Sunday, February 28, 2010

Peek a Boo

I've been doing some critiquing for an on-line critique group I belong to, and this story is about to make me pull out my hair. It looks like a rough draft; incorrect punctuation, strange sentence construction, incorrect use of pronouns, wandering verb tense ... The list goes on and on. To my mind, this story isn't ready for a critique.
I understand that sometimes people want to get someone's opinion about whether a story idea is viable. Fine. Get a friend to read it for a general impression. But don't waste the time of a critiquer on a rough draft.
In my mind, a critique will point out blunders you haven't noticed as you've tried to craft this story, and some of those blunders might be huge, while others are really tiny. But when you send out something with lots and lots of grammatical errors that you couldn't be bothered to fix, you are wasting their time, as they attempt to find a tactful way to tell you to clean up your manuscript. You have to clean up all those punctuation and verb tense problems anyway, so why not look like you are at least trying to do a professional job?
Like all those other writers who are taking the time to critique your work for you, I would really rather spend that extra 5 or 10 minutes working on my own story. I don't mind helping a fellow writer, if that writer seems willing to do a re-write by hunting down and correcting what mistakes he/she can find without my help. Think of it as a quest to turn out a perfect manuscript. If you can do that much for a critiquer, you are that much closer to having a manuscript that's ready to be seen by an editor.
My husband has joined me on vacation, so now it's two of us cramming blog posts into our occasional visits to the local bookstore with free wifi. Still, it wasn't bad this time. See ya next week.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do Your Homework

Sunday night, I finished a 2-day road trip from H***. I didn’t have any car troubles (except nearly running out of gas after dark in the wilds of Mississippi), but a trip that I expected to take 24 hours over two days took more like 30. Why? Lack of planning, although I had convinced myself I had things well in hand, before I actually left home.

Back when my family was driving to Orlando for our vacations, we had a ‘regular’ route. But in February, I wasn’t sure I trusted the weather in those Kentucky mountains, so I picked a ‘southern route’, to get out of the snow as fast as I could. What I didn’t notice, as I planned this route, was that the road that took me into Birmingham AL never came out again, and never connected to the road I wanted to take out of Birmingham. And just because a road is shown on the map as a divided highway doesn’t make it ‘limited access’, nor does it guarantee a consistent speed limit. I have taken so many vacations sticking to Interstate highways, I had forgotten these very basic things. Hence, the southern route that had looked so promising took a lot longer to make it work.

What does this have to do with writing? It reminds me of a basic tenant of writing that I didn’t understand for a long time … do your research.

I write fiction. I don’t actually have to research anything, do I? It’s all a matter of my imagination, right? Well, yes and no. I decide the route I take, but if I expect a character to, oh, say, commit murder, then I’d better make sure there’s a connection between what comes before that drives that person to murder and whatever actions he/she takes after the murder. And will the plot be an interstate, with very few options to veer off course, or only a highway, with plenty of opportunities to take a wrong turn or get caught in a slow zone?

Do your research. And when you think you’ve got things all planned out, take another look.

Now to find some wi-fi to get this posted. Assuming I can do that, I’ll see ya next week.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Romance is in the Air

Valentine's Day seems a good time to discuss the romance genre. All the time I was growing up, romances were considered 'a bit of fluff', read by lonely women who didn't have the brains, after all, to handle a story with any kind of substance to them. Yes, I'm that old.

Eventually, having finished all the other genres while I was working at a library, the head librarian suggested a particular writer to me. She wrote historical romances, but one couldn't hurt me, right? I've read a lot of romances since then. Most of them are 'a bit of fluff', but since my pleasure reading is for the purpose of escaping, that doesn't bother me.

According to the statistics I've been able to find, romance comprises over 50% of the mass-market fiction paperback sales, and very nearly 40% of ALL fiction sales. One would think that would make it easier to get your fiction story published, if you write romance.

But even if you do write romance – no matter what you ultimately choose to write – it needs to be the best story you can make it, with the best plot, the best characters, the best complications you can come up with. If something is worth doing, then it's worth giving your all.

I'll be on the road most of the day next Sunday. Maybe that will give me time to ruminate what to put in my blog, or maybe it will wear me out completely. Therefore, I might get my blog posted on Sunday, or maybe not until Monday. See ya then. Trudy

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Claim Your Time

I recently left my day job in order to concentrate on writing. I knew it would be an adjustment, and it was; the first three days, I felt guilty, like I was playing hooky. After that, my mind was willing, but the time was … fleeting.

It didn't take the rest of my family long to get used to me being home. By the third day, I was already tired of hearing things like, "Mom, can you give me a ride to—", "Honey, why don't you call a repairman for this ___?", and "Can we have something decent for supper?" That last one means, "Something you don't slap together in 20 minutes." There's also all those chores I never had time for when I was working a 'real' job, and now I supposedly do have time for them – mending, scrubbing and the like.

For years, I read the advice of other writers who said, "Choose your time when you're going to write, and don't let anything intrude." I did that, as best as I could. Evenings were split between loading the dishwasher and all my writing chores. Weekends I wrote while the washer and dryer chugged along. Now that I was 'unemployed', there should be plenty of time, right?

I don't know where I ever had the time for an outside job, but even without it, I still have to set aside time for writing … and not allow other things to intrude.

I guess some things never change. See ya next week. Trudy