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

 

Related posts:

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

Tag! You’re it.

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

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

Expert

“How could you?”

Me and my first.
“Are you cheating on me?” That question was a long time coming.
I cast my eyes away. “Yes, yes I am.”
“How long has this been going on?”
I swallowed hard. “Half way through revision I took a break.”
“A break!”
I need to be honest, to come clean. “Yeah, I started another book.”
“How could you? I thought I was your one and only!”
“You are my first, and I love you, but I need to move on. I need more.”
“So it’s over?”
I smiled and tilted my head. “Oh no, it’s far from over. You and I have a big future ahead of us. I’m sorry if you don’t understand, but I’m not a one book kinda gal.”

Moving on from working on one book to another is strangely emotional experience. I’ve spent so much time with my first book, reading, revising, and editing that it feels as if I’m being unfaithful. Which is funny because it’s a continuation of the story and characters. Even so, as I sit and read through my very, very rough draft of my second book, I feel as if I should be working on the first one.

I shake my head in amusement at all the typo’s, taglines, grammar errors, filter words and so on. I have a lot of work to do and it’s not at all daunting for me. I love editing my own work, because its mine. The satisfaction of seeing it go from simple raw ingredients to a beautifully decorated cake, is unbelievably rewarding. Unless it turns out to be a nut filled fruitcake, then something went horribly wrong.

With first book is finished and in sort of limbo. I have an appointment in a week and a half with a consultant to work on my first 50 pages, synopsis and query letter. Once they are perfected, I will begin the hunt for a Literary Agent. I’m so excited.

My advice (that has nothing to do with this post).
Go ahead and let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Then prove them wrong in a spectacular way.

-Sheryl

 

Other posts related to editing.

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

Show and tell

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Cheat

Oops! What did I just say?

The other day I was reading a book written by a very well known author. I was enjoying the chapter and my eyes tripped on a words and the story ground to a halt. There was a typo. A word spelled correctly, but not the correct word.  I thought “Huh, even the best make Mistakes .” That is because they are human, just like me. I smiled and kept reading.

My proofreaders and I have found typos in my book. There are probably still a bunch in there. I’ve talked about this before in revision posts, but I thought I’d show an example this time. 

Sasha turned and looked over her shoulder at the reflection in the mirror. The tight red dress made her ass look phenomenal. Billy is going to love it for sure. Their second date. Running her hands over the soft supple fabric, he imagined Billy doing the same.

Fastest sex change in history 😉 also IMO the easiest typo to make.

Billy cleared his throat as the waiter approached.
“Are you ready to order?” The waiter looked at Sasha.
Sasha smiled up at the waiter. “Yes I’ll have the Chicken Primavera.”
“Very good and for you sir?”
Billy nodded at the menu. “I’ll have the Anus steak medium rare, the spring vegetables instead of the potatoes please.”
“Excellent choice sir.”

Oops! I’m not sure what kind of restaurant Billy took Sasha to, but I hope they at least serve local beef.
In revision, I might be horrified and fix that mistake or take the opportunity to work it in.

“Excellent choice sir.” The polite waiter took their menus and shuffled off quickly.
Sasha snickered behind her hand.
“What?” Billy furrowed his brow.
“I know you want a piece of ass Billy, but I figured you could at least wait until after dinner.”
Billy’s puzzled frown lasted only a moment before his face went red and he laughed.

My advice about mistakes.
You will make them. They can be fixed. Before you do, think about it, can it become part of the story? Defiantly have someone else review your work, they might catch a typo you passed by several times because you wrote it in the first place.

-Sheryl

 

Other Posts relating to mistakes.

Spell check doesn’t catch them all.

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

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

 

 
Mistake

Show and tell

Emotions are something we deal with constantly everyday. When I first started writing I told the emotions instead of showing them. ‘She was angry.’ This was lazy and hard to read. I read blogs, articles and some of the books out there such as Master lists for writers and the Emotion thesaurus. Why? Because showing emotion is a lot harder than saying it. Also because emotion generally fell within conversation and ended up at taglines. I read blogs, books and articles Learning more every time.

Here is a telling emotional conversation from my rough draft.

“Are you calling me stupid?” Erin said angrily.

Sam was glad the beds were between them and felt brave for some strange reason.

“No, but you’re acting it.” Sam said forcefully. She did not want to do this, but she was committed and had had enough of her nasty attitude.

“Insult me again Sam and you’ll be sorry.”

“I won’t be sorry Erin, because I didn’t insult you.”

“You did!” Erin shouted angrily.

“No, I said your actions were stupid.”

“It’s the same dammed thing.” She growled.

 As discussed in Tag you’re it this is a rough draft loaded with taglines and I’m telling the emotion not showing it. This is hard to read. Here is the correction.

 “Are you calling me stupid?” Erin took a step forward curling her lips back.

Sam glanced down at the two beds between them. “No, but you’re acting it.” She squared her feet and locked eyes.

This was not an ideal situation. Exhaustion and stress were wearing them all down. Tolerance for Erin’s rude comments is wearing thin.

“Insult me again and you’ll be sorry.”

“I won’t be sorry, because I didn’t insult you.” Sam took a deep breath exhaling slowly.

“You did!”

“No Erin. I said your actions were stupid.”

“It’s the same dammed thing.” Erin clenched and shook her fist slightly.

Emotions are hard to show, the key is to take a moment to think about how you feel and what do you do when you are excited? Do you jump up and down clapping your hands melodramatically? Does everyone? Not likely. There are those that do, but usually its things such as grinning, smiling, whooping, punching the air or clenching fists under the chin and hunching your shoulders. Everyone reacts differently and it’s important that your characters do too. Sam stays calm and defensive. Erin is prone to aggression and rage. However when Sam gets upset she reacts by walking away or pursing her lips while Erin would insult or lash out. Someone else might strike out physically without provocation.

My advice about emotions.
Like actions, they need to be shown not told. Watch others, ask others how they react to emotions. If you’re stumped try a resource, there are some great books out there that have better ideas.

While tricky, showing emotion draws the reader in and creates empathy. People read to experience a story so give them one to dive into.

-Sheryl

More about taglines
Tag! You’re it.

My thoughts on Filter words
No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

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 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

The prickly process of writing a Synopsis.

The prickly process of writing a Synopsis.png

Synopsis, a pretty word for stripping away the petals, leaves, and thorns. They just want the stem, what holds your story together and brings it from the soil to the sky.

I found that there are 2 main types of Synopsis; the long and the short.

  1. Short Synopsis is 2 pages double spaced. It reveals everything of importance. This is what everyone means when they ask for a synopsis or short synopsis. This is what to submit with the Query and sample pages to the literary agent or agency.
  2. Long Synopsis is 4-6 pages doubled spaced with more detail. It also reveals everything of importance, but more of it. The long is a special request and will be asked for specifically.

Opinions everywhere and no one agrees. There are many opinions out there on how to write one, what is expected and what to show. There are even books written on how to write a synopsis. The gist of all the advice and samples I found is to keep it an active read, not to just drone out a monotone report of how the story goes.

  • Don’t write it in first person.
  • Make a point form list of major events to work with.
    • Make a sub point of any minor events that affect major plot.
  • Choose which characters to present wisely. This was tough for me the story is about a group of people, focusing on one main and her support character. However, one other person is very important to a major plot turn. I chose to work all three in.

So I sat down and started my synopsis. It was painful. Two pages fills up quickly and then some. The first draft I wrote was a whopping 5 pages long and hated it. I tried again a few more times and didn’t like any of them. I started over and got one to 3.5 pages. I liked that one’s direction so I worked with it to bring it down to two pages. Edit, revise, edit again and it’s done. Well, not really done, it’s dry and lacking personality or excitement.

Now because I feel I’m truly stuck on my synopsis and it’s very important in the process of seeking out a Literary Agent, I’m getting help. I am going to pay for professional consultation on my Synopsis, query letter and first 50 page submission. I will share this adventure and both the Synopsis and Query letter once they are perfected. Depending on how brave I am I may post the before and after.

I have bashed my head on the wall over this for many weeks. I can write a story, but to strip it bare and leave just the bones? I am struggling with it not sounding like someone’s reading a blurb on how to test and treat garden soil for alkalinity. My decision to get help on this doesn’t mean everyone will need to.

 

My advice about writing a Synopsis.

Write it, leave it alone for a day and revise it. Like pricking your fingers on a thistle you must pull barehanded. If you don’t let them heal between attempts and revisions you’ll have a bunch of holes in your fingers and your synopsis will be a bloody mess. At least that’s what I learned. I do recommend getting second and third opinions on what you wrote for your synopsis. (Assuming they have read or don’t mind complete and total story spoilers)

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

The not-so-direct path to publishing.

The not so direct path to publishing.png

Something every writer has to think about at one point. For me, it was halfway through my third edit. Right around the time when I started receiving unsolicited advice. I love advice, I have to since I give it so freely myself. Nevertheless, I take it with caution. I like to figure things out and research.

Just a quick note before we get to the nitty-gritty. Apparently, it’s nearly impossible to contact a “real” publisher directly. I found a publishing company online that welcomed inquiries. I jumped the gun and contacted them unprepared. They called me with too many questions. I skirted them and asked how they publish. It seemed too good to be true that they called me with nothing submitted to them. I’ll get back to them later.

There are more than three ways, but these were the three at the top of recommended paths. I didn’t even entertain the others.

Self-publishing – Ready set, go. Um no, not so much. For this route, the book must be perfect and edited professionally. This is the out of pocket, do it all yourself approach, layout prep, find a printer, pay for printing, advertising, distribution, promotion, delivery and on and on. I’m getting a headache just thinking about it. Selling hardcopies this way is challenging, frustrating and exhausting. The other form of self-publishing is online or e-publishing. Lower cost, but risky, as it could be lost in the shuffle.

Vanity press – A smaller version of publishing house publishing. They have pre-set packages that vary greatly in cost and value and are confusing in options. (The place I contacted first was a vanity press.) They wanted minimum $3000 for the bare bones start-up. They were pushy and somewhat insulting.
I checked on them and other VP’s. The reviews were unfavourable and scary. -No, follow through. -Hard to work with once paid. -Minimum effort.
I found out some will recycle cover art so my book would look like a dozen other titles they printed. I can see the appeal, but they don’t care if your work is amazing or crap as long as they get paid.

Literary agent – A person that works solely on commision, to get my book published, and get me the best deal. Yes, they take a cut, but they do the hard work and they actually have access to the all-powerful publishers. A literary agent registered with the AAR, the Association of Authors’ Representatives is preferable. This is the advice I got and I felt was right. A literary agent shouldn’t ask for money, they work for me. If I am not published, they aren’t paid. Therefore, they want to get me the best deal possible.

The consensus I found is that it shouldn’t cost a penny to be published, but the opposite. (Unless I want to go vanity or self-publishing.)

The recommended path to publishing.
The literary agent first, if you exhaust this then Vanity press or self-publishing last. I have read from other authors that literary agents and publishing houses don’t look favourably on the self or vanity press published authors. In their eyes, your work wasn’t good enough for an Agent to represent the first time, it’s probably not any better now. Common sense and a lot of research told me the Literary Agent path is the one for me.

My advice on choosing your publishing path.

I recommend researching this and deciding which option is best for you. I know what I will try first, but that doesn’t mean the others are wrong, just not for me.

-Sheryl

I am getting closer to contacting literary agents for real. I will write about that another time and about what I’ve done and what I still need to do to prepare.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved