When Your Own Bad Writing Makes You Sick

Ever look back and read work you’ve done in the past to realize it sucks so bad you almost feel physically ill?

Yep, that happened to me in a big way Sunday. The previous week my son started school on Wednesday, so I started working on my new novel with gusto (I’d been waiting all summer to start!), but realized I had some background information and research that needed to be done first. Then I got the bright idea to read the half completed first draft of my second novel (Dark Territories) over the weekend. God, what a horrible, awful, terrible disappointment that turned out to be.

I couldn’t even get all the way through two chapters before I decided I’d had enough, because I was real close to vomiting. Yeah, it was that bad. And I can’t even pinpoint one specific thing that was terrible. There was a well balanced amount of terribleness from stiff and completely out of character dialogue to plot leaps that would make a mountain goat proud. There were tie-ins from one story arc to another that left me wondering exactly how much I had to drink that day. And please don’t even get me started on my long windedness. I could probably make a schooner set sail with all that blustering air moving about in each scene.

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Writing, a Never Ending Journey of Exploration and Learning

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” — E.L. Doctorow

If someone told me as I first started writing about nine years ago that my writing would be a never ending journey, I’m not sure I would have set out on that particular path. Granted, most people start writing for a reason, which usually includes the buzzing of character voices and ideas that won’t shut up. That was my case, and even with that warning I probably wouldn’t have had a choice in the matter. I find writing to be the only way to get the voices to shut the hell up (yeah, that makes me sound pretty certifiable huh?). But it’s the idea of the never ending that might make most people bulk, though I have learned since then that never ending can be a good thing.

When I started writing, I didn’t even know how to put a decent sentence together. Of course back then, I thought I could do at least that much, but I was young, delusional, and a little stupid. I don’t even dare look back at my writing from the very beginning because I’d cringe way too much. It was embarrassing. Really it was.

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Novel Submission: Creating Multiple Synopses

UnknownWe’ve already talked about the query package and writing an effective cover letter, let’s get to the really hard part… the synopsis. First I want to say that I’ve found it’s impossible to write just one synopsis. To get a great synopsis, it’s better to do a few, because let’s face it your publisher is going to want more than the one to three page synopsis you submitted if they do accept your novel. They’ll most likely want a shorter blurb for the back cover. Also some publishers want more than a one to page synopsis when submitting to them, so why not just get them all done at once and be done with it.

For me it was easier to do the really long synopsis first. The chapter by chapter sum up of the entire novel, which reached a huge twenty pages. I doubt any publisher will want all of that, but it was good for me because I did not previously have what others might call an outline. Many of you may already have this chapter by chapter summary or outline completed. But I don’t do written outlines as I’m writing because I’m a pantser. I feel outlines distract from letting the story flow where it needs to go. So if you like to be organized and have a nice neat outline down before you even write the first word of your novel, then you can totally skip this step.

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Novel Submission: Writing an Effective Cover Letter

516TFGYGF9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_We talked about Novel Submission: The Query Package, but now let’s get more specific and discuss how to actually write a cover letter (and FYI, writing a novel cover letter is different than a short story cover letter, in fact there are some publications that don’t even require a cover letter for short story submissions).

The following post is an accumulation of what I learned from Gary A Braunbeck’s worksop on cover letters and synopses, research I’ve done, and my own observations as I wrote the cover letter for my novel.

Here are some important things to keep in mind as you begin to write the cover letter (or what some call a query letter)…

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Writing Groups: Not for All Writers All of the Time

One of the first pieces advice I received as a young writer (about eight or nine years ago now) from multiple sources (mostly from writing books and sage advice from published authors) was that to be successful at writing one must join a writing group. I was told writing groups would make me a better writer by giving me a place to talk and learn about writing as well as put me around other like-minded individuals for the support I needed to keep writing.

I took that advice to heart and joined a writers group two years after I began my cool hobby of writing, because I wanted to take my cool hobby to the next level.

It was the best decision of my life.

Until that defining moment of joining my first writing group, writing was a fancy. Something I did in my spare time. I had big ideas of being published, but it was a pie in the sky kind of thing. Joining a writing group made me realize that writing isn’t as romantic as I first thought. It’s lot of hard work (and a building of strict discipline and great effort), but work that had a hell of a pay off in the end (and I’m not talking about being published).

Through the help of my new writing friends, I learned that writing was not just something to do or some passing fancy for me, it was a way of life… my new way of life. And for two years, I went to every single writing meeting religiously (every other Saturday afternoon). And no sickness or excuse would keep me from going (okay, so if I was running a fever I wouldn’t go, but you get the idea).

Then I started getting restless. Something was wrong, very wrong and I didn’t know what it was. The meetings weren’t as fulfilling anymore and more times than not I would come home from a meeting totally frustrated, wondering why I’d wasted hours talking about writing and other things that had nothing to do with writing (because my writing group did love to get off topic a lot).

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Does it Take Being Obsessed to be Successful at Writing?

Obsession. It’s a word that many people view in a negative context. Probably because it’s a singling out of one thing that usually gives imbalance to a well-rounded life style. But really, who actually lives a well-balanced lifestyle? So then, why even think of an obsession as a bad thing? In fact, many who have entered into this heightened state are usually the ones who actually get things done. Dictionary.com defines obsession as “the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, ect.” Sounds to me like a the exact place a writer needs to be.

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The Art, Craft and Business of Writing Fiction

Here are some notes I took from a workshop I did by Linnea Sinclair when I went to Context a few weeks ago. I found them helpful and thought I would share. 


Are you a writer or author?
Writer= isn’t serious about being published
Author=  has published works
Writing is an art and craft, but it is also a BUSINESS!
 

All About the Art and Craft


  • You have to couple good writing with original thought.
  • Read as much as you can of what is available in the genre that you write and other genres as well.
  • Too many writers stop at the art, at the muse. Move past this and get into the craft of writing.
  • Craft is the only way to tame the muse.
  • Art lives in the emotions, but only craft can give your words life.
  • Craft allows you to refine your words.
  • Decent craft has good plot, logic, characterization and conflict.
  • It is the author’s job to manipulate the emotions of the reader.

All About the Business

  • Network! Meet and greet as many as people you can that will help you move forward as an author this includes other writers, editors, agents and publishers.
  • Do your homework! A subscription to Publisher’s Lunch is essential in this endeavor. It is a bible of information for finding agents and publishers. If you know what’s being published you can find how published it and what agents are looking for.
  • Build up your resume
  • Beware of the trend in New York. If you want to be picked up by big name publishers use New York as your source of information for what’s wanted on the market.
  • Have an elevator pitch ready to sell yourself. An elevator pitch is being able to pitch your story in the time it would take to ride an elevator.
  • Know your read-a-like.What current author do you write like? You should know this to give as a pitch to potential agents and publishers.
  • Analyze your own writing to discover where it fits and makes sure it’s in your query letter.
  • Be prepared to market your own work. In fact when submitting a novel manuscript, you should have a marketing plan already written up.

Sites to Check Out!

Must have books!

I also highly recommend her online classes as well. You can check them out at linneasinclair.com/news.html