Category Archives: Writing

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension”, part 30: Ende, Fin, Mwisho, Loppu, Einde

Welcome back! For the rest of this year we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison’s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read and learn from all the fabulous segments from 2013-2015 by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on my drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month thirty:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 30: Ende, Fin, Mwisho, Loppu, Einde

So here we are, last draft. If you’ve been counting, you know this is Draft  6, but, for me, it’s actually a conglomeration of Drafts 6 and 7. During Draft 6, I add in the corrections, suggestions, and changes from my Beta Readers, those precious folks who read the completed manuscript and give me their input. Draft 7 is my final read-through.

Draft 6: I compile the Beta Readers’ comments, chronologically from the first chapter to the end of the novel. Then I start at page one, making corrections and changes. Usually, I can complete three to five chapters a day. My chapters are about 2,000 words in length, and I have sixty to seventy (or more) chapters per novel. Draft 6 takes me from two to four weeks to complete.

Draft 7: I use a two-prong attack on each chapter. The first time through, I read the chapter aloud, just to be sure the rhythm is what I want and that the words flow. I read from my computer screen, and I make changes as I go. As I finish each chapter, I print out a hard copy. I try to work as quickly as possible through the book so I catch the gaps and glitches in the storyline. Once in a while, I have to stop and rewrite a few pages, but I do it on the spot and continue reading as soon as possible.

When I’ve finished this read-through, printing chapters as I go, I  have a hard copy of the entire manuscript, which I punch and place into a huge ring binder. Then I start again at the beginning with a ruler, a dictionary, and a red pen. This is a slow read, and I generally sit at our kitchen table, which gives me more room for my manuscript (and tea and snacks…).

IMG_1913

By this time in the draft process, I’ve nearly memorized the manuscript, so I have a tendency to read what I think is there rather than what really is there. Therefore, I place the ruler under each line to slow me down and keep my brain from skipping or adding words. I check for typos, spelling problems, and grammar. I also check page numbers, paragraph indents, and I watch for font discrepancies.  It’s a word by word, page by page review, and when I’m done — again this is at least a month of intensive work — I spend the next few days putting the corrections into the manuscript on my computer.

Then — finally — The End, Ende, Fin, Mwisho, Loppu, Einde!

My big, thick, imperfect novel has taken on a life of its own, apart from me, with characters who I hope will live in the hearts of my readers as they have lived in my heart. For that time before the submissions, the critiques, the reviews, the loud voices that praise and those that don’t, I am content with my creation.

Next month and through to the end of the year, we’ll talk about the business side of writing a novel: the agents, the editors, publishers, and your options as a writer. Do you have any questions or particular areas you would like me to address?

Strength to your Pen,

Sue

 *Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two bestselling Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy – all of which went digital in May 2013. She also wrote a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back August 27, 2015, for part 31.

Yesterday I quit

The only place where dreams are impossible is in your own mind.  – Emalie

 

Yesterday I quit. I gave up. I told myself I can’t do this. I’m not a writer. I’m not even good at this.

I looked around me – at the writers I know – and told myself I am not like them. I don’t write, or even think about writing, the way they do.

You won’t find notebooks full of my writing; I keep most of my thoughts and ideas hidden away in my head and heart. That’s not a writer.

You won’t find my stories on your local bookstore shelves; they aren’t even set free for anyone to read. That’s not a writer.

You won’t find a blog with my ideas shared and out there for review; they are secreted away where no one can judge them. That’s not a writer.

You won’t find my drafts being discussed in a critique group; I don’t belong to a group. That’s not a writer.

So, yesterday I quit.

Then a friend told me it’s not that I’m not a writer, it’s that I don’t have opportunity to write. Well, yes and no. A writer would find opportunities regardless of how complicated life gets, or how tired her body is, or how overloaded her brain feels. A writer would not purposely keep her thoughts to herself, make excuses to not let it happen, fail to release some of that overload through setting her words free. No, that’s not a writer.

So, yesterday I gave up.

I told myself I am kidding myself. I am letting myself believe the impossible when the impossible is … IMPOSSIBLE! 

And then …. I wondered … what then will I do?! When I don’t have that dream, what do I have? And what of my binder full of ideas? My few picture book  manuscripts? my (still) almost completed first draft of my first young adult novel?

Then I thought … HMMMMM

I DO have pages and pages of ideas (for PBs), some just scraps of possibilities, some glimmers of hope, some silly shadows of something that could be … something – or not.

I DO have dreams of sharing my words and ideas – although that’s a scary thing to me – and finding someone eager to publish them because they believe in me.

I DO have the experience of being part of an online critique group for awhile where I shared a couple of my stories for suggestions, also scary for me.

In March I learned that I’m a shy writer. (Check out my review of The Shy Writer by C. Hope Clark.) And I sabotage myself by not allowing my words to find a life and be shared. I’m afraid of not being good enough. I’m afraid of maybe being good enough … and what then?

Maybe I am a writer. Yes, I do write. I’ve had to write in some way for most of my life, probably getting a real start as a troubled teenager full of angst, when expression came through the poetry that flowed from my heart. Since then I’ve captured many poems on paper over the years, most coming out of my faith.

Yes, I am a writer. I think it’s more that I was giving up on my dream. Perhaps it’s that I see it as a fruitless endeavour when what I have wanted for a very long time is to be a published author of children’s books – yet I haven’t taken myself there.

It helps to be rested. I don’t get quality sleep at my dad’s, and then when I’m home every other week I find it hard to settle into sleep. Yes, it helps to be rested. Discouragement feeds itself off one’s weariness. Quitting comes easier.

One dream I’ll share with you is this:  My mother (who is no longer with us) wrote a cute maritime story many years ago, one which would be a delightful picture book, and I know my dad would love to see it in print while he is still able to know. I almost paid (big bucks) to have it done, but … how I would love for a traditional publisher to see it and, of course, their wanting to publish it would be the most exciting thing ever. It would be a sweet memorial to my dear mum.

I am a writer. With a dream. A weary writer (weary everything I am) with a hope to improve. The daughter of a writer with a brilliant imagination who didn’t pursue her talent of writing in the way she would have liked. I want to go beyond that.

Yesterday I quit. I gave up.

Today I am trudging on.

Someday I may give up — But today is not that day.   –  anonymous

Any words of advice or anything to share regarding publishing or anything else?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension”, part 29: “Are We There Yet?”

Welcome back! For the rest of this year we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison’s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read and learn from all the fabulous segments from 2013-2015 by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on my drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twenty-nine:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 29: Are We There Yet?

So I’ve sent my novel out to my beta readers, who are struggling through the manuscript, bless their hearts. While I wait for their opinions, I work on my fifth draft. For this draft, I work from a printed copy, not the computer screen, because during the fifth draft I’m adding in extra research information and checking out every little fact. I have a tendency to trash my office during this time, piling research books, papers, articles, artifacts, and notes on every available surface.

IMG_1878A copy of the Vocedol Dove from the Eneolithic culture that once flourished near present day Vukovar, Croatia. This copy graces one of the bookshelves in my office.

Here’s an example of how I attack my manuscript during the research-revisions phase. The following segment is the current opening paragraph in my novel-in-progress BONE FIRE, which is set in Eastern Europe, 5800 B.C.

The size of an eight-winter child, that old man, smaller even than Awna. Since the earth was frozen less than a hand-length down, Awna used only half a morning to chop away the soil and the tree roots to carve out his grave. With the wide, flat blade of her digging stone, she pried up pads of moss under the oak trees that spread their winter-broken leaves against the sky. Webbed with the night’s meager snowfall, the moss carried the heavy scent of rich, wet earth, a smell the old man had loved, so Awna layered it as a bed at the bottom of his grave. She pulled his body to the hole, her fingers cupped gently over his brittle bones. She let his feet ease in first, and after, the rest of him. Then she crouched on the edge of the grave, as if she might slide down and claim space for herself.

1. The size of an eight-winter child, that old man… The old man in BONE FIRE is a primordial dwarf. I will check out my notes and sources to be sure this size is accurate. Yes, I’ve already checked this, but I will check it again.

2. Since the earth was frozen less than a hand-length down… This period in Eastern Europe was warmer than the current climate. I need to consult temperature charts and find information about how quickly the  the ground freezes in winter. I also will need to double check soil types. All this I’ll find on the Internet, but I’ll also talk to my dad about it. He holds a master’s degree in Soils.

3. …only half a morning to chop away the soil and tree roots… I’ll use a couple of resources for this segment — my husband who has dug a lot of post holes in his life, and our friend who is a mortician and has supervised the digging of graves.

4. …wide, flat blade of her digging stone… I’ll be sorting through artifact photographs my husband and I took at a museum visit during our recent trip to Eastern Europe.

5. …moss under the oak trees… For this, I’ll resort once again to my very handy The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trees of the World book by Tony Russell, Catherine Cutler, and Martin Walters. I’ll also do a bit more research on moss. Does it grow under oak trees? What types of moss are native to Eastern Europe?

6. …the night’s meager snowfall… Back to Internet resources and climate data.

Even if you aren’t writing historical fiction, you’ll still need to check out some of the facts you present in your novel, because one misstep can make readers –  at least a few of them — close your book and never come back to it. If you’re using some controversial happenings or opinions as fact, don’t be afraid to mention that in your author’s notes. Readers will forgive educated guesses, even if they disagree with your conclusions. However, it’s difficult to overlook those blatantly wrong statements presented as fact.

Remember, readers are a novelist’s life blood. When you complete a book and release it into the world, you are in effect making a contract with your readers. They give up one of their most precious commodities — time — to read your book. In return, you, the writer, should give them your very best effort, which includes accurate research.

Novels which require extensive research will have mistakes. No matter how hard you try to uncover the facts, you’re going to miss something. It’s not the end of the world. If a reader calls you on it, apologize and thank them.

So, that’s my fifth draft. For some writers, a research draft will take no more than a few days. For me, it’s usually a couple of months, but it’s a fun couple of months, the culmination of all the research travel, reading, and gathering I’ve done over the year or two it takes me to write the novel. In the case of BONE FIRE, I’ve invested nearly a decade into the research. The same for my Alaska books. But that’s one of my quirks. I love research.

My question for you: Do you love to do research, or do you consider it just a necessary evil?

Strength to your pen!

Sue

 *Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two bestselling Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy – all of which went digital in May 2013. She also wrote a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back July 23, 2015, for part 30.

Sue Harrison’s Writing the Third Dimension, Part 28: One More Time – Fourth Draft

Welcome back! For the rest of this year we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison’s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read and learn from all the fabulous segments from 2013-2015 by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twenty-eight:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 28: One More Time – Fourth Draft

In my growing-up years, our elementary school classrooms each  included a two-shelf “library,” and, during the first ten weeks of every school year, I would work my way through all the library books. Then I would read through to the end of my reading book, and then my social studies book. After that, I would sit at my desk during rainy recesses and be bored. Until I “took up” drawing.

In the third grade, I was fascinated with Disney characters, and I drew my way from Snow White to Cinderella, Mickey and Minnie and on to Dumbo, and all the rest. I kept my drawings in a notebook in my desk, a “family” that I belonged to during my school days. As I became more adept at drawing, I noticed an odd phenomenon. When I completed a drawing, I was delighted with it. It looked perfect to my eyes, but the next day, when I took it out, I would notice that somehow overnight in my desk, that drawing had become far less than perfect, and usually the whole thing had a persistent slant one way or the other.

IMG_1862

One of my imperfect drawings! Ilagix is an Aleut word that means peace in the sense of friendship.

Now as an adult and a novelist, whatever gets “put away” as a perfect scene is never perfect the next day and even becomes worse the next week or the next month. When I’m up-close to my work, I just don’t see the imperfections. I need a little distance. I handle that need in two ways.

First, I let my writing “rest. ” Unfortunately, with deadlines clamoring, that rest period is usually limited to a couple of weeks, a month at most. That’s why my second solution to this problem is so important. I have readers. In the writing world, these readers are called Beta Readers.

These folks are friends who aren’t afraid to tell me about the book’s imperfections. They don’t mind sharing their ideas, and they don’t get their feelings hurt if I choose not to implement their suggestions.

My readers fall into two categories. Some read scenes only, and they read for specific knowledge areas. My father, for example, has degrees in soil sciences and agriculture. He reads my “plant and soil” sections. My husband reads action scenes. Other friends read for animal husbandry and others for topography. Some read the hunting scenes, and others concentrate on the details of my setting.

My second group of readers read the whole manuscript. When my mother was able to edit, she read my manuscripts for typos and grammar. Her gift was languages, and she was particularly good at catching the problems in the writing itself. I have one reader who is an expert at personality disorders, and several who bring the younger-generation focus to the manuscript.

With my current manuscript, I also plan to hire a professional editor. His specialty is reading for flow, market appeal, and vision, but I won’t send him my manuscript until I’ve made the corrections and changes suggested by my Beta Readers.

When I’ve received their suggestions, I do one huge marathon session that lasts about a week, maybe two, and write in their corrections. That’s it for Fourth Draft.  If you guess that it ranks right up there as one of my favorites, you’re right! And I marvel at the ideas and the wisdom of those people so willing to help me for nothing but my gratitude and a paltry mention in the Writer’s Acknowledgements.

How do you feel about letting others read your work? Nervous, anxious to share, shy, reluctant?

Strength to your pen,

Sue

 *Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two bestselling Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy – all of which went digital in May 2013. She also wrote a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back June 25, 2015, for part 29.

 

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension”, part 27: One More Time – Third Draft

Welcome back! For the rest of this year we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison’s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read and learn from all the fabulous segments from 2013-2015 by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twenty-seven:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 27: One More Time – Third Draft

I love writing Third Drafts! Third Drafts don’t involve the hard mental work necessary in writing a First Draft, and Third Drafts rise above the disillusionment of the Second Draft. By the time I’m writing a Third Draft, I’ve accepted the fact that my novel is not, and never will be, perfect. Acceptance escorts me into that place of hope where happy novelists live. Perhaps, just perhaps, my book will touch someone’s heart.

During the Second Draft of a novel, I dissect the book – scene by scene and chapter by chapter. I rewrite it the same way. With the Third Draft, I read the novel in one big gulp.  Here’s the process:

1. I read the novel, usually the version that “resides” on my computer.

2. As I read, I leave myself notes where changes are necessary. Sometimes I need to cut or expand descriptive passages. Sometimes, I need to delete a repetitive scene or an “already-been-said” dialog. If I find that I should add a chapter or two or even three, I write myself a short paragraph, within the text, that tells me what action needs to occur, which characters are involved, and what motivates those characters.

3. After I’ve read the entire novel, I go back and make the noted changes.

4. If I’ve added any new chapters, I read them through several times to smooth the edges and make sure they meld into the rest of the novel.

5. I print out the whole thing, three-hole punch the pages, and place them into a binder.

6. That’s it. Third Draft done!

This is another celebration time for me. My husband and I will have a dinner “out” or maybe go to a movie, or I might just stop at our local shoe store…. *grin*

shoes

 

Question for you: How do you celebrate the small victories in your life?

Strength to your pen!

Sue

 *Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two bestselling Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy – all of which went digital in May 2013. She also wrote a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back May 28, 2015, for part 28.

 

Book Review: Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens – by Heather Wright

Writing Fiction - A Guide for Pre-TeensBook: Writing Fiction: A Guide for 
Pre-Teens
Author: Heather Wright
Publisher: Saugeen Publications
Date: July 24, 2014
Genre: Writers' Guide-book
Pages: 68
Price: under $7.00
My Rating: A helpful, easy-to-follow guide designed for 
young writers and useful to anyone

When I learned that Heather Wright had put together a writing guide for pre-teens, I asked for a review copy. Hoping there would be tips even I could pick up, I wasn’t disappointed.

When I was a pre-teen or teenager I could have benefited from this book, as will any young writers now. Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens is well-planned, covering everything a young writer needs to know to give them a sound foundation. It is easy to follow, enjoyable to read, informative, helpful, educational and challenging in a fun and encouraging way.

Each section is divided into sub-sections as follows:

Getting Started

  • Joywriting

What do I need to be a writer?

Habits and Goals

  • Choosing Your Goal
  • Writing Every Day
  • Don’t Miss a Word
  • Write with a Friend or Two

Pantser or Plotter: Which are You?

  • The Pantser
  • The Plotter

Where do I get ideas for stories?

  • What if?
  • Write What You Know
  • Pick 4 Words

Writing Prompts

Plotting Tips

  • Basic Rule of Plotting
  • Story Planning

Plotting with the Hero’s Journey

How do I start my story?

Who should tell the story?

  • Point of View: First Person
  • Point of View: Second Person
  • Point of View: Third Person

How do I describe my characters?

  • Show Don’t Tell
  • Change is Good
  • Character List

How do I describe the setting?

  • Think about how much you really have to describe
  • Use Comparisons
  • Get the Senses Involved
  • Draw a Map or Use Photos

How do I write dialogue?

How do I end my story?

How do I make my writing better?

  • Revising and Editing
  • Words
  • Sentences
  • Combining Sentences
  • Paragraphs

What do I do when a story gets stuck?

  1. Outline
  2. Forget about making the first draft perfect
  3. Write more than one story at a time
  4. Put the story away
  5. Brainstorm
  6. Ask “What if?”
  7. Don’t worry

The author ends with a section called Last Words in which she invites readers to visit her website and ask any questions they may have, or share with her a paragraph or two of their stories.

Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens by Heather Wright is an excellent teaching aid for young writers. I suspect that if you are a writer – no matter your age – reading the headings above you found something that caught your interest. Why not add this helpful writing guide to your collection of writing books?

You can find Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

As a bonus for you I am including a link to Laura Best’s blog so you can read the very interesting guest post by Heather Wright.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Shy Writer – by C. Hope Clark

The Shy WriterBook: The Shy Writer (second edition)
An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success
Author: C. Hope Clark
Publisher: Booklocker.com, Inc
Date: 2nd edition 2007; 1st printing September 22, 2004
Genre: writers’ self-help
Pages: 174
Price:  $14.95$16.75
My rating: A very good help to shy writers – or any writer!

 

This is one of those purchases as a writer I am very glad I made. The title immediately appealed to me, and I discovered that – in The Shy Writer: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success – author Hope Clark, addresses so many things that I can relate to and that describe me – I admit.

There are fourteen chapters, each divided into sections. The chapter titles are:

  1. Understanding Shyness
  2. Defining the Shyness
  3. Reaching Out Reaches In
  4. Controlling the Fear
  5. One-On-One
  6. The Big Bad Throngs
  7. Honing the Skills and Confidence
  8. Shy But Sharp
  9. Gimmick the Name of the Game
  10. The Press and Media
  11. World Wide Web Power
  12. Other People Power
  13. Controversy – When Shy Doesn’t Work
  14. Safe Havens and Natural Feelings

In all these chapters I don’t think Hope Clark missed a thing. Being a shy writer herself, Hope understands it all. She was able to cover all areas of one’s inner struggle with what comes after the writing – the marketing and publicity in any form, including how to cope with the often dreaded book signings. She addresses many scenarios and gives examples pertaining to her own life or of other writers she has met.

Author Hope Clark gives such sound advice and includes links to many sites where helpful information can be found. For the shy writer this book is comforting and reassuring, well worth having.

You can find The Shy Writer on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)