Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wednesday's--Getting Over the Hump--Writer's Post

It's Hump Daaaaaay!!

It's Wednesday.

Hump Day.

And I've decided to post what I've learned over the last year about sharing one's work, one's baby, if you will, with other people--you know, critique partners, beta readers, your mom, your sister-in-law, the milkman, and the like.

It's a "hump" that's taken me a while to understand, scale, and eventually get over. What pray tell am I talking about, you ask? I'm talking about getting constructive and usable feedback from people you let read and critique your manuscript. This post mostly applies to Beta Readers and the first draft, but don't stop reading, it has relevance to every reader at every step of the critique process.

When I started writing my first novel a few years back, I was terrified to share my work with anyone, and I mean, ANYONE. Eventually, I got over that "hump" and asked my sister-in-law (an avid YA reader) to read my very first completed ms. She called me right away and let me know how much she was enjoying it, which is always nice, but I wanted details.

Why did she like or dislike the main characters? Where were any plots holes? etc. etc.

You know, the dig deep down, nitty-gritty of it all.

In the end, the main feedback I received from her mostly concerned pacing. One might assume a first draft would be too slow in the pacing department, however, she pointed out the contrary--each chapter was too fast. She wanted my characters to spend more time in each scene. This piece of information was priceless! I never would have seen this on my own. One problem: it's hard to go back after writing 80,000 words and figure out specifically where to add more details, especially for a new writer.

This feedback, while invaluable, barely scratched the surface.

Now that I'm working on my second ms, I've decided not to wait until it's completely finished to get someone or someones to critique it and submit feedback--I feel it's easier for me to make changes along the way (but to be clear, I'm not talking about line edits here--those should be saved until the end, in my opinion). Again, I've asked a slew of people, including two different CP's, and my best beta reader, my sister-in-law, to read my WIP (work-in-progress) and submit feedback. However, I've learned from my previous mistakes and instead of just throwing my work at them and waiting with bated breath at my computer for them to toss something, anything back, I've asked for specific feedback this time.

Here is the feedback I requested:

1) Are the characters likable/dislikable and/or believable? Can you relate to them? Why?

2) Does the story flow? How's pacing? Where should it pick up or slow down?

3) Are there any plot holes so far? And where?

4) Is the setting developed enough?

5) Does the first page engage you to keep reading? At what point (chapter/page) would you or did you put it down??

6) Does the dialogue work? Sound YA?

7) Specific Likes/Dislikes/Questions/Comments

8) And I saved the the most important one for last: VOICE
    (Why? For me, it's the hardest to get right)

Don't get me wrong, I am open to ANY and ALL feedback of my work, and happily welcome it with open arms. Each ms I write is different, and so what I request of my readers each time will be different, but I think it is important to ask SPECIFIC questions in order to get the most useful feedback possible.

And you'll know exactly what to do with it.

Or course, always remember it is the writer's prerogative if her or she even wants to apply the suggestions to his or her work.

While I understand there is a difference between a beta reader and a critique partner, it's still important to know what to ask your readers. Most writers save line edits (spelling, grammar, typos) for their CP's, and big picture items for their Betas, but that doesn't mean a writer can't request clear-cut advice, as outlined above, if that's in the arrangement you've made together. If not, ask, and I'm sure your reader will oblige.

Do you ask your readers (CP's, Beta's etc.) for certain feedback or do you let them take the reigns? Or, maybe you're like me and it's a combination of both?

Monday, September 2, 2013

2000 Words

I'm back from my writing hibernation, I really am this time, and I've decided to make it a goal to set a goal.

A writing goal.

Yes, I am one of those people who makes a list for their lists.

But I digress.

First, I figured I should have a goal of setting a goal. Apparently, using my "free time" to write isn't working for me, as I haven't written a lick in months. Apparently, "free time" doesn't visit my house very often--however, my 40-hour-a-week job, homework for two college courses, cooking three meals a day, mopping up spilled cereal milk, sweeping up crumbled gold fish crackers, and taxiing three children to school, basketball, dance, and a job makes a daily appearance.

I need to set a goal to write.

In the beginning, I thought writing 2000 words-a-day was a realistic goal. Really? Going from zero words-a-day to 2000 is realistic? I tried it one day, made it to 1000 words after sitting in front of my computer for hours, and realized I'd never be able to put off everything like that--day after day.

I need a  realistic goal.

1000 words-a-day wasn't a terrible goal. I actually made it to 1000 words pretty quickly, it was the next 1000 that tripped me up. Maybe I really could achieve 1000 words? Maybe that was a realistic goal, after all?

So, I reassessed my goal.

I tried it again. This time with the goal of 1000 words for the day. And guess what? I did it. I wrote 1000 words that day.


Now, I have a goal to write 1000 words each day. Will I beat myself up if I don't achieve that goal? Probably. But once I do, I will reassess my goal once more, and set a new one. I just need to have a goal of setting a goal. If I do that, I will always write. Even if my goal is only ten words-a-day.

Do you set goals for writing? How do you decide what that goal should be? Does it ever change or do you stand firm? Feel free to share so we can learn from each other!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

One Word Year

Yes, as you can see...I'm back from hibernation!
This is me...

In November, I started NaNoWriMo (write a novel in a month), but one-fourth of the way through, had to stop; my husband lost his job of twenty years...and I needed to get myself a job, and quick. Not exactly what I thought I'd be doing right before the holidays. In addition to not writing, I also stopped blogging. Luckily, I just finished two English Literature classes and the fall quarter at CSUB. Sure, I would love to be a full time writer who makes a living selling best-sellers, but right now, that's not happening. Although, I do currently have three full submissions out.

So maybe soon?

When I saw Ink in the Book's blog post about her "One Word Year" I thought, hmmm, with so many changes going on in my life right now, I think I need a word for this upcoming year, too.

At first, I considered: 


Because it means "again," and I really wanted a do-over this year. Like: let's try this again and start anew.

But then, I decided on this word, instead:


Yep, inspire is my "one word" for this year...and here's why:

1) It's a verb--and my college English professors will kill me for saying this--but that also means it's an action word. 

2) It goes both ways--meaning you can GIVE it and RECEIVE it. I love that.

3) It sums up exactly what I want for my writing. I want to stir emotions and put forth a creative effort that inspires others. 

Now, it has only been two months, but in that short time my husband found a new, less stressful job, I started working as a Behavior Respite Therapist with children who have autism (which I absolutely LOVE), and I started writing my WIP, again. Oh, and yesterday I started an online college course at CSUB. So...everything is falling back into place.

I guess the morale to my story is...if you don't like the way things are INSPIRED to change it for the better!

Good luck to all in the New Year and I hope you find inspiration in everything around you.

What's your "one word" for this year?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wildest Moments Blog Hop

To celebrate the release of Wilde's Meadow, Book 3 in the Darkness Falls trilogy, I am participating in the Wildest Moments Blog Hop. You can visit the author--the lovely Krystal Wade at her website here.

So, here are the deets: 
Blog your wildest moment--something wild, life-changing, inspirational, fun, or heart-pumping.

If you know me well, you might say I should consider writing about my "Mildest Moments," instead. Yes, I'm a list-maker, long-term goal planner, and all-around don't run with scissors kind of gal. I don't drink, smoke, and I've never done drugs in my life. Of course, that doesn't mean I don't know how to have fun: you should see me at 2:00 in the morning when I get the giggles from lack of sleep. Now, in my teen years I did some things that would be considered "wild," however, by today's standards, I'm starting to think...hmmm...probably not so much. Certainly, anything I did wasn't "life-changing." Wow, now I sound really boring--even to myself. Needless to say, it was difficult for me to pin-point a wildest moment worthy of this blogfest.

But, don't despair.

I dug deep down into my past, and pulled out something that one would consider pretty darn wild, if I do say so myself. And I do. Let's go back a few years, circa 1993, if you will. By all means, my late eighties perm was wild, maybe even in a "girl on the hood of a car in a Whitesnake video" kind of way.

The 80's rock!

Sorry, just had to say it.

Okay, I promise, I do have a point to all of this seemingly pointless drivel. But, I'd rather just show you.

Yep, that's me at 20-years-old holding a snake--my snake. A Red-tailed Boa, to be exact. In fact, I didn't own just, no, no, I owned two! My husband and I were newlyweds, ahem, almost twenty years ago. Apparently, the first thing you do when you're married is rush out and buy two snakes. One for each of you. You know, so your pet can wrap around your waist, and you can walk around town, and such, with free hands.

Some people will simply look at the picture of a snake and get the creepy-crawlies. Apparently, I don't possess this mechanism. Snakes don't bother me. As you can see. Now, if it was the bad perm giving you the willies, then you're in luck. Here is a more recent photo of me and the beloved creature I call friend:

No, I don't own this snake, or any snake for that matter (not anymore). I did have a Sulcata tortoise named Sheldon, up until about a month ago...I think he ran away...or a hawk got him. I'm hoping for the former.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

No News is Good News?


I sure hope so. Last week I participated in two online contests: The Hook, Line, and Sinker contest. My entry is here. And, the Spooktacular Pitch Extravaganza. My entry is here

My stats:

2 Full Requests
3 Partials


1 very nice comment about my writing from a well-known agent

After the contest, I queried one of the judges that participated, but didn't request anything from me at the time and ended up with a partial request from her.

Here's the problem: I haven't heard back, yet. But, no news is good news. Right?

I'm not convinced. No news could mean a few different things: 

1) The agents haven't read my ms yet. (According to twitter three other contestants have already been signed.) 

2) The agents are reading my ms, loving it, and taking meticulous notes. (This can be very time consuming. Hey, a girl can dream.)

3) The agents started reading my ms. Hated it. Stopped. (They just haven't had a chance to break the news.)

This is the first time I've had REQUESTS to see more of my work, and submitted something beyond the required query etc. to an agent. I don't have a clue about what kind of response time to expect.

Fellow writers, unite! 
Tell me of your experiences submitting requested material to agents. How long did you wait for a response? Did it come right away? And was that good or bad? Did it take days, weeks, or months? And what was the outcome?

In the meantime, I'm crossing my fingers and toes that I'll hear from an agent, he or she will want to rep me, and I will be able to yell, "Extra, extra, read all about it!"

Monday, October 22, 2012

Writer Therapy

I'm participating in the Writer Therapy blog hop hosted by none other than: Writer Therapy.

My writing therapy consists of ample doses of Coke Zero.

One-hundred times better than Diet Coke--any day! Somehow, it's a comfort sitting next to my keyboard. =)

While listening to the "2 Cellos" station on Pandora.

If you haven't heard them play Smooth Criminal by Michael don't know what you're missing.

And, if all else fails...I go run on the treadmill or take a shower. I get my best ideas in one of these two environments. ha ha

What is your writing therapy??

Hook, Line, and Sinker contest: YA entry #2 - IGNITE

UPDATE: The HLandS contest is officially over. 

Here are my stats:

1 Full Request
2 Partial Requests
1 Very nice comment about my writing from a well-known agent

Good morning! Aren't Monday's grand?? They are when you make it into round 3 of the Hook, Line, and Sinker Contest. Please check out my entry. Kat Ellis writes: YA entry #2 - IGNITE: Name: Natasha Hawkins Title: IGNITE Genre: YA Urban Fantasy Word count: 65,000 Hook: Branded with PTSD after her grandma’s murder...

Only agents can comment over at Kat Ellis Writes, but you can hop on back here and leave a comment, if so inclined! =)