I never been interested in politics, neither being active in it. Being Bolivian, I’m surrounded by latin-american literature influenced mostly by our turbulent political history. This is social literature that is marked mostly by conflicts… More
2019 has definitely been a year to remember. Two dear aunts, sisters from my Mom, passed away. My beautiful dog, Dana, who was with me for more than 14 years, also passed away. There was a fire, caused by short circuit on the TV plug, that devoured my Mom’s room and almost killed her. My closest aunt had an accident with a huge wardrobe falling and splitting her head badly. My country went into political turmoil for almost 3 weeks, with almost a civil war in the making. Mobs of delinquents attacked people on the street, beating them to death, setting on fire everything they found, including houses. Three weeks I deeply wish nobody goes through anywhere in the world, days we lived in panic, enclosed in our homes or trying to battle attackers when there was still no police to defend us.
The year is almost coming to an end and although there have been good times in this year, good trips in the middle of everything and other experiences, I cherish this year as the personal growth has been insurmountable.
I’m heading at this moment to WordCamp Guayaquil where I will be speaking about “Wanting to be a blogger and finding time,” in other words about time organization. I would have never imagined a couple of years ago talking about time manage skills. Me, the person who used to procrastinate as nobody else and could never find time for anything. I wondered a couple of times if I’m the best person to talk about this, but I feel I’ve grown so much in the last years, specially in this year that I thought I would share my experience.
Writing and working full time has been a challenge. I must be honest I only commit an hour and perhaps an hour and a half, the most, to working on my current manuscript. I haven’t been the best at keeping this schedule every day. There are days when I don’t write, and even weeks. But I haven’t give up. It doesn’t matter how slowly I move forward. I’ve committed myself to keep doing it.
At this point, my goal of finishing the review of my manuscript by the end of the year doesn’t look promising. Probably, I’ll end it by the end of January or even February of 2020. But it doesn’t matter, I’m still doing it, little by little, step by step. Besides, I don’t have an agent or a publishing contract that says I have to finish by a specific date. It is true I wish I could have it by the end of this year but nothing will happen if I don’t.
In a bad year, I could have just plainly written little. My attitude could have been different. Perhaps that would have been the case when I was younger. But my determination has gotten bigger this year. Without it, I would probably have never finished reviewing the first round. I would have never gotten great beta readers and the inspiration the keep writing. Somehow a bad year has make my desire to keep on writing stronger. It has kept me afloat amidst all issues, knowing that there is a greater goal out there for me and that I’m still moving towards it.
Life is about going through problems and obstacles, otherwise it would be pretty boring and we would never grow. Writing on a bad year has actually been a positive experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Writing on a bad year has proved to be good.
My previous post was published more than 3 months ago. I remember telling myself: I won’t distract myself from any other kind of writing until I have my current first manuscript ready. I originally targeted to finish it by January and Look! we’re almost in the middle of the year. Sigh… It took longer than expected but it’s finally done.
I initially had one friend volunteering to read it. She was an encouragement as I had told her it would be ready for January and having her asking about its status helped me push through the line and finish it. I soon found out I had two other volunteers to read it. That was exciting but it also made nervous. Extremely nervous. Why? Well, my mind was invaded by these thoughts:
- What happens if the whole plot doesn’t make sense or is boring to death?
- What happens if the whole idea of writing a book is not for me?
I’m an amateur writer and always have self-doubts about my writing skills. I’m usually not that insecure about life in general but writing is important to me and therefore I tend to feel vulnerable to people revising my manuscript. But then I gather myself, I exhale loudly and I think that this comes with the process. I have to learn to listen to feedback and trust in my work. I’m starting; there is a lot to learn. I have to accept the challenge and keep my faith that hard work makes the master.
And you how do you feel when people start revising your manuscript?
I struggled a lot with my first project. I read many books on the writing process and even attended some courses on it. I tried to be as systematic as possible and write by the rules. I learned valuable lessons and this helped me get through the process and finish my manuscript. However, I didn’t like the end result.
For this new second project, I started a couple of months ago, I tried to let it go and just be a pantser instead of a plotter. However as nice as it sounds to be a pantser, I also knew from my first experience, that there needed to be some infrastructure in the plot. Endless inspiration doesn’t take you to a perfect plot. And there are characters, my weakest point. The very reason why I let my first project remain dormant for the time being is that I ended not liking my characters at all. They needed and still need more development if I ever go back to that first project.
In this second project, I had started writing as a pantser, letting the words and scenes come to my mind as I wrote, but then I reached a point (a couple of days ago) where I didn’t know where I was heading and if characters were being developed as I wanted. So I did something I avoided since I started writing. I stopped after more or less 35000 words and went back to the first page to review it slowly. I know the manuscript is not even in the middle and I have no clue yet where the story is heading yet, but I felt the need to go over what I have written so far to make sure the 35000 words made sense and that the characters didn’t suck. If you’ve gone through writing advice, classes, etc, you will hear that they don’t recommend this approach that much, that editing while still writing might not be the best. But I found out that it actually helps me. I’m in time to detect current plot failures and find opportunities for character development. Who knows, with this initial review, the plot might get a twist and a new rewrite. At this point, I wouldn’t mind the re-writing. I’m not that far in the story. Rewriting 35000 words doesn’t feel as bad as rewriting more than 100 000.
This approach seems to work so far. Maybe it’s already suggested somewhere or maybe some other writers do something similar. I feel that it might the “thing” that works for me. I believe the purpose of getting experience with the writing process is to find your own path and your own method. My objective is that my first manuscript feels good. It doesn’t matter if I need to do a heavy editing after it. I just want to be able to feel that I’m telling a good story.
To be honest, I’d been stuck with my manuscript for months already. Recently, I wrote how I planned to practically start over from scratch. At the end, I decided to take a similar approach, go over it but not with editing eyes (I’ve edited those sentences so many times that I didn’t know if I was actually improving them or making them worse) but read it critically, plotwise, characterwise. I felt that my biggest weakness was character development, I felt them flat. That is why I choose a very good advice from my blog friend Glynis in “Productive or Busy” (who also took it from her friend Shari) about writing separately several character pages (not necessarily related to the plot but their life story in general) to get a feeling of the characters. I loved the idea and started doing this on my current manuscript.
As soon as I started just writing, I got those chills you have when inspiration hits you and you just start typing endlessly, feeling the flow of the words. I love this state. I know I don’t do my best writing from the grammatical/structure point of view, the writing is rather awful, but I get to release all the feelings and everything I feel should be put to paper.
After this cool experience, I had to go for a fanfiction story. I know being a geek has led me to write fanfiction stories before. This is a weird path for writing since fanfiction involves writing about characters that have already been created, but it is still writing and I had to do it. It felt so liberating that I thought that I was finally rediscovering my writing spirit again. The fan fiction story only awoke my inner writing muse. This was a one time short story and it is already finished, and I don’t plan to revisit the world of fanfiction for a while, however this process has stirred the desire that I’ve been having for some time to start a new story, for leaving my manuscript resting for a while, and just start telling this new story that has been doing circles in my head.
I realized that I might not be the first one. I’m pretty sure several writers have jumped to a different work and left others to rest for a while. So I’ve started writing a new manuscript for a week already. I’ve been doing it daily (which wasn’t happening with my other writing) and I feel excited about it, ideas are flowing to my mind and I feel happy. I still plan to revisit my previous manuscript’s character pages since that aside process was been going well, but I feel like this new writing has strengthened and invigorated my new writing spirit.
And you, has it ever happened to you that you started writing other projects without finishing others? Do you think it is a good idea?
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?
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.
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.
Image source: http://www.nutritionfitnessandsstilettos.com
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.
- 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.
- 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 🙂
I finally finished my first manuscript of a fantasy novel I’ve been working for almost a year. I learned many lessons the last time I worked with a manuscript, one is that finishing the first manuscript is only a small step in achieving a readable book. Numerous rounds of editing and revision come after this, and they can become endless. They are not the nicest part of writing a book, at least not for me.
Last time I learned that before going into heavy editing, it is better to have a manuscript that you like, one where you feel satisfied with the story, the plot makes sense, you like the characters and they are likable. I learned that you have to be happy with what you wrote. You will need people who read your work, people who will criticize the plot, the characters and tell you how does the story feel. You will probably get lots of suggestions and you might need to rewrite chapters a couple of times more. Last time I understood there was no need to get into heavy editing if you were still working on the story development.
But for the first round of people who will read your work, you have to have a manuscript that is readable. This is the reason I felt I needed one round of revision for plot consistency, character check, setting description, and at least decent writing – a writing that will still be workable and can , of course, be improved.
I’m not going for restructuring sentences, changing verbs, or more in depth editing, but it is still taking time. A lot of it. Somehow my first manuscript has managed to end with around 110 000 words or around 410 pages, and even though I’m doing a “quick revision” it still takes time. I still have a full time job and other activities, but I’m trying to find at least one hour a day to work on this. In an hour I usually deal with 5 or 8 pages, which means it is taking a lot of time. I told a friend I would be giving her the book for her critique around February, but it is already March and I haven’t reached the middle of the book with this “quick editing.”
However, the writing process works this way, there is no easy path. Each day I’m a couple of pages done. A couple of pages more than yesterday, one paragraph more than before. I feel like doing tiny steps, but at least the steps are being given. And If I’m a couple of paragraphs done each day, then I guess it will come a time when I will finish the manuscript. One paragraph at a time. After all, writing is about the process itself.
And you how do you deal with rounds of editing?
Plotter or pantser
When I started writing, I found the question about being a “plotter or a pantser”. Plotter would be the person that plans the story before they write and a pantser would be the person that only lets the inspiration guide and build the story as they write. Initially, I was sure I would fit the plotter role, I wanted to set up everything correctly before starting to write. It didn’t work that well. As soon as I started to write, characters acquired life and different scenarios/events invaded my mind. I remember thinking then that I was definitely a pantser and welcomed the idea of getting inspired as I wrote. I ended my first manuscript of my first project, ditching the plotting and welcoming the pantsing.
The end result was not the best. After some rounds of feedback and self-revision, I found out that the story had many holes in it. The story was weak and it wasn’t working as I wanted. I started to re-shape the story, changing chapters, deleting scenes, adding new plot twists, etc. But after several rounds, I still was unhappy with it. Now that I look back, there wasn’t a time when I totally felt confident with how the plot evolved.
Editing while writing
Then comes editing. When I started to write, without any previous experience, I reviewed/edited my reading after a couple of paragraphs or even after a single paragraph – trying to get the perfect grammar and writing. That didn’t last. This method certainly cut my inspiration and it would take me ages to finish a single chapter. Then my first NaNoWriMo came and I thought that this was the opportunity I needed to be able to end my first manuscript. And I sort of did it. I didn’t finish it, but I learn how to sit and write without giving a look to previous paragraphs. Editing would come later.
The result wasn’t the best either. There was terrible writing everywhere – not acceptable for requesting feedback. I had to go through a couple of rounds of editing before it was presentable. Those two/three rounds took me a lot of time, probably more than a month. And I really hated them.
What I found out this time
It was trial an error. I still did a couple of mistakes when I started to write my second project. I initially tried to start as a pantser – my objective to write until the manuscript ended and already dreading the rounds of revision in advance. But I already got a feeling that the result would be a plot filled with holes and a writing so embarrassing that would only lead me to endless rounds of revisions. I stopped after a couple of chapters. Why would I need to be either a plotter or a pantser? Why I had to decide between editing while writing or editing everything at the end?
I took a break after a couple of chapters. Then I started reviewing everything I had written. I wrote a little bit more – with a better mindset of the story in mind and continued writing. Then I reviewed my last written words, changed them into a more decent writing and continued. The result:
I write a couple of chapters. I go back to read them and do a general revision of the writing itself. I analyze the plot a little bit before continuing. I do a little bit of planning for the next chapters and continue. It’s a mix of all methods above. And I found that it works for me. There are no longer surprises, fears, or even apathy to future rounds of editing. There is no structured planned plot that cuts my inspiration but I also don’t write with no horizon in mind.
I edit my writing as I go. I don’t do it immediately, I let it sit for a couple of chapters so that it doesn’t cut the flow or the feeling of writing freely. I go back to review the writing of previous chapters to make sure that I have a decent writing over there, knowing that at the end it won’t be a terrible manuscript, that it will be readable and that might only need few editing before requesting feedback. I like my own method. And I’m not suggesting it to other people. I’m only saying that each writer has to find its own way to do things…
I usually wouldn’t have selected this book if it weren’t for a reading club at my work. We wanted to improve our writing as part of improving our communication skills – most of it is written. But why wouldn’t I pick this book if one of my main passions is writing? Because the book is directed towards nonfiction writing and when thinking of myself as a writer, I believe I’m mostly labeled as a fiction writer. But communication at work is written so it made sense to check how my writing was in the non-fictional world.
What was different from this book?
The author, William Zinsser, explains with examples (the only way to learn) how to find your own voice. He gives a huge importance in finding your true self, your true voice. He encourages you to find the passion and enjoyment in your daily writing tasks and to never forget your own principles and the ones of the story you want to talk about.
But how is the sound of our writing voices?
Your writing voice should be as you are, not how you talk, but how you perceive things in your head. Zinsser gives the following advice:
“Don’t flight such a current if it feels right. Trust your material if it’s taking you into terrain you didn’t intend to enter but where the vibrations are good…”
The importance of finding the right words
The right words don’t necessarily mean the complex sounding ones. “Just because they’re writing fluently doesn’t mean they’re writing well,” Zinsser mentions. How many times we read a book with lots of interesting new words, and we find ourselves wishing we had more vocabulary. But sometimes we don’t need this, we only need to find the right words, the ones specific enough to show what we mean. There is no need for complexity, rather for specificity.
When we write fictional books, we tend to overthink the writing process too much. As we write, we’re trying to sound good and to ensure our text looks not simple – not amateurish. We want others to notice we have a great vocabulary and in this effort, we sometimes lose our own voice. I have tried many times to edit my manuscripts in an effort to make the text sound smarter – not simple – but using words that weren’t true to my own rhythm and voice.
And how about simplicity and clarity?
Sometimes we take too much effort in describing a scene or a character that we lose our sense of direction. “Clutter is the disease of the American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words…” Zinsser mentions. And although this quote refers to American writing, it still applies to all the writing world and even to all languages. How many times I have found the same issue in my mother tongue Spanish.
Part of this clarity is to question ourselves: Is our story, the narrative, the description of scenes, and especially dialogue making sense?
Enjoying the process
We spent too much time thinking about the finished work. We tend to visualize or think too much about when the manuscript will be ready, when the book is going to be in a readable stage, and when a possible publishing time could come. We imagine the end line too often and we don’t find ourselves enjoying the process. We are writers, the process of writing should be “our thing” not going after editors and publishers. Let us enjoy the process for the time that is needed.
As Zinsser mentions: “The writer, his eye on the finish line, never gave enough thought to how to run the race,” and “You won’t write well until you understand that writing is an evolving process, not a finished product.”
How much are we willing to defend our work and to dare to be ourselves?
No matter how much editing we do ourselves, our manuscripts will suffer one day with other editors. We have to make sure that our writing and our voice are still there. “What you write is yours and nobody else’s”
I’ve struggled with this issue a lot. I want readers to recognize my voice. But sometimes, I’m so lost in having a decent product, in having precise sentences and paragraphs, good words, believable characters, believable setups, etc, that I lose my voice in it. Whatever comes out of our manuscript, it has to be ours, it has to show our own personality. As Zinsser puts it, “Writing well means believing in your writing and believing in yourself, taking risks, daring to be different, pushing yourself to excel”. This mindset is key, how many times we suppress our thoughts and expressions while we write; an inner voice saying “no, that sounds ridiculous, people won’t understand it.” But we have to understand that there is a difference between readers not able to follow a story structure and not be able to follow the author’s sense of wit and voice. We shouldn’t worry about the latter, we should just go with our guts.
We tend to forget so much of these tips. We’re scared what readers of our manuscript will say, how copywriters will find the text and how editors will see it. We’ve been told rules such as not repeating words, but sometimes they are needed for a reason, sometimes the repetition is there to provide emphasis and to give it a specific rhythm (like the double sometimes in this sentence). Many times when we change our words just to obey rules, we change the effect we are trying to give to our voice, to our characters, and to our story.
What other advice was also very helpful about this book?
Zinsser treats comedy as a good resource for writing, as a good way to show your personality. This doesn’t mean that you have to tell jokes, but it’s related to the wit with how you tell things. In most cases, this might be the best way to show the true you.
In summary, I really enjoyed the book. Even if I don’t intend to write a non-fiction book, it still had plenty of useful advice, useful not only for non-fictional writers but also for fictional writers, so I definitely recommend it. You can get the book here.