Say Yes to the ReDress

Editor Definition in English Dictionary.In some writers’ groups, when I’ve mentioned that I’d been contacted by an editor who requested changes, there came about a rise of instantaneous resistance.

  • You didn’t say yes, did you?
  • Why are you letting them change your work?
  • You’re not going to let them change your words, are you?
  • Sounds like you’re selling out!

So far, whenever an editor has contacted me about changes, the changes were minor: a comma here, a synonym there, once a nick-name which they ended up leaving in.

One of the these editors worked for The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal ($1.00 Stories). I believe him to be more experienced editoand credentialed in the requirements of publishable writing.

I willingly listened.

So before your writer hackles rise – listen, consider, then decide. Be polite and professional.

Writer Wednesday: Can the Can’t!

cantI don’t like the word “can’t.”

I don’t like people telling me I can’t do something. I’ve experienced some person  or another throughout my whole life telling me I can’t do this or I can’t do that. For too many years, I believed them.

Now, it just annoys me.

I made a goal to write six short stories in a month. Someone, another writer, said, “You can’t do that.” Their point: writing must organically develop from inspiration, forcing it unnaturally would create work which was unpublishable.

Three of those six stories have already been published. Can’t? HA!cant2

I spend time on photography, just because I like it. Unasked, another person inserted their opinion: “You can’t do that!” They had the idea that a person can only be good at one creative pursuit and I shouldn’t waste my time on another. I took up photography for the pure joy of capturing visual beauty, but I’ve had a number of photographs published now too!

Why are people so wrapped up in “can’t”?

Some people judge themselves based on how they know you. When you change or move forward or do something they never thought you would or could, it changes how they see you and, therefore, how they see themselves.

cant1Others have limited views of what they can accomplish and, therefore, what anyone can accomplish, so they believe their guiding you away from an upcoming failure.

Whatever their reasons, never let anyone keep you from spreading your wings, doing what you want, need, must do to achieve what you want.

Writers must be brave. Depart from the naysayers and live your fullest life. Travel. Love. Experience. Write. Try something new.

Do not listen to the “can’t”!

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Writer Wednesday: Writer Dreams

We all get those ideas that occur to us in the middle of the night as we’re rolling over, sleepwe reach for a pillow and poof – a story occurs to us.  Some of us continue to snuggle tight to that pillow and tell ourselves we’ll remember it in the morning …zzzzz… and it’s gone; others of us roll back over, grab that notebook and make notes.

Some of those notes are not going to make a darn bit of sense in the morning, some will. My idea for “Of Strays and Exes” came to me in the middle of the night in the form of a strange first line…  “when I ran over my neighbor’s dog…”  I grabbed that notebook and started scribbling. I put it down, only to take it up again and again until I finally got out of bed and wrote nearly the whole story before climbing back into bed for an hour’s sleep before work.

sleep1There’s something magical happening in our brains at certain moments during the night. We’re transitioning from deep rem sleep back to stage one, nrem sleep, where we are most likely to be awakened; this is also about the time, along with other times, that hypnagogic sleep is taking place. This is a transitional state for our minds and bodies, and the best time for “stories” to happen.

During that hypnagogic stage. We’re barely asleep, barely awake and sparks are happening between neurons that give us bright ideas, great lines, interesting themes.

Most of us are working people who have to get up in the morning and go to work or raise our children or help our parents, so we don’t grab those moments as we might if say – we were independently wealthy and didn’t have to do a 9 to 5er. charlie

If you can’t write at night, try to capture that hypnagogic state during your disciplined writing time or  other random moments.

I had to have an MRI recently. Have you ever been in one of those machines, clicking, burring, whirring, and it sounds like you’re trapped in a jet engine of sorts?  I put myself in one of those states and by the time the technician was pulling me out, I wanted to stay in longer.

It’s meditation and breathing – you knew I was going to say that. But for this meditation, lay down, think about your breathing while blocking everything out except the images of your story.

If you’re using this to create stories, think blue sky, blue sky, blue sky while breathing in and out. Let whatever happens in that sky occur. When you come up on an image that works for you – and you will – follow that image like a cloud in the sky, see where it takes you.

Or – of course – if you can, get up in the middle of the night and follow those half-wakeful/half hypnagogic dreams…

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Writer Wednesday: Critique Partners – a little bit of heaven!

Some years ago, I belonged to a critique group. critique-3-300x225Of the four writers, none had been published and I became the only one who expressed specific goals. In one session, a women writer spent the whole time helping another writer without responding to the rest of us. It sometimes happened, so we weren’t offended; but the following week, the same woman spent two minutes on mine and said something to the effect, “I don’t even know what to tell you with this…” before moving to another person. I realized I was wasting my time there.

Years after that, at a meeting, I sat next to a colleague I barely knew. She mentioned she was a writer, and we soon struck up a friendship and critique partnership.

critiqueWe’d meet once a week or once every other week to read and review each other’s work. Timing and responses began bumpy but smoothed out rather quickly. We were near the same writing level, although I give her credit for being better than I. As we got to know one another, we understood what the other was attempting to accomplish in their own fiction. This helped us read one another’s work more productively.

The most important elements in a critique partnership is respecting the other, giving honest opinions without being brutal, and accepting criticism. As professionals, we didn’t experience issues in offering or receiving the feedback. At some points, we may have disagreed, but we didn’t let it interrupt what had (and has) become a successful venture.

My writing has vastly improved because of this partnership. I benefited from the critique1authentic and detailed critiques with increased confidence, which lead me to more submissions, and ultimately more publications.

 

How you might form a successful alliance:

  • A mutual understanding of writing goals and aesthetics.
  • Similar level of writing experience (or someone who has more than you. You want to grow from this experience and you’ll have a chance to give back.)
  • Trust & honesty – go hand in hand.
  • Time and availability to meet or exchange work.
  • Although it may help if you write in the same genre, it’s not required.

 

For those of you who have partners or experiences, did I miss anything?

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Friday Feature: Writing as Courtship – Timothy Savage

When Timothy Savage speaks of Davey’s Savior, his novel about a father and son, it’s with a passion which encourages the reader to pick it up. He uses that same passion in almost everything he does from caring for his own son to detailing the journey of Davy and his father.

I knew when I asked Timothy to write something, he’d present something marvelous…. and so he has.

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Revision as Courtship

courtshipCourtship is romance taken form. It’s where those thoughts and fantasies translate into actions, from the ordinary chocolates and flowers to those thoughtful gestures, everything from a caress of the hand to simple time spent in conversation, all taking place behind a barrier of uncertainty. You spend time with that special someone, you share meals and thoughts and feelings, you enjoy those little tingles that come from being in their presence, but you don’t yet cross into intimacy. Perhaps you’re old-fashioned, or imagine yourself as gentlemanly or ladylike; you save something for later. In any case, you’re not quite at that point of leaping into their arms with wild abandon.

That’s okay. Sometimes saving something for later is a good thing, even as you relish those moments together without quite sharing everything. It’s all driven by a simple truth: Courtship is a time for getting to know each other, and to be blunt, for sizing each other up.

In a long-term romance meant to last, you need to see them — and they need to see you — exactly as you both are. You need to see them happy, angry, confounded, upset, blissful. courtship2To see into their soul. To see whether it’s safe to make yourself vulnerable before blending your soul with theirs. To see your own flaws and those of your partner in clear focus, to get beneath the layers of what someone might project, and instead look for and grab onto those glimpses of truth beneath the veneer of attraction…

Wait a minute. If this is a column about writing for writers, why do I have romance on the mind? Easy. For writers, it’s like this when you’re about to embark on the process of revision. Many writers – myself included – feel a kind of anxiety, a hesitation, before diving into the process of editing and revision. You stare at your draft without moving, afraid to press a key or redline that sentence for fear of screwing everything up. It’s the same anxiety one feels before dialing that special someone for the very first time.

Writing — especially the art of crafting a book — can be thought of as a long-term romance with your story. And that sizing-up process, the very beginning of courtship, is an important first step in editing and revisions, too.

As an author, you need to make yourself vulnerable to your manuscript, to see it exactly as it is. To seek out those “warts and all” glimpses of its true nature. It’s the moment and author and manuscript test each other through presence, seeing whether they enjoy each other’s company after spending long periods of time together, or seeing whether they’d rather hide in the washroom and phone a friend for rescue.

But if you enjoy the experience together, if you enjoy spending that time and look forward to the next conversation, maybe it’s time to dig back in and read that manuscript as a reader would, as someone who’s not quite made themselves vulnerable to possibility of intimacy.

Personally, I’ve made a practice of revising “big to small.” What I mean by that is the act of seeing my story as a whole, of taking in the work-in-progress with all its flaws and foibles, sizing up its true essence, and determining what changes are necessary in a structural way to bring that story I’d envisioned into reality. Eventually I focus on smaller and smaller details; not story structure or overall plots, but the little touches that keep the reader enthralled. It’s a little like going from that first casual dinner to the first moment “alone together”; reach that level and it’s just the two of you in a dance, in the hopes of making it all work.

Revising “big to small” meant courting my other characters all over again. Looking at each of those peripheral stories in my manuscript with a critical eye, deciding whether they added to the central relationship in my book or distracted from it. Deciding which of those scenes were necessary, what worked and what did not. Deciding what should remain, and what could be safely relegated to a “cuts” folder for later consideration or swipe-left deletion.

courtship2In the end, after many dates with my manuscript that ranged through blind and awkward, rushed and too quick, exciting and anticipatory, intimate and ecstatic, the story evolved into better forms than ever taken before. I saw it for what it was, working through the small details, caressing each sentence and nuance until the story as envisioned came across as “meant to be.”

Revision is courtship. And courtship, despite the nerves and uncertainties and awkward moments, is fun. So don’t be afraid to dive right in. Swipe right on that revision. Hold that car door open, and bring along the flowers and candy for both of you. In the end, whether your revision succeeds or fails — whether the relationship with your manuscript lasts or fizzles during the courtship of revision — you’ll be a better author for having the courage to experience it.

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Noreen, thank you for the invitation to contribute to your ‘Friday Feature!’ Dashing off a blog post about writing is always great fun, and if it helps to inspire another writer or two, excellent!

Speaking of inspiration, I want to give a little credit where credit is due. The idea of ‘Revision as Courtship’ came out of discussions and collaborations with my dear, dear friend, writing partner across the pond, editor, and author of the 17th Century Midwives series of historical fiction novels, Annelisa Christensen. Her insights helped me to view revisions with something other than anxiety, and for that I am forever grateful.

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Thank you, Timothy.

You can find Davey’s Savior on Amazon

Tim’s Website – where you might find a little inspiration or even some help!

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Writer Wednesday: 4am Success

No, not me. I don’t get up at 4am, but some successful writers have.

earlyriser2Auden, Hugo, and others woke at 4am

Vonnegut and Angelou woke around 5am.

Milton and others at 6.

Sadly, I’m more along the lines of Stephen King, I like to be in my writing chair by 8 with a cup of tea; however, if I wake up earlier or later, it doesn’t mean I waste time. I get my rear in that chair – inspiration or no inspiration. Sometimes I start writing and don’t stop until hunger threatens; sometimes I stare at a blank page forcing words to lay down.

Occasionally, I consider attempting this 4am lifestyle. But I wonder how effective I’d be for the earlierriser3rest of my day. I’d have to change my thinking first – about sleep and the lack thereof. I value a good night’s sleep.

However, it’s true – 4am – no disruptions, no appointments, no phones ringing, no neighbors knocking on your door. 4am does have it’s benefits.

It’s not imperative to get up early (although studies show earlier risers are generally happier!); it is paramount to have a routine. Mine works best when I roll out of bed, make tea, shove open the curtains, and start writing.

What works best for you?

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Friday Feature: Submissions

This week for the friday feature, I thought I’d offer tips on Submitting.

Last year, I had 17 or 18 publications. This year so far, I’ve had maybe 9 or 10 acceptances. I must be doing something right.  submissions-photo-01

I think it should go without saying your work should be free of grammar and punctuation errors. I heard from one writer who was offended by an editor; her response: “I know I had errors, but they weren’t that bad.” – No excuses. Edit that work before you send it out.

First: Make a regular time to sit down to submit. This takes HOURS. It’s not going to be just a fifteen minute or thirty minute venture. You must read what the lit mags are looking for as well as how they want it submitted. Then compare it to what you might have already written, or what you’re willing to write.

Second: Keep track of your submissions. submissions1

Third: Accept rejection. (It tells me that I’m doing my job by submitting.)

Fourth: Accept criticism. You are going to get opinions. Just today, I received a rejection that said I repeated a word. That was the whole of their rejection. The word in question was repeated twice in the whole story, but I guess they didn’t like it. I moved on.

Fifth: If they ask for changes – agree (maybe). I’ve met many writers who take issue withsubmission this. They wonder if I don’t care about my work. They think I’m mad for even considering it. There are some things I won’t change. But, so far, the editors who have asked for changes have asked for simple things like rewrite this sentence, change this punctuation. No one has asked me to make major changes to any piece I love.

And Finally: Be considerate to writers, editors, and publishers in emails, on public sites, and anywhere you may meet them. When you act inappropriately, word can get around.

Publications Page

Amazon Page

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