Friday, December 3, 2010

Critique Is Not A Four Letter Word

I haven't posted in a while and I have a good excuse reason. It's called editing! No, really, I'm sure if I forced myself I could come up with something to say, but I've been too busy trying not to get sucked into a black hole these days. Editing is not my favorite thing to do!

After my third round of ripping, tearing and shredding, I sent my wip over to a couple of trusted people to critique and have been wading through their comments.

I love hearing 'this part is great', or 'love this paragraph.' It gives me a warm tingly feeling inside. Right? However, warm tingly feelings do not a better writer make! It's the constructive criticism that really gets me fired up. The 'I don't get this' or 'this part doesn't fit.' If I want to further my skills, I must take it, consider it, and, if I agree, apply it.

Which I did, and it's exciting to see my wip getting better, my characters gaining depth, my plot becoming meatier. (Okay, maybe I don't loathe editing. Maybe.)

So, in the name of embracing criticism, I sent my baby off to a professional editor. I did this for a couple of reasons.

1. My critique people know me and might even love me ( a little ). And, though I totally trust that they are being honest and brave about letting me have it between the eyes, I'm not entirely certain that there isn't a bit of bias in those red comments. It's good to have someone who doesn't know me from Adam commit to giving me feedback.

2. I don't have a Masters in Creative Writing, or English. I know its not necessary to have a degree in order to be a good writer. I've taken a lot of courses on writing, and read a lot of books. But I thought it would be nice to invest in a professional opinion.

So I'm sitting around waiting for Mr. Editor to get back to me with lots of lovely red comments. I'd rather have my whole wip covered in red than a simple note that says, 'good job. keep trying.' Because that's when you know you really suck.

How about you? Do you enjoy editing, or is it something that makes the skin on the back of your neck get all crawly? Who do you get to critique your work?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Writing The Hard Stuff

'I want hard stories, I demand them from myself. Hard stories are worth the difficulty. It seems to me the only way I have forgiven anything, understood anything, is through that process of opening up to my own terror and pain and re-examining it, re-creating it in the story, and making it something different, making it meaningful - even if the meaning is only in the act of the telling.'

This is a quote that I found in the book 'Writing Fiction, A Guide To Narrative Craft' by Janet Burroway. As soon as I read it, I knew it held truth for me. I've been wrestling lately with some elements of my story this week, trying to add depth to my characters and make them more real. There's been a niggling thought in my mind about adding a storyline that actually happened to me; something traumatic, that I've worked through in my own life, but still, it's there, with all its remembered pain and sadness. However, I kept pushing it aside because, frankly, the very idea of bringing this element into my story, and into my protagonist's life, scared the hell out of me. But it wouldn't let me go, and I knew after about a week of fighting with it, that it must be right.

Then I read that quote, and I knew. But did I have the courage to do it? To write out of my own pain, to put it on the page?

Finally, one day last week, I forced myself to sit at the computer and not get up till it was down in black and white. The memories it brought back were difficult, but also not as hard as I thought. The act of writing it down felt....good. Right. And I know that my story is better because of it.

And, yes, like Dorothy said, hard stories are worth the difficulty.

What do you think? Have you found that writing about the hard times in your life, the scary stuff, has helped you? Has it made you a better writer?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

And Now the Real Work Begins....

Well, not really.

Writing the first draft was a lot of work. It's just that, in hindsight,
it was a lot more fun than what I'm doing now.


And more editing.

I knew this stage was going to be difficult, but, really. I had no idea.

I know that all first drafts are crappy. I was expecting that.

What I wasn't expecting was how hard it was going to be to rip my baby to shreds. Tear its limbs off, rearrange its body parts. Yikes.

So, the first thing I did was order a few books on editing. Here's what I picked:

1. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King.
2. The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman, and
3. The Plot Thickens, also by Lukeman.

Once I'd pored over the books, I did a quick first edit of my manuscript, looking for any
blatant errors; excessive adjectives, showing versus telling, sound, style, and story arc.
Then I handed it off to my lovely first reader, who, after going over the first five chapters, gave me lots of good feedback.

Whereupon I went back for my second edit.

And, upon seeing the glaring errors that now seem so obvious, I mustered my courage
and started using the 'delete' button. It was hard at first; in fact, it took about a month
before I was ready to get rid of scenes that, even though I loved them, just didn't work.

Now that I'm on a roll, it's really not so bad, because I'm starting to see how
much better it's becoming.

So, excuse me while I get back to it. That 'delete' button is getting a good workout these

Friday, March 12, 2010


There are two little words in the English language that are elusive and ironic. These words represent a goal met, a dream realized. And yet at the same time they symbolize a beginning. What are these words?


I wrote these words for the very first time a week ago. For me, typing those words on the screen and seeing them, in all their black and white reality, felt very surreal. It was a day I never thought would come. But, six months ago when I sat down and looked at my blank screen and typed 'In the Beginning', (well, not actually, but you know what I mean), I knew that if I was going to start it then I was darn well going to finish it. No matter what.

So I guess I can now officially call myself 'an author.' My book, my first draft, crappy though it may be, is done. All 92,000 words of it.


This has been a very long journey for me, to get to 'the end'. I had to overcome a lot of fears, doubts, anxiety, excuses, and a myriad of neuroses to even believe that I had it in me to write a book. I logged six months of life coaching before I even had the guts to start.

But start, I did. And I've learned so much. Like, that I can be disciplined when it's important to me. And I can finish things. And that I do have a voice, and I trust it.

So, now what? Well I've put my baby in the drawer for a couple of weeks. Then i'll go back and start editing, revising, and all that good stuff.

Which is a whole new journey, full of new lessons.

I can't wait.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Hey all you writers! I will be attending a webinar tomorrow at 10am at the Writers Digest website. The presenter is Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent. It is titled 'How Do Agents and Editors Decide?' and she will be discussing why some projects get picked out of the pile by agents and editors while most do not. It sounds like a great and informative talk and I can't wait! If you want to check it out, head over to Rachelle's blog at
I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, February 1, 2010

I Need A Few More Crabs Under My Rock...

I have been thinking a lot lately about the writing process and what would make it better. The writers' life is a solitary one, to be sure, and that's just fine with me. I like to be alone; I need to be alone in order to re-charge that creative part of me. However too much time alone is not good either. I find myself becoming isolated and unsure of myself, and a wee bit depressed. So, this week I made a point of getting together with a couple of good friends for a long overdue coffee. We talked about writing, and life, and everything else. And I found that I was a little lighter in the step as I went through the rest of my week. Also, talking with other writers gives me inspiration, and encouragement, and reassures me that I'm not alone in this vast universe of words. And hopefully I can do the same for them.
For me it's all about the balance, and as much as I enjoy my rock, it's always good to have a few other crabs under there to hang out with.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Out From Under The Rock

Wow. It's been a while since I've been here. Sorry about that. It's just that I've been a little busy. Yup, that's right. I've been.....writing! Actual, every day, disciplined writing. Between 1,000 and 2,000 words every day. Except Sunday. Which means the novel is moving along quite nicely. I'm about two thirds finished. I can't believe it! I'm on the homestretch! Well, for the writing part. Then comes editing, revising....but I'll think about that some other time. Right now I am focused on getting it all on paper (or screen).

I'm learning a lot too. About myself, and what I can do when I put my mind to it. Sounds like a cliche, I know. But if you had asked me a year ago if I would ever write a book, I would have said 'maybe....dunno....sounds neat tho.' And that would be fear talking. Because fear, my friends, is a big scary monster that keeps me from acting on my dreams. It keeps me inert, frozen in a glacier full of what-ifs and I-cants. And every day that I act in opposition to my fears, and turn the volume down on the scary unknown, the fear gets less and less. And I realize that fear is not real. It feels real, when I allow it to take precedence in my thoughts. But it isn't. It's simply a feeling. And I can override that feeling by action. And that brings confidence.

So, I can honestly say that I am feeling more confident as a writer. A lot of my doubts have fallen away with every letter I hit on my keyboard. Not that I don't still struggle, because I do. Especially when I read about how tough it is to find an agent, or the reality of the publishing industry right now. But the more I simply do, and write, the more I believe in myself. And that feels good.

I'll try and write more regularly on here, and keep you up to date on the adventures of an emerging writer.
Time to go back under the rock.