Tag Archives: writing

I gave up Facebook, and I feel fine.

Yes, at first the habit of signing in and seeing what everyone I know (knew?) had been up to while I slept, made itself felt.  But I was spending far too much time there, so I stayed away.  After approximately two weeks I forgot about FB, except when something I’m interested in wants me to sign in through FB, or worse, my favorite local nursery’s website is a FB page.

Posting on FB had ups and downs.  Do I always post happy stuff I wondered.   I survived lectures about posting protest types of comments.  One was said with a little laughter at my expense, suggesting that I wasn’t enlightened enough.  A lot of my acquaintances were in the realm of woo-woo, which can be wonderful, until it isn’t.  Until they tell you the things they see in your aura without having been asked, and it’s never good.

Every time the news posted something about the lack of privacy on FB my inner Ron Swanson would go on high alert.

Do I care how many people “Like” a particular post?  Sometimes, and I questioned that and was not thrilled with my answer.  More frustrating was the lack of human responses beyond a “like” or an emoji.  I also don’t appreciate seeing other people’s food that doesn’t involve a professional food stylist.  Don’t they see that it looks like dry vomit or fresh road kill?  If it’s delicious, tell me about that, with words.

I’m happy to say I never developed an inner grammar police.  I’d see the typos or errors, stop, double check I understood the meaning and keep going.  Not everyone got an A in English.  Some folks speak several languages, but English wasn’t their first so naturally, there are mistakes.

Then there are the comments I didn’t post because, well, family.

It wasn’t just my family, it was his family too.

FB was useful for instant messaging, but then I found myself using that more than the main page.  Don’t I have a phone that can text?  Why yes I do.  And all the while FB is prodding me to update photos, to post a new comment.  It dawned on me that I had more acquaintances than friends.  I started a new job and life got busier.  My writing time dwindled.

Finally, someone shared that FB is keeping tabs on my account by having a “friend” hiding in the shadows.  One I could not delete.  It is, after all, their service, I’m just the squirrel trying to get a nut.

It’s been since the end of February.  I write more, I call or text friends, I read the newspaper when I want to know what’s going on in the world, and I feel fine.

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The elusive moment of feeling a written work is finished

I’ve talked with other writers, read their blogs, and many say that when it comes to editing their work, they’re never done.  I agree, I can’t ever seem to open a piece of my own work and not make some kind of change, until it happened.

I wrote a short story during the last ice age.  Since then it’s been sitting around, occasionally taken out, dusted off, and tinkered with, only to be put back.  I would always feel as if it wasn’t quite finished, that the voice of the character was not consistent from start to finish.  Or critiques showed readers were confused where I thought clarity reigned supreme.   At the beginning of summer I told myself to finish it once and for all and send it off.  You know, just do it.  I did make changes, and then, nothing.  I felt as if I’d read this story enough, too much even, and kept ignoring it on my list of recently worked titles.

The other day something different happened.  I opened up the document, swallowed my previous notions with a figurative vitamin C, for clarity, and made cuts.  After, I slipped into the character and wrote a little more.  The additions were small, maybe four lines total, but they were striking enough to send chills down my arms.  I rushed to save the piece, and closed it before I messed it up.  Less is more in my book, especially with a short story.  I hadn’t read it through, but I was certain if I changed one more thing I’d jinx it.  I considered the idea of a jinx to be a little over the top, so I swapped it out for one along the lines of the story needing to rest, like dough for yeast bread.  (Yes, I recognize that I need to get out more.)

Thursday I printed it out for writers group, still unread, arrived and promptly decided I wasn’t going to read it.  Thankfully it was an unusual evening, a new member read some striking poetry that kicked me into action.  If she can be brave and read poetry, which is so much more personal somehow, I think, then I can read this story for the umpteenth time.  I did, and it felt, right.  I used to get that feeling with college essays, that sweet, inner surety that clearly said, ‘this baby can be put to bed’.

I looked around the table at the others and their faces reflected the story.  I quieted the excited cheer rousing in my head, and waited for their words.  I’m happy to say the audience was moved, and today I’m going to the post office to mail it off to my favorite literary magazine.  My mind is changed, that moment of feeling a piece is finished can happen.  Excuse me while I kiss the sky.

the art of the review

The point of leaving a review is to inform a potential reader what you liked or did not like in a book.

I’ve hesitantly re-animated my Goodreads account to help me find books in specific genres.  It can be helpful to avoid stories that aren’t what I’m looking for.  My problem is reviews are hard to follow.  I understand.  Even a professional reviewer can turn into a troll.

When I first joined a writer’s group, I’d listen and think how awful the story sounded.  Yes, I’m aware they probably thought the same of my work.  It made reading my work, and hearing the work of others uncomfortable to say the least.  The guidelines we follow in that group have helped me immensely in seeing the great bits of writing in a piece, leaving feedback to writers across the table from me, and how to edit my own work based on critique.  One more,  it’s also helped me to find books I enjoy.

Point out the good stuff.  When a review tells me what the best parts of a story are, and there is almost always something good in a piece of writing, if I like that sort of thing, I might give the book a try.   For example; the sense of flow, dialogue, description, there might be a poetic sense to the writing here and there, etc.,.  It took some practice before I was able to locate these, but now that I can life is so much better.  Why you ask?  Because a writer wants to know, not just what didn’t work, but what did, and so does a potential reader.  The person reading a review might like the very thing I hate, or find they love the same stories.  Also, as a human, who creates and shares that work with others, the point is to encourage that writer to keep writing, chances are they will anyway, don’t you want them to consider a possible change for the better?

When something in the book doesn’t work for you as a reader, say why.  Please don’t cast aspersions on the writer’s intelligence, or leave it at, “It sucked, whatever”.  As a possible reader, I want to know if you felt the main character was believable, or did you feel the whole thing was bogged down in description.  This requires considering the parts and breaking a few of them down, rather than labeling the whole book a ‘hot mess’.  Please keep in mind, most writers have developed a rather thick skin.  But behind the inanimate book, stands a human being.

Which leads me to wondering who reads a book they think they’ll dislike?  I keep seeing this on reviews, “I thought I’d hate this and I did.”  If something isn’t your thing, accept that and read something else.  I give points to a reader for trying a new literary flavor, or giving a generally disliked genre another chance, those reviews may bring in other new readers.  That said, I do not understand why anyone would force themselves to read something they didn’t find any joy in, and then disgorge a nasty review.  That just sort of mucks things up.

I learned that I read some books for different reasons than others.  Some say they read for the romance of a story, even if it’s listed as fiction (enter sub category here), and not romance in particular.  Others might say they like the gory bits, or the creepy nightmares it gave them.  Something I like to avoid.  Shudders.  That bit of information can be useful to a potential reader as well as the writer.

One thing a reader/reviewer should be aware of is the following.  The writer has already gone through a multitude of feedback, edits, and so on.  I’m not saying every published, self published, and indie published book is perfect.  I’m saying, it’s a finished product.  And I’m not talking about typos and punctuation.  I’m talking about content.  You won’t see George R.R. Martin hesitating to kill a Stark.  Sure you can leave a review saying you hated to see Ned get the ax, it certainly shocked the heck out of me, but don’t write it with the attitude of someone who knows better.  (And don’t tell/order/beg him to not kill Arya.  There are more books coming)  Ehem.  The reader is a guest to the party.  Yes, a writer can glean information here and there, but most don’t write to make readers happy, they write the story they are moved to tell.

Lastly, reviewing books in this way has helped me become a bit more discerning and broadened my reading horizons.  Although I still can’t get past the first chapter of Neal Stephenson’s, Anathem.  I suspect I lack the grey matter for it, but I bet people who see math in colors, and what have you, love it.  It’s exciting to find new books I enjoy, and how much faster I can spot what I don’t like, so I can get lost in a story I do like.  And you thought the Hokey Pokey was what it was all about.  There are a TON of stories out there, it’s a bit like the mother of all treasure hunts, so what are you waiting for?  Grab a book and bon voyage!

Sex and females in young adult fiction

While I’m aware of what I personally don’t like, sexually speaking, in a book aimed at adults, and I get that some folks don’t like sex beyond suggestion in any books they read.  I’ve read a lot of blogs by writers about sex in stories, mostly aimed at adults, most are focused on how graphic the scene should be.  But what I’m wondering specifically is about Young Adult fiction.

How will it be accepted that my book, the main character, a teenage girl of seventeen, has a scene where she amps up the heat on her boyfriend, hoping to take things to the next level?

How do you feel about sexual scenes in books for and about teens?

perfect rough drafts?

I have a week to polish as much of my first draft before printing it up and handing a copy over to my beta reader.  I’ve been going over my book so much my eyes hurt.  And my brain is treading water, begging me to stop, please.  DO anything, else.  Please.

I’ve never considered myself a perfectionist.  I like to bake and while I love picture perfect looking baked goods, if/when my creations don’t look gorgeous, I shrug it off and am happy that they taste good. I leave the perfect looking stuff to bakeries.  I have picture frames on the wall that hang ever-so-slightly crooked, doesn’t bother me.  I know, some of you are twitching over that, sorry.  I only want to point out, I’m not a perfectionist, not when there are books to read, hills to hike, cookies to bake, and knock-knock jokes to respond to.

My sudden all-hours-of-the-night-rush to perfect my story as much as possible before giving it to a reader who is well aware that it’s far from ready to publish, is pretty new to me.  There is no such thing as a perfect rough draft.  That’s why they call it a rough draft.  And it makes sense, so why am I determined to try?  I think it’s because I’ve never written a full length, fictional story before.  Short stories yes.  Non-Fiction yes.  But this is like creating something that no one has seen before, and hoping people won’t point, laugh and say, “You call that a story?!”

What if they do?  I already know my beta reader, excuse me, Beta Reader, (she deserves capitals), likes the premise, and as much of what she’s heard in writer’s group.  I’m sure she’ll have good advice for whatever doesn’t work, and be considerate in whatever she says.  Am I to be so afraid of her opinions, and others, that I never hand in a copy because it’s not perfect?

No.  I decided today this is not to be.  I must unclench.  I stepped away from the computer and picked up a book.  I’ve got a three-day weekend to relax, to think, to breathe and not write.  I’m going to do it.  I am.  Honest.  If you have perfectionist habits, what do you do to dissuade yourself from fully indulging in them?

lesson on playing, take two, this time with feeling

I’ve learned that I can’t force creative ideas, specifically with writing, again.  In the past I learned that if they aren’t flowing, it’s time to do something else; read a book, go for a walk, play a game, etc.,.  I’ve gotten so good at this that I was cool when Winter Break came around and I hadn’t hit my goal of having finished a rough draft of my book.  I accepted this, a lot happened after Halloween; kids home with colds, Thanksgiving Break, birthdays in December, which snowballed into Winter Break and Christmas.

I put my story aside to focus on time with family, I opened up the document to work on it a bit when a couple of tiny ideas came to me, but otherwise, I enjoyed what the days brought.  I gave myself a new deadline, funny word don’t you think?  Dead and line.  Anyway, I decided to have a completed, rough draft of my story, finished by the end of January.

Which really means I went overboard the first week everyone went back to school and work.  I stared at the screen, I thought about my characters, and nothing.  Silence, no ideas came to mind, no sounds of typing filled the air.  It was as if they had gone on strike.  I gave in a couple of times and allowed myself to goof around, to play, thinking as soon as I spent an hour or so doing something else, the characters and how they felt, and why they are a certain way, would come flooding back and I’d be back on track.  Nope.

It’s like the world knew that I was more or less pretending to put everything else out of my head and, you know, play.  I put characters from my book into The Sims 3 Seasons, which was probably what gave me away.  I remember telling my oldest kid I was afraid I’d get that game for a gift because I’d waste so much time playing it, and she laughed, saying, “That’s what games are for.”  Brilliant kid there.  Turns out, I wasn’t really playing, I was trying to use the game characters to force the storyline back to the fore of my focus.  I had some loose ends in there and dammit I wanted them tied up yesterday.  Way to have fun right?

Interestingly, I think I’ve had this lesson before, to just breathe and spend some time for myself doing what I want.  I must have forgotten it.  I spent three weeks being with others, playing games, preparing for guests, baking cookies, cleaning, driving, and visiting.  All enjoyable.  But then it takes a special someone in my life to point out, “You haven’t had any time to yourself for three weeks, go easy and do whatever you want.”  thank you Sam.

I did, and the next day, my characters were revved up and ready to guide me into telling their story.  I tried to cram a weeks worth of writing into a day and ended up with very tired eyes and some jumbled notes.  But I felt overall, very good.  I wanted to stay up late last night, but finally listened to myself and got some sleep.  This morning, I found it pretty easy to check on how well the thread of suspense is being woven throughout, which was what had been bothering me.  It took until today to figure out how to go back and tie it all up neatly.  I can almost hear James Brown singing about feeling good, and I gleefully suspect I’ll have this done before the end of January.

Everything going on in my life can co-exist happily as long as I remember to have some fun time doing whatever I want.  Not begrudgingly, and certainly not go into it with half a mind on something else, just. play.  I want to remember this from here on out, to let my hair fly back, throw my whole self into whatever it is, and before I know it, there’s laughter and a soaring heart that’s exclaiming, “WEEEEEEEEEE!” like a giddy kid on a swing.

bad words and YA lit.

First off I have to say, I’m a fan of George Carlin and as I write this I can hear him saying, “There are no bad words…”  and I agree, they are simply words, and all of them have a place.  I had been told that YA publishers don’t cotton to cuss words in YA literature.  Which hasn’t been a problem for me, much.

I am writing a YA novel and yes, one character would like to swear, but I’ve been sidestepping it with phrases such as a friend overhearing, “a string of colorful words, meaning her mom must not be home.”

I recently read a YA book, something contemporary, which has won an award, and it has a healthy dose of swear words, including the globally recognized “F” word.  Obviously these words are allowed and I got incorrect information.  That’s fine, then I started to wonder, what are some of the feelings about these words used in this genre?

I started asking around for opinions on this and have read some interesting thoughts.  I agreed with some, disagreed with others and then it occurred to me that none of these folks are teenagers.  Not knowing any current teens, I queried some who have been teenagers very recently, and the response to being asked how they felt when reading swear words in YA books was; “normal”.

I’m not one to shy away from reading any particular words, and while I don’t  want to be barraged by obscenities, I can accept it if it fits the character and the story is good.  Now, I may just let my character get a few of those sorts of words in.

I still want to ask, have you ever put a book down because there were swear words?  Do you have a limit to how many you’ll tolerate?  Or does it depend on what sorts of words are used; damn and ass for example, but not anything stronger?