Archive | September, 2013

Novel Girls: Credentials, Conferences and Taking a Break

30 Sep

This version of Novel Girls is a little less technical and more theoretical.  I hope you’ll leave a comment with your opinions.

Nicole and I met Thursday night to do our usual editing and pizza.  Before we got to the red-pen marking up, we were just chatting over our shared garlic butter and three things worth discussing came up.

The first is credentials as a writer.  I touched on this briefly in my post about being published.  When submitting a query letter, it’s recommended to list your credentials as a writer.  As of right now, all I have is my two stories published in Summer Legends.  That’s not much to go on!

I don’t have an English degree and the only reason I understand grammar at all is because I had to learn Spanish grammar.  I haven’t taken a creative writing class since high school.  I did well writing essays in college, but they were only essays (mostly business essays at that, which are a different category altogether).  I read a lot, which I think makes for a better writer, but that’s hardly a qualification.

So, what would I put on a query letter?  I was high school Lit Mag editor?  I have a blog with 32 followers?  I have a really really great personality?

I’ve read to just leave any references to your qualifications off if they don’t pertain to writing.  So ignore the fact I have two bachelors degrees, graduated Suma Cum Laude and work for a Fortune 500 company.  NO ONE CARES!  Right? I’m doomed to be the unqualified writer for the rest of my life.

Reader, what’s your opinion?  Am I out of the game without an English degree (and please don’t say MFA, I’m thinking MBA is a bit more applicable to the job which brings in some money)?  Besides being published in a journal, what kind of credentials could I gain before querying my novel?

The second thing we discussed, which kind of follows from the former, is writers conferences.  I’ve seen some places that say a writer was a participant in XYZ writer’s conference or workshop.  The first thing I think when I read this is that they took six months off of work to go sit in the woods with some hippies and write what came out of their acid-fueled dreams.  (PS- I know this isn’t true)  So what does one get out of going to these conferences?

I did my two-hit Google search research.  A lot of conferences seem to be weekend meetings where an writer can talk to authors, agents, publishers, etc. to get their advice and guidance.  That sounds awesome!  I’m not going to lie, I’d love to go to a conference.  There’s one locally that sounds great but it’s the weekend of my brother-in-law’s wedding.  I hope to go next year.

So my question is, what have you gotten out of a conference that made you a better/more successful writer?  Was the money/time invested worth it?  What are some things to look for to find a good conference?

And the last question.  It’s pretty timely as NaNo comes up.  Nicole told me her goal is to finish the novel she’s working on before NaNo so that she doesn’t have to stop in the middle of it.  I realized that I stopped for about six months in the middle of my first WIP.  Of course, I never stopped thinking about it but my job at the time was too demanding for me to do anything else.  When I switched to my current job, I had the time and I finished the manuscript.

Have you ever taken a prolonged break in the middle of a manuscript?  Was it to write another book, for a job, family, etc?  Did you feel you’d lost something when you came back to it?  Had you forgotten where you wanted to go?

I’d love to hear all of your thoughts on these three topics!  Please help give this fledgling writer some guidance.

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Prompt Group: Wyoming and a picture

27 Sep

Every other Tuesday is my prompt group!  This time around, I liked what I did for the prompts.  Instead of posting what I wrote, I’m going to post the prompts first.  If you want to, write them!  You can leave a comment or do a pingback so I know to go read your writing.

  1. The stark, bleak wastelands of Wyoming (3 minutes)
  2. This image:
Prompt picture

Picture provided by Suleman, I’m not sure where it came from.

All right, now that you’ve done that, here’s what I wrote.  I hope we came up with some completely different stuff.

  1. Well, this is where the buffalo roam and the deer and antelope play.  If only a discouraging word could be heard seldom.  Instead, my mother keeps telling my baby brother to calm down and we’re bound to find a bathroom soon.  Though, it seems unlikely since we haven’t seen a person in an hour and then it was some uber-psyco cyclist with seven gallons of water in her saddlebags and a ham radio strapped on the back.
  2. No matter how low I crouch, there are always those smaller than me.  No matter how small I feel, there will always be those lower.  It’s a funny thing in life, that you are never the bottom of the barrel.  There’s always someone lower down, someone looking up to you thinking “Dang, i wish I was where that guy is.”
    This time, they were physically shorter than me.  Their whole lives, the twins had wished they were taller, were able to see over lunch counters, could sit on a bench without jumping first.  And myself?  Well, I despised my height.  Always looking down on people from a height I didn’t want.  I had to duck through doorways, pretend I wanted to wear shorts all year long, and hope the celing was high enough in a hotel shower.
    No matter how low I got, I was never lower than them, figuratively and literally.  Their height brought them down the way mine did.  It’s funny when you’re at extremes of the spectrum, you see the middle in the same light.

How did these prompts go for you?

Book Review: Night by Elie Wiesel

26 Sep

Yet another book done!  If anyone’s counting, that’s a total of 53 for the year, well on my way to a goal of 70.  I’m trying to get ahead a bit before NaNo because that’s going to slow me down.

I read this book because I love historical accounts and because I’d never read it before.  I know, shocking.  It was never required in high school, though I do remember an ex-boyfriend who read it and raved about it.  I didn’t much respect his literary preferences then or now, but when my husband said something similar, I knew that this book must be something special.

Night by Elie Wiesel, translated by Marion Wiesel

I knew nothing about this book when I went to read it except that it was about the Holocaust.  I actually looked for it in the fiction section and had to use the library computer to find it in the non-fiction audiobooks.  Night is Wiesel’s account of the Holocaust that he survived and how harrowing of a journey he endured.  Wiesel was an adolescent when he entered the camp and only survived the first day by lying about his age.  He wrote this book (and the second two of the trilogy) years after his release and freedom.

Wiesel and his family live in Romania until they are rounded up in 1944 with the other Jews from their ghetto.  They are taken to Auschwitz where Wiesel and his father are separated from his mother and sisters, never to see them again.  He is put in a forced labor complex to sort electrical parts.  When the front starts to move closer to Auschwitz, the military moves the prisoners Buchenwald in central Germany.  The death rate on the move is over 90%.  Those who are left behind in the Auschwitz hospital ward are liberated 3 days after the SS leave.

Without spoiling the ending, I’ll conclude my summary by saying Wiesel just barely makes it out alive and is obviously shocked for life by the ordeal.  He spent his entire life fighting for human rights and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his efforts.  This book was published in 1955 and he lives to this day in New York City.  He is 95 years old.

The style Wiesel uses is very sparse in details.  He says that he’d rather write too little than too much.  One thing that Wiesel does concentrate on is feelings, emotions, and reactions.  He talks about how he feels about his father’s illness and what he remembers of it rather than describe the physical maladies his father endured.  The emotional reacting is what I feel was so compelling about Wiesel’s writing.

Much of Wiesel’s message came in the Nobel Acceptance Speech that was included in my copy.  He talks about how all people in our world should be treated like people; with fairness and justice.  At a young age, Wiesel was confounded as to how he was not worthy of the basic necessities of life.  He wants his book to move people to see that all humans, no matter how they are precised by some, are worthy of basic care.

Another theme my husband brought to my attention is Wiesel’s fight with God throughout the novel.  He starts as a devout young Jewish boy and quickly wonders why the God he loves would put his own people through such suffering and death.  Wiesel looses his faith along with most of the prisoners; they stop preying and lose respect for the rabbis.

One question that Wiesel raises is “How did the world not respond?”  If I remember my world history classes well, it wasn’t that no one responded, it’s that no one knew.  Had the world been aware of what the SS were doing to the Jews, would everyone have stood idly by and continued fighting the war for political power and control?  Or would the concentration have changed to human rights and the freedom of the captured Jews?  WWII brought about international criminal tribunals and later the ICJ.  Reaction to what happened in Auschwitz and elsewhere was extreme and severe.  I’d like to think that human concentration during WWII would have shifted from defeating Hitler to liberating the Jews had the world been aware of what was going on.

Wiesel has fought for awareness of human oppression and I think he would agree with me on this point.  If the public and political leaders are aware of problems, then we can fight against them.  Awareness must then lead to action.

This raises the issue of “slactivism” which is a term referring to those who raise awareness of an issue and do nothing to help solve it.  It will usually refer to those who re-tweet something or post on Facebook about how bad a situation is.  I think Wiesel is probably disgusted by these people because of all the forceful action he has taken toward change.  I heard author Thrity Umrigar speak and she said that protests for change are only effective when a person puts their physical safety at risk.  I loved this analogy.  March on Washington= physical risk.  Re-Tweeting about the “Kony 2012” movement= slactivism.

Writer’s Takeaways: I mentioned before that Wiesel’s focus on emotions, feelings, and reactions made this book come to life for me.  I think that’s true of all literature.  Other than that, I don’t want to recommend being a part of mass human extermination so following his life path is not recommended.  Wiesel’s passion and strong belief make him a very compelling writer.  He teaches us all to write from our hearts.

Four out of Five.  Highly recommended.

Published!

25 Sep

Get ready for the shameless plug because I’m published for the first time!

There’s a local independent publishing house that got suckered into publishing two of my short stories.  The journal is called Summer Legends and is available for $25 plus shipping.

I truthfully have mixed feelings about this publication.  One hand, my writing is in print and some people will pay money for it!  That’s incredible to me.  On the downside, I’m not sure how widely this journal will be circulated and what kind of appeal it will have; All the authors in it are unknowns, myself included.

I’m so excited that I was accepted, but I wonder what kind of criteria was used because there are some pieces that I feel were falling a bit short.  I wonder if this publication is something I would even want to include in a query letter because I don’t know if an agent would be impressed.

One of the nice features is that I didn’t have to pay to submit my work and received a complimentary copy of the journal.  On the down side, I wasn’t paid for my work.  I’m not particularly bothered by this because I don’t feel the pieces are the best reflection of my writing, but are still good enough that I’m not embarrassed for them to be in the public domain.  I have another short story that I’d like to publish but I’m hoping to get paid for it or at least have it distributed to a wider audience.

Okay, Reader, time to engage in a conversation.  What do you think about this publication?  Should I be proud?  Use it in a query? Look for more well-known journals in the future?  Have you ever submitted to a small journal before and what was the outcome?  Please leave a comment on any of these below and let me know your thoughts!

Novel Girls: Reaction and Editing

24 Sep

This edition of Novel Girls is well overdue!  I left town for the weekend right after Nicole and I last met and only now am finding the time to type it up.  We had our regular get-together and went over chapters from each of our stories.  I love how much we are able to encourage each other to keep writing and to keep editing!  I owe everything to these girls for keeping me going.  Our biggest piece of advice was on reaction of characters, which helps to lend itself to believable dialogue and pacing.

Let’s say my character receives a big piece of news, that her grandma is very sick.  The raw dialogue (no tags) might to something like this.

“Your grandma is very ill”
“Is it serious?”
“It will probably kill her.”
“How long, doctor?”
“It’s hard to say.  At most a year.”
“Thank you, doctor.  We’ll fight this to the end.”

Does this read as believable dialogue?  Not to me, it doesn’t!  The character’s transition from “It will probably kill her” to “How long” covers a range of emotions that a normal human would experience.  It’s what goes between the lines, the tags, description, and injected emotion that make this believable dialogue.  So, I try to use the five sense to brighten up the scene (some are more applicable than others).

  • Sight: Sight is a big one for this scene!  How does the character look when she receives the news from the doctor?  Is there a tear?  A trembling lip perhaps?  And the doctor: is he sympathetic or straight-faced?  And the setting of course; is the grandma there, her heart-rate monitor clicking away?  Is the character at home and is receiving a phone call?  All of these sights make the scene richer and more believable.
  • Touch: This helps us set the scene and the spatial relations.  Does the doctor touch her shoulder reassuringly?  Does the character run her fingers over her sick grandma’s knuckles?  All of these things are part of human reaction.
  • Sound: The beep of the heart rate monitor, the tone the doctor uses, the sobs of the character.  (I’m getting really excited here, I’m trying not to end every sentence with an exclamation point.)
  • Smell: Ever hospital I’ve ever been to has smelled like urine.  I have to imagine that this one would.
  • Taste: Ok, not really applicable here.

So let’s get down to it, shall we?  Combining sensory description, we take a Hemingway-eque conversation and add on some Hawtorn-ian description to come up with something perfectly in the middle.

The doctor sat down at the chair across from me.  We were both listening to the steady beep of her heart rate monitor and her raspy breath.  He didn’t surprise me when he said “Your grandma is very ill.”
I reach out and touch her hand, running my thumb over her white knuckles.  Her skin feels like tissue paper, so thin I could break it.  “Is it serious?”  I’m afraid to hear the answer and breath slowly to keep myself from sobbing.
He responds gently.  “It will probably kill her.”
I let the emotion run through me, shaking me from my very core to my fingertips.  He reaches out and grabs my forearm.  It’s good to have something solid when everything is changing so quickly.
“How long, doctor?”  I can only think about the number of times we’ll have to come back to this moment; the slow beep of machinery and the smell of stale urine on over-washed sheets.
“It’s hard to say.”  He pauses, face contorted as he tries to figure out how close I am to breaking down.  “At most a year.”
He lets me cry for a minute and hands me a tissue that is truthfully no better than thin cardboard.  I use it to wipe my eyes, black streaks of eye liner coming away and undoubtedly staining my face.  “Thank you, doctor.  We’ll fight this to the end.”  He squeezes my arm reassuringly and walks out of the room to let me figure out how to tell grandma she’s dying.

I don’t know about you, reader, but I’m a much bigger fan of the later.  The words between the dialogue show that the character is reacting with more than just her words and gives a better flow from one sentence to the next.

The other thing I wanted to talk about in this post is self-editing.  This is a little different from most other posts about how to self edit and is rather about how to stop self editing.  I can’t stop doing it!  This weekend, my husband decided to finally bite the bullet and read my manuscript.  We decided this would be best accomplished in the car on the way to Iowa out loud.  We only got through two chapters.

The frustration was that I kept stopping him, asking him to make a note about a sentence that didn’t sound right or somewhere that needed more description or a passage that needed to be completely re-written in general.  He got so frustrated from the break in the flow that he stopped.

Readers, I need to know if I’m alone in this!  Do you self-edit every time you hear/read your own writing?  Is there a way to get past this or is it a good thing?  Is being able to recognize my flaws a gift?  Please let me a comment and let me know how you deal with self editing!

Book Review: The Devil the the White City

22 Sep

My husband I are both literary nerds, him being an English teacher and me being, well, me.  On long road trips we like to read aloud or listen to audiobooks to pass the time.  About a month ago, we took a road trip to Indiana for a wedding and started The Devil in the White City but wern’t able to finish it.  Now, we’re in Iowa for a friend’s wedding and we finished it on the way here!  So, sitting at the hotel room desk, I’m writing to you on the book and how I liked it.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

Today, the World’s Fair of 1893 in Chicago might seem like ancient history.  Some of the things introduced at the fair are a part of our daily lives; right now I’m writing this next to an incondescent light bulb using alternating current.  For breakfast, my husband ate shredded wheat.  Both of these were first introduced at the Chicago Columbia Expedition.

Daily Prompt: Service

19 Sep

I haven’t been inspired by a Daily Prompt for a while, but this one is getting some creative juices flowing!  Like yesterday, please comment!  Let me know if my dreams are hopeless or at least what I can do to be a better writer.  I’m going to be out of town for the weekend but when I get back I’ll have a Novel Girls post and a book review to post.  Something to look forward to.

This snippet is based on a character from my first WIP, June.

Daily Prompt: Service

June’s favorite part of the day was after the food was cooked and simmering in the industrial sized pots.  She was sweating and covered in grime, but she usually got a five minute break before the workers started coming to her kitchen.  She had timed it right that day and was sitting on a small stool, giving her feet a break from her weight, when the first children raced to get in line.

The children always came first, racing from the fields and competing to be the first in line.  June usually gave the winner a little something extra, like the biggest slice of bread, but she would also give it to the last child to arrive.  She wanted the children to know they were all worth a little something special.

They called her Miss June and she loved to hear their voices singing to her as they made the mad dash to get in line.  “Miss June!  Miss June!  Did you make soda bread, Miss June?  Is there meat in the soup today, Miss June?  I’m first, Miss June, give me some extra cornbread!”

After the children, the elderly workers showed up.  The supervisors in the field usually let them go first because they walked so slowly, but the children were fast enough to pass them on their way to the kitchen.  After two years, June knew her regular customers and what they would eat.  Mr. O’Conner had no teeth so he got extra soup and no bread.  Mrs. Williamson couldn’t eat anything hot, so June set her soup aside early to cool.  They each smiled and thanked her warmly, nowhere near as pleading as the children.

The women were next, out of courtesy.  June saw the defeat of their position written in the faces.  Many of them were like her; having grown up middle class, their lives were reduced to nothing after the stock market crashed.  She didn’t degrade them with a smile and a pep-talk; they knew as well as she did that these were the worst of times and were only getting worse.  Many of them saved their bread to feed to their children before bed when their stomachs started to grumble again.  June wished she could make more and send them back to work full but it was out of her control.

The men came last, quiet and somber.  They took their hats off to her and she could see the line the sun drew across their foreheads.  Of course, there were a few that were friendly and talkative.

“Afternoon, Miss June,” Jim Boyle always said.  She answered with a polite “Afternoon,” and a smile every day.

“Thank you, ma’am,” Mr. Gambo always said.  June gave him a larger piece of bread because his wife was at home, sick with child and didn’t get fed while she didn’t work.

Marco Amato never said anything; he stared with deep blue eyes that reminded her of Tony.  It made her look away to see those eyes, ones she thought she knew so well, staring at her every day.  Hearing his voice for the first time startled her.  He had a thick Italian accent and she almost didn’t understand him.

“Why you look sad at me, Miss June?”

She cast her eyes down.  “You remind me of someone.”

“A lover?”  Thinking of Tony as her lover made June blush.  “I think that I spoke bad,” he recovered.  “A man that you loved?”

“Yes,” she said with a sad smile.  “Please don’t be offended.  You have the same eyes.”

He grinned.  “You loved an Italian man?”

“Yes, very much.”  She didn’t bother to tell him she still loved an Italian man.  That night, June wrote Tony a letter, explaining why she was sad whenever she saw Marco, but it was a letter she could never send.

Marco continued to talk to her every day, his English becoming clearer and his sentences better formed.  Over time she forgot to be sad when she saw him coming.  But if she looked him in the eye, she could only see Tony staring back at her.

Write Now Prompt: Clouds

18 Sep

I’m going to take some liberties with the Write Now Prompt from yesterday.  It made me think of my NaNo novel in a roundabout way.

I’ve noticed, dear reader(s) that you aren’t much on commenting when I do prompts.  Are you too afraid to tell me I’m terrible and should give up my aspirations of being published?  Nonsense, I’m waiting for the trolling!  Please tell me what you think of this character and this sample.  This is not from my NaNo story necessarily, but is based on it.  Enjoy!

Prompt: The dark clouds rolled in quickly, casting strange shadows across the landscape.

Melissa stared absentmindedly out of the bus window.  The sun set earlier and earlier this time of year.  It was almost that fabled time all Alaskans talk about when the days are shorter than the nights, all leading up to days with no daylight.  Melissa could not say she looked forward to that with any anticipation.

As the sun set quickly, the shadows danced across the lawns on the side of the road.  She watched them become longer and longer until the sun was behind the horizon and it was pointless to look out of the window: she could only see her reflection.

There was only one other person left on the bus when Melissa got off at her stop.  The two had never exchanged words, but had an unspoken relationship as the two who took the same bus every Wednesday.  They exchanged friendly nods in passing and Melissa missed his smile when she was alone on the pavement heading to her grandma’s house.

She’d been in Fairbanks for about two months and was still not used to the bone chilling wind that came after the sun set.  Wrapping her scarf around her nose, Melissa leaned into the wind to offset the weight of her grocery-filled backpack.  The walk wasn’t long, but it gave her enough time to think over all the things that had to happen before her child was born.  She could feel the life inside her and instead of evoking excitement, it felt like a ticking time bomb getting ready to explode.  There were cribs to buy, diapers to learn how to change, and a house to baby-proof without moving things around too much.

The small ranch house came into view as Melissa rounded the corner and walked past her neighbor Julie’s house.  She could see the glow of the TV inside and the shadow of Julie on her treadmill walking in step to the beat of a reality singing show.  Seeing the show reminded her of her parents back in Georgia and how they would always rope her into watching with them.  She had disliked how viewers were encouraged to place so much hope in singers who had only the thinnest chances of ever selling a song in iTunes.  Melissa didn’t like having her emotions toyed with by a host in a sparkling suit.

She put the key in the lock and opened the door slowly, wondering what her grandma would call her.  The day before she had been Melissa, but just that morning she had been Janine, her mother’s name.

“You’re late, Melissa!” her grandma called from the kitchen.  “You’re never this late on Mondays.”

“It’s Wednesday.”

Her grandma didn’t respond.  She got embarrassed when her memory failed her.  Melissa knew that things were only going to get worse.

Melissa found her grandma sitting in front of the TV in the living room watching the same reality show Julie was sweating to.  It made her smile to see her grandma watching the same shows as her daughter.  Or was it the other way around?

“I’ll make dinner,” Melissa called over her shoulder as she headed into her bedroom to change, dropping her shopping by the kitchen door.

“Thanks, Janine,” her grandma said.  Melissa was too happy to correct her.

 

So now it’s time to interact, reader(s).  What could I have done better?  What did you like?  Please leave a comment and let me know.

Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

17 Sep

I’m flying through books, trying to meet my Reading Challenge goal of 70 books this year!  I’m currently at 51, 2% ahead of schedule.  This one was an audiobook and not my favorite one at that.  Read on for a review, but be forewarned of spoilers!

The Paris Wife by Paul McLain

I love historical fiction and I love the 1920s so The Paris Wife seemed like an obvious choice.  It was a recommendation of of my book calendar (I’m telling you, that thing is killing me slowly).  McLain’s story is about Hadley Richardson, the first wife of Ernest Hemingway.  If you’re not familiar with Hemingway’s personal life, he is considered to be something like the jock of the writing world.  He was a womanizer who love big game hunting and bullfighting.  I love his no-frills writing and that he writs about Michigan, something I hold dear to my heart.

Hadley doesn’t think much of herself as she reaches her late twenties and has been turned down by the one man she loved.  When she meets a young man named Ernest Hemingway, she’s swept off her feet, despite the warnings of her good friends.  The two marry and soon enough are off to Paris to pursue the writing scene that Ernest feels he has to involve himself in to be the writer he wants to be.  The life in Paris is like nothing Hadley’s ever experienced before.  There are homosexuals, polygamists and of course more alcohol than she knows what to do with.  They begin a wild life and parties, vacations, friends, and love.

As I’ve already discussed with my friends on Facebook, this book seemed to fall flat to me.  Hadley was not a very likeable protagonist from the beginning and never grew on me.  She was foolish in a lot of her daily decisions and seemed overall weak.  What was most memorable to me was the picture painted of Hemingway.  He started off very likable, but when his first stories got good reviews, he stepped on the people who helped give him a shot.  He was unappreciative of all he was given, including Hadley’s love.

I know that some of my frustrations with Hadley come from a difference of almost 100 years, such as her letting the maid raise her child and the focus on wealth and the desire to be so rich that life is a game.  It’s hard for me to relate to this.  I try to focus on the main themes of the novel: devotion, love, and the complications of friendships.

Hadley’s love for Hemingway is undying, as she admits late in the book.  He can offend her good friends, his own mother, even herself, and Hadley will love him and stay devoted to him.  She lets this take control of her toward the end and it’s somewhat sad to see her fall apart.  Throughout much of the novel the two are so strong that when they tell friends that they’re splitting, many are in complete shock that such a solid couple could stumble.  The ups and downs of the friendships in the novel are a very curious thing.  I can’t think of a single character that remained friends with the Hemingways for the whole novel (though I wish F. Scott Fitzgerald had, he was a great character!).  Friends come into your life for a season and a reason before they leave.

The reader can probably tell I wasn’t a big fan of the book and wouldn’t recommend it.  I had The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin next on my list, but in light of this book, I’m going to take a break and put that on the backburner.  I will say that I really want to read Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises now that I’ve finished The Paris Wife.  If it’s the mix of bare boned prose and bull fighting that I’m anticipating, it will be amazing.

One of the themes that McLain beautifully explored was infidelity, which I’ve never seen done so believably before.  Many books will have one character turned suddenly cold or hateful, but McLain has Hadley and Ernest ride out their separation slowly and painfully, the way a couple would.  The ending was very touching and for sure my favorite part of the book.

Overall, I thought it dragged too much in the middle and the ending went by almost too quickly.  The Fitzgeralds were my favorite characters and I loved the historical accuracy of the piece.  The Lost Generation is so often talked of in terms of their writing and not written about so this was refreshing.

Writer’s Takeaways: I think the first person point of view worked well in this case.  Without it, the piece would sound too much like a history without the fiction.  Being inside Hadley’s mind helped me feel that this was as much a story McLain made up on the spot as it was well-researched.  As someone who hopes to write more historical fiction going forward, this is very worthy of note.  As I said before, I think it dragged a bit in the middle and there could have been a bit more ‘fat cutting’ to bring the piece to more bare bones as Hemingway would have done.  But perhaps not doing so is ironic.  Hm.

Two out of five stars.

Novel Girls: Revision Process

16 Sep

One of the writerly topics I’ve been contemplating is the revision process. When I was in school, nothing I wrote ever needed major revisions; I could get away with changing a few words, at most a paragraph. Now, as I write entire manuscripts, I realize that I’m not so lucky.

Nicole and I met up to work on our novels yesterday. After my Novel Girls meeting on Thursday, i realized I had a lot of major updates to do. (Many times we meet, KK and Nicole will give me some major things to change and I usually put them off. They’d caught up with me.) These major changes hanging over me, along with a blog post I read by Emily on Adventures in Fantasy, made me start thinking about my own revision process.

For the WIP I’m currently on, I’ve done a re-write and I’m now going through chapter by chapter in a workshop, which is bringing out a few scenes that need another re-write. This weekend I’m going to do a read-aloud to help point out a few more scenes that sound weird/are inconsistent that need a re-write. I have a plan to take all of my dialogue and make sure that each character has a unique voice as far as idioms and speech pattern. I have a writing workbook that I’m thinking of going through as well. After that, I have a few betas lined up, which should lend itself to some more re-writing. Hopefully I can micro-edit from there and call it ‘done!’

Being the planner I am, I already developed a plan for my NaNo. The obvious first step: write a 50K+ word novel in 30 days. Easy enough. After that I plan to leave it alone for at least a month if not two. I then plan on doing what I call ‘the notecard thing’ which is where you write your major plot points from each chapter on a notecard. Then, you throw the notecards in the air and put them in an order that makes sense. You might have notecards you can take out, or might move the order of the plot to something more logical. (You can also have someone else put the notecards in order. They might be able to come up with something you missed and needs to be added a bit better.) Then, I’ll do a re-write without even looking at the first draft. I figure that at this point, I’ll know my characters better and this re-write will have more character consistency and development. I’ll go back through the rough draft and do what I’ve decided to call ‘digging for gold’ where I highlight sections that I absolutely love in the rough draft and re-write scenes to bring them into my second draft. Depending on how useful I find the workbook and dialogue pull from WIP 1 revisions, I might try those. From there, chapter by chapter workshopping, specific scene re-write, betas, and micro-editing before I’m done.

I’m a very methodical person and I need to have a plan to work to. What’s your process? Do you have a standard process you go through before you call a manuscript ‘done’ (or at least ready to send out)? Do you have suggestions for me? Please leave a comment and let me know!