Next Steps

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This one made him think

February is a good month to get working on next steps, apparently.  I notice a lot of people are posting asking for assistance with their complete work.  In order to help everyone get the help they need, I have this handy list here I thought I would share.

Editors-people with good grammar who are going to catch your spelling, punctuation, and editing mistakes.  They will need a print copy and a pen (or a google doc with editing turned on).  They’re awesome, you need them.  Don’t expect these people to talk to you about who they loved or what they read. They were too busy fixing your overuse of the comma and the extra cliche phrases you glue to everything.

Beta Readers-people who read in your genre who are going to just read your story.  They need the story to be as accessible to them as a “regular” book, so print it and bind it or save it in a pdf so they can access it on a device.  They are essential, you need them.  Don’t expect them to replace or duplicate the work of your editor.  The good ones will honestly and openly discuss your characters, your plot lines, and your twists.  They will constantly tell you what they are thinking, feeling, and questioning.  This allows you to check off your ideas of what the reader should have been doing in that spot and make necessary adjustments.  Get a few of these, just in case.

Critics-people “in the business” who can provide you with feedback about the publishing readiness of your book.  They are not looking to help you make any changes to your work, merely to tell you if it is ready or where its shortcomings lie.  They are rare, brutal, and therefore valuable.  Take it if you can find it.

The lesson?  Everyone needs someone to handle the work after they finish.  Choose your someone(s) wisely.  Happy writing!

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Prompt #2

As I mentioned before, I teach writing.  Sometimes I like to pull out a random writing prompt and let the magic happen.  Here’s one of my personal favorites and what happened when I participated.  Feel free to play along on your own blog or in the comments!

The Prompt (Credit to Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina and Catherine Reid): Create a short story that is 26 sentences long, each sentence beginning with the next letter of the alphabet. (When you get to X you may use the X sound. Stop your story abruptly after the sentence beginning with Z).

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“Alright everyone, let’s get started.”

“Beautiful plan,” Charles calls sarcastically, “except for the fact that we don’t know the purpose.”

“C’mon, be serious. Don’t you remember we are supposed to finish the presentation on pachyderms?” I ask.

“Elephants, you can just say elephants,” Georgia whines.

“Fine. Georgia can you get the powerpoint going?” I ask.

“Here, I’ll do it.”  

I roll my eyes as Charles pulls the computer away from Georgia’s manicured fingernails. Just this once I wish he would cooperate a little. Kids like him, the ones that are perfectly happy with the barely passing score, drive me crazy during group projects.

“Ladies, I am ready to type your every word,” Charles says. Meanwhile he plants his fingers over the home-row keys, the way we learned in computer class.

“Networks of blood vessels in their ears keeps their body temperature in check,” Georgia says.

“Okay,” Charles says. Pointed clicking sounds echo as his fingers type in her information. “Quick, gimme another one.”

“Really? Shouldn’t we have some kind of order to those facts? There really shouldn’t just be random facts typed into a slide–“

“Unlike most other animals, elephants have no natural predators,” Georgia says.

“Very unlikely. Wouldn’t they be running the planet if that were the case?” Charles asks.

“Except for humans. You know we kill them, right?” she answers.

“Zoology is weird,” Charles says as he types in the next bullet point, “but I’ll type whatever you tell me to.”

Point of View

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Sometimes you’re watching the cat.  Sometimes you are the cat.

I gave into the pressure.  I did it.  I took my third person omniscient story and started rewriting it in the first person.  Why?  Because people suggested it and it got me wondering.  Because an agent said she didn’t like the narrative voice and it got me wondering.  Because how could I say my way was the best way if I hadn’t tried it the other way.  Because….

Anyway, I started it.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • We (as readers) are a lot closer to that ONE character now.  We like her faster, we are interested in her struggles.
  • Other characters are being forced (by me) to say things out loud.  Things that they previously only thought about.  Things that were too important to the story to lose.  Some of these things my main character was blissfully unaware of in my first draft.
  • My main character is a bit smarter.  That was an accident of people telling her things, I think.  I noticed it right around page 200…strange how it happened though.
  • The dialogue still drives this story.  I doesn’t seem to matter what point of view I’m writing in, the dialogue is staying revision after revision.  It’s the meat of the story.  I think that’s a good thing.

Here’s what I’m still wondering, and I guess only finishing the revision will tell:

  • Do we lose the other characters?  Do we sacrifice how well we knew them in order to know her better?  Honestly, if we do, I’m not going to be okay with that.  I love some of these minor characters.
  • The sequel-yes, there’s a sequel already-is not really HER story.  So what happens to that story when she was the one telling the other story?  That’s a worry that makes my head spin if I focus on it too long.

I’ll keep you all posted on the progress and my final thoughts as this revision comes to an end!  If any of you have played around with point of view I’d love to hear about your experience.