Tag Archives: writing help

Reblog: Let’s Talk about Rejections

Please click on the heading below to read the post:

An Open Letter to Editors & Agents: It’s Time to Talk About Rejections

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the submission-rejection process. Have you been treated to the ‘no response’ response or the super-vague “you’re just not right for us” rejection letter? Do you think these suggestions might be helpful? Share your thoughts below!

 

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Making Lemonade from Lemons with Manuscript Magic

So, the Manuscript Magic test has officially begun. And, I have to say that I am enjoying the program, learning a lot and, for the first time, really enjoying revision process.

Say what?!

Yes, that’s right.

I’m having fun.

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First off, the program is well set up. Writer and editor Bonne Johnston discusses various writing issues on video (for ex. how to solve a slow opening, how to fix boring characters, how to eliminate too much backstory or exposition) and each module includes a PDF version of the topic that includes questions and solutions to resolve those issues.

(As I listened to the videos, it helped to think about the story as a first draft and not a finished novel I wrote 8 years ago. It made the grievous mistakes I made easier to swallow!)

Anyway, the module videos are very helpful. The videos are short. I haven’t watched them all but they usually run about 8-20 minutes. The PDFs are printable, downloadable, and fillable.

Bonnie made a point in one of the videos that I appreciated. She said that it’s normal for writers to make certain mistakes in a draft, especially if the writer is in Exploratory Writing Mode.

I know this, but it was still good to hear it.

I’ll elaborate.

When I start a new project, I’m usually inspired by a feeling, a phrase, or a picture but have no idea where to take it so I write to see what develops. Writing like that is freeing, but I end up over-explaining developing ideas, which causes info dumps, stagnant patches, over-description, or the character being overly introspective. As freeing as being a ‘pantser’ can be, I think it can contribute to frustration and dread of pending revisions, especially for perfectionists (me!). Yes, it’s satisfying to write passionately about a subject, but deep down I know a lot of what I’ve written just isn’t good. So, for me, Bonnie’s point normalized this writing pattern and presented it in a way that actually served a purpose (getting ideas on the page and actually finishing the MS) while offering hope that with the program’s help, I’ll have the tools needed to make lemonade from lemons.

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Last night, I started the analysis of the manuscript for The Eagle’s Gift (TEG). I went through it scene by scene and wrote down some basic info about each, while noting what I didn’t like as well as my own solutions. Luckily, the MS is short (12 chapters) so this didn’t take too long. In just over an hour, I had produced a working outline and had identified the preliminary problems.

This morning, I went on to step 2: completing the MM checklist. This was quick, and I completed it during my daughter’s karate course and still had time to spare.  In the checklist, I responded to specific questions about each scene, which ultimately identified specific structural problems in need of fixing before moving forward with the fine tuning and polish (style and flow, line editing, etc.).

I appreciated this because as a pantser, I often write from a place of inspiration and no fixed outline or story structure. So, when I’m trying to edit, I get lost in how to solve the problems I sense but can’t see. For the first time, I felt I was actually working in a productive, targeted manner.

After the checklist, I used the diagnostic tool, where the Fixes for the story’s problems are presented. Bonnie’s videos and the PDFs I mentioned previously facilitate the process without telling you what to do. In the MM process, the suggestions help the writer come up with solutions that he or she deems appropriate to the story being written.

Ok, so that’s about the program description and process. What about the results?

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I had mentioned that TEG was a failed manuscript. Reading over the various versions 8 years later, it was clear why the story failed. But, I also realized that, at this point in my life, I didn’t want to write that story anymore. The problem I had examined in that story was answered in the Rise of the Papilion Trilogy, which is self-published.

Another thing Bonnie mentioned (and we’ve all heard this before) is that when you cut something from a story, you can either put it aside or find a way to reuse it. With that in mind, I decided to put the original story aside. There are some beautifully written parts amidst some bad parts, and I am attached to it all. But I had to remind myself that even if I cut sections, they still exist on file and I can reread them anytime I like.

Then I had another flash. I didn’t like the MC. As she was, Charlotte didn’t fit the new story I want to tell.

What to do, what to do?

Scratch-head

I have another WIP called The Dragon’s Egg (TDE). I love the main characters. They are fully realized with backstories, have relatable motivations, etc. but I’ve never been able to come up with a satisfying story for them.

So, the stroke of genius:  Why not harvest Slevyn, Shasta, and Dorit from TDE and transplant them into TEG, which is complete, and build a new story around them?

That got me excited. Up until I started this post, I was busily making character notes in preparation for the necessary adaptations—again, a huge deal for someone who hates to plan stories. But that’s another benefit of this process: I have accepted that I am in Editing/Revision Mode rather than Writing Mode, and so planning has finally become acceptable.  

So far, I am happy with the MM process. Learning to think analytically about my writing and having tools to identify and fix issues on a story level is a relief. I actually feel empowered. After so many years, I finally feel hopeful about being able to bring closure to two failed manuscripts. Further, I am now faced with the possibility of producing an even better product by combining elements from each into something new rather than continuing to force two unsuccessful projects to completion.

I’ll probably be stuck at the rewriting phase for a bit, so I am not sure when I’ll be posting another update. But I can say that I’ve already gained a lot in the short time I’ve used the program, and I’m eager to see how it can help as I move forward with this new project.  

Until the next update!

WriteOnSisters.com’s tips for writing a great manuscript

Having trouble figuring how to write your novel, or wondering how you can tell if what you have is any good? This article by WriteOnSisters.com can help.

How Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis Helped Me

The dreaded synopsis.

Yeah, I said it.

I mean, who decided to curse the humble writer with the necessity of creating such a diabolic thing? I haven’t met anyone yet who enjoys writing them, and most people I speak to don’t know how, or struggle to get something decent on the page.

There’s a lot of information out there on how to write one. My issue has always been not knowing how to organize my ideas. What do I include and what do I leave out? When an editor someone asks for a 1 page synopsis and my book is 75k words, how do I whittle it down without missing something important???? Isn’t everything important???

Well, yesterday I gave the thing another shot but only because I had to. Someone had posted that a publishing company publishing big names was accepting submissions and guess what? They require a synopsis.

From the film Psycho

From the film Psycho

So, I searched the Internet and found some great articles, which I will list later. The difference this time, I think, is that these articles broke down the process step by step, added essential bullet questions to focus the thought processes, and added a checklist to be used before the final draft. I pulled what I needed from them and then started to build the synopsis. Cutting the manuscript from 75k to 1.5K was actually much simpler than expected once I applied the tips/notes to a synopsis I’d written years ago. I ended up with something that is the closest I’ve ever had to a decent synopsis.

But that’s just the beginning. Some of you know that I don’t lay out my stories from beginning to end before I write them. My stories and books are exploratory for me, and I like setting out with nothing more than the barest of information to see where I end up. I rarely take notes, and if I do I almost never look at them again. They serve mostly to answer some problem or to clarify an immediate issue. Some people like a cluttered desk, I prefer a cluttered creative mind. To me, once something goes down on paper, the idea loses their luster. So I just take things one step at a time, teasing and developing threads and inspirations as they come. That said, retracing my steps and making sense of what essentially came from chaos is a major challenge, and that’s where the synopsis is a game changer.

It’s amazing how a story that was crystal clear when it was written can fade over time. As I wrote the synopsis for The Purple Morrow, the foundation of the trilogy became clear to me again. As I responded to the questions about the characters’ main conflicts, wrote summaries for the key players and their motivations, defined the stakes, and wrote about how the story concluded, it was like digging through mud and laying hands on a precious stone. In fact, I was relieved to know that despite being born of clutter, the overarching plot and subplots were clear throughout the three books. For example, I was able to see their birth and growth from book 1 to 2 (Wolf’s Bane). Also, the process revealed plot-lines that need development as well as outright plot holes that needed to be dealt with in book 3 (Berserker).

So, what do you think? What’s your take on synopsis writing? What resources have you found helpful? You can post links below to help others visiting the page.

Resources:

Jane Friedman: http://janefriedman.com/2011/10/25/novel-synopsis/

Fiction Writer’s Connection: http://www.fictionwriters.com/tips-synopsis.html

Writer’s Relief: http://writersrelief.com/blog/2013/01/5-common-synopsis-mistakes-that-fiction-writers-make/

Thanks for reading!

Two Things I Learned About Writing a Sequel

When it came to writing Wolf’s Bane, the sequel to The Purple Morrow, I was at a loss. Thrilled with the accomplishment of completing one book, I was eager to get cracking on the sequel. My enthusiasm dwindled, however, when I faced reality.

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Just how do you go about writing a sequel?

It’s possible that nowadays there is a lot of information on the subject, but at the time, about 2 years ago, my searches came up nil. I asked around some of the writing groups I was a part of and scanned the internet, but ultimately I decided to do what I usually do, which is make it up as I went along. This post is for those of you who, like me at the time, are looking for somewhere to begin.

So, a billion rewrites later Wolf’s Bane is finished. It was a long and tough road to get it done. Here are some of the things I learned along the way:

    • Just because you wrote one book doesn’t mean the second will be a breeze. Writing is fun but it is hard. We do it because it’s something we enjoy and we look forward to the finished project. However, each book is its own entity, and just because you figured out how to wrangle that first beast to the ground doesn’t mean the next one will lie down and roll over for you.

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My challenges were many, but the one that stands out right now is trying to figure out how to write a ‘bridge’ book, basically a story that connects the events of the first to the eventual third book. The dilemma was balance. The bridge book has the job of continuing the story readers fell in love with in book 1 yet it couldn’t give away too much information or wrap up too much plot or my final book wouldn’t have punch. That, or by telling too much story, I’d end up with two-books instead of three.

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Also, it had to be satisfying. It’s one thing to ask people to read a book, it’s another to ask people to read an ‘in-between’ book. Really, by the end of book 1, readers are salivating for more but we’ve left them with what is essentially an unfinished story. Knowing that book 2 will be another unfinished story, I thought it was important to make sure that it was worth their time. I felt the story had to feel familiar yet present fresh ideas and twists, rewarding readers with a fulfilling experience, which would hopefully entice them to pick up the third installment when it comes out. That’s a tall order.

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In the end, I delved into world building, developing new and familiar people groups, their cultures and histories in order to emphasize how the past and the present affect the characters and their choices, which influences the overall stakes. I also worked on deeper character development and the addition of plot twists and big revelations to keep it interesting. Bane is a book that solidifies the story begun in book one, reveals more of what is really going on and sets up the events leading up to the final conflict and resolution in book three. Sounds easier than it is, which is why it took about 2 years to get it done.

    • It’s not so easy to know how much of the other book(s) to include. I wasn’t able to get a clear answer on this point either. People I spoke to had different answers. Some write sequels without any summaries of the past book at all and others devote sections of to resume what went on before. I tried both tactics on different occasions to expected results. In the summary-less version, readers claimed they could not understand what was going on, in the summary-rife version readers complained about info dumping bogging down the story. So I compromised. Whenever I came to a place I thought explanation was needed, I wrote a line or two referencing an event in book 1 and then moved on. My hope is that for those who had read book 1 but forgot a detail, it would refresh their memory, and for new readers that they might be curious enough about book 1 to pick up a copy of Morrow to read. For the enjoyment of having a ‘full story’ experience, of course. 🙂

So, I’m curious to know how you have handled writing a sequel. How did you go about it? What tips and suggestions do you have to share?