Tipsy Wisdoms…

Welcome,

October.

Nice to see you again?

There are certainly times when I think I could read writerly advice for days on end and never absorb enough of it. And those are also the times when I stop and realize that I am procrastinating… such an ugly word for such a fun activity. But in those spans, I do run across much of value, so I thought I would share some of it here in this segment I will call Tipsy Wisdoms. These editions will be periodical (read when I get around to it, <snicker, snicker>) and hopefully fun. Many posts may be from Tumblr, and I choose to do it this way instead of posting my whole Tumblr blog here because they have different foci. That said, I will do my UTMOST to credit the original poster, and hooray!!! for all of these individuals who have put into words the many things we all can use a reminder of. I hope you enjoy Tipsy Wisdoms!

re-posted from harrypotterhousequotes on Tumblr
re-posted from wordsnstuff https://wordsnstuff.tumblr.com/post/187118240180/tips-on-writing-flashbacks
If you like this posting, follow wordsnstuff on Tumblr or wordsnstuffblog.com
re-posted from linestorm writing on Tumblr, page 1
re-posted from linestorm writing on Tumblr, page 2 https://linestorm.tumblr.com/

I thought this listing of synonyms for light all condensed into one place was a fabulous idea! What a great resource! Thanks, linestorm!

This next post is courtesy of fictionadventurer over on Tumblr. It is a healthy reminder of how as writers we can get into our own heads and muck up what doesn’t need to be mucked up… especially for one who fights perfectionism constantly and has high standards like myself. Take it as a gentle nudge~

I think there’s a tendency for some writers to fall into the mindset that a good story has to have All The Things. Unique and nuanced three-dimensional characters, a completely immersive setting, a structurally flawless plot and pristine prose that conveys a distinct and memorable authorial voice. While it’s good to achieve a basic level of competence in all those things, I think it’s important to remember that no story can deliver everything.

Some of that is pure logic–a story generally can’t have both a snappy, page-turning plot and leisurely pages of vivid description, so a choice has to be made. But also, readers don’t necessarily need perfection in everything. They can’t pay attention to everything. And even the best and most popular books draw in readers by being very good in one or two areas, even if they aren’t necessarily strong in others. Tolkien is praised for his vivid worldbuilding even if some people don’t like his prose styling. People love Austen’s characters and wit even if she tells us next to nothing about her setting. And so on and so forth. I know that there are certain authors I read for their characters or for their masterful prose, and I don’t really care if the other areas are neglected because they’re not what I came for. And they rank among my favorite books not because they’re great at everything, but that they’re really great at that one specific thing.

It’s okay to have strengths. Maybe you focus a lot of energy on intricate characterization while your descriptions tend toward minimalism. It’s fine–readers might fall in love with your characters and not mind that their imaginations have to fill in a few extra setting details. Maybe pacing a plot is child’s play while styling a beautiful sentence feels like pulling teeth. That’s alright, too–readers may be so busy turning pages that they don’t mind your purely functional prose. But if you’re spending time agonizing over all the things at once, you may not be able to reach brilliance in any of the areas.

While it’s good to learn the craft and improve your writing, reaching for perfection can be paralyzing. It can lead to endless reading of articles and books about writing, while no actual stories are written. So I’m thinking this limited approach can helpRather than trying to be the author who writes a Great Book, think about being an author who’s great at a certain part of writingAnd the rest might not matter as much as you’d feared. original post by fictionadventurer

I’m out,

like a skateboarding Storm Trooper… ~

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Feeling Like Fall. Or New Year’s?

September… Wait!!

Where Did You Go?

Wow, how time does fly between when I start a post and when I finish it… We have been graced with absolutely perfect early fall weather, allowing me to stay outside in summer mode almost the whole month, until today, really. 80 two days ago, 60 today. But that is New England, wait a minute or two, and it will change.

Despite the warmer temps though, it is certainly feeling like fall, both within and without. The Celtic holiday of Mabon and the Autumnal Equinox were last week, ushering in the harvest season and the time to sink our roots firmly in the ground for the coming winter. Fittingly enough, the same day was also my father’s birthday, and he is the most grounded person I know, from his devotion to our family farm and its yearly patterns, to stubbornly refusing to allow my brother and I to take on and decide more of what goes on here daily—he is truly enough to smother all of my airy ambitions. But strangely enough, his presence often can bring me back from my daydreamy aspirations onto the solid ground of “just get it done.” So here I am- gettin’ IT done.

Late August has perennially been a time of emotional unrest for me, one who is, by nature, not emotionally inclined. It may be harvest season, with pumpkin spice everything and mums and asters on every doorstep, but I get restless and start feeling stuck. The simplest way I can explain it is that school is starting for the younger set, and I feel like I should be starting something new too. I have felt for a long time (namely the 20+ years I have been out of college) that New Year’s Day should actually be where Labor Day is in the calendar. Everything new starts in the fall—school, college, football, basketball, and hockey seasons, television series, new car models are released, so many things. And yet I am just doing the same things as the month before. Yeah, it makes me crazy…

But I suppose the real way to look at this enigma is that I am the one keeping myself the same—so why don’t I do something about it? Well, in a roundabout way, I think I did, cause before I knew what was happening, I had two new projects to embark on, and my angst faded overnight. I had just decided early in September that I would use the harvest season energy toward finishing my business website and launching it, and start looking into preparation for NaNoWriMo in November (if I am brave enough to attempt it?). About a day or two later, I found myself with two new horticultural endeavors—one quicker re-design, and one very substantial grounds reclamation project that could go on indefinitely. Both of these types of projects still satisfy something deep inside me, so I accepted them and dove in headfirst. Problem solved, right?

Yes. I sort of think that the universe responded to that sort of restless energy I put out there and crafted me a solution, but only after I had decided to create my own. Most years I have continued to rail against the end of summer, giving in to those restless feelings and letting them make me agitated and cross when no avenue appears for them. But when I accepted that angst-filled energy and aimed to turn it into something positive, outlets materialized immediately. Suddenly I find myself with my fingers in way too many pies, with the opposite problem—not enough hours in the day to do all I want to. But hey, that is the problem to have, especially for the harvest season, that “just get it done” time of year. Cause the next season that comes is the dark one, when time feels interminable in the New England winter. So I’m gonna take it as it comes now, and do it while I can. All of it.~

Book Review: The Savior, J.R. Ward

a dynamic, fast-paced, racy tale that left me wondering where the vampires are really hanging out.

My Goodreads opinion featured in the sidebar menu mentions that I am late to the J. R. Ward party, and well, I’m really just late to the vampire party in general. Or perhaps I’m early, if you believe the elusive ones are on the upswing again as subject matter. Either way, I am a huge fan of the adult world of vampires— the more darkness, secrets, chiseled features, repressed emotions, and mind powers the better. That being said, for current fans of The Black Dagger Brotherhood series, The Savior is another installment in a well-loved series; for me it was an introduction to exactly where I want to be.


The first thing I noticed was Ms. Ward’s writing style—it’s in-your-face, direct, extremely realistic in dialogue, and sensual. After my inner voice adjusted to it (in the first three pages), I actually breathed a sigh of relief and said (out loud) “Holy shit! She writes like I think! I love this!” I flew through the first seventy-five pages and spent the rest of the book finding enough time to be able to read large portions. I couldn’t just do small bits, I needed to get into the New York winter the story was set in and stay for a while.

Even though it is the seventeenth in the series, The Savior was easily consumed as a standalone book. It was obvious many of the other Brothers have history I was unaware of, but it did not hinder my engagement with the Murhder and his tale, or detract from the story line for me. In fact, I like the idea that each Brother has his own book (so it seems), and that if I ever wish I can go back and read them. A perfect construction of a series to keep an author writing and employed once their audience is hooked.

The hierarchy and structure of the underground world the vampires move in was outlined and described more than adequately throughout the book without big informative paragraphs. I am always intrigued by plots that have their own languages, naming systems, pronunciations, and genealogies, and Ms. Ward has developed several of these threads throughout the series. For me, it just enhances the imaginative experience of “getting into the world” of the book, something that is at the very top of my list when it comes to entertaining my overactive brain. Reading is definitely how I lose myself and relax; my imagination craves room to roam and The Savior indulged it fully.

Murhder and the human Sarah’s paths cross at critical points in each of their lives. Both have experienced traumatic loss and need that last nudge to lift them out of the meager existences they have been trapped in. Well-crafted character arcs take them from their low points, back into feeling alive and fulfilled, and into the resolution of the plot. Suffused with undercurrents of political machination, dark vampiric activities, mind magic, huge male tempers and egos, hot, erotic sex, and current scientific topics, J. R. Ward spins a dynamic, fast-paced, racy tale that left me wondering where the vampires are really hanging out. ‘Cause if they are here, I wanna be one. Sign me up, I’m in!~

*Hardcover image source Amazon.com. Hardcover publisher Gallery Books, April 2019.

Human Writing Aides: Critique Partners, Alpha Readers, and Beta Readers. What It Takes to Be One and What I Have Learned (Part 2)

In the first part of this Human Writing Aides post, I talked about some of the definitions and nuances of these author/reader arrangements, and some ideas and considerations surrounding the topics. This second part will follow the current human writing aide role I am performing for an author and what I have learned along the way.


Back in the winter, I answered a query in a Facebook group of a new author looking for someone willing to read the first two chapters of his “dark fantasy” work in progress. I have been a fantasy reader and lover since I was around 12, so the genre, and his added footnote of including elves and magic, certainly piqued my interest. I also have to admit that the idea of being one of the first to read something that could be the next bestseller really intrigues me, and I had some free time, so I replied “Sure. I’ll read it.” The reply along the lines of “Great, thank you very much!” came, and after an exchange of email addresses, the document appeared in my inbox.   

I opened the file and began reading. The next day I sent an email back with my observations, questions, and suggestions. I fervently hoped I wasn’t being too critical, but I tempered that with the knowledge that I had approached the document with a few basic thoughts in mind:

  • If this were my work, what would I want to know?
  • How would I receive my comments (as pertains to the emotional aspect of the language used)?
  • This author and I know nothing about one another, so I may need to explain my thoughts sometimes to convey my meaning.
  • This is NOT proofreading! Stick to the larger concepts of story and characters.

The last one was, at times, the most difficult to adhere to, just having finished an online proofreader’s training course, but I quickly came to a comfortable compromise with myself on that topic. Nervously, I hit the SEND button and waited for the reply to come.

Did I say too much?

The return email arrived and I waited until I had enough time to devote it uninterrupted. Even if it was an angry retort, it was important to me that I understand the position the author was coming from, and how perhaps I could have made the exchange better, if necessary. To my great relief, however, his response was upbeat and grateful. In fact, twenty-eight chapters and several months later, our arrangement is still going strong.

Thankfully…

Over the course of that time, my reply format has changed, but my overall approach has remained consistent. As one of two initial sets of eyes on the author partner’s WIP, my main concern is that he gets his story out onto the page. I see the thoughts and scenes sort of like stick-figure people—once they are out of the author’s head onto paper they have a rudimentary existence. Subsequent revisions and edits will flesh them out into substantial beings, complex characters, and strong storylines.

I look for:

  • inconsistencies in character elements
  • random ideas that seem to just show up in the plot
  • tense shifts
  • things that trip me up when I’m reading, especially in setting descriptions and battle scenes

I set my proofreader’s eye aside largely, except where it may help other post-first-revision readers (i.e. possessives). I also suggest using strong verbs that enhance the context and sentences around them. Even at this early stage, it makes sense to me to encourage strong, straightforward writing before the work will be handed off to another reader.

All the while, though, I keep in mind that I am not re-writing, but merely suggesting what could be changed, enhanced, clarified, described, or omitted, as the case may be. Yes, my returned documents contain numerous colored additions of missing words and letters, apostrophes, noted verb tense shifts, perhaps a few commas when I was undoubtedly confused, and comment bubbles FULL of questions and observations. Many times I do stop and wonder if I am overwhelming my author partner. But then I think that if I’m noticing something now, then by pointing it out, I give him the opportunity to fill some of the holes and continue refining his style and voice in forthcoming chapters. My colored ink can always be rejected because after all, it is his work, not mine.

Another aspect that I was aware of in a global sense, but has become a fun part of this project for me, is working with an English writer originally from England, whereas I am from the American English camp. Our differences in phraseology, spellings, and even some word usage are interesting and always make me smile. A few times I have wanted to change some decidedly non-American terminology, but I patted my Yankee brain on the head and said, “Down girl, go relax.” Because this isn’t my story, and the world is largely non-American; it probably sounds perfectly correct to many who will read it. So I say… Let it be! (Lol)


So perhaps then, according to the definitions in Part 1, on this project I am:

  • part CP (reading from a writer’s perspective with attention to style, POV, and tense, the agreement of exchange)
  • part alpha reader (looking for plot holes, picking up inconsistencies and blind spots)
  • and even a little bit beta (reading from a reader’s POV as a fantasy lover, making small text edits)

What is most important, though, is that it is an agreed-upon and mutually beneficial exchange between the author and me. The emails with the next installments always make me happy, and he has told me many times he appreciates my suggestions and observations. I look forward the seeing this story as a finished manuscript, and then as a printed series of books, knowing how far it has come from those first emailed chapters. I’m along for the journey, and since I have just received the last two chapters for this book in the series, I’d say we will be doing some back-tracking and re-routing on the way to the end, but one thing is for certain—we will both be better writers and readers when the last page is turned.~

Human Writing Aides: Critique Partners, Alpha Readers and Beta Readers. What It Takes to Be One and What I Have Learned (Part 1 of 2)

A hot topic in social media writers’ groups these days is critique partners/alpha readers/beta readers, and all aspects about them: what are they and the differences between them; where do you find them; what should you expect from them as an author; what the reader can expect from the authors; should they be paid, and so on. The answers seem to vary widely the more you read about the subject and depending on the source of the information. There is also a fair amount of emotion attached to the subject, and rightly so. Sending your hard-fought literary creation out for perusal by an unknown entity takes cajones, let’s face it, that struggle is very real. Everyone who puts pen to paper wants to be encouraged and viewed positively, but just as in life in general, it’s more often the not-so “Ra-ra! Yes, I love it!” comments that promote growth as a writer.

Text Box: CP or α?
Which one do I need?

I read a couple of blog posts on iWriterly and Indies Unlimited recently that described these three human writing aides quite neatly. iWriterly’s Meg Latorre describes critique partners (CP) as:    

“…writers who provide feedback on your work, usually by request (to exchange chapters).” Meg Latorre, iWriterly, (follow her on YouTube)     

Such a person could easily be confused with Indies Unlimited’s definition of an alpha reader as someone who reads a work-in-progress in the early stages of compilation, and perhaps even again after a first edit, but before it is sent to a content editor. They go on to say that an alpha reader’s purpose

…is to see if the overall structure of your book works. Are there glaring issues or plot holes large enough to float an ocean liner through? The idea is to have a trusted reader who might spot issues you miss or have a blind spot about. … If you decide to, the sooner in the process the better. You want to limit wasted effort you’ll expend polishing sections that might get reworked or even tossed out based on feedback from the alpha reader.”

Big Al, IndiesUnlimited, (follow them on Twitter)

Both sites agreed that beta readers come later in the process, after at least a few self-edits.  Betas tend to be other readers who have an interest in the genre and are also willing to offer feedback, both positive and negative. They may offer simple line edits in addition to larger concept suggestions, or not, it depends upon the person and what the author is looking for. Many times these details can be discussed and agreed upon before the document is even sent.


Typically, these three feedback sources have not been compensated, but that is changing some as I see freelancers listing them as part of their core services. I believe that there is certainly room for discussion in this realm, as it all boils down simply to someone spending their time for the benefit of another (and hopefully themselves as well). Everyone’s time has value and that should be taken into consideration. Perhaps there doesn’t have to be an actual transfer of funds, but certainly a signed, messaged copy of the work in its finished form is a well-deserved token.

If you don’t feel that compensation is necessary, that’s cool. I know many don’t.

 Alternatively, a fun way to say thank you could be to gift your reader with a month or a few (depending on the scope of the work) of an appropriate subscription box. I have treated myself to the Scribbler subscription box during the dreary New England winter months, and I loved it. It’s full of writer-friendly stuff, tips, tools of the trade, and of course, a real BOOK, so it is supporting other authors as well. Finding the type-covered box in the mail always brought a smile to my face, and a few hours of Christmas-in-whenever. Subscription boxes are numerous now, there is one for most every kind of interest, finding one that you’d like to send (or receive, which is how I think about it) shouldn’t be difficult.

Here’s another, perhaps more practical idea for appreciation (if applicable): compensate the critiquer the amount it would be to upgrade one of their trade memberships a level. Freelancers and industry professionals alike have many organizations to choose to belong to, such as The Editorial Freelancers’ Association, Freelancers’ Union, The Society for Editing (ACES), The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (UK based), and several others, all of which have tiers of membership with associated fees. Levelling up many times allows for the purchase of a course or seminar at a reduced rate, or discounted entry fees to conferences and association gatherings. This way each party is continuing to hone their craft and improve their repertoire. That is truly a gift that keeps on giving!

In a similar vein, if your CP is on Patreon, it couldn’t get any easier! Helping our fellow creative souls toward their goals is a productive way to show support and appreciation. In fact, I’m investigating this platform myself…  

Testimonials and/or endorsements of the CP/reader on their website should undoubtedly be part of the author’s response. Testimonials and reviews are extremely important to members of the freelance community, they help to support our business and bolster our confidence. And yes, even if it is a less positive sentiment, it may help other writers judge if the reader is offering the level of feedback they are looking for. We all gotta take the good and the not-so-good— if the CP/reader can dish it out, they better be able to take it in return.  

Freelancer’s lifeblood…

One big difference that is noted in these three human aides is their approach of the manuscript- either from a writer’s perspective or a reader’s. Some authors choose to enlist the services of all three, while some only seek out one or two. I can see value in each one depending on the author’s writing style, time and/or deadlines, and the type of work it is. Some (VERY) basic line editing in the early stages can also reduce copy editing and proofreading costs in the later stages.

Writer-writer

CP’s and alpha readers can often expect to be reading raw, unedited copy—literally right off the pen or keyboard. If you can’t stomach misspellings, a lack of punctuation and often formatting, and imprecise grammar, please, save everyone the frustration and opt for a beta or later stage read instead. You will be SOOOOO much more comfortable! Authors, on the other hand, can receive their feedback in many forms, from list-type replies to in-document notations. But be prepared for some criticism, it is what you should ASK for! This is all just a round-about way of saying that the most important part of the reader/author arrangement is communication about the extent of the feedback.  When each side has expressed what they are looking for and knows their scope, the chances of a positive experience are much better. Which really is the end goal, right?

In the second part of this post, I will discuss the blend of CP and alpha reading (according to the above definitions) I am currently providing for an author halfway around the world from me, and what I have learned from the partnership. Until then, keep writing, reading, and playing with words however you can! ~

Is Blogging REALLY This Hard?

Why can’t I get this done?

I ask myself this question a thousand times a day, it seems. I want to post. I even come up with ideas that I want to write about, but I haven’t been able to put them together. I sit down with pen and paper, and then proceed to talk myself out of it internally for days on end. Ugh. Why? Why do I do this? Then the guilt starts, and the feeling foolish, and well, just forget it, I’m done. But that’s not how I want to be, and not how I had planned for this blogging effort to go. Anyone else have this problem?

I am my own worst enemy, I know. Which makes taking corrective action all the more difficult. The last time I posted was back in April, before the lingering winter let go enough to let spring come out to play. I do fully admit, once the sun is out and it is warm enough to start reducing clothing in New England, it is TOUGH for me to be inside. That is my main distraction, my sun worship, and honestly it is killing me right now that I am not outside, cause the warm days are numbered as we approach September once again.

But that is a physical thing, meaning I can change my location and still be productive, in theory, so why doesn’t it happen? Do I not want it enough? I don’t believe that is true, I am very committed to my solo venture now. From my own self-evaluation, I find that the roots are embedded in the bedrock of self-doubt and insecurity, and a heavy amount of FEAR- that ever-present oxymoron of motivation and suppression. Which reminds me of a quotation from my favorite series of books, the All Souls trilogy:

“As far as I can tell, there are only two emotions that keep the world spinning, year after year.” He hesitated, then continued. “One is fear. The other is desire.”

Matthew de Clermont, from A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

So, if this is the truth I believe (and it is), then it is my fear that is driving the bus right now (and wow, is it ever a short bus…). My fear of sounding silly, of having a spelling or grammar error, of not being witty, of rambling, of not having anything to say worth reading, of not writing compelling book reviews, and so on. So many reasons why I shouldn’t say what is inside. However, if desire is leading the way, than the task isn’t monumental at all. It just flows, like now. Huh, imagine that…

I suppose I just answered my own question: No, it ISN’T this hard. I am allowing the wrong driver to take the wheel, and as soon as I fire them, then I can get back on the right road. Sounds like a plan, I think I’ll get off at this exit and do just that. Thank you for riding along with me, I hope you will return again soon. Excuse me, oh Fear, can I have a word, please?.. ~

Kataldi: a review

Kataldi (Volume 1)
Kataldi Vol. 1

Kataldi by Zachery Whitsel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Kataldi is the first book in a fantasy series which begins in the current day and travels to a land right out of the protagonist’s imagination. The story unfolds about Charlie and his brother Aaron as Creators, how the kingdoms have evolved on their own, and the trouble they are now in. This installment is told from Charlie’s point of view, so we get to know him pretty well. We understand his emotions and sense of urgency about his quest, and his nervousness at what has occurred while he was away. Kataldi the land is easy to get into, the authors bring it to life, though personally, I wanted to know more–hopefully in the next volume!
Kataldi was an intriguing read that kept me turning pages to the end, the quest isn’t over and I am looking forward to the next installment. A solid offering from new authors who have more to come.



View all my reviews