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

Tulips in July

The story I wrote takes place in “real time” by that I mean an imagined year of the current year. I was about halfway through when I realized to interact with the world around them I needed to know exactly what day of the year it is. It would be silly to have them looking at tulips in July. It became apparent that I needed to keep track of time as well as the characters.

So I printed out a generic calendar from about ten years from now. It isn’t important that I say it’s April 17th, but it is important to stay on track.

As I went back to the beginning, I wrote down any significant plot events on the calendar. As I moved forward I discovered that by the end of the book, the story was off by two weeks. At the beginning I eluded how long they would be working for. Instead of changing the conversation that outlined the length of the summer job, I wrote the difference in. It gave me the opportunity to add a little more dynamic to the mystery that I hadn’t thought about before. Fifty  days in, someone in charge slips up and gives the protagonist has a very large clue. This is an important event. That clue leads her quickly to solve the grand mystery just in time. I actually planned it to be that day so if I refer back it’s an easy number to remember.

Having a timeline or calendar of events made things much easier. I can refer back to it or even have the characters refer back. At one point, the number of days is actually mentioned. If a reader were to follow along that carefully, they would find it accurate. Even though it is a fantasy, some reality is required.

My advice about time lines.
Use them even if it’s not important it’s a fantastic way to keep track of events or interactions that drive the story. Did Joe make the ominous phone call before or after he got the internship? If I need to check I can refer to a calendar and not have to flip back chapters to find it if I forget.

-Sheryl

Here is a link to a previous post. The first Fifty  pages. Why are they so important?

The first 50 pages.

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

 

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That sounds complicated

A simple thing can be complicated until you understand it.

For me the entire writing through to publication process was a complicated and daunting process to approach. There is a lot to do, consider and understand. When I first started researching  the different ways to publish and what was needed I thought ‘That sounds complicated.’ and it is. After time, more research and asking others questions (A lot of questions) it became clearer.

There were times when I felt overwhelmed with what needed to be done or how to even approach publishing. So much that I would question the worth of my choice. It was in those moments that I would take a second and remind myself that giving up is not an option. That something worth having is worth the effort. I wanted to write a book. I did that. Now I want to see it published. That is where I am now. Getting ready to take the next step. That step is having my first 50 pages, synopsis and Query letter reviewed by a professional as well as some friends. I’m looking forward to their feedback. Good or bad doesn’t matter as long as it’s honest.

I suppose my blog is about making something complicated less so for others. A few blurbs about my experience as a novice writer, and about what found out along the way. I am curious and excited about what’s to come. Will I glide or stumble through the process? I can’t wait to find out.

My advice about complicated things.
Find out why they are complicated and what you can do to un-complicate them. If you’re curious about what I’m up to (enter shameless plug) visit and read my other blogs and follow along with me. Don’t worry I don’t often gripe or complain. I will make fun of myself and be honest about my mistakes as well as accomplishments.

-Sheryl

 

via Daily Prompt: Complicated

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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

 

What happened to that guy?

The forgotten character who hasn’t spoken in chapters. Yeah, I know, sometimes people are forgettable. That is a problem. Now I have to bring them back into the storyline.

This has happened to me twice. I will admit it because this is an opportunity in my opinion. If I’ve neglected them it’s for a reason. I have imagined the story progressing without them. I figure out why and then find a solution. Are they boring? Not enough personality? Are they crucial to the story? Do they complicate things unnecessarily?

For me, it’s a chance to spice someone up or darken their edges. Make them more likely to insult, or cower or perhaps say something funny. A good villain can be born from dialogue neglect. If I’ve neglected them maybe my characters have neglected him too. Make it an issue in the story. I could go back and make them moody or shy. The options are endless.

My advice about inadvertently leaving a character behind.

In my opinion, a flat character is your chance to shake it up. If all else fails, kill them in a relevant way to the plot or main character development. That way the reader won’t be asking “what happened to Bob?” Because they will know. Bob stepped into traffic and was hit by a car. He was sad and distracted about Juan ignoring him for three freaking chapters. Now Juan is riddled with remorse.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

To live life: Do what makes you feel alive.

BiaAtlas1

I often find myself thinking about working on my book. Whether it’s writing or editing,  I enjoy it immensely. Daily I tuck situations or conversation tidbits away for future reference. I can’t help it. Would that work for the antagonist? What if my protagonist had someone talk to her that way? I find inspiration everywhere and it has really opened my eyes. I see more, I hear more and I pay better attention.

I have had the questions come up, “How can you work on it so much?” or “Why do you spend so much time writing?” (and variations on that theme)

The answer is simple and it’s easy to explain in context. I look at the person asking and I think about something they do in their spare time that they love more than anything else. Whether it’s reading, playing video games, fishing, dancing or whatever they do a lot of. I then say, “You know that feeling you get when you –fill in the blank-? It’s the same thing for me when I’m writing or editing my books.” It is okay if they don’t understand, they don’t have to.

When I’m passionate about something it’s a thrill to see it through. I’ve had more than a few hobbies and many ebb and flow in my desire to partake, but once I found my literary confidence I find my craving for writing is steady.

My advice about doing what you love.
To put it simply I love what I do and do what I love. That is honestly what I believe the point of it all to be. Whether it’s writing or snowboarding or stand-up comedy, if you become excited thinking about something and it fills you with joy, don’t ignore it or let others drag you down. If you are fortunate enough to discover your passion run with it. Do what makes you feel alive.

-Sheryl

 

 

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