My Writing Rant: Don’t make me trip over mistakes

Believable characters keep the reader turning pages.

I’m on a rant today. As I’ve mentioned before I love to read. I’m addicted to reading. But what I don’t like is being disappointed. Yeah, a plot can be disappointing, or characters can become blah. That’s not what I’m talking about.

The thing that drives me crazy is opening a novel and tripping over lots of amateur mistakes. Things that should have been fixed long before the publish button was pushed. I’ll admit that I’m a bit blind to my own mistakes. Okay, a lot blind. I need my critique partners, editors, and my Grammar Nazi husband to help me see what I don’t. When I read other authors’ works those same mistakes are glaring.

Some examples

Double word typos like the the.

Wrong tenses

No: He focuses on the past.

Yes: He focused on the past.

Lots and lots of backstory dump.

And the one oh so important thing. POV. If the scene or chapter is written from Sally’s point of view, she can’t describe her face. As the reader, you are looking through her eyes. And, you can’t know what the other character is thinking unless Sally is a mind reader.

It is easy to add a beat that is in the wrong POV. For example, Sally knew Mark was hurting from his past relationship.  How can she know at that moment he is hurting? If Mark turns away, changes the subject or fidgets with his keys when he sees his ex, then Sally would know or guess.

Don’t do it

My rant today is don’t publish that book until it has been thoroughly edited. Make sure it’s been through critique groups, proofreaders, beta readers, and your local grammar expert. Then do the rewrites and corrections, and run it through again. Three or more edits are not uncommon. The cleaner your manuscript the more satisfied the reader will be because they aren’t jerked out of the story due to amateur errors on your part.

Self-published work should shine

For those of you who self-publish, it is even more important that your work is stellar. Self-publication has been labeled something that publishers don’t want. It’s probably not true, but typos, grammar errors, and POV confusion will make the reader feel that way.

Help is available

If you don’t know who to contact ask other authors who they use. Be willing to pay top dollar for those edits. There are lots of books, blogs, vlogs, and websites on every aspect of writing and editing.  Learn about POV and how to sprinkle your character’s backstory throughout the novel rather than dumping it at the beginning of the chapter that introduces your newest character. Bleh!

Writing a novel is hard work and learning the craft is even more so. Don’t get in a hurry to get your book out there. Take the time to make it shine. End of rant.

What is a glaring error that pulls you out of a story?

 

 

 

Reflecting on a weekend writer’s retreat

How about a mini-conference?

This past weekend was my local Word Weavers’ retreat, titled Cultivate. Attendees got a taste of what a writer’s conference is like without taking a week off or spending a lot of money.

Everyone left at the end of the sessions rejuvenated and encouraged.

 

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Erin Curtis, President of Word Weavers, Aurora,IL chapter gives opening address.

 

Writers are a lonely breed because other people don’t understand us. We wonder sometimes if this writing journey is worth it. But get a group of us together and we come to life.

No one thinks our love of words is peculiar. We discuss our characters and plots like they are real people and events. Friendships are renewed, and new ones forged.

Add a couple of workshops with Ginger Kolbaba and Rowena Kuo then finish with a critique session, and you’ve got a day of inspiration to recharge the wordsmith in all of us.

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Ginger Kolbaba. Author and Speaker shared her expertise

More than once I heard attendees tell me how at-peace it felt to be there. They didn’t know there were groups like ours. One woman said she was so surprised others liked her work. Sharing our word babies with anyone besides our mother can be daunting.

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Rowena Kuo, CEO of Brimstone Publishing taught a session

Retreats and conferences help writers realize they are not alone in their pursuit of publication. They have comrades-in-arms to battle discouragement.  Registration, breaks, and lunch serve as opportunities to build a network, and in the classes we learn what we didn’t know or had forgotten about our craft.

It’s a wonderful thing.

 

 

Share your small retreat experience. I’d love to hear about it.

 

Why Serious Writers Attend Conferences

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Lunch with Steve Barclift from Kregel Publishing

It’s conference season. And for any serious writer, it’s time to compose those proposals and get those pitches ready. If a yearly writer’s conference isn’t in your budget it should be. Conference expenses are tax-deductible and are a more economical education than a college degree.

Face to Face

There are opportunities to meet other writers and share information and wisdom. This is one place you can have a face to face with a publisher who would not bother to look at your proposal unless you have an agent. And it is also the place to acquire an agent.

Bob H

Bob Hostetler was both a general session speaker and a workshop leader for the 2013 WTP Conference. He was on my must attend list of workshop choices that year.

Classes

The classes are varied and there is something for everyone. The publishing world is constantly changing so there is always something new to learn. Each year there are different speakers and class focuses giving writers a chance to expand their writing knowledge.

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Arthur Cynthia Ruchti often leads a critique session. She is always kind and inspiring.

Critiques

Manuscript critiques and appoints with published writers are available. You don’t know what you don’t know or where your writing is weak until you’ve had your pages marked up by a professional.

Grow your network

The conference experience and the continuing education you attain can help you grow your platform and writing credits faster than going it alone.

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Editor Susan Baganz, is a great one to connect with if you are an introvert.

Introverts connecting

I’m told most writers are introverts. (Except for me. 😊 ) Introverts come out of their shell when they are around others who understand them. Fiction writers find kindred spirits who love to talk to their characters. Non-fiction writers interact with others passionate to get the word out regarding things they feel called to write.

Writing is a solitary task. It requires hours alone creating each day. Conferences force us to spend time with like-minded people to refuel and refresh.

Rowena Kuo, Acquistion Editor of Light House Publishing of the Carolinas and I developed a great friendshipover the years that eventual lead to my current contract.always looks casual but classy.

Rowena Kuo is an editor I developed a friendship with over my years of attending conferences eventually leading to my novel publication.

Best reasons

The best connection for future book sales and freelance opportunities are at these events. And the bookstore is jammed full of craft books and CDS. You’ll find the speaker’s books and other conferences work for sale.

Fun, fellowship and education all rolled into one.

Whether you attend a large or small conference the value gained as a writer is priceless.

More to come

Next week I’ll begin a series of post from other writers sharing their best, humorous and ah-ha moments in their conference experiences. You won’t want to miss them.

My favorite conference is Write To Publish click her for more details.

Tell me why you love to attend conferences.

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Describing Acronyms while Writing Fiction

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At a recent critique session, the group was reviewing a chapter from my second unpublished novel, New Duet. Dan is a veteran, and while having dinner with Issy, he tells her about his truck being hit with an IED, mentioning his MOS while serving in the military. However, nowhere did I define what those acronyms meant. Defining IED (improvised explosive device) and MOS (military occupational specialty code) to my critique group help me realize I needed to make them clear to my reader. So within the dialogue exchange over dinner, Issy asked the questions one might ask in a casual conversation. Therefore, giving the definitions and making things clear rather than the archaic writing style of the narrator stepping in and saying, “Dear reader, let me explain what he is talking about.”

Obvious Acronyms

Some acronyms need no explanation. SWAT- everyone knows these are specially trained police in bullet-proof vests carrying assault weapons with particular skills to take down the bad guys. We know FBI, CIA, DEA. And every TV viewer now knows what CSI and NCIS stand for. Tests like MRI or CAT scan or CPR are understood either through experience or watching medical dramas.

Define so they stay engaged

Then again we can’t assume everyone knows. I recently ran across DIY. My mind went blank. But within the ad were the words do-it-yourself. Ah, sweet clarity. As writers, we should be familiar with the term WIP. But non-writers have no clue. Work in progress needs to appear somewhere in the same paragraph for clarity.

If you are writing about a specific trade the acronyms need to be defined once either before or after its first use. Otherwise, readers are confused and leave your story to google the mystery letters. Too many of those and you’ve lost the momentum of turning pages to get to the end at 2 a.m.

My example

As you craft your story, don’t forget to define terms within the story as quickly as you can without drawing the reader out of the story.  If a DEA agent comes to the door, don’t stop to give a brief history of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Instead:

“Men, are in position, sir.” The tall lanky DEA agent looked to Detective Marshall for confirmation.

“Tell the men to move in. Slowly. Don’t want to spook these guys.”

“For sure, they’ve given us the slip more than once. “The agent keyed his mike. “Move in, low and slow.”

“If they flush the drugs, our case is toast.” Detective Marshall kept his eyes on the third story window. Three guys sat at a table. What they were doing could not be seen from his vantage point. Fear moistened his collar. He hated dealing with drug smugglers. It always brought in the feds, and more hands in the pie could end badly.

“I heard from a guy in Vice over at Precinct 23 that these guys operate in four states.”  The young detective moved closer with the declaration. Marshall wasn’t in the mood to chat.

“Well, today it stops here.” Withdrawing his Glock from its holster, he moves in a squat posture toward the building.

Now in this less than stellar scene you get the idea. I have given you the information that the DEA is a federal branch of law enforcement that deals with drug-related crime. I’ve given the reader the needed info without stepping away from the scene.  Always give just enough to define the acronym but not so much as to drag the reader from the action.

What interesting acronyms have you run across? Do you have an example of how yuo defined an acronym while still moving the story along?

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