#IWSG Avoiding Pitfalls @TheIWSG #amwriting #WWWBlogs

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

The co-hosts for the August 1 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe,Sandra Hoover, Lee Lowery, and Susan Gourley!

August 1 question – What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey? 

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The single best piece of advice I’d give an author, especially an author who is aiming to self-publish, is to find a good editor.

It seems obvious. I mean, everyone knows that, don’t they?

It also seems easy. I mean, there are plenty of editors out there, aren’t there?

Yes, to both, but authors can still make mistakes. I did.

When I finished my first novel, I found an editor via Goodreads. She was recommended by another editor an author I knew had hired, and she was reasonably priced.

I thought I’d got it right, until another editor, who saw my book, which had been accepted for review on Rosie’s Book Review Team, read my novel and pointed out some / too many errors in the first few chapters.

Most were punctuation, but not all. I’m useless at commas. I actually have nightmares with them, so I was relieved that an editor/proof reader had gone through my manuscript, but it hadn’t been done thoroughly.

I’ll forever be grateful to Alison Williams for pointing out these errors in my novel and for her patience and advice while editing the following two novels.

An author knows and expects that not every reader will enjoy their novel, for numerous reasons, style, characters, plot, etc. and that’s acceptable and to be expected, but what is unacceptable is to have editing errors.

All novels whether self-published or traditionally published should be professionally edited.

There are many editors available, and I’m really not an expert on finding the right one, I was just lucky I found her, or rather she was kind enough to find me, just a few a months after I published All Hallows at Eyre Hall, in May 2014.

I cringe when I think of those few months when my novel wasn’t in perfect condition. The good news is that amazon makes it really quick and easy to update your new version for both kindle and print.

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to like and/or leave a comment 🙂

What about you, what pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid before publication?

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#IWSG ‘Celebrations’ #amwriting #InternationalWomensDay #ProudWoman

This month’s IWSG question for debate is, ‘How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?’ comes just a day before International Women’s Day, so I’m combining both ideas in this post, that is celebrating writing goals, personal goals and celebrations in general.

Pride in our lives and work, and the celebration of goals we’ve reached, is relevant every day, but especially today, which is a day for celebrating our achievements as women.

As a part-time writer (I wish I could be full-time), I don’t set goals in stone, because I don’t want to feel frustrated if I don’t reach them on any given day, so, as I wrote in one of my previous posts, I write short notes to myself after spending some time writing.

Most recent Writer’s Journal, on the right.

 

My notes, which could be called my Writing Journal, include four points:

  • A summary of what I’ve been doing, writing, editing, finishing a chapter, researching, rereading, etc.
  • I might include a word count, especially when I’m starting off, but now that I’m at the editing stage, I’m actually cutting out words, so I write down the total manuscript word count, just to keep a check on it, but it’s no big deal. Sometimes a word or a sentence takes days, and others you cut out 300 words, or write 5,000. My overall goal is to be working on my manuscript for as long as I can as often as I can. 
  • Thirdly, I remind myself what to do the next time I sit down to write, which could be the following day, or the following week. It’s usually something like, ‘finish editing chapter 10’, ‘have a nother look at the end of the first chapter,’ ‘check the dates for….’ etc.
  • The final point is important, I write how I feel about what I’ve been doing. It might look something life, ‘I feel so pleased I finally sorted out chapter X’, or ‘I’m still not sure about….’, etc.

The first thing I do when I sit down to write is read my last diary entry and take it from there. However, it really depends on my mood. I might not follow my own suggestions, although I usually do. It helps me to stay focussed.

One of my ‘stellar moments’

I’ve had some wonderful moments as a writer, such as when I hit publish on Amazon for my first novel, All Hallows at Eyre Hall. Then when it was an Amazon Bestseller lists on several occasions, and I can say the same for Twelfth Night and Midsummer. The mostly good reviews and some successful blog tours, also made me feel very optimistic and infused with courage.

Another fabulous moment was having my books in my hands in the CreateSpace print edition for the first time, and my one and only book presentation of All Hallows, was also a unique day.

I celebrate these occasions as I suppose most people do. with those of my family and friends who can share the moment with me (my family and friends are all over the world, so it’s not easy), either going for a drink or a meal.

Overall, my first three novels have brought me untold hours of joy, frustration, happiness, and fulfillment. It’s been a learning process and even a struggle, at times.

I’m proud of my achievements and I celebrate every day I write as a good day, because I love the freedom, creativity and satisfaction it brings. I’m a simple creature, that’s really enough for me.

However, the best is yet to come. I hope My fourth novel, now in the rewriting/editing phase, which is a contemporary, romantic suspense, will bring me more reasons to celebrate, hopefully this time in the traditional publishing route. This is my provisional cover and title.

I’m also proud to celebrate being a happy woman almost every day. Todays’ a little different because instead of taking it for granted I can spell it out and reinforce the joy being alive, being a person and being a woman brings me.

I’m proud and thankful to be a mother, grandmother, daughter, cousin, wife, teacher, mentor, friend, writer, blogger, poet, photographer, dreamer, person, and alive… every day.

Falling in love and staying in love with my #novel #amwriting

My Writing Process: Falling in love and staying in love with my novel

From Freewriting to Editing

It’s easy for me to fall in love with my latest novel.

I love words. I’m  an artist, so I let it flow. I love feeling the rush of inspiration, getting  it all out if my system. Splashing the words on the page as my characters take over my mind and create their story.

This is when I fall in love with my novel. I’m crazy about it and I can’t get enough of it. I even think I’ll never be able to live without this burst of creative energy in my life.

Love

It’s such a powerful high that I forget it won’t last (thank goodness it doesn’t, otherwise I’d be a bundle of unconstrained, nervous energy, which would burn myself out!)

While I’m in love with my novel I have no friends, or family, I drift through daily chores, even work, only living for the moment I can sit down and write my new story.

I usually do this by hand, once I’ve thought about and envisioned the scenes, but I soon move to the typewriter where I can easily bash out between three and four thousand words a day, sometimes even more, sometimes less; I can’t avoid all my other obligations.

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This is the easy stage, often called freewriting.

The problem is it ends, and once I’ve fallen in love with my novel, I need to stay in love. Something has to remain after the mad rush has subsided (and I know deep down that it will eventually subside).

Can I do that? Can I sit down, read the thousands of words I wrote and love them after the frenzy? Can I be ‘reasonable and realistic’ and edit and shape it into a novel?

Can my passionate lover become my best friend? Can my idealized novel make it in the real world? Does it have a ‘real life’ outside of my obsession?

If it’s no, then it goes into the drawer for a time, or forever, who knows?

If the answer is yes, then I need to edit and shape the mass of unbridled madness.

This is painful. I have to cut out words and even whole lines, paragraphs and pages…

EDiting

I’ve learnt my lesson after writing three novels.  ‘Less is more’ and ‘simple conveys the most complex message effectively’.

As Kurt Vonnegut wisely told us: Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

He went on to expand that even every letter should fit the bill, and I agree. Every single word and letter should be there for a purpose. I’m still learning to do that, because I’m biased. All the words are mine and I love them all, cutting them out is painful, but I’m convinced it needs to be done either by yourself or with the help of another expert pair of eyes, such as an editor.

I have to plan it and often rewrite parts of it until it’s shaped into something I can fit into scenes, chapters and parts. I need to identify stages, plot lines, time sequence, turning points, climax, and so much more.

It’s like a first big argument between lovers. The novel drives me crazy with frustration and I know I either sort it out and we make it up, or we have to go our separate ways, because we can’t even be friends.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I’m falling in love with a new novel, and I’m in agony. I don’t know what’s going to happen… yet.

I’ll keep you posted.

By the way, does this happen to you?

 

Stream Of Consciousness Saturday #SoCS: Vary your ‘Very’

 

This post is written in response to Linda G. Hill’s prompt on Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Today’s theme is “vary/very.” Anyone can join in! Enjoy posting and/or Reading other posts here!

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Vary Your ‘Very’ (Or Better Still Just Delete It!)

This is something I’ve written about before, but it’s a subject that gets me all worked up, so I’ll talk about it again.

I hate the word ‘very’.

‘But why?’ You may ask. ‘Very’ is a nice little word. It could be, if it appeared every now and again, but it becomes a crutch, or even worse, an annoying habit.

I hate coming up with ‘very’ continuously when I’m reading, and believe me, it usually is continuous. Writers either use it too much, or don’t use it. 

The only words I hate more than very are ‘a bit’. The three make me cringe, painfully.

Fortunately, there are two solutions to the ‘very’ issue:

  • Leave them out. Just scan your document for them and delete. Easy. Read your text again. See, I told you, there’s no difference, is there? Wrong. There is a difference, you’ve improved your text, immensely!
  • Second option. Vary your ‘very’. Think of alternatives. Be creative. Change the words for another stronger adjective or a superlative, make the adjective into an adverb, use a complete clause, or metaphor, or even a simile, anything will be better than ‘very’.

Some examples for improving ‘very’:

‘very beautiful’ : stunning?

‘very silly’: idiotic? The silliest person I’ve ever met?

‘very far’: a long distance / too far to walk / from here to Land’s End?

‘very tired’: exhausted? Worn out? As if I had walked to Rome?

‘very slow’: slowly?

‘very cross’: furious? Mad enough to kill him?

Very clever: ingenious? Intelligent? Brilliant?

I said I hated every  ‘very’, but there are two which are on the top of my list of detestable expressions.

The worst are ‘very good’ and ‘very bad’.

Let’s face it, your character is either bad, or wicked, or evil, or even a monster, but ‘very bad’, that’s so weak, it makes me want to cuddle him.

‘Very good’ irritates me no end. What do you mean ‘very good’? If it’s food, is it delicious? If it’s a job well done, is it excellent? Is it great? If it’s a character, is he adorable? Perhaps to die for?

I say ‘very good, one more time’, or ‘very good, try again’, to encourage my students when they do something badly! That’s absolutely true, all teachers know it’s true.

Come on, teachers never say ‘very bad’, do they? But when they say ‘very good’, it’s never enough. I’m almost certain that ‘very good’ isn’t anywhere near good for most people. If it really is good, use another word, don’t put ‘very’, or you’ll ruin it!

I feel mentally drained after this rant. I need to go for a run and let some steam off. I’ve written ‘very’ so many times, I couldn’t even try to get any work done, because I feel ‘very silly’.

Remember, don’t have a ‘very good’ weekend, have a wonderful weekend! 

****

PS If I haven’t convinced you, perhaps Mark Twain will:

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should b

This is a wonderful chart I’ve used in class.

PS I forgot to say that the only time ‘very’ would be acceptable is if it’s used in a dialogue, but be warned, I’m  going to be very suspicious of the character’s intellect!

 

How Flash Fiction Has Improved My Writing

I started writing Flash Fiction for fun, and because it was a challenge.

I read and write mostly Victorian novels, so I tend to get verbose at times!

I’m trying to write more concise prose, and I find that the linguistic and mental exercise of having to cut out all the unnecessary words has been enlightening.

How did this awareness of the need for concise prose happen? Basically following the strict word limits imposed by the challenges, reading other writers’ flash fiction, and realizing that there are many superfluous words, so less can be more.

These are some challenges I’ve been taking part in: 99-word Carrot Ranch  and Bite-Size memoir , Writer Wednesday Blog Hop, and Flash! Friday challenge which used to ne 150 and is now 200 words.

How do I go about my ‘flash’ writing process?

The same as my normal writing process. I think about the situation, idea, or prompt I’m going to write about, until I ‘see’ something in my mind’s eye, and I write.

I let the ideas flow uncurbed and I don’t count the words. When I’ve finished the first draft, I stop to reread and count.

I used to be disastrous at this, writing 250, instead of 150, for example. It used to upset me because cutting back was so traumatic. I love all my words. I believe I put them there for a purpose. They’re all essential, I thought, until I started consciously cutting them down and realized that there were far too many.

When you write Flash Fiction, you have to think about every single word. These are some of the questions I ask myself which help me decide which words stay, and which are crossed out.

  • Does the word move the story on?
  • Does the word tell the reader something essential?
  • If I read the text without the word does the sentence still convey my intended meaning?
  • Can I include the idea behind the word in another shorter way, for example with another expression or a different verb?
  • Finally I have to prioritize. I may need all the words, but I must decide which words, or groups of words, even whole lines, are more essential than others to convey my meaning?

Awareness gradually grew, and after about six months of writing flash fiction, I’m usually able to congratulate my subconscious counter (censor?) because much like our biological timer, I am not usually too far over the mark.

Unfortunately, as a result of writing Flash Fiction, I’ve come to dislike certain words, so that whenever I see them, I cringe.

I never thought I could dislike a word, a harmless, nice little word. I love words. But the more I read and edit my own work, the more I have come to hate not only one, but various words, because they’re often useless, and become a bad habit.

I am convinced I’ve become a far more conscious, critical and demanding reader of my own work, and the work of others, as a result of reading and writing flash fiction, and there’s no going back.

I feel annoyed when a novel has a good plot and compelling characters, yet the writing is careless. I sometimes finish and actually enjoy parts of such novels, although it’s like eating a delicious meal on a dirty tablecloth. The meal itself is satisfying, and although I feel like praising the cook, the crumbs and stains around my plate are distracting and off-putting. I’d certainly give the book less stars for this reason.

There’s no excuse for careless writing. Every writer must have an editor and/or proof reader. I had two for my first novel, and I’m convinced it’s the best thing I did, after writing the novel!

Unfortunately, it often seems that some writers either don’t bother to hire an editor, or perhaps there are some unprofessional editors out there.

However, before your manuscript reaches your beta readers, and later your editor, writers should ensure they do so in the best possible conditions.

Everyone who has published a novel knows that a first draft will undergo many changes before the final version is produced.

However, this first draft needs to be polished, and left to rest, and edited again, perhaps even more than once depending on how much you edit as you write, or how attune to detail you happen to be.

I carefully read over every single word when I’m out to ‘unclutter’ my writing, however, the following are the most irritating words for me. I always run a word check on my own work to see if I have too many of them, because they’re a nasty habit.

Very, Really, A bit, Really, Rather, There is and there are, start to, begin, thing, this type of, so, well. Prepositions where they’re not needed like ‘near to’.

As we’re on the subject of cleaning our prose, there are a couple of other things which irritate me.

I have a big issue with ‘gotten’ and ‘get to’’, and sometimes even with ‘get’ itself when it becomes repetitive.
Why say, ‘I didn’t get to go,’ instead of ‘I didn’t go’?

Why say, ‘it’s gotten late,’ or ‘It got late’, instead of ‘it’s late’? I realize there’s a slight difference in meaning, but is the ‘process of getting late’ going to move the story on or tell the reader something he/she doesn’t already know?

Does every adjective and adverb have to be there? Do two adjectives together add essential and diverse meaning?

Try to avoid well-known expressions and clichés, and if you do use them, don’t repeat them throughout the novel. When a character’s heart is continuously ‘racing’ or ‘thumping’, the reader will start to worry that he/she needs a heart valve!

Here are some more interesting articles on self-editing: ‘Tightening your Copy‘ , 200 Common Redundancies, Ten Top Tips to Instantly Improve Your Writing

What’s your experience of writing flash fiction? Has it helped you improve your writing, too?