April small stones

We called our April small stones April Smiles, Showers and Pearls, and indeed they were. Without further ado, here are the small stones I wrote last month. A beautiful day. A beautiful walk to the beach. And I’m not fooling. We had brunch and a trip to the park with our three-year old godson and his family today. Always a challenge, but always lovely as well. So much going on – house renovations, writing projects, and a wonderful visit with our deceased son’s best friend. I love that he is still in our lives. I’ve been working hours revising, thinking, editing, thinking. It’s exhausting. Looking at these awesome giant birds of paradise from my upstairs window. Nature is such a great inspiration. We had dinner 71 stories up last night. What a view of downtown Los Angeles: A beautiful bright sunny day for entertaining relatives from rainy Oregon. And it was so wet this morning I thought they had brought their rain with them. Today was a work day, not a writing da … [Read more...]

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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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How I got my book published

Now that this piece was rejected for inclusion into the Authors Publish anthology, I'm free to post it here. Hopefully my experience and perseverance and will to get my book published will inspire other authors to keep sending their work out. Please don't give up. It's worth it in the long run. How I Got My Book Published By Madeline Sharples Two years and sixty-eight queries later I finally got a book contract with a small press – the now defunct, Lucky Press. I found Lucky Press through the the firstwriter.com Publishers Instant Alert Service, and followed the submittal instructions so carefully that in her response, the publisher told me my query letter was perfect. (The instructions said: Send query by email with cover letter, short bio, how you can help with marketing, 300-500 word synopsis, and first chapter, all pasted into the body of the email. No attachments. Write "Manuscript Query" in the subject line.) With that and her request to send her my manuscript, I thought … [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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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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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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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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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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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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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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My memoir revision process

Since I’ve been on the topic of revision, I thought I’d share the revision process I followed while getting my memoir ready for publication. I eagerly took on the task of editing and revising my memoir manuscript. I had spent many years editing and rewriting proposals to the U.S. Government, and I used much of this experience to revise my book. One of the first lessons I learned on that job was to plan before doing, and that was the first thing I did before embarking on my rounds of revisions. Here’s my process. 1. Create a revision plan. I created a revision plan based on my publisher’s and first reader’s notes. Once I buy-in from my publisher to this plan, I was ready to get to work. 2. Don’t edit as you write. Write, wait a while, then edit: Leave your work alone for as long a time as you can before sitting down to edit it. While I spent over two years querying agents and small presses, my manuscript laid dormant. So when I finally got my book contract, I read it front to ba … [Read more...]

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