I just started submitting short stories again. No excuses—I stopped sending stuff out to focus on my novels. Okay, that was my official excuse, and I’m sticking with it. Looking back, it wasn’t the best plan. Be that as it may, it’s been a few years since I submitted stories. I’m guessing I’m not alone in disliking the submission process. Well, I used to really dislike it, but now it’s so much easier. Everyone has gone to online submission forms. I like it!
Still, Something about the word submission irks me. What does it mean exactly? I decided to see what old Merriam-Webster had to say, and because I’m rather simple, I opted for the kid’s definition:
1: the act of putting forward something (as for consideration or comment)
2: the condition of being humble or obedient
3: the act of giving in to power or authority
I recognize that the first definition is appropriate for this discussion, but why does it feel like the other two seem to hit closer to the mark? No matter how thick-skinned you are, or how well you handle rejection, it feels like you are submitting a piece of yourself along with your story. Then you have to be humble when you receive said rejection, and obedient to the whims of the publisher.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think it is a conspiracy. Sending in your story is called a submission to put you in the right frame of mind. Be prepared to submit to the authority of the publisher, all yea who enter here! It can’t be a coincidence.
Anyway, I’ve sent out three submissions: One was rejected within a day, one was accepted within a day, and the last is still out there. Not bad odds. Maybe I should have started submitting again sooner.
A couple of recent season finales have made me think about how to do a cliffhanger right. To be honest, the last season finale of The Walking Dead pissed me off enough to stop watching the show, and it made me think about how they did it wrong.
To do a cliffhanger correctly, you have to entice your audience to want to see the next scene without pissing them off. It is about building anticipation in the audience to the right degree that they will come back for more. It is also a way to build tension in your story. This is often done through some type of revelation or twist to the storyline that happens as part of the cliffhanger or at the beginning of the next scene.
An example of a good cliffhanger was the end of the season 5 of The Game of Thrones. Jon Snow is stabbed multiple times, and the season ends with him lying in the snow, but is Jon Snow really “dead” dead? The way the scene ends with Jon lying alone in the snow leaves the option open that he survives. Also, there were enough hints in the story to that point (people brought back to life) that he could possibly be revived from the dead. This is enough to leave the audience guessing and to build the tension for the next season without alienating the audience through the use of a “cheap trick.” The reveal comes later, early in season 6, when the audience finds out if Jon Snow lives.
In contrast, the end of season 6 of The Walking Dead was a cheap trick. The Walking Dead crew is lined up on their knees with no possibility of escape. Negan is counting out with his nasty baseball bat, and the audience knows one of their beloved characters is going to die—then the scene ends and the audience has to wait until next season to find out who gets it. Yes, there is tension. Yes, there is anticipation for what comes next. But unfortunately, the audience is left gnashing their teeth in frustration. I call this artificial tension, where the writer withholds information to create tension with the audience. Unfortunately, this type of tension creation causes the audience to feel like they are being tricked somehow.
To me this is a cheap trick that turns me off from a story. The Walking Dead is one of those shows that goes hot and cold from season to season as it is. This artificial tension season finale was the last straw to make me lose interest in the story. It was not the zombies or the characters that killed the most popular zombie show for me—it was the writing, and the improper use of a cliffhanger.
I’m working on the 3rd draft of my latest project. I still don’t have a good title for it, right now I’m calling it Wolf Book 3. As I was sifting through reader feedback, I wondered how many drafts it normally takes for me to get that completed feeling.
I looked back at the last couple of novel projects to see how many drafts I wrote and the magic number is 5. Here’s the breakdown:
Draft 1 — This is the true first draft, where I write it and let it sit for a bit. I typically like to wait at least a month before draft 2.
Draft 2 — Here is the first rewrite. In the past my 1st drafts were pretty bare bones, and I would add quite a bit of detail in the 2nd draft, but lately I’ve had to cut stuff out instead. After this draft, I send the manuscript out for reader comments and/or to a critique group.
Draft 3 — This is the draft where I incorporate feedback that I receive from readers/critiquers. I typically make changes based upon the feedback but don’t dive into a total rewrite.
Draft 4 — After I let the reader feedback percolate a bit, I come back and do my final re-write. This is where I print it out, read it aloud, and re-write until I can’t anymore. After this draft it goes to the editor.
Draft 5 — I make changes based upon editor’s comments and do a final proofread.
We all know that there is no correct way to do this stuff, but this is the way that seems to work for me. How about you?
Filed under Editing, Writing
I finished the UCSD Copyediting certificate program. The program consisted of four quarterly classes: Grammar Lab, Copyediting I, II, and II. The editing project for the last class was pretty challenging. I recommend this to anyone who is looking to improve their grammar skills and who wants to learn how to use copyediting marks, style sheets, and all that other editor stuff.
This is just one step forward for improving my own writing and helping my fellow writers. Eventually (sooner rather than later) I plan to dive into the editing side of the business. In the meantime, I would like to practice the skills I learned.
Any writers out there looking for an edit? I prefer to start with smaller works. I would rather look at short stories or essays than a novel at this point. Yes, this is a freebie, but I am not adverse to trading edits. I have a few short stories that could use some feedback.
Filed under Editing, Writing
I’ve been sitting in Procrastination Station for too long. I don’t have a good excuse except for that pesky elephant that’s been smirking at me from across the room.
You know that old joke: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
This one is a whopper and has been daring me to take that first bite for a couple of months. Being a coward, I chose to ignore his invitation. Instead, I played Fallout 4 until I dreamed of robots and synths and started looking at my wife funny. No, I’m sure she’s not a synth (now), but she did threatened to hide my Play Station more than once.
The elephant just laughed at me.
I also watched enough anime to last me for years to come, and still the elephant was left uneaten.
I completed the last class to earn my editing certificate. This, I reasoned, was kind of like writing. It counted, didn’t it? The elephant shook his head sadly and offered me one of his massive foot pads to take that first bite.
My elephant is the third book in my series. It is in need of a major rewrite. I have comments back from readers. I have reviewed it enough to know that this is no little “baby elephant” revision. This is a over-grown 10 ton pachyderm with an attitude worse than a busload of middle school teenagers.
Today, I finally took a deep breath, pulled out that mass of marked-up pages, and opened my mouth wide for that first bite.
Hmm. . . tastes like chicken.
When I joined Goodreads a few years ago, I felt like I should write reviews for the books I read. After doing this for a month or two, I changed my mind. I still will rate a book (as long as I finished reading it, and if I liked it enough to read it then it will get a decent rating), but don’t typically write a review unless I really liked it. We all have our niches. I enjoy writing and reading, but I don’t enjoy writing book reviews. I have two main reasons for not liking to give them:
- “If you don’t have something nice to say . . .” – Remember when your mom told you this way back when? In the writing world, I’m more interested in gaining readers than I am in evaluating the writing of others. Don’t get me wrong, I have posted reviews on Goodreads of the books that I enjoyed, but I prefer to keep my criticisms to myself. Honestly, if I didn’t like your book I won’t finish reading it or probably read any others you write. I’m not sure either of us are gaining anything if I tell you so. Writers’ egos get bruised enough without me adding to it. Then I was thinking that I owe it to other readers, but decided that was my own hubris talking.
- I am brutally honest and critical by nature – It is in my DNA. I tell people all the time, “Don’t ask for my opinion unless you really want to know what I think.” If I don’t like it, I’ll tell you so. I’ll also tell you what I don’t like about it and why. I don’t mind giving feedback as long as the recipient realizes this is what they are getting. For example, doing critiques in a writing group because they asked for it and hopefully are looking for input to make their story better. Even if the author is a friend, I couldn’t give them a good review if I didn’t like the book. That being said, a book review is typically done for someone you don’t know. Since they didn’t ask me for my opinion, I don’t want to give it unless it is positive (see reason #1). Of course, if I don’t know you, it has to be really good for me to take the time to write about it because I’d rather be writing my own stuff.
I don’t mind receiving book reviews as long as they are productive in nature (not that I have a choice either way). Like anyone else, I prefer a positive review, but as long as the criticism shows thought (like they read the book) it doesn’t bother me. There is nothing worse than receiving a low rating with an explanation like “I didn’t read it.” If you didn’t read it, don’t review it. Are any of our opinions that important that we should kick someone we don’t even know in the gut? I prefer to torture the people I know who ask for it. Does that make me twisted?
I started out NaNoWriMo with high hopes, and was not disappointed. No, I didn’t make 50,000 words, but I did kick my latest project back into high gear. To do this, I started tracking my word count at the beginning of November. Seeing this progress helped me to push forward. From then until now, I’ve added 27,000 words to my novel (now at about 95,000 words) and am nearing completion of the first draft. I don’t write every day, but I do most days. I averaged just under 1000 words/day for the days I wrote. This is a pretty good pace for me (lately).
I was hoping to kick this novel up a gear because I was stuck in the mid-novel badlands. I don’t know about every writer, but I tend to get bogged down in the middle. I know where I’m going, but not quite sure exactly how I’m getting there. So, in the middle I’m pushing through to that eureka! moment when it all falls into place.
This occurred for me a little over a week ago, and now I am writing like a madman to get there. I’m looking at about four more chapters to finish up the draft. I should be done by Christmas without a problem.
I’m still looking for a title for this novel. It’s the third book in my Kingdom of Havel trilogy. The first two were The Order of the Wolf and Stenson Blues. So far, nothing seems to fit. Maybe someone who reads the draft will have a good one for me.