Critiquing Group is Dreaming about my Book

I’m not really sure this is a good thing.  I received a facebook message that said that one of my critique partners awoke in the morning after having dreamt about a volcano in the mountains behind her house.  Suddenly a lava river came pouring toward her house and a deep and earth shattering earthquake. A thick deep blue fog permeated everywhere.

I personally thought it was hilarious.  But it also might mean that my book is too long and that she is definitely spending too much time reading.   🙂

I’ve really have come to love and appreciate the importance of a critique group. Everyone loves something different in books and are equally annoyed at different things.  Their perspective gives me the choice whether to keep something or not. I may not change something just because someone is annoyed, but I will try to see if from their view.

I did recently receive a critique from two individuals who agreed to look at a synopsis and the first 4,000 words of my manuscript.  They, of course, were part of the Pikes Peak Writing Competition. I submitted my materials last year and really got hammered. I loved every minute of it.  Since I submitted, I’ve kicked over 80,000 words from my manuscript.  I also have changed the tenses from present to past.  I did two additional edits and am finishing the third as I write. [Well sort of]  Much of what they said, even the harsh parts, I agreed with.

I really thought it would be hard to hear from someone who didn’t like my writing. And I know it will, when it’s my final product that I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of hours on. But, when I’m still in the process, I completely understand. There is always something I could do better.

Some would argue that I didn’t take the contest seriously. But, I would say, that I did enter the contest cause I needed someone’s opinion who knew what they were doing. I got exactly that. They were harsh yet helpful. They pointed me in directions that I now need to improve. I admit that I’m not the best writer, but I do try to work hard. I may not succeed the first time, but I will improve.

The one part that both of my critiquers [if that’s a word] did like was my story or at least the idea of my story. I hope that I’ve improved on that as well.  Cutting out 80,000 words has been stressful but I did need to tighten the ship and remove some of the excess baggage.  As I prepare for the writing conference next week, I’m excited to learn more and even meet a few agents and editors. I will come back with more information and a preparation to start the agent searching process. What great timing.  Maybe I will come back with something more…..

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Jumping Between Two Stories

I am interested in learning more about changing scenes and even characters during a story. I have finished my first and second rough drafts and am now trying to put together the pieces. It seems like it is sort of like artwork. I need delicate brush strokes and character development.  I just hope that I am doing it right.

Let me lay it out for you.  My main manuscript concentrates on my main protagonist and his challenges, secrets and adventure.  He will survive two deadly natural disasters, learn of his true family heritage, and discover the existence of a crate that could destroy the world. I have written and edited this aspect of my story.

The interesting thing, is that I have a secondary story that ties into the first story.  It is decades apart and is intended to have a different overall feeling. These characters are soldiers and they are searching for a treasure.  A treasure whose importance will be found in the main aspect of the book.  Arguably, it will never be known to my protagonist.  The goal of this story is to link several key pieces in my main story by reliving a story that happened years ago.

I have thought about how best to introduce this secondary story.  This story is currently about 9,000 words.  I’ve divided it into 10 chapters and am currently planning to use the first chapter as the prologue.  As my main story progresses, I intend to add a chapter every 3-4 chapters until I the end.

I’ve asked myself the importance of this second story and I am fairly confident that it is there as an enhancement and a good change in the pace of the story.

Have you tried to incorporate two stories, or more, into one book?

What worked for you and what didn’t?

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Is there a need to be critiqued?

 

This seems to be a big question that I have.  Now that I am moving on with editing, and almost finished. [Hopefully].  I’ve sent out my manuscript to some friends and writing gurus. I am starting to get some feedback.  Of course, everyone loves it so much.  [Wishful thinking]. But more truthfully, some enjoy it, while others are struggling to get through a few parts. I expected this and want brutal honesty.

But, I’ve noticed that some of the advise contradicts  other advice already received.  More than likely, both have great points but about different parts of the book.  I’m trying to remain logical rather than emotional.  Sometimes, I find myself wanting to shout that it is a good book. Maybe it is and then maybe it’s not.  Its seems it is pride vs. fear.  Who will actually win.  That’s another relevant question.

Pride

I am the one who is prideful.  I don’t believe I am the best writer in the world. [I know….astonishing]. But I do truly believe my story could work well in published print.  The reality though may be different.  If I let pride in the way, I don’t see a point in letting others, beside the publishing industry, to see my manuscript until it is published. This is truly horrible thinking and I should be taken out and shot.

Pride would have prevented this.  But there are so many potential helping viewpoints and writing improvements when getting someone else, who isn’t emotionally attached. Though, I’ve found out, choose wisely.

Fear

Fear could prevent me from sending this out to anyone friend or foe. Foes are often much harsher but I don’t have to see foes daily whereas a friend could be laughing behind my back as I write this.  Let’s hope not.  Fear is paralyzing and complex. Just when I think I have mastered it, it finds a new crevice or hole to poke its head. I hate fear, but can’t escape it either.

I strive to send out my manuscript despite fear and pride. They both want me to look at my manuscript through tinted glasses.  I need a real look at the manuscript to make real improvements.  That is where my need to be critiqued should be centered.  I need to build rough skin and yet attempt to remain objective.

Do I need to be critiqued? The answer is always yes….but again, by the right people. Friends are helpful but not always the best choice.  Unless they are an already published, amazing writer, who-really-knows-what-they-are-doing.  Anyone of those want to be my friend???   Oh well.  On to the next phase, preparing to write a query letter.  Uh-oh…here comes pride and fear again!

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Finding a Writing Platform

A platform, a platform, and some social networking has, as of recently, been pounded into me from conferences, writers,  and different online blogs. This is an interesting topic and one that  steamrolls me.

If you are a celebrated and well-known author, this really doesn’t apply to you. Not because you don’t have a following but, you’ve already succeeded in getting one.  Your books, writings, speaking assignments and your cover face have already landed you your platform. You are the all-knowing Yoda and I want to learn from you.  You have all the answers and the “secrets” of success.

A new writer, like myself, may struggle at getting a platform.  Outside of close friends, family it can be difficult to get a platform.  But of course, not impossible.

Most of my fellow writers, I perceive,  want contact foremost with someone who can benefit themselves as a writer. This is how I am.  Me, Me, Me and some more of Me.  I love hearing about stories about struggling writers succeeding.  I mean, who doesn’t!  But first, I want to learn how I can succeed. To do that….I need to learn from the masters themselves.  Not a struggling writer who hasn’t made it yet.

Most newbie writers want to learn something from agents, editors, and already published authors who know what they are doing.  Success breeds success.  If I could just touch the hem of someone who had a published book, than I could also be published. I actually had someone at a conference confess to me, “I like your stuff, but come back when you get published.”  I responded pathetically, “Oh don’t worry, I will.”

Then there are those of us who haven’t yet been published.  We are swirling around in a cesspool hoping someone will extend a rope down to lift us to higher ground.  We enjoy talking with each other about our small success and our heart breaks.  It is a roller coaster ride that sometimes leads to nowhere. But we trudge on hoping to find that rope to success.

My family and friends are a great support.  As are my fellow writers.  I’ve learned so much.  To find a platform, you must push it forward.  You must splash your face on places like twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and respond to as many blogs as possible.  If you follow someone else they are much more likely to follow you.  I am innately shy, which sucks in a business that can be as much about you as what you write. In the end, someone will agree to publish your book if it is good enough.  Then hopefully, your platform will follow.  If not…..

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What Pushes You to Write?

Updated recently as I consider what is driving me to write – still the same reasons:

In the last few months, I’ve been asked this question several times.  Initially it was someone who really wanted to know how I get motivated. It seemed that they were searching for their own brand of motivation. It isn’t because I want a knew job – I love being a Physician Assistant. But truthfully, writing every day is just something that you need to do to reach a goal. There are many times when I don’t want to write, but I do, and in the end, I’m even more excited for the next day of writing.

But even more recently, I was asked what was pushing me by someone who believes that I will never get published. They are a realist! They felt an obligation to remind me that the chances of getting published is so small.  They recommended that I should stop while I was ahead.  But ahead of what? – I am still not sure.

Of course initially I was pissed, but after getting over that initial shock, it had to be said that, in a large way, they are correct. They had never read anything I had written and they weren’t judging me but they were looking at the percentages.  In the end, I write for me.  It is fun and a way to express myself. If my only goal is to be published or make money than I could be in trouble. The good thing, being published is only one of my goals.

But, that person who asked this question, will never write anything.  They are so caught up in the end game that they will never venture past their own ambitions, if they have any.  Although it is a valid question and one that I ask myself daily, their take on things is depressing rather than realistic.

So I decided to come up with several reasons why I write:

1.) Because I can – God gave me this ability, so I feel a need to do so.

2.) I want to change the world – some authors have been so blessed to write something that actually changes the world, even stopping it at times.  Who wouldn’t want this?

3.) I want something my kids can be proud of.

4.) It is in my mind, I just need to get it out.

5.) I love to learn, I love to improve.

6.) I have a dream of getting published.

7.) I want to make money.

8.) I want to see my book on the shelves of a bookstore.

9.) It’s fun.

10.) I love writing.

Feel free to add your own reasons to write.  It is an amazing thing to do. What motivates you?

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My Use of Adverbs

I am editing and am surprised on how many different Adverbs I have used.  I haven’t yet decided if that is a good or bad things. I am not going to define an adverb.  It is easy enough to find.  But  their importance are often overlooked.

As I work through the editing process of my first completed manuscript, I notice that most of my adverbs are just extra words that aren’t really helping the story along.  Though, there are those times, where an adverb seems very important.

But, I have overheard others that declare that all adverbs must be cut, cleaned, and scraped in the junk pile.  I tend to agree with most, but definitely not with all.  There seems to be a fight brewing about the role and importance in writing overall.  I have heard adverbs described as Lame descriptors or a dirty word.

I fear though, is what a real editor’s feels about adverbs and since I am not, my  opinion carries very little, except to myself.  Would someone deny my manuscript on my usage or overuse of adverbs.  In the end I see a debate about if adverbs are good or bad.  The real question, in my own eye, is when to use one.  On one hand, it seems completely impossible to take away all adverbs.  On the other hand, they are affecting my word count and maybe not always in the good way.

I am in no way and expert about many things and specifically I can not claim to be one about adverbs.  In the end, I will keep some in my manuscript.  But, as I found out, I had one in almost every line.  This needs to be corrected.  I hope my choice in keeping some adverbs turns out to be the correct choice.

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A Complete Cut of 17,000 Words.

A few months ago I began my journey of editing, I thought I knew what I was doing.  I was dead wrong.  When I finally linked all the chapters of my book, I found out that I was about 50,000 words or more, too long.  I began editing and have changed about 70% of my manuscript in the first eight chapters.  In addition I have cut, slashed, and dumped over 17,000 words.  I have about 400 pages written, but, my 17,000 words were cut in the first 70 pages.  This probably is largely due to the fact that this is my first real book writing exercise.  Therefore, I have rewritten chapters that needed a better clarification and completely axed other chapters.  When you know that you have a lot to cut, it helps to take out the least important details.

I have had a few suggestions to cut almost nothing but turn the book into two books.  This could work in other circumstances, but I have difficult seeing how this would work.  My climax doesn’t occur to later in the book.  I would have to add a few more chapters.  That seems to be a stretch.  I love the plot of my book and it would be hard to cut the more important parts.

Cutting words hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be.  There are portions of the story that are much more tied to my heart while others just help move the story along.  They are essential in character development and setting the plot in motion.  Some scenes were just a blast to write and I am even more excited about editing those scenes.

 

Update – Am continuing to edit, what a blast…well not really.  I am currently up to over 60,000 words edited.  What an interesting way to make a story work.  Not sure when I will finish. Am over half way done with editing.  It is an experience all its own.

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A New Prologue

In a previous post I went through and wrote about the arguement of having a prologue.  I think there are some writers who would prefer to stay away from a prologue and for good reason.  My writing contains two different stories that I will weave together.  At some point down the road, they will meet.  This second story is where I start the prologue.  I feel it fits well and will work.  I am going to keep a prologue. You can look at the following link: Is a Prologue helpful?   You can also compare my first draft of my prologue, back at that link, to what is below.  This is my current prologue as it sits.  I also entered this prologue with my first chapter into the Pikes Peak Writing Competition.  Please feel free to edit or give me some feedback!!!

 Prologue

Thirteen brave soldiers remained, determined to finish what was started six weeks ago.  Twenty-two soldiers agreed to join this expedition. Another twenty slaves also have accompanied them along the journey, eight of which have already died already.   Three weeks ago was the most deadly single day since they started exploring. They found a very promising crevasse in a dry desert canyon. Crumbling sediment from the upper portion had fallen, killing five soldiers and three slaves.  

 The only thing worse than death, is that reality that absolutely nothing has been found on their entire campaign. Rotting flesh and stench overpowered them soon thereafter and they were forced to leave and try somewhere new. Moral worsened as additional soldiers have and slaves have been killed.  An attack began two weeks ago while visiting a small village.  The group was flanked on both sides by a hidden enemy but they held their ground admirably.  The cost of that battle was another two soldiers.  Finally their attackers burnt the small town to ash.  They hadn’t bought enough water and it had been days without food. 

 Slaves began attempting to flee in the middle of the night, only to be chased and dragged back to the camp. The weather had been increasingly difficult with sun glaring down on the group.  Twelve hours of sunlight with blistering winds followed by freezing nights.  Entering the mountain region the temperatures have become even worse.  This morning though, hope has been restored.  The land they are traveling in is a match to the prophecy on the cloth.  They no longer feel directionless.  Even the slaves are working harder; their hope is that these are the last days of confinement.  It is just a matter of time. 

“Just up ahead,” insisted the leader with a heavy, thick foreign accent.

“Forty days has been hell out here.” replied one of the soldiers.

“Shut up soldier, we’re almost there.  Be on the observation, this is the last region in these mountains.  It has got to be here.”

“Sir, what if success eludes us again?” asked the youngest soldier.

“It will not, I am sure of it.  My master, our master demands us to succeed. It is our only option.  Ethnic, racial and world domination will be paved before our footsteps.”

Several additional steps are taken in silence as they move higher and higher in altitude.  Thirty-five hundred feet soon changes to five thousand feet. There is a semi-worn path that is before them. 

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A Perspective in Writing

As writers, we write about mystery, tragedy, love and sometimes forgiveness.  We write about dreams, adventure,  fiction, or fact.  So many of our writing abilities center around dreams, thoughts, or experiences that we’ve had.  Not all experiences make us better and not all stories are written.  But perspective is important to keep or allow ourselves some slack.  I’ve been struggling to finish editing my book.  An injury forced me to really slow down in that department.

A few weeks passed after my injury and  I am spending a lot of time at the hospital after surgery for a loved one.  Again, more perspective.  Not everything goes the way we want it.  No matter how much I want my book to succeed, it is likely that it won’t.  I am okay with that.  My next decision needs to be whether I move on to something else or keep trying.  To me…failure would be giving up and not continuing.  Success would be pressing forward even with a small hope.  But hope is still there and that is all that I need.  Hope can be one of the best perspectives.

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A Writing Competition

I have now officially entered my first writing competition.  I am excited and not sure what exactly I should expect.  The Writing Competition is for the Pikes Peak Writers Contest.  The Competition is based in several different categories including: Children’s, Historical Fiction, Mainstream, Mystery/Suspense/Intrigue, Romance, Young Adult, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, and Short Story.

Each Category will receive a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finisher.  There will be judges in each category.  I choose to submit my manuscript.  Therefore, I had a requirement of 1,250 word synopsis or book summary and the first 4,000 words including the prologue and 1st chapter.  This made it fun.  I hadn’t written a synopsis up to this point.  It was challenging to put into two pages over 500 pages of writing.  I expect that everyone has this difficulty.  I found myself storytelling again.  It took a couple of drafts and some good friends to honestly tell me, “I am very confused.”

As part of the competition, there is also the opportunity to have two people critique what you send them.  Of course, it is an extra cost, but I hope that it will be well worth it.  The Writing Competition is also in conjunction with a Writing Conference in Colorado Springs, April 29th – May 1st, and I hope to be in attendance for this conference.

My Synopsis took longer than I had hoped.  I will add it to this post in hopes to get any feedback as I continue to edit everything that I do.

What experiences have you had in your synopsis or book competitions.  Don’t hesitate to share!!!

SynopsisThe Devil’s Gate

The Earth’s Divide is an ancient tablet rumored to be a product of an Egyptian fable.  But what if it’s meaning and relevance expands to explain a series of natural disasters that are unfolding throughout the world?  Jet Talley, a member of a childhood group called The Echoes, lived through the first of these devastating natural disasters.

The morning of New Years Day 2001, arrived with a thick blue fog preceding the destruction of Jet’s home town of Coquille, Oregon. As the disaster unfolded, so does the awareness of growing super abilities that affect his vision and his movements.  These abilities granted Jet an avenue to escape the wreckage that was his own house.

The other members of The Echoes include: Sam Downs, Seyanna Motika, Jayco Carter, Grantham Silver, and Meia Mullins,   Jet will realize, sooner than ever imagined, the importance of his friends and their role in the fight against the tablet of The Earth’s Divide.

Years later, The Echoes reunite on the campus of UC Santa Barbara in California, to begin their freshman year’s classes.   The sole exception is Seyanna, who traded in school life for an arctic expedition with her parents.  However, her return during their sophomore year will be just as startling as it is important. Jet sets out to repair much of the damage their friendships suffered over the past few years.  Jet’s fear to share his abilities, along with the details of the destruction in Coquille, are just a few dilemmas affecting their friendship.

Jet’s freshman girlfriend, Ariana Rios, is the twin sister of his old roommate Raul. A tragedy struck Raul and he left school for a few months.  Jet tried to make things work with Ariana, but in the end, the pressure was too much and their relationship fell apart.  As the new school year begins, Jet’s first encounter with Ariana starts out well enough but it soon leaves a bad taste in his mouth.  Just as things start to feel normal between them again, the last person in the world that Jet would have ever wanted to see walks up, Shane Fallon.

Shane Fallon was the first person Jet saw on campus.  Everything has gone down from there.  Shane is very charismatic and the leader of a group called The Dark Angels.  This group is six members and very little is known about them.  As a group, they dress the same, are always together, and are extremely secretive.  The most intriguing aspect of this group is that they seem to be the parent group of several other groups with similar names, members, and clothing.

Jet, named after his great uncle Joshua, grew up hating his name because of many stories he was told about him.  First and foremost, Jet’s uncle was killed by a mob for being a Sorcerer.   Jet, of course, never truly believed this. Second, Jet was always convinced that his uncle was a raving crazy who spent the majority of his life searching the hills of Coquille for lost treasure.

Several days into the semester, Jet receives a large wooden crate containing what he believes are items that had been forgotten at home.  Instead, the crate contains several ancient Egyptian artifacts, a cloak, a diary, jewelry, books and other items.  He also learns about his true family heritage through a letter from his Grandmother.  These items were found in an unknown and forgotten storage unit tied to his family. Most of the items belonged to his Great Uncle, Joshua.  Jet, who is initially shocked by what he finds, soon learns their importance and a much deeper and troubling meaning of each item.

The diary describes an Egyptian folklore, based more on reality, than a fable.  Jet learns about four compatriots; The Black Lion, The Owl, The Falcon and The Snake, who became divided on how to use the powers of The Earth’s Divide tablet.  In the end, The Snake and The Falcon forged a partnership with the devilish prisoner, The Dark One, to use the Earth’s Divide to control the inhabitants of the world.  The Black Lion and The Owl vowed to protect the tablet, at any cost.  A fierce battle took place deep within a cavern.   The Falcon and The Snake were defeated resulting in the breaking of the tablet into twelve pieces.  They were taken as slaves for The Dark One.  The twelve broken pieces of the tablet were placed into the Chest of Protection for storage.  Before being banished, The Dark One created a way to escape using the tablet.  He would be released after a series of dates, resulting in the power of the tablet being used to ignite a worldwide calamity. Whoever controls the tablets, will control The Dark One.  For protection, The Black Lion and The Owl willfully gave their lives to provide powers and instructions to the protectors of The Earth’s Divide.

Jet learns that his great uncle was chosen as a protector and he was indeed a Sorcerer.  It is the only way to provide protection of The Earth’s Divide.  Jet chooses to inherit this responsibility.  The other members of the Echoes pledge to do all they can. With the knowledge of the series of disasters, they realize that the first date in the pattern of destruction occurred when their hometown of Coquille was destroyed.

Jet sets out to find the history of The Earth’s Divide and any information that would help tract down the Chest of Protection.  To his horror he learns that Hitler himself became aware of the fable and the tablet.  He sent a group of soldiers to track and locate the tablet, to use for his own world domination.  He was successful in finding the tablet and separating the twelve pieces throughout the world, but he didn’t know the timing of its destruction.

With luck and determination, Jet finds the chest in a Swiss museum of artifacts from Hitler’s house and other WWII objects.   Through weeks of preparation and planning, the only conclusion is to replace the crate, inside the museum, with a fake.  Just when it looks like they are going to succeed, members of The Dark Angels show up in Switzerland to do the same.  Jet and the Echoes narrowly escape with the chest but their work is far from over.

Jet and the Echoes must return to Coquille for the first time in many years.  One of the pieces of the tablet must be found and protected.   The cave entrance, hidden on a hill just outside of Coquille was the epicenter of the destruction. The Echoes will learn that it also holds The Earth’s Divide tablet piece.  Along their way they encounter a mythical creature and almost succumb to the cave itself and the many disasters that lay within.  They learn that they are just minutes ahead of another group intending to use the tablet with evil intentions.  It is just a matter of time before they will be found.  The final room of the cave is one that Jet has already seen, at least in a vision or a trance.  It contains the piece of the tablet and several other items and artifacts.  Just as they are preparing to leave the cave, voices travel from the just outside.   A battle ensues and Jet and the Echoes barely escape with the piece of tablet.  It is then that Jet realizes this is only the first of twelve important pieces of The Earth’s Divide tablet.

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