Subtext. The #StoryCraft Podcast Episode 3: On Re-Writing

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This month Darcy and I get down under the layers of story and discuss rewriting. Have a listen as we discuss…
What happens after you’ve typed “The End” on your first draft?
Pat yourself on the back, do a little celebration break-dance but then crack those knuckles because the real work starts now…
From what is a first draft, to what is the difference between editing and rewriting, to how to get out of your headspace and rewrite in a fresh way…we discuss it all…

appstore redListen to Stitcher

How do you tackle rewriting?
Is ReWriting a struggle or a breeze for you?
Share some of your own methods on rewriting…

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Confessions…and I want to play hookie

I want to play hookie…with my new WIP that is. I have been stuck in an editing foxhole for months now on my current WIP and really I am getting fed up with myself. I have a problem. I am a perfectionist and I cannot stop myself editing and editing and editing… Is there a perfectionist anonymous group out there or an editing anonymous group? Maybe there should be! There could be a 13 step recovery process…OH and I detest synopsis writing! Does anyone else have a love/hate relationship with the editing process or with a perfectionist gene?

One of the first steps of curing a problem and recovering from it is in accepting the problem and admitting that you have a problem.

Confession: I am a Perfectionist and my problem is that once I start looking for errors and editing…I cannot stop.

I have no idea if there is a group called Perfectionist Anonymous but I have decided that writers like me desperately need a group like this for recovering editing addicts. We need an intervention and we need people we can call when the urge to continue editing ad infinitum hits us. It is a quagmire of sinking sand that sucks us in even as we try to clamber out. The more we struggle against it, the deeper we sink.

So every recovery program and intervention has a step by step list of dos and don’ts in the steps to becoming cured. So I have come up with a 13 step recovery program for all writers who suffer from Editorix Perfectionist.

13 Steps to Overcoming Editorix Perfectionism

  1. Say the Words: I am a Perfectionist and suffer from perfectionism – the neurotic need to find error and fault and correct and recorrect and still recorrect.
  2. Ask for an intervention to be held by more saner individuals than your neurotic self.
  3. Step away from the manuscript, now on it’s umpteenth draft.
  4. Close the folder entitled WIP – Nth edit.
  5. Repeat to yourself ” Perfectionism is a sly form of Procrastination” – stick this note on every available surface.
  6. Type “The End” on current Nth draft of WIP – and mean it.
  7. Hide all red pens, correction fluid and erasers.
  8. You are a writer not an editor. You have no sane moments nor objective moments when it comes to your WIP. Doctors are not allowed to treat their own family members so writers should not be allowed to edit their own works without assistance and intervention.
  9. The first edit is allowed, the second edit is treading on dangerous ground and the third edit is an edit gone too far.
  10. Surround yourself with notes telling you: You are not useless. You do not write rubbish. Your work is fit for more than a trash can – both on the computer desktop and near the desk. Perfectionism is an unattainable myth as it is as the opposite of humanity – since you are a human, you are imperfect anyway – pointless to fight it.
  11. Surround yourself with critique partners, writing buddies and other writers who know what you struggle against and who know that the writer’s fragile ego is our own worst enemy. Do not be afraid to say you need help before you destroy both your sanity and your manuscript.
  12. Step away from the edited WIP and take a walk with a notebook. Write down the plot for the next manuscript.
  13. Begin writing the new manuscript and find refreshment and creative fulfillment in throwing yourself head-first into a creative binge. (No editing allowed at least until You have typed “the End” on the first draft!)

So this week I am going to be closing the editing folder on Ring a Ring o’ Roses (Nth draft). I am submitting the synopsis and query and then I will leave the rest to the fates that be. I am opening my notebook and starting work on The Tattooist. Editor Kim is going away – she had no business being here for so long anyway. Writer Kim is returning. I am a writer. I am not an Editor. Saner individuals than me become editors, I will stick to what I do best and that is WRITING not EDITING. To be clear I am a recovering not a cured Editorix Perfectionist. This is a continuing struggle.

I am going to do more than play Hookie with The Tattooist. I am going to have a full-blown affair with The Tattooist. The urge to write must take control over the urge to edit. I cannot wait for that delicious feeling of playing hookie and that first blush of the first draft.

Does anyone else have a love/hate relationship with the editing process or with a perfectionist gene?

Sign up here _______ if you would like to become a member of Editorix Perfectionism Anonymous.

Watch Brene` Brown on The Power of Vulnerability

Excerpts…”I am surrounded by people who kinda believe that life’s messy love it, and I am more the “life’s messy: clean it up, organize it and put in into a pinto box.” [👍 ]

“…lean into the discomfort of the work and I am like, you know, Knock discomfort upside its head and move it over…”

“I want to separate bravery and courage for you for a moment. Courage: The original definition of courage when it first came into the English language; it’s from the latin word “cor” meaning “heart” and the original definition was: is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart…and so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect…”

Writing is that for me…the courage to be imperfect and to be comfortable in my own skin while being naked in my vulnerability. 👌

Always Trust Your First Instinct

Have you ever had a piece of advice that has translated into everything you do? Many years ago a junior school teacher gave me just such a piece of advice. Her advice:

Always Trust Your First Instinct

This is a lesson that I have returned to over and over again in my life. Sometimes a little seed of doubt – damn that doubt – creeps in and I second-guess myself. But time and time again I have to do a 180 or a 360 turn back to that first instinct.

This last week has been one of those weeks where I had to do a 360 turn back to my first instinct in my WIP. On advice, from an agent and from a few authors, I had second-guessed a key element of my WIP’s story structure. After much tweaking and re-tweaking I made the new way work. But the entire time while working on the 2nd draft, this new style kept on grating on my nerves. I couldn’t figure out why this 2nd draft was not jelling with me and why this WIP was so determined to fight me every inch of the way.

Then I was asked a question by my cp that jolted me into a massive A-HA (no, I don’t mean the Oprah saying, I am talking about a huge ballad ala AHA the 80s pop band) moment. What was the question? She asked why I had ever changed styles from the 1st draft to the 2nd draft. Bells and whistles went off in my head! Why indeed? Well, there is no reason I can’t change back, is there? No. That is what editing is about. We can change our minds. We can make 180 or 360 turns. We can cut out, add in and re-splice scenes and chapters.

So here are my writing tips for today in #lessonslearnedwhenediting …

  • Always trust your first instinct & Always trust your story
  • The story is your own, hold your own pen and write the story you must write the way it needs to be written because the writing is not done until you type The End.
  • You can always do a 360 and return to your first instinct…It is never too late until it is too late.

Have you ever second-guessed your first instinct & then ended up doing a 360 back to that first instinct?

Has a WIP ever fought you and just not jelled? – What did you do?

EditZone: It’s on the tip of my tongue…Give me a minute…It’s…

How many times have you had a word on the tip of your tongue but it won’t come to you? As a writer, I have to find new words and synonyms all the time. The worst thing you can do is keep on repeating the same words through a manuscript. But sometimes it is harder than one thinks to find new ways of saying the same thing. It can also be difficult putting an action into words. Sometimes even us writers just draw a blank when it comes to “that perfect word”.

 

I am in the middle of editing one of my manuscripts and I cringe at how many times I have overused certain pet words. Yes I use a dictionary and yes I use a thesaurus but sometimes even these great reference tools are not enough. What about those times when you can’t think of the exact word but you can describe what you are trying to say. Then what? A dictionary nor thesaurus won’t cut it at these times.

 

Well recently, I found the perfect tool to solve my word issues. I came upon it quite by chance and it was a fortunate chance indeed. Realising I needed an updated dictionary and thesaurus, I thought I would search for one in the App store (Apple) that I could download onto my iPod Touch. So I entered a search term for dictionary & thesaurus. There was a whole list of various dictionary&thesaurus combinations but one app stood out to me…

 

 

 

The Reverse Dictionary

Cover of "Reverse Dictionary (Readers Dig...
Cover of Reverse Dictionary (Readers Digest)

 

 

Never having heard of a reverse dictionary, I opened it up and read the description:

 

Reverse Dictionary is a great way to explore words, definitions and concepts.

Have you ever had a word on the tip of your tongue but just couldn’t get it out? Then this app is for you! Reverse Dictionary can also help you expand your vocabulary in many ways.

For example, you can:

• Find a word if you only know its definition or a phrase describing the idea
e.g. 1000 years, museum guide, search for food, plastic thing over end of shoelace, ceremony to crown a king…

• Find related terms
e.g. baseball, clouds, coffee…

• Generate a list of words related to a category
e.g. large birds, green fruit, outdoor sport…

• Solve crossword puzzle clues, or find words if you only know some of the letters
e.g. ??lon:synthetic fabric, pi??apple:fruit…

Special thanks to OneLook® for providing data services.

This app is free, and will remain free so enjoy!

– quoted from iTunes App Store

I couldn’t believe my luck. This is exactly the application I had been searching for. It took me less than 10 seconds to download it. I have been using this application for about 2 weeks and it has changed my world! Now if I want to say something is green I have a whole list to choose from to describe green. The application also works a bit like a word association game. If you type in a phrase, it comes up with all the synonyms associated to the words in that phrase as well as the actual phrase.

 

Wildcards can also be used in the search terms to customize the results…

Find words that start with bl and have a meaning related to snow >

bl*:snow

Find words and phrases that start with blue >

blue*

Find any words related to snow >

*:snow

(These are just some of the more specialized ways you can use Reverse Dictionary. All info quoted from the App’s store’s app.)

The great thing about this application is that it also contains a number of full dictionaries and thesauruses. So if you have found a word but you want an expanded meaning of it then you just click on the “more definitions” and it will take you to a list of dictionaries and thesauruses: Everything from Dictionary.com to the Oxford Dictionary. There are also a couple of useful dictionaries for fiction authors: Rhymezone, Mnemonic Dictionary, Idioms and the Urban Dictionary and for Word Nerds – The Online Entymology Dictionary.

 

The good news is that this application is available in both Apple and Android.

 

Apple: Reverse Dictionary

 

Android: Reverse Dictionary

 

(For those without a smartphone/ipod: Reverse Dictionary – Desktop Version)

 

All downloads are FREE.

 

So if it’s on the tip of your tongue and you just can’t find the exact right word… If your manuscript is covered in red pen from your editor with large “Please find another word!” all over it… Don’t waste time. Download the Reverse Dictionary. This little app will change the way you write and make your editing life super-simple. Your editor will love you and your manuscript will shine.

 

 

Who needs edits? I opt for Brain Surgery instead!

…No really I am not joking…after the round of migraine attacks I have had just this year I am ready for elective brain surgery, failing that a brain transplant from a non-perfectionist…

Archeological remains of patients of brain sur...
Archeological remains of patients of brain surgery performed by ancient doctors of the Inca Empire in the 15th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So March is National Chainsaw-Wielding Editing Month…However for me, I have been deep in editing mode for about 6 months. But for me March is the If I don’t step away now I will …. End-Game. So what have I hated learnt about the brain surgery editing process?

 

  1. … I am a Control-Freak Perfectionist and my own worst enemy not to mention my novel’s. 

  2.  …Don’t over-edit…That is what an “Editor” is there for.

  3. Step away from the manuscript slowly when you have the itch to wield a chainsaw. (Or make sure there is a tree nearby that needs pruning if you cannot step away.)

  4. … In the words of a very wise CP : Say to your EGO “SHOVE OFF” or use more colorful  4 letter terms, I am sure I don’t need to elaborate here.

  5. Step away from the manuscript when you want to kill all your characters from frustration.

  6. …Make sure you have someone in your life who will call you on the head-crap you put yourself through in editing mode…

  7. …Do not hit delete (as tempting as it is) instead Step away and send it to that person who does not accept head-crap from you. (Tip: Make sure you truly are scared this person will whack you if you don’t let them help. Fear is a great motivator to get rid of the EGO.)

  8. …Don’t be so struck with stage-fright or that dreaded EGO to not ask   demand help from any corner willing to give it.

  9. Step away from the manuscript when it starts turning your hair follicles white and your fingers are being chewed to the bone from tension and nerves.

  10. Step away from the edits and play with another WIP to rejuvenate your creative self-esteem…It helps if the next WIP is all about a serial killer…There is something soothing about killing off your secondary characters in a new story. Great stress-reliever.


When all else fails, buy yourself a bottle of red wine, a ginormous slab of chocolate and curl up on the couch with your favourite thriller (Then making sure all the windows are closed, you can scream out your frustrations with the excuse that you are scared of the killer lurking on the screen.)

… What doesn’t kill you, (or make you kill others) will make you stronger….Breathe…Count to 100…Stretch…

So nod yes if you have learned any of the same lessons above as I have. Nod yes if editing your own ms has given you grey hair and/or a license to wield a chainsaw. Nod yes if you wished a virus would eat up your ms so that you could just forget it and head onto the next story.

Now I am stepping away, putting down the chainsaw, staying away from the Destroy “Delete” key and off to play with my new WIP…Followed by red wine, chocolate and the scariest thriller I can find on the movie channel.

Rinse & Repeat: What doesn’t kill me (or make me kill others outside of fiction) will make me stronger!

Write from the Heart | Write your Story

Heart

Two things have really struck me over the last few weeks and I felt I needed to blog about them. Both lead into the same subject but from different angles. The subject that has been niggling at my conscience: (Warning: this will be a long post.)

Write from the Heart

For the past 6 weeks I have been working on the final edits of my current WIP. Let me tell you…when I say “working” I mean just that. Anyone who says that writing a novel is difficult has obviously never got to the editing stage. For me first drafts are simple. The words, plot and characters flow out onto the page like opening a tap. Why is writing a first draft simple for me? I am a pants-plotter. I am not 100% a pantser nor am I 100% a plotter. I like some form of an outline but I it is just strong enough to light the next 500 words of each scene. But I am a night owl. Which means that I don’t write by day….In a way you could say that I drive at night if my driving is my novel, my headlights are my plot and my time of day is ruled by the light of the moon. I write like a driver who takes a journey at night. I can see just far enough ahead to know I am not going to crash into anything but there is still enough darkness and mystery that I can still be surprised by what turns the journey can take me on. 

I would say that I plot 30% and free-form write about 70%. For me the story has to be written as it comes to me. If I plot too much I tend to lose that emotion that fuels my writing. I plot myself out of the story if I think too much. So, yes, viscerally it is vital that I write that first draft from the heart. I don’t subscribe to writer’s block. I think you write the story as it comes to you. But I do think you can out-think yourself out of the story and ultimately out of the writing which would in turn lead to a brick wall: the notorious writer’s block.

“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it is like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

There are so many writer’s books, writer’s classes and workshops out there both online and in real-time. The information network through these channels as well as social networking can be wonderful but adversely can also be really overwhelming. Information is freedom. Or is it? Can too much information be overwhelming? Like the wise people say, too much of a good thing can be overkill. Yes, sign up for writer’s classes, attend conferences, read craft books and network with other writers and mentors…but when push comes to shove, you have to stop the information overload long enough to shut out the world, open the heart and start writing. To be a writer you have to write. To be a novelist or short story author, you need to finish a novel to a short story. Nobody said it would be easy. In fact, I guarantee you that most people love the dream but fear the reality of being a writer. But you knew this when you decided to write. You have to write because otherwise this story and these characters will not let you rest: they haunt your every hour, day and night. Yes, you must write. So the birth of a first draft starts. 

First draft is just that. Your work is not done when you have got to those magic words “The End” of your first draft. Pat yourself on the back for finishing that story or that novel. Unfortunately though, now the real labour pains of the birthing process start. Writing the first draft was just your pregnancy. It may not have been the smoothest pregnancy and you may have had morning sickness but overall you know your “baby” is growing, changing and getting ready for entry into the real world. Your first draft is just like pregnancy in that it is really something intimate and the writing is for you. It is your chance to get to know this story. It is something that nobody else can do for you. Your real work has not even started until the “9 months” is up and your water breaks. Writing “The End” on your first draft is that water breaking. 

But the real guts and glory are in the labour pains of birth. Writing is not easy but editing is painful. Editing a first draft should not be easy. It should be pain-staking, heart-wrenching and pure “work”. 

If writing is sitting down and opening a vein…Editing is sitting down and cutting the vein.

I always thought that if you write from your heart, you must edit from your brain. In theory this is accurate. But can you out-think your first emotions from your first draft? Can you over-analyze to the point of killing the heart in your story? 

I have realised that unfortunately you can over-analyze a story. I talk from very fresh experience. Funnily enough, I am usually my own worst enemy when it comes to critiquing my own work. However it is also true that like all writers, I can also miss certain elements that need to be corrected in my own work. This is when writing partners and beta readers come into play. If you have good writing partners, they are honest and forthright with you at all times. They are your headlights in the editing journey. But say now you get through that first and second edits (your second draft) with your mental health intact and your manuscript looking better for the cosmetic surgery…What now? 

After both you and your writing partners are satisfied you have done all you can to edit your story, you start submitting and pitching it. If you are lucky enough to get an agent or editor to love your first pitch and they request a partial or a full manuscript, you have to put your hard hat on again and enter the final edits. Of course I am not even mentioning the edits that take place after a manuscript has been accepted by a publisher. No, I am just talking about the edits that may be required of you by the agent or editor in the initial request. 

How far do you take those comments on your manuscript? Do you do a complete edit and rewrite again? Do you tweak only a little using both your intuition for the story and the advice you have been given by agent/editor? When does too much change become overkill for your story and your characters? 

From very fresh personal experience, I can tell you that you can over-analyze your story into overkill. You can also change and rewrite your story so many times that after a while you wake up one morning, look down at the screen or the page and wonder who wrote this story? Too much editing and following too many pieces of advice, no matter how well intentioned, can cause you to fall out of love with your own story. You become an amnesiac and the story that you first wrote has disappeared into the ether of too much editing. If you get to this point, you must stop! If you try to push through determined to follow advice and to get that manuscript just perfect, you will start to feel like you are taking dictation and not creating. You become a secretary and stop being a creative writer.

If the advice you are getting is making you change your story to the degree that you are hating your own story and wanting to put off working on it, you must stop! You need to stop and recognise that your cosmetic surgery is becoming ugly and morphing your story into something unrecognisable. If you have fallen out of love with your story because of over-editing, that lack of emotion will come through and stain the story for any readers. 

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” ~ Robert Frost

There comes a point where you have to follow the initial stirrings of your heart. At the end of the day you are the writer and this is YOUR story. These characters came to YOU. The story’s idea may not be original in that isn’t every romance like any other or a thriller just a thriller. What is unique and what is special to your story is YOU and YOUR heart/ YOUR emotion. Great emotion that is tenderly written into the spaces between the words is what makes a story a great story. 

Ultimately advice is just that: advice. You choose what information to use and what to throw away. Ultimately YOUR story has to be YOUR story. You have to write from YOUR heart and you have to write YOUR story that you feel. Let that emotion come through and your story will be the better story for it. So yes: write the first draft with your heart, edit the second draft with your brain but the final checks need to be with your heart and your emotion. Be true to that initial emotion and that initial excitement when you first met your characters and heard their story. If you are true to your story and your characters, the story will be true for your readers. Essays come from the brain but stories come from the heart.

Write from the Heart .

Write Your Story.

Edit with your brain but let your heart be the final check.

Editors and agents are not writers. They are salesmen who help you polish up your story, promote it and market it to sell it. Don’t ever forget YOU are the Writer. It is YOUR story. If you feel strongly enough about keeping something in your story, then you MUST be true to that. It is called instinct. It is called creative license. It is: You writing Your story. Be true to it! Be true to you!

“There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.” ~ Arnold Bennett

Have you ever over-edited the heart out of your story? Or have you ever been told to remove something / change something vital from your story? What did you do in the end? 

Talking E-Books,Indie Publishing and Writing

There is a lot of talk in the world of writing and publishing about the shape of Traditional Publishing vs Indie Publishing and Print Publishing vs E-Book Publishing. Many writers are adamant on which side of these particular fences they sit. But there are still some who are caught between a rock and a hard place. This could be because they do not know enough about the newer industries of Indie Publishing (Independant or Small Press Publishers) or E-books. Perhaps you have already made up your mind about which side of the fence you are on but if you do have questions and want to know more then this is the interview you want to sit in on.

Today I am talking E-books, Indie Publishing, Editing and Writing with Susan Landis-Steward: Writer, Editor, Publisher.

So take a seat and get comfortable. Time to be informed by a lady who knows the different sides of the publishing debate. She also has the unique position of being both a writer and publisher.

Welcome Susan. Thank you for joining us here today.

 

girl with a quill: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Susan Landis-Steward?

Susan:  I’m an almost 60-year-old woman with way too much education and way too many ideas. I fully expect to die at my desk with my slippers half on (just as they are right now) doing something involved with editing, publishing, or writing. But not for another 20 years or so. I am a lesbian mom in a very long-term relationship. We have three stupendous daughters and are relieved that the youngest just got her own apartment. We do not suffer from empty nest syndrome, but maybe that’s because we both have such interesting lives of our own. We also have four amazing grandkids, ranging in age from 13 years to three weeks. I’ve spent my working years doing things like computer systems analyst, journalist, editor, child welfare worker, teacher, professor, and even did a brief stint as a call center minion. Probably the most interesting thing to other people is that I am brain injured. I died during minor surgery, caught a jump-start from a passing surgeon, and was shouted back to life by a small elderly nurse who spent the better part of a day yelling at me to breathe. I ended up with some minor brain damage and fibromyalgia. Blessing and curse. The blessing being that I can no longer work for someone else as I need frequent naps. The curse is obvious, I think.


girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?

Susan: I started writing at the age of four and never looked back. I always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I realized I’d like to actually write something for people to read. I didn’t get the courage until I was in my 30s and went to work as a reporter.  Having thousands of people reading my work was terrifying. I tried to resist my first byline, preferring anonymity. But I got over it. After a couple of decades of journalism, I wanted to try my hand at fiction. Here’s another blessing of the brain injury. There is a women’s writers group that meets at the local community college on Wednesday afternoons. With no job, I was free to join. I started my first novel, Blind Leading the Blind, and it was just published in March 2011. I’m currently working on the sequel, Blind Spot. They are lesbian mysteries featuring a former detective and a blind therapist. Love, sex, action, horses, motorcycles, belly dancers, crime: what more could a girl want?

 

girl with a quill: How long have you been writing?

Susan:  Well, that involves math, but I’m 59 now and I was four then so 55 years? Is that right? But professionally, I’ve been writing for 27 years as a journalist, freelance writer, academic, professional writer for the State of Oregon, and many other tasks. I’ve made my living as a freelancer exclusively by the pen for the past five or six years.

girl with a quill: You founded Puddletown Publishing. How did you get into this?


Susan: Wow. I bought a Nook Color last fall because my eyes can no longer be sufficiently corrected to allow me to read most trade paperbacks without removing my glasses, covering one eye to keep the astigmatism at bay, holding the book two inches from my face, and squinting. With my Nook, I can bump up the size, change the font, and make the background a comfortable color.  Great adaptive technology for the baby boom. So, on January 2nd, we went to a party. It was the fifth party that week and I actually tried to get out of it. But my partner insisted, so I took my Nook. That’s what introverts do; we make sure we always have a book along in case we need a breather from the clamoring crowd. So, when I got tired of socializing, I went and sat in a quiet room with a friend,  CONTACT _Con-3B5146219 Renee LaChance, and we started talking about e-books.  Renee was the founder and publisher of Just Out newsmagazine, Oregon’s gay rag, and was itching to get back into publishing. I was a bit at loose ends myself, one regular editing gig having ended, and pretty soon the conversation went from “Why isn’t anyone doing this?” to “Why aren’t we doing this?” Within a week we were on our way. We published our first flush of books in March and our second group of nine books is coming out soon. We are having the time of our lives.


girl with a quill: Do you take control of the editing process like traditional publishers or do writers self-publish through your company?

Susan: We are not a vanity press. We call ourselves an indie press because we’re small, but we function like a traditional publisher in terms of acquisitions, editing, art, and all that rigmarole. Even my own book was submitted to the entire process. Our readers read it without knowing it was mine.  One of my books got a no, so it’s due for some serious rewriting if I ever have the time. 

girl with a quill: For those of us in the dark about e-book publishing, explain to us the process of submitting and publishing a book through your company?

Susan:  When we are accepting submissions, ask that books be sent as Word documents with a short bio and a synopsis. Right now we’re looking for books by lesbians and women of color—it’s a small group, but we don’t want to be swamped with submissions. Others will get their chance. We publish all genres. We do expect submissions to be well-written, tell a good story, and be carefully edited. I’m a bit of a grammar and spelling Nazi and won’t waste my time on something with lots of errors. I’ve quit reading many traditionally published bestsellers because they are so poorly written and edited. The books are then sent to readers who tell us if they think we should proceed with the project. Usually we go with their recommendations, although we do take another look if they say no and we think the project still has merit. Once contracts are signed, we (meaning I) do the first editing pass, looking for obvious structural problems and glaring writing problems. I take notes, send the book back to the writer, and work with the author to make it the best it can be.  Meanwhile, Renee starts working with illustrators and other sub-contractors. Once the book is up to my standards, Renee, who is a masterful copy-editor, goes through it with a fine-tooth comb and catches all the picky stuff I might have missed. Renee and I are a good match. I’m a good editor, while she’s got a business brain like no other. So she handles the contracts, the sub-contractors, the money, the traditional marketing, and all the parts I hate to do. I do work with the authors around social marketing because I enjoy that part. Renee also does the formatting for POD. Finally, we format the book, load it at all the usual suspects, and celebrate. The e-book goes up as soon as the book is ready. POD follows a few weeks later. Oh, and we pay better than average royalties and have the luxury of working with great new writers. It’s so fun!

girl with a quill: This is an e-book Publisher. What do you believe is the future for e-books and more publishers like yourself taking advantage of the wave?

Susan: I hear people all the time who say, “I’ll never get an e-reader. I love ‘real’ books too much.” Most of them are younger folks.  I said the same thing until I realized I hadn’t read anything for fun for a few years. I used to read between 200 and 300 books a year. Suddenly, I was barely getting through three.  My eyes just couldn’t handle it. I did a few rounds with my eye doctor and finally gave up. Then, bang! e-readers.  I’m reading like a maniac again. So older folks are snatching them up because you can read anything on an e-reader. Kids love them. My grandkids grew up on computers so the e-book is an easy transition for them.  And studies show that kids are reading more with e-books. Even my 30-year-old daughter bought one because she wants to be able to carry several books in one compact space, and the new apps for the Nook Color make the thing a small computer that fits in a purse. Lots of servicemen and women are buying e-readers because they fit in a uniform pocket and can hold hundreds of books. The traditional publishers have been slow to change and are going the way of the dinosaur. With books by indies costing only a few dollars, more and more people can afford to buy a book. And I love being able to check books out of the library without leaving my house. I don’t think books are going away any time soon, but the Big 6 and the brick and mortar stores need to enter the 21st century if they want to compete.  I also see a lot of writers who still want a “traditional” deal, even though it’s not in their best interest. Why spend years scrabbling for an agent, waiting for the agent to shop the book, then wait another year for the book to come out? All for 7.5 percent royalties. And, if your book doesn’t sell well, it’s on the shelves for 3 months before being remaindered, and you still haven’t earned your advance back. No wonder writers don’t make any money. An e-book is for sale forever. Writers are finding that they can either self-publish or go with the smaller e-presses like Puddletown and have their books on sale in weeks instead of years. The royalties are better, the quality is often better, and you can still have print copies for POD. There are still some problems to be worked out, like the inconsistent quality of self-published books, but I think the market will take care of that over the next few years.  Overall, I see e-books continuing to take a larger and larger share of the market. They’re cheap in a poor economy, they’re green in a society that should be worried about that, and they’re technology that Americans have shown they adore. Barring major solar flares knocking out the grid or the end of the world, I think even dyed-in-the-wool book lovers will be reading e-books with some regularity.  

girl with a quill: Why have you chosen to do predominantly only e-book publishing? Is it a personal preference? Why?

Susan:  It’s a fairly wide open market, it’s environmentally friendly, and it’s better for the writer in the long run.  We also are committed to a “green” workplace and you don’t get much greener than this.

girl with a quill: Many people in 9-5 jobs have a water-cooler space where they go to talk with their colleagues about work issues. Do you have a “water-cooler” group for your writing life?

Susan:   I’m an introvert so I like being alone. With Dropbox, I can see my business partner and our subcontractors working away at their homes. (Dropbox alerts you when other folks access the files.) I have my dog and some cats, so I’m happy. I also belong to several Facebook groups that I visit throughout the day. Renee and I also talk on the phone almost daily, and we meet once a week to go over the endless list.

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?

Susan:  Without a doubt, Madeleine L’Engle. She’s been my favorite since I was a child and got A Wrinkle in Time for Christmas the year it came out. Her writing and her liberal perspective on faith have both influenced me greatly over the years.  I was fortunate to study with her for a short time.

girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?

Susan:  Is there a genre called crazy-as-hell? My life has been a roller coaster with all the usual events: marriage, family, work, taxes. But there’s been a huge element of surprise as well: house burned down, floods, and we’ve got two more horsemen yet to come. I’ve died and lived to tell about it, started several new businesses and driven them to success. If I told you everything, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Sometimes, I think I’m trying to work out several lifetimes of karma in one.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?

Susan:  I have a room of my own in our home, lined floor to ceiling with books, and a desk that is cluttered beyond belief. I need a big monitor so I have a 32” flat screen TV I can blow everything up to 200 percent on. I have several computers, usually a couple of cats lounging around, and a lot of outsider art and photos of family and friends. There are also a lot of art supplies as I like to dink around with other creative forms. I’m primarily a fiber artist in my spare time.  Like Gandhi, I believe we could have world peace if everyone would just spin their own yarn.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?

Susan:  I mull. I gestate. I listen to voices in my head. Finally, when I can stand it no longer, I sit down and start writing.  It’s almost like mental illness.

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?

Susan:  A pantster, for sure.  I tried plotting but could never get the whole thing done. Finally, I sat down and started writing.  Sometimes I have no idea what’s coming next, so I get surprised.

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in now?

Susan: I love mysteries so I write mysteries. I’m also working on a couple of theology projects (I trained as a theologian), and one book that combines theology with mystery.

girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?

Susan: Probably fantasy or science fiction. With lesbian protagonists. I like women’s voices and there’s not enough good lesbian literature out there.

girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?

Susan: I’m writing two sequels to my first book.  The first is Blind Spot and the second is Blind Faith. The first three are all in the POV of the detective who is neurotic as hell but can see. The fourth book will be Blind Leading the Blind and will be in the POV of the blind therapist. That will be a challenge.

girl with a quill: Why do you write?

Susan:  Because it’s what I do. If I’m not writing books, I’m writing articles, or sermons, or blog posts, or…

girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?

Susan:  Hmm.  I guess the combination of lesbian and liberal theologian makes me most interested in the ideas of inclusion and diversity over all other themes. I want to write things that normalize all the differences for my readers. Like the idea that lesbians can just be normal folks or that a blind person can lead a rich, rewarding, and creative life. Or that one can be spiritual, even religious, without leaving your brain behind.

girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?

Susan:  Oh! I’d be Meg Murray in Madeleine L’Engle’s books. Or I’d be Anna Pigeon in Nevada Barr’s books. I like Meg because she’s an awkward kid and so was I. I like Anna because she gets to work in the National Parks. 

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Susan:  I like character driven books best. If you have a good character, one that I can get to know and care about, I’ll probably forgive minor issues with the story. I’m not as forgiving about great stories with flat or stereotypical characters.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Susan:  I’d have to say Erik Walton (short for Erika) in my Blind series. She’s smart, tough, smart-assed, and neurotic as hell. Her weaknesses and tenderness shine through all her bluster. Her inner dialogue is pretty true to my own life.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Susan:   Marvin in Dr. Seuss’s Marvin K. Mooney. He cracks me up.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Susan:  Madeleine L’Engle. Well, duh. Nevada Barr, because she writes gripping books with great female characters.  Rita Nakashima Brock, one of my favorite feminist theologians. Mozart, because I’d want him to play for us after dinner, and he was a crazy child prodigy.  Willa Cather, because she’s one of the few writers who can take my breath away, and I can’t figure out if it’s the story or the writing that did it. An amazing thing when that happens.


girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Susan:  Anna Pigeon, because I love her adventures in the wilderness.  God as portrayed in Gospel by Wilhelm Barnhardt, because he’s laugh-out-loud funny as hell, doesn’t take him/herself seriously, and is much like God as I imagine him/her.  Alex Delaware, from the mysteries by Jonathon Kellerman, because I could use a good guitar-playing shrink.  Stephanie Plum, Janet Evanovich’s bounty hunter, because she makes me laugh and she’s the kind of person I like to hang out with. Rina Lazarus from the books by Faye Kellerman, because I want to know everything about her faith.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Susan:  Just write. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just write.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Susan: Just write. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just write. And publish it.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Susan: Mostly I think about my kids and grandkids. I want them to be proud of my body of work. Even though I don’t want the grandkids reading some of it until they’re older. I think explicit sex, even if fairly tame, has no place in the hands of kids under 15 or 16 or so.

girl with a quill: Finally where can we find on the web?

Answer: HYPERLINK “mailto:susanls@puddletowngroup.com”susanls@puddletowngroup.com

HYPERLINK “http://www.puddletowngroup.com/”http://www.puddletowngroup.com/

Facebook: HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/PuddletownGroup”http://www.facebook.com/PuddletownGroup

HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blind-Leading-the-Blind/196477380374053″http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blind-Leading-the-Blind/196477380374053

HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/slandissteward?ref=ts”http://www.facebook.com/slandissteward?ref=ts

Blogs: HYPERLINK “http://puddletown.wordpress.com/”http://puddletown.wordpress.com

HYPERLINK “http://susanlandissteward.wordpress.com/”http://susanlandissteward.wordpress.com/

Twitter: HYPERLINK “http://www.twitter.com/susanls”http://www.twitter.com/susanls

HYPERLINK “http://twitter.com/puddletowngroup”http://twitter.com/puddletowngroup

 

 

____________________________________________________________

 

First Draft..Second Draft..Third Draft..

So it begins
Image by Graham Binns via Flickr

Today has been a good day for refocusing. I was on twitter chats #writecraft and #storycraft and the topics were first drafts. As most chats end up going, it went down other paths but the main topics were first drafts and first chapters.

One of the questions was: What tools do you use to get into the Zone?

Another question was: Are emotions necessary for being in the Writing Zone?

A third question was: How do you turn off the internal editor and should you turn off the internal editor in the first draft?

There were a number of great points and questions raised. The great thing about these chats are the wealth of information us writers can be for each other. Each of us has a unique spin on the craft of writing and the writing life. Each of us, whether published or unpublished, have at least got through a first chapter and many have full first drafts completed.

So today I am going to ask you these questions which were raised in today’s chats:

  1. How important is a first chapter? Do you believe a book rests on the first chapter?
  2. Do you think a first chapter must have an immediate active element or immediate conflict?
  3. Which tools do you use – Music/Software/Stationery/Surroundings/Time of Day – to get yourself into the Creative Zone?
  4. Do you feel that the key to being in the Creative Zone is emotion – whether controlled emotion or the release of emotion?
  5. How do you turn off the internal editor?
  6. Should you turn the internal editor off during first draft and if so, how do you do this?
  7. Do you outline the first draft before writing it?

So the questions are given to you? What are your secrets for first chapters and first drafts?

What other tips can you share with me and the readers of this blog?

Post any tips or queries regarding first chapters and first drafts here…and lets get a discussion going.

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

Synopsis: Are you in or out of Sync?

Unique Selling Proposition / Unique Selling Po...

Recently I completed an online workshop run by Savvy Authors. The course was called Pass the Shovel. In this course each lesson was about breaking down your story, your plot, your voice, your dialogue and your characters. I found the whole course very worthwhile but the lesson that I found the most enlightening was lesson 1. Lesson 1 was about breaking down your book into a summary or what the writing industry calls a synopsis.

synopsis |səˈnäpsis|noun ( pl. -sesˌsēz|)a brief summary or general survey of something : a synopsis of the accident.

• an outline of the plot of a book, play, movie, or episode of a television show.

DERIVATIVES synopsize |-ˌsīz| |səˈnɑpˈsaɪz| verb

ORIGIN early 17th cent.: via late Latin from Greek, from sun- ‘together’ + opsis ‘seeing.’

synopsis – noun

the synopsis was so intriguing that I just had to buy the book summary, summarization, précis, abstract, outline,

digest, rundown, roundup, abridgment.

Then on my writing groups that I belong to, there have been various discussions about the horrors and necessities of the Synopsis. So I thought today’s post should be about the topic of the month: Synopsis ~ Are you in or out of sync with your synopsis?

So why is a synopsis necessary?

  • A synopsis is needed when you write your query letter and you pitch your book.
  • An agent does not have the time to read the first 50 pages of every manuscript that lands on their desk. They need a “taster” to see if your book is going to be featured on their menu. Cue in your synopsis.
  • An editor does not have the time to read the first 50 pages of every manuscript that an agent lands them. They also need a “taster” to see if your book is up their alley. Cue in your synopsis.
  • Your synopsis is your billboard advertisement that gets the passing agent’s/editor’s attention on the highway to a sold and published book.
  • Your synopsis is the clincher in getting your book from your bottom desk drawer to the hands of an agent then an editor and finally your reader.
  • Your synopsis is a SELLING TOOL. It is a way to convert your manuscript from a story to a published and saleable book.
  • To write a successful synopsis you need to think with a sales mind and not a writer’s mind.
  • The synopsis is your SPIN-DOCTOR for your book.

So we have just a few reasons here to tell you that a synopsis is vital to the success of you finding an agent, an editor and a publisher. So now we come to the crux of the matter:

How do you write a synopsis?

How do you get “in sync” with your synopsis?

One of the tips that I have learnt about over the last few months has been the value of being able to write a maximum 50 word synopsis. This will encapsulate the Hook of your story. Then from there build that up to a paragraph long synopsis. Next try building that up to a page long synopsis. Finally try building that up to a 2 page synopsis. Now you may still be reading this and scratching your head in consternation. You are still stuck with the idea that you have to hone down a 70 000 – 100 000 word novel into 50 words then finally into 2 pages. Well here are some questions that may help you break down your novel into synopsis form.

  • What’s my idea?
  • Where does my story take place?
  • When does my story take place?
  • What is my timeline?
  • Why is this happening?
  • What is my POV – Point Of View?
  • Who are my characters?
  • How will I begin my story?
  • What is my plot?
  • What is my complication?
  • What is my climax?
  • What is my resolution and anti-climax?

The main points that should be in your synopsis are:

  1. The HOOK – This is your USP or UNIQUE SELLING POINT. This is the part that you want to put front and centre and at the top of your synopsis. This is going to be the GRABBER.
  2. The CHARACTERS – Stories are about people. Tell us about your Main Characters. Tug at our heart-strings. The main points here should be: Motivation / Conflict / Goals. What makes this character’s story interesting? Why would a reader want to invest time and emotion in this story/this character?
  3. The BODY of the STORY – Here is where you want to focus on the PLOT of the story. Keep your writing tight and concise. Only put the necessary plot points here. Tie together your plot with your main characters.
  4. The CLIMAX / ANTI-CLIMAX / RESOLUTION – This will pull the whole story together. This is the part where you tie all your different colours of strings into one seamless ribbon. This is where all the questions of your story will be answered. This is where your character will change and grow. These will be the A-HA moments in your story.
  5. Use present tense at all times. Irregardless of whether your book is set in the past or the future, the present tense of a synopsis will put the agent / editor directly into the heart of your story and allow them to walk in your character’s shoes. This will create an emotional pull for them.
  6. Use strong adjectives and emotive language when writing your synopsis. This is your one chance to get the agent/ the editor’s attention. Use your best written skills for this synopsis. Do not waste space or words.

How are you feeling now? Are you feeling more confident with tackling The SYNOPSIS? Are you feeling more “in sync” with your synopsis?

Now lastly, when do you write a synopsis? There is no hard and fast rule that you can only write the synopsis at the end of the novel. In fact, if you leave it til then the nerves and doubt will kick in. Try your hand at writing a loose synopsis at the beginning stages of your novel. You will have the bare bones of your final synopsis. You may even find that your synopsis may be a guiding point for your story. I have written a synopsis both at the end of a WIP and now I have written one at the beginning of my current WIP. In this latter synopsis, I reached a moment of EPIPHANY in the conflict and the anti-climax of my story. Now I can tackle my WIP with renewed vigour and when it comes to the final synopsis, I have already completed half the task by writing my synopsis first.

Now it is time to get IN SYNC with your SYNOPSIS!

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

Musing on writing ~ Mina Witteman

Today’s writer is an eloquent lady with a lovely turn of phrase hailing from the Netherlands. I met her through the Warriors Facebook group that I belong to and have enjoyed all her wise posts. She may not post as often on the group as I know she is busy on her latest story, but when she does post or post a link through to her blog, I always take note of what she says. She is a writer that not only knows about her craft and has succeeded at having a career in writing but also has a vast resume of writing related paths from being an intern at a top publishing house to editing to ghost-writing. If you think that you find it impossible to just find enough time to write for a hour every day, Mina adds one more item to her resume by being a teacher of creative writing at schools. She started off wanting to be an architect but in the end decided to follow the path of destiny and followed the way of the words to become a writer. They say everything happens for a reason and I am glad that destiny changed her pathway from architecture to writing. Otherwise we would have missed out on enjoying her talent and her wisdom.

Now without further ado, I will let Mina tell you and I a little more about herself as she lets us into the world of:

Mina Witteman – Writer

Welcome Mina…I know it is a long way from home but I hope you enjoy your short visit with me on Dragonfly Scrolls…Take a seat in the comfy couch. The kettle is on and the readers are waiting…

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about you.

Mina: I was born and grew up in a small village in the south of the Netherlands. My dad was an architect and for a long time I thought I was destined to be one as well, as I inherited his math genes. But I hadn’t counted on my mom’s genes. She had a great imagination and she was a storyteller pur sang. She planted the storytelling seed in me. It took its time to grow, even after I found out that my favorite subject in school was… detention. Detention meant writing essays and I loved writing essays even more than I loved math, physics and chemistry.

I did study architecture, but never finished it. After dropping out of polytechnic, I wandered around for quite some years until I couldn’t ignore the need to get all the stories out anymore. I followed some courses creative writing and the four-year course Writing Prose For Children. I also did the editor’s minor at the University of Amsterdam and an internship at one of the major publishing houses in the Netherlands. By now I’m not only a writer, but also a seasoned freelance copy-editor. In addition to writing and editing, I write reviews for Booktunes, the site that brings your favorite books and music together and I occasionally teach creative writing to high school students.

girl with a quill: Do you remember the moment you wanted to become a writer?

Mina: After my son was born and I, again, got hold of all those exciting books I used to read when I was young, books taking you with them on adventures you couldn’t even dream of. I realized I had to do more than read. I signed up for some creative writing classes (I’m a bit of a perfectionist) and at one of the classes, Writing for Children, everything suddenly fitted, like finding your true vocation.

girl with a quill: What inspires you to write and why?

Mina: Every day inspires me to write. Even the tiniest event can light the fire, because behind every event, every single step you take in life there is a whole world of stories. What if you didn’t take that step? What if you went into the other direction? What you see is what you get, people often say, but what if it’s not?

girl with a quill: Where do you do write?

Mina: Home is where I write. I have an office on the second floor where I’m surrounded by paintings and books. From my window I look at one of Amsterdam’s main canals, lined with trees and beautiful 18th century houses. A great view if you have to sit and think, which is what writers do a lot.

girl with a quill: How do your stories find you? Are they character-driven or story-driven?

Mina: I think most of the stories are already in me. They just need to find their way out. Others come to me when I travel, like THE SUN SPIRIT. That one hit me when I was traveling through Arizona and the Navajo Nation: the thunderstorms, the flash floods, the intriguingly mysterious red monoliths. You could feel the adventure in every breath of air, in every grain of sand, in every sudden shadow that darkened the world for a moment.

Most of my stories are a mix of character- and story-driven. The story, the adventure is the main pillar on which a telling is built, but every story needs strong characters, too.

girl with a quill: Once you have your story, take us through your preparation stage. Tell us a little about your writing process.

Mina: The preparation stage is usually a long one, as the story first needs to form in my head. As soon as the basic shape is there, as soon as I’m well acquainted with my protagonist, I can start writing. First a draw a blueprint on the whiteboard next to my desk, next I start writing the manuscript. I am a linear writer, and I usually write a book from the beginning to the end in one go (don’t worry, I do go to sleep at night J). Only my debut, DEEDEE’S REVENGE, was written differently. Circumstances forced me to write some of the individual scenes first and “weld” them together in a later stage. I can still see those seams. They might be invisible for the reader, but they are there. When writing THE SUN SPIRIT I found my preferred modus operandi, so… linear it is.

When I’m done writing I put the manuscript away for a week or so to let it all sink in. Then I read it and start revising the first time. After the first revision I give it to my proofreader. She is a friend of my son’s (16 by now). She wants to be a writer herself and she is a very strict and uncompromising editor, and she’s able to single out most of the flaws. I find it invaluable to have a target reader as my proofreader. With her reader’s report at hand I revise the manuscript for the second time. After that, and only when I am truly satisfied with the end result, I hand the manuscript in.

girl with a quill: You write YA. What led you into this form of writing?

Mina: I know YA is the name, but I see my stories more as coming-of-age stories. Sometimes my protagonist is 10 or 12, sometimes he is a little older, like the one in the new book I’m working on. He’s 16. What they all have in common is that they go through an adventure that will change their lives forever.

YA is the major part of what I write, but I also write thrillers for adults and short read-aloud stories for the very young. The thrillers are a logic continuation of writing YA – or at least it feels that way. The short stories work as etudes. Writing them hones my craft and keeps me on my toes if it comes to keeping the “fanning out” in check. Short stories force you to be brief and to the point, but at the same time every sentence, every word needs to be in flow with the next sentence and the next word.

girl with a quill: Do you have a favourite out of your stories or your books? Can you tell us why?

Mina: That is a hard question. I love DEEDEE’S REVENGE (DE WRAAK VAN DEEDEE), not only because it was my debut, but it also because it is a bit about me. DEEDEE’S REVENGE is about Deedee and her pesky brother Matthias. One day Matthias crosses the line with one of his pranks and Deedee swears she will get back at him. It’s a bit about me getting back at my brother, at last, for one of the pranks he pulled on me when I was young. It’s also the only book I’ve written that has a female protagonist.

girl with a quill: Do you have a favourite character from your books?

Can you tell us who/what and why?

Mina: I think Tom, my protagonist in the Warriors Of The Sun series, is my favorite character. He’s been with me for three books now (of which two have been published so far). I love him and the way he carefully treads through life, getting bolder and more confident with every book.

girl with a quill: Do you find that all of your stories are smoothly written once started or have some of them been challenging?

Mina: So far it has been easy “writes”, if there is anything like an easy “write”. In a way every manuscript is a challenge, as you never know beforehand if it will work out, but most of the time the writing is smooth. It’s the editing and revising part that bothers me more. That part compels a lot of self-discipline as you have to be able to be ruthless in killing your darlings.

girl with a quill: Have you ever written in any other genre? If you haven’t, would you want to and what genre would you choose?

Mina: Up till now I have written short read-aloud stories for the very young, adventure (low) fantasy for MG/YA and I just finished the revision of my first thriller for adults. You might think that is different genres, but it’s not. All my stories are spine-chilling adventures, even the short stories (although those aren’t as scary as the stories for my older audience). I don’t think I will ever divert from this adventure genre. It fits me like glove.

girl with a quill: You have published your books in Dutch. Have you had your books translated into English?

Mina: Three of my books and about 30 short stories have been published in Dutch, none of them have been translated. Yet!

girl with a quill: What is your opinion on books being translated?

Do you find that it is a positive or a negative to the story?

Does anything get “lost in translation?

Mina: In the Netherlands we grow up with translated literature. Our publishers have a long tradition of bringing translated books to the public. Partly because there are a lot of good books out there that should be read, but also because of our traders’ mentality: why shouldn’t you publish a book that is successful abroad here as well and make some money in the process?

For the story it’s not always a blessing. As an editor I have copy-edited quite some translations, and yes, things can definitely get lost in translation. It takes an outstanding translator to capture not only the story, but also the voice of the author and even then it’s inevitable that some things get lost in translation because of the mere fact that one language isn’t the other.

Dutch books are less often translated into other languages. I suspect that it being such a small language area and the corresponding lack of translators from Dutch might be responsible for that, as it makes the translation process a rather costly matter.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the process of publication in the Netherlands? Do you have to have an agent or do you work directly with a publisher?

Mina: The agent system is slowly gaining ground here, but only for adult literature. Writers usually deal directly with the publishers. That might also be due to the smaller market. The sales figures for midlist writers a not spectacular and if you have to split the already proceeds with an agent… But I’m very much for an agent system. Most writers are not sales people, agents are. It pays to have someone dedicated to your books deal for you. I have an agent (Paul Sebes of Sebes & Van Gelderen Literary Agency) for my thriller.

girl with a quill: Have you / Would you submit to any US publishers or UK publishers?

Mina: I have not submitted to US publishers or UK publishers. Again: yet! I have signed a contract with literary agent Erzsi Deàk of the Hen & Ink. She will handle all rights for my children’s books, not only the ones that have been published in the Netherlands, but the future ones, too. I am very, very happy with Erzsi. She gives me the opportunity to spread my wings and to become true member of our ever-globalizing world.

girl with a quill: Considering the boom of the e-book industry,

Would you consider publishing in E-book format?

Mina: I am totally addicted to my e-reader. I love the concept and the possibilities it offers to both reader and writer. Thankfully, the Netherlands is slowly but surely picking up the advantages of the e-reader.

girl with a quill: Are you working on a new story right now?

Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Mina: Yes, I am working on a new story. This time it’s a YA-thriller that keeps me glued to my desk. It’s about 16-year old Dorian who desperately wants to be independent. He has two important features that keep him from being independent: he’s 16 and he has a growing disorder, burdening him with the body of a 10-year old. While skipping school Dorian meets a group of hackers who live in a former squat house. As hacking doesn’t make you a living, they rent out a floor to a group of criminals who turned the floor into a pot growing plant. It sparks off some ideas in Dorian. Lucrative but dangerous ideas, as it turns out…

girl with a quill: You have a website, a blog and a twitter id.

Do you find social network platforms important to a writer’s platform? If so, why and how?

Mina: I have mixed feelings about social network platforms. Yes, they are important as they give you a more direct way of interacting with your audience and with your peer group. It keeps you informed. One of the earlier Warriors you interviewed aptly named Facebook ‘her water cooler’. That is exactly how I feel about it. Writing can be a very lonely business. It’s good to meet your peers and your audience at the ‘water cooler’ every now and again.

The downside, of course, is that it takes away time from your core business: writing. You have to exercise quite some discipline to keep the every now and again really every now and again and not all the time.

girl with a quill: If you could choose 5 famous creative people to have dinner with, who would you choose and why?

Mina: I would love to have dinner with Jennifer Donnelly, Frank Lloyd Wright, Panamarenko, Yukio Mishima and Harper Lee. Jennifer wrote this intense YA-novel REVOLUTION and I would love to talk about to her our craft and the agony it causes us sometimes and how to overcome that. Frank Lloyd Wright is on the list, because designed the most beautiful houses in the world, houses that – to me – are like stories. I wish he could tell me about the lines he sees and how he was able to put those lines down on paper and shape them into houses. Panamarenko is a Belgian artist. Every single piece of art he makes is a novel in itself. During dinner I would have him tell me everything about how math can marry art. John Irving is one of my favorite writers. I wish he would tell me all about the construction of a story. Finally Harper Lee, the writer of my all-time favorite novel. She only wrote one and I wish she could tell me why.

girl with a quill: If you could have a dinner party with 5 of your favourite fictional characters? Who would they be and why would you invite them?

Mina: Mizoguchi, the deeply troubled acolyte from Yukio Mishima’s THE TEMPLE OF THE GOLDEN PAVILION, Scout (Jean Louise Finch) from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Bod Pa, the old shaman in the Dutch coming-of-age novel HET BOEK VAN BOD PA (Bod Pa’s Book) by Anton Quintana, Pepto Bismo, Panamarenko’s statue of a modern day Icarus, and Begochiddy, messengers of the Navajo spirits. I would love to meet them, because they all are out of the ordinary, the stand out in loneliness, in strength, in being different. Somehow they all feel as kindred spirits (I’m not going to burn a temple, though J).

girl with a quill: Who has had the greatest influence on you as a writer?

Mina: That would be Anton Quintana, a Dutch writer of children’s books and thrillers. His children’s books are the ones I admire most. They all have that extra in them, that thing that tells you that there is more to this world than meets the eye.

girl with a quill: What is your favourite classic book? And why?

Mina: My favorite classic is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. I know I’m not alone here, but the book is so intense. It reached right into my soul, it questioned my values and it left me with the rather desolate feeling that in the end we’re all alone.

girl with a quill: What is your favourite contemporary book? And why?

Mina: That is another hard question. There are so many good books coming out. For now, I’ll go with Jennifer Donnelly’s REVOLUTION. It is just as intense as Harper Lee’s book, but on a different level. Donnelly has accomplished, that if you read it, you almost literally can feel the pain of the protagonist, Andi Alpers, whose life was shattered after the death of her younger brother.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself as a young writer?

Mina: Have faith!

girl with a quill: What in the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself 10 years from now?

Mina: Keep honing your craft.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy as a writer to be?

Mina: I hope people will read my books.

girl with a quill: Can you tell us where we can find on the Web?

Mina:

my reviews: booktunes.net

Thank you Mina for that look into your life as a writer. Now it looks like you are just about ready for another cuppa. Tell me more about the adventures that Dorian gets up to in your latest thriller…Readers if you want to know more you will just have to wait for the book.
Remember wield your quill with wit and wisdom for

 

 

The Quill is swifter than the Rapier,
Ink imbrues deeper than Blood…

~ girl with a quill
© All rights reserved Kim Koning

 

 

100th POST….Drum Roll….Warrior Wednesdays with Roz Morris (dirtywhitecandy)

Warrior with the Sword of Imagination, the Shield of Truth and the Helmet of Muses
Drum Rolls…Cymbals…Trombone…..Seductive Saxophone…..
Welcome to your first episode of Warrior Wednesdays. Today is an exceptionally SPECIAL day for this girl with a quill. (Thanks Aditi Sarin for the Nickname)
Today is the 100th post in this blogosphere for this girl with a quill and a dragonflyscroll.
 

100 Posts.....with a dish of dirty white candy, cupcakes and drink of celebration - Champagne of the lightest airy bubbles...

To mark the day I have released the debut episode of Warrior Wednesdays with the erudite and dazzling Roz Morris also known as the enigmatic dirtywhitecandy. This is a lady that is the owner of the website – Nailyournovel and author extraordinaire of the book called: Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence. She is a successful Editor who also moonlights as a successful Ghostwriter with 11 books under her Ghosting – 8 of these bestsellers. How did I get to know this Red Dynamo of a lady?? I came across a tweet by a tweeter called dirtywhitecandy. Of course, the name had me intrigued – who was this enigmatically named creature and why did she seem to tweet so many words or wisdom. I started following her and this led me to her website. The first thing I searched for was what was behind that enigmatically unique twitter moniker.
When she mentioned on her website that she chose an 18th century candy made by Fortnums and Mason in London because she loved the idea of such a surprising and unpredictable name – she knew she had to make this funky name her new online moniker. Does she fit the bill? Definitely….but without giving too much more away…let me bring the lady herself in. Let me tell you she does not have a shy bone in her body and she loves to chat…..So help me give a warm welcome to the lady herself  – in she sashays, bright dazzling locks of the sun just tucked under a cornflower blue winter beanie and a smile effervescent in energetic warmth….

Roz Morris aka dirtywhitecandy

girl with a quill: Welcome Roz…..

dirtywhitecandy: Phew, brilliant questions, Kim! Thanks so much for hosting me and I’m really flattered to be your hundredth post! You’re such a creative dynamo you definitely deserve a telegram from the Queen.
A pic or two is enclosed, with a different interview hat…

girl with a quill : Tell us a little about you.

dirtywhitecandy:
I’ve ghostwritten eight bestselling novels which I can’t name because
they’re a trade secret. I freelance edit, mentoring other writers to help
them shape up their novels to a state where they can be presented to the
market, and I’m coming out from under the ghostly sheet with novels of my
own. I’m represented by Jane Conway-Gordon in London. The rest of the time I
work as a freelance magazine editor – and occasionally as a movie extra!

girl with a quill: Do you remember the moment you wanted to become a writer?

dirtywhitecandy:

Not really. I’ve always been very creative and when I was a child I liked making up music and drawing comics. But the thing I enjoyed most was writing. It didn’t really matter what it was – stories, school essays… I had a number of pen friends and they got very long letters! I’ve always had a feeling that when I put words on a page it is more important than writing, it is a performance. I can never dash off even a short email, it has to be ‘right’.

So, to answer your question, I have always been a writer really.

girl with a quill: What inspires you to write and why?

dirtywhitecandy:
Good writing. Any beautifully executed novel makes me want to get at my desk and make something!

girl with a quill: Where do you do write?

dirtywhitecandy:

A lot of my writing goes on in my head – pacing about, or out running, or driving with the radio on. I also scribble a lot of notes to work out story problems. Thinking time is crucial for me. But when I’m getting the words down I have two official places. There’s my study, which has the whizzy internet computer and all my pictures, music, and all you intensely interesting people out on Twitter and blogs. Sometimes, though, I need to get away from all that. For those occasions I have a tiny laptop that folds into a handbag. I take it to a room in the house where none of those things will tempt me, and snuggle down with my manuscript.

girl with a quill: How do your stories find you? Are they character-driven or story-driven?

dirtywhitecandy:

I would say they’re story driven at the moment. I’m most inspired by people doing odd things. I then ask myself who would do it, and why, and where it might go, and who they might draw in. So the story comes first – and then I seek the people who need it.

girl with a quill: An interesting fact about you is that you have successfully ghostwritten 11 books for other people…What led you into this form of writing?

dirtywhitecandy:

I got into it by a lucky break. I was doing a full-time job on a medical magazine and in my spare time was writing short stories and attempting a novel. My husband is a full-time writer and he had a commission that had gone wrong – the publisher changed their mind about the brief and wanted him to rewrite. He had other commitments so he gave the job to me and I wrote an entirely new novel for them. It was accepted and once I’d done that I was on their list of useful writers. The ghostwriting followed on from there.

Most ghosting jobs are circulated around people who publishers know and my name must have landed on the right desk at the right time!

girl with a quill: I know you cannot divulge who you ghosted for but can you tell us a little about the process? How does ghost-writing differ from your own writing?

dirtywhitecandy:

Ghosting is writing a book pretending to be somebody else – mostly celebrities. Perhaps they’ve already published their memoirs (possibly also ghosted) and have branched out into novels – but need help with the craft of fiction writing. And they’re not always non-writers. Sometimes the megabrand established novelists use ghosts, outsourcing some of their early draft work to keep up with demand. And if a mega-selling author dies, a publisher might hire a ghostwriter to keep their brand alive beyond the grave.
Ghostwriting is a colloboration. The actual details vary from project to project, but when I ghost I’m writing a book that is someone else’s idea, to please their readers – who wouldn’t necessarily be the same readers who would like my own work. I can’t use my own voice I have to develop a voice and style that is appropriate for the author I am ghosting. Also I can’t always take a story in the direction I want it to go, and if I have a blinding blast of inspiration I may not be able to use it. Also, if the ‘author’ (the person whose name is on the cover) doesn’t like what I’ve done, it’s their book and I have to rewrite it. That’s not to say that I can’t put something of myself into the book, but I must always remember the book is not mine.

girl with a quill: I have read that you started out as a journalist. I studied journalism as well. I often battle against which hat I am putting on: the hard-nosed journalist’s hat or the free-form writer’s hat. Did you find the switch from journalism to fiction a difficult one?

dirtywhitecandy:
I had to learn different ways to write. A journalism story is detached, as though it’s written by a machine. It condenses when a fiction writer should expand and draw you into a scene. I’ve always been quite sensitive to styles and narrative voices so I didn’t find it difficult, but you raise a good question because many journalists find it hard to slip off their analytical, detached voice. They find it particularly hard to inhabit a flawed character or be an unreliable narrator. I still do some journalism and switching back is amusing sometimes. If I’m editing a news story I often get the urge to spice up the interviewees’ quotes (and call them ‘dialogue’…)
And by contrast, when fiction writers have to include a news story in their narrative, they can’t get the tone right. I’m sure you must have noticed that, Kim!
But journalism has helped too. Journalism lives by deadlines – you find something to write and you get the words down. That’s great discipline for any writer. I don’t have to worry about grammar and punctuation because they’re ingrained. Also I’ve been a sub-editor, editing and proofing for press, so I can proof and copy-edit my own material to a professional standard (and often do this for others).

girl with a quill: Journalism and Fiction Writing are two different sides of a coin. One could almost say they directly oppose one another. Did being a journalist first help or hinder your fiction writing? How?

dirtywhitecandy:

(See above, sorry, answered 2 questions in one go!)

girl with a quill: You have a fantastic website called Nailyournovel
This is where most people get to know you.
Can you tell us what the phrase “Nail your novel” means to you?

dirtywhitecandy:

Great question! Novel-writing is complex. To do it well is a life-long process of learning. I believe in learning as much as I can about how stories work and how they are derailed, so that I can throw together a narrative that will do exactly what I want it to do.
That may sound like it’s churning out predictable stories according to formulae, but in fact it is not. Story rules are like laws of physics; they are a natural order derived from the way we all make sense of the world. Humans see patterns, and that is where stories come from. The more deeply we understand this process, the more inventive, creative and daring we can be with the stories we create. Novel-writing as an intensely practical craft learned from the nuts and bolts of the world around us. I regard everything I see as potential storytelling tools, hence the rather practical name of the blog!
The short answer is this: I’m trying to nail my novels – so I reckoned other people might be too!

girl with a quill: This brings me to the publication of your book by the same name. This book is available at Amazon. Can you tell us why you wrote this book?

dirtywhitecandy: So many people start a novel and drizzle to a stop. it’s a job that can get the better of you. Most of the beginner writers I talk to need to know how to organise all that business of characters, plot, using research and so on.
Also a lot of the writers who come to me for editing help struggle with revising a novel. Because of this, they also can’t assess their novel’s structure – which is essential to whether it works or not – and they don’t dare to make major changes because it all looks too complicated.  I disembowel my drafts quite blithely because I’ve developed ways to take control of my manuscripts. So I thought the most helpful thing I could do for people was to write a book about how I do that. Its full title is Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence. Rather a mouthful, but that’s what it does!
girl with a quill: Can you tell my followers where to get a copy of your book?

dirtywhitecandy:

You can read an excerpt from Nail Your Novel here – http://bit.ly/9uS40x

I do have it on Amazon but my printer, Lulu, has mistakenly deleted my Amazon page. While I wrangle with them to get it back I have salvaged my reviews and you can read them here – http://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/nail-your-novel-%E2%80%93-why-writers-abandon-books-and-how-you-can-draft-fix-and-finish-with-confidence/amazon-reviews-of-nail-your-novel/

Nail Your Novel cover 2010 - front

girl with a quill: Along with your website, you also have a twitter account. Many people in the know in the publishing industry push how important it is to build a public platform through social media tools. As a published writer, would you agree that a public platform is necessary for pre-published and published writers alike?

dirtywhitecandy:

It is absolutely, one-hundred per cent essential. Books only sell if they are publicised. But that doesn’t mean ramming your book down everyone’s throat. When you buy a book it’s usually because you want to spend time with the author. When you build a platform you are reaching out to find people who might want to spend time with what you write. It’s a slow process, as it is if you get to know anyone in the real world. When you build your platform that’s what you’re doing – being yourself and finding the people who enjoy your company.

Also, social media is a two-way street. You find the people whose company you enjoy too. Before I started blogging and chatting on Twitter and Facebook, I was holed up in my study, bashing away in isolation. Now I have the camaraderie of thousands of other writers out there. They’re writing posts and sharing links. If I need advice, I can send out a tweet and someone will tell me what I need to know. It’s like having a brilliant set of colleagues – we’re all writing, and we’re all in touch. More than that, I have made many genuine friends through Twitter, Facebook and my blog. In short, it’s great fun.

girl with a quill: What would be 3 pieces of advice that you would share with pre-published writers? Maybe even things you wished you had known as a young writer?

dirtywhitecandy:

1 You will believe your first novel idea is brilliant and unique. It will probably not be. But when you learn what is wrong with it you will write a much better one.
2 Find critique partners you trust and who understand the kind of novels you want to write

3 Even if you write a brilliant novel, that doesn’t mean you will find a conventional publisher. Mainstream publishing is governed by marketing departments and what is in fashion.

girl with a quill: Share a little of your writing process with us. Are you a plotter or a pantster? and Why?

dirtywhitecandy:

Plotter, definitely. I have to know where I’m going, and also I find it very creative to make a detailed plan. The structure of the story is just as important as the moment-by-moment words.

girl with a quill: They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. A little bird told me that you are an exhibited artist as well as a published author. What type of artist are you and where have you exhibited?

dirtywhitecandy:

(Laughs, very loudly…) Hardly. I took part in a self-portrait experiment at the rather smart Twentytwenty Gallery in Much Wenlock, Shropshire. Purely as a laugh, because I can never make pens do what I want them to do. I had a few goes in rough first. The first one came out far too small and squished in the corner, but at least there was room for more.

After some time I had managed several versions of myself if played by Ruby Wax, Matt Damon or someone with the wrong nose and a beard. Finally I ran out of space and stamina, so handed in the rough with a title: A Writer’s Quest for Control Over Hand and Pen. Not sure what the gallery made of it…

If you want to see it, it’s here… http://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/seven-things/

girl with a quill: As both a writer and an artist, which statement is more true for you.
A picture is worth a thousand words. (Napoleon Bonaparte) (or)
It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it. (Anais Nin)

dirtywhitecandy:

Both! But I can’t do pictures, so I tend to use the 1,000 words.

girl with a quill: If you could choose 1 artist and 1 author to have dinner with? Who would you choose and why?

dirtywhitecandy:

I’d have Tracey Emin, because she’s so self-absorbed. Who would think anyone would want to see her old bed? But she does, which means she’s very different from me, and I’d like to chat to her to see what makes her tick. Incidentally a friend of mine went to a ball with her boyfriend, and it turns out Ms Emin likes some of my ghosted books. So maybe we would have something in common…
As for authors, I’d have Ian Fleming. He has such a sense of the extraordinary and the flamboyant. Plus I think he’d know what wine to order.
I’d have to have him separately from Tracey Emin as I want to see each of them one on one, not watch how they mixed, rivaled or networked. That’s a thing about writers; in their books you have them to yourself, so that’s how I would most enjoy them.

girl with a quill: Who has had the greatest influence on you as a writer?

dirtywhitecandy:
Everyone I read influences me. I have to be terribly careful who I read when I’m writing particular books as piece of their style or their way of seeing the world can easily derail me!

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself as a young writer?

dirtywhitecandy:

You will never feel you write well enough!

girl with a quill: What in the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself 10 years from now?

dirtywhitecandy:

Look back and see how far you’ve come!

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy as a writer to be?

dirtywhitecandy

I want to make books that people love. I’ve had that with some of my ghosted books. I’ve seen forums where people have discussed my books and there are readers who write, in great bold letters, ‘I LOVE these books and these characters’. When I see that, it hardly matters that someone else’s name was on the cover.
_________________________________________________________
For interest’s sake, Roz has kindly posted the recipe for her own delicious and delectable “dirty white candy” here. She has also included small side servings of some writerly advice washed down with a wine whose vintage is rich in brevity and aged with a dry humor.
Now that the she is out of the hot seat…I am going to help myself to some of her delicious dirty white candy and offer compliments to the chef of this speciality.
Thank you for being my 1st Warrior for Warrior Wednesday.
Remember….wield your quill with wit and wisdom for….
The quill is swifter than the rapier,
ink imbrues deeper than blood …
` girl with a quill `…
© All rights reserved Kim Koning.