Category Archives: writing

Maybe… You Weren’t Rejected

From my Editor’s “Sorting Hat”… One thing I’ve noticed is that submitting authors have come to expect rejections. They accept rejection too easily.  Even when they aren’t being rejected.

Most new authors have no idea how the publishing system works. They are writers. So now what?

I was fortunate to finally find answers to my questions, and to questions I hadn’t even thought of, with experienced authors at RWA and then at Tampa area Romance Authors, the local chapter I joined, where the wealth of information about the publishing process was invaluable. Gracious published authors like CL Wilson, Julie Leto,  Karen Rose, Virginia Henley, Betina Krahn, Terri Garey, Roxanne St. Claire, Kresley Cole, and so many others, gave their time and experience to pull up promising authors. The information and advice they shared helped everyone.

So when I encounter a new author who doesn’t really know how to format her manuscript, or write a submission letter, or know where to find advice, I recommend joining a professional group. In my case I did join a group of writers early on, but they were a mixed group. I write romance and was too embarrassed to read aloud during critique sessions. So without a critique partner I still learned plenty about writing from critiquing other people’s work. I am a reader, after all, and I know what I like and don’t like.  Did it drag? Did it grab me right from the start? Did it confuse me? Did I stop reading it? Was the dialogue bad? Were the characters interesting, flawed or boring?

So it didn’t take me long to begin looking at my own work with a discerning eye. I couldn’t seem to cut what I needed to cut. I wrote around passages that didn’t fit to keep them in because I liked the way the words sounded or the illusion they created. It slowed the pace, it didn’t move the story forward or show the reader anything about the characters.

Even when I did find a patient soul or two to critique my work (I can’t believe they are still my friends after all this…) I didn’t want to change it. So where did the manuscript go? I submitted it and got rejections. No explanation of why. But in retrospect you know why, right? All my critique partners were right. I knew it. I just didn’t know how to fix it.

There are plenty of wonderful editors and agents who look at your manuscript and want to publish it. They like you. They like your characters. They like the plot. But sometimes they don’t have the time to fix all the things your manuscript will need to make it a viable published book. If you get a rejection letter with suggestions…your manuscript may NOT have been rejected after all.  Do NOT be afraid to ask if you can revise and resubmit. If you are lucky enough to get the okay to resubmit, do NOT rush through it and send it right back. I’d get everyone’s opinion who reads your genre to take a look before you send it back. I’d let it sit for a while after I addressed the obvious concerns. Time is the best judge of your work. If you go back to your book and are absorbed in the story and surprised and pleased with the dialogue and narrative when you reread it, fantastic. I can’t tell you how often I don’t remember writing certain passages, and I wonder who did. I was in a zone, and my muse had completely taken over. It was beyond good. Beyond what I believed I was capable of writing.  And then there are the other times when I read a scene and wonder what the hell I was thinking. The sentences are a jumble of crap. I misspell words, misuse words, mix metaphors, write a scene out of point of view…ugh. You get the picture.

Self edit. Gather all the information you can about the industry, the editors, the agents and agencies you want to submit to. If you get your manuscript in front of anyone  make certain it will reflect the best you have to offer. If you get rejected, confirm whether you should revise and resubmit or whether your book is not a good fit for the publisher or editor. You want someone who loves your book as much as you do to manage it, agent, editor, or publisher. You want all hands on deck when it comes to producing your book.

I have had to chase after authors who thought I’d rejected their books and explain I want them to fix what I pointed out. It isn’t hopeless. Sometimes, there’s too much story for the length, or not enough. Sometimes the clutter is hiding the magic.  That can all be an easy fix. But sometimes it isn’t good for the publisher or the genre line. That may not be fixable. No one benefits if a reader isn’t looking at a publisher or distributor for your book because yours maybe mystery and the reader only reads paranormal. So make sure you are positioning your work well.

I’ve probably forgotten to include a million other issues but I hope you get something out of this post. I’ve been editing for The Wild Rose Press for almost ten years under the pseudonym, Frances Sevilla and independently freelance editing as Maureen F. Sevilla.

When I’m a writer, Eliza March, I am exactly like every other writer.  I have a hard time seeing my books’the flaws.

Check out my book, Maximum Impact

 

 

Kiss Your Editor Today

Of course it’s a love/hate relationship (truly more love than hate on my part). By the time I finish myIMG_0197 edits I want to prostrate myself at my editor’s feet and beg for her forgiveness and mercy…and thank her for putting up with me. No, I’m not a Diva. I’m just an author, and I do all the things in my first few drafts that many writers do. I know the rules (and YES there are rules) and the rules are meant to be guidelines to improve the reader’s enjoyment of the author’s book. Do I balk at some suggestions? Yes. Should I? No.

No editor is looking to mark up your manuscript in red just for the hell of it. Any editor would rather pick up your manuscript, sit down with a glass of wine, and enjoy a good book…preferably yours…the one she should be editing…but discovers there’s nothing wrong with it the way it is. She’d rather stay up all night, unable to put it down, and at dawn, realize she’s just finished a best seller, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel…and it’s yours. Not a suggestion to make, not a comma to enter, no exclamation points to delete, not a word to change.

Perfect. But I seldom got a manuscript delivered in that condition. Some were better than others. And I’ve never read or written a manuscript that didn’t need a damn good editor.  If every editor only got perfect manuscripts, they’d be out of a job. And when editors write, they are authors and they need editors, too–probably as much or  sometimes more than anyone. I’ve had good editors and mediocre ones. If you find a good one–an editor who makes you stretch your limits, dig deeper for the talent hidden in you, forces you to go farther than you intended to go with your story, bow to her glory. She’s a priceless jewel. Acknowledge her. She’s like the hardest teacher you ever had in school, the one who wouldn’t let you skimp on anything because she believed in you. You can hate the work, but value the effort. It’s what will make you better than you ever imagined you could be. Blow her a kiss and kneel at her feet.

Thank you, my glorious editors!

This is for all my critique partners and editors along the way who have put up with my repetitious ways and passive voice and out of POV scenes, and more…so much more.

Writing in Chaos

Do you need quiet to write? Do you have a playlist you listen to while writing? Do you have a special place? Is it isolated or in the thick of things? Is the TV blasting distracting news or great dialogue? Action or love scenes? What works best for you? I bet you have multiple answers depending on the scene and what stage you’re at in the book.

Chaos. In the midst of a family of seven, I’ve figured out how to write a first draft. Concepts and ideas fill my creative cup while I’m talking to my kids or friends, making dinner or folding clothes. The story is in my head at all times ready for a new twist or the next conflict.

I can even edit the first draft in chaos. But when it comes to making certain the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, I need solitude. Complete and utter focus. Grammar and punctuation checks are not what I’m talking about. What I need uninterrupted time to final edit for are these things…the essentials I hope to one day master in my first draft:

  1. are my characters behaving in character?
  2. do they have a goal, motivation, and conflict?
  3. am I staying in point of view?
  4. is the opening grabbing the reader?
  5. is the pace working?
  6. am I including hooks to the next scene?
  7. is there motivation, conflict, and a goal in each scene?
  8. is each sentence structured clearly?
  9. am I overusing adjectives, adverbs, names, dialogue tags, phrases,
  10. am I using redundancies–repeating words, sentence structure, or ideas unnecessarily?

Each of us has our own way or working through the writing process. We also have writing issues we repeat in each book. I check for those problems first, noting there are fewer in the second draft than there used to be. The more you write, the more cognizant you’ll become of your style, your voice. The pace of the story and the style eventually will become embedded in your work. The more you write, the sooner it will happen. Sooner or later, you’ll find your place to write, with or without chaos, with or without a playlist, with or without silence. What you’ll find is a way to focus on what the story needs instead of what you need. Numbers one through ten will fall into place like a marching band, marching in formation while they make music and designs. You’ll have your unique voice, your work will have a unique style that defines it, you’ll have a process of creating your work in a way that works for you.

I’ve tried several approaches. Some work with non-fiction, some with fiction. Some work with short stories but not with longer books. Some work with individual novels but not with series or serialized books. Different strokes for different folks pertains to bodies of work as well as temperaments. My memory isn’t what it was. I make notes now. Thank goodness for my iPhone. I keep it with me always…well, not in the shower…but it’s in the room–TMI?).

I dictate and write myself notes or just write down a word or phrase to jar my memory later when I have a chance to mull it over. We each have our own  creative needs and style of getting from A to Z.  Figure out your method and don’t be discouraged if you have to make tweaks or adjustments as you grow. I’m going to bare my soul. The second few edited paragraph segments from my first book, Hot Highland Fling, looked like this.

* * *

“Ah, Scotland,” Ailsa sighed into her cell phone. “The untamed highlands, the rugged moors, the burly men, and their kilts!”  The cell phone coverage was good as she checked in with her senior editor. None of that, Can you hear me now? stuff, going on up here.

“Katie, why do you live in London with those conservative people when you could be here?”

I know the only reason you took this assignment was to check out the native men. Besides, the magazine has a silly requirement that their senior editor reside near the publishing house, and if you must know, I prefer civilization to the wilds.”

* * *

I have to thank my first editor, Scarlet Senior Editor, Diana Carlile.at the Wild Rose Press for not only taking a chance on a newbie, but also for being an awesome editor. If I could I’d be rewording and editing it again. You have to know when enough is enough. (Most of us never learn that.)

The first red blob is cutting out a dialogue tag. Now there is narrative action instead of he said-she said.

The next change is a clarification of the first part of the sentence without going into too much unnecessary detail.

The next is a format situation. The editor clarified the idea with italics and punctuation.

Then I changed a word from one that I didn’t think fit as well.

The final edit in this section did a few things. This is the opening of the book. The heroine said several things that hint about the genre. The title of course is pretty suggestive. But Ailsa sighs. Then she sets the mood with her dialogue. “The untamed highlands, the rugged moors, the burly men, and their kilts!” A little excitement, a romantic lilt, sexy and fun. This sentence establishes a promise to the reader. You also get that sarcastic humor reinforced with her internal thought about the cell phone coverage. Can you hear me now? stuff…

We find out that Ailsa is questioning conservative reasoning. What’s she up to?

Ailsa’s editor confirms her motives. “I know the only reason you took this assignment was to check out the native men.” Ah! Ailsa has an ulterior motive. Do we want to read about it? Do we like her enough to be curious? We hardly know her at all. Is the subject something we’re interested in?

The book is short on plot–it’s very short anyway. But it does contain many sex scenes because this is a woman’s journey of sexual discovery, an awakening of sorts, and she has very little time to invest. Not everyone will be interested in a book of this length or genre, but no matter, there should be purpose to every words you choose to put on the page. I hope this helps you move from chaos to peace of mind.

Here is the blurb: Hot Highland Fling

Erotic Contemporary Romance
Erotic Romance

Free lance writer, Ailsa Jackson is finished dating executives. She’s looking for hot sexual fantasies with a man who fits her needs… “All muscle, stamina and no commitment.” The assignment in the UK sounds perfect when she’s assigned to interview an American CEO who recently inherited lands and a title in Scotland.

She tosses her inhibitions aside for the first Highlander she encounters–prepared to research all the myths about brawny Highlanders and answer the age old, burning question: What does a Scotsman wear beneath his kilt?

Colin Fitzgerald knows it’s wrong to deceive Ailsa, but he can’t risk her discovering his true identity before he seduces her. Unfortunately, he is everything Ailsa hates. Yet if he can become the lover she adores, perhaps he can convince her they’re perfect for each other.

He has one night to prove he’s no stuffed shirt and three weeks to become everything she desires in a lusty lover. His adventurous lass is imaginative and willing. But can lust turn to love so quickly? And will they be ready for more than a Hot Highland Fling when their time together draws to an end?

Recommended Reading

MAXIMUM IMPACT – Writing Short: Say More With Less: Condense the Essence & Leave ’em Satisfied Kindle Edition

Writers Block is a Fallacy. My Story Will Demonstrate Why.

This is just my humble opinion. You can write your own blog if you disagree and tell us your story after reading my observations and suggestions.

Here’s how I see it. I’ve had the inability to move forward with a story; sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months, sometimes for years. That’s not writer’s block. It’s a problem with the plot or characters or your motivation. Writing is often work–hard work. That means working through the problems of a story. Not just spitting it out and expecting that all it needs after it’s written is a comma or two in edits.  Most stories take at least a little analysis.

What people believe is writer’s block is actually a point when the writer loses direction or interest and tries to force the story. Pantsers or plotters may need to take time to regroup. A plotter will write out the plan or draw a diagram; a pantser will imagine the solution while running or cooking or staring at the starry-night sky. Sometimes it takes minutes, sometimes months for the solution–the ah ha moment–to strike. Sometimes it doesn’t ever come. Why? Because you’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
That isn’t writer’s block. It’s a convoluted premise. You imagine the story plot and the characters. The characters don’t always do what you think they will. Why? Because of plot flaws or character
flaws
. When you fix one the other will fall into place.
Other reasons writers think they have writer’s block is because they
1. don’t like the plot or genre they’ve chosen to write
2. don’t know their characters, especially the hero/heroine
3. can’t fulfill the story promise
4. don’t know how to fix it
Ask yourself if it’s one of these issues. Be honest. What don’t you like? Get to know your characters better. If the plot isn’t headed in the right direction, maybe you need to look for another way to get to the en
d. In the swamps? Don’t know how to get out? Read a book on craft. Ask a critique partner or trusted reader to review what you have so far. Talk over the character or plot problems with another writer. Don’t feel like you have to follow every suggestion. Sort through them all and find the ones that will help you get past your story’s sticking points.
If you still don’t come up with a solution, it’s best to move on to another project. You have them. Let the other book simmer. Sometimes it will come to you later. Go through your other ideas, preferably the ones that intrigue you. They exist in a phrase you wrote down on a napkin, a title running around in your head, a line from a movie you can’t shake, an impression of a scene you need to write. If you don’t have anything. Change it up–read a book, watch a movie, listen to music, do something different until you find that something. Most of all, even if you’re on deadline, don’t force it. It’s the pressure to write something concrete that stifles your creativity. You think proposals are just that–concrete. Synopses often change when the story is written. All because your experience changes, and how you feel, at any given point, is different. The longer it takes to write a book, the bigger the change.
Personally, my career in writing has changed in the last twelve years because I’ve gone from being a student of the craft to a teacher. Ten years of writing experience and editing has given me an insight I didn’t have in the beginning; so my vision has improved and is continuously adjusting. Gemini was a project I began working on many years ago. I shopped it around and had some interest from publishers, but back then no one wanted to commit to publishing a series. Authors didn’t want to write them for a variety of reasons, and those who did took a risk. My goals changed, my voice changed, my knowledge grew. I stopped writing the Gemini series after doing a proposal for five books; completing the prequel and the first book and beginning the second book. You could say I had writer’s block but, in all honesty, I love this series more than anything I’ve ever written. Why would I avoid finishing it?
Pressure. I want this series to be read. I don’t care if it makes money. I want readers to enjoy it. Talk to me about it. Interact.  The industry has changed since I wrote that first book in the series. So now I have a plan and patience.
The prequel will release May 28, 2017. It’s going on Presale March 31st. Sign up for my Newsletter [http://eepurl.com/buCZLf] and I’ll send you the links of where to buy The Gemini Mythology when it’s available. I’ll also have a contest to give away a few copies to five lucky winners on my website at Eliza March. If you’re a fantasy fan of faery lore and mythology, keep your eyes open for Gemini at all major ebook sites and help me reach my dream. Tell your friends about it.

 

Writing when it’s impossible to keep your focus.

Expand your methods of upping the word count:

display-dummy-915135__180In a world where breaking news flashes seem to appear hourly, interfering with those of us whose job it is to create worlds where you readers can escape, we must learn to shut it out. We build places for you to escape to when things get too out of hand in reality–places where you can find a way to shut out the noise.

Often I feel like a warrior guardian protecting the gates to the fortress of my fantasy world from the onslaught of unemployment, and ignorance, and health care issues. No matter the story, my job is the same, suspend reality, and help the reader settle into a new world, with new people and situations, and stay until he discovers a satisfactory solution to the fictional crisis and conflicts.

Our stories begin in an ordinary world just as something is about to change. (that could be every twenty minutes on a Monday if I turn on the TV, radio, or read the news.) So my first rule of writing is the writer has to escape to write the story. Before the reader can jump in and disappear into the new world of adventure, or love, or intrigue of his choice…you the writer must create the story–beginning to satisfying ending.

My solution to writing, for now in this changing environment, (fyi – we are preparing to  sell out house) is to write in short sprints to deal with distraction. I’ve never been a sprinter, in real life or otherwise – including writing, but it seems to be working. On days when I’d just as soon give up on a single written word, I can write for ten minutes or for as long as the thought keeps me going. Something is better than nothing. It’s not as if I have writers’ block either, I have plenty of story and plenty of action and characters to write about, but I usually write sequentially and this life of mine isn’t going to allow that to happen for awhile. Having an alternative method of writing when the old way isn’t working is a miraculous solution. This time I wrote the beginning and what I thought was the second act. After getting myself into a corner I backed out and did a story board with an outline. Now as ideas come to me I write the,  Scenes get written  as I’m inspired. I make notes I need tsbo add, ideas I might want to use later. I keep note cards everywhere. All I have to do now is figure out how to get more organized.

No matter what, I’m adding the good, the bad, and the ugly to my word count daily.  I’ve also cut some early concepts and story that won’t work. There was a time I couldn’t do that…or wouldn’t. Now I don’t even save it to my old “golden words” file. It’s time to realize I can write what I need to when the scene is necessary and the words are only golden if they move the plot forward.

So stop being so hard n yourself. Zero words is not failure if you think about your WIP. It’s better to jot down a short sentence or two on a note card and keep it for later so you don’t forget. And…that sentence or phrase counts toward your word count. Hmm 22 words is at least a positive number. During editing I’ve managed to keep a positive flow on my word count, but when you rewrite 12,000 words and end up with 12, 001 it is disheartening.  yet still better than  11, 999.

Use a plotting method  or storyboard. It is one way of forcing your outlined, laid-out story to grow just because the scenes and needs are there. The ideas already exist, and you just have to fill in the blanks. (You can be artistic and literary later after you get some words on the page.) Go look up some methods. There are a million different ways to research this and increase your word count. Good luck. If you find anything unique, please leave me a link in the comments below.