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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wisdom from the Ages- IWSG June, 2017



 It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read posts from other members, click here.


A relative moved out of her home after 45 years and we spent this winter cleaning it out, which caused us to reevaluate. After spending weekends throwing out old bills, countless notebooks filed with clipped recipes and every birthday card ever received, my husband and I vowed we’d never leave a task so daunting to our daughter. 

To that end we’ve been purging our own house, one of us more successfully than the other. We grew up pre-social media and both had plastic bins holding years of correspondence stored in the basement.  Hauling them out, my husband upturned his container into the laundry basket we were using for trash.  “I can’t read them,” he said, “or, I’ll never get rid of them.” 

I don’t have his fortitude. Every night last week, I sat in front of my own box, opening and reading enough correspondence to transport myself back to a world I’d forgotten, before tossing each letter into a trash bag.
  
In the end though, I scored pay dirt. I knew for sure I’d have to save the letters from my lovely lost poet friend who died in a car accident just before our senior year in college. And, while I couldn’t bring myself to read them all, I unfolded a lined sheet of paper. Apparently, we were bored in class one day and writing notes back and forth. Sometime before that, I’d dashed off a couple of poems and submitted them to the college literary magazine she edited, knowing they weren’t my best work. I confessed in the note that I knew they weren’t good, and here’s what she wrote in response:

You must give writing the time it deserves or it will not reflect your real talent. You have the rest of your life you know – and you will always have that talent – the only thing with talent is though, you can’t just carry it around and take it out in a minute. It comes through much effort…If you don’t think your writing is good, don’t settle for things you don’t like…

The irony is, she didn't have the rest of her life. She was twenty-one when she wrote that, wise beyond her age, and gone three months later. I'm closing in on forty years without her now, but it's made me so happy to recognize she's alive again, through the inspiring reminder those long-ago words just delivered to me.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Value of Research. IWSG - May 2016.



 It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read other members, click here.

This month, I'm going for the optional question, "What is the weirdest, coolest thing you’ve had to research for your story?"

Since I write freelance feature stories for local/regional magazines, I’ve had a lot of fun researching things I don’t know about, including the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area (complete with a ghost story on George’s Island), encaustic art (which means painting with wax) and the best local places to get a batch of fried clams. Awesome, right? Well, before I wrote the fried clam story, I didn’t eat them. Now I do.

Then there’s the oyster story.  I mean raw, on the half shell. Let’s catapult back a lot of years. The first time I ate an oyster, I was in my early twenties, at a reception with my father, who plied me with gin and then escorted me to the raw bar. When I hesitated, he said, “All you do is swish it around in your mouth a few times, then swallow.” Ugh. Anyway, at his behest I slurped one down, and thank goodness for the gin, because the only way that thing was staying in my belly was via a juniper chaser. 

I never touched a raw one again, until taking an assignment to write about seafood restaurants heavy on oysters. (One of the restaurants was called "Oysters," so you can see there was no getting around it.) Truth be told, as repulsive as the bivalves are, I always wanted to like them, to the point I’ve even read books about them. Finally, about eight years ago, I started eating them fried. But the real deal means eating them au natural, if you will, and a deadline was looming. So, for the second time in my life, I slurped one down. And then two and three. Now I eat them, fried or raw (still hoping to try them barbecued), but if it weren’t for my back being against the wall because of the deadline in front of me, I’d never have tasted another. The takeaway here is that while research will make your story better, it may also enhance your life.
 
Food aside, the coolest thing I’ve researched is Second Sight, the psychic ability of those of Celtic heritage to foresee the future, including death. This plays a big part in the book I’m getting ready to query.

And, while I believe in extra-sensory perception, I promise you, that day with my Dad, I  would never have predicted I'd come to love eating oysters.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Blood, Sweat and Hair Pulling Required



It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read other members, click here.

Its ready when its ready.

Since January, when I sent my not-so-current project out to be critiqued by an author/editor I know, I’ve tried to embrace that slogan. Why? Because it’s true. The woman who read my book identified many positives and offered so much encouragement. She also pointed to a boatload of issues, many of them obvious once they were brought to my attention. Eliminate slow moving chapters and one point of view. Ratchet up the action. Develop new scenes. Give one of the POV characters more of an arc.

You betcha it was daunting. At first, I wondered if I could do it all, but once I got to work, everything made sense. That said, it’s the first week in April and I’m still plugging away. Oh, how I wish I was done and could get back to the evolving draft of what I consider my “current” project, on hold now so I can concentrate on this editing exercise.

But my focus needs to be on the editing, the continuing improvements, even though I’m itching to call this story done and start querying it again. But I won’t yet, because while the thing is miles better than it was, there’s still work to be done, including one scene the editor didn’t touch, that’s been niggling at me. I’ve been asking myself, is that really how it would have happened? Finally, a voice in my head spoke up. Nope. I’ve done so much work repairing the rest of the book, it would be foolish not to correct that part, too. I owe it to myself.

What’s my point? Maybe its presumptuous of me to think I know anything, since I’m still trying to publish my first novel, but here’s my take. If you have one iota of thought that your book isn’t as perfect as it can be, don’t waste it by querying too early. If you haven’t already, send it to an objective, knowing reader or editor, and be prepared to put the time in to make recommended changes.

For me, it all comes down to this. What do I want to be known for? Publishing a book, or for publishing a good book?