Conference Spotlight: Agent & Editor Critique Round Tables

RMFWConference_Chalkboard_RoundTablesThinking about signing up for a critique round table at conference? Act now, because registration is required and registration for those sessions closes this week (July 15).

The critique round table sessions are among the most popular offerings at RMFW Colorado Gold. Three and a half hours in length, the round tables offer you a chance to receive detailed critique on ten pages of your work and allow you the time to give feedback on the work of the other members in your group.

The round tables are a unique opportunity to experience specific critique with other writers as well as an agent or editor.

This year, we have 15 sessions to choose from, monitored by an attending agent or editor. Attendees may sign up for one or two round tables. Sessions are offered Friday morning at 8:00 AM and Friday afternoon at 1:00 PM. The tables are open to 8 critique participants and 2 auditors.

Critique participants: You will submit the first ten pages of your manuscript, plus a one-page synopsis of your story, to be critiqued by the agent/editor of your choice as well as by the other participants at your table.

Critique Auditors will only observe; you will neither submit pages nor offer critiques to participants. This is a great way to see how critique works and be a fly on the wall. Hear other authors' feedback on the submitted work and listen as the attending agent or editor shares their insights.

Once registration closes, participants will receive further instructions from RMFW volunteer, Scott Brendel, who manages all the things with Round Table Critiques, and will provide details on everything, including where and when to submit your pages, which will be due in August.

These sessions are a $40 add on for participants, $15 for auditors. Deadline to register is this Friday, July 15!

Things I Hate to Admit to Myself

There's nothing that turns me off of a keynote speech at any gathering of writers - be it conferences, workshops, retreats, whatever - more than when the speaker starts out by telling you how impossible it is for you to become a successful writer. When they say that less than 1% of all books submitted get published, and fewer still make any profit, and yet fewer still become best sellers and launch an author's career. Or when they point out such cold hard facts as: it takes sales of 500-1000 books in the first few days of release to even get on most book-lists' radar. I could go on, but I'm guessing you hate these statistics as much as I do.

I finally sat down the other day and asked myself a very hard question: Why? Why do I hate such statistics? They are facts, after all, facts based on very real hard data, and as such they are inescapable. Resenting a fact is like hating a peach pit - you can go on hating it all you want, but every peach you eat is still going to have a pit, no matter how much you hate it. You can have someone remove the pit for you before you eat it, but this is only hiding the pit from you, not changing the fact that every peach has a pit. (Those of you who read last month's post may well wonder what's with this author's obsession with fruit. Well, mind your own business.)

We can hide from facts all we want, but that doesn't make them any less implacably true.

But I still hate these publishing statistics. And after some self-examination I know why, and why you do, too. Such statistics are like the bully who joins a pickup game of stick ball only to hit the ball over the fence and across the highway where no one can retrieve it. They are the arrogant young punk who gets on the light rail train with death metal music booming out of a portable speaker. They are the one spoiled shrimp in an otherwise delightful shrimp cocktail that makes you sick all night. They are...well you get the idea. They are spoil sports, the thorn in your side, the burning vomit that comes out of your nose as well as throat.

We hate these statistics because they ruin our fun. The fun is writing, and having others read our stories. We have been conditioned to think that we are failures if we don't have thousands and thousands of readers, and more often than not it interferes with our ability to continue writing. But is that really true? While we may dream of that, how many of us, realistically, expect to make an independent living on our writing these days? Even writers you consider quite successful continued to work other more conventional jobs during the height of their success. And many others who didn't could hardly have been called wealthy or even well off. Many more died in obscurity.

My point is, why let these statistics and reality spoil the fun? Most of us who started writing didn't do it to become wealthy (and I submit, as has been said many times on this blog, that if you did you're in the wrong business.) Most of us got into writing because we had stories to tell, we love telling stories, and we can't stop. There is nothing wrong with tracking your sales and aspiring to stardom, but for God's sake don't let lagging figures and disappointing ciphers on a page beat up on your muse. It isn't her fault readers are a fickle lot, and there's no telling what may grab their fancy at any given time. Compartmentalize your business aspirations - thousands upon thousands of sales - from the fun you have when you write. I promise you, even if you die tearing tickets at a theater, or pushing rocks with your backhoe, or building submarine sandwiches for hungry briefcase warriors, or even if you're one of those warriors yourself, you'll never regret the stories you told when you could, even if only a small circle of close friends and colleagues were your audience.

“Are You Taking This Seriously Enough?” Seriously?

Paul McCartneyPaul McCartney just turned 74 but he’s still not sure how to write a song.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Did you hear Macca on NPR’s All Songs Considered?

Yes, one of the best songwriters of the last six decades or so says he still isn’t sure how it all works.

If I was to sit down and write a song, now, I'd use my usual method: I'd either sit down with a guitar or at the piano and just look for melodies, chord shapes, musical phrases, some words, a thought just to get started with.

And then I just sit with it to work it out, like I'm writing an essay or doing a crossword puzzle. That's the system I've always used, that John [Lennon] and I started with. I've really never found a better system and that system is just playing the guitar and looking for something that suggests a melody and perhaps some words if you're lucky.

Then I just fiddle around with that and try and follow the trail, try and follow where it appears to be leading me … I'm of the school of the instinctive.

I once worked with Allen Ginsberg and Allen always used to say, 'First thought, best thought.' And then he would edit everything. But I think the theory is good. 'First thought, best thought.' It doesn't always work, but as a general idea I will try and do that and sometimes I come out with a puzzling set of words that I have no idea what I mean, and yet I've got to kind of make sense of it and follow the trail.

You can hear the whole interview here. (It's a cool podcast, too.)

If you listen, check out McCartney's youthful enthusiasm for the process. He’s still scratching his head about how it all works.

Do you ever noodle around?

Do you ever just not worry about the big picture, the big idea, the big concept?

And try to write a few words?

Just because?

(Words are cool. There is an endless supply and they don’t mind if you make a mess at first.)

Anyway, if you listen to the interview, check out McCartney’s enthusiasm, his eagerness. He talks about a few experimental efforts and stretching himself out. Think you know McCartney? Check out this effort with Freelance Hellraiser (Roy Kerr) on "Twin Freaks."

That’s a long way from “Eight Days A Week.”

Or “Paperback Writer.”

I was 10 years old when The Beatles blew up. My older brother and I bought every album when they came out. We listened over and over.

And over.

And now here’s Sir Paul decades later, after two inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (one with The Beatles, one as a solo artist).

He’s still writing music--and enjoying it.

I do like it. I do enjoy it. I mean, when I get a day off and I've suddenly got loads of time on my hands, I might do the kind of thing where I'm at home — I live on a farm — so I might get out for a horse ride or something. But when I've done those things that I want to do and there is still a couple of hours in the afternoon, I'll often just gravitate to a piano or a guitar and I feel myself just kind of writing a song. It's like a hobby, and it's a hobby that turned into a living. But I like to think of it that way and I sometimes kind of pull myself up and say, 'Are you taking this seriously enough? Maybe you should try a little bit more.

Yeah, sure, can you imagine if this McCartney’s output if tried a little bit more?

If he took it seriously?

Listening to McCartney chat about the process makes me want to get out some words and push them around a bit, see what happens.

paperback writerIt's a thousand pages, give or take a few
I'll be writing more in a week or two
I can make it longer if you like the style
I can change it round and I want to be a paperback writer...
- Lennon & McCartney

NovelRama: 4 Days to 25k … by Lisa Manifold

RMFW’s Independently Published Authors Liaison (IPAL) is sponsoring an event for all RMFW members this summer designed to kick your writing into high gear. Whether you’ve been noodling an idea around in your head and haven’t done anything further, or if you’ve been finishing up a writing project for what seems like an eternity, we all have things on our writing to-do list. Things that never seem to get completed.

2016Llamav5_IPAL NovelRama
What you need is NovelRama, the four-day IPAL sponsored writing event for all Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers members. In four days, we’ll help you to bring that idea to fruition or wrap up that never-ending project. Beginning at midnight on July 29th, we’ll begin the sprint to 25,000 words.

That’s right, four days to 25k.

But wait, you say, 25k? In four days? How?

Well, we’re glad you asked! Over the course of this four day event, IPAL will host get-togethers where you can put your butt in a different chair than usual, while you bounce your ideas off of fellow authors, and spur your creativity in a fresh location surrounded by people who understand the struggle!

Sounds great, but where do I start?

First, head over to rmfw.net, our new members-only discussion forum (which you should totally go and check out anyway), and register for the forum. After a moderator approves your account, go to the NovelRama category and open the Participant Check In & Greetings board. Introduce yourself in a new post to let us know you plan to join the four days of challenging FUN!

Then, it’s time to start your planning. Even if you are the proudest of proud pantsers, write down some ideas for that new project. Read through that WIP, decide whether your thoughts on finishing it are still legit, and outline the ending. Even if you only outline in brief, grammatically incorrect sentences, make a plan of some sort.

Then what?

IPAL members will host a kick off, location to be decided, on Thursday, July 28th. We’ll have meet-ups on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, but there can be only one (daily), because we all need to keep butt-in-chair.

After that, it’s all writing, all the time. For four days, anyway. Ignore the lack of showering. Meh. You can shower on Tuesday.

What happens on Monday, August 1st? Well, at 11:59, NovelRama is done for the year. You’ll be able to look back over the past four days and see the pages of words you’ve produced. Editing, schmediting. There’s always next week! There will also be some fun badges, you know, to show off your writing chops. Later in August, IPAL will host their Summer Sale and NovelRama Celebration.

So join us! This is the perfect time to add a metric ton of wordage to whatever it is you’re working on, and NovelRama is the perfect method to get you there.

Any questions, email ipal@rmfw.org. We’re happy to help. Because when one of us succeeds, we all do.

NovelRama
4 Days To 25k.

2016Llamav5_IPAL NovelRama
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2016_Lisa ManifoldLisa Manifold is fortunate to live in the amazing state of Colorado with her husband, two kids, two dogs, and one offended cat.

She enjoys skiing and carting kids and dogs to wherever they need to go, and she adores "treasure hunting" at local thrift stores. Her other hobbies include costuming within her favorite fandoms and periods.

She is the author of the Sisters Of The Curse series, based on the Grimm Brothers fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Her new series, The Heart Of The Djinn, is a trilogy that shows what happens when a free-lancing djinn does his own thing. THREE WISHES, the first book in The Heart Of The Djinn series is out now. Book two, FORGOTTEN WISHES, will be out soon! Finally, Brennan, the Goblin King will be making his debut in the Realm trilogy in early summer.

You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and her Website.

The Good of the Whole

I’ve been gardening for about ten years. In the beginning I started with easy plants, varieties that thrive in the Rocky Mountain climate without much effort. But I wanted more. So, I kept adding things. Species that are more difficult to grow, but better fulfill my vision for my garden. Every year there is some color or height of plant my garden seems to need.

But I only have so much space and my garden is getting terribly crowded. Something has to come out before I add anything more. It’s a tough decision. How do you uproot a plant that is lovely and thriving to replace it with something else? It’s seems so harsh.

2016_Gillgannon_gardenWhat will it be? Which plant gets to live and which plant gets weeded out? I consider color. I love purple, but a good share of my garden blooms in that hue: dame’s rocket and columbines, hardy geraniums and delphiniums. With all that purple, the lavender haze of cat mint and sage seem like too much. These are some of the first perennials I planted and they’ve gotten huge, three and four feet wide. I prop them up with low fencing, trying to keep them under control. But something has to give.

I make my decision. It will be the sage. I will dig them out. Not to die, but to pass on to my friend who lives in the prairie/mountain landscape west of town. She has a whole hill to cover with tough, durable species.

Why the sage, and not the cat mint? Well, my cats, non-ironically, like the cat mint, and spend quite a bit of time rolling around on it early in the season. Later, the cat mint will attract bees by the dozen, until the plants come alive with swarming pollinators: honeybees, bumble bees and the occasional swallowtail butterfly.

Writing can be like gardening. (You were wondering when I would finally mention writing, weren’t you?) It’s difficult to pull up and discard a whole subplot. But sometimes the story gets too crowded, and you have to think long and hard about what drives the book. What is its essence? Are there scenes that seem repetitious? They may be tight and functional in and of themselves, but do they make the book better?

I write like I garden, randomly adding things, following a plot-line or story arc to see where it goes. But sometimes it gets too rambling, and I know I have to cut. I have to make my decision the way I do when gardening. What fulfills my vision? What can I do to make my garden/book better? What can I take out and not really miss?

Words, sentences, plotlines. They’re alive, blooming, full of possibilities. So hard to dig them up and discard them. But I have to remember the whole garden. The book. The story. That’s what other people see. What they read.

A bit wrenching, but it has to be done. There. Gone with a click of the mouse.

Already, the story flows better. Seems more cohesive and somehow more real. I’ve done the right thing and dug out those extra words that were getting in the way of the beautiful whole.

IT’S A WRAP … by Kay Bergstrom aka Cassie Miles

Kay BergstromIt’s easy to start a book. Here’s a clue (4 little words): Once Upon A Time...

The hard part comes when you finally type (2 little words): The End.

In my fantasies, I end the book accompanied by a majestic choir rising from a cloud and singing hallelujah while critics, fraught with anticipation, rush to invent an accolade more laudatory than five stars and fans with real dollars form lines to purchase my own perky prose.

Hah!

Fantasy aside, “The End” results in three possible outcomes: it’s good, it’s not-so-good or it’s done. For example, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a good book, while Girl on the Train is not-so-much, and I read all the way to the end of Gone Girl.

Criteria for a Good Book:

There’s no shame in saying that some books are better than others. (I’ve published over 80, some fabulous and some suck.) Like a good parent, I hate to admit I have favorites and prefer one over the other. So, I’ve come up with guidelines.

How can you tell if you’ve written a good book? Reviews and second reads aren’t always helpful. If there were truly as many 5 star reviews as are given on Amazon, we would undoubtedly be living in the golden age of literature. Are we? Are we really? The following are craft-oriented ways to judge.

  1. Genre Fulfillment: Each genre, including literary, has certain reader expectations for the ending. In mystery/suspense, the villain is captured. In romance, it’s HEA (happily ever after). In science fiction, the alien scum is thwarted and good prevails. In literary, life goes on, with or without the main character; too pat an ending will ruin a literary book. The more genre-specific, the better. Example: In teen dystopia, the teen comes into his/her powers and saves the day (follows the classic Hero’s Journey plot).
  2. No Loose Ends: All those cheerful digressions that made writing the novel so much fun need to be paid off. Otherwise, the reader gets to “The End” and, instead of reveling in the joys of a book well-writ, is worrying about the dwarf mentioned in Chapter Three. Consider keeping a character list and planting a plot tree with all the twigs and branches, conflicts and motivations.
  3. Character Arc: Your main character MUST change during the course of the book. The whole point of fiction, the reason fiction is different from real life, is that the struggling protagonist ALWAYS changes. As referenced with loose ends, conflicts and motivations must be resolved. A good way to make sure you’ve done your job and changed the protagonist is to place them in the same situation in the opening and at the close. Example: My current book, Mountain Bodyguard, starts with the self-centered heroine in a dark room with no electricity and ends with the electric being purposely cut so she can escape after saving a life and catching the bad guys.

Bottom line with a good book: If well-written, the ending is incredibly satisfying.

If Not-so-Good:

2016_Bergstrom_BodyguardSuppose you get to the end and decide your novel isn’t “as good as it can be.”

Sitting on your right shoulder is the cheerful writing muse who will tell you, in dulcet tones, that this is a grand development. You can rewrite. You have a chance to go back, review the plot and characters and fix it.

On the left shoulder is The Critic, a total curmudgeon who will tell you that it’ll never be good enough. You could rewrite until doom’s day (which probably isn’t far off), and it’ll never be good enough.

The truth is somewhere in-between.

  1. You can become a constant re-writer, polishing and polishing until you’ve worn the poor book down to a nub.
  2. You can turn your back on those imperfect pages and put the book out on line. Or start shipping it to editors and agents who will surely love it because your every keystroke is sheer genius.
  3. Re-write for a set period of time, until you reach a point when you feel the book is good enough. Call it done and start marketing.
  4. Re-write until you come to the sad realization that the patient is terminal. Have a nice cremation and/or burial, say good-bye and move on to the next project.

It’s a Wrap:

I’m not talking about a poncho or shawl. Not talking about one of those truly heinous fur pieces with the fox’s head still attached. Not even talking about an infinity scarf that truly goes on for infinity.

There comes a time when the writing process is over, and the book is a wrap. Good, bad or indifferent, completion is its own reward, although a chocolate and champagne celebration is nice. Remember, when there’s an ending, another beginning is possible.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kay Bergstrom aka Cassie Miles has published over 80 books of romance and suspense, has also sold screenplay treatments, radio plays and articles. She’s been on the USA TODAY Best-seller List and her last book was on the PW Best-seller List. She’s been RMFW Writer of the Year twice, and served as President, Veep and Treasurer. Her current Harlequin Intrigue is Mountain Bodyguard.

Feeling Cozy: Avoiding F-Bombs & You

I’m a big fan of f-words. Though I try to limit the number of them, both in my books as well as in real life. F-words Funny gorilla with red sunglasses celebrating a party by blowing a striped hornhave power. Even if you don’t use them, you must understand the beauty of a great insult. Or a stream of f-words blurted when one stubs a toe.

I recently judged a contest, and was surprised to see the number of writers who agreed with the use of the f word. Oddly I found myself turned off by a few that didn't fit the tone or seemed over the top. Yes, me. Does that mean one shouldn’t use the f-bomb for fear of turning off a reader? Heck no.

F-bomb away.

But know that words have power.

Take said for an example. Writers use it to dialogue tag for reason. Invisibility. Use a word too much and it loses its power.

That being said, I’ve recently started writing a cozy mystery my agent requested. I wasn’t sure I could do it. Wasn’t sure I had a voice for it. Turns out the cozy fits my style quite nicely. I get to research, which I love, on top of that, my cozy is about whiskey, so I also get to drink.

I’ve found it easy enough to avoid the f-bomb, as well as a few other choice words I would normally use. Where I’m coming into trouble, and I’d love your advice, is in toning down the snark. I’m naturally snarky, and it comes through, perhaps too much, in my narratives. Though it works for my previous characters. Not this one though.

How do you keep yourself out of your words? And what’s the acceptable amount of f-bombs dropped in a novel?

 

 

 

Airing my own dirty laundry: a writer’s Black Moments

Writers understand black moments. They're our bread and butter and appear in every novel. First we establish our protagonists' worse fears, then we throw rocks at them, pushing them toward their nightmares. From the first pages we frustrate, annoy and confound them. With slightly dysfunctional glee, we deepen their problems. With Donald Maass's voice ringing wickedly in our ears, we think, "What's the worst thing that can happen? Now how can we make it even worse?" By the time our battered hero reaches the final pages, he's exhausted, financially ruined, suffering a tarnished reputation and likely suffers from a bleeding wound or two.

It's only fair when karma catches up with us.BlackMoment1316139_1280

Black Moment #1. Contest Entry Agony.

Disclaimer: this incident did not involve RMFW's Colorado Gold Contest. I'd been writing for over six years and was trying desperately to gain an editor or agent's attention by winning contests. After days of careful revisions and study of the contest rules, I sent my entry and $65 to the largest competition in my genre. I waited with optimism and the high hopes and dreams only a struggling writer possesses. A Black Moment slashed all four of my tires when I received notice that my entry violated the manuscript preparation rules and my $65 entry fee was forfeited.

My violation was the font size of my header. I went back and looked at the picture of the full-size reproduction of an acceptable entry the organization printed in their newsletter. I had even checked their example against my printer font size checker. It was the same size as my entry. The contest officials refused to reconsider. I found little consolation that close to a hundred other entries were similarly DQ'd that year and the rules were hastily revised the next year, but at that moment, I was devastated and outraged.

Black Moment #2. Word Processing Disaster.

I had typed "The End." I loved my story. I was prepping the manuscript for Kindle and other outlets. I discovered that during the conversion, the word processing program scrambled the quote marks and apostrophes. They had become a helter skelter pattern of straight quotes and smart quotes! Using the search-and-replace function was useless because it's a style, not a typo.  Hopeful,  I reloaded and converted, but it happened again. I was on deadline with Amazon to get the book in on time. My Black Moment crashed in when I realized I'd have to proof all quote marks and apostrophes on all 350 pages--manually.

Black Moment #3. Facebook Ad Fail.

In prepping for the July 15 release of Crimson Secret this summer, I developed a really fun ad campaign featuring my gorgeous cover, which was developed after scrolling through images and art until my eyeballs fell out and rolled across the keyboard. I also won hard-fought battles with my graphic artist about fonts and models. Of course the cover was included in the ad. Imagine my fury when I received a rejection from the Facebook ad gurus for "too much text." (Facebook has a strict 20% rule about the portion of the ad that can contain text, not for number of words, but for how much space in the ad contains text.)

I appealed, explaining that book covers are exempt from the "text" rule because they are, in fact, an image of the "product." Said gurus didn't listen and rejected it again. A Black Moment leaked into my veins like dirty transmission fluid when I realized that, if I wanted my ads to run before my book release, I would have to re-do all my ads.

Stuff happens. We've all heard horror stories of other writers' Black Moments. One author suffered through holding her first published book in her hands, only to realize that the printer had omitted the final page. (Yes, with the ending.)

Maybe it's payback after all those evil plot rocks we throw at our characters over the years. A case of "Here's some karma, back atcha!" One thing is certain. We can find value in our writer black moments. They help us identify and sympathize with each other. Having suffered from them, we can write black moments with credibility and passion.

May your black moments be few and far between!

The Value of a Compliment

So. Here we are, six months into the “New Year.” How are your writing resolutions going?  Are you getting 2,000, or 10,000, or whatever daily word counts you aspired to complete? Me either.

Have you finished that first novel and started in on your second? I’m right with you on missing that one too.

In fact, like 92% of the people who make resolutions, I have failed to meet my 2016 reading and writing goals.

And the start of my year hasn’t been all that much to celebrate either.  I entered two writing contests only to fail making it past the first round of judging.  I had one of those decade birthdays, and sometimes I feel every minute of how ancient my bones have become. Just lock me up in the museum and throw away the key. And while I started and love a new job, guess what that does to my writing time. Anybody have cheese to go with my wine-ing? Hearts bleeding peanut butter yet?

To me, there are always clouds for the silver linings in a writer’s life. We work alone, and are sometimes lonely. We’re introverted in an extrovert world. We’re creative in a nuts and bolts kind of society. If I focus hard enough, there are always things that give me the excuses for feeling bad, procrastinating too much, and generally leave me asking why I want to be a writer. Hint: if you’re in it for the big bucks, there are a whole lot of other ways to get that goal accomplished.

Then, for me, this past month happened and I have to push those gloomy clouds back. The silver linings refuse to stay closeted.

Someone told me that they liked my work.  Liked. My. Work. Really?

In fact, this generous person said, “I just wanted to tell you how much I loved your book! I couldn’t put it down and finished it in two days.”  This from a total stranger to me. Well shut my mouth and give me a keyboard. I think I can try this writing thing again.

And then a friend said to me, “My mom adores your books and wants to know when the next one is coming out.” For the first time in months, the question, “how’s the writing?” hasn’t left me feeling guilty and defeated. My friend’s face shone with being able to share this great review, and we’re talking about writing a short story just for mom for Christmas.

And this past Tuesday, Lindsay Woods of KRFC Radio in Fort Collins, replayed an interview she did with me a year ago on her Tuesday Talk Show.  What an ego boost! One full hour with no commercials (KRFC is a nonprofit organization), talking about a favorite subject—books and writing.  Lindsay read out loud some of the reviews both writer friends and professional reviewers gave my latest book.  I had forgotten them long ago.

I have a clipping file of reviews, and when I take the time to look through them, I always feel energized for writing projects.  I also like Aaron Ritchey’s advice from yesterday’s column, “write every day, as much as you can.” I like how there isn’t a specific number of words. Just write.

I also like Mary Gillgannon’s notion that writing takes energy.  She’s right.  Exercise is important. So is filling the spiritual well as she talks about.

So here’s my tip of the day – keep your compliments.  Whether or not you’re published, or a contest winner, you receive writing compliments from time to time.  Save that critique group note that says you’ve mastered the use of ellipses.  Hold onto the thank you note that says it’s no wonder you’re a writer; your last letter home was terrific. Cherish the rejection that’s accompanied with a personal note from an agent or editor.

I have a bright blue binder where I keep print out of reviews – on friends’ blogs, from the press, notes from loved ones.  Now I know where I need to look to build the kind of positive energy that makes writing what it was always meant to be – a joy.

Hey! I just realized the New Year is only 6 months old – I can get some writing done.  Hope you do too.

Wishing you a positively creative day.

Halfway and Unfinished

I was talking with a writer the other day. Those writers. You know the type. Shifty-eyed. Distracted. Stinking of gin and desperation. A nervous laugh and a hair-trigger sense of despair. Yes. A writer.

She was working on her first novel, and times were bad.

Why were times bad?

Because she was about halfway through the book. Now, being halfway is a good thing, right? It’s better than being on page zero.

That damn page zero. It taunts me.

But the problem is, she has been learning craft along the way, and every time she learns something she applies it to the book, which means she is constantly re-writing the first half of the book.

Which means if she keeps this up, she will never, ever finish because she is trapped in the miasma of her novel, stuck in edits and applying everything she is learning.

Let me be perfectly clear. I am iffy on the idea we can edit ourselves into a perfect book. There’s a popular idea that if we only edit a book enough, we can craft a perfect sculptured thing of Davidian beauty that will sell millions.

Maybe.

I’ve seen books written by half-witted alcoholic troll-like creatures reach the heights of Amazon. And I’ve seen lovingly crafted books of true beauty languish in the dungeons of obscurity.

Editing is necessary to a certain extent. But do you know what I think is more important than editing? Vision.

When I sit down to write a novel, I have a vision of the story in my head, and generally the vision is the climax of the book, when the hero is pushed to the limits, and things are bleak, and the villain is invincible! And still, somehow, the hero wins.

If I don’t have the epicness of the climax in my mind, I don’t write the book. And yeah, the climax might change, but generally it doesn’t. I know the book I want to write.

I have vision.

Can editing help me reach that vision? Maybe, maybe not. I’ve spent months editing a book to realize my first draft was better. I’ve been given dodgy advice to “improve” my book when really it was striking at the heart of my vision.

My advice to all writers is to write, every day, as much as you can. If it’s only three sentences, that counts. Write, every day, and follow the vision. Yes, you’ll be hit by craft stuff and editing stuff, but the vision should remain.

So vision is more important than editing. What is more important than vision?

Finishing.

I had an Icelandic friend who give some really good advice when I first started writing. He told me to finish the book, then go back and edit. Stop going to classes, stop reading up on craft, stop listening to the experts, and finish the book.

Then, during edits, you can apply what you have learned. But only for so long. There are no perfect books. Good enough is generally good enough.

Then again, there are no rules.

I heard a story about a guy who attended the same writer conference, year after year, for decades. He worked on the same book for decades. Everyone laughed at him for decades. Until his book hit, and when it hit, it took off.

There are no rules.

Except for one.

If you don’t finish the book, no one will ever be able to read it.