Friday, February 10, 2012

Let me tell you a little story...

Still no news (I've got about 5 query letters out at the moment). Some of the agencies have a longer turn around time than the first few rejections that I received. I'm okay with waiting for these to come in. I need a break from the entire process. Is it sad that it's only two weeks in? :c/ Last week really sucked. I felt in a funk for days. I'm doing MUCH better now. And after receiving more feedback (thanks again Jammi!!!) I've decided that I need to do another edit of THE SPIRIT KEEPER before it's ready for more submissions. I had a feeling that it needed one more edit, but in my mind that was just to tighten up some of the writing (clean up the sentences). I've learned that I have a bigger issue on my hands: Making my main character more likeable (something that you HAVE to do when you get feedback from multiple sources that she's just not doing it for them).

The biggest issue is that I don't seem to show enough emotion/inner thoughts, etc. She comes off disconnected from things that are happening to her. Now, I see her totally differently then my readers did. After the first set of comments I was like "okay, I can fix that." Six edits later, the second set of comments come in and are virtually identical, and I was like "WTF am I doing wrong?" I think in a lot of ways I'm still too close to Evelyn (main character) to really see her closely. This is definitely why you need readers that you trust to give it to you straight. I thought I was seeing things so objectively! :) But no, I'm still too close to her.

But I think I have a game plan of how to attack the situation. And it involves the first rule of writing: show don't tell.

Here's an awesome link from Ilona Andrews's blog (thanks again Jammi). It has a lot of great examples in it, some of which I feel like I already do, and then new ways to think about this sometimes frustrating writing rule. For example, I never really considered that there might be a downside to too much showing. Something the blog post said that really suck with me is the following:
Use both showing and telling, each in moderation. Don’t try to make your book into a movie. It’s not; it’s a book, a written narrative.
(Check out the blog to see what she means about not turning your book into a movie, it's pretty interesting). I feel like I both show and tell, but for some reason Evelyn's personality isn't coming through. The reasons for this could be endless. I think it's because I know her so well that I don't give some of the details (that are in my head) to the readers.

This isn't the first time I've gotten this kind of feedback. In my MFA workshops "show don't tell" was fancied up to "trust the reader." One classmate in particular was always like "I want you to trust me to get it." A few others were like "there's too much telling in this." Now, to be fair to myself, it was my very first workshop story, written about seven hours before class. [I was the person to volunteer to bring in the first story for our workshop. I didn't give myself enough time, and unfortunately I think the first impression of my skills was pretty poor and lingered over my head. The second story I turned in my prof was like "wow, do you realize how much you've improved in such a short time?" I just kinda smiled and nodded, but I had more time to work it and knew my abilities were far more than that first story. Plus I worked hard on the second story because I was determined not to have such a negative workshop again. And I don't feel like I did.] Anyway, the point is that I've gotten feedback about showing and not telling before. Many times.

I wonder what it'll take to stick so that my first draft could be my last. Maybe that's just a pipe dream.

From my years in school I learned that my first drafts tend to be full of telling details. I think this is because I go with what Stephen King says to do: write the first draft with your heart. A lot of other people say this too, but his book On Writing was the first one to really connect with me. It's an excellent writing how-to book. The first half is his autobiography (which is inspirational on it's own) and the second half is a "writing toolbox."

Here's another great example that I discovered today:
Creating and editing are two different driving forces behind writing.  Creating is like running forward through a wide field: you don’t look back, you just go in whatever direction makes you happy.  You see only the field and the possibilities.  Editing is like looking at that field from a Goodyear blimp and pondering where in the the world that fool down below is going. ~ Illona Andrews
I love, love, LOVE this quote. When I'm writing a first draft, I am a total fool. And it's FUN to be foolish. It's crazy fun!

When I'm working on a first draft--especially if I'm excited about it--I just write and write. Some wild idea might come into my head and I just go with it. For example, in the very first draft of THE SPIRIT KEEPER (then called SURRENDER) I had a chicken (named Tessa) who was basically a character with personality and everything (she's has since been edited down). Here's how the creative process for Tessa the chicken went: Writing, writing, writing, and now we're on a farm, writing, writing, writing, and there's a big barn and a fancy chicken coop, writing, writing, writing, and there is a big chicken, a leader of all the other chickens, writing, writing, writing, Tessa is her name, writing, writing, writing, Evelyn puts Tessa in her bike basket and they ride around the farm, writing, writing writing [BOOM sudden realization]: Tessa is the special pet of one of the angels! YES! AMAZING CHICKEN! SHE'S AWESOME! She has super powers!!!! (Not really, but it felt that way).

*sigh* so much fun. That is the joy of the first draft.

I've been writing ARABELLE WILD this last week and it's been going very well. I'm glad that I started to write on it again (especially during my submission-rejection-funk) because it reminded me that even though the submission process is really hard and stressful, writing is fun. So in this first draft, I'm writing fast and furious. I don't think about sentences or showing vs. telling. I just go, go, go, and it's fun. And easy. It's the editing that's the hard part; it makes writing difficult, heart breaking, and rewarding.

But let me tell you... Tessa was one super bird. After my sister (who will always be my very first reader) read the novel we chatted about it and the conversation turned to places/things that could be cut and I was like "Tessa or Buddy?" (buddy is a friendly little demon). She said she liked Buddy more so he stayed in and Tessa became a sliver of the awesomeness that she was. In the end, it was a good edit.

But anyway... show versus tell might be the biggest battle of my writing life.


  1. I think the biggest problem is that it's so easy slip into either showing too much or telling too much and not even being aware of it. Especially since sometimes you do need to show more than tell or tell more than show and then in your head you're doing both but clearly you're not.

    And I think if you like her enough she can have a few more little cameos throughout the series, lol, even if she never becomes as big a character as she was originally.

    She has a lot of other really good writing articles, and she's really good about answering questions if you ask.

    Funny enough, when I read her first book I was so disappointed, lol, even she admits it's horrible, but I waited for the second in the series because the potential in the world building and the characters were amazing and she managed to hit it out of the park. Now she's a fave, lol.

  2. And I've read On Writing, and all I remember is the autobiography bit. I keep hearing how amazing it is as a writing book, but my brain clearly didn't retain anything from the actual writer section, lol.

  3. Nah, I'm over Tessa's greatness. :) I'm gonna have to look into the other writing articles that she has (or should I say "they" since it's a duo writing). So is the first book "Magic Bites"? I know that's the first in one of the series that she has, but I wasn't sure if it was the very first one she wrote?

    I read King's novel pretty recently, so it's fresh in my mind. I think it's a great book, but then there are a lot of good writing books out there now.

  4. Yup, Magic Bites is the first one she's written that got published. The second one is so much better it's honestly ridiculous, but worth it.

    The Magic series is more urban fantasy than paranormal romance, if you want to try her romance work the Edge series are decent as well although not as good as the Magic series imo.

    And I think it's mainly Ilona who writes the articles although Gordan does contribute with the actual writing of the stories.

    I read it quite a few years ago, so maybe I should give it a reread since that is one book a lot of different authors mention as being really great.

  5. I don't mind urban fantasy. I don't read much of it, but then I tend to be a pretty eclectic reader. I wonder what it would be like to work as a writing team. I absolutely HATE people reading over my shoulder when I'm working, so that would be a problem. lol. I already put a free sample of Magic Bites on my nook. I need something else to read at the gym. Lord of the Rings is good every now and then (it's surprisingly not as boring as I feared it might be).

    And... complete change in topic. I can't believe Whitney Houston is dead (just saw the news and I'm still shocked by it). Or more so that she was only 48.

  6. I'm not sure I could do it. If we were writing two separate characters within the same story, I could, s/he'd write one POV and I would write the other based around the same world/conflict and a base plot. That's how I started to get back into writing when I was in highschool, but none of those stories got finished since there was always that point where you don't see eye to eye on where the story is going or how a secondary character would react, lol.

    And neither can I, my sister messaged me and I thought it was a hoax like when Sean Kingston got into the waterski accident and everyone was saying he had died but then it was on the news. It's crazy, but like they say, deaths come in threes; Ella Fitzegerald, Don Cornelius [host of soul train] and now Whitney.

  7. So true (about deaths coming in threes in the celeb world). It's just crazy and unexpected and sad.

  8. Etta James** not Ella Fitzgerald, and I know you're not querying anymore but I was browsing and saw this and thought it might be helpful for when you start back:

  9. Ooo thanks for the website! The first thing that jumped out at me was the part about including the word count. I'm so hesitant to do that because I know mine is on the higher end. Well, maybe with this next edit I can get it down a bit more!

    I knew you met Etta James. I didn't even catch the Fitzgerald!