Re-assessing The Value

A while ago I read something that really stuck with me. I can’t for the life of me remember where I read it so I’m paraphrasing instead of quoting. It was in regards to Literary agent rejections. It went something like this;

“But you didn’t even read the whole thing. You only read the first 50 pages. It’ gets really good in chapter eight.”
The advice: “Then start the book in chapter five.”

As a writer I know how difficult it is to hear that maybe, just maybe some fat needs to be trimmed. For months now this advice has been rattling around in my brain as I worked on other projects. So I asked a couple of people who’ve read my book and I was surprised to hear that the first chapter was awesome, but it got slow until about chapter…. wait for it… chapter five. Huh.

I thought I was done, that it was perfect.(Well I know there is always room for improvement)

Now I’m not about to axe it all. Because there is some character building and significant foreshadowing going on in chapters 2 through 5. But. And that is a big huge ‘But’, what if I can trim it down? I started thinking and pondering the “What if I did?” and “Can I?” and most importantly “How?”

The answer to the can I is yes. Why not? The how is easy, just give it a try. So I took a copy of my book and saved it as “Rewrite”. I pulled out my proverbial axe and really started to question what was filler and what was necessary.

Another quote/advice I got (I can’t supply the source for) said; “Make each word count.”  I know I’m wordy, and I work to keep myself in check.

I decided to set my ego aside and take a good strong objective look at the content of each sentence, the necessity of each paragraph. But guess what I found? Filler. Lots of it. Not only filler, but I found repetition. I was saying the same thing over only differently to hammer home a concept/idea/description. I pursed my lips and re-read it. Did I really? Yes I did.

Now this is a big step for me. Something I thought I already conquered. I opened my mind to the possibility that less is more and started re-thinking things. What is necessary to the story and what is not? I was surprised to realize that with one or two small changes, the story would become more streamline. More pleasant to read. Now, I have gotten rave reviews from those that previewed it and I’m not taking anything important away nor the charm of the story. I know what they liked about it and that will stay.

As I work through it all, I’ve taken out my handy-dandy calendar of events and my charts and bio’s of the characters and started changing things. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I was able to take out a lot by changing a little and I did not compromise the story at all.

I talked it over with someone who read the story and he gave me his summary. What he skipped I examined closely. Then after thinking about it I asked what he thought if I removed a few aspects and he said; “That part was good but hard to read, so yeah it would be better without.” At this point I was ready for the criticism and instead of feeling bad or like a failure, I realized there was opportunity to improve.

In two days I took out over 6700 words. If you know my word-count struggle, this is epic. The best advice I got was, if you can keep the word-count closer to the minimum vs. the maximum allowable word count for a genre, then a Literary Agent is more likely to look at it.

I’m not second guessing my work or myself. What I’m doing, after months of contemplation, advice and feedback, is re-assessing the value of the ‘boring parts’ or the filler and repetitious clutter.

This was my first of many books written. I’d be a fool to think it’s perfect, but it will be. I’ve had a lot of time to hone my skills and learn a lot more about writing since completing BiaAtlas. I’m excited to say it’s starting to look better, the story is moving faster and there is less unnecessary filler clogging up the works.  It can be daunting to write a story, let alone rewrite it completely. I’m approaching this logically, whit a plan and a level of excitement that is pushing me forward. I’m amazed at how fun it is to take something I worked hard on and give it a literary make over.

My advice about starting where it gets good.
Don’t shun the idea, don’t stress about cutting things out. Take the time to rearrange and try a new approach. If you don’t like it you still have the original. 

-Sheryl

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The ups and downs of writing

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Maze

Squeaky Clean

Writing people is a complicated undertaking. Writing their interactions can be daunting… or oodles of fun if you want it to be. I love conversations that test the limits of a character. That broach the outer regions of their comfort zones. Yes they have to have them. I create each character as completely as I can flaws, quirks, mannerisms and all.

When I read a story and the protagonist and their love interest are too in tune, too perfect and ooy-gooy lovey-dovey constantly it’s gross. Nobody is that perfect, nobody. People have limits to what they will tolerate. Sure when you fall in love those things are often overlooked or tolerated, but they wear off eventually. The little annoying things start to annoy. Conversations should be lively and emotional. Anger, frustration and even dislike need to leak into all relationships.

People argue, they disagree. That doesn’t mean they have to fight outright, but unless they are relinquishing their person in entirety to the other, they should disagree with something at some point. Small or large it doesn’t matter as long as they are individuals in a relationship not a single entity of boring complacency. A strong independent person should not become completely submissive for the love of their partner. A weak and insipid person would not overnight become brazen and forward to please a lover. Change takes time, real change. If they do morph too quickly it’s got to be fake and short lived. The honeymoon wears off, people can’t and don’t change who they basically are for any sudden reason. Sure, they can make one or two modified decisions, but their core must be solid. If they are on a journey of growth and change this should happen slowly.

So every relationship I write I do my very best to make sure someone rubs someone the wrong way. I make sure that they strive to make the other happy, but don’t lose their annoying habits or basic foundation of who they are. A devil simply can’t become an angel overnight, unexplained as if by magic.

Dale spent the morning at his desk thinking and brooding. Lucky for him the workload was light with both Sasha and Clifton missing. The rumors were flying that they had run away together. He had no problem laughing and perpetuating that rumor. It was hilarious to think the glacial Sasha was hitting the creepy useless figurehead idiot boss.

Amber was ignoring him completely, but behaving like her old self otherwise. She ignored all attempts to contact her since the uber incident last night. Every time she laughed or giggled, his mood slipped darker. It took some planning but he knew he could catch her alone. One sneaky email and voila.

Amber tapped her toe waiting for the other staff to show. She glanced down at her watch as the door opened and Dale popped in, turned and closed the door quickly.
“Sit.” He said as she got up to flee the room.
She stopped and remained standing. “Go to hell Dale.”
“Look, you can be mad at me, I deserve it. Just talk to me.”
“Why? So you can call me a slut and suggest everyone other than you.” She stopped and lowered her voiced. “I’ll deal with it, you’re off the hook.”
“What do you mean by deal with it?”
“Not your problem.” She crossed her arms.
“It is half my-” He stopped. “Amber I let Scott put doubt in my mind. I believe you, I’m sorry it’s just a lot to process so quickly.”
She stared at him expressionless.
“What do you mean deal with it?”
She sighed and closed her eyes.
“No, please don’t Amber.”
“Why not? What do you care? Why do you care?”
He stepped closer to her. “I don’t sleep around either.” He put his hand on her arm. “I only have sex with people I like. I hoped you might stop looking at Scott with blinders and see me.”
Her abrupt laugh made him step back and pull his hand away.
“Oh Dale, you’re hilarious. You don’t like me romantically any more than I like you that way. I’ll raise it on my own. I can’t abort you moron. I’m catholic.” She chuckled. “Sort of.”
“Will you let me help? Be the dad I mean?”
She shrugged. “If you want. But if you do, you don’t get to half ass it and quit if you get bored or scared.” She moved past him to the door. “For the record, I only slept with you because Krista and Bria dared me to. They bet me I wouldn’t.”
Dale flinched when the door slammed behind her. She loved her games of betting and daring others. She instigated Scott’s dare to sleep with Sasha. It made sense that she would take a bet or dare from her snotty stuck up no good slutty friends.
“I bet those so called friends dump your ass the second they find out.” Dale spat the words at the closed door. His ego bruised, he did like her, but she only had eyes for Scott. “Fine. Be a bitch.” He opened the door while muttering under his breath. “Two can play that game.”

Stressful moment past, they have had time to adjust. Or so they think. Once the initial shock wore off I needed to have them slip back to their core behaviors. If I’m going to let them change it won’t be overnight. Dale and Amber aren’t nice people, they are bullies by nature. They feel superior, act it, and act on it.

My advice about squeaky-clean interactions.
Nope, nope, nope. People are messy, emotions are messy and people rarely react/act like they are expected to. Perfection is boring, super-duper, bang your head off the wall boring. Make it fun, dirty up the conversation a bit.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Yes… no… maybe?

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Flee
Clean

The ‘been there, done that’ people

I have no illusions to the fact that I need sometimes need an expert’s advice and help.  Why? Because I am not a professional writer nor editor and there are always going to be someone that knows more or has more experience than I do. I would be a fool to pass it up for ego’s sake.

That advice and information that I’ve found has been instrumental to me getting where I am today with my book. I have seen some people shun the advice of experts for a few reasons. Ego, laziness, and even fear. Yes fear. Taking advice from someone ‘better’ than I am, can be intimidating. What if they say my work is crap? But, what if they don’t? Even if they did, I would hope that they would advise me on what is needed to un-crappify it.

Without advice I would never have turned this:

The seats were all full at the coffee shop. Abigale liked routine and needed to sit. Even though the other occupant at the table was that annoying guy she approached him.
“May I sit here?” She asked.
“I don’t think so.” He replied and put his foot on the chair.
“Jerk.” She said and walked away.

Into this:

The café was unusually busy with the patrons from the busker’s carnival outside. Abigale needed her routine, sit, drink her coffee and read blogs before work. There was only one seat at a small table; and that unpleasant lowlife was seated at it.

She hastily glanced around and swallowed her pride. “Excuse me. May I sit?”
Billy looked up from his book. “I don’t think so.” He put his sneaker-clad foot on the vacant seat.
Her mouth fell open and she furrowed her brow with a hard exhale.

A young couple nearby surveyed the area and made eye contact with Billy.
He smiled at them. “I’m done here if you two want these seats.”
“Oh thank you so much.” The young woman sat when Billy moved his foot and stood.
“You’re a first class jerk.” Abigale lowered her chin with a sneer.
Billy dunked his finger in her coffee. “You have no idea.” He stuck his finger in his mouth and left her staring after him in shock.

With some simple rules from those that have ‘been there and done that’, I was able to learn to turn a simple encounter into an annoying one.

My advice about experts.
Seek them out, take what advice you need and learn from them. You don’t have to do every single thing they say, but be open minded. Don’t forget some ‘experts’ are merely know-it-all’s with nothing constructive to say. I don’t pay them much attention.

-Sheryl

 

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Copyediting. Why I didn’t pay someone to destroy my fragile confidence.

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Expert