Thursday, February 28, 2008

Emotion? What emotion?

Every writer has their weakness, and as I mentioned yesterday, every writer gets edited. As I work through the edits on Bubba Goes National, I'm learning some things about my writing and my weaknesses. By fixing these areas, I'm learning how to avoid those mistakes in the future and make my writing that much better.

I am a goal-oriented person. As such, I tend to be direct and get right to the point. If I had my way, books would be about 40,000 words long. Why don't I just write short stories, you ask? I don't know...just don't wanna, I guess. Anyway, because I tend to be so cut-and-dry, my habit is to list off the events that are happening, and that's where most of my problems stem from.

The problem I'll focus on today is emotion. Every once in a while I'll have a character smile, laugh, or cry...but I tend to cut it short or even forget to talk about it. Something horrible happens to poor Leslie, and I skip right over how she feels about it! I guess in my mind it's implied...but that doesn't get the reader involved! I need to slow the story down a little and catch the reactions and emotional responses to make the reader cry and laugh right along with the characters. I feel like I'm getting a handle on it!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The power of feedback

What do you mean, my writing isn't perfect? I like it just the way it is! That is...until I rewrite it and see how much better it is!

In my day job, I write reports, memos, and presentations for my company's executives and board of directors. It's a high-profile job, and everything I send out must be perfect. Pressure? Sure, but honestly it's not too hard to be successful, thanks to my feedback process.

No one can write the perfect anything the first time, and no matter how good we are at editing our own work, there is nothing like having a second, fresh pair of eyes look at your work. They may see a mistake you didn't catch, or they may point out a plot hole you'd missed, or they might find places where you just need more detail. In any case, having someone edit your work is usually highly helpful and rarely a waste of time...depending on your attitude.

At my job, we say, "Red is the color of love!" If someone hands me a report that I wrote with red pen all over it, it's because they love me enough to put time and effort into finding ways to make it better. The longer I'm in the job (almost two years now), the less red pen I see, because I've learned so much about writing these types of things.

The same goes for my fiction and articles. My sense of self preservation wants to launch a campaign to fend off attack every time someone reads my work and offers criticism. After all, I wrote it just the way I'd pictured it. However, after I follow the very excellent advice I've been given and rewrite or revise the piece, I'm always happier in the end.

I've come across many people who were very defensive when they asked for feedback on their writing and didn't like what they got. They argued, they tried to explain what they were trying to accomplish with the piece, they accused the critic of being jealous or just plain mean. What is the point of this? What did you learn? If you have to explain what you were trying to accomplish, you didn't accomplish it.

Keep in mind that your critics are just offering their opinion...but it's the opinion of a reader. Readers are your audience! If you're writing for yourself just because you like to, that's fine, but don't put it out there and expect everyone to like it...and certainly don't ask for critiques. Of course, many people who read your work will disagree with each other about what they do or don't like. You'll have to pick and choose which feedback to use, and how to use it in such a way as to preserve your vision and voice. When you get defensive and refuse to consider feedback you're given, you're not only missing an've wasted your critic's time.

PS...thank you to Michelle L Devon, editor extraordinaire!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Aaaaah, procrastination, once again you are my friend

I am the queen of procrastination. There is something about me that is fundamentally opposed to doing things early. I pay my bills at the last minute, I put off assignments. I even thought of doing this blog entry three days ago and am just now getting to it.

I know a lot of people say this, but it's really true for me. When I was in college the first time, I had to write an essay every week for English 1A, a night class. I'd get home from work around 4:00, write my essay (having decided what to write about on the way home), print it out, and get to school approximately on time. No proofreading, no rewrites. My scores? Regularly in the 90's. My teacher was flabbergasted when he asked me (in front of the class) how I wrote my essays and I told him.

Now, when I get an idea or an assignment to write an article, I can't just sit down and write...even when the research is done. I have to let it stew for a while. I'll try--I'll sit here, fingers on keys, trying to decide how to start, but nothing comes. Eventually, I'll just decide that it's time and out it all comes. I guess my subconscious is working away at it while I'm worrying about other things!

It's happened again. I had two articles to write for Horseman's News. I did the research, but then I put them off and put them off while the info swam around in my head, stewing. The buzzer went off about a week ago, and I sat down to write. I actually was done a day or two early, with the exception of some last-minute info I wasn't able to get until today. I was feeling a little stressed, with these due, an article I want to write about Equine Affaire, The Mommy's Survival Guide, a book I'm beta reading and another I'm editing, and, of course, Budget Horsekeeping.

It's a great relief to have these two things off my plate, although there will be more to replace them. The Mommy's Guide is in Beth's hands until she has time to give me feedback and more material, so all I really have to do right now is finish Budget Horsekeeping (by March 1st...that deadline once seemed so far away) and write the piece on Equine Affaire. Oh, also need to start thinking about some promotional articles for the efforts to raise prize money for Arabian Sporthorse Nationals! It's a very exciting, never-ending cycle!

I'm on vacation this week and will dedicate my time to writing projects, setting up future writing projects, and playing with horsies. Yay!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mommy's Survival Guide Part One: First draft complete!

Last night I completed the first draft of the Mommy's Survival Guide to Autism Part One and sent it off to Beth to review and add her feedback. With so many things on my plate right now, it felt so good to complete one thing, even if it's only the first draft! I'm really looking forward to completing this book and getting it out there to help some parents.

I knew very little about autism before I started this book. Like many people I think, when I thought of autism, I thought of a kid sitting in the corner, catatonic, until he decided to get up and play Mozart or something. I never knew how wide the spectrum of symptons and severity of this disease is. It's been positively fascinating learning more about Jake, and I've heard from other parents as well. There are so many common themes, yet so many differences. I really admire my wonderful friend Beth, who raises her autistic son all alone while her husband is overseas in the military. You go, girl!