February 23, 2010

Yesterday I referred to an article by Leslie Epstein, which ran in the March/April edition of Writer’s Digest.  I was feeling very emotional over Epstein’s suggestion to forgo my beloved three dots…in exchange for a double dash.  This made my heart bleed.

Today, I want to refer to another one of Epstein’s suggestions.  He stated in the same article: “On political correctness: No one likes to think of himself as meanspirited, but a few of you will be, and a large number of great writers have been. You have to go where your cast of mind, your sense of style, and above all the logic of your story take you.  If you are going to be looking over your shoulder because you fear you might hurt someone’s feelings you should think seriously, after accountancy of becoming–well, let’s say a violinist.”

WOW, did this ever hit home and strike a chord on my violin strings!  I am constantly looking over my shoulder, as I write.  I will often start thinking about the people in my life who will possibly read my prose and take offense.  I spend way too much time worrying about readers, instead of concentrating on putting the story on paper and getting published.

The current novel I am working on, Broken Soul, is a prime example of the second guessing I constantly do.  The story is based on my childhood traumas.  It is 85% truth, but I am introducing a hero character who will save me from my own path toward self-destruction.  Some people know about the atrocities I suffered growing up, but many of my friends don’t.  Hell even family members don’t know the full extent of what I endured.  This is making writing this epistle very difficult as I struggle with blocking out of my mind those critics I know will try to persecute me when my book is published.  It will be extremely difficult for the older daughter of the people who raised me to hear some of my tale.  But it is truth and it is MY truth and I now know after reading Epstein’s article–that I must persevere and write the story how it happened and not try to cushion the events to protect others.  I am a writer after all and I must above all be true to myself.


Ellipses shock…

February 22, 2010

Oh my dear sweet ellipses.  Must I say “good-bye” to you?  In case you were wondering what the heck an ellipses is (it’s nothing to do with sun, moon or earth I discovered), it is defined as ” the delightful three dots at the end of  unfinished thoughts.  I’m a HUGE fan of the ellipses.  I use them constantly. They make a nice lead-in to my next train of thought.

However, I was reading an article in Writer’s Digest March/April 2010 edition, entitled “Tips for Writing and for Life”, by Leslie Epstein.  Leslie has been at Boston University for 30 years and is the Director of their Creative Writing Program.

His article intrigued me.  He shared writing tips he’d been gathering for about 20 years.  I was fascinated by his article and in absolute agreement with his suggestions until he commented on the ellipses.  “Finish the thought,” he stated, “or interrupt with a dash.”  Hand on my heart I about fainted.  Use a dash?  How can I?  I have no relationship with the “dash”.  It’s just doesn’t make me giddy like my beloved three dots do.

Looking back on the definition of my ellipses (yes I do lay claim to them), I discovered that the dictionary not only lists three dots as an ellipses but also, “–” or even “***”.  That’s right, the DASH is also considered an ellipses.  The recommendation is to omit ellipses altogether from your writing, but if I MUST use an ellipse, I will be using the ruggedly handsome three dots.

On further examination on my use of the three dots, I believe instead of using them in the way they were meant to be used, I am using them incorrectly.  Add insult to injury!  I like to use the ellipses as pauses.  Not an actual omission in thought, but a brief pause to build up the excitement in the statement which is to follow.  Perhaps a comma would work here just as well…but I enjoy my ellipses and hope to have them in my life for years to come.

Life’s pain revisited……..

February 13, 2010

My second novel “Broken Soul” is based on my painful and unusual childhood.  I need to start working on the second draft.  While brainstorming with my writer friend a week ago I was reading the first draft to her and couldn’t get through it.  I got totally choked up and began crying (much to my embarrassment).  She was very encouraging though and said “you NEED to finish this.  It’s a great story and it needs to get out there.”

I know she’s right.  In my gut, I know this is a story that may actually end up offering encouragement to those who’ve gone through childhood trauma and if for that reason alone…I need to work my way through my anxieties and publish it.

However, I am frozen.  I am frozen in fear of yanking that band-aid off again and again as I work on numerous drafts to perfect the manuscript.  I thought I had a good handle on my emotions, but I realize that it’s a healed wound on the surface, but deep down the pain still exists.  Do I really want to walk down this road?

My goal is Monday.  Monday I will pull my first draft back up and I will start at the beginning and slowly go through what I’ve produced.  I’m going to try to pretend this story belongs to someone else and that I’m editing it for them and maybe this way I can separate myself from it and critique from a distance.

Updates to follow……….

Rejections can be good….

February 10, 2010

It didn’t GRAB ME.  No author wants to hear that response from an agent, especially if you’re a newbie hoping for your big break.  I had shared my story with all of you about an agent asking for the first five pages of my manuscript and I sent her the first chapter I’d written.  But the actual first five pages of my manuscript is the Prologue, which after receiving her rejection,  is what I felt I should have sent instead, because it starts right off with action and then the content of the first chapter takes place five years later as a result of that action.

The agent’s response to my first submission stated that it didn’t “grab” her the way she was hoping and she had so many submissions…blah, blah, blah.

Guess what…her response to my prologue was the exact same one…word for word.  It’s a standard response to all her rejections.  It’s a form letter.  It’s what she’s decided to say about every submission she rejects, no matter what the content, subject or author.

Reading this second rejection actually made me feel so much better.  Am I happy about the rejection?  Hell no, but knowing that no matter what you send her…if she rejects it she’ll tell you it didn’t “grab” her…well that made me feel good.  I have to admit I’m tempted to send her another submission reading:  The zombies crashed through the window; shattered glass flying through the air.  Peter picked up his rifle and began shooting.  Sylvia swung through the broken window on a rope, dropping and rolling as she avoided Peter’s spray of bullets.  While the zombies were all bleeding out on the floor, Peter ran to Sylvia…picking her up and carrying her to the bed (amazing sex scene ensues). Horrible writing, but I DARE you to say THIS didn’t grab you Ms. Agent Lady!  Might not be your kind of story…it certainly isn’t mine…but would I still get the standard…”it didn’t grab me” rejection letter?

Moving on…there are more agents in the sea.


February 9, 2010

Got together with a writer friend on Sunday.  I think it’s so important that writers support each other.  We were going to keep each other company while each of us worked on our own separate projects, but we ended up talking about some of the things we’re currently creating and it became a wonderful session of brainstorming.

I received some invaluable suggestions.  Now I just need to see if I can implement them into my writing.  My friend’s style and mine are vastly different.  She has a beautiful way with words…they just flow from her and she paints these gorgeous pictures in your mind.  I, on the other hand, am a “cut to the chase” type gal.  I write books with lots of conversation and short paragraphs of actual description.  I like to write action scenes, with blood, and guts…but I’m not likely to comment on the beauty of the lamp standing in the corner of the room, casting a glow so warm it reminds me of ET’s heart light. SEE, this is why I don’t write flowery prose.

I learn so much from friend, though, about the process of writing and she inspires me to stretch myself and my abilities and to truly try composing verse that’ll make my readers stop reading, clutch my book to their chests and exclaim, “Wow, this woman can really write, she paints gorgeous pictures in my mind.”  Maybe someday…until then…I’ll enjoy reading my friend Carol’s musings and appreciate the images she infuses into my soul, while I stick with creating scenes like: He backed her against the wall and grabbed her by the throat, picking her up off the floor, leaving her feet dangling in mid-air while she struggled to breathe.  Oh yeah, ain’t that a pretty picture?

Open mic excitement…….

February 6, 2010

I went to Open Mic nite on Thursday.  These are held the first Thursday of every month and I started attending about five months ago.  I’ve really enjoyed them!  This Thursday was particularly exciting though.

The meetings are held in a coffee house and one of the “regular” customers was not happy to see all of us.  He was seated at his table when we started arriving and had no intention of moving to a different area of the coffee shop…even though the place is certainly large enough for someone to do that.  There were about 25 of us in the reading group.  We had just pulled chairs all around and our first presenter stepped up to the mic and began reading some poetry he’d written, when suddenly we hear “STOP”.  So he stopped and we all stared at the man who’d yelled.  His red face and the way he was huffing and puffing told us…he was not a member of this group and he was angry!  One of the ladies in our group had accidentally nudged the table where he was sitting.  He started on a tirade, directed at her, all about the million dollar software he was using and how she couldn’t shake his table and how he was there every nite and we had some nerve…blah, blah, blah.  It got very, very quiet after he finished berating the poor woman who’d bumped his table.  Then slowly our speaker once again began reading his poetry.

We thought the issue was over, but before our first reader was done, the angry man shoved a piece of paper off the table and mumbled something incoherent about all us.  From the look on his face…I don’t think he was complimenting our writing styles.  The paper he’d shoved onto the floor was the written piece the woman sitting “near” his table had laid there, to share with us when her name was called.

We kept going.  When the third person approached the mic, the angry man shut down his computer and yanked the cord from the wall.  He packed up his stuff and began exiting the coffee shop.  “Ahhh, thank God that’s over” I thought.

Not true.  Several of the people started clapping as they watch him exit.  He turned back around to tell us all what we could do with our little group (sounded painful) and one of the women stood up and shouted, “You owe my friend an apology!”  The two of them then started a shouting match…just as a friend I had invited, who’d never been to the open mic, walked in the door.  She looked horrified.  I was embarrassed.  The angry man stormed past her on his way outside and suddenly the woman who’d bumped his table jumped up and went running after him…to have the final word I assume.

What I don’t get is why so many felt they had to lower themselves to this man’s level.  Why do we, as humans,  always have this compelling conviction that we MUST have the last word?  The lady who followed him out the parking lot eventually came in looking drained and very unhappy.  Did she really think that was a good idea?  She was so shook up, that when her name was called to read, she had someone else read her piece cause she felt she couldn’t.

The evening did end up being fun.  We all had a wonderful time, once things settled down again.  I just feel that this whole situation could have been handled in a much nicer, more “grown-up” way.

I wonder if the angry man will be back next month?

I need an energy pill….

February 4, 2010

I went to a Triangle Area Freelancer’s meeting this past week and the speaker talked about the importance of being signed up with all the various networking programs on the internet, in order to promote yourself and your work.

This guy was on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and several other sites I’ve never even heard of.  Not that any of these sites are bad…but when in the hell do you find time to actually write, when you are busy constantly Tweeting, updating info and checking messages and comments on all these sites people are now signed onto.

I barely have enough time to check facebook, my emails and blog each morning, before moving onto writing content that might actually get published and bring in some cold, hard cash.

To top it all off, this guy is in marketing and constantly working.  He’s married too.  Where do people find this energy and time?  Do they ever sleep?  I can’t figure out if I’m in awe or just frightened by the thought that I could never maintain this level of commitment and certainly don’t have this kind of stamina.