Look at the source

Confidence is a fragile thing. Especially when you take huge chance on yourself and put your work out there to be judged. My husband says something that I’ve caught myself saying/thinking often when receiving a complement or criticism. “Look at the source.”

This is a very good measuring stick to apply value to what is being said.  I often ask for honest opinions on something and I sincerely hope to get them. Good or bad I value it all. Now haters need not apply, they can stick their self loathing teardown tactics where the sun doesn’t shine. When I say bad, I mean legit criticism or constructive criticism.

For example.

“Wow I loved the character development, except for Joe, he fell flat and faded into the background unlike Sasha who steps up to the challenge.”

First I look at the source, who is telling me this? Do I trust them? Is the comment inline with them as a person? Are they being petty or honest?  Then I’ll look at the issue and determine if I did or did not let Joe fizzle out. This is useful either I’m neglecting Joe or my source is out to lunch. Chances are they saw or noticed something I’m too close to see myself.

Someone else’s opinion or advice is not gospel, it’s a suggestion I use to broaden my perspective.

Sometimes if I get a conflicting comment that stands out from the rest I pause, assess and move on respectively. I have been getting some fantastic reviews, and some interesting criticisms on my book. I will be honest I was expecting the professional critic to tear my work apart, when he didn’t I wondered if he was buttering me up. Then I put it in perspective. I compared this source with all the others and except for a couple they all lined up. Clean writing, good flow, functioning dialog, suspenseful and engaging. That was a boost and a half to my confidence. I wrote this book having never written anything more than a short story in high school (many moons ago) and technical reports in college (still a few moons ago). So to hear that all my hard work is good, was wonderful.

My advice about put-downs professional or otherwise.
Aside from critiques this can apply to anyone anytime for anything. When someone criticises you or your work unjustly, look at the source. Are they having a bad day? Are they just a down-to-the-bones jerk? Jealous? A quick way to shut them down is to smile politely and ask them, “What makes you say so exactly?” or “That’s an interesting observation, can you explain why you think so?” Having to justify unjust criticism is hard to do.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Fragile

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Something different, something fun

I thought I would do something a little different today. Something just for fun.

I am still working through the information from my consultation and making the revisions and changes necessary to my Query letter and Synopsis.

I have been working on a few designs for logos and header pictures.

So I am asking your opinions on which you like best. Please comment below which you like best of the A B C images, 1 2 3 and which you like best of the X Y Z.

Let explain the reason for my choice of images. The man in the suit represents the large powerful corporation in the book that controls BiaAtlas. The earth symbolizes Atlas the Titan of strength (Titan Atlas is typically symbolized holding or holding up the earth). The elemental background is as close as I can get to the female goddess Bia. She is the goddess of force, such as gravity and resistance. The few representations of her in art show a whimsical strong being, so I represent her with powerful images of things that can’t necessarily be touched. There is also a significant amount of danger in the book thus my choice of fire.

From classic, whimsical to elegant these are my top favorites, I seem to lean toward the purples, I’m not sure why. Please note all images have been purchased or permissions granted for my personal use.

The first four are sans human. More of a ‘logo’ style.

biaatlas-logo-abcd

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The next three are the close-ups with less background. These symbolize the background to the story.

biaatlas-logo-123-pubCopyright © 2016 All rights reserved

The last three have more of the background image visable.

biaatlas-logo-xyz

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I hope you liked at least one of them and are willing to let me know. I also welcome constructive criticism. Thanks.

-Sheryl

PS I’ll be getting back to my norm soon.  😉

 

Tulips in July

Silliness and seriousness

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Elegant

Over used and oft abused.

Ah, the word shiver. Over used and oft abused. This is on my personal list of filter words. One that is injected into a sentence to replace showing an emotion. I find it in plethora among the words of a romance, horror or mystery. Or just dumped in to lazy writing, like I’m guilty of. 😉

At first I used this word freely, it’s a great way to express an obvious feeling right? Well yes and no. People shiver for different reasons, it’s those reasons that suggest this blanket word can be stretched out or removed altogether.

Example 1.

Billy’s fingers gently brushed the back of her arm sending pleasant shivers across her body. (15)

Not a bad sentence really. A few unnecessary words. If I’m also worried about (word count) I would remove gently and pleasant, they are implied anyway. Three words doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up quickly.

Her skin tingled as Billy’s fingers brushed the back of her arm. (12)

Example 2.

Elouise shivered suddenly for no reason whatsoever. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” She muttered to herself. (18)

Meh, it could use a little trimming and rewording.

Elouise frowned and rubbed her arms. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” (13)

Example 3. (I still write like this.)

Tod had never felt so bone achingly cold in his life. He was shivering so hard his teeth chattered loudly. (20)

Now I know enough to rewrite it to this. FYI the word felt is a super filter word.

Tod wrapped his arms around his aching body, unable to stop his chattering teeth. (14)

Do I never use the word shiver? No, it’s a fun word that evokes a personal response. I do use it sparingly or try to anyway. Sometimes a plain ole shiver is just what the story needs, especially if there is no established reason for it.

My advice about overuse.
Overuse can happen with any word, shiver is just an example. Make a list of ‘important’ words you see too often in your writing and then see how often you actually use them. Then see if you can switch it up or swap it out, but don’t jeopardize the story or the flow if you can’t think of a way to change it.

-Sheryl

 

Other related Posts.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Shiver

Obvious

Jeopardize

Tag! You’re it.

When someone reads my work and complements it, it feels amazing. When someone reads it and criticizes, I look at the critic and weigh the value of their opinion. When someone offers advice or points out errors, I thank them.

Recently someone pointed out that I use taglines too much. No I don’t… Oh wait I totally did. Huh.
Here is an example from a rough draft.

Bill ran into Grant who was waiting outside the room.

“How’d it go Bill?” Grant asked annoyed.

“Well. He wanted a firsthand report on the events.” Bill answered.

“That makes sense.” Grant said angrily.

“He said to move them today Grant, all of them. Are the rooms ready?” Bill asked ignoring Grant.

Painful right? It was how I wrote the rough draft. Just to get it out. It wasn’t super important for me to make sure everything was perfect, that’s what editing is for. I even grabbed the adverbs, angrily and annoyed and stuck them in.  Here it is now.

Grant stood outside the meeting room with his hands clasped behind his back. Bill was meeting with the boss Mr. Stork alone, without him once again. He cleared his throat as the door opened.

“How did it go?” 

Surprised by the ambush, Bill stopped in his tracks. “It went well. He wanted a firsthand report on the events.” 

“That makes sense, but without me?” He folded his arms across his chest.

“You weren’t there and didn’t see what happened. Anyway, Stork said to move all of them today.” Bill started walking down the hall, taking note of the hostility. “Are the rooms ready Grant?”

I knew better, yet I still included he said, she said, he asked, she answered a lot. Are they all gone? No, of course not, they have their place. Sometimes simple is better depending on the situation. Putting in action instead of telling emotion can make it flow and read better. Action tags are not the same as Taglines. For example. One should not laugh, giggle, snort, or sigh words. I do this a lot as well. 

“No way.” He laughed.

I still want him to laugh so instead I would say.

He laughed. “No way.”

or 

“No way.” He covered his mouth and laughed.

I remember reading and being taught to use end of sentence tag lines and action tags. I got some fantastic advice a while back. “Show it don’t tell it. Make the reader see what you see.” People read he said or she asked like a period at the end of the sentence. It chops the reading flow off at the knees.

My advice about taglines and action tags.
Recognize them and get rid of them if they are unnecessary. Don’t Jeopardize your sentences with laziness. It’s a great opportunity to take drab conversation and dress it up. Search your work for words such as; said, asked, answered and smiled.  Don’t forget to look for those pesky adverbs that go so well with said.

-Sheryl 

 

If you liked this, check out some of my older posts, if you haven’t already.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Spell check doesn’t catch them all.

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

Carry

carry3.png

It’s a noun, it’s a verb, it’s an idiom! A multipurpose word with a big place in my writing.

Whether it’s the action of carrying someone or something or carrying on a conversation or a container holding something for transportation, this word makes a lot possible.

I had a character carrying an object for a reason. They had it with them when they stopped for a conversation then later I realized I forgot to keep it on hand. As I scrolled back to see where it was left it occurred to me to leave it there on purpose. To make it part of the story. That object was a safety blanket of sorts. Something that meant a lot to the character. Her subconscious decision to leave it behind turned out to be a big moment for her. My point is if it’s in their hands and they’ve used it or its part of the story make sure to follow through with it. A parcel picked up and carried from the mailbox to the house needs to be set down or opened. Why did they bother? Is it important? It could be. That action filler can easily become something more significant. If not now then later or even carried forward to the next book.

My friends and family listen to me carry on about my book. They are my support group that carry me forward through my journey with encouragement. As I write, I carry a character from a feeble unhappy person to a strong and independent one. It is better to have someone carry a cup of coffee and sip from it time to time during conversation than to have an inactive conversation. I sometimes get carried away by my own enthusiasm as I wade through the process of writing and publishing my work. It is my hope that one day everyone will carry a copy of my book in their bag and their heart.

It is an important word but not necessarily the only one used for its purpose. One does not want to overuse a useful word.
-Joe walked alongside Sylvia hugging his precious notebook to his chest.-
Joe is carrying the notebook without my actually saying that he carried his notebook.

My advice about.

Keep track of important items people carry. If they aren’t important, could they be? The habit of wearing a simple hair elastic on her wrist could be the difference between life and death if you make it that way.

Whether you write, paint, take photographs or whatever it is that makes you happy. Do carry on the way you do, and make this world better for it.

-Sheryl

Carry

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

The rejection letter

A few months ago, before I had any idea what to do, I sent out some queries to Literary Agents. At the time I was more curious to see what would happen. I did not expect anything from this.

The consensus regarding submissions is that it takes 8-10 weeks for a Literary Agent to accept or reject you. If they are interested they contact you, if not you don’t hear back. You can’t contact them after submitting a query.

Some of them sent an auto responder email to let me know they received my query and would get to it at their “earliest convenience”. A few even gave an exact timeline.

Four weeks in and nothing. No surprise, my query letter was a joke and my synopsis lacked flow. Not to mention my work was still riddled with those pesky little filter words. Week 7 however yielded a response.

I got a rejection letter. I was so excited. Yes excited. It didn’t bother me in the least that I was just rejected, I deserved to be for being so ill prepared. The letter was what I presume, a standard cut and paste rejection. There was nothing personal in it whatsoever. What was written made me laugh. Here it is.

Thank you for submitting your query and giving me the opportunity to consider your work.  Unfortunately, in today’s increasingly tough publishing market, I cannot offer you the support that you need for your project.  

Though my limited time precludes me from recommending other specific agents, a good place to start would be the Association of Authors’ Representatives website.

Please do not allow this letter to discourage you.  Many best-sellers have been passed on numerous times prior to being successfully published. 

I wish you the best of luck finding an enthusiastic agent and publisher for your book.

Sincerely,

Yes, it is true many bestsellers have been passed on; this is why I didn’t even entertain disappointment. The last bit made me chuckle. I wonder, do they realize they just suggested they are not an enthusiastic agent?  They did to me. They can’t offer the support needed or enthusiasm. I understand they get hundreds of applications a day (Or so I hear) so I didn’t take the cut and paste personally either.  I also didn’t go into this expecting anything. So an actual rejection is something.

Overall, it was a kind letter with encouraging words. The next time I submit queries to Literary Agents (Hopefully that will be soon) my expectations will be higher, much higher. Those rejections had better be personalized.  😉

My advice about rejections.
You will get them, what you do with it is what matters. Take it in stride don’t let it drag you down or toss you into the pit of doubt and surrender. Learn from it if you can. Easier said than done, I know.  Oh and it’s probably a good idea to wait until you are actually prepared and ready before trying. Unless like me, you do it for curiosities sake.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

The first 50 pages.

“Drop and give me fifty!”
“Yes sir!”
“The first 50 Pages of your manuscript that is.”

Guess what? They are the most important. Who knew? I didn’t. Well I did but not in the context that they will make or break the deal. That’s why my first sentence ever written isn’t the first sentence you will read, it’s not even the second.

When they say put your best foot forward they mean it. To apply to literary agents I need to submit a Synopsis, Query letter and the first 50 pages of the manuscript. There are of course books written about how to make your first 50 stand out or to rise above the slush pile.

As odd as this is, it’s nerve wracking. To know I’m so close to putting it out there to be judged and hopefully loved. The trick is not to freak out about it despite the mini drill sergeant that lives in my brain yelling for me to check it again, and again. I like it so someone else is bound to.

I have revised the first 50 pages more than any other part of my book. Not only for the Literary Agents but also for the readers. If it’s not interesting, exciting or fun nobody is going to read further. For the past couple weeks my mind has strayed to chapter 2 and 3. They were originally chapter 1 and 2 until I added a much needed more exciting chapter 1. My problem was this. They were written first my first ever two chapters and quickly after that, my style changed. Sure they fit in fine but there was something about 2 and 3 that seemed slow. They were almost the same scenario from two perspectives.

Two days ago, I had the brilliant idea to meld them together. Pull out the repetitive crap and make one solid chapter. It came out longer than I liked, but still within a reasonable length for a single chapter. Once I put the two together, it made more sense. I knew something was wrong and now I’m glad I paid attention to my gut nagging to change them.

I will read it over again today and probably once more tomorrow. I have a few people reviewing it for me for constructive opinions. Then I will start the process of working with a consultant.

My advice about the first 50 pages.
Make sure they are clean, edited, well written and interesting. It is a fine line between writing to please someone else and writing to please yourself. I have set down a book because I can’t get past the first few chapters so I don’t want to be that writer, and yet I know others that rave it’s the best book they’ve ever read. You can’t please everyone so make sure it pleases yourself. It’s your book after all.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Query letter “creativity drought”.

What is a Query letter? To put it simply it’s the resume for your book, what you submit to a literary agent to get their attention. Single spaced and one page.

Everyone has a different opinion on this. There are bunches of websites dedicated to this and even one that maybe-might-possibly review it on their blog and tell you what works and what’s junk. Like the synopsis, there are even books written about how to write a query letter. It’s that important. I took my time and read samples, how to articles and found one format that I liked.

The basic gist is that a query letter is 4-5 paragraphs. You have 8 seconds worth of reading to catch the literary agent’s attention and have them read on. 8 seconds is not much.

The first is the introduction paragraph. The shortest of them. It has to be personal to the literary agent you are querying. Including their name and why they’re a fit for your work or why you like them or think you would work together. It varies as long as it’s personal.

The second is the quick catch paragraph. This part that must be interesting, well. This paragraph is where you set up the book to say “Hey read on, it’s awesome I promise.” It’s a mini-synopsis, but only the nitty gritty of the story without the spoiler. This paragraph can be two if need be as long as the whole thing is one page.

The third is to be about the author, me. My accomplishments in literature, prizes, awards, certificates and qualifications or relevant education. I don’t have any of those things per say. So I wrote about my experiences with writing.

The fourth is the how will I promote the book etc. etc. This one was tough too. The more exposure I have the more likely a literary agent will take me seriously. Thus I started this blog, registered domain names for an upcoming website and whatever else I could find that others have done to promote a book. I kept this short and sweet.

After my first few attempts at a query letter, my brain dried up. All my creative ideas evaporated under the hot pressure of the disapproving sun of self-criticism. I could not make it sound interesting. I realized I was being too hard on myself so I took a break, wrote and revised a few chapters. I waited for the rains on inspiration and tried again when they came.
I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m getting help for this just as I am for the Synopsis. For me it’s like writing my resume, it’s so hard to sell myself to others looking to hire me. The same goes for this. I know what to say, but I want to make sure it’s perfect. I have a Query that I think is decent ready to submit to the consultant. I wonder if he will agree or not? I’ll let you know.

My advice about Query letters.

Do research. Lots of it. Find the style that appeals to you and go with it. Don’t be afraid to get help or opinions on this, after all its part of what you will be using to sell you and your manuscript to a Literary agent or publisher if you are contacting them directly yourself.
If you find your query parched and dull, try a different approach or style. This is the face of your book. The first thing a potential literary agent will see. But hey, no pressure. 

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved