It’s time to start rewriting again

I apologize for taking so much time off from Choices. My temporary day job has been exhausting and as such has given me little time or energy to write here. However, I’ll be free of it early next week and look forward to getting back to my writing work. That said I attended a rewrite seminar last weekend to hopefully help me get revved up to work on my novel after a long hiatus working a proposal management consulting job. Some of the contents of the seminar were familiar – I learned a lot about rewrite and revision while working proposals in the aerospace business – and some things discussed gave me some new nuggets to incorporate in my work. Here I’ll try to give you ways to tackle your own drafts. The two-step process for writing a book are: Step 1 – write the draft Just get it out Don’t hang up with editing Don’t go to the Thesaurus to find a word. Lay all your cards on the table as fast as you can. And avoid tendency to write in chronological order … [Read more...]

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My Name Is Wonder by Ronald Chapman

It is may pleasure to showcase another book by Ronald Chapman during his WOW!Women on Writing blog tour. Ronald's latest book, My Name Is Wonder: A Tale of Adventure, will have you thinking from the first page until well after you’ve closed the book. This beautifully written novel chronicles the transcendent adventures of a little goat with big dreams. Join Wonder and his wise cracking guide, the mysterious crow Mac Craack, on a journey through the scenic landscapes of the American Southwest and into the heart of a mindful presence. Along the way, you’ll meet an unforgettable cast of creatures, each with an important lesson to teach. Praise for My Name Is Wonder: “…a book for the ages, with profound truths simply stated. First there was Jonathan Livingston Seagull and then Yoda—Now there is Wonder…” - Beverly Molander, Minister and Radio Host of Activating the Power of Yes “…an exploration of human nature and into the allegorical realm that shows us how to be wise teachers an … [Read more...]

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A little novel excitement – short-lived

I was on two panels last weekend at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference – one on memoirs and the other on building a platform. After getting much kudos I was feeling pretty good, so good that I jumped at the chance to present a short pitch to a literary agent about my novel. I had a synopsis with me and I knew my story cold, so why not? When it was my turn I told the agent about my book. He smiled and told me to tell my story without a lot of details. When I finished, he nodded his head and said, “I like it.” He then asked me to send him a synopsis by email. He didn’t want the hard copy I had with me. I was stoked. When I got home I decided to rewrite my synopsis. And thanks to Jane Friedman I found a wonderful resource: How to Write a 1-page Synopsis by Sooz. The outline was easy to follow. And in most cases I was able to use some of the synopsis I had already written. I also wrote a cover/query letter that included a recap of my meeting with the agent to refresh … [Read more...]

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A progress report

In John Lennon’s song, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” he sings: “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_j-tpmdPlI My mother always said something similar: “Man plans, and God laughs.” Well, life was sure happening to me last week. I worked diligently on my book, as I said I would do in my previous blog post, for the first three days, and I actually made some great progress. Then boom! It all fell apart. My husband, Bob, woke up early last Thursday morning with shortness of breath. I took him to urgent care and he got an EKG. With those results the doctor there said take him to emergency at our local hospital. And we were off and running. Two and a half days later and tests to rule out a heart attack, pneumonia, blood clots in his lungs, and congestive heart failure, he was feeling better. So they sent him home. Less than 24 hours later, he was short of breath again – even worse. This time we called his own doctor (who ha … [Read more...]

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Time to put my ass in the chair

I’m a little late getting started this year. Two much movie going I guess. Last week we saw three more movies: The Big Short, Concussion, and Brooklyn. All great – I’d give them all an A. But now it’s time to get back to work. I told myself – I guess the word is resolved – to open up my novel again and see if I can bring it back to life. I put it aside at the end of last April when I went to work my consulting job in Colorado and sent it off to several beta readers. I was also devastated by one particularly scathing review that literally stopped me in my tracks. But, enough is enough. I’ve put a lot of work into that book. I cannot just throw it all out. I was also encouraged by the movie Brooklyn. Like my novel it’s about immigrating to America. Of course our stories are very different but it makes me feel that immigration stories are still alive and well – not like the scathing reviewer said. Plus there are several boarding house scenes in the movie that are great role mo … [Read more...]

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Where should my novel go from here?

I’ve received comments back from four of my second-round beta readers, and I’m still awaiting to hear from two more. Of the four received, two raved about the book, one said I needed to do a lot more work to lift it from a first draft status to a publishable novel, and the fourth, whom I heard from this week, basically told me to start over, that it’s a poorly written mess with parts that make no sense at all. Years ago I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. In it she has a chapter about the creative U-turn. Ever since reading about U-turns I’ve been avoiding them ( as I wrote here). I haven’t allowed negative reviews or feedback to make me come to a full stop and do an about face. However, this time it feels different. I’ve worked so long and hard on this novel and written about how I've avoided the creative U-turn so many times before, that the thought of starting over or doing almost a total rewrite just seems too hard. You probably wonder what this latest reviewer said to … [Read more...]

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The Yiddish language is making a come back

An October 2013 article in the Huffington Post discusses the revival of training in Yiddish that is helping to keep the language alive for the next generation. This is of great interest to me since I chose to use Yiddish words in my novel, Papa’s Shoes. My resources were online Yiddish to English dictionaries and a wonderful old book called  The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten. My mother gave my husband a copy back in 1970 when we got married. I think she was trying to entice him to convert. One of my novel’s beta readers, who is also not Jewish, did a study of the words I used in the book, dividing them into three categories: Words he uses in his own vocabulary, for example: Goy – a person who is not Jewish Kibitz – to offer unsolicited advice as a spectator Mazel tov – good luck Mensch – a special man or person, someone respected Nebbish – a nobody, simpleton, weakling Schmooze – talk, conversation, chat Shtup – push, vulgarism for sexual intercourse Tokhter – dau … [Read more...]

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Comparing writing a proposal to writing a book

I finally have a break from work. Yes, it’s Sunday and I have the day off. For the last five weeks I’ve been knee-deep in working with a team of engineers writing a proposal to the U. S. Air Force. And, I’d like to share some of the steps they have gone through – some very similar to those we take as fiction and nonfiction authors and some not. Plan. Start with an outline or a plan – the engineers produced annotated outlines and planning documents called story maps that showed where on each page of their sections their graphics and text will layout on the page. I started both my memoir and novel with outlines. I know some of you are panzers, but I like to have a plan before I write. Review. We spent a lot of time reviewing these plans for compliance with the proposal instructions and technical soundness. I was very fortunate to have a friend review my original memoir outline and another person review my revision plan when I was getting it ready for publication. Having fresh eye … [Read more...]

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Another novel character revealed

I've been missing my characters while my novel is in the eyes and hands of my beta readers. So I thought I'd share another one of the four main characters with you. I've patterned this character after my father, who in the novel is: Charles: son of Ira and Ruth Schuman. Ava Schuman's older brother Name – Chaim/Charles/Charlie Benjamin Schuman He appears as a little boy in the beginning. Physical appearance: As a grownup he is short – only 5 ft, 7 in. (only an inch taller than his father), slim, has dark curly hair – lots of it, very large brown eyes, olive complexion. Looks great in a business suit and tie. Wears rimless glasses Learns English very quickly – while he is on the ship coming over from Poland. Speaks pretty much without an accent though has trouble pronouncing Vs The deaths of his little brothers nag at him. He is very protective of his little sister and mother and father as a result. A good brother and son Very inquisitive and outgoing. He goes to coll … [Read more...]

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Writing about places we can’t personally visit

Please welcome Karen Mann. I'm so happy to have her with us today because I very much resonate with her topic. When I was writing my novel I couldn't travel to Poland or have first-hand knowledge of the time-period in which  my novel takes place - the early 1900s. Karen's novel, The Woman of La Mancha, takes place in the sixteenth century Spain. Here's what she did instead of personally visiting Spain and having a direct experience of the time period she writes about. When You Can’t Do Seat Research, Then What? By Karen Mann Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab’s Wife, talks about doing seat research for her historical novels. Sit where your characters sat, live where your characters lived, and you can write about how it smells, looks, sounds, tastes, and feels. But what if you can’t do that? When writing my novel The Woman of La Mancha, I was unable to go to Spain or even more specifically, I was unable to go to sixteenth-century Spain, yet my readers tell me I have made that t … [Read more...]

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Draft five of my novel is with five beta readers

  Last June I sent Draft Four of my novel-in-progress to five beta readers. This past Sunday I did it again. I sent Draft Five to five different beta readers. I also sent the manuscript to one of the first five beta readers and asked her to let me know if she thinks I created any damage as a result of all the cuts, changes, and rewrites I made to this latest draft - to comply with current guidelines for lengths of novels, I cut almost 9000 words. Hopefully, I left enough in tact that I didn't ruin anything. However, I have a safety net. I have saved every single draft of my novel. I can always add something back in if necessary. You can probably tell from the above, I consider getting my novel out in public both scary and exciting. However, it gives me a much-needed break from it. I've asked my readers to send me their comments by June 30 or sooner, so now I have time to blog, write some new poetry (I plan to participate in Robert Lee Brewer's April Poem A Day Challenge t … [Read more...]

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My stress meter

I have a built-in stress meter. I can tell how stressed I am by how loud my tinnitus sounds. When I feel relatively balanced, I hear very low wave-like sounds that seem to come from one ear. When I’m stressed the tinnitus sounds like crashing swells blowing through my head from both sides. So I was interested to read a recent New York Times article titled “How Exercise May Protect Against Depression,” given that “even mild, repeated stress can contribute to the development of depression and other mood disorders in animals and people.” Mood disorders, mania, and depression run in my family, so I need to actively make sure I lower my stress level. I’ve been exercising almost all my life, and I do it every day – first thing in the morning. Exercise was especially useful after my son Paul’s death fifteen years ago. That outlet kept me sane then, and it still does. That is, at least for a while. For example, I exercised this morning – sixty minutes of cardio followed by a little iro … [Read more...]

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Making my product perfect

In Joe Bunting’s "The Write Practice" piece, The Ten Lessons Dr. Seuss Can Teach Writers, dated February 27, 2015, I resonated with these two lessons: 6. Be a Perfectionist: It took Dr. Seuss nine months to finish The Cat in the Hat, a book that only contains 236 unique words. He would often spend as much as a year finishing just one book. And these were not long books! Each sentence, each word is important. Don’t rush. Keeping molding your writing until it’s just right. (Share that on Twitter?) 7. Cut Your Book Down to Its Essence: Longer is not better. Cut your book down to its essence. #SeussLessons (Share that on Twitter?) As he worked on a book, Dr. Seuss would sometimes discard ninety-five percent of it before he was finished. “It was not uncommon for him to throw out 95% of his material until he settled on a theme for his book.” *** These points verify how important it is to edit and cut. My goal was to cut 9,000 words from my manuscript, and I’m happy to say I’m just about … [Read more...]

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Introducing A Flapper’s Dictionary

In celebration of completing one more pass through my entire novel as part of my revision process, I'm sharing A Flappers Dictionary. I used it to provide a smattering of flap talk throughout the second half of the book. The talk and the dress - especially shoes - of the 1920s are integral to my story (the working title of my novel is Papa's Shoes). Unfortunately I cannot say I'm done-done with Draft 4. I have many Post-it flags on pages to go back to. Plus I need to cut. I'm about 9,000 words over the 90,000 word-limit for novels. Another daunting job to start on Monday. A Flappers' Dictionary (courtesy of Book Flaps and the guy behind the counter at The York Emporium used book and curiosity shop in downtown York, PA. Visit him online) During the Roaring 20s of the last century, young ladies took on a new, and for the time radical, lifestyle. These were the years following World War I and prior to The Great Depression. It was the jazz age and the ladies were taking full adv … [Read more...]

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Writing work check-up

On January 5, 2015, I wrote a short writing to-do list for the coming few months. Today, since it's almost the end of January, is a good time to take stock. I'm pleased to report that I'm moving right along on my novel revisions. I've incorporated my red lines and yellow highlights into my online Revision 4 chapter files up to page 124. That means I have only 54 single-spaced hard-copy pages to go. Of course that doesn't mean that I'm finished finished. As I've revised I've tagged many many pages that I need to go back to. Like yesterday for instance. I was working on Chapter Seventeen which required that I add a new subsection at the chapter's end. I wrote it. I stepped back from it, I thought about how John Updike writes incredibly detailed descriptions, and I realized I wrote only the bare bones so far. I need to go back to that little subsection and add and add and add more. Remember the old adage - show don't tell? Well my bare bones only tell. I haven't written the scene t … [Read more...]

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A Prologue or not? That is the question

I've heard a lot of pros and cons about Prologues. So I'd like your opinion. I'm definitely on the fence. And if I do decide to take my Prologue out, what should I do with the material? Please help me out. Please read my novel's Prologue and let me know what you think. 1906 Prologue As Ira Schuman pulls on his beard with one hand and twirls his payess with the other he looks at the steady stream of customers going in and out of the shop with the red and white awning. Some men wear their tallit fringes hanging below the hems of the heavy black coats and matching wide-brimmed black hats that rest lightly atop their bushy hair. Their beards and coiled payess appear long and straggly. But Ira eyes focus on the men who display short hair and smooth shaven faces. Since he’s been in Chicago one week already, he decides today is the day to go inside. He meanders around several card tables of goods for sale on Maxwell Street and enters through the shop’s open door. “Hello, Mister,” … [Read more...]

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Character description

As I go through my novel chapters during this revision I'm continually checking back to the character descriptions I wrote up prior and during my writing process. One of the main considerations is keeping the characters' descriptions and actions and attitudes consistent throughout or revealing how they have changed as time goes by. One of my four main characters is described below (though a bit haphazardly). I've been told she is the most interesting. Please let me know what you think. Ruth Schuman, wife of Ira, mother of Charles and Ava Physical appearance: heavy-set, huge breasts, smooth white pale skin, short – about 5 feet, Always wears an old tight-fitting black dress usually with a dirty apron over it – until she transforms. Wears a wig at first, then her hair pinned in a bun until she gets it cut in a modern 1920s style Dark brown eyes At first all for going to America until the death of her three sons changes her so that she doesn’t want to leave Sokolow and the bu … [Read more...]

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The work-in-progress blog tour: about my novel-in-progress

During this Hanukkah and Christmas season I can't help feeling grateful for all that this past year has provided. I'm especially grateful to my dear writing friends - some I've met in person and some not - who have brought me continued wisdom about the writing process and such joy in knowing them and their writing work. First of all thanks to Kathy Pooler, author of her new memoir: Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, for tagging me to participate in this blog tour. Kathy's memoir is a must read if you haven't yet. So here goes: My Work in Progress Synopsis and story idea : My novel, Papa’s Shoes, is the story of a family immigrating to America in the early 1900s and a daughter’s coming of age in the 1920s in downstate Illinois and Chicago. Some other things going on in the book – life in a Polish stetl, early 19th century Chicago and Illinois, a woman’s role in society at that time, religious prejudice, interfaith marriage, and a feisty mother-daugh … [Read more...]

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Time to build a new version (Revision 6) of my novel

After going over a hard copy of my novel three times: once to find too much telling and not enough showing, once to address my beta readers comments, and once to improve my verbs – change as many to be verbs to action verbs and improve the actions verbs that already existed – I took the marked up copy of my novel off the wall. Amazing! After having the book on my storyboards for almost three months, it took me just thirty-five minutes to take it down, remove the push pins, and carry the foam boards into my garage. My next step is to start incorporating all of my mark ups into a new version. That means inputting any editorial changes I made with my trusty red pen, deleting material that I highlighted with my yellow marker, and adding chapters and sections where indicated – again with my red pen. However, I’m going to give myself a couple of days off to let the enormity of the upcoming task sink in. I’ll be back at it on Monday, hopefully creating a new version that will be good … [Read more...]

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Now it’s all about the verbs

I’ve finished another round of revisions by marking up my novel chapters with a yellow marker to indicate telling instead of showing passages  and noting with a red pen places where I need to add and subtract material and provide major rewrites - even whole chapters. Now I’m going through the book again paying attention to verbs. One of my beta readers said: “I also sense that there are opportunities here for verbs that better-convey how people are using the space. For example, you can surely upgrade words like "watches," "going in," "been in," and "give up." Although maybe there's a deliberate simplicity in choosing such clear verbs, I also sense that there's more to observe that we're missing because of [this] plain style.” This reader was so thorough that he went through the text line by line indicating where I could improve my verbs. For example: "He gets out..." My reader said, ‘Another opportunity to convey mood with stronger verbs:’ "He skips out..." or "He pops out.. … [Read more...]

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