Monday, October 31, 2011

On the Eve of NaNoWriMo: Words of Wisdom from E.B. White

I was madly searching through my old paper files a few days ago, looking for the novel concepts that I had thought up, typed out, and filed in years past. I needed to pluck one to use for NaNoWriMo. (That's right, I'm going to be playing catchup with all you serious outliners who know exactly how your 50,000 words are going to spill onto the page. I'll have the concept and the main plot points figured out by tonight, though, so I've decided to just have fun and let it rip.) Anyway, in my search I came upon a sheet of writing guidelines from E.B. White that I'd taped to the wall behind my desktop computer long ago (when I had a desktop computer). I'd titled it Style Reminders.

For anyone who is new to The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, or who hasn't glanced at it since you were required to way back in high school or college English courses, guess what? This old little book, as it was called by Professor Strunk of Cornell University, who wrote its original form around the time of World War I, still has something incredible to offer to those of us loosening up, stretching, and homing in for the challenge of NaNoWriMo. How perfect is that? Some things about writing just don't change.

Here are the style reminders, updated by Professor Strunk's student and eventual publishing partner, E.B.White. They are for writers of fiction, and especially for those who are engaged in the process of learning to be great writers.

Style Reminders
from E.B. White

1.  Place yourself in the background. Write in ways that draw the reader's attention to the sense and substance of the writing, rather than to the mood and temper of the author. 

2.  Write in a way that comes naturally.

3.  Work from a suitable design. Before beginning to compose something, gauge the nature and extent of the enterprise and work from a suitable design.

4.  Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs.

5.  Revise and rewrite. (okay, we know this one is for AFTER November)

6.  Do not overwrite.

7.  Do not overstate.

8.  Avoid the use of qualifiers (rather, very, little, pretty, seemingly).

9.  Do not affect a breezy manner.

10. Use orthodox spelling.

11. Do not explain too much. (e.g. in the use of adverbs, 'he said' is better than 'he said consolingly.' Show how he feels by his appearance, actions or words.)

12. Do not construct awkward adverbs. (e.g. tangledly or tiredly)

13. Make sure the reader knows who is speaking.

14. Avoid fancy words.

15. Do not use dialect unless your ear is good.

16. Be clear. Although there is no substitute for merit in writing, clarity comes closest to being one.

17. Do not inject opinion.

18. Use figures of speech sparingly.

19. Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity.

20. Avoid foreign languages.

21. Prefer the standard to the offbeat in language usage. As a beginner, err on the side of conservatism, on the side of established language usage. No idiom is taboo, no accent forbidden; there is simply a better chance of doing well if the writer holds a steady course, enters the stream of English quietly, and does not thrash about. 

Sound familiar? I can't promise that I'm going to follow every one of these guidelines to the letter, but I'm going to prop this list in front of me while I write. When in doubt fall back on these. If the words are flowing with clarity of style, the story will come out more clearly and easily, too. Of course, this is NaNo, so in the extreme situation of freezing up, which I've heard happens in NaNo a lot, blow something up! (I just love that piece of advice that came from quidforquill in a previous post comment) Just be sure to do it with clarity!!

Have fun everyone. See you on the trail.

~ Linda

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Process of Editing

Wednesday Heather wrote a great article Don’t Edit the Heart Out. If you haven’t read it yet, this is a must read. So how do we edit while guarding our heart?

Heather got me thinking about the art of editing. There are a few things I know as truth:

1.     We cannot see our own mistakes.
2.     We must continue to read our book until we find zero mistakes.

But wait! If we can’t see our own mistakes, and we have to read until we see none… we may be lulled into bringing our book to market, or querying, too soon. What should we do?

The solution is to find readers who will take the time to read with detail. But what if those readers find things other than grammar or spelling errors? What if they find plot points that didn’t work? Vocabulary that felt wrong. Were confused because of something the protagonist said in chapter one, but didn’t fall through in chapter 40. What do we do? Listen? Change? Ignore in fear of losing our voice?

I thought my book was strong. I thought I had it nailed. And then Bill Bernhardt read it and told me he saw a problem with believability. He said, “I don’t know how you’ll fix it, but I know you can.” He also said my protagonist came across as weak and another character was whiny. But I was trying to give them a way to grow! He said I preached in some areas. But those points needed to be told!

I heard the hard facts of my book from this reader, and then I spent a month thinking about it without touching anything. I happened to be babysitting my 8 month old grandson at the time, and we sat on the floor and played. I rocked, fed, we walked… but all the while my mind was focused on “how to” fix my book. Thirty-three days later, I sat down and fixed it.

I had another reader edit it. She was confused on some things I’d written because she didn’t understand how the 757 worked. But that made me think. I need to be able to write so all readers understand. That is my job as a writer. She found some grammar problems. But I also learned with this reader that her editing of language made the conversations too formal and felt false... I didn’t use those comments. 

Multiple reads, edits and re-reads by me and my husband. 

Then Bill read it again and loved it, and found nothing. But he was reading for the believability, the plot points and the characters. I had fixed them all. But… I needed another read, just to be sure.

Then I had a pilot reader edit it, and he found a dozen typos, or wrong words. Good catches.

Then I had another reader edit, and she found some major issues. Why didn’t my protagonist have an emotional breakdown? Where did Bill get the drugs? I thought that the doctor was part of this. Did you know you said the exact same thing two pages before? I think that protagonist would have done this, or that. Many word choice suggestions, grammar issues, and a couple spelling errors—obviously a much better editor than the guys for the emotions, and technical points.

Wow. I was excited. But during this process I found it fascinating what the variety of readers picked up and why. Mostly, I respected each and every comment. And I listened to each comment along the process.

Did I change something just because someone said to? No.

What I did was to ask myself, “Why did the reader feel that way?”

Communication is a two way street. If the listener (or reader) isn’t getting our message, then we’re not communicating properly. We need to have the skills to write well enough to make the readers want to keep reading. We need to respect what they didn’t like. That doesn’t mean they know how to fix it—a key point. But they are not wrong when they say something didn’t work.

That doesn’t mean your editor knows how to fix the problem, they just know it’s there.

Trust your readers to know there is a problem. But don’t necessarily trust they know “how to” fix it for you. So when they see a problem and make a suggestion, that’s great.The problem identification should be an eye opener—the suggestion should get you thinking about how to solve the problem yourself. 

They may have some good ideas, but they may not be the right ideas for you and your story. This is how to use your editor while keeping the voice and story your own.

I commented to my last reader for “beating up” my story. In my world… that is a good thing! What I meant by the “beat up” was a compliment for taking the time to read it so thoroughly. I want honest feedback. When you find someone who takes the time and provides such detailed thoughts— it’s priceless. I also know that taking time to think about why and what they said is the best thing you can do for your book, before you make the changes.

My heartfelt gratitude goes out to those who have read my book and have been truthful in their feelings and perceptions. I want to know what they think. Not hear the good stuff—challenge me to make it better. When my book hits the shelf, I know there will be more people who feel the exact same way the readers did.

I want my story to be my own. But I also want my story to be read. We can have both.

What is your experience with editing? Do you have a process you use? How do you keep your voice and trust your editors at the same time?

Enjoy the Journey!

XOX Karlene

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Don't Edit The Heart Out

With all the conferences, retreats, workshops, and advice out there writers run the risk of editing the heart right out of their novel. You can end up second guessing every chapter, arc, and even the entire plot. Those of you who've attended more than one workshop, conferences, retreat, or have received conflicting advice, know what I mean. It can seem like you're being pulled in every direction at once. The worse part is, that conflicting advice can come even come from agents or published authors.

Rather than allowing yourself~and your novel~to be torn in two, you need to take a step back and evaluate things. Write down all the advice you’ve received. Write down who gave you the advice and why you value it. Then write down your goals for your novel. Not publication and sales, but what you wanted your novel to accomplish internally. That includes the arc you want your characters to make, the major plotlines, and the overall message you're trying to communicate. Now~and here's the really important part~make sure the advice you received doesn't conflict with any of that! Some of it probably will, don't be afraid to throw out that advice. Go ahead, you'll feel liberated.

"What, are you crazy Heather? These are experts, they know what they're talking about!"

Yes, of course they do, but it isn't their book, it's yours. If advice conflicts with the major points of your novel, chances are it will change it so much that it will no longer be your novel. This isn't always the case. There is advice that will change some elements such as smaller plotlines or message and not make your book look like a foreign piece of work that someone else wrote. In that case, the changes may be exactly what you need.

The bottom line is, don't edit the heart out of your novel. You can send it to the gym, feed it healthy food, even give it a facelift or a blood transfusion, but if you cut the heart out, it will die.


Monday, October 24, 2011

What's Left When Your Belief Crumbles? Fool's Journey Week 16

I can't believe it's been almost two months since I've posted about Tarot's Fool and his journey to wholeness, which is such an excellent metaphor for our own journeys to publication. To be fair, though, it's a good thing to have taken the time off, because poor Tarot's Fool has been through a lot, and needed time to build up his strength to survive what's coming now. Warning: this post is about The Tower, which I, personally, find to be the scariest card in the deck. Why? Because no matter how dramatic Death and the Devil were, they were just preambles to the real climax of the Fool's journey: The Tower. (Reminder: Tarot is an ancient art. It was developed way back when a story's climax was only about 3/4 of the way to the end. There are five more Major Arcana cards in the Fool's Journey after The Tower. Thank goodness, because we get the how-to details on how the Fool recovers, finds his footing again, and triumphs. Whew.)

Why should someone like the Fool— a writer, for example—still be facing huge challenges after doing such incredible work as he has already done in this journey to become successful? The answer lies within. An author I heard speak at a conference long ago said, "you will never find anyone who is more humble, or more arrogant, than a writer." And that is exactly where the Fool is right now.

He has learned and grown. He's torn down his resistance to change and sacrifice (The Hanged Man), let go of preconceptions and fears (Death), done the very hard work of figuring out how to merge opposites to create wholeness (Temperance), and, when even that wasn't enough, he shattered the chains of his ambition and desire (The Devil). But he still doesn't realize that he has not let go of some core beliefs from his past, tarnished by outdated arrogance, that are holding him back.

Well, if shattering the chains of ambition and desire doesn't sound like overcoming arrogance, I don't know what does. What could be hiding this unseen arrogance from the Fool? A worm buried deep in the core, out of sight until now, that's what.

As the Fool leaves the Devil behind, he is jubilant that he's gotten past his obsessions and can now focus on his aspirations. He comes upon a magnificent, and familiar, structure on the path: a Tower. He himself helped build this tower back when the most important thing to him was making his mark on the world, and proving himself to be better than other men. He loved living in the top of the Tower back then. But now he's surprised to see it there at all; he thought he left it behind when he started this spiritual journey.

Suddenly, in a lightning flash of realization, he knows he's been seeing himself, like the Tower, as alone and singular and superior. Even with all he's done to release himself to growth, he's secretly held on to that core belief. But it's not true!

So powerful is this realization, that he opens his mouth and lets out a tremendous shout of recognition, and an actual bolt of lightning slashes down from the heavens and strikes the Tower. Its residents have to jump to the waters below for their lives, and the Tower itself is reduced a heap of rubble.

The Fool experiences grief so profound he can hardly breathe and feels sure he will perish. He did not know until this moment that he was so bound to this core belief. But instead of perishing with the Tower, when the dust begins to clear, so does his vision. He sees his personal truth with full clarity now. He has done the hardest thing of all: destroyed the last lies he held about himself.

What's left? The bare truth. And on that the Fool can rebuild. Without it, whatever he built would eventually end up in the rubble pile.

He knows he can't rest on his laurels. He steps forward, turns his back on the crumbledTower and focuses on what he must do now. He is filled with anticipation and the kind of anxiety that drives him to find answers. He accesses his deep mind and remembers the lessons he learned as The Hanged Man and from Death. He knows without a doubt that there is a beautiful horizon up ahead, waiting for him, but that he will meet more resistance on the way to it. It will still be a fight, and he will use the strengths he's claiming to win it.

As a writer, you might think that the fight you're facing is about your writing, but if you've reached the point in your journey of confronting your Tower, then it's not. It's about yourself. The Tower has crashed, and with it, so has your need to identify with an ideal or a model. The way has been cleared for you to open yourself up to life, unhindered, free of preconceived notions, aware. You are ready to step into the heart of the fire of your writing, using your basic instincts that were revealed when you shouted down the Tower. But wait, doesn't this sound a lot like going back to the primordial mud? Back to the time before you knew what you were doing?

Yes and no. Yes to mud; mud is good. You'll make clay from the mud, and you know what you can do with clay! No to leaving your hard-earned knowledge behind; it's what lets you mold the clay anew.

Scary? (I can't answer, I'm too busy hiding in a cave!) How do you get a handle on those instincts so you can ride them to success? Well, sorry to be cryptic, but Tarot insists that the answer is in the question. It may take a few more weeks of work and introspection, but you will find your way to transforming that writing fire into a river's natural flow; you will find the boat that lets you escape the dangers on the river's banks and you will flow with the current to success. Stick with the Fool, he'll show you the way.

~ Linda

Links to Fool's Journey posts:  0—The Fool1—The Magician2—The High Priestess3—The Empress4&5—The Emperor, and The Hierophant6—The Lovers; 7—The Chariot8—Strength9—The Hermit; 10—Wheel of Fortune11—Justice12—The Hanged Man13—Death14—Temperance; 15—The Devil 

My interpretation of The Fool's Journey as it applies to the writing life is my own, but the journey is long-established from a variety of sources. Those I've relied on most heavily are: TAROT BASICS by Burger & Fiebig, AECLECTIC TAROT by Thirteen, and EVERYDAY TAROT by Fairfield

Friday, October 21, 2011

Last Line Critiques for Anna, Elaine, and Allison.

This week the critique sisters are critiquing Anna, Elaine and Allison’s last lines.
Great job ladies. And once again… there are many opinions.


Set up: YA Contemporary. Ruby, 18, is a fangirl in a certain graphic novel fandom. She and a friend post an amateur video on their website that goes viral. Ruby has just watched the video (again) after learning the success of the film.

Last line: A shift has taken place and if I’m ready or not, that fan video represents the nine minutes and thirty-eight seconds that changed my life.

Linda:  I'd definitely read on. If you haven't already told us about the content of the video, great—I can't wait to find out what was on it. If you have, still good—I still want to know what happens now. One thing stopped me: the use of 'if' rather than 'whether' in 'if I'm ready or not.' My reaction could just be generational--maybe teens have that usage; I just always think the phrase is 'whether or not.'

Heather:  This is a strong last line. I would only make a few tweaks and honestly, their small and subjective so go with what your instinct tells you is right. My tweaked version: A shift has taken place and whether or not I'm ready, that fan video represents the nine minutes and thirty-eight seconds that changed my life.

Karlene:  Anna, I love what you’re doing with this. Yes, I want to read more beyond the last sentence. What if the last sentence was just tightened a bit? Make it a bit more edgy. I like to play with sentences. What do you think about this?

 A shift has taken place.  Ready or not—nine minutes and thirty-eight seconds has just changed my life.

Elaine Lowe:

Ok, this is the last line of the first chapter of a book I've been struggling with one and off for 18 months, while finishing 3 other books.

It's 1888, Emelia has left her family home in Maui to start a bakery on the Big Island in the cowtown of Waimea. The first man she meets has charmed the socks off of her. (but it's complicated...)

last line of Chapter 1:

"Emelia had never thought she would be married. That a man would really choose to spend his life with her. There were so many other beautiful, exciting, exotic women in Hawaii. Felipe was all she could have asked for, and more than she ever expected."

Linda: Given the setup, I'm feeling that Emelia is a very sympathetic character. Excellent. But I think the ending of this chapter would be much stronger if you eliminated the last sentence, or replaced it with something like, 'Felipe could have had any of them' or some other sentence that leaves more of an open question about what might happen in their relationship.

Heather: Hawaii is one of my favorite places in the world so this holds a dear place in my heart. That said, I'm wondering if this novel is told in second person because I don't feel as if Emelia is telling us the story, I feel as if you the author is. Which, if that's what you're going for is great-hard to pull off, but great if you can. I would cut back on the explicative's (beautiful, exciting, exotic) about the women and just choose one or two. It is telling instead of showing but again, not knowing your intended style for the novel, that may be what you're going for.

Karlene: I love the future drama here. But I’m feeling the last line raps up the story.  (I know it didn't) She got her man and her wildest dreams have come true. But we all know that fairytales are filled with struggles. What if we lead up to those struggles? Pure doubt might work. I added a last line to your last line. Let me know what you think.

"Emelia had never thought she would be married. That a man would really choose to spend his life with her. There were so many other beautiful, exciting, exotic women in Hawaii. Felipe was all she could have asked for, and more than she ever expected. She knew there was no such thing as fairytales, so what in the heck was he doing with her?

Allison Duke:

I'll give it a shot. YA fantasy: Taniya works in the royal stables where her stepfather Daret is the master. Her mother is ill, so Taniya rides her mother's horse in the annual festival parade. Throughout the parade and festival, she is torn between worrying over her mother, drooling over the handsome prince, Kanar, and dreaming of one day being one of the King's mounted warriors.

Last line of chapter one:

“As Taniya made her way back to the pavilion that had been set up for the horses, Daret’s groom came running toward her. “Taniya!” he cried. “Come quick. A messenger came for you and Daret. Your mother is worse, and she needs you!”

Linda:  The chapter ends on a worry—excellent! It will be much stronger if your last sentence is "Come quick," and you leave out the sentences that currently come after that. You can pick up the thread in the next chapter. (Also, in the sentence before that, if you change 'came running' to 'ran,' it will be more immediate and stronger.)

Heather: Ah I love YA fantasy! This is a great chapter ending, it builds tension and leaves us wanting to know more. There isn't much I'd change about it except to maybe drop the second exclamation point. Exclamation points lose their power the more we use them (a lesson I fought hard against, but eventually caved on). From him running toward her and his words we understand that he's urgent so the second one doesn't have to be there.

Karlene: I think that this sentence leaves me to closure. We already know the mother is sick, and now getting worse. What if we left the reason a mystery?

“Taniya!” he cried. “Come quick. A messenger came for you and Daret. Your mother needs you!”
“Taniya! Come quick,” he cried. “A messenger came for you, it’s your mother!” he said, catching his breath. “She needs you.”

Linda says… “Nice job, everyone. Thank you for sharing. I loved reading all these.”

We all loved reading them. Thank you all for your participation. Allison, Elaine and Anna we would love to her your comments on our comments. Does anyone have anything else to add?

Thank you all for your participation. You all did a wonderful job.

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Supporting Each Other

This last Monday on the #WritersRoad chat on Twitter we talked about keeping your spirits up while submitting or trying to get published in today’s industry. Anyone who has tried to break into publishing in the last few years knows how incredibly hard that can be. When talking about ways to keep our spirits up one topic kept reoccurring and that was, supporting each other.

Writing used to be a lonely profession but it doesn’t have to be anymore. There are so many wonderful writing communities online now that we never have to face anything alone again unless we choose to. Between Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, and all the others, you are bound to find someone to connect with and to share your journey with. All you have to do is reach out.

Supporting each other is a two-way street though, we can’t ever forget that. Paying it forward is very important in the writing communities, but we must do it with honest, good intentions~not because we expect something in return. Be there for your writing friends, talk with them, comment on their blogs when you can, critique for them when you can (constructively of course), and buy their books when the time comes. Good karma comes around and the friendships you’ll forge by supporting each other are worth every second of time spent on them.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Author Panel Gets to the Heart of What Makes a Good Book

On October 10 I attended a panel discussion by well-known Northwest authors. It was held at an indie bookstore and sponsored by the Women's National Book Association as part of National Reading Group Month. There were seven authors on the panel (Robert Dugoni, Kit Bakke, Erica Bauermeister, Kevin Desinger, Jonathan Evison, Robin Hobb, and Indu Sundaresan). Their writing covers the gamut, including literary, historical, fantasy and science fiction, thriller, suspense and middle grade/YA. The topic: what makes for a good 'bookclub' book? Book clubs are a major venue for booksellers, marketers and authors to focus on, as they have become a strong force in sales. And of course they are of personal interest to many readers.

The panel discussion quickly moved into authors' processes, as it became obvious that what makes for a good bookclub book is the same thing as what makes for a good book: one that changes the question from "what happens next" to " who am I?"  

Two points were made that stood out for me, because they spoke loudly to my own recent experiences in both writing my novel and doing final revisions (I have another two days worth of work, then I'm done!)

1. the authors agreed that at some point in the writing, usually about a third to half way through the book, the writing gets a lot easier because they start caring deeply about their character(s) in a way that drives the narrative forward. They care more about their characters than anything else at this point, and just want to do right by them, to give them a life that is worth living, and one that becomes, at the same time, separate from the author. It becomes the characters' story.

2.  the ending is not necessarily what you think it's going to be. As an author, you need to be open to letting the ending unfold as it needs to.

Both of these things are necessary to making a good book.

Before you protest that you don't write without first knowing the ending (I'm raising my hand), listen to this discussion among these authors: Someone said, "Have you ever noticed how many books you read that are great until you get to the ending, and you're thinking 'I hate that ending.' Everyone agreed. Then Bob Dugoni (thriller writer) mentioned that on his last novel, he got about 80% of the way through, knew he hadn't thought about the ending satisfactorily yet, and went back and read the whole manuscript over again. He got to the same point and got stuck again, so went back and read it all again. Only then did new thoughts begin to form for him so he could write the ending. Five of the other authors were nodding in agreement, and Jonathan Evison (literary), said something along the lines of "That makes sense to me. You have to be open at the end, because you have to accomplish the paradox: the ending has to be surprising, and at the same time, it has to be inevitable."

This was an important moment to me. It resonated so strongly with what I'd just been through in my revisions that I nearly jumped out of my seat. It sounded like a huge undertaking, to make sure the ending is both surprising and inevitable, but I realized that it might be a small thing that does that. It's all about the character. Whatever the structural ending of the book, how the character changes is the key to whether you get that surprising but inevitable, and therefore totally satisfying, ending. It is not necessarily what you think it's going to be, and not necessarily a big, sweeping change. You've given the character life. Instead of giving her the clever, but likely, next step at the end that might lead to future books for her, let her tell you who she's become. Let her accept all that's happened, and grow from somewhere deep, even if the change is more focused on the personal than on potential action. When it's that authentic, you can be sure that readers will find your ending compelling, and are likely to want more. Why? Because you've changed the question from "what happens next?" to "who am I?"

~ Linda 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Last Line Critiques...

For our readers, by our readers... 
We had many incredible last line entries for critique this week—Thank you all for participating—But it’s impossible to critique everyone’s last line in one setting, so I’ve randomly picked three. But Lorelei, Carrie, Kristen, and lbDiamond, I am saving yours and will post them in next month for review. Stay tuned.

Today, we would like all our readers to provide constructive critiques for our participants.

Below are three last lines from Anna, Elaine, and Allison. Thank you ladies for sharing your work. Next Friday, the Heather, Linda and I will provide our critiques.


Set up: YA Contemporary. Ruby, 18, is a fangirl in a certain graphic novel fandom. She and a friend post an amateur video on their website that goes viral. Ruby has just watched the video (again) after learning the success of the film.

Last line: A shift has taken place and if I’m ready or not, that fan video represents the nine minutes and thirty-eight seconds that changed my life.

Elaine Lowe:

Ok, this is the last line of the first chapter of a book I've been struggling with one and off for 18 months, while finishing 3 other books.

It's 1888, Emelia has left her family home in Maui to start a bakery on the Big Island in the cowtown of Waimea. The first man she meets has charmed the socks off of her. (but it's complicated...)

last line of Chapter 1:

"Emelia had never thought she would be married. That a man would really choose to spend his life with her. There were so many other beautiful, exciting, exotic women in Hawaii. Felipe was all she could have asked for, and more than she ever expected."

Allison Duke:

I'll give it a shot. YA fantasy: Taniya works in the royal stables where her stepfather Daret is the master. Her mother is ill, so Taniya rides her mother's horse in the annual festival parade. Throughout the parade and festival, she is torn between worrying over her mother, drooling over the handsome prince, Kanar, and dreaming of one day being one of the King's mounted warriors.

Last line of chapter one:

As Taniya made her way back to the pavilion that had been set up for the horses, Daret’s groom came running toward her. “Taniya!” he cried. “Come quick. A messenger came for you and Daret. Your mother is worse, and she needs you!”

Thanks to our readers for your participation. 

XOX Karlene

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spreading Yourself Too Thin

There is so much more to writing than actually writing, that the extra things can become too much of a distraction at times. Between platform building, social media, and marketing your novel, the most important part~the writing~can sometimes be shoved to the side. If any of you have followed the journey of the self-published, self-made millionaire, Amanda Hocking, then you know despite her achievements on her own, she signed with a major publisher. If I ever find myself in her position I'm not sure I'd make the same decision she did, but I understand why she made it.

Even after you've built a great platform, there is a lot of work that remains to be done. Marketing is a never ending monster that must be fed, and that's even with a traditional publisher. Somehow you have to find the balance between all the things associated with being an author, and writing your novels. There are times we all spread ourselves too thin, get caught up in the excitement and going on's of social media, and inadvertently put our writing aside.

It's vital that writing remain the most important ingredient in being an author. That may mean less frequent blog posts, less Twitter or Facebook time, and more dedicated writing time. You don't have to give up any of those things, just use them in moderation and be sure you write more often than you do social media. The balance will tip from time to time and that's okay. Just try to be aware of it and make sure you tip it back to writing. Speaking of tipping, what tips do you have to achieve balance in your own writing lives?


Monday, October 10, 2011

Last Lines, and The Versatile Blogger Award

Today I  finally have the chance to properly thank the Lovely Lady Gwen, who awarded us the Versatile Blogger Award a few weeks ago. Thank you so much, Gwen! Click on the green Versatile Blogger Award box on our right sidebar to be whisked to Gwen's blog, where you can read amusing anecdotes about her adventures and mishaps with writing YA and with running, her two passions.

The rules of the Versatile Blogger Award are:

Thank the person who gave it to you and link back to them.
Share seven things about yourself.
Pass the award along to other, recently discovered blogs and let them know about it.

As the responder for CSC on this one, I am about to complete all that, but first, a break to bring you an important announcement and request:

Check out Karlene's blog post from Friday (just scroll down) announcing October's critique session here on CSC. Send us the last sentence of one of your favorite chapters via the comments box on that post, and let us talk about how it affects us and what we think it does for your forward momentum in your manuscript. It's fun and painless to play, HONEST! If you'd like to see how we roll here on CSC with critiques, go back to the First Sentence Critiques from August (August 24 Blog Post), and the First Paragraph Critiques from September (September 19 Blog Post). Thank you!

Now back to the Versatile Blogger Award and moi! I just love talking about myself! So here are seven things about me:
~ I spent years in the advertising world (aka the salt mines) in New York
~ Before that I spent other years in the pharmaceutical industry in New York
~ I have an educational background in consumer economics and health care policy
~ I have lived in Idaho, upstate New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, New York City, London, St. Louis, and Seattle
~ I love cats, and am afraid that someday, in my dotage, I will be the neighborhood cat lady, with stacks of old newspapers in the hallway and lounging cats strewn here and strewn there over my belongings
~ I am, however, currently catless for the first time in 21 years, as my last old kitty has recently gone to kitty heaven, leaving me quite bereaved
~ Which leads me to writing, always my savior in times of sadness. Also my pleasure in times of joy.

And now, here are some wonderful bloggers I've recently discovered:

Kristen Lamb, at Kristen Lamb's Blog

Juliet Greenwood, at Juliet Greenwood Author 

Nicole Basaraba, at Uni-Verse-City

Gunnar, at Mysteries and Histories

Dawnall, at Write On

Congratulations to each of you. I am so glad that I've found you and am enjoying reading your blogs and expanding my knowledge through you. Thank you!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Last Line of the Chapter Critiques

Critique Time Again

The Month of October we’re going to be critiquing the last sentence of a chapter.

What makes an excellent last sentence of a chapter? Like a last sentence of a paragraph, it must leave a question that the reader feels compelled to have answered. It must entice the reader to read the next paragraph, turn the page, and begin the next chapter.

What makes a book a page-turner?

Answer: The last line.

While it's important throughout your work to craft each line so that it pulls the reader to the next paragraph, there is nothing more powerful than a last line of a chapter that leaves the reader longing to find out what happens next. More than a want, it’s a need. It becomes a necessity to turn that page to the next chapter and read more.

As Linda mentioned last month, “we are all so close to our own writing it's hard to be objective, no matter how good we are at offering critiques to others. Getting insightful perspectives from experienced outside readers is invaluable, and that's what we hope to provide you here.”

Please tell us a little about the story. The situation. Then share your last line. I’ll go first with a book I’m reading.

WINGS A Novel of World War II FlyGirls  by Karl Friedrich. 

Eighteen-year-old Sally escapes the abuse of her alcoholic father. She’s flying an open-air fabric-wing bi-plane with the two loves of her life—her soul mate and his plane. They have just crashed.

“She lay on the ground and watched the flames consume the cockpits. And she screamed and screamed, as all that she loved vanished forever from the universe.”

I was hooked. Pull me to chapter two. I want to find out what happens to Sally now that her world has been destroyed. What will she do? Where will she go? How will she survive? Will she ever fly again? I'm hooked and want to learn more.

Now your turn. Please post your sentence below.

If necessary we’ll use to randomly select three of the entries, and next Friday I’ll post them here, and we'll open the comments up for constructive feedback. The ensuing Friday I'll post the same sentences with feedback from each critique sister.

Thank you for participating.  And remember...

Enjoy the journey.

XOX Karlene

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fall Events and Awards

Leaves have turned an array of reds, browns, and yellows, the air is crisp with the promise of chilly weather, and the mornings are eerily quiet as the kids are all nestled in their classrooms. Don't you just love fall? Everything about it is conducive to a writing atmosphere. It makes me want to sit down with a cup of hot tea at my computer and get in touch with my characters. Which I'll be doing as soon as I'm done chatting with you fine peeps.

To add to the writing spirit of fall, NaNoWriMo is approaching! If you aren't sure what that is you've got to check this link out. It is a massive organization of writers who have come together to dedicate an entire month to writing without guilt. The acronym stands for National Novel Writing Month and they mean it. Many people who participate actually complete 50,000 words, which for many middle grade and young adult authors, can be an entire novel. You're allowed to outline but you can't start before November and you can't go back and edit until the end of the month. It is a fun exercise in writing freedom that I highly recommend if you've never done it.

Me, I don't like to rush so I won't be participating but I'll be cheering on all my friends who are. In other writing news I'd love to thank Tina Moss for passing this award on to the Critique Sisters. We are honored and of course wish to share the cake with others so I'd love to pass it along to three of our new sweet blogger followers:

Monday, October 3, 2011


To all of you who have done NaNoWriMo in the past, or have thought about it seriously, I'm sending heartfelt pleadings for insights. I'd love to participate, have wanted to since I first heard about it, but always seem to be in the middle of a project at the beginning of November. This year I might have a shot at putting everything else aside for the month of November and getting into the game. Since there is a whole month, almost, until the opening bell rings, it seems like the perfect time to ask if all you experienced and knowledgeable folks out there would be willing to share what you've learned about what works best for you :-)

I do realize it is different for different types of writers. I've heard, for example, two starkly different approaches to previous NaNoWriMos. One, from a dedicated outliner, was that the best way by far is to do a detailed, scene-by-scene outline of the entire book you want to write before November, so that you know the story inside out. Then, you will never have writer's block in the process, and will be able to easily assess the worthiness of any unexpected ideas that might crop up along the way about character or plot development. This writer's objective is to actually write a whole, finished, quality first draft of a novel during NaNoWriMo.

The other approach came from someone who's never met an outline he likes, and is more into the fun and excitement of the writing process. His idea is to pick a subject and a protagonist that are broadly defined and free flowing, so that you can just write about the protag getting into a particular situation or situations and let the reactions and dramas and characters develop from there. His objective is also to write something that can be turned into a fine first draft, maybe just not by the end of November.

I'm in awe of both of these approaches, but my gut is telling me my style is somewhere in between. Some outlining, some free flow.

What works for you? Do you get stuck in tangents if you don't know where you're going before you begin? Do you get stuck in the doldrums if it's all laid out ahead of time? Any insights from your experiences would be most appreciated! Thanks.

~ Linda