Writing Wednesday: Revising the Life into Your Story

Welcome to Writing Wednesday!  This is my little corner where I update you on my writing and discussions going on in the writing world of interest, share call stories of fellow writers, and generally geek out over all things writing. I hope you enjoy this installment!

word count

My current word count on my #Blurb2Book entry, Always the Last to Know

If you follow me on social media,  you’re more than aware that I  was one of 75 people selected to  move to stage 2 of the  #Blurb2Book competition hosted by Harlequin’s Love Inspired Editors for all three lines. A record 326 people entered! Needless to say I was ecstatic when they picked my first page and hundred word blurb to move on to the next round.

I’ve been working on the proposal due May 1st, which consists of a cover letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters of my story. This is a new process for me. I’ve only written two synopses, and only one of them was written before the book was finished. I usually edit the previous day’s work before I start the next day, but now I’m having to revise as I go, a completely different prospect. I need to have three complete chapters that balance depicting what’s going on now with hinting about things that won’t happen for chapters without seeming ham fisted and amateurish without having the benefit of having written the story and knowing exactly how it ends on the page.

Revising as I go has me thinking a lot about my revision process. I think I’d make an excellent editor because I think writing revision notes is my super power. My critique partners think my drafts are really good, but that’s because I revise much better than I write. So what do I do in my revision process to make my manuscript sparkle?

  • I print out the section I’m working on. I can do some light editing on the screen, but for proofreading and revising, I need to print the pages. Sorry trees! I do recycle when I no longer need them.
  • I read through the pages and make notes in the margins, usually first thing in the morning. I go with my gut. Sometimes this means I write “fix” or “make this better” because I don’t know how to fix it yet. I may write “add in emotion” or “show he’s upset by his actions.” Sometimes this is me highlighting a phrase I want to change or circle words that I repeat too close together so I know to find a different way to say something.
  • Unless it’s a proofreading correction, I don’t make any of the changes right away to the saved manuscript.
  • I make sure I know why something isn’t working and indicate it in my notes. There may be more than one way to fix it, so I need a way to determine which changes address the underlying issue.
  • I edit in red. It’s a psychological thing. I feel like my manuscript has been attacked and is bleeding; it’s my job to heal it. I have to treat each nick and cut. (See? That wasn’t as morbid as you thought going in, was it?)
  • The biggest secret to my revision process? I revise as a reader, not a writer, in the first pass. I don’t read for structure, check word count, or check items off the story arc checklist consciously when I make revision notes. I’m a reader first. I’ve read more than enough of these books to know what works for me in a book. If this were a book I bought at Wal-Mart and I read this, what would I think? Is there something missing I should know? Is there something here I’d skim or skip altogether? Did the end of that sentence, paragraph, scene or chapter make me turn the page or would I put my bookmark here and put a load of clothes in?
  • Bonus: My best kept secret? I make a “cutting room floor” document for every story I start. I put everything I cut out into that folder. That way if I need to add that backstory in later, I can. I can make a newsletter containing a deleted scene or something if the book is published. No matter what I do or don’t do with these words, I never truly lose any of them. This makes me feel better about deleting them from the manuscript, and the manuscript gets to be better without all the dead weight.

Revising as you go is a hard thing to do. But knowing my characters and the big plot points makes it easy to decide what to put in and what can be left out or added to a later scene. So far this process has worked for me. Let’s all pray it continues to for a long time.

Your Two Cents: How do you tackle revisions?
XOXO,

Erica

The Magic Formula

I went to my monthly meeting of the Central Florida Romance Writers. A lovely author who writes as Blair Bancroft gave a workshop on The Wise Author’s Approach to Writing a Book. I gleaned several nuggets of wisdom from the talk, but one thing that really stood out to me is that I still have a lot of work to do on this journey to becoming a successful author.

When the presenter was taking questions, I asked her to repeat what she had said about plots having a flow to them. Well, what I actually said was more like: “You mentioned earlier the different points that an author should hit, like the black moment and so forth. Can you list them again so I can write them down?”

The presenter reiterated how she is not a fan of hard and fast rules for structuring a novel, that we have to do what works for us. The discussion was picked up and the chapter president mentioned Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. She mentioned we have to be prepared to write really crappy first drafts.

I know this. I’ve know this a long time. I’ve had my well noted copy of Bird by Bird for about ten years. I saw Anne Lamott on BookTV discussing writing and immediately went out to purchase her much lauded book on the subject of writing. I devoured the pages of this book in much the same way I had The Art of Fiction. But there’s just something…unsettling about writing a crappy first draft to me.

I’m still struggling with first draft perfectionist syndrome. I want to get it just right before it gets to the page, and it slows me down considerably. I was able to put the perfectionism aside and write Delivering Justice. I tweaked and reworked and polished it to a streak free shine before sending it out into the world–twice. It was roundly rejected both times. The perfectionist in me wants to say that I tried the fast and crappy first draft way and it didn’t work, so I should go back to the way I like to do things, but that way hasn’t worked well for me, either. Nothing ever gets finished. Sigh.

Lately I’ve been focusing on entering a few contests for some feedback on my work. I hate working in a vacuum and feeling like I am groping in the dark, trying to get a hand on something solid. I want to know if I’m moving in the right direction. I have about eight months left before my 30th birthday and my deadline to secure a publishing contract/self-publish a book. I’m wondering if I have it in me to even get close to that now. It seemed perfectly doable when I set the goal. Now I am not so sure. Perhaps I need to expand to other publishers or getting an agent. I’m in deep thought about this.

What tips do you have for getting over my crappy first draft phobia?

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Hello from social media fast land! I’ve been off of social media for about a week now and have been feeling free and much clearer. I’ve had this post scheduled for weeks now and couldn’t wait to get it out for you guys. I’ve been seeing many others writing on this and wanted to jump in for some time. I hope you enjoy reading about my process. I will tag some people to continue the blog tour when I am back on social media at the end of this week. 

 

1. What am I working on now? I am working on two inspirational romance stories that I am putting into contests to receive feedback on before submitting. The first, Pleasure’s Payne, I have been working on the idea for off and on for nearly ten years. I finally started seriously writing it during So You Think You Can Write last year. After some advice on twitter and other social media from the Love Inspired line editors, I decided to revise the beginning. I love this story. A young woman who recently lost her father is trying to overcome her grief and retain the presidency of her father’s company in the face of opposition from the executive board and the underhanded tactics of her father’s second in command. The hero is a disgraced doctor trying to start fresh in a new town. Through mistaken deliveries and divine intervention, these two wounded souls meet and begin to heal each other.
The second story, #LoveThyEnemy, is the story of a man attempting to move on from a tragic past who runs into a woman he greatly wronged. He sees the meeting as divine intervention, a way for him to atone for some of his past misdeeds; she sees it as the death kneel of her dreams for a new start in a new town free of her past. She wants nothing from him but to be left alone and to finally be rid of her attraction to him, but he’s determined to earn her forgiveness and keep a lid on his attraction to her.
2. How does my writing differ from others of its genre? I would have to say that my writing has greatly benefitted from my life experiences, which no other book in my genre has. For example, I drew on my experiences dealing with my stepfather’s passing to shape the heroine’s grief in Pleasure’s Payne. I drew on a failure of mine that cost me my academic career to frame the hero’s journey in that story. In #LoveThyEnemy, the tragic past the hero and heroine share is centered around an incident that I have personally experienced and draws on that experience and the experiences of close family.
My inspirational stories tend to deal a lot with redemption, forgiveness, and trust. I like to turn stubborn hearts and minds, to give them faith, hope, and love. For my non-inspirational stories, I tend to deal a lot with identity, w ho someone really is, what they are hiding of themselves, and how who they are and what they do affects those they love. None of these concepts are new, but I try to present them in a new light. I love to take a trope and find new twists to add to them. I hope my voice is fresh and adds a new spin on things.
3. Why do I write what I do? A lot of my writing comes from things I’m trying to work through in my own life. I love that finding ways to get my characters to their happily ever after shows me possibilities and ways to move forward in my own life. I write what I like to read. I love love. I like how love can inspire us to grow and change and make painful decisions that need to be made, all for someone else. I love how love is daring and accepts the possibility that the other person may not return their affections. I am endlessly fascinated with people, and how two wounded, frightened, doubting creatures can find something that can transform them. I believe the Bible is the greatest love story ever told, and I like to create stories that show a tiny bit of what love does for us on a smaller scale amongst ourselves, with a little help from God.
4. How does your writing process work? Gah! Do I have to answer this question? I don’t really have a process. I’ve already talked about my non-process for revisions here. An image, line of dialogue or a concept usually gets stuck in my head. I take this very ordinary thing and play the “what if” game with it until I have something I can turn into a full story. I come up with some characters and play around with them in my head until I have a basic plot. I write a basic outline that has the status quo, what changes, a few plot points that I feel have to be included, and possible fixes to plot points that might be an issue. I will also identify possible first lines, climax and a possible resolution, but these change from time to time. Then I begin putting words on the page.
As for my writing routine, I try to get up at 5am each morning (some mornings more successfully than others), spend a few minutes reading the most recent words to get the flow, consult my outline, and get writing. I print out my morning’s words and proofread them at lunch or after work. I may input the corrections to the document that night or the next morning before continuing with new words. I’ve been off my routine recently, writing whenever I can in between revisions as I am preparing pages for contest entries, but I’m hoping to be back on track again soon.
I’ll select someone to continue the blog tour and update this entry tomorrow morning. If you would like to participate and haven’t been asked yet, let me know.
XOXO,
Erica

It’s a Process…

CAUTION: LONG POST AHEAD!! I highlighted for your convenience.

One of my critique partners and I were discussing our latest critiques this morning when she suggested that I should write a post about my editing process. I LOLed and my editing process is a big puzzle and promised to write a blog post about it before dashing off to work.

To explain my process, I have to say some things that may make you think I’m crazy or just plain lying, but I promise I’m being as truthful as possible. Before I tell you my editing process, I have a few confessions to make:

  • I don’t actually have a process. As someone who has been writing a long time, you’d think I had a full formula to lay out, complete with charts and graphs and formulas for success, but I don’t. I’ve written mostly for myself. I’ve only been actively pursuing publication since September, so I’m still figuring out my process editing wise. 
  • I’m what some would  call an English prodigy. I never tire of saying that. I have to remind myself of it constantly when I can’t seem to write well to save my eternal soul. I got a nearly perfect score on the English portion of the ACT, which was mainly saying whether or not a sentence was wrong and fixing it. My brain is hardwired for copy editing and proofreading. I enjoy it. Red pens make me happy. Feel free to hate me.
  • I never revised before my senior year of college Creative Writing class when we  were required to revise an earlier work. I didn’t revise for years afterward. I liked to think I was the Jay-Z or Lil Wayne of writing–a one take wonder. Of course, the quality of the material the two of them have put out over the years is debateable enough for me to rethink my writing role models. 😀 My stories benefit greatly from revision. I was an arrogant little prodigy (see above), so it took me a long time to figure this out.
  • I have never written a complete first draft. I’ll explain this one later.

Now that you know I am no expert (but kind of am), I’ll share my process. I am a person who edits/revises as I go. I know this is anathema to some, but it’s the only way I can function. I HATE rough drafts and never write them. When I finish a first draft, it is more like a third or fourth draft. I usually write in the mornings and revise later in the day. I print out the day’s writing and take it with me to proofread and make revision notes in the margins. At the weekends, I will read the week’s writings for content and continuity across chapters, development, etc. I perform the most pressing revisions here. About every other week, I try to read through everything I have from a reader’s perspective and make a few more notes.

Once I finish the first draft, I go through chapter by chapter, polishing and making sure all the revisions are completed. I sit down with the entire thing and read it as a reader would once more, addressing anything I feel needs changing before my critique partners get a look at it.

There are times when myprocess is different. When I entered So You Think You Can Write with Pleasure’s Payne, I learned that the Harlequin Love Inspired editors do not like prologues. They want to jump into the story and see the hero and heroine on the page together as quickly as possible. They like larger sections in one point of view without head hopping. They were looking for everything my entry wasn’t. 

I wrote until the announcement of the top fifty, then set it aside. When I returned to the manuscript, I scrapped the first 7-10 pages. It was heartwrenching. I hate major revisions, and I loved that prologue, but I had to kill my darlings. I found a spot where the action began and began from there. I set up the heroine’s internal conflict and inciting incident, then got the hero on the page. I sprinkled in expressions of her grief and other important information from scrapped pages. I changed areas of head hopping to one perspective and showed the other character’s feelings through dialogue and body language wherever possible. I hated every bit of it and did it with one eye open and the original tucked away on a flash drive just in case.

And I came out of it with a much stronger story. I proved to myself that I can revise and make my manuscript even better. I don’t have to get it right in one take (that is made up of tens of takes!). I have to step back and let things marinate for a bit before I wade in, but I can do it.

How do you tackle editing and revisions? 

Writing From Experience…

I had an idea on my way to the Central Florida Romance Writers meeting on Saturday, February 2nd for a story in the Always series, and I wanted to try and share a bit of the process of how I come up with ideas. The only problem with this is that I came up with this idea a bit differently than usual. Luckily the past week also yielded a  completely new idea, so I can give you two different ways I come up with them. On my way to the CFRW meeting, I realized that over a year has passed since my car accident. That accident was one of the most terrifying incidents of my life and effects the way I drive to this day. Traffic was semi-heavy and there was some rain on the road, not at all the conditions when I had my accident. As I began to reflect on my accident and the surrounding events and remember other bad accidents involving family members and drunk drivers that didn’t end as well (yes, the other driver was drunk at the time), I began shifting my experience around and around in my brain, playing a game of “What if?” with  the accidents. What if I hadn’t survived that accident? What if it was a family member of mine that received those frustrating notices of continuance, dragging out the trial of the drunk driver that had killed their loved one? Drunk driving convictions are far too lenient, even in cases of vehicular manslaughter; what if the person responsible for the accident was released and my family member saw them somewhere? What if they asked for forgiveness? As Christians, my family would have to forgive them; but how?

I had the framework for the concept of the story before this trip: a young woman who holds a man responsible for her sister’s death and runs into him. He sees it as divine intervention, as an opportunity to make amends and to ask her forgiveness. But as I was on my way to the meeting, it finally entered my head to use my personal experience, split among a few characters, to convey it this way. I know that car accidents have been used in movies and books frequently, but by using details of my own accident, I can make it both more realistic and more unique.

The brand new idea started out when I was reading about one of my favorite romantic tropes: the marriage of convenience. I love this trope, but it’s been done to death by far better writers than me. I thought about writing one of my own, but I knew if I did, I would have to come up with a fresh take on the idea somehow. So as I sat doing sums at work, I let my mind wonder across all the reasons that a person could be looking to get into a marriage of convenience that I’d ever read about, and my main male character began listing them to my heroine as reasons he thought she was proposing a marriage of convenience to him. My heroine refuted every reason he came up with, exclaiming that he read too many romance novels. “Actually, I watch too many soap operas and Lifetime movies with my mother,” he retorted, nonplussed, and continued to name reasons until she spilled why she wanted a marriage of convenience, illiciting an argument from him that she wasn’t going to be happy with the results if she went forward with her plans. I wrote out the scene and put it away to mull over where I could go with the story. Once I knew what my heroine was after, a slightly different take on the trope began to come together for me. Even though I have never extended anyone a marriage of convenience, my heroine’s motivation for offering one to the hero, and the  reason he tries to refute her notions, are both my own sentiments, sentiments I have been wrestling with for some time.

Those are two examples of how I come up with stories. How do you come up with your ideas?

In other writing related news: I joined RWA and the local affiliate chapter, Central Florida Romance Writers, this weekend! I’ve sent in two reviews over at Harlequin Junkie, and I’ll post links when the are up. I’ve also extended one of the three scenes that I identified as needing extensions for Delivering Justice. I am still plugging away and trying to make the manuscript sing. I should know this week if I was selected as an entry into the Blind Speed Dating agents round, and if not, I’ll be submitting DJ around on my birthday. There’s a lot to do either way.

Off to a busy day at the office, but I’m looking forward to sharing more reviews here, as well as more about my writing and writing related news.

XOXO,

Erica

Natural Talent: A Blessing and A Curse

*Note: As you are reading this, I’m frantically getting ready for the Love Inspired Luncheon taking place in Tampa, Florida today. I’ll be meeting with several Love Inspired authors (and hopefully an editor or two), taking pictures and collecting swag. I leave this post to tide you all over while I’m gone. Stay tuned for more book reviews, interviews, and more insight into my writing journey!

It was clear at a very early age that I was something of a prodigy. Unlike most prodigies who can solve pie up to eight digits in their heads or play Chopin at three, I was an English language and literature prodigy. I could read and comprehend things far beyond my years. I read at a college level before I was firmly in Middle School. I excelled in grammar classes despite my southern family and their horrendous dialect. Most importantly, I could write anything I wanted to: poetry, creative non-fiction, literary fiction, genre fiction. I was one smart cookie.

Here’s the thing about being a literary prodigy that no one ever tells you: natural talent isn’t enough. In fact, sometimes natural talent can hinder more than it can help. As Adrian Monk loves to say, it’s a blessing and a curse. For me, the curse of natural talent has always been the arrogance of the first take tantrum.

If I were a musical prodigy, I’d probably be one of those artists who liked to step into the studio, lay the track down one time, and move on. I’d be a real one-take wonder. That’s not to say that every take would be perfect, or that I’d be happy with it. It would just be. At least, that’s what I think I’d do since it was what I did as a writer. I never revised. I proofread but I never revised. This is a horrible habit to get into for any writer, no matter how much talent you have, but I was resting on the laurels of natural talent. Most of my first drafts are better than other people’s second drafts and blah blah. Arrogance at its finest.

The only problem with my logic was that second drafts are rarely, if ever, publication worthy. If I want to do my best writing, if I want to take my writing to the next level, I need to revise. Revision is where you put some meat on the bones of an idea. It’s where you make sure the characters are fully formed, the plot is strong enough, the descriptions flow well. It’s where you round the edges and add the icing to a literary cake. It’s where you polish it to a streak free shine. It’s where I run out of horrible metaphors and clichés and run into solid prose.

I’ve been struggling with revisions on Delivering Justice because of the natural talent curse. I was convinced that DJ was ready to publish almost immediately after I finished NaNoWriMo. I’d edited, added in detail, and proofread as I went, so I just knew it would be perfect. I read through the entire thing and thought it was the greatest romantic suspense since they invented the genre. But deep down, there was a niggling feeling that I could do more with this or that. I ignored it and set a hard deadline, but then the revisions stalled a bit.

Thank God for critique partners and time away. When my critique partners pointed out the same areas I had misgivings about, I knew I was on the right track. Reading more about the genre and soaking in advice has really helped me to develop a plan to get the revisions done. I will be able to take this book to the next level–the publication level.

I’m learning with each year of writing that natural talent isn’t enough. Revision is important. Knowing how to connect with readers is important. Continuing to learn about the craft is important. Feedback is important. There’s always room for improvement.

That’s my two cents, anyway. What hard writing lessons have you had to learn?

XOXO

Erica

If I Could Offer One Critique…

GAH!!

Whenever something is that weird mixture of exciting yet scary, you’ll hear me (or, rather, read me) going GAH! So what’s going on that’s exciting/scary at the moment? I am putting a couple chapters of my baby, Delivering Justice, out there for feedback. GAH!

I’ve polished the first chapter to a spit free shine, and now I’m working on the second chapter. I sent the first chapter to a woman who is in a writing group that I’m a part of on Facebook. She also participated in So You Think You Can Write, and her entry received an R&R (revise and resubmit letter), which means Harlequin is interested in her work. We are swapping first chapters. I just pressed send on my chapter.

Within the larger writing group of So You Think You Can Write participants, we were broken into smaller critique groups. The leader of my critique group of three just sent out an email that we will be swapping about two chapters a week starting today. GAH!

This is usually the part where I crack up, if I haven’t already. Writing is hard enough. Revision drives me up a wall. Having someone read my work always knots my stomach. But having someone critique my writing? GAH!!

I know that this is an important step in my journey for two reasons:

1) sharing my work with someone always makes it better. When I took my words to my coworker each day, it made me aware of the quality of what I was writing. This wasn’t just a book for me to write and put in a drawer; it was a guarantee that someone would read it, so it needed to be good. Aside from this, every time I have had a writing workshop class with critique, the revision of the assignment has been so much better than the original. No matter how well I write, I can’t see my every weakness and fill in all the holes.

2) It forces me to slow down and do this write. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know my first inclination is to hit send as soon as possible. I just want to get it out of my hands and have my part over with. But you only get one chance to make a first impression. I want the editor’s first impression of my work to be amazing. Amazing takes some time. It means not pantsing and leaving time for revisions. It means actually doing revisions. It means seeking other’s opinions on how to make the writing stronger and getting comfortable with feedback. GAH!

So I am having a very difficult time deciding if I’m more excited or scared by having pressed send once and having to do so again before this day is over. Is the story  the best I can make it? Should I have waited? Are these the right people to critique my writing? Is this a step closer to publication? I can’t allow myself to obsess over all of the anxiety involved in this. I must celebrate the victory I’ve just achieved–I sent a chapter of my story out for someone’s opinion on it! Not on the spur of the moment and without revision like with SYTYCW, but something I had the opportunity to polish. That’s something I can be proud of, no matter what happens next.

Do you have a critique partner/group? How do you handle feedback on your writing?

#NaNoWriMo, Outlines, & How I Learned to Stop Fighting Plotting

We are almost halfway through National Novel Writing Month, and I am more than halfway through to the 50k word count goal. It’s amazing the difference a few weeks can make! This is my third attempt at NaNoWriMo, and the first time I’ve had 30k words done on a fiction project (I have just over 40k in the books on my Marriage Kit book). I  couldn’t be more excited with all of the progress that I’ve made on this story, and I feel that it’s a really strong one. I wanted to share some of what I’m finding so different about writing this time around, and why I feel this story may be “the One”–my first submitted full length romance!

First of all, I started thinking about NaNoWriMo early this year. I wrote down the incident that spawned the idea for the story on October 18th. From October 18th until October 31st, I teased the idea, creating a basic plot outline for the first time ever. I started with the main characters names, occupations, how they met, what changes, the external problems, the internal problems, and what changes again. I then moved into the climax and the happily ever after. I made a separate list based on this loose plotting that included all of the things that had to happen to keep the plot moving in the right direction, which has allowed for me to keep an element of surprise in the writing that keeps me returning to the page. I even checked the plot over for possible plot holes and had a list of explanations that dug me out of them. I made a list of who didn’t know what and when/if they would figure it out. I developed all of the supporting characters and tossed around a few first line ideas. Most importantly, I read several articles on where to start the story, how to set the scene, what Harlequin is and is not looking for, and advice from editors. I printed off a copy of the guidelines for the line I’m targeting, and read interviews with the editors of that line to get a better feel of what works with the line. In other words, I did my research.

Another thing that’s different about this year is that I have a reader. A coworker read my So You Think You Can Write entry and really enjoyed it. We got busted for talking too much just before the first, so instead of telling her about what I was working on, I decided to drop off what I had written to her on the first to see what she thought. She is a Norah Roberts superfan, so I knew she loved the genre and would be a good first reader, but more than that, dropping off the pages each day means I have to write the words and meet my word count each day. It’s the best accountability that I could have, and seeing her face light up each day I drop off the next batch of befuddling first draft pages makes me feel like a real writer with a devoted following.

I have never been able to quiet my inner editor, so I developed a compromise for NaNoWriMo that’s been working really well for me: I can fix typos, exchange words, and add words for clarity, but I can’t take words out until after NaNoWriMo is over. I look over a printed copy of what I’ve written each day  and correct anything that needs correcting. I fix any errors in my NaNo document before continuing on the next day. This way, my inner editor is satisfied I’ll have a clean copy when I’m done without me having to compromise the word count.

Another thing that has really helped me is getting up each morning at 5 am to write. I come to the same place to write as well. This consistency has helped me to keep the words flowing. I love the progress that I’ve made on this project, and I’m hopeful it will be my first completed not quite first draft of a fiction project.

So, about the story. It’s a romantic suspense story about what happens when an interior designer (Mallory Taylor) is given the wrong delivery by the hot delivery driver for Vito’s Ristorante (Jake Ballenger). Instead of getting her usual order of baked ziti with a side of meatballs, she’s delivered something a lot less edible and a whole lot more alarming. Jake had just made his last delivery on his last day at Vito’s, but he’s willing to return to the gorgeous interior designer’s office to get one last look at her curves before moving on. Instead of an eyeful, he ends up with a bullet in his shoulder. The two manage to escape with their lives, and set out to figure out what they’ve become caught up in. But when the bullets stop flying, will the love that’s developing between them be left standing?

I love Jake and Mallory. Mallory has no brain mouth filter, and Jake’s tough exterior hides a warm guy who’d lay down his life for the woman he loved. I have managed to incorporate both Mallory and Jake’s POVs into the story, as well as populating the with fun supporting characters and a few plot twists to keep things interesting. I’m hoping that I’ll be read to sub this story, tentatively titled Delivering Justice, by the beginning of next year, if not before. I will take a break from it for at least a week in December to plot the next couple of ideas I have for possible sequels. In other words, I’m really excited about this story, and I can’t wait to share a snippet with you guys…

Tomorrow. 😀

XOXO

Erica

Write, Revise, Repeat

I have to be honest: I was crushed when my entry wasn’t chosen to be in the top fifty. I thought my entry was amazing, and it was–just not for the place I submitted it. All of that advice that led me to believe I’d started the book in the wrong place, that the opening line wasn’t strong enough, that there was too much backstory, and that the hero and heroine didn’t meet soon enough was great advice for the publisher I was targeting. When they announced some people had to pull out or were disqualified and they were choosing a few more, I saw a chance at redemption. Perhaps someone had liked my story enough to take a chance on it. In the end, this wasn’t to be, either. So I had a decision to make: revise to fit the publisher and try again or work towards getting a different publisher.

At some point after a rejection with no more explanation than a form “not what we’re looking for at this time,” the author has to decide if the manuscript itself needs fixing or if they are targeting the wrong agents/editors/publishers for the manuscript. Looking over what I wrote in the frenetic time of the competition, I realized that my book wasn’t targeted to the wrong line; it was just bad.

Pleasure’s Payne is a great story. It focuses on a young woman who has recently lost her father and may lose the company he worked so hard to build to a board that doesn’t believe she can be a leader. Her father’s best friend and former fiancée are plotting against her. She is just trying to preserve what she has–until she meets the hero. The hero doesn’t want to get involved with another damaged woman after what happened last year. He knows that the heroine wouldn’t be interested in him if she knew about last year, and his association with her can add fuel to the incompetency fire regarding her ability to lead the company, but someone has to help her. The things they face together while trying to restore their faith and find meaning in their shattered lives brings them together in such a sweet way. The story excites me so much. Too bad it needs a LOT of work.

It turns out those editors are right. There IS too much backstory at the beginning. It DOES start in the wrong place. There are also some plot inconsistencies, shifting POV confusions, and sequence problems that need to be worked out in the revision process, not to mention some extensive editing to fix the tense in some areas and make better word choices in others. Being defiant and self-publishing my masterpiece in its current state wouldn’t do me any favors.

Learning how to incorporate constructive criticism, give yourself time to revise and edit to a polished work, and writing queries, pitches, and synopses that will hook the right person is not an exact science, and neither is knowing when to self-publish. I’d like to think I’m learning how to make my writing the best it can be, and send it in where it should be sent. This time I only got it half right, but someday soon, I’ll light upon the right combination that leads to getting my books in reader’s hands.

How do you decide to revise, self-publish, or discard? Any tips for writers new to submitting?

XOXO

Erica

Writer’s Remorse

I’m not a very experienced submitter. I have only submitted writing to a handful of competitions–poetry and oratorical contests in middle school (where I won every gold medal/blue ribbon known to man), Prize Papers in high school (where a story about one of the biggest rejections of my life was won, ironically), the literary awards competition in college (where I ate the dust of an MFA candidate), and two literary magazines competitions (neither of which I won. One was for Crazy Horse and the other was for Boulevard). With so little experience with submitting work, and never giving myself too much time to think about what I am submitting when I submit, I often have a writer’s form of buyer’s remorse about my submissions.

I don’t know if this happens to other writers, but once I submit something to a teacher, a workshop group, an honest friend, or a competition, I am plagued with writer’s remorse. The moment the piece leaves my hands, I am overcome with doubts about the choices I made and the quality of the material. This time is no different. Even before I pressed the submit button, I wanted to change the opening of Pleasure’s Payne. I knew where I wanted the manuscript to start, and that I should blend the things before the beginning into the story, but I wasn’t confident enough in that option to pursue with only 4 hours left until the deadline…while at work, where I’m supposed to be working on what I’m paid to do. In the end, I ended up closing my eyes and pressing submit.

I know that the opening is still strong as is, but I can’t help but feel like it could have been better. It certainly didn’t help that the very thing I was going to do was tweeted as a warning by one of the editors reading the submissions. She was saying that if you don’t get selected for the top 50, perhaps it’s because your manuscript started in the wrong place. My first reaction was “Oh, my God! She’s reading my submission! She’s talking about me! I’m dead in the water already. How could I let this happen? But they’re judging on the content and voice and the quality of writing as well, right? I know the writing is good. Can’t they forgive a little misstep like giving a teeny bit too much background at the beginning?!” Yes, friends, I freaked out at an ambiguous twitter posting.

I’m so tempted to change the beginning now and continue on with it all “chopped and screwed,” but if I do manage to make it to the next round by some miracle, is that even allowed? I don’t know. Besides, I’m supposed to be finishing the book, but now I’m paralyzed with fear. I wrote another 3,000+ words after I entered it Thursday, but I wrote zero words yesterday. I know where the book is going, what needs to happen, what characters will be introduced, how they will get over their issues and find love with each other, but my pudgy little fingers are a little dejected right now. So help me snap out of it.

Have you ever had writer’s remorse? What happened? What advice can you give to a novice submitter?

XOXO

Erica