Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Reading for Writing

Ever since I started writing, I have read that a writer reads, or should read. At first, I excused my lack of reading on several things.

1. There is no time for reading; I am writing. The excuse held water like a bucket without a bottom (not just a bucket with holes). After a while, I understood why there is an important need for a writer to read: to learn to write better. If we do not have time to read at least about writing, we have no time to write. Many successful authors recommend that any wannabe writer should read the genre that they are pursuing in their writing. Read to find out what is selling and while reading, learn by reading their styles: what made them successful?

2. Their style is their style; mine is mine. I feared accusations of stealing or copycatting because surely other’s influence would ruin my unique style. Now, I laugh at that because my style eight years ago could have used some strong influence. Reading a successful novelist does not mean their style is going to over-power you and wrestle your unique style away from you. Reading similar books to yours is not going to brainwash you or force you under their control. Read to learn from the masters. Many artists throughout history have studied the greats. Studying the greats is not the same as becoming so absorbed in the artist that you forget your own art. Learn, and then experiment.

If you ever get a severe case of writer’s block, try reading.

Reading inspires us.

Socrates said, “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.”

Reading opens up a whole new world to a writer. Let the greats take you for a long journey, and then inspire others by your great work.

Reading is also a great way to get away from editing and rewrites for a while – take a picnic lunch and head for the beach, lake, or park.

For some links to some great people who have books on writing, see the bulletin board on the left side bar to my blog. If you have any links to anyone you would recommend, please let me know.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


In searching for links to pin to my blog and website, I sometimes enter a website that feels like something is not quite right. Of course, I listen to my inner voice and vamoose.

So many fear the unknown, but we must trust someone, sometime, somewhere.

By living on this planet of 7 billion human beings, we encounter a large variety of people from poverty-stricken, war-torn, and under-developed nations to the prosperity of civilization. Ignorance breeds prejudice. Prejudice blocks the mind from education. Prejudice is a type of fear where we tag everything according to our limited knowledge of a particular situation.

Lack of trust is a type of prejudice against all apples because of one rotten one. One bad experience or even a lack of experience makes us cautious. However, if we allow fear to rule us, we wouldn’t venture very far from home, much less into the internet where there are so many just waiting to pounce us. To trust means taking a chance, but not to trust at all leaves us locked inside our own fears.

If we don’t trust anyone, anywhere, anytime, then we must ask ourselves if we are trustworthy.

Fear is common among new writers – fear of someone stealing their work, fear of computer virus, fear of ID theft, fear of rejection, and of fear itself.

Below are some pointers to help ease your mind about venturing into unfamiliar territory – the great www.

1. When entering a website, explore the site. Don’t get all jittery and excited about the gold mine you just discovered – it might be fool’s gold. At the same time, consider its quality and don’t be too hasty in discarding it. It may have something real to offer. Think about what you see, read, or feel. Listen to your inner voice, ask around about the site, and Google it if you are not sure. Absolute Write Water Cooler is a great place to throw out a name, a website, or publisher to get a feel of what others have experienced. If one person nay-says, consider it, but if a whole lot of people tell of bad experiences – believe them.

2. Take your time. Test the waters. If you are not confident in exploring around the internet for whatever reason (new at it, uncertain, or just heard too many war stories), try a pseudo-name. When I got my first computer (what a relic – Windows 98 that froze up every other sentence. Try writing a book when you have to save every other word to keep from losing your work!), I was scared for more than one reason. Married to a controlling and violent man was fearful enough, but venturing into the unknown where he couldn’t find me, was absolutely exhilarating! I carefully chose a new name and went bravely across that line into the forbidden, uncharted lands of Cyberspace. Oh, I didn’t run. Each step I took was slow and careful as I explored a new world as someone else. You can learn without leaving breadcrumbs back to you.

3. When you begin querying your novels, take your time (redundant? Sure – but this one is worth repeating many times – take your time), RESEARCH: Google the agent’s name, look them up in sites like AgentQuery, Preditors & Editors; are they a member of AAR or AAA (UK version); what authors do they represent, etc. If a publisher offers you representation without an agent – trust me! That is a RED FLAG! If an agent/publisher charges a fee – again, RED FLAG. Don’t be afraid to explore and learn, but don’t let your dream of being published turn into a nightmare. (Stay away from PublishAmerica as if it has the plague). The websites I have pinned on my blog under the Bulletin board are ones I myself frequent. I am not going to pin something up there just to take up space. These links are here because I like them, have learned from them, and most times am too lazy to hunt them up again later.

Another bit of advice for when you go to an agent’s website – READ their site prior to submitting. Read their submission guidelines, but also take their advice to heart. Even though Andrea Brown Literary Agency declined to represent my novel, I learned a great deal from her website. I followed her links to author’s websites, read their tips on the industry and how they became successful, and ended up finding other sites such as Backspace.

4. Don’t be too happy about someone taking an interest in you or your writing. Professionals sound professional. Uh, right. Even professional con artists. However, that is what writers write for – for others to read. Please remember, though, that not everyone is out to steal your hard work. In fact, when we begin writing, most writers don’t want to do all the editing and rewrites required to bring our best sellers up to par. Trust trustworthy sites. Take your time, but also explore and become familiar with those who are professional enough to care. There are a lot of them out there - honest people trying to make it through this economy just like the rest of us.

5. Take advice to heart, but not to the death of your novel. Advice is just that. I recommend keeping an Advice Log to sort out what you need and what you don’t, and what you may need later after you gain wisdom the hard way.

Sorry for writing a book- blog, but I wanted to share with you the road I have traveled that led me to creating this blogspot. It is a road of hard knocks learned the hard way, and sometimes I had to to wipe the egg off my face because I thought surely I had the next best seller with a movie contract in the works if someone would just READ it. I visit the sites I pin here and want you to trust me. If you find anything wrong or questionable in any of the links pinned to my blog or website, please don’t hesitate to tell me about it. If I don’t know about it, how can I correct it?

Thank you for reading and hope to see you around more often. I’ll leave the light on for you.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Query Tracker Contest

This doesn't qualify for a new blog. However, this entire blogspot is Missing Link in Writing...

So, hurry on over to Query Tracker and enter a contest.

"The contest entry window is 24 hours and will end at 9:00 am Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday, May 10th."

If you write YA novels, now is your chance to enter a contest and get your first page read by an agent. However, don't take too only have 24 hours.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Editing Extremism

Fledgling writers are eager for flight! Flight being publishing contracts, book signings, fans, and monetary gain derived from it all.

That is all very understandable and no successful author can deny those early days of learning whether in a classroom or through experiencing the road of hard knocks.

My experience has been one of Editing Extremism where I write a novel, short story, poem, or essay only to learn of my mistakes in grammar, sentence structure, or any number of goofs. Studying, reading blogs, reading books written about writing, reading novels, accepting serious critiques, and striving to become the best at the craft possible, sometimes can cause us to over correct much like driving down a road and swerving to avoid hitting an animal.

Sometimes, we swerve too hard and then have to swerve to avoid running off the road on the other side. A cop pulled me over once thinking I was a drunk driver – I was falling asleep at the wheel from driving too long too far. I sped up, swerved across the centerline, slowed down (falling asleep), and was disoriented when I stopped. Does that sound like it could be our writing methods?

Some of my earlier manuscripts have suffered from my “Drunk Driving...or Editing” swerves where I have thoroughly run amuck from ditch to ditch and even drove the WIP off the cliff into the gully far below (no hope for those).

In recent edits, I have learned to take a deep breath and firmly get a grasp on the steering wheel (my voice in one hand, and advice from all other sources in the other) and considered the road I was driving upon (the novel) with the goal or finish line (published) in view.

My Advice for what it's worth:

1. Save As. The files in my computer have multiple editing projects because I have learned to “save as” before I begin a major rewrite or edit because from experience of butchering a WIP beyond recognition, I like being able to put it in reverse and start again. In itself, this poses another problem – remembering which car you were driving last. In the latest revision, I type a note to myself at the top of page one – Current Edit with a date of edit. If you are tempted to delete the others because you are a neat freak, or suffer some sort of compulsive thing, make a promise to yourself to clean out all the scraps AFTER the final MS is published. That is the only time all the other stuff is no longer useful. Until then, ignore it.

2. Take critiques seriously, but not to extreme. Remember that all advice, critiques, and opinions are just that. They are useful, but after you have heard contradictory expert advice enough, you begin to sort them out and apply only the ones you need. What works for some does not mean it will work for you. Robert Fulghum dared to defy the accepted writing styles and became a best seller.

Be careful of extremes. Don’t be so careful that your writing is boring, yet don’t be so brazen that you scare people away. Establish your writing skills and once published, experiment with those extremes.

3. Make a list. One way to avoid extreme editing is create a log or record of all advice or critiques, or those blogs you read about how to write your books. By doing this, you are building your own “Elements of Style” where you can reference them or add to them after researching other sources. This list can help you weed out contradictions BEFORE swerving into a ditch.

If you have anything to add to this, or any links that are helpful for better writing tactics – you know, things that keep us fledgling writers OUT OF THE DITCHES, let me know. I will pin them to the bulletin board as well as the Writer’s Resources on my website.