Friday, December 31, 2010
Saying goodbye to 2010.
New Year's Eve--a time to look back at the past year. It's been a time of continued unrest in our world. If one good thing has come of the political climate in our country it's that more people are now politically involved and vocal. We're all still reeling from the earthquake economy that continues to shift beneath us. Our spirits and patience have been tried and tested. And, yet--we're still here!
It's a time to also look back with gratitude for the blessings of 2010. I have much for which to be grateful. I still have a job. I have a nice apartment. I have the love of a fantastic family and irreplaceable friends. And, of course, I have Binky, my constant cat companion. 2010 was a year of achievement as four of my novels were published between January and November. Whew!
Ready? Set? It's time to look forward to the coming year. Time to make resolutions (half of which I know I won't keep. Okay, more than half.) I've decided to set goals instead of resolutions. Resolutions seem so stiff, set in cement. Goals are somewhat flexible and can change. That way I have something to work toward, and I won't feel like such a failure when I run out of steam halfway into the year and my resolutions are nothing more than vague memories.
I read my 2011 horoscope yesterday. I don't put a lot of stock in horoscopes, but I want to believe this one. It said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that I would see a big shift in my career goals and would achieve acclaim and prosperity. My interpretation: A best seller with a big advance. So that's my lofty goal for 2011. My lesser goals include: (1) getting two books under contract for publication; (2) finishing two more manuscripts that are now in progress; (3) and the ever present and oft forgotten goal--to lose weight and become more healthy. (This was formerly a resolution that never made it past Valentine's Day. Maybe it'll have a better chance as a goal?)
So, what does 2011 have in store for my readers? Love, Sam will be coming out in paperback, probably in February. I don't have the exact date from the publisher just yet. I have three completed novels that I'll be sending out to agents or publishers in the coming months: Unconditional, Act of Contrition, and Wake-up Call. I'm working on a Christmas-themed romantic comedy that I hope I can have ready for publication next Christmas. It's going to be a busy year.
Here on One Woman's Write, I'll be continuing to post The Writer's Alphabet, featuring posts by some fantastic guest bloggers/authors. So be sure to check in especially on Fridays for their words of wisdom about writing and publishing.
My wishes for our world are for peace and the understanding that we humans are more alike than we are different. I wish for a balanced economy and for leaders who will make responsible decisions for the betterment of all (regardless of on which side of the aisle they are seated.)
Here are my New Year's wishes for all of you as we cross the finish line of 2010 and set ourselves for the start of 2011: I wish you love, laughter, good health, and that you have all you need and get at least some of what you want.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
This week I'm happy to welcome author Karyn Lyndon who shares her thoughts on writing in First Person.
When I selected Good in Bed as my summer beach read in 2001, it wasn’t because I had heard of the author—this was Jennifer Weiner’s debut novel. I also didn’t choose it because of the way it was written. After all, I hadn’t read it yet. It wasn’t the genre, either. I’d never even heard of chick lit. Nor did I pick it because of its cover.
What compelled me to spend $12.95 for that book over all the others? It was the title! Who could resist the promise of a sexy read that the title inferred? As it turned out the book featured very little sex. Good in Bed was the name of the column the main character’s ex-boyfriend wrote about how BAD in bed she was. But as I delved into Weiner’s easy-to-read first person writing style, I didn’t feel duped--it was love at first person!
What did I learn from her book? Well, the most obvious lesson is to spend some effort writing a title that sizzles. But what I really garnered from reading Good in Bed was the knowledge that I didn’t want to write Stephen King-ish horror stories in boring old third person like I’d done with my first attempt at novel writing. I wanted to write funny, contemporary stories where the main character seemed so real, reading the book was more like chatting with your best friend at Starbucks, or sneaking a peek at her diary.
As I read each chapter it felt like Cannie was talking directly to me. She shared the same self-deprecating comments that constantly circled my brain, topics like her less-than-perfect body and other familiar insecurities. The raw emotions, the funny asides, the lifelike twisting of events seemed more like actual anecdotes from the author than from a fictional character.
And I couldn’t wait to try it!
When I first sat down to write CurvyKathy31: Confessions of a Chat-aholic the words seemed to flow easier through my fingers. Not only did I now LOVE reading in first person—I loved writing in it, too. It was easy! And easy has always been my preference.
About half way through my manuscript I joined my local chapter of Romance Writer’s of America. At one of my first meetings the speaker said something that felt like lightening striking my heart. She explained that first person was a harder sell than third person. Harlequin didn’t even accept manuscripts written in first person. Now, while my intention had never been to write a romance novel, the speaker’s words hurt.
What could any editor or agent have against my personal favorite person? Still believing there must be readers out there just like me who couldn’t get enough of “I” pronouns and the acrylic-clear point of view of the main character, I eventually finished my book. On a chick lit email loop we began debating what to rename our Yahoo group. Publisher’s began to ask for light women’s fiction as though uttering the words “chick lit” would steal their souls. (This article seems to have taken a turn toward other letters in the alphabet--like C & L. Sorry. Back to F.)
Undaunted by the obvious prejudice against first person and all things chick lit, I began my second novel, For Richer or Repo. But this time I wanted more of a challenge. Maybe first person was TOO easy. (Nope, no such thing.) So I decided to write the first person book in more than one character’s point of view.
My critique group warned against it, proclaiming it would be too difficult to discern which character was speaking. But that was an easy fix! I just headed each scene with the POV character’s name. Just when I had settled on four characters telling their side of the story, a fifth one popped up wanting to tell his!
Yes, it was more difficult, but writing was never boring. When I felt too fatigued to go on, taking my place inside another character’s head always brought me new inspiration. And I must give credit to my critique group for challenging some of my word choices and keeping them true to each character.
So let’s recap my first person learnings. It’s fun to read, easy to write, harder to sell and I love it!
That’s about it. Oh, and now that memoirs are popular (I heart Jennifer Lancaster’s books) they have become my favorite source of reading material--also in what? FIRST PERSON!
Karyn Lyndon lives with her husband and son in North Texas. She spends her days editing advertising for a major retailer and nights writing humorous, romantic tales. Her debut novel, CurvyKathy31: Confessions of a Chat-aholic, is written in first person from one point of view. For Richer or Repo, her second published novel, is also written in first person but from five different characters points of view.
Visit Karyn's website at: http://www.karynlyndon.blogspot.com/
NOTE: I want to be sure to mention that Karyn's book, CurvyKathy31: Confessions of a Chat-aholic, has finaled for a 2011 EPIC e-Book Award. Good luck, Karyn. (though I should be cautious. We're in the same category. Last year, I congratulated a competitor, and she won!) Linda
Friday, December 10, 2010
This week I welcome author Jim Woods who lends his expertise on the subject of Editing.
WHO’S YOUR EDITOR?
by Jim Woods
There are three stages of editing before publication, with the initial stage, self-editing, being perhaps the most important. Once upon a golden time the gift of story telling, in handwritten script, or composed on old-fashioned typewriter keys, was all that was necessary to sell a story or a book. Someone from the publisher’s editorial staff worked closely with the writer in coaxing the promising tale into publishable form. Those good old days have joined the rest of ancient history.
Nowadays if the writer isn’t also the first-line editor, there may not be another reader. With your manuscript presumably complete, put it away for a week or two, and then read it objectively. Start by eliminating words. You can do it! Line through the words with a colored pen; hit the delete key. Take it out! Examine the copy word-by-word and take out all the words that really don’t have to be there. Sure, this is going to slim down the manuscript; that’s part of what we’re after. Look critically at each adjective. Make sure each of them imparts exactly your intended characteristic to the noun it modifies. Look at all the short, choppy sentences. Combine them. Vary the sentence lengths and patterns. Search out those favorite words you have used twice in the same sentence and four times on every page. Find a different word for ninety percent of them. Rewrite! There is nothing sacred about a first, or second or third draft. None of it is final until it goes to press.
Going to press is pushing the schedule a bit. It’s time to turn the manuscript over to your professional editor. Not your mother who’s an English teacher, and not your daughter who’s a psychology major. Of course you are going to impose on friends and family to read your Great American Novel. Of course they will shower you with accolades. Now seek out a real editor whose expertise and opinions will make your work saleable.
That editor may be a friend, or at least friendly, but more than likely you’ll see him/her as an adversary. It’s not his job to stroke and soothe. You need someone who can get down to the business of editing, unencumbered by personal feeling for the author. Choose wisely, based on the recommendation of other professionals. Once you have come to a professional and financial understanding, accept and act on his advice and criticism.
Review your editor’s corrections, make the ones you agree to or that the editor has convinced you should be made, and once again, re-write. Now, does this mean automatically the publisher of your choice will accept your story or novel without further change? An emphatic No! However, it does mean the publisher may take the time to read the story through simply because it was presented to him professionally in the first place. Let’s assume it is accepted. Now the publisher’s staff editor gets his crack at it.
Your independent editor would not have known which publication or publisher would wind up with your creation. Style guides are decidedly similar, but different publishers and organizations hold differing opinions on word usage and punctuation. As a writer myself, I once was exposed to a company editor whose first “rule” was that the word “albeit” was never to be used--period! Unfair? Dictatorial? Of course. However, to satisfy the editor who authorizes the payment to you, you’ll just have to take out his personal “albeits.” Publishers and Editors do not necessarily adhere to democracy.
That final editor and his staff also will do some fact checking if warranted, and the publisher’s legal expert will vet for libel, plagiarism, privacy invasion and copyright infringement. Finally, the copy editor will check the spelling of every word, even though the author originally employed his computer spell-checker. The author may have a say about substantive changes to his manuscript but is unlikely to get a voice in style and grammatical changes. Editors do not relinquish that control.
One time I sold a short story to a Canadian anthology. I had been thorough with the pre-editing and the story had been passed-on by a second editor. The setting was the southern region of the United States; the language proper for the time and locale. In the publisher’s final editing, two or three of my carefully selected words and phrasings had been Anglicized, an alteration necessary for that publisher’s primarily north-of-the-border market. It may not have destroyed my creation, but certainly sullied my story’s authentic Southern flavor. The editor had the last word, as usual. . . and the editor is always right.
Jim Woods is an independent editor assisting book authors, small presses and corporations with line, style, and substance editing; applying his expertise to novels, short story collections, nonfiction and corporate image. Formerly, he was in-house Editor, Managing Editor and Contributing Editor with two commercial magazine publishers. His professional associations include American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA). He lives and works in Tucson, Arizona.
See his website: http://users.dakotacom.net/~jwoods
He is author of the writing tutorial, SO YOU WANT TO BE AN AUTHOR?
Gypsy Shadow Publishing: http://www.gypsyshadow.com/
And the fiction works, SHE SERPENT, GUNSHOT ECHOES, and ASSASSINATION SAFARI, Champagne Books: http://www.champagnebooks.com/
Thursday, December 2, 2010
As we continue your journey through The Writer's Alphabet, we have a discussion on D--for Dialog and Digital Voice Recorders presented by guest blogger, A.J. Maguire.
I'm going to be honest. If I see large hunks of exposition, my eyes sort of skim over it. Not because the writing is bad or anything, a lot of the times there's really great poetry mixed in with the prose, it's just that I want to see the characters in action. Dialog literally is action. It's the basic driving force of your plot and your novel. Dialog doesn't just tell us what's happening, it lets us see it. And it lets us get to know the characters better than any internal monologue ever could. Because it's what a man does that defines him and the same goes for our characters.
You can tell us all you want that Character Bubba is a snarky grump but until he opens his mouth and proves it, it's all a bluff. And I'm not meaning that you sit down and tag his lines with – “Shoulda seen the twit,” Bubba snorted gruffly. I'm not arguing tag lines because when it comes right down to it, nobody really cares about the he said/she said. What they really care about is what was said. It's about content. It's about the voice of your character coming to life on the page. And the only way you're going to get that is if you listen.
Something that helped me with this is a digital voice recorder. (Hence the title of this segment.) Last year for Christmas I bought this little nine dollar voice recorder from a pawn shop with the intentions of practicing reading my work out loud. I had been listening to Scott Sigler's podiobooks and he really inspired me to think outside the box of what I considered a traditional writer. So, I bought the recorder and started recording my rough draft as I was writing it. So at the end of the week, I would sit down and record what I had written. And then, during the rest of the week, I would listen. In my car (preferably when I was alone) or while I was doing dishes (headphones are wonderful assets) and it really helped me to keep my focus.
The unexpected bonus of this little experiment, however, was that I could literally hear where the dialog was wrong. I'd be elbows deep in soap and realize that Bubba would have said something a lot meaner to Mary Sue, not only because he's a snarky grump but because she'd just overheated the ships motor and now they're stuck and, for goodness sake he's still mad at her for blowing up his 20” flat screen TV two chapters ago.
On top of all that, I could hear if the phrases were all wrong for the time period, because we all know that dialog also paints the setting of a novel. There are real language differences that need to be shown in the dialog. You can't go having your 17th Century female say the equivalent of “OK”. It just wouldn't happen and every pettifogger in the world would have your brains on toast if you tried. Dialog has to be a reflection of each individual character and the setting around them. It has to be rife with conflict and personality and give the reader a certain respect for the characters involved. Because if your reader doesn't get involved in what is being said on the page, then they're likely to stop reading.
A.J. Maguire's debut novel Sedition is due to be released January 2011 from Wings ePress http://www.wings-press.com/. Her second novel Witch-Born is set for release by Double Dragon Publishing in 2011 http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/. She is a proud military veteran and mother of one toddler who unwittingly listens to everything she writes (except the adult parts, she has some morals.) You can view more of her work at http://ajmaguire.webs.com/