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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?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Back in the Saddle - IWSG March 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 other members, click here. 

This month’s question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it. Did it work out?

Oh, my. Talk about synchronicity. This month’s question covers a topic I was planning on writing about anyway.  Of course, the modifier “really” as it pertains to old is subjective, but I’m reworking an “old” piece now which is why I’ve been absent from Middle Passages.

Five years ago, I began writing a book I queried in 2015. I did receive some requests for full reads, but that was it, and after sending it out to less than 20 agents, I made the decision to pull the book and let it rest while I moved onto other things. I believed then, as now, that it's a great story, but deep down I knew I hadn’t written it well enough...yet.

Last fall, I returned to it and after giving it a solid edit (it’s amazing what you can find after two years) I invested in my writing career and my book by paying a trusted and talented author/teacher /professional editor to read it and give me feedback.  As I suspected, the book had flaws, but now that they’ve been pointed out to me I’ve challenged myself to fix them and make this book saleable. This, my friends, is why I’ve been absent from Blogger.

I’m focused on reworking the book to eliminate things that slowed the story, to ratchet up the conflict, and to make sure I’m writing in scene. I’ve had other projects that have been for practice, clearly. After a point it’s time to leave them. But I don’t feel that way about this novel. I want it to succeed. For that to happen, I have to dig down as deep as I can, which means other things have to go by the wayside if I want this story to have life beyond my flash drive. 

Jury's still out on whether or not this revisit will end up being worthwhile. While I'm not typing, I keep my fingers crossed.

I'm doing what I've got to do. For those who may have wondered, that's what I’m up to when I’m not here. 

Wishing you all the best!