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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Does NaNoWriMo make sense for me or not?

I’d love to get involved with the NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days, but I’m not sure it’s right for me. I’m almost finished with the first run through of my revisions based on my beta readers’ comments on my existing novel and plan to be complete in time to start the challenge on November 1. However, I don’t know if making major revisions and rewrites rather than writing a new novel qualifies. I know the warning not to edit as we write makes a huge amount of sense and definitely slows down our writing. Take my advice for those of you in the challenge. Just keep you fingers moving. Don’t stop to think. Just write. However, my situation is totally different. I’ve already written my first draft and even spent hours and hours revising and editing it. Now it’s ready for another major revision. As I’ve marked up my hard copy with my yellow marker and red pen, I’ve identified places to cut, to add, to rearrange, to carry through a whole slew of thre … [Read more...]

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I’m making slow progress with my novel revisions

I’ve posted all the comments from my novel’s beta readers on the wall, I’ve posted the entire novel on the wall, and I’m working through the comments by scribbling page after page with yellow marker and red pen. I use the yellow marker to highlight where I explain and/or use expository language to tell rather than show (a lesson learned from the Writers Digest tutorial, Revise for Publication: Revision Strategies That Will Improve Any Draft). And, I’m actually rewriting with the red pen, with special emphasis on clearing up inconsistencies – like one of my characters has a black bushy beard in one scene and a light brown beard in another – improving on the quality of my verbs, and further developing my characters - while making sure I describe them consistently throughout. I storyboarded my memoir when I worked on its revisions as well. However, this time I actually saved time, wall space, and printing costs by reducing the size of the book to  single space rather than space and … [Read more...]

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Mary Gottschalk asks: Is it memoir or fiction?

The subject matter of Mary Gottschalk’s guest post really hits home for me. I turned to memoir based on a traumatic incident in my life after a 30-career in technical writing, and now I’ve embarked on a novel based in part on factual events. I agree with Mary. I would not have attempted a novel had I not had the memoir writing experience. I hope those of you working on both memoir and fiction will learn as much as I did from Mary’s piece. Also, in welcoming Mary to Choices, please join me in congratulating her on just releasing her novel, A Fitting Place, in May of this year and publishing her memoir, Sailing Down the Moonbeam in 2008. Is it a Story or an Idea? By Mary Gottschalk Because the inspiration for my first novel came from an incident in my own life, I’m often asked why I chose to do A Fitting Place as a fiction rather than a memoir. Another frequent question—since I have published both a novel and a memoir—is which is the “better” vehicle for a story that has some basis … [Read more...]

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Five reasons to be in a writing group

I joined a writing group a couple of years ago. It’s called The Last Sunday Writers because we usually meet the last Sunday of the month. Today’s meeting was cancelled because of lack of a quorum. Only two of us plus our leader planned to attend, and we weren’t prepared to read this month. So what’s the point? I usually want to read at the meetings, but I’m still a little traumatized from the feedback from my novel beta readers. I need to give putting myself out there a rest for a while. However, I’m very glad I was invited to join. I had known several people in the group because we attended workshops together. Or if we hadn’t met before we had worked with the some of the same writing instructors in the past. So we are a well-knit group with similar goals: continue to write, get feedback from our fellow writers, and network. Five things I like about being in a writing group are: It encourages me to prepare a piece for review once a month: this can be a new essay, story, poem, art … [Read more...]

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Am I going to take a creative U-turn?

Today is the day I asked my novel beta readers to send me their comments. So far I’ve received two sets. And of course I’ll very patiently await the rest. I feel my readers are doing me such a huge favor that whenever I get their comments will be okay. My dilemma now is with the two conflicting sets of comments I already have. One set says my novel is amazing, well written, and gives my writing lots of other kudos. The other set suggests major rewrite, reorganization, and more work shopping before I send it out again. This second set of comments reminds me of Julia Cameron’s section on Creative U-turns in her book, The Artist’s Way. It makes me want to stop working on this novel altogether because the task is too deep and too tall. I fear that I don’t know how to pull it off. Cameron says: “We usually commit creative hara-kiri either on the eve of or in the wake of a first creative victory….Creative U-turns are always both from fear – fear of success or fear of failure. It does … [Read more...]

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The storyboards are going up again

Once I get comments and critiques back from my first round of beta readers – hopefully by mid July – I’ll start revising again. Here’s my process. 1. Take my reviewer’s suggestions as just that -- suggestions. I feel it is important for an author to stay in control of his/her book. So I will review each comment and make decisions on whether to incorporate my readers’ notes or not into my next revision. If I decide not to use a comment, I’ll file it away for future reference should the need arise – I  never throw anything away. The bottom line - I am the person with the last red pen. 2. Create a revision plan. One of the first lessons I learned from my 28-year job editing and rewriting proposals to the U.S. Government was to plan before doing. And that’s what I intend to do at this point.  I will create a revision plan based on my readers’ notes – especially if major changes are suggested and if those changes affect many parts of the book. 3. Post a hard copy of my book on story … [Read more...]

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My novel is now with beta readers

As of this afternoon I took the leap. I  sent off copies of my novel in progress - actually Revision Three - to five beta readers. It is both an exciting and scary step. Now I plan to wait. I won't make any changes to the book until I've heard back from everyone - hopefully around July 15. In the meantime, I'll catch up on my blogging, write a few poems, maybe put together a poetry chapbook, and perhaps enter a poetry contest or two. I can also spend more time at my hometown beach. Really, the options for a writer are endless. After all beta reader feedback is in: I'll review the comments and criticisms I'll make changes as appropriate and turn them into Revision Four I'll seek out another group of beta readers to critique that revision I'll again review the comments and criticisms once I get their feedback I'll again make changes as appropriate and turn them Revision five And the last step before I make any decisions about publishing: Hire a professional editor to … [Read more...]

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Novel in progress

I'm almost finished with revision three of my first novel. After that's done, I'm hoping to recruit a few beta readers to read and critique. Needless to say it scares me to death. Putting this project out there is a huge confront. And of course the first group of beta readers is not the end. I'll use the comments to create revision four and then send it out again to another group of readers. After that, one more revision and a final edit by a professional. It seems like all this is taking forever, but in the end, I think my book will be better off for it. Plus, it will help me get used to sharing it before it hopefully gets published. My novel is historical -- early 1900s on into the 1920s -- and the age of the flapper. In my research I found a long list of flapper words and I've inserted some in appropriate chapters. I've found these words fascinating, and thought I'd share a few with you here. I'd love your thoughts - has anyone ever used these terms?   This is th … [Read more...]

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How to write a novel

I was smitten with the following photo that pranced around Facebook yesterday courtesy of Melissa Foster. It makes the writing of a novel seem so simple and the deterrents to writing a novel so easy to solve. I’ve been working on my novel for about four years – off and on. I revised and got my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, published in the meantime, and I spend a lot of time every day marketing it. However, I don’t let any of that take away from my writing time and my commitment to my novel. What I want to do is to briefly comment on the photo I’ve shared here and let you know where I am in my novel’s process. Think up a story I was fortunate to have a story fall into my lap from my aunt’s lifestory writing, and when I presented the idea at my first novel-writing workshop, it was very readily accepted. I’ve, of course, fictionalized her true story, making up characters, dialogue, events, and locales. However, I’ve tried very hard to be historically accurate about plac … [Read more...]

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Gathering inspiration for your novel

I like Cate Russell-Cole's great advice about gathering inspiration for historical fiction. I've been googling all morning to get inspiring images for my historical novel. Her way is much better. Thanks again Cate.   The Power of Day Dreaming in Fiction #Writing by Cate Russell-Cole “Set Building” I am a fantasy writer, who has hassles with description. Day dreaming and visualising is the only way I can cut through all the one sided fuzz that runs through my head. Otherwise my writing just sounds like a monologue! For me it’s a challenge as I am very analytical. I am more interested in the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the story, than telling it. I have a few tricks for getting over this: Pinterest, story boarding and “set building.” The last two set my ideas in concrete; Pinterest shows me things I can mull over, and all these techniques expand and improve my work. I find I rarely click on the links in Pinterest, it is the images or quotes which give me the ideas, so th … [Read more...]

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Proust’s Thirty-Five Questions to Ask Your Characters

I’ve been reading the Write Practice for several months and always find the posts informational and provocative. I was particularly taken with today’s post about delving into the lives of your novel’s characters. I’m in the midst of the first revision of my novel and I’m looking for ways to round them out. Marcel Proust’s Thirty-five Questions to Ask Your Characters will definitely help. Here’s his list, written in the late nineteenth century. By the way, his answers sold in auction for €102,000 in 2003. 1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? 2. What is your greatest fear? 3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? 4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? 5. Which living person do you most admire? 6. What is your greatest extravagance? 7. What is your current state of mind? 8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? 9. On what occasion do you lie? 10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? 11. Which living person do y … [Read more...]

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Getting into revision

I took a workshop in novel revision last February and began my revision work in full force in March. My first job was to make sure every chapter was complete. In many cases I found I needed to add descriptions, research details, and dialogue, Once I did that, I could finally say I had a complete novel draft ready to be revised. That became revision 1 which I collected in a computer folder called 02. Novel Chapters.Then, as advised in the workshop, I printed out a hard copy of the entire draft and read it through, taking notes in a notebook – not on the draft material itself – to indicate what fixes I thought I needed to make. I also took a couple of detours. I inserted the Prologue into Chapter One and changed the tense in that chapter from present to past. However, I still haven’t yet decided to keep or integrate the Prologue into the main text and/or to change the entire novel into past tense. Hopefully my beta readers will advise me on that. At this point I’m working through my … [Read more...]

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Novel revision next steps

I’ve finished the big read of my novel, made brief notes in my notebook – not on the book itself – to remind myself what inconsistencies and repetitions I’ve found, and I’ve hung the whole book, page by page, on six by eight foot, quarter inch foam board panels on my hall wall. (I used Moore aluminum push pins. And by the way, each board has space for thirty 8-1/2 x 11-inch sheets, which allows me some room to grow). Now I’m ready for the next step: i.e., experimenting with first person narrative. I am going to see if I can rewrite a couple scenes in first person. If that works I'll take on the job of rewriting the whole book in first person. If not, I’ll move on to Part Two of my novel revision process: rewriting and fleshing out the later chapters of the book to catch them up to the level of the first eleven chapters, which I’ve worked over several times already. Then I’ll start the real revision, starting at the top. It looks like I have months of work ahead of me. … [Read more...]

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Progress of a novel

I’m going to change course a little bit here and share about the novel I’ve been working on. Needless to say it’s a work in progress, but I’m intent on finishing it next year. The Q&A came from The Next Big Thing, an UK online publicity campaign for authors. However, the group of us here, ready and willing to participate in this blog-o-rama, had to back out because of lack of author interest. At least it got me revved up to work on my novel again, so that’s a good thing. What is the working title of your book? Papa’s Shoes. But this is really, really a working title. I worry this title will give the impression that this is a children’s book. The father in this story is a shoemaker, and in the end he agrees to make his daughter’s wedding shoes. Please tell me your thoughts. Where did the idea come from for the book? I got the idea while my husband was working on our family history. My aunt, my father’s sister, had written some stories about her early life, and some of t … [Read more...]

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