Saturday, August 24, 2013

Inner Voice...

I realized tonight, after letting myself constantly churn over something that happened today at work, that one of the reasons I write is to distract myself. I tried watching TV, then playing video poker, then reading, and nothing could stop that inner voice from saying, "you're in trouble now". Writing usually focuses me enough that I can forget for awhile, so that even my inner voice stops taunting me.

So today, I expressed my opinion on something going on at work, probably in a less than satisfactory manner. But I'll freely admit that I've gotten to the point in my career that I don't give a rat's ass about what people think about me. I do a good job, a really good job, and I take my work seriously. People like me, even my co-workers. My customers, whether internal or external, love me. So when I have a concern, people should listen. Unfortunately, in most of the places I've worked, someone like me -- a known trouble maker, at least as far as management is concerned -- has to throw a temper tantrum to be heard. Yes, I'm that person who says the things management doesn't want to hear.

But that really isn't the problem, because as I said, I don't really give a rat's ass about what people think about me. I'm a good person. If you don't like me, that's your problem. My problem is that my inner voice, let's call it Momma, nags me if I do something "wrong." Being criticized drives me crazy because Momma's always there to say, "I told you so." To say, "You, yet again, fell short of...." Doesn't really matter what it is. It could be a simple mistake. But whatever it is, it points out the fact that I'm never good enough, and never will be good enough for this voice in my head.

If you've read any of my work, you'll notice that not being good enough is a theme that threads its way through my stories. In some ways, writing helps me explore those feelings and try to put them away. If I prove that other people are like me, even if they're fictional, then maybe I'm not as fucked up as I think I am.

But in the fifty-four years I've been around, nothing has completely made those feelings go away. Writing comes closer than anything else. I tried meditating, and the voice said, "What a waste of time. You should be working. You're being lazy." I've tried mantras. Didn't help. I've tried therapy. And what a load of crap that is. If you understand the problem, where it's coming from, then it will go away. Not! I've tried running, but exhaustion doesn't help either. Running actually makes it worse because I'm trapped in my head for forty-five minutes to an hour. Plus when I run, I'm constantly berating myself for not going faster or further. I've even tried drinking myself into oblivion, but what usually happens is that I end up barfing up everything down to my toenails, which gives me further reason to focus on how lame I am.

And now, the voice is saying that everyone is going to think I'm having a pity party. So maybe writing about me doesn't help that much. I need to get back to actively writing. I need to finish editing and move on with something new, something that will distract me from this internal churn.

With that said:

"Wow, this blog post is really depressing," says my inner Momma voice. "No one will want to read it."

"Fuck you," says my inner Sara voice. "Oh, and here's a picture of BlackBeary, since I haven't posted any pictures in awhile."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Read-through... Again!

I don't know if every writer has this problem, but it's a huge issue for me. Every time I do a read-through, I make changes. This time was supposed to be my final read-through of An Untold Want, but now that I have LisaP's editor voice in my head [right up there with my mother's voice in my head], I am again making changes. Not to the "and then" structure so much -- that's a dig at Lisa -- as how the voice flows, trying to smooth it out a bit. Not that it's wrong, but I just finished a novel [written by a very well known, well received, bestseller'er] that did exactly the same thing. Problem is that I noticed it in the novel I was reading [Thanks Lisa!], which means that others may notice it in my writing. Hence, editing. Again.

Which in turn means there will be at least one more final read-through after this one.

Sometimes I wonder if every other writer goes to this much trouble, or if they just trust that people will enjoy their work. I know I thought that one of the recent NYT bestsellers was very badly written, but people loved the story. And my real thought is maybe the average reader doesn't even know the novel is badly written. Although in this case, many of my friends who read it complained about the terrible writing. But it didn't stop them from buying the two sequels and reading them.  [I couldn't get past the first chapter, BTW. The female protagonist was so lame, she drove me into complete boredom.]

So should I just slam something together that will titillate the average reader or try to write something of a bit higher quality? I guess if I was just in it for the money, maybe....

With that said, please support authors who work hard at their craft. I'm not saying don't read badly written books -- well, actually, I am. But at least balance it out with well written books. And I don't mean you have to read literary fiction. There are a lot, a whole lot, of good writers out there in every genre.

Besides, reading well written books makes you look way more intelligent. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Been Awhile...

Yep, it's been awhile since I posted anything here.  I would say I've been busy, but, you know, everybody's busy, or appears to be.  So I'll say that I've had more pressing issues than writing a blog post, including a big party this past weekend.  Yes, some of the pressing things are fun as well as time consuming. I've been making an effort to have more fun because what with my 9-to-5 job and house cleaning and writing and quilting, my life can get very drudgy.  [I just made up that word; so don't look it up].

Actually being able to make up my own words (or change words, like drudge into drudgy) is one of my favorite things about writing fiction.  I also love telling and hearing stories.  Saturday night, at the party, I made people tell funny stories about themselves. Yes, alcohol was involved. So it was quite entertaining. Doing such gives me a plethora of ideas for not just stories, but emotions and facial expressions and reactions.  As with reading, talking or eavesdropping should be a regular occurrence in a writer's schedule.  Eavesdropping is even better, if you can sit and watch/listen unnoticed. 

I even have several of my friends intentionally eavesdropping now. We'll be at a restaurant, and one of them will say something along the lines of I think the couple at table X must be arguing, check out the body language or the girl at table Y looks like she's going to cry. And so on. The comment will start a line of speculation and eventually someone will pose a story about what's going on.  Sometimes the story involves a blind date, especially if the couple seems awkward with the situation. Maybe another couple, she's breaking up with him, or vice-versa. Maybe one is twisting his/her wedding ring. Potential admission of an affair? Maybe? But the best couple to watch is two old people who don't talk to each other over dinner. They obviously have been married too long and have nothing else to say.  But their facial expression and body movements say so much about what they're thinking or eating or drinking.

So make sure you closely observe the people around you. You don't have to talk to them, but you should watch and listen. There's a wealth of information out there just waiting for someone to pay attention.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

New Interview...

... with Dawn Husted at BookLoads.  She's a lovely lady who does the work [free work] of promoting new authors.  So give her your love.

If you want to read the interview (which I hope you will, because Dawn calls it inspirational), go to August Author Interviews at Dawn's website.

What a good day its been: lots of editing, an interview, two (now three) blog posts, and just some free time relaxing with BlackBeary and Twin Peaks [the retro TV show].

Is it Done?

No, I am not done with An Untold Want.  Not yet.  I'm doing a read-through of all the changes, and because I love to word-smith, it's not going as fast as it could. This weekend, I've gotten through 152 single-spaced pages, have 56 more to go, and then will need to do another read-through. Being dyslexic, I tend to transpose words. So, I always have to double/triple check everything.

I did get a rejection from an agent who I queried on the spur of the moment.  I have yet to hear from the last agent who requested the full manuscript, but it's only been three months, which is nothing in agent-time.  If this last agent rejects me, then I'll be putting An Untold Want on Amazon. I'm ready to work on something else.

A Lesson on Italics

Almost two weeks ago, LisaP, my editor friend, sent me her recommendations. I spent a two vacation days reviewing her suggestions, accepting or rejecting them. [She made if very easy by using mark-up.] I'm glad she's willing to help me, cause my grammar sucks. Dyslexia doesn't help, either. And I also suck at spelling. But, hey, I'm good at prose.

She and I had a couple of heated discussions about the ways to do things. By the way, we've been friends for a long time, the type of friends that can have heated discussions. They're just part of the landscape, especially when I lived in Texas and she hosted salons. And as she said, nagging is what being an editor is all about. Anyway, she hates hates hates that I use and then, instead of and or then.  But it's the way I talk, hence the way I write. It's part of my voice. I will admit to getting rid of about two-thirds of the and thens in An Untold Want because as I read through it, I realized that it can get overwhelming. So she was mostly right.

We also had quite a few discussions about using italics.

I've pulled the examples about italics, which are great, from one of her emails. All of these are frequently used, and acceptable formats.  But, as you'll see from my responses, there are reasons I don't use some of them.

1. Thought written in first person present, italicized, tagged

Mary closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sun. This summer has been so perfect, she thought. I don't want it ever to end.

[Me: this is one of my pet peeves. It interrupts my reading, knocks me out of the movie rolling in my head as I read. I think this is cheating. It's lazy writing. Either you're writing in first person present or you're not. I do not like mixing tenses and person. But this is frequently used in genre novels. I don't see it very often in literary novels though.]

2. Thought written in first person present, italicized, not tagged

Mary closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sun. This summer has been so perfect. I don't want it ever to end.

[Me: same, better than #1 though.]

3. Thought written in first person present, not italicized, tagged

Mary closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sun. This summer has been so perfect, she thought. I don't want it ever to end.

[Me: same, as #1.]

4. Thought written in first person present, not italicized, not tagged

Mary closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sun. This summer has been so perfect. I don't want it ever to end.

[Me: better, but I still don't like mixing first person and third person.]

5. Thought written in third person past, not italicized, tagged

Mary closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sun. This summer had been so perfect, she thought. She didn't want it ever to end.

[Me: much better.]

6. Thought written in third person past, not italicized, not tagged

Mary closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sun. This summer had been so perfect. She didn't want it ever to end.

[Me: much much better, my personal favorite.]

But here's the problem, An Untold Want is written in third-person-present/literary format. Not past tense, which is the norm and for which most rules are written. Present tense is getting more popular, but it's still not considered normal.

In An Untold Want, I used a combination of #5 and #6, but in present tense.  It may feel a bit awkward, especially if you're used to reading genre, but that's the way present tense works.

Which brings to mind another rule.  In literary, and most fiction, head hopping [moving from one PoV to another within the same scene] is a big no-no.  Except in romance novels.

With that said, study your genre. Read a lot in your genre. And know the rules for that genre, or things can get very messy.