Taking editing in the spirit in which it’s intended, or Humber week three

24 05 2014

rocks1-2Back many years ago, I used to work for a boss who was capable of rendering me incoherent. I don’t know what it was, but when I would bring something I’d written into her office, she’s cut and thrash all of what I’d done and I’d go all quiet and destroyed and sad and broken and, silent, head back to my humble desk and plot revenge. In a passive aggressive way.

I was a published writer, I thought to myself. I had the clips to show for it. I wrote regularly for the US ARMY Times, I had articles in magazines all over. How dare she tell me how to write??? The gall.

But after a while, I realized she was right. I wasn’t writing in the right style. I was sloppy and overconfident. She edited and edited and I learned and learned. Eventually I learned to take criticism, to sacrifice my darlings without a qualm. Mind you, when I was sending things in to the magazines I was pretty easy about things, too, but they were paying me for my story and I was so over the moon I smiled and thanked them even as I signed over copyright in perpetuity for $100.

It was harder when I was writing stuff for work – for some reason it seemed more serious and I hated losing control of my output.

Later, I had the pleasure/dread of editing for others. It’s so easy to find a way to write things better, so hard to find a way to say things for the first go-round. It was hard to restrain myself editing for others, and I tried to remember how it felt when I’d get my things back covered in corrections. Not always successfully.

So this Humber thing is an interesting experience. I asked my mentor to be firm with me. I respect her, and love her writing. I want true feedback from her. So I’ve sent in a few things so far, and she’s been firm with me. Or so it seems…

I admit to a certain feeling of despair when I get my writing back covered with corrections, but on the other hand, I’m totally thrilled. I’m getting exactly what I wanted from this program, not false praise or that “great job!” stuff that is so common in writing programs, but real, good, concrete advice.

I also know I have a lot of work to do. What fun! Looking forward to it.

Maybe I’m growing up at last.

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Indie publishing from the owner of Smashwords

21 02 2014

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/61116-hugh-howey-and-the-indie-author-revolt.html

Interesting article in Publisher’s Weekly about the ongoing increase in indie publishing.

Key points:

– professional editor

– professional cover design

and key to all:

– great story!





Infographic: 4 Key Book Publishing Paths

19 11 2013

Infographic: 4 Key Book Publishing Paths.

Excellent post by Jane Friedman. Writers should subscribe.





Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published

2 05 2013

Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published.

Wonderful blog post with all sorts of good info and links. Fantastic job!





So, how do you DO a good murder (story) these days, anyway?

30 04 2013

I remember once having a lengthy and somewhat gruesome chat about how you would dispose of a body in these recycling focused days. Would you drop it by the medical school? Dissect it and put the hip joints and such in either the plastic or metal recycling containers? Take the head and the mercury fillings to the harmful waste dump day?

It’s a conundrum.

Likewise, how do you learn to write about murder most foul? Merely calling up your local cop shop and asking for tips  might lead to awkward questions and notes home from school asking you to please not offer to chaperone the next field trip. Calling a local psychiatrist and pretending to be a psychopath isn’t recommended, either – unfortunately, so much psychiatry is based on first impressions you might end up with way too much time to write and too many drugs to be coherent.

The obvious choice is to read read read read mysteries, following the excellent (if somewhat dry) Francine Prose’s guidelines to Reading like a writer. Well, I’ve done that, and I have a problem with that approach.

If the mystery is good, I get all wrapped up in the story and race through, barely noticing the plot techniques while I get pulled along. If it’s bad, I only notice the things that hold it up, ruin the credibility.

OHI0129-CritiqueRule1I remember once being so disenchanted with a book that I dropped everything to see if the plant the author had described actually grew in the place she’d put it. (It didn’t).

I know a book has missed the mark for me when I get that fussy.

So I take courses, rub up against “real” writers, shop my stuff to contests and unsuspecting friends, try to get critiqued. This last bit is harder than it looks. Even in writing groups, there’s the tendency to be nice.

Or horrified.

One of my stories involved a pedophile that I apparently described so well that people didn’t want to read my stuff anymore. So I had to play nicey nicey and write nicey stuff for a bit.

Inside, the seething dark looms.horrifiedwoman

So, instead, I send things to contests. The ones that give you feedback. I figure I’m paying someone my entry fee to have a close, uninvolved reader have a look.

Sometimes the feedback is useful, sometimes it’s just a line or two.  Sometimes it is harsh, sometimes it’s helpful. Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to turn it around and offer my comments on other’s writing. I can only hope I’m the helpful type.

In the meantime, I’ve had help from:

Gotham Writer’s Workshop

Crime Writers of Canada

Sisters In Crime

Bloody Words

Canadian Authors Association

and my favourite resource for ways to kill people and those awkward dinner table silences:

D.P. Lyle. Check out his books. Best way to find stuff out without getting asked questions you can’t answer…





It’s almost National Crime Writing Month!

29 04 2013

Now, finally, a blog topic that won’t involve endless self-examination and revelation and such. Phew.

Because I haven’t done any crimes.

Okay, I remember ONE TIME where I stole something. I was in grade 5. I STILL feel guilty about it. Ashamed, bad, totally awful. I’d make amends to the harmed party but I am too embarrassed to admit I did it.

So picture what would happen if I killed someone?

As it is, even a gentle thought crossing my mind about whether I’d like to kiss someone or potentially push them under a car – well, it’s all printed on my face. I’d never be able to lie about myself.

As a nurse and a writer, though, I can lie about other people. Thank heavens. Even if the lie is, ultimately, the truth – or at least it would be if I write as well as I hope.

In the meantime, head on over to the National Crime Writing Blog by the Crime Writers of Canada, and read how some pros handle criminous thinking/writing/acting. It’ll be worth your time…

And that’s no crime….





Overwhelmed with reading others’ writing

16 04 2013

In Desiderata, the author tells us to avoid comparing ourselves with others as it will leave us either vain or bitter – there will always be those greater and lesser than ourselves.

How right, how true. Especially when it comes to writing.

Sometimes I wander through a bookstore or see what books are being launched every week and am humbled, defeated by all those wonderful stories out there that others are telling much better than I ever could. My writing seems unnecessary except to me, unimportant, wasteful of time and resources. My friends, when they see me in despair, say “why are you doing this, anyway?”, and then there’s always Dorothy Parker and her advice to tell budding writers to give it up while they are still happy.
I become bitter by turns, think hateful thoughts about successful authors, grumble to myself.

And then I read some stories and can feel glee and schadenfreude creeping over me.
“Oh, this is perfectly horrid,” I think. ” I KNOW I write better than THIS!”
Suddenly I feel inspired, right to write, even feel I must write if only to help repair the damage done to literature by these sloppy attempts.

I sway between these points, always awash in despair or joy. Madness.

But can I share a pet peeve?
I am so so tired of people thinking that merely putting things down on paper is writing. That it requires no practice or training or editing or research or even (gasp) reading.
Sheesh.
Sure, there’s such thing as inspiration. I have that a lot. It’s easy to come up with little ditties.
Putting together a coherent story?
Well, that takes practice and damn hard work.

I am agog with admiration at those who succeed at this. And frustrated beyond belief by people who throw a few words down on a plate like a pile of spaghetti and think they are on the same level.

Not that I haven’t done some of that myself, mind you. I apologize to all of you out there who have had to read my messes. You have my sympathy.

But hey, for a moment, didn’t you think, even to yourself, how happy you were about your writing, in contrast to mine?








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