It’s the holidays, and I want to write!

My muse has a very strange sense of timing. I’m trying to finish edits on a completed manuscript. There is the piece I started for NaNoWritMo tugging at me to work on it and WHAM out of left field the opening I’ve been searching for on another work-in-progress comes out of left field and wants to be written RIGHT NOW!

Okay, well let’s see. Christmas Eve is upon us. My house will be full of guests. And you want me to write? Now? Blank stare.  Where in the devil were you in November when my Nano stalled because I was sick. There was no inspiration or muse around then. Why is it these wonderful, exciting dances with inspiration always hit when I’m too busy to make it to the keyboard.  In this case, I’m going to have my two year old granddaughter. Ever try to write with a two year old about? Oh yeah, great gobs of fun. “Sweetheart, what are you doing?”  “Nothing.”  Right.

So tomorrow, I will be chasing a pixie princess. There are party trays to make and baking to finish. And the entire time a story will be spinning in my head with no where to go. All I can say is, at least I won’t be bored. 

How do you handle ill timed inspiration?

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The Critique

I always find critiques interesting.

When the reader and author don’t know each other it can be taken as snarky or insincere.

When the reader knows the author, well that can get down right interesting.

You can hurt a strangers feelings and not feel too bad, but someone you know?

This is where the rubber meets the road. I picked people I knew would suck it up and tell me ‘It’s trash’ to read my early work. And they did too. I found knowing them a help. These people had a vested interest in me and they risked upsetting me. THANK YOU..this is how we grow as writers.

I’m not above injury, but when I put something out there for critique that’s what I want. How horrifying it would be to query crap and never get called on it.  Friends tell friends when it’s bad. Are you a friend or an acquaintance?

I always wonder at the would-be-contestants for American Idol. It is obvious, even to me, some of these people can’t sing. Doesn’t anyone care enough to tell them? “Darling I love you. You will only embarrass yourself.” Dang.

Throwing flowery words around is good for the ego, but little else.

Is it too wordy? Too lean? Confusing? Or can’t string a good sentence together bad?

If an author isn’t ready to hear the answers, they aren’t ready for the world to see their work.

I don’t want anyone blowing sunshine up my skirt.

How do you feel about it?

What’s really going through your head as you read articles looking for a scrap of good to say?

Setting the Stage

I find when I’m writing it is like a movie playing in my head and I tend to get wrapped up in the action, dialog and characters, forgetting to paint the scene. So I find myself going back to add visuals later. Often times more than once. Doing sweeps for clothes, decor and so on.

What are my character’s wearing? Do I have the correct styles, fabrics for the period? Do I know the names of the fabrics, styles I’m using? Sometimes I don’t and have to looking for them or have long chunky sentences.

The Costume Gallery

The Fabric Store

Whether it’s a Regency or a Contemporary setting knowing what you are talking about takes a bit of research. 

What a character wears says as much about her as the way she interacts with other characters. Clothes can give subtle hints to things yet to be revealed, or negate the need to explain she’s modest or eccentric or at the top of fashion.

Where do our character’s live? An Arts and Crafts/Californian bungalow or a  Victorian style house. Do you know the different Victorian architecture styles?  As the author it’s your job to be precise in your settings.

Queen Anne is a specific Victorian type not a generic term for the era.  Queen Ann is my personal favorite.

Dave’s Victorian Houses

Are your characters Frank Lloyd Wright, free from clutter, streamlined? Or are they stuck in the eighties with dripping oil lamps and enormous water bed furniture? Or somewhere in between with Gustov Stickley’s clean lines which lend themselves to a homey feeling consistent with the Arts and Craft movement?

Clem Lambine’s Period Homes

As I see it; there should be nothing in a novel which doesn’t serve the purpose of the story. Whether it’s a chintz tea set, Mission style furniture, the color of the walls, carpet or lack there of.

While they might seem inconsequential, what you dress your story with adds layers to characters and the mood of the story. Can you imagine Dracula living in a 70’s split-level? How about Queen Victoria in a sod house?

Knowing what you are talking about can make the descriptive short and unobtrusive. Unless you are in Queen Elizabeth I court it shouldn’t take paragraphs or a page to set the scene or describe a gown.

When I find that I’ve done just that, a lot of it hits the cutting room floor in edits.

So does window dressing happen as you write your first draft?

Do you write in layers, going back to add color to the script?

Is any of the background conscience thought or does it just happen/dictated by the characters themselves?

Do you use back drops and accents as a means to propel the story, or just as fill?

Sherilyn Winrose, author of Safe Harbor published by Second Wind.

If you have to explain, it’s not working.

I’m in the front row these days, having recently been published through Second Wind Publishing LLC.

This far from gets me off the target of critique. If anything it rather makes my work a bull’s eye. I’ve gotten my share of comments, complaints and suggestions. I decided very early to consider each of them carefully and do my best not to get defensive. 

Listening and carefully filtering what other people have to say has made me a better writer.

I note some aspiring authors want to argue with readers, instead of asking why it’s confusing, not well executed. 

When an aspiring author posts parts of their writing to a social board or blog, they should expect readers to express their opinion. They are giving their time to your unpublished work, and as such should be treated with respect. Telling the reader they are wrong, or that it is explained in the next chapter isn’t respectful. 

When you go into a bookstore is the author of every book standing next to their displays? No, and you won’t be either.

If you don’t catch a reader in the first paragraph, it doesn’t matter how brilliant the rest of the book is. They will put it back on the shelf and move on until one does capture their attention.

Should you listen to every criticism? Of course not, you’d go crazy trying to make everyone happy..it can’t be done.  When the same comment is repeatedly being made, give it consideration.  Could that many readers have simply misunderstood your intent? Or as an author did you fail to convey it properly?

Social sites and contests are a great place to learn. Take advantage of the reader’s observations, and learn from them. Writing is a solitary occupation. Sharing your work is not.

You’ve written ‘The End’. Now what?

‘The End’ It’s been written, you’ve come to the conculsion of your story. Joy, Elation! Congratulations you’ve finished a full length novel. Many dream, many aspire, and you’ve completed the goal; to write ‘The End’.

When I was writing my first manuscript (ms) I had my best friend (the one person in the world who would tell me if it was crap) beta reading as I went. In as much I did clean up editing along the way. Little did I know how far from the finish line I was; probably a good thing in retrospect.

I bought books on how to query and be published. Very quickly I discovered I was a guppy swimming with sharks. One needs an agent to find a publisher. Agents like to take on authors who have an interested publisher. Huh? I need an agent to get a publisher, and to get an agent I need a publisher?

Confused, I set about sending queries and writing my next book.

What I didn’t know?

I had a first draft, not a finished piece. Reject letters came in and I kept writing.

Fast forward to a contest. I got out my ms and started to read in hopes of polishing it into a winning submission. Gasp! I wrote that? It’s littered with infomation dumps, saidisms, head hopping.. good gracious no wonder all I got were reject letters.

Time for the first real rewrite/edit. Good news? I still love my characters and the stories I’ve written. Bad news? As I learn and grow as a writer I find myself back in the orginal mss looking to clean them up.

The journey from ‘The End’ to Published is a long road.  I made it, and stand as a testiment that hard work and perseverance does indeed pay off.

My debut novel, Safe Harbor, is available through Second Wind Publishing LLC. 

About Me

I’m a native North Dakotan. I currently reside in Eastern Washington. Inspiration for my novels are drawn from the western locations I’ve lived and visited. Romance with an edge is what I enjoy reading. It most certainly is what I love to write.

Safe Harbor is my debut novel.