re a writer how much can you relate to this? Any advice you would like to give me?
And I’m back. I’ve missed my blog so much. All this time I haven’t been able to write it because of an extra job. It finished and I’m ready to continue. I must confess it was hard, hard to stay ok these weeks because I was at the point of exhaustion and burnout. And many things in my life were left in a standby.
When you put so much hope into something, into a new career chance, it’s very hard to accept that at the end you didn’t get your chance. But life is like this. And I’m so grateful I had this opportunity because I’ve learnt I’m stronger that I think. I’ve learnt I can achieve everything, even if it doesn’t turn out like I always want. I’ve learnt that I can be as strong as steel and hardworking as million people together, and the most important thing I’ve learnt is that “I don’t give up”. I’m willing to accept those words are no longer part of my vocabulary.
I’ve learnt life is better when you learn things the hard way. It makes you tougher and ready for the next challenges. But mostly, I’ve learnt that this blog should never be left aside. I’m thankful for all the people I shared this blog with. I’m thankful that I have a way to connect to them. I’m thankful that my words are read.
As I closed the last page of my book, I softly muttered “interesting” without even noticing. My mother happened to be near me at that moment. She asked me “What did you just read?” I waved the book cover to her and answered “A book about punctuation.” She winced.
I would have probably winced too if I’d been my mother. She knows I’m a book worm, but sometimes my eccentricities trouble her a bit. Reading a complete book about punctuation just because you want to is kind of unheard off, no regular “reading for pleasure” material here. But I do read a couple of books like these ones once in a while. Mostly because, as a writer, I need to improve my craft. I need to know where to put the period.
“Eats, Shoots & Leaves” is a clever and informational book where not only grammar rules are exposed, but also a wave of useful information strikes in. It’s not only about commas, semicolons, periods, dashes, etc., but also about their history, how they arrived to our world, what our crazy predecessors thought of them, how some tried to abolish their existence, and how punctuation marks strived successfully. I got attached to each punctuation mark as I would’ve gotten attached to a fiction character. Embarrassingly, I’m that quirky when it comes to books.
Moreover, Lynne Truss leads us to a deeper level, to the analysis of the evolution of punctuation marks. We learn not only their history, but also how our modern times, influenced by technology and constant mobile messaging, are changing the world view towards punctuation. With good evidence, Truss foresees the punctuation world future, with upcoming years of punctuation invasion. We won’t get ridding of them any soon. Reading this book gives us an insightful perspective. We’re not only being told about punctuation rules; we’re also acquiring enough criteria to understand their evolution.
But the aside note is that the book is clever and funny – British funny, humor that always makes me laugh for a reason. I enjoyed the book as much as I would have enjoyed a fiction novel.
Was I the only lonely boring person reading books about punctuation? Nop, I lent the book to a work colleague. The guy loved it. He read it faster than me, just in a couple of days, again my excuse being I’m a slow reader. Would I recommend this book to everybody? Definitely. Yes.
Have you ever read any type of grammar/punctuation of what it could be thought as “boring” and find yourself enjoying it more than expected?
When I first started writing this blog (2 years already! can’t believe it), my main objective was to build a traveling blog. I’d been following a couple of travel blogs (Barcelona Blonde, Nomadic Matt, and others) that had been fueling my desire for traveling the world and writing about it. But Money and other personal issues made me put a halt to these intentions, settle in one place, and start blogging about something else. I regret nothing. Thanks to this change in plans, I started writing fiction and blogging about it. What a memorable experience it has been.
But I still travel. I may not be able to sail the world, visit all its continents, and be “on the move” constantly, but I’ve managed to travel quite a bit (18 countries, 44 cities, until now). My travel bucket list ranks high in my life priorities. And since there are some continents that I’ve never been too yet (Asia, Africa, and Oceania – Australia! why are you so far?), my eagerness remains intact. But I can’t complain. If I die tomorrow, I’ve done my fair share of traveling. I couldn’t be most thankful.
Traveling is a life-enriching experience, unmatchable to any other. And when you write, there’s nothing better to broaden your horizons. And though, I don’t travel as much as I did before, I still try to save as much as possible to do one nice trip per year.
But what exactly have I learned from traveling?
- People are the same everywhere. They all struggle; they all do their best. Nobody anywhere is better than somebody elsewhere.
- There’s nothing better than learning other languages. Even if you don’t master them. It feels nice to say “hello” and “thanks” in many languages. It doesn’t matter if those are the only words you learn. People appreciate when you make an effort to learn at least tiny bits to communicate with them. Keep in mind that they’re in no obligation to know your language.
- Society restrictions are just that “society restrictions.” Those awful closed-minded standards by which your society apparently rules, end there, in that small circle of your town. When you travel, you realized that nothing of that matters, that you’re limited only by your own convictions.
- Globalization is here to stay. You can be whatever you want wherever you are.
What other lessons do you think can be learned from traveling?
Being a writer is not easy at all, being a reader who writes neither it is. Reading and Writing are my biggest passions. But as I try to merge them into one world, I realize the challenge increases.
In order to write, you have to read. This is the most common advice you’ll receive from writers, books and courses about writing. And there is no bigger truth. Once you decide that writing is you want to do for the rest of your life, reading will come attached as a twin sister. I don’t believe in writers who don’t read. I just can’t. It won’t matter how many a good ideas you have, if you don’t know how the world of books work, and the only way to know is by getting up close to what’s out there.
But one must read all types of books out there:
Reading classics – They are classics for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is that they usually show great command of the language. They display high-quality narrative that has been awarded and well appraised by so many. What works in these books? What made them classics? You need to find out by for yourself.
Reading Best Sellers – And it includes the highly criticized dystopian YA. But why are they so popular? Why are their writers the ones that can actually make a living of this? I usually hear many people chastising these books. Finding them with “my favorite books” tag in intellectual circles of writers would be almost impossible …. But guess what? They do sell! They have “the formula.” And yes, writing-wise they may not be the best example, but they can certainly grab readers.
Now, you may say: “Well, it depends on the reader.” And usually not all teenagers are the most loyal parameter of quality reading, but they are a wide popular profitable target market. Despite these books might be cheesy and corny, we realize many adults do also enjoy them. The key, I believe, is to find a balance between what is good writing and what sells. Let’s face it, we all know that deep in our hearts, we would really love to make money of our writing. So reading this literature we must (my Yoda dysfunctional personality)
Reading all genres – I’ve heard tons of advice saying that you must read in your genre. True! But it doesn’t end there. I’ve learned to read in all sorts of genres. And I believe that it’s not fair to say you aren’t used to an X genre because you don’t read in it. All genres are writing; all of them teach us something. Romance teaches us how to create romantic tension between characters. Thrillers teach us how to insert adventure and movement in your plot. Mysteries teach us how to grab readers until the end of the book. Sci-fi teaches us through setting description how to create fantasy worlds. Memoirs teach us how not to lose the essence and spirit of your book… and so on…. All these elements usually coexist in a book.
People read not only because the plot was so exciting that they couldn’t let the book go, but also because they cared about the protagonists; they found allies or inspiration in them. I’ve read a couple of action-packed thrillers that got me bored easily. I reached a point where I was just so bored about the extensive description of a fight scene; a slow motion punch described in pages. It reminded me of those movies where half of the movie is shootings and guns and no interesting plot. It also happens with books.
If you’re like me, with preference for Thrillers for example, then you have at least to care about one of your characters. We want to know that the CIA spy of a book has a family with a sick child, that if he doesn’t do the job, his son will die. We want that CIA spy that when he’s about to die, we will keep reading and pray that he doesn’t. If he’s just a random handsome spy with great muscles, involved in a cat and mouse chase during the plot, it gets boring…Thriller writers need to read romance and memoirs too!
As a writer, I try to read with a different eye. I try to see all elements in a book, how dialogue flows, how settings and actions are described, how writers show and don’t tell. I assess why the plot gets exciting, how chapters end, and what makes me go to the next chapter. I evaluate those setting descriptions that are just too long for me to care. I write down when I find words and expressions that work so well that I could use them in a further work (one of the advantages of kindle reading, that you can highlight words without actually damaging a book.)
This is a new way of reading, different from what I was used to, but satisfying nonetheless. It’s not only about finding refuge in a book while resting on a reading corner, but also investing time in my long-time dreamed goals.
If you’re a writer, do you find yourself with this different perspective of reading?
As you may have noticed (Although, I hope it wasn’t that obvious) English is not my native language. I learned it at a Language institute in my home country. Then, I had the opportunity to make post-graduate studies in the UK. But although I lived in Glasgow, Scotland for one year, I didn’t have enough time to master the language, especially considering the Scottish accent. And no, I don’t speak English with a Scottish accent; even imitating it can be hard enough 🙂 .
Luckily, I have the opportunity to practice the language every single day. My job is in English, and I’ve gotten used to it as my research, reading, and writing tool. But when I first started writing fiction in English, I thought it was only one of my crazy, impulsive episodes. I gave it a trial, just to see how it went, and I was surprised to find that I felt comfortable enough to start this blog in English. I believe that some of this comfort came from the fact that I read more books in English than in Spanish – my native language. Without noticing it, my list of favorite authors had been filled by English speaking authors.
So when I realized that writing fiction in English was not impossible, I knew that if I wanted to pull this off well, I had to work very hard on it. I had to be sure that not only what I wrote was correctly from the grammar point of view, but also that I didn’t sound like a five year-old. Deep work on building a better vocabulary began. And books about style, writing, grammar and others started to flood my bookshelves and e-reader. But believe it or not, I found I had the following advantages for being a non-native English speaker:
- I’m not familiar with jargon and idioms (they don’t teach you that when you learn a language.) As a result, I don’t misuse or rely on them when writing in a formal approach.
- The way I learned English is by hard grammar (the methodology they used at the language institute). Therefore, I haven’t picked up the wrong way from my upbringing, daily life, family, friends, etc.
- Since my native language is Spanish, I find myself surprised by the many similar words between both languages, allowing me to have an extra set of vocabulary from words that have a Latin origin. The following list shows what I mean. The words on the right are very common for me since they’re widely used in Spanish. This doesn’t mean that when writing in English I use the ones on the right more, but I didn’t have to make an extra effort in order to learn them.
|Commonly used word||My little help as Spanish speaker|
|Spill over, flood, swamp||Inundate|
|Run through, exhaust||Dissipate|
|Make up for||Rectify|
This is just a random list; there are many other words out there that could be added.
So for anybody who’s learning the language and struggling tons with it, try to see the good side 😉 Nothing is impossible, it’s just a matter of perspective, how you face and tackle things.
And you, do you think learning a language from scratch could have advantages over its native speakers?
Have you ever been asked to review/beta read or provide any kind of feedback for a manuscript or self published book?
It’s harsh. Because not every book is for everybody and not everybody is for every book. (I’ve googled this phrase ’cause I think I might have heard it before, but I found nothing. So if you happen to know who said that, please let me know so I can give the proper credits and quotes where it corresponds.) And what does this means? It means that it doesn’t matter how much you love books or how many books you’ve read in your entire life, some books may not be just for you. It all depends on personal preferences.
Through my life, I’ve read in most genres: thrillers, horror, mysteries, romance, young adult, political essays, biographies, memoirs, sci-fi, fantasy, etc., and I’m almost sure that at least I have one favorite in each genre. As some say, I read in a wide spectrum and it’s hard to define a favorite genre. It’s mostly how I connect with the book. For some readers, it’s about the characters and how they connect with them. I’m more a plot-driven person. I like things to happen, feel a flow in the narrative.
But sometimes I have issues with “classic” English books. Since most of them were written too long ago, I struggle to follow them; the writing style too different from I’m used to. And there’s the issue of my first language too, meaning that the compulsory reading I had in my school years was “way” different from traditional English literature.
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So in this task of reading “the English classics” I found myself disappointed most of the time. I have a knack for spying the reviews before I start reading them. And since classics have a good reputation, you usually find good reviews about them. But when I read them, I find myself unable to connect with the reviews. It seems like I’ve been reading a different book. I get high expectations from the “best classics of all ages” to only find myself struggling to finish them.
But the worst experience sometimes happens when you’re asked to review a book for somebody else. It could be a review for an already self-published book or a beta reading of a manuscript. It doesn’t matter how you advertise in beta read forums about enjoying thrillers and mysteries. because sometimes the sort of thriller you get is not really your cup-of-tea.
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How do you tell these people? If certainly makes it harder when the book has already been published… making bad reviews in platforms such as Goodreads or Amazon could actually damage the selling chances of the book. It’s harsh.
I wonder if there’s a way to explain your preferences in a reviewer profile that is not based on genre preference. I guess it’s part of the business. A risk you have to take as a reviewer. A training you have to embrace to improve your tactics skills in dealing with not liked books.
And you, do you think there is a good way to write a bad review for a self published book?
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Well, I’m back from one of the most thrilling experiences in my life. For those who don’t know, I had the opportunity to attend this year’s Writers Digest Conference in NYC. It was certainly an opportunity you don’t get to live very often and I’m glad I was able to take a part in it.
What did I learn?
I think all can be summarized to the following points:
- There’s still too much to learn – And it comes with time and experience. I haven’t read all the “must read” classic books or the “must read best sellers” yet, but I was relieved to find that at least I’ve read the most important/famous ones. A good fact to know is that not only it’s about reading the good old classics but also reading the latest best sellers; see what formula they’re using to be highly commercial in recent times. Old time formulas may not be suitable for these days anymore, i.e. you can’t write as Shakespeare anymore…
- I seem to be not that lost – Yeah… this was kind of gratifying actually, because even though I was there to learn new things, it was good to know that I’ve been doing my share of work and that I’m not that lost in this world of books and publishing industry. Basics such as don’t put that your “family and mom loved your manuscript” or that “you’re sure you have the next best seller” in your query letter were already good known facts to me….It felt good to know that I was not swimming in the amateur waters anymore…
- I still have a long way – I’ve just finished my first novel and I’m one hundred per cent sure that I can do it better. I feel confident that I can plot and write better stories. I know the writing process will be easier each time (hopefully the revision process as well, which is the most terrifying one for me) Nevertheless, I feel pretty confident about my first project. There were tons of conference attendees who were already in their fourth or fifth book and still learning a lot…
- I learned I can totally rock Pitch Slams – I think this was the main reason why I thought the conference was awesome. From the seven agents I pitched, I got requests from the seven. It was unbelievable. I managed to control my nervousness, forget that English is not my native language, and speak with confidence. I loved the process.
- I can manage rejection much better now – I’ve already sent my material to the seven agents yesterday. One has already replied this morning saying that “it may not be for him” (I wonder why he seemed so interested in the pitch slam. Was it because he thought it well and decided it was not for him? we’ll never know…) But even if I get these sort of replies from the other six agents, it will only be the encouragement to keep growing stronger, to keep fighting. I made a good decent start, and the sky is the limit. I’ll continue with much force. I’ll do more research. I’ll read more books. I’ll write more. I’ll try harder. I don’t plan to give up, not now when I feel so full of energy 🙂
I read a couple of blog posts I wrote more than a year ago. In these posts I was still looking for my path. I didn’t know where I stood at that point, trying to find out my true passions, looking for courage to do what I really loved. I was trying to tell the people around me that maybe I was meant to do something different from my career; ashamed to share my longtime dreams. I felt unsure of any talents I had. Now, I feel on the right path. Even though it’ll take a while to reach my goals, I know for sure, that I’m on the right track this time. And I’m very thankful to God for that.
I was so focused about writing my first book and then writing my query letter, that I never paid much attention to writing a synopsis. This requirement may appear in some agent’s submission guidelines, but not in all, other agents prefer to see a sample of your writing: first 10 pages, first chapter, etc.
I’m pretty sure I love agents who don’t ask for a synopsis. I never thought that synopses would be so hard to do. When I realized I had no way to escape them, I did some research and started writing my first synopsis. After trying to be as general as possible and outlining the main events of my novel, I finished my extremely summarized synopsis with seven pages long.
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I wasn’t sure about synopses’ regular lengths. I read somewhere that it varied from agent to agent. So I researched the agents on my targeted list and found out they asked for 1-2 pages synopsis… WHAT???? You can’t do that! was my first thought. In the first draft of seven pages, the novel was as summarized as you could imagine. After hyperventilating and recovering from my almost panic attack, I decided to revise the seven pages with the most critical eye ever. I managed to reduce it to the incredible number of five pages, not close yet.
At this point, I was about to discard the agents that asked for synopses. But I would let go many of the good ones. I had to do it. I had to be concise, straight to the point, and only mention the most important points in the story. I revised again and obtained a perfect 3.5 pages synopsis…sigh… I realized I preferred writing 100 query letters, 100 novels, than insisting on my synopsis. Why? Why? I was on the verge of knocking my head multiple times against my keyboard… but decided to try one more time, and I got 2.5 pages. The synopsis was extremely summarized.
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Where else could I cut off more information? I slept on it. The next day I revised for the last time with my short-sentence police eyes. I think I never made my brain work that much. I revised word by word. I aimed to make 7 word sentences instead of 10 word sentences, 5 sentence paragraphs into 4 sentences. There was a point when I wondered if agents would have any problems with a massive one paragraph in the synopsis as a result of merging my paragraphs to save space… I’m so happy that under pressure, I don’t surrender to this madness 🙂
After some hours, I finally did it. All sentences made an efficient use of the space and coherence. That was certainly a very rewarding achievement. When I read the finished product, it was all there, in 2 pages long, clearly identified and narrated. Why on earth would I want to add more? And I understood the concept of conciseness. There’s nothing better than short/straight and clear sentences. I’m so glad I did this one 🙂
And you, did you ever find yourself in a similar situation? How important it to write concisely?
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Since I started writing, I’ve been trying to be as proactive as possible and be involved with everything writing/editing/publishing existing in the online world. Unfortunately, I don’t have many chances to that in the real physical world, here, in my city. These are a couple of reasons:
1. There are no writing groups/courses/workshops in English.
2. The ones that exist in Spanish are not my cup of tea. Not many writers live in my location because people, unfortunately, are not much into reading (which is really sad!) But there are a couple of events if you dig really well and switch on your mafia sensors. However, it’s mostly about poetry or literary fiction. I’m not against it, but I prefer mainstream fiction; meaning thrillers, mysteries, horror, crime, espionage; exciting books that are page turners and make you lose your sleep. “Too wordy” is what comes to my mind when I attend to the spanish writing events.
Image source: www.fuelyourwriting.com
Well, to my luck, we’re not limited anymore to our locations in the world. We’re global citizens, meaning I can still write in English and access all the writing training/support online. Online webinars, workshops, writers groups in social media, blogs, etc. are only a few examples. There’s a lot out there to keep you entertained until the end of our times. So whenever, I look for feedback, I do it, here, in the web.
So the word “query letter” came almost from the beginning. It was like the defining event that would separate published writers for the non-published ones (talking about traditional publishing here). The test that would define who gets to be somebody in the vast sea of the prole (bear this with me, I’m reading a book where the word “prole” comes out every 2 seconds). But I gave it no importance from the beginning. I first had to hone my craft and write my story. Query letters would come later. Unfortunately, I’ve reached that terrified “later.” And I must be honest, I would prefer to keep writing other novels, and short stories than trying to see if my work can be publishable. But I guess, there’s no point in writing stories to keep them hidden in your desk drawer (well, in the C: drive of my computer, in this case.)
Image source: valeriekingbooks.com
So, time to query I said, and started to read as much as possible about it. I became fond of Query Shark (for those who don’t know, that is Literary Agent Janet Reid destroying writers dreams in her blog that critizices query letters) – Great source of learning by the way. Then, I produced my first query letter (first draft of the first attempt of the first time- oh! let’s faced it, I wrote a terrible first query letter). I posted it on writers support forums to receive the good vibes of others. (Spoiler alert: It isn’t like that, some people are rather straightforward and won’t emanate anything resembling good vibes.)
But I’m not playing good-vibe fisher, I’m actually tempting masochist waters. I knew I would receive hard critiques and I still did it multiple times, i.e. in several forums. The good part? I also received very good feedback and interest for the story.
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How overwhelming is this? It’s terribly overwhelming (I love that I can use adverbs, here, in my blog freely.) You get lots of advice, lots of contradicting advice, lots of questions too! (but you can’t explain the whole story in your query letter). Most of it, is very good advice (almost 90%), but there are others you must be able to filter and scan them with critical eyes. After all, support groups are opened for everybody. However, on querying letters, you have to be careful. The concept of querying is very different from one person to another. You have to rely on your instincts. So,what did I end up doing?
I left my querying critiques resting for 48 hours. Then, I got back to them with highly critical eyes. The objective: to rescue what I thought was important and accurate. I rewrote my query letter again, and then again, and then again. It’s not ready yet; it’s resting for 24 hours more before getting back to it. This works better. You can’t create the perfect query letter on the same day. You need to step away and then get back to it with critical,rested, renewed eyes. Hopefully, I’ll have it ready soon.
Now on writing the synopsis… that’s for another post.
What do you usually do when you receive too much feedback? Do you have a method to filter what works and what doesn’t? How can you tell which is good feedback and which is not?
Writers are strange creatures, stranger than you think. And the wannabe ones, like me, are even worst (For example, I just passed some work colleagues in the corridor and forgot to say “hello” why? ’cause I was thinking about some feedback I received from a query letter) They know I’m weird, but I didn’t intend to be impolite… sigh… I guess I must learn to detach from the fiction world and improve my social skills. (now you have a hint of why I have “loner” in the name of my blog)
But anyway, no more self analysis, and let’s go straight to the objective of this post: why you have to love editing services.
– Because writers are strange creatures (and back again to the first paragraph). We believe that when we write and we review like a thousand times, there’s no way we’re going to let a typo/grammar mistake slip away. After all, we’ve reviewed like ten times, we read it aloud, we passed the spell checker, we reviewed it again, and we read it again. And we think, the sentence is perfect. But wrong, the editor returns it with red everywhere and a typo that makes you just want to cringe under the bed. And you believe, Oh my god, this is embarrassing. I’m supposed to know the basics of writing. The editor must think I’m five years old.
But, yes, the dreaded “but” This is completely normal. I’ve learned to embrace Editing. We really need that set of extra eyes, you know why? because there’s a leprechaun that inhabits our brains and tells us our writing is perfect. (see? I told you, we’re strange creatures). That leprechaun is the result of writing our own world, our story, our characters and revising them continuously. We know our story too much. Continue reading “Editing services, why you need to love them! and the theory of the Leprechaun that lives in our heads.”
This may be one of the most random posts I’ve ever written. It’s just an ensemble of news/updates/internal realizations.
First, it’s quite surreal these days here in my country. Those days when you suddenly turn on CNN and the reporter is talking about the Pope visiting Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. You see, we’re never on the news, unless something terrible happened, and this time, we’re on them because of something good, for a chance.
Of course, everybody is excited, but I’ll just follow up all the events on TV. I happen not to live on one of the cities where the Pope will be arriving. And even though, many people are travelling to those cities (La Paz, Santa Cruz), at this point it’s very hard to organize a trip because everything is sold out (plane tickets, hotels, etc.)
Although, I’m a bit worried by the Pope’s arrival in El Alto (4000 meters above sea level… oh I may need to convert this for some readers 🙂 13123.36 feet above sea level (according to Google)) He’s scheduled to arrive this Wednesday and then go down to La Paz 12,087 altitude and then in less than 4 hours go back to El Alto. Did they think this well? Continue reading “The Pope is coming and I think I was an Eskimo in a previous life…”
Well, this time I’ve been lost like for ages, more than 2 or 3 weeks without blogging. Never have I missed blogging so much. But I have good reasons, but not new reasons (for those who’ve already read my posts), it was because of my manuscript (final revision, this time is the final one). It was taking me too much time and I want it to be over for once. The person who’s editing it is already working on the second part. So that means that yes, in a couple more of days, I will have to go back to it again to go through the revisions done by the editor. But I’m not worried, I’ve managed to review the changes of the first part in just one day, so the second part is not going to take me much (hope so). Well, enough talking about editing. I plan to do another post for that (some new lessons learned as always). I’m here to talk about exciting news. I’m attending Writer’s Digest Conference in NY this July 31st. Yayyyy!!! (insert dancing icons here) No, I don’t live in the US. No, I don’t have loads of money to go everywhere I please. I just thought that it would be a good Life investment and of course good vacations. And here are some of the plans/goals/realizations I have in mind for this trip: – I’m not doing it because I consider myself a great writer. I’m doing it because I’m a new aspiring writer and this step will allow me to compromise myself with this career. No, It won’t be a hobby anymore. – I’m doing it because of the talks and workshops. I know this conference is also about getting to know agents, publishers, etc. But sometimes, I believe that maybe I’m not ready for that yet. So I don’t have great expectations on that side. I’m doing it because of the two full days of talks, sessions, workshops, etc. I’m eager to learn as much as possible and absorb everything sponge-like.
Image source: www.wisegeek.com
I believe all writers are filled with doubts; from am I really good for this? will I ever publish something? will people like what I wrote? should I insist on this path? Do I have what it takes to be a good writer? etc. I think almost all writers have gone through this stage at some point in their lifes, even the accomplished ones, if not, then I’d love to know of a writer who never doubted about his/her skills, and how did he/she manage to keep confidence at all times…
However, there seems to be light in all futures. I believe that light is for the ones who never surrender and work hard to achieve their dreams. More than a year ago, I started working on this lifetime goal of being a writer. I’m still working on the editing on my first novel; but last week, I felt the impulse to put it aside for some days and let myself get involve with another project, a short story. I got this idea of a shocking ending for a story, but haven’t thought of a plot or characters yet. I was eager to see how much I had improved in my writing skills. I wanted to see if my first draft of anything else would be much better than the first draft of my novel; if I had improved in creating a plot and characters, in describing the settings, if I finally understood showing vs. telling, if the dialogue would come easier now after the experience of my first novel. So I sat and wrote an almost 3300 words short story.
Image source: shantellemaryh.blogspot.com
I dug into the Goodreads beta reading groups to see if somebody wanted to give me feedback. In the end, three people revised my story and I got really good, amazing, unbelievable feedback! It felt so good. Never ever, did I expect to receive such good feedback on my writing. I finished editing it this morning and used NaturalReader (a software that I really recommend for having your writing read to you by the computer) and I was surprised. My writing had improved a lot and the pacing and everything else was quite decent.
Image source: writingnorthidahow.blospot.com
I learned that writing is about practice and hard work. But also, I understood, that any goal in life is achievable; that it is only about perseverance and faith. I had reached a point in my novel, where I seriously doubted my writing skills. But now, I feel more empowered and more encouraged to continue writing.
And you, have you ever been in a situation where you’d almost given up but found encouragement when you less expected?
Well, I must be totally honest and admit that I really don´t remember much about the other Mad Max movies, the ones with Mel Gibson. I have a recollection of watching them when I was a kid, I remember Mel Gibson being in it, lots of cars running everywhere, particularly strange people, and sand, but that´s it. However, when I saw the trailer of this new remake, I was “Oh men I really have to see this one.”
Image source: http://www.madmaxmovie.com/
Living in a city where there are not many options for movies and movie theaters in general, there was only one other big movie (release) going around, the last installment of the Avengers. I was not very drawn into the latter, for some reason, the idea that Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and Captain American co-exist at the same time, puts me off. It´s like having Spiderman fighting next to Frodo, they just don´t fit together, well at least that´s my take on it. I love big action packed movies, but I have to admit that sometimes too much constant action, like fighting or shooting for several minutes, gets me bored, and in a feeling of needing something else. Mad Max redeemed the entire action genre; it was full action from the beginning till the end, but created in such a manner that I never got bored, not even for a single second. I´m not sure if it was drown into the anarchy of this surreal post-apocalyptic world, the contrast between beauty and the blatant repulsiveness of some characters, or watching Charlize Theron play the amputated heroin with grease on her face, but the total impact of the movie was mind-blowing. Each detail and scene were just so freaking bizarre and disturbing that it only made the movie even more interesting.
Images source: http://www.madmaxmovie.com/
Now Tom Hardy (who´s totally hot, I know I know… but I couldn’t help mentioning it) plays the main character: Max; Continue reading “Mad Max: Fury Road = Badass movie”
Well, currently I have 4 people reading my manuscript. Two of them are very good friends, one is my potential editor (we haven´t agreed on that yet), and another is an official Swap Beta Reader Partner (I don´t know if there is a term for that, just correct me if there is a better way say it.)
My SBRP (Swap Beta Reader Partner) was actually fun to find. I dig up into the Beta Readers Group from Goodreads and I found some people asking for beta readers. Of course, I knew that the best way to find a Beta Reader was by offering to read first for somebody else, so that maybe later, I could seek for the same favour in return. I was struggling to find an interesting manuscript blurb that I would love to read, one that would take me away from the books I´m reading now (Yes, I haven´t learned my lesson, I´m still reading several books at once, you can check out my previous post, to know what I mean). Anyway, a story blurb called my attention, it was a memoir manuscript. Memoirs are usually not my first pick when I go to bookstores, unless it comes from somebody famous (no celebrity type, but other interesting people). I must admit that I actually enjoyed all the memoirs I´ve ever read, so I thought it would be a good option to beta read for this author. I was thrilled to find out that she was willing to swap manuscripts, even better! that way I had somebody else guaranteed to read my manuscript in return.
I´m thrilled about my SBRP. I´ve already started reading her manuscript, and although we set a time frame of 10 days, I´m about to reach half of her manuscript in less than 2 days. It´s really good and I´m looking forward to see it published. And this leaves me in an insecure state, I can´t stop worrying about my manuscript. I mean, I know it´s my first novel ever and that I still have a long path until I learn how to do it properly, but still I can´t avoid thinking: “OMG, what happens if she is hating my manuscript or she´s getting so bored that she can´t see a way to finish it?” I know, insecurities on first time writers are normal. I know many of us fear sharing our work. But I guess, I just have to deal with it and take the feedback as best as I can.
I don´t fear too much the feedback from my friends (that´s why it´s necessary to get other beta readers besides your friends), because even though I asked them to be as honest as possible, I know they will try to do it in a way that doesn’t disencourage me.
How about you? For the people who write out there, did you face those fears when you had beta readers reading your work? I would love to hear your experience with beta readers.
I have a feeling that fan fiction writing will never be taken seriously. I have a confession to make, I used to write fan fiction some time ago. And even though, I’m not looking forward to pursue that path (that doesn’t mean that I won’t do it again), I will always be very fond of it.
How did I start writing fan fiction?
I’m a big nerd (proud to admit it 🙂 ) and the type of geek girl who is always into movies and series fandom. So many years ago, I discovered the world of fan fiction; where fans could read stories of their favorite movie/TV characters in other environments, situations, episode endings, etc. In few words, what fans didn’t get to see on the screen, or what they thought could had happened, was written into many types of fan fiction stories; some of them really imaginative, twisted, and of course with all types of adult censorships.
Image source: ladygeekgirl.wordpress.com
So when I discovered this world, I got into it very deeply. I would first read dozens of them per day everywhere all the time. I got obsessed with it. But there were few stories that I actually liked. It was as if I was looking for the right story; the one that explained how exactly I thought TV character X did Y in episode Z. Rarely seldom, I found satisfying stories. Let’s accept it, every mind is different. Some fans were too much into certain aspects that I didn’t consider important, and others were just, let’s just say weird…
So how did I got into writing them? Well, since I couldn’t find the stories that actually gave me a feeling of “closure”, Continue reading “Writing fan fiction? cheer up!”
This is a fun post, no analyzing the depths of my soul, my writing struggles, or doing thorough reviews of movies and books (actually my reviews are far away from that …)
So April’s fool day is not known in my country, but since we’re all now “globally connected”, we can’t avoid getting exposed to it.
I loved these ones for this year:
This one is from Tesco. Wouldn’t it be cool not only to reach the top shelves by jumping but also to navigate the supermarket with long strides? Of course, I can imagine when the place gets crowded, you could risk of bumping into another with a “little bit” of impulse/force.
A smart knife? We may laugh now but who knows! maybe the knife could tell us the amount of pressure to cut something, or the number of times we need to finish cutting an onion. Maybe the knife could alert us when we’re cutting those tomato squares wrong, or when we’re grabbing the handle wrong … I can start imagining a sort of app with the gravatar of your choice that tells you: You missed that! That chunk is too big! 😀
Ever been to the London Eye? Well, it’s absolutely amazing! but it takes aprox. 40 minutes to take the whole ride around. It’s not boring … but I wouldn’t do it twice. Wouldn’t it be better to have a zero gravity feature inside each capsule? I think it’s time to update these capsules! Only one tip, as girls we’ll have to be careful not to wear dresses or skirts on our visits… unless you don’t mind flashing underwear 😀
This one if from Virgin Trains. Now, I seldom use trains, but I know many places where people use them everyday to commute. On long journeys, it’s nice to delve into a book, but sometimes, the time spent there could be more useful… remember how we always seem to find the “no time” excuse for not going to the gym? Well, how about a gym on wheels while we commute back home? (It could be on the way to work, but showers would need to be a must inside the train) It’s actually a cool idea.
I don’t know how useful is this one from Domino’s pizza. But hell, doesn’t it look awesome? I could definitely see myself ordering pizza just to have one of this cool robots delivering pizza to my place. They kind of look like Eva on a bike from the Wall-E movie right?
This one is where you say: “Oh come on! you’ve got to be kidding!” yep, I would never see myself liking or using this. Unfortunately, our technology frenzy times are so crazy, that I can see some people actually thinking about developing this reversed toilet… Just one tip, never use the camera with this, come on, is disgusting!
Actually, I see this one being developed in the future. Many people out there are obsessed with tanning (not me) and I know these spray showers exist everywhere (even the girls who go to these beauty pageants use it! grr…) But no matter how against I’m into this, I can see some shower appliances with an extra feature for adding the tanning spray and I definitely see people buying it.
Lol! I would buy this one for all my friends who are on diet! just to see their faces (the evil inside me 😀 ) what I really like is the message attached to it “Because it’s not always what’s on the inside that counts”, yep but the interior of my Toblerone is sacred! 😀
Of course, this one is stupid, but it’s just so ironic! In our empty-brained digital social media era, I just can’t avoid feeling that this could actually happen sometime in the future (less the Holiday win, if that ever happened, I would just give up on Humanity) Just an irony of what’s happening in our daily lives as we see ourselves influenced and almost totally controlled by the power of social media.
Now, don’t laugh! Some people actually love the smell of their favorite smoking hamburger and wouldn’t mind using this perfume … (Not me I swear!)
Now, this one if my favorite! This one is from shoe store Miz Mooz (if the store wasn’t that know before, now it’s got it’s fifteen minutes of fame) It’s just so damn hilarious, and stupid, and funny. It’s a satire of how ridiculous we look when we take selfies (Yes, I’m not into selfies…)
Which one do you like the best? which one was the worst? Did you get a hold of another one that was also hilarious?
Editing can exhaust you. I’m still on the editing stage of my writing and I found it hard, really hard.
I find myself wishing I could only write, write, and write as many stories as possible… and have somebody else do all the editing stuff. Of course, this poor being, the “editing person” wouldn’t understand a sh**t of my writing since my first drafts tend to be terrible.
Editing is taking all my energies. Why? (Please consider this is my first time editing my work, so maybe next time the process will change a lot, a.k.a. I intend to write much better first drafts) So why do I struggle so much with it? These are the main focus points of my editing:
- In my editing, I delve into characters as much as possible
- I try to make pacing well…. The right pacing
In delving into my characters…
As Stephen King says, we should write with the door closed and edit with the door opened. Well, since I wrote with the door closed, I managed to convince myself to edit with the door opened. This situation has taken me to uncomfortable situations described below.
I find myself doing these weird actions:
ACTION speaking the dialogs out loud to spot my tone voice, the accuracy of words (meaning if they really sound as “dialog” and not as boring description), and the feeling of each phrase in general.
RESPONSE Some scared people circulating in my house watching me speak in a foreign language while whining, screaming, shouting (or doing whatever my character is doing)
ACTION trying to feel inside my character, be my character, step into his shoes, mind, whatever there is to step into.
RESPONSE Again some disturbed people in my house watching me making faces to a mirror as I try to look sad, happy, etc.
But besides the fact that people in my house are already looking for a psychiatric institution for me, what is the problem with delving into characters?
I get exhausted. After only a couple of pages, sometimes only one or two… I feel all my energy lost, making it very difficult to make progress in my writing. (I have set up a goal of at least 10 pages per day)
And what about the right pacing?
This point has got me erasing tons of paragraphs, adding tons of new ones, and probably erasing them the next day again. I feel I still need to find a “technique” in this.
In some paragraphs, action scenes and characters would move too fast without giving too much thought to feelings, etc., for example, “the man grabbed the knife, stabbed three times and run….”
But in other scenes, I will find myself describing every lash of anger, every tensed muscle of a character’s body.
The result, a weird pacing….
I’m trying to find a balance here. I found that it actually depends on my mood… and how long I’ve been editing that day. In other words, I start with energy at its peak, writing strong character-driven scenes, and after an hour or so, I just want to narrate the scenes as fast as possible.
So, the idea of this post is to get as much feedback as possible. Many of you have already been through this or at least have more experience than me.
What do you do to Not get exhausted so fast when you’re feeling too much inside a character’s head?
How do you deal with pacing? Is it common to start with full energy and then just get bored? Would you recommend me to shorten the amount of pages I had set up as a goal for editing per day?
So I have guilty pleasures, and some are related to a couple of YA books out there. You see I’m a slow reader, but with the Divergent series, I broke my reading time records (like just a couple of days for each one). I’m not going to talk about if the book is good, if the writing is good, etc. Nope, this post is not about that. It’s just how much readers get their hopes in when they have a visual representation, a movie, of their favorite stories.
Why do we care?
Because when we read a story, we imagine the characters, the settings, and the whole story in our heads. So when we hear that a movie will be “based” on it, we get excited hoping to find that everything we pictured in our heads as we read the book will be consciously represented on the screen.
Why is not always like that?
Because we can’t fit all the details in less than 2 hours. And because, movies are different from books. Most movies are there for entertaining purposes or for stimulating our visual senses. We can’t get ten pages of character’s emotional inner struggle in a movie. If you take movies like me, that they exist for entertainment purposes and not for lulling you into sleep, then you get this point.
Should we demand movie producers respect the book storyline?
No, it’s only “based on”. Film studios have no obligation to remain loyal to the author’s story. And they have their own scriptwriters who know what works best in a movie and what doesn’t.
And what about Insurgent? (the second installment of the Divergent series, in case you’re not familiar with it)
It’s a freaking good movie. If you didn’t read the book, the better for you; you’ll be able to assess the movie entirely from its entertaining potential. If you read it, stop comparing it to the book. The book was a story written by Veronica Roth, and it ends up there, in the papers of the book and if the picture you made up in your mind. The movie is another thing.
Was I aware of this perspective when I went to see the movie?
Of course not! I was the person who in Divergent nagged my companion all the time telling her: “in the book it was not like that… in the book…. ” Oh, poor her….
In the second one, I had the same inner struggle, but this time I kept it to myself, or my friend would have killed me. But this time when the movie ended, and I forced myself to forget the book, I found out that the movie was actually very well developed and very well told. Very entertaining. I even found myself wishing some scenes would have been added to the book (don’t tell Veronica Roth 🙂 )
It’s one thing to love books and to love the stories and wish we could see the exact visual representations on the big screen, but let’s face it, it’s not going to happen. The magic of books will always remain on their pages and the skills we use to dive into the story. The power we have to imagine those words. That’s the beauty of books. We don’t need to have forced flat representations on screen. Movies are a different type of art, a visual art. Let’s stop trying to match them and keep the books and their wonderful stories to us.
And you, do you ever find yourself wishing the movie was exactly the same as the book? Do you easily get disappointed when you find that it’s not what you imagined from the book? Other movies/books that you can think of where you found this difference or rather a quite accurate resemblance between the two?
A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about twitter: Struggling with a place where people don’t use Twitter. In this post, I talked about how I had decided to start using Twitter as a way to build up my Author platform and how I was struggling with it. I was using the guide: Build your Author Platform: The New Rules: A Literary Agent’s guide to growing your audience in 14 steps, which I completely recommend. The book suggested that I start following friends and coaxing them into following me. But being in a country where Twitter is actually not popular, didn’t help much.
I must confess I considered buying Twitter followers. But I was scared of two issues:
- I would pay for a scam
- I would buy fake followers that would disappear later (which I heard happens a lot, one day you got 10000 followers and a couple of days later you don’t have them)
In the end, I desisted from the buying idea, and I’m proud to say that I’m about very close to get 700 REAL followers with just hard work.
Image source: http://www.seoclerk.com
Why am I so proud of this followers?
Because I know they are:
- Nice people who tweet nice things
- Active twitter users – not just accounts that were opened once and then their owners just forgot about them
I’ve managed to engage with many of them. I know most of them are bookworms like me or are struggling writers as me. So when I review my Home feed, I always get very interesting tweets. And I know that when I tweet, I get interesting replies or retweets.
Of course, Twitter is not only about getting followers. Mostly, in order to get followers, you also have to follow. That’s why I’m very careful who I choose to follow. I really want to get good decent Twitter users to interact with. I don’t want to be guided by just numbers. I want to get quality followers.
Image source: www.steamfeed.com
Why am I so interested in the quality followers?
I’m into social networking because: I truly believe you can network and build contacts than later can turn into good advisors, supporters, and even friends.
Through this blog, for example, I’ve managed to get in contact with many nice bloggers. I have managed to find people who have the same struggles as me and who are also looking for support and encouragement.
So if anybody of you is highly worried about getting numbers, just try to forget that side, and concentrate on the quality of connections you get. You’ll see how those numbers will just grow little by little.
And you, do you ever question yourself how to grow your numbers in your platform? Do you even care about this? Feel free to post your opinions.
P.S. Just in case, my twitter handle is: @carlisdm, leave yours to connect!
My whole life, or since I can remember, I’ve been invaded by Ganglion cysts in my wrists. Those are small liquid balls that appear in your wrists for no apparent reason but to disturb your life. They usually come and go, but some of them like to stick around causing pain. I’ve already got them surgically removed twice, leaving “good looking” scars.
The thought about scars is that they always leave space for good stories, like the one on my right wrist that led this weird guy in a club approach and tell me that He used to do that but not anymore… it took me time to realize that he thought it was some sort drug mark or maybe suicide attempt (which would be dumb since veins are on the other side of the wrist), and when I told him No dude is not what you think, he told me something like Yeah I used to deny it too… anyway…
Image source: www.canstockphoto.com
The problem now is that the “thing” as I call it, won’t go until my hand stops making “efforts”, the good doctor has advised me to use the wrist the least possible, type the least, which me having a full time job as a Technical Writer and having the long-time dream of becoming a Fiction writer, maybe be outputting… but I guess life is not always easy…
Luckily, there are always ways, and I’m happy that I found them. I’ve reduced my manuscript edition workload to the use of pen and paper, right hand is the good one this time (lucky me!), and I’ll see if I can find somebody later who can do all the computer typing. Also, typing at work has improved thanks to a recently acquired Ergonomic keyboard which is magnificent! And since I had to be careful with the type of exercise I chose (one where I don’t use hands), I bought myself an AirClimber (my first Teleshopping – equivalent to QVC – purchase ever!) and I love it!.
And although my hand may not agree with my writing duties and lifestyle, I still have found ways to overcome this situation. And you, have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? (it doesn’t have to involve ganglion cysts)
I’m reading four books at the same time right now, well according to my Goodreads account five, but one is about grammar, so it doesn’t really count as reading a book per se (more about studying/reviewing the book). I didn’t intend this situation to happen but got into this without thinking.
Image source: roadtobabylon.com
I’m officially reading (meaning the book by my nightstand) Exposure by Kathy Reichs. Then I started to read In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming when I went on vacations. You see, I wanted to bring a pocket book that I could sneak on planes and everywhere, and I happened to have this one in this version. Then of course, I started with one of my audiobooks, I really like to listen audiobooks whenever I’m driving, riding the bus, or doing cleaning chores, so I started with Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. And then it’s Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, which is the kindle book I get to read whenever I have time at work (which haven’t got much recently and hence may take a while until I finish this one). See, I really didn’t intend this to happen. I find it disturbing, wishing I never got in this situation. Not only I don’t know which one I want to finish first when I have some time off 🙂 but also I get confused between characters and plots (wait wasn’t there an abandoned baby in the plot? (In the Bleak Midwinter) the Virals were trying to find out who was the mother? (Exposure).
My reading situation may sound hilarious, but it is not. The intention of this blog is to advise you against these crazy reading habits 🙂 Just grab one book and finish it first before going to other. Period.
And you have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Do you think is possible to read many fiction books at the same time?
Image source: www.goodsheperd.notts.sch.uk
So February arrived, and I believe January has been one of the longest months ever!
I started 2015 really well, with my goals set in mind all the time. I feel they are already so engraved in me right now, that it would take the end of the world to drag me away from them, which is good.
The problem now, is that I need to slow down. I have managed to cultivate the habit of writing every single day or else I cannot go to sleep.
In this month, I’ve read a couple of books on grammar, styling, and how to write in general. I’m also about to finish revising my first manuscript. Then, the second revision round will come, and maybe my beta readers will have to wait until March to get their hands on the story.
But right now, I found I’m overdoing the process of writing. After I finished the first manuscript, I didn’t get away from it for a considerable amount of time (as everybody suggested) before revising. Now, I find myself confused about my main character, his role, and why he has become boring. Additionally, the story seems a little bit overwritten, too many things going on, too many things to tie, etc. So, it’s time for a break from the manuscript. I’m really looking forward for my next vacation, which will be exactly in ten days. I’m not a beach person, but this time, I’m really looking forward to go, sit, and just relax.
Image source: http://www.evilenglish.net
Slow down, should be my motto for February now. Sometimes you can be so motivated, so full of energy, that you don’t pause to breath and risk of wearing yourself out.
So February will be the month where I find myself relaxing. I’ve already started yesterday. I’ve been reading so many books on How to Write, that it had been one entire month since I hadn’t read a good novel. Yesterday, I grabbed one book from my shelf that I haven’t been able to put my hands on yet (Exposure by Kathy Reichs, yeah, big fan of Bones over here), and the feeling of getting into a novel, discovering characters, and following the suspense building of the story, had no price. Damn I said to myself, I forgot about this, about why I wanted to be a writer in first place. I have promised to myself, that no matter what the current events in my life are, I should never forget about going without reading a good book.
For those who write, have you ever come to a similar problem like mine?
I used to do a resolutions list every single 31st of December of every year. It always felt as if the beginning of the new year would bring the new opportunities, the new hopes, for the life of my dreams.
My resolutions list for 2014 was different. It was not focused in the common wishes like losing weight, exercising, eating healthier, etc. They were mainly focused on writing goals and other objectives that would lead me to achieve the personal growth I wanted to achieve. I reviewed that list in the early days of December. I found out I didn’t achieve most of them, not because I’ve been lazy, procrastinated, etc. but because most of them were not the the right goals.
Image source: memesapp.com
In 2014, I started to find my way, to grow as a person, to understand what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, to work hard on it, and to persevere until I learned what working hard on your dreams really meant. I completed all of that.
This December 31st, I sat down with an empty paper ready to write my 2015 goals. It took me less than 15 seconds to realize that I didn’t have to write anything else. I knew clearly where my mind was heading, I knew what I have to do, I knew I was already working on it, and finally, I recognized that I was just fine, I was doing what I always wanted to do and I was on the right track. So, there was nothing else to write, things were crystal clear in my head as to how to proceed and act.
Of course, I still have some big goals for this year, but I know them by heart, I don’t need to write them down or make an elaborate plan on how to achieve them, I already know how. I already know that it’s just about hard work, and I’m already into it. Gosh, this feels so wonderful.
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And you, do you write resolutions every year? do you achieve them? did you write resolutions for this year? I would like to hear about you in the comments.
So the book I’m reading of how to build an author platform informs me that I should use Twitter, yep that very popular social network that works everywhere but in Bolivia, and I don’t mean that you can access the site here, but that people just don’t get it and hence don’t use it.
Many people in my country use Facebook, WhatsApp, and many other social networs, plainly frequently, but Twitter is the exception, it has been left out, the poor one 😦 . So when the author platform book said “start gathering your followers with your friends and work colleages…” I was “hello? is anybody here using Twitter?”. After some blank stares, I must have found only 3 people who used it, but never actually “USED IT” in the sense of the word, just opened the account some time ago, and that was it, they were officially in twitter.
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That left me wondering? why? but why? as I got into Twitter, started tweeting, retweeting, using hashtags, and all the things you do on Twitter, I started understanding why this platform wasn’t popular in my country.
- First, people here are not into expressing and opening to the outer world. In twitter, for example, you can post an awesome picture and, with the right followers, and hashtags, you could get “Twitter-famous” from one day to the other.
- Other social networks are more about your circle of friends, the people you know, the pictures where you recognize friends’ gatherings, families, etc. We’re still a closed society here, and there’s a lot of: who you are friends with, who do you know, etc., so everything happens among the people you know, not strangers. People here are not into making random friends from elsewhere… And yep, Twitter is mostly all about that. I mostly don’t know the people that follow me, and unless I’ve been following some famous person or a celebrity, I usually follow people that seem cool according to what they tweet, even if I don’t really don’t know them.
Image source: thesocialskinny.com
So I made a quick poll, among friends, I asked them “Why don’t you use Twitter? or Why do you think bolivians are not into Twitter?. These are some answers I got:
- People here are not so used to express in few words (the 140 restriction which drives me insane)
- It´s about gossip worst than Facebook
- Because I don´t see any benefit on it
- It´s enough with Facebook, why would I have Twitter?
- People here are used to personalize social networks and are more into wanting to know what their friends will say or tell. They’re not into free expression, not because it’s banned, but because it’s not motivated, and we feel inhibited. (I like this one, it comes from a friend that actually uses twitter, thanks Vanessa 🙂
So after all these reasons and opinions, I really don’t have a strong opinion about Twitter, all I know is that it’s good to have it for an author platform. So for any of you of my brilliant blog followers out there, if any of you would like to follow me on Twitter, please do so at: @carlisdm
And if you have any strong opinions of why you like or don’t like twitter, please feel free to leave your comments!!!
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Well, it took me some time to write this post. I was kind of busy preparing my exit at my current job and readying for my new job. I will start in November working as Happiness Engineer for Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com and many other web solutions that seek to make the web a better place). So of course, I’m thrilled. The title of the position is very accurate actually. Happiness engineers deliver customer support but also go beyond that; they make sure WordPress.com users (mostly) go through a smooth and happy experience as they build and manage their blogs or sites.
Having the opportunity to help people with their sites’ issues and provide them advice, tips, and tools to make things better are exactly the tasks I enjoy the most. Anticipating their needs and contributing with their blogs’ journeys is fantastic. Of course, we can’t solve everything. And I really wish we could, but being there to support and empathize with them is what makes this a great job. We deliver a little bit of happiness in each of our tasks.
So, how did I find this position? It was not that easy, and it was a long path. Basically, you need to prove you’re a good match for this company. And how do you do that? Well, Automattic looks for people who’re interested in learning every single day and growing each time more (I love that!). And what better way to know if you’re a good match for them than to “trying yourself”? Yes, you do that. You go through a paid trial so they can assess if you’re a good fit for the company’s culture or not. But this trial doesn’t only work for their assessment, you also get to taste the company’s culture and see if the role is made for you.
What other characteristics are awesome about Automattic? The company is totally distributed. Meaning that Automatticians (people who work at Automattic) get to work from wherever they are in the world. Living and being from Bolivia, this is certainly a huge plus. (Although, I totally believe the future will be like this). They hire based on what you can bring into the company and not based on where you’re located or if it’s possible to relocate. And let’s be honest, as a passionate traveler, I’m excited about working remotely.
However, you can’t only assess a company based on the benefits and your position. You need to hunt for the “totally awesome” career factors. You need to hunt for a company that will push you to grow, learn endlessly, and contribute as much as possible. In the little time as a HE trial, I’ve learned more than what I did in all my career life. Period. I can only imagine how much I will be able to learn once I start working with them. My skills will grow exponentially 🙂 And although many companies push you towards continuous learning, some of them actually limit you without noticing (after all, they want you to make the job for which you were hired and not intervene too much with others’ work). At Automattic, I’m sure I won’t be limited. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a technical background (like me), your opinion and your work is taken into account. You can even rotate and explore as many areas as you like. 🙂
So why do I believe this is my dream job? For me working as HE will let me:
- Help people every single day and at every single second
- Grow and learn every single second
- Have infinite possibilities to contribute
- Have more flexibility to travel and get to know the world
- Have really awesome perks (Did I mention you get to travel a couple of times a year to meet the team and the company, you get your home office set up – with the best laptop in the market, the chair of my dreams, a huge monitor, a great desk, endless WordPress swag – and so many other perks?)
I’m super excited. I know the job is going to be challenging (which I look forward to), but at the same time I feel like I’ve received one of the greatest opportunities to have finally the life that I want. I’m also excited to continue writing my books. But the writing journey conditions will be a million times better with a great job supporting me and my family.
Wow, only writing this title was an amazing experience. All writers must work, there’s no doubt about that (unless you land a big publishing contract that could only come after decades of experience 🙂 ) But wouldn’t it be great to make your writing journey while you have one of the best jobs ever? I’m still so thrilled that I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull off this post or not.
It was really hard. It was Not one of those jobs where you apply, you get an interview and voilá you got the job. It was hard work and nothing else, and this makes this experience so rewarding because you know you fought for it; the results are only about perseverance and never giving up. It’s about being stronger than you believe. It’s about knowing you really did your best. That’s why this is the best job ever. A job where you get to help people, a job where you get to learn every single day, a job where you get to prove yourself every single day, a job where you can contribute, a job where you can grow endlessly, what else could you want?
Writing is one of my passions! And I will continue writing because it’s in my nature, and I cannot imagine myself living without writing, but when you have a job that makes your day happy every single day, then writing time is definitely going to be the best!
And for all those wondering, what job is this? I’ll get you the details in a next post 🙂
I usually never get spam emails. My email account filters them nicely to my spam folder. But today somehow the email below managed to get into my Inbox:
From: Jon W. Rosborough <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, 22 July 2016, 7:25
Subject: YOUR URGENT RESPOND IS NEEDED
Wilmington International Airport
1740 Airport Blvd. Suite 12
Wilmington, NC 28405
Sorry for the delay in sending this message, We were checking over some files and packages in the office and we discover an ATM CARD which was addressed on your name, (I think it is Contract/Inheritances funds) I believe you can remember a dealing that has to do with some cooperate body or individual about this said funds to be deliver to you through an (ATM CARD) but I do not have any idea why it was on hold at our Airport up-to-date.
So we contacted the Authorities and they asked us to get in contact with Senator Richard Burr, to get an approval to figure out what was in the package, After checking over the ATM CARD, we discover a total sum of $5.5,000.000 ($5.5 Million USD) through the router figurative machine who check on balance through the number on a ATM CARD, so we report back to the Senator Richard Burr and we were asked to deliver the package to you from this office. (Senator Richard Burr, City Hall, Room 222 181 South Street Gastonia, NC 28052) We need you to reconfirm your full name and Home address to see if it will show on the package we have here. And also if you want your ATM CARD to be delivered to you immediately, it will cost you just only $95.00 which is the charges for the delivery clearance certificate of your ATM card, meanwhile your ATM CARD is save with our securities service so please have that in mind. The information above is where the ATM CARD was stopped at Wilmington International Airport North Carolina.
THIS MAIL IS NOT A SPAM OR SCAM MESSAGE, WE CAN DELIVER YOUR ATM CARD TODAY IF WE RECEIVED REPLY FROM YOU, I HAVE INCLUDED MY NAME AND MY SSN: 768 67 6797 FOR YOU TO KNOW THAT I AM FOR REAL AND NOT A SCAM IF YOU NEED TO VERIFY ME, SO STOP DEALING WITH ANY BODY IF YOU HAVE SOME IMPOSTERS YOU ARE DEALING WITH AND FOCUS ON GETTING YOUR ATM CARD HERE IN WILMINGTON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED NOT TO DISCLOSE THIS DEAL TO NO ONE OR ELSE TERMINATION FROM THE HOUSE OF SENATE WILL PENETRATE ON YOUR FUNDS DUE TO THE FACT THAT YOU WERE TRYING TO CONTACT ANOTHER PERSON TO FIND OUT WHAT THIS IS, SO NO MISTAKE OF SUCH WILL BE TOLERATED.
Mr. Jon W. Rosborough
As I read the email, my eyes hurt noticing all punctuation, grammar, and general writing mistakes. Since it’s Friday and I was in the mood to do something funny:
I answered the following (I doubt they’ll ever reply me):
Thanks but this not my card. I picked up mine last month at Dulles International airport. My deal was bigger: it involved 10 million $us. But I wish you luck finding the real owner. However, you really need to polish your writing here. Below is a sample of my editing services. If you need to polish other emails like this one, send me as soon as possible to my paypal account the small amount of $us 250. I’ll be happy to assist you.
Wilmington International Airport
1740 Airport Blvd. Suite 12
Wilmington, NC 28405
Compliment (what is the compliment? to address a formal email use the following words: “To whom it may concern”, “Dear xxx”, etc.)
Sorry for the delay in sending this message, (wrong punctuation. Period) We were checking over some files and packages in the office and we discover (past tense “discovered”) an ATM CARD which was addressed on (wrong preposition, use “to”) your name, (I think it is Contract/Inheritances funds)_(missing period here) I believe you can remember a dealing (a “deal”) that has to do (“is related” to?) with some cooperate body (there is no such things as “cooperate body”) or individual about this said funds to be deliver (passive voice, use: “delivered”) to you through an (ATM CARD) (no need of parentheses here) but I do not have any idea why it was on hold at our Airport up-to-date. (poor choice of words, perhaps “until now”?)
So we contacted the Authorities (no need to capitalize) and they asked us to get in contact with Senator Richard Burr, (misplaced comma) to get an approval to figure out (poor choice of words, perhaps to “find out”, “research”, etc.) what was in the package, (wrong punctuation here. You need a period) After checking over the ATM CARD, we discover (use past tense here, “discovered”) a total sum of $5.5,000.000 ($5.5 Million USD) through the router figurative machine (there is not such machine…) who (if this is a machine performing the operation, then you need to use “that”, not “who”) check (past tense: “checked”) on balance through the number on a (change it to the definite article “the”) ATM CARD, (poor writing here, this sentence is too long, you need to put a period a start another one) so we report (past tense: “reported”) back to the Senator Richard Burr and we were asked to deliver the package to you from this office. (Senator Richard Burr, City Hall, Room 222 181 South Street Gastonia, NC 28052) We need you to reconfirm your full name and Home (no need to capitalize here) address to see if it will show on the package we have here. And also (it’s poor writing to start sentences with conjunctions such as “and” followed by the connector “also”) if you want your ATM CARD to be delivered to you immediately, it will cost you just only (poor writing, avoid these words) $95.00 which is (“are”, you are referring to the “charges” which is plural) the charges for the delivery clearance certificate of your ATM card, meanwhile your ATM CARD is save (passive voice: “saved”) with our securities service so please have that in mind. The information above is where the ATM CARD was stopped (“was stopped”? do you mean “detained”, “held”…) at Wilmington International Airport North Carolina.
THIS MAIL IS NOT A SPAM OR SCAM MESSAGE, (wrong punctuation, you need to use a period) WE CAN DELIVER YOUR ATM CARD TODAY IF WE RECEIVED (you must continue the same structure here and use present “receive”) REPLY FROM YOU, (wrong punctuation, you need to use a period) I HAVE INCLUDED MY NAME AND MY SSN: 768 67 6797 FOR YOU TO KNOW THAT I AM FOR REAL AND NOT A SCAM IF YOU NEED TO VERIFY ME (poor writing, you need to rewrite the whole sentence and use a simple statement such as “…. my SSN to verify that I am not a scan.”), (Period here) SO (Stop using “so”, this is so colloquial,informal) STOP DEALING WITH ANY BODY (this is one word: “anybody”, by the way, you can’t address a person like this, it sounds like a threat and you’re losing credibility here)_ (missing punctuation here: Period) IF YOU HAVE SOME IMPOSTERS YOU ARE DEALING (you really need to check your sentence structure. It’s all over the place and there’s no coherence at all …) WITH AND FOCUS ON (is this a command, a threat? you need to polish your people skills here…) GETTING YOUR ATM CARD HERE IN WILMINGTON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, (wrong punctuation, you should use period to separate complete sentences) YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED NOT TO (wrong order of words “to not”) DISCLOSE THIS DEAL TO NO ONE OR ELSE TERMINATION FROM THE HOUSE OF SENATE WILL PENETRATE ON YOUR FUNDS DUE TO THE FACT THAT YOU WERE TRYING TO CONTACT ANOTHER PERSON TO FIND OUT WHAT THIS IS (terribly long sentence with no coherence at all), SO NO MISTAKE OF SUCH WILL BE TOLERATED.
Mr. Jon W. Rosborough
By the way, I’m not Lucy and I don’t intend to charge $us 250. I was just in the mood of laughing today 🙂
When I started working on my first book, I had the following plan:
- I would finish the draft in four of five months at most
- I would make a thorough review of the first manuscript and in one single edition round I would correct everything that is wrong.
- My beta readers will read it in a couple of weeks and I would rejoice in his/her wonderful comments
- I would find a great Literary agent in a blink of an eye
- I would have the book published in that same year
- I would live from my writing and would travel the world.
I was naïve. REALLY naive.
This is the second year I’m investing in my first book. I’m still editing it. So far I’ve come to understand the following:
- Doing the first draft is by far the easiest and quickest part of the process
When I finished the first draft, I was so thrilled. I felt I have conquered the world and I could be called a writer. I was so proud of myself. I thought that finally I was making something good with my life, that I was looking towards the future, towards my goals, you get the point…The truth is that writing the first draft is the easiest part. You can even achieve it in one month (If you want to test the efficiency of NaNoWriMo). But rest assured the first draft will not be readable yet. Chances are it will still have lots of plot holes and huge amounts of rewrite to be done.
2. Planning one round of revision is not realistic at all
There will be many rounds of revision. It’s hard to rewrite scenes, plot holes, and work on character development while editing your grammar and punctuation at the same time. You’ll probably need another round, and perhaps a third one, etc. Additionally, after your beta readers come to you with feedback, chances are you’ll probably need to change and rewrite many sections of your book which will lead you to another round of sentence structure/grammar review, etc., again.
3. Leaving your first manuscript to rest for a couple of weeks and even a month is not a bad idea
I knew about this tip way before I finished my first manuscript. Nonetheless, I was in such a hurry of having everything done that as soon as I finished my first manuscript, I started to edit it on the very next day. I didn’t leave it to rest and breath. My head didn’t have time to clear enough to target my manuscript with a fresh point of view. The result was several pointless rounds of revision until I decided to finally give myself a break and leave the manuscript for a month. During this time, I wrote other short stories, I read more, etc. When I finally returned to my old good manuscript, my mind was fresh and I could detect more issues than in all those previous three rounds. I identified huge gaps where I could improve. If only I’ve done that before my first round of revision… I would’ve probably faced my manuscript with much better criteria from the first edition round.
4. Your beta readers won’t give you feedback in a couple of weeks
I had three good beta readers, but it took time to receive their feedback. You have to take into account that not all of them are available to read your manuscript as soon as you deliver it. Unless you’re paying for a beta reading service, most of these people will be doing you a favor. You’ll probably need to wait until they have time. Not all of them can read books in a couple of days; they might need more time. Not all of them have only your book to read; they might need to put it in their queue of “still to read books”.
5. Good Beta Readers will say the truth and cause many changes in your book
Let’s face it. This is your first book ever. You can’t expect to nail a best seller that soon. You’ll need a lot of time,experience, and good listening skills. You need to pay attention to your beta reader’s feedback. And I’m talking about good beta readers, not your mom, your husband, etc., but people who will be able to judge the manuscript and say what is in their minds without any fear of hurting your feelings. You have to acknowledge that as the author of your book, you know how the plot works, you know how characters look in your mind, but sometimes you fail to translate this knowledge into the written world. Chances are you’ll still need to change and rewrite after your beta reader’s feedback.
6. Character development is not achieved at once
If this is your first book, then you’ll probably struggle with nailing “character development”. Even if you outline characters before you start the book, they’ll probably develop and change as your plot changes. Their behaviors will change depending on how the direction of your books goes or how scenes are improved. Providing a three-dimensional character is harder than you think. It wasn’t until many revisions and feedback that I had enough tools to develop my characters as they should.
7. Developing your voice doesn’t come so fast
It doesn’t matter how many books about writing you read and how many writing courses you attend. Developing your voice only comes with practice. Sometimes, you want to obey all writing rules and make your sentences’ structure perfect, but then you find yourself with a boring flat manuscript. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to know the rules. To break the rules, you need to know them first. But you can’t expect to find your writing voice in the first round of writing. Perhaps you won’t even find it in your first book.
8. Don’t hire any editing service until you’ve received plenty feedback
I made the mistake of hiring an editing service (which was very good) before I got all the feedback. My third beta reader was able to send me his feedback after my manuscript was already edited by a professional editor. This feedback was very helpful and had lots of good advice plot-wise, which meant I had to do significant changes and rewrite many scenes and even chapters. The result, the professionally edited text was gone. It would’ve been certainly helpful to hire this service after all revisions and feedback.
9. Consider your first book may not be publishable
In my plans above, I clearly talk about getting a literary agent, publishing it, and having enough earnings to live from my writing. The reality is different. And the truth is your first book could not be published yet or could not be published at all. You need to accept this fact from the beginning. It’s a learning curve. My mind already has tons of topics to write other books; they even sound more interesting than the manuscript I’m working with right now. Perhaps book two or three will be published. Perhaps my first book will be revisited in a couple of years and later published. At this point, I only care about improving my writing.
10. This is only your first experience
Writing a first book is about gaining experience. It doesn’t matter how perfect your book idea is, how charming your characters are, or how beautifully you construct prose, the process is still tricky with the first book. You still need to learn how to handle feedback, how to detect plot holes, how to find your voice, how to make useful rounds of edition, etc. If you take this point of view, I guarantee you’ll find the experience more rewarding than the publishing result. You’ll be more excited about your next projects and you won’t suffer so much if the path of delivering your first book looks too hard. Best of all, you’ll encounter the true meaning of being a writer.