Is it time to start the manuscript from scratch?

It has been several months since I haven’t posted a blog post. And today was the day that I decided I would not go to bed until I finally did it. Work and travel are the excuses in general – and I won’t go to discuss them more since I want to jump into blogging pools as soon as possible without lamenting why I didn’t blog these months.

My manuscript continues to be a manuscript. However, it seems it was for the best. After going through multiple reviews and editing rounds, I decided it needs a complete makeover. The story is nice, the theme topic is interesting, but it is not the book that I think it could be. I’ve struggled so much to keep the same characters and to bring to life all situations in the book, but I reached a point where I need to acknowledge that my characters might not strong enough, neither interesting enough and some situations feel awkward and forced into the plot. Maybe leaving the manuscript to rest for a long time was a good idea after all.

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At this point, I’m not completely sure how to target this. Should I work on revamping the book, adjusting situations, and changing the characters over the existing framework, or just start from scratch?

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Starting from scratch sounds good, but if I were to start a new complete book, then why insist on this “theme topic”? I have a couple of other better theme topics to explore. However, I cannot simply give up almost two years invested on this manuscript. Somehow, deep inside, I still want to rescue it and rescue all the time invested in it.

I guess I relate to this:

Have you experienced something similar? Any Advice?

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TED Talk: Why you will fail to have a career?

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 editor in me: Spam editing

I usually never get spam emails. My email account filters them nicely to my spam folder. But today somehow the email below managed to get into my Inbox:

From: Jon W. Rosborough <rrjon4433@gmail.com>
To:
Sent: Friday, 22 July 2016, 7:25
Subject: YOUR URGENT RESPOND IS NEEDED‏‏

Wilmington International Airport
1740 Airport Blvd. Suite 12
Wilmington, NC 28405

Compliment,

Sorry for the delay in sending this message, We were checking over some files and packages in the office and we discover an ATM CARD which was addressed on your name, (I think it is Contract/Inheritances funds) I believe you can remember a dealing that has to do with some cooperate body or individual about this said funds to be deliver to you through an (ATM CARD) but I do not have any idea why it was on hold at our Airport up-to-date.

So we contacted the Authorities and they asked us to get in contact with Senator Richard Burr, to get an approval to figure out what was in the package, After checking over the ATM CARD, we discover a total sum of $5.5,000.000 ($5.5 Million USD) through the router figurative machine who check on balance through the number on a ATM CARD, so we report back to the Senator Richard Burr and we were asked to deliver the package to you from this office. (Senator Richard Burr, City Hall, Room 222 181 South Street Gastonia, NC 28052) We need you to reconfirm your full name and  Home address to see if it will show on the package we have here. And also if you want your ATM CARD to be delivered to you immediately, it will cost you just only $95.00 which is the charges for the delivery clearance certificate of your ATM card, meanwhile your ATM CARD is save with our securities service so please have that in mind. The information above is where the ATM CARD was stopped at Wilmington International Airport North Carolina.

THIS MAIL IS NOT A SPAM OR SCAM MESSAGE, WE CAN DELIVER YOUR ATM CARD TODAY IF WE RECEIVED REPLY FROM YOU, I HAVE INCLUDED MY NAME AND MY SSN: 768 67 6797 FOR YOU TO KNOW THAT I AM FOR REAL AND NOT A SCAM IF YOU NEED TO VERIFY ME, SO STOP DEALING WITH ANY BODY IF YOU HAVE SOME IMPOSTERS YOU ARE DEALING WITH AND FOCUS ON GETTING YOUR ATM CARD HERE IN WILMINGTON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED NOT TO DISCLOSE THIS DEAL TO NO ONE OR ELSE TERMINATION FROM THE HOUSE OF SENATE WILL PENETRATE ON YOUR FUNDS DUE TO THE FACT THAT YOU WERE TRYING TO CONTACT ANOTHER PERSON TO FIND OUT WHAT THIS IS, SO NO MISTAKE OF SUCH WILL BE TOLERATED.

Mr. Jon W. Rosborough
Director

As I read the email, my eyes hurt noticing all punctuation, grammar, and general writing mistakes. Since it’s Friday and I was in the mood to do something funny:

I answered the following (I doubt they’ll ever reply me):

Hi,

Thanks but this not my card. I picked up mine last month at Dulles International airport. My deal was bigger: it involved 10 million $us. But I wish you luck finding the real owner. However, you really need to polish your writing here. Below is a sample of my editing services. If you need to polish other emails like this one, send me as soon as possible to my paypal account the small amount of $us 250. I’ll be happy to assist you.

Best regards,

Lucy

Wilmington International Airport
1740 Airport Blvd. Suite 12
Wilmington, NC 28405

Compliment (what is the compliment? to address a formal email use the following words: “To whom it may concern”, “Dear xxx”, etc.)

Sorry for the delay in sending this message, (wrong punctuation. Period) We were checking over some files and packages in the office and we discover (past tense “discovered”) an ATM CARD which was addressed on (wrong preposition, use “to”) your name, (I think it is Contract/Inheritances funds)_(missing period here) I believe you can remember a dealing (a “deal”) that has to do (“is related” to?) with some cooperate body  (there is no such things as “cooperate body”) or individual about this said funds to be deliver (passive voice, use: “delivered”) to you through an (ATM CARD) (no need of parentheses here) but I do not have any idea why it was on hold at our Airport up-to-date. (poor choice of words, perhaps “until now”?)

So we contacted the Authorities (no need to capitalize) and they asked us to get in contact with Senator Richard Burr, (misplaced comma) to get an approval  to figure out (poor choice of words, perhaps to “find out”, “research”, etc.) what was in the package, (wrong punctuation here. You need a period) After checking over the ATM CARD, we discover (use past tense here, “discovered”) a total sum of $5.5,000.000 ($5.5 Million USD) through the router figurative machine (there is not such machine…) who (if this is a machine performing the operation, then you need to use “that”, not “who”) check (past tense: “checked”) on balance through the number on a (change it to the definite article “the”) ATM CARD, (poor writing here, this sentence is too long, you need to put a period a start another one) so we report (past tense: “reported”) back to the Senator Richard Burr and we were asked to deliver the package to you from this office. (Senator Richard Burr, City Hall, Room 222 181 South Street Gastonia, NC 28052) We need you to reconfirm your full name and Home (no need to capitalize here) address to see if it will show on the package we have here. And also (it’s poor writing to start sentences with conjunctions such as “and” followed by the connector “also”) if you want your ATM CARD to be delivered to you immediately, it will cost you just only (poor writing, avoid these words) $95.00 which is  (“are”, you are referring to the “charges” which is plural) the charges for the delivery clearance certificate of your ATM card, meanwhile your ATM CARD is save (passive voice: “saved”) with our securities service so please have that in mind. The information above is where the ATM CARD was stopped (“was stopped”? do you mean “detained”, “held”…) at Wilmington International Airport North Carolina.

THIS MAIL IS NOT A SPAM OR SCAM MESSAGE, (wrong punctuation, you need to use a period) WE CAN DELIVER YOUR ATM CARD TODAY IF WE RECEIVED (you must continue the same structure here and use present “receive”) REPLY FROM YOU, (wrong punctuation, you need to use a period) I HAVE INCLUDED MY NAME AND MY SSN: 768 67 6797 FOR YOU TO KNOW THAT I AM FOR REAL AND NOT A SCAM IF YOU NEED TO VERIFY ME (poor writing, you need to rewrite the whole sentence and use a simple statement such as “…. my SSN to verify that I am not a scan.”), (Period here) SO (Stop using “so”, this is so colloquial,informal) STOP DEALING WITH ANY BODY (this is one word: “anybody”, by the way, you can’t address a person like this, it sounds like a threat and you’re losing credibility here)_ (missing punctuation here: Period) IF YOU HAVE SOME IMPOSTERS YOU ARE DEALING (you really need to check your sentence structure. It’s all over the place and there’s no coherence at all …) WITH AND FOCUS ON (is this a command, a threat? you need to polish your people skills here…) GETTING YOUR ATM CARD HERE IN WILMINGTON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, (wrong punctuation, you should use period to separate complete sentences) YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED NOT TO (wrong order of words “to not”) DISCLOSE THIS DEAL TO NO ONE OR ELSE TERMINATION FROM THE HOUSE OF SENATE WILL PENETRATE ON YOUR FUNDS DUE TO THE FACT THAT YOU WERE TRYING TO CONTACT ANOTHER PERSON TO FIND OUT WHAT THIS IS (terribly long sentence with no coherence at all), SO NO MISTAKE OF SUCH WILL BE TOLERATED.
Mr. Jon W. Rosborough
Director

By the way, I’m not Lucy and I don’t intend to charge $us 250. I was just in the mood of laughing today 🙂

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10 Things you should know when you first write a book

When I started working on my first book, I had the following plan:

  • I would finish the draft in four of five months at most
  • I would make a thorough review of the first manuscript and in one single edition round I would correct everything that is wrong.
  • My beta readers will read it in a couple of weeks and I would rejoice in his/her wonderful comments
  • I would find a great Literary agent in a blink of an eye
  • I would have the book published in that same year
  • I would live from my writing and would travel the world.

I was naïve. REALLY naive.

 

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This is the second year I’m investing in my first book. I’m still editing it. So far I’ve come to understand the following:

  1. Doing the first draft is by far the easiest and quickest part of the process

When I finished the first draft, I was so thrilled. I felt I have conquered the world and I could be called a writer. I was so proud of myself. I thought that finally I was making something good with my life, that I was looking towards the future, towards my goals, you get the point…The truth is that writing the first draft is the easiest part. You can even achieve it in one month (If you want to test the efficiency of NaNoWriMo). But rest assured the first draft will not be readable yet. Chances are it will still have lots of plot holes and huge amounts of rewrite to be done.

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2. Planning one round of revision is not realistic at all

There will be many rounds of revision. It’s hard to rewrite scenes, plot holes, and work on character development while editing your grammar and punctuation at the same time. You’ll probably need another round, and perhaps a third one, etc. Additionally, after your beta readers come to you with feedback, chances are you’ll probably need to change and rewrite many sections of your book which will lead you to another round of sentence structure/grammar review, etc., again.

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3. Leaving your first manuscript to rest for a couple of weeks and even a month is not a bad idea

I knew about this tip way before I finished my first manuscript. Nonetheless, I was in such a hurry of having everything done that as soon as I finished my first manuscript, I started to edit it on the very next day. I didn’t leave it to rest and breath. My head didn’t have time to clear enough to target my manuscript with a fresh point of view. The result was several pointless rounds of revision until I decided to finally give myself a break and leave the manuscript for a month. During this time, I wrote other short stories, I read more, etc. When I finally returned to my old good manuscript, my mind was fresh and I could detect more issues than in all those previous three rounds. I identified huge gaps where I could improve. If only I’ve done that before my first round of revision… I would’ve probably faced my manuscript with much better criteria from the first edition round.

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4.  Your beta readers won’t give you feedback in a couple of weeks

I had three good beta readers, but it took time to receive their feedback. You have to take into account that not all of them are available to read your manuscript as soon as you deliver it. Unless you’re paying for a beta reading service, most of these people will be doing you a favor. You’ll probably need to wait until they have time. Not all of them can read books in a couple of days; they might need more time. Not all of them have only your book to read; they might need to put it in their queue of “still to read books”.

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5. Good Beta Readers will say the truth and cause many changes in your book

Let’s face it. This is your first book ever. You can’t expect to nail a best seller that soon. You’ll need a lot of time,experience, and good listening skills. You need to pay attention to your beta reader’s feedback. And I’m talking about good beta readers, not your mom, your husband, etc., but people who will be able to judge the manuscript and say what is in their minds without any fear of hurting your feelings. You have to acknowledge that as the author of your book, you know how the plot works, you know how characters look in your mind, but sometimes you fail to translate this knowledge into the written world. Chances are you’ll still need to change and rewrite after your beta reader’s feedback.

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6. Character development is not achieved at once

If this is your first book, then you’ll probably struggle with nailing “character development”. Even if you outline characters before you start the book, they’ll probably develop and change as your plot changes. Their behaviors will change depending on how the direction of your books goes or how scenes are improved. Providing a three-dimensional character is harder than you think. It wasn’t until many revisions and feedback that I had enough tools to develop my characters as they should.

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7. Developing your voice doesn’t come so fast

It doesn’t matter how many books about writing you read and how many writing courses you attend. Developing your voice only comes with practice. Sometimes, you want to obey all writing rules and make your sentences’ structure perfect, but then you find yourself with a boring flat manuscript. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to know the rules. To break the rules, you need to know them first. But you can’t expect to find your writing voice in the first round of writing. Perhaps you won’t even find it in your first book.

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8. Don’t hire any editing service until you’ve received plenty feedback

I made the mistake of hiring an editing service (which was very good) before I got all the feedback. My third beta reader was able to send me his feedback after my manuscript was already edited by a professional editor. This feedback was very helpful and had lots of good advice plot-wise, which meant I had to do significant changes and rewrite many scenes and even chapters. The result, the professionally edited text was gone. It would’ve been certainly helpful to hire this service after all revisions and feedback.

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9. Consider your first book may not be publishable

In my plans above, I clearly talk about getting a literary agent, publishing it, and having enough earnings to live from my writing. The reality is different. And the truth is your first book could not be published yet or could not be published at all. You need to accept this fact from the beginning. It’s a learning curve. My mind already has tons of topics to write other books; they even sound more interesting than the manuscript I’m working with right now. Perhaps book two or three will be published. Perhaps my first book will be revisited in a couple of years and later published. At this point, I only care about improving my writing.

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10. This is only your first experience

Writing a first book is about gaining experience. It doesn’t matter how perfect your book idea is, how charming your characters are, or how beautifully you construct prose, the process is still tricky with the first book. You still need to learn how to handle feedback, how to detect plot holes, how to find your voice, how to make useful rounds of edition, etc. If you take this point of view, I guarantee you’ll find the experience more rewarding than the publishing result. You’ll be more excited about your next projects and you won’t suffer so much if the path of delivering your first book looks too hard. Best of all, you’ll encounter the true meaning of being a writer.

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Cheers!

 

 

 

 

The TED talk all women should see

I try to start my workday with a TED talk. I wish I could say I do this daily, but sometimes I can’t. I usually do it when my work energy level is low or when I feel I need motivation to go with the work routine. Today I came across with “Why do ambitious women have flat heads?” by Dame Stephanie Shirley.  The title was enough to call my attention since sometimes when the talk’s title is too predictable, I might just pass it. But this one wasn’t and I’m glad I clicked it.

Dame Stephanie Shirley had it rough. She was one of the Jewish kids saved by being sent to families in northern England during the Second World War . She grew up in an era where women’s only objective was to get married and have kids. There were scarce work opportunities for them. I work in the software industry. Women in the 60’s didn’t just pursuit that area at all. But one woman did it. And this terrific woman showed nothing is impossible. Yes, there was a programming market in that era, believe it or not. If you want to know exactly how it worked, then you have to check the video.

Stephanie Shirley went through all the fights my generation didn’t have too. My generation won’t suffer that gender discrimination again. We have it easy. And what are we doing with our lives? We don’t aim high enough. We don’t dream big enough. We don’t do the fights for the next generations.

I invite you to watch the following TED talk (only 13 minutes of your time but worth your life change).