From the HSW President
Well, unfortunately, August is the month that New York editors and agents go on vacation and the publishing industry takes a deep breath and rests. If you have a place in the Hamptons, you might run into them, but barring that, it’s best to hunker down, polish your manuscript, and get ready for the post-Labor Day return to business.
Last month, I started a blog dedicated to providing writers with information about editing, publishing, and links to articles that I find informative for the writing craft. Just go to my web site (www.matthewbayan.com) and click on the top menu item that says, BLOG ME. I post something every few days, so check back often.
At our last meeting, one of our members asked me how I carve out time to write. The member was having difficulty because of other priorities that had recently come up.
I don’t know an easy answer for how to get time to write. I’m a bad example because I go against the widely held idea that you need to write every day. The member who raised this question, I’m sure, feels guilty not to be writing every day. Personally, I don’t think feeling guilty about this is productive.
I DON’T WRITE EVERY DAY. Sometimes I don’t write anything for a month. I see no point in sitting in front of a keyboard and trying to pull something out of my head until I have something to commit to the page. Instead I use tiny unplanned moments to load the imagination gun.
What are these tiny unplanned moments? Let’s say I’m driving. Instead of listening to the radio, I think about a character or several characters and let them start talking. Yes, I talk to myself while driving. People used to think I was nuts, but now because of speaker phones, I blend right in. Still crazy after all these years, but not as noticeably so.
What do these characters say? I might be thinking about a scene and have several directions in which I can take it. I’ll have the characters talk it out. If I don’t like the direction, I’ll stop, reboot, and try a different approach. This conversation may last the ten minutes it takes me to get to Costco, or the five it takes to get to the bank. This doesn’t require hours of work. But it may span several days with me using numerous tiny moments to work out the scene.
All writing isn’t in front of a keyboard or behind a pen. Thinking is writing. If I spend several days thinking about a scene or a story arc, my brain is organizing. Isn’t that what writing is? Organizing events into a logical order to tell a story? When I finally do get in front of that keyboard, my imagination gun is loaded and when it fires, I’ll blast out 1,000, or 2,000, or maybe 5,000 words in a day. And this might go on for several days.
When our kids were little, I found it best to write at night after everyone else went to bed. Find what works for you. And stop feeling guilty. Guilt makes humans NOT want to do something because we naturally avoid the cause of guilt.
Maybe that’s what writer’s block is. Too much guilt about something we really should be enjoying more.
At the next HSW Meeting, our program will be:Agent Jen Hunt from the Booker Albert Agency
When do you know your manuscript is ready for the next big step? How can you tell if it sounds like a newbie wrote it?
Please join agent Jen Hunt for a discussion and Q&A on what can be some of a novelist’s biggest worries. She’ll share her professional insight on determining when it’s time to stop editing and move on to start the query process or on to self-publishing if that’s your path. She’ll also point out mistakes she sees that writers make that scream, “hey, I’m a newbie!”
Saturday, August 12th at 10 A.M. at the South Valleys Library (15650 Wedge Pkwy, Reno, NV 89511)
Please bring book donations to the August meeting. These can be books you’ve written as well as books you’ve read.
Writing and Editing Tools
I’ve listed a few of the ones available on the web for you to consider. This list comes from the NY Book Editors website. You can view the full list and information about each by clicking here. I’ve listed the ones I find most appealing and I use two of them on a regular basis.
and slow-paced paragraphs as a chart.
This is a subscription service costing almost $30 per month to use but it is designed specifically for Fiction Writers. (When the NY Book Editors article was written, the author quoted $5, which would have been a bargain, but this higher price tag makes it harder for struggling writers to afford.) With the focus on pacing and momentum, dialogue, word choice, repetition, and strong writing, it can be a valuable tool worth the cost. It also finds instances of passive voice, adverbs, clichés, and filler words. Designed to help you tighten up your story, it makes strong suggestions for change, but the option to accept is always up to you. Just from what I saw, this looks like it might have a pretty steep learning curve.
Same chapter analyzed in editMinion. This shows the number of times I used certain words
and helps me to see where I have problems. Plus it also shows a graph of sentence length.
Left: A sample of Hemmingway’s analysis of the chapter.
Word Processor Tools
Don’t forget your word processor has a built-in spell checker and grammar checker. Turn it on when you’re writing. If you misspell a word or make a grammatical error, the program will put a red line under it. Right click on your mouse and it will display spelling or grammar options for what it thinks you are trying to type. With WORD, this is a reasonably good, but not as robust as some of the editing programs offered on line.
Are you at a loss for alternate words? Chances are your word processing program has a thesaurus in it. Highlight the word you want to replace and click on the thesaurus and a list of additional words will display. If you’re not quite sure if the word you want to select has the same meaning, then look it up in a dictionary. Many are online. Not all synonyms have the same definition.
Analyze the Corrections
Don’t forget the High Sierra Writers Short Story contest submission date is coming up in November. If you haven’t got it plotted or a draft written, now is the time to really get on it. If you need a refresher on the details, go to the HSW web site at www.highsierrawriters.org