Thursday, August 30, 2012

Grandparent Advice

In this mid-week blog I want to direct your attention (and clicks!) to my friend, Barbara Younger's blog. She posts lively and humorous discussions on everything and anything related to menopause. 

Shortly after Barbara announced that she was becoming a grandmother, she asked me if I would write a guest blog. Now, almost nine months later, she is waiting the birth of her first grandson and took this opportunity to publish my blog on becoming a grandparent. I hope you'll enjoy it and subscribe to her blog--it's fun and filled with lots of advice for those of us who are fifty and beyond!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Insights into Editing: A Conversation with Carin Siegfried Part VI

Today Carin Siegfried,  an independent editor in Charlotte, NC, provides nine reasons an author needs a literary agent:

1. They will sell your book for you.
2. They keep current with editors’ tastes and needs, know when new imprints are starting up and when established ones are downsizing, stay abreast of changing corporate policies, keep track of who’s newly hired and who just got fired or laid off. 
3. They will provide more editorial insight.
4. They will negotiate an excellent contract for you.
5.  They will hold your hand throughout the editorial process which can be fraught with emotional and complicated details.
6. They will work to help you craft your career and make sure what you’re doing now progresses towards what you want to do in the future.
7. They will attempt to sell foreign/translation/film rights (if they don’t sell those rights to the publisher. Every agency is different in terms of who they partner with and what they think they can do a better job selling than the publisher and vice versa.)
8. One ugly truth in the publishing process is that you can get an awesome, amazing editor who you really click with and who totally gets you… and a few months later she can quit or be fired. And you get stuck with an overworked editor who doesn’t like your genre and is possibly 21 and only a few days out of college. But that can’t (usually) happen with your agent. While of course there are outs for both of you, if your agent leaves her agency for whatever reason (with a couple of exceptions like William Morris), she can take you with her. So your relationship with your agent can actually last much longer than your relationship with your editor, who can keep changing.
 9. They are worth their weight in gold and will make your life easier and will get you more money.

Next week Carin will give advice on what to do when you get "The Call" from an agent!


     Hear are the previous installments of this series:
  • Part I: Carin's insights into the different types of editing. 
  • Part II: Common editorial problems
  • Part III: More editorial problems. 
  • Part IV: Show, Don't Tell
  • Part V: Can you over-describe?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Day Apart

Looking for an affordable writing event that will pump up your work in progress? Look no further! The following information is from the Write2Ignite Blog.

Write2Ignite! Conference for Christian Writers of Literature for Children and Young Adults Presents: A Day Apart

You love to write. Right? But it is highly possibly that you dread re-writing.

A Day Apart, August, 2011

Maybe that’s because you realize that you need to make some drastic changes to a manuscript, but you don’t know where to start. Or, perhaps your manuscript is completed, maybe you’ve received critical feedback from others, but something still isn’t quite right.

That’s where Write2Ignite’s one-day event, A Day Apart, comes to the rescue.

A Day Apart is designed with you in mind. It’s not another conference. It’s not a writer’s retreat. And it’s not just a workshop. It’s more than a critique group or a writer’s group. A Day Apart is bits of all these things rolled into one day. It is A Day Apart for us to focus on revision, and on helping each other perform radical surgery on ailing manuscripts.

Team Member, Donna Earnhardt

Writers soon learn that, as we help each other, we help ourselves. So we’ve designed A Day Apart to be an opportunity for all of us to do just that. At an A Day Apart event we work together in pairs, in small groups and in large groups to brainstorm new ways to look at old manuscripts. We work individually to make radical changes and give new life to those stories, then we get honest reactions from the other writers present.

At A Day Apart Write2Ignite! Team members lay out some effective principles of revision by looking at critical elements (not grammar and mechanics, folks) in our stories. We share our experiences with revising our own manuscripts, and some suggestions and criteria from experts. Then participants group together by genre, and apply those principles to their stories that very day.

It is a day we can set ourselves apart to work on our manuscripts, share them with each other, then enjoy a tasty lunch and the good company of other children’s writers.

Participants should come prepared to learn from each other, to re-work one of their own manuscripts, and to give and receive honest feedback.

The cost for A Day Apart is $45 –  lunch, supplies (printer and paper, hand-outs, pens and highlighters) are included.

Team member Jean Hall & participants


The next Day Apart event is in Spindale, NC on September 8. Contact us at to register, ask questions, or to schedule an event in your area.  


“Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”     Proverbs 15:22 HCSB

Monday, August 20, 2012

Insights into Editing: A Conversation with Carin Siegfried Part V

·       In this week's blog, Carin Siegfried, an independent editor in Charlotte, discusses the disadvantages of including too much description in your narrative. Take it away, Carin!
     I have found that sometimes writers use too much description– it bogs down the narrative if it isn’t germane to the story.  It is a fine balance as you don’t want too little description, to be sure. But you do want to leave some things to the readers’ imagination, as well as get on with the dialogue and action. Sometimes descriptions feel as if, since you did the research, you must include it. That theory serves the writer, not the reader. Only include necessary details, not every detail uncovered in your research. Research is good – you will have those details at hand when needed – but don’t let it overwhelm your story. 

     Another potential pitfall of over-describing everything and everyone is that your readers lose perspective. Readers get clues about who will be important, who will return to the narrative, and who will be a crucial person as opposed to an ancillary, fleeting, insignificant character, largely by the length, weight, and detail of the description of that character. When the author gives all characters a long, detailed, specific description, the reader no longer knows who will and will not be important. So now the reader has to remember everyone in case they come up again later. And that’s exhausting for the reader, as well as frustrating when those characters do not return.

     Please come back next week when Carin shares nine reasons writers should get a literary agent.

     Hear are the previous installments of this series:
  • Part I: Carin's insights into the different types of editing. 
  • Part II: Common editorial problems
  • Part III: More editorial problems. 
  • Part IV: Show, Don't Tell
     These blog posts are from Carin's presentation to my Writing Fiction class at CPCC. I met Carin through the Charlotte chapter of the Women's National Book Association which she founded three years ago. You don't have to be a woman to join, all you need is to love books. I am a new member of the board and encourage any of you who live near Charlotte to check out our Facebook page for updates on this year's events. They are fun, informative, and help you connect with readers, writers, and members of the local book industry. 
     On September 15, Carin along with Betsy Thorpe, are giving a workshop entitled, "Finding the Right Path to Publication: Traditional Publishing vs. Self Publishing."  You can find more information on their Facebook page. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Insights into Editing: A Conversation with Carin Siegfried Part IV

Did you ever think there were this many common editing problems? In this ongoing series, Carin Siegfried continues to outline other problems she encounters as an independent editor.

Show vs. Tell There are 3 different aspects to this phrase. 
1. Do not use too many metaphors and overly flowery writing.  A novel is not about showing off your fine writing skills – it is about telling a good story readers can get lost in.  And if your style is very fanciful or over-the-top, that takes a reader out of the story and reminds her about you. You, the author, should be invisible to the reader.

2. The second is in some ways opposite of the first.  Instead of saying, “They finished dinner,” you could instead say: “they finished up their plates of steamed haddock, buttered potatoes, and a homemade winter salad.” And similarly instead of, “She did the dishes herself and he fell asleep by the fire,” you could write: “She would not let him help, and it was difficult to make conversation through the small pine-shuttered hatch in the wall, so he dozed, hypnotized by the fierce blue cones of the gas fire’s flame.” (both from Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand p. 288)  So instead of just telling us what’s going on, the author shows us the whole scene and allows her readers enough detail to be able to picture it. But be careful you don’t go overboard. 

3. Don’t summarize when you could give readers a scene.  Example:
Bad: “Samantha told Jonathan she didn’t appreciate his coming over without calling first. Jonathan apologized and explained he’d been in the neighborhood.  Samantha didn’t like his answer but changed the subject to find out why he was there.”
Good: “Jonathan, I have asked you to call before stopping by,” Samantha snapped.
“Well I was in the neighborhood,” he answered rather pathetically.
She scowled to let him know she didn’t believe his explanation, “Well what do you need anyway?” she asked, hoping to get him back on his way as quickly as possible. 
It’s not particularly longer or more difficult to write it out, but it gives readers more of a flavor for the characters and their personalities than a summary can. Summaries work for something that is off-topic, for instance the main character’s best friend’s family problem, or for something the reader has already heard. But summaries can be especially tricky at the beginning of a book because they are so tempting a way to give the main characters’ back story, but they are slow and tend to bog things down.  

One trick around this is to flip your first and second chapters. If you get readers into the story and interested in your characters before you go into the back story, they’re more vested and will find it more interesting and less of a slog. Additionally instead of starting off slow, you’d start off with action, then pull back for some explanation, and finally return to the action. That back and forth pacing actually adds interest overall instead of just starting very slowly and gradually getting faster, which is not as interesting a pace.
Join us next week when Carin shares other "Show, Don't Tell" pointers.This material is from Carin's presentation to my Writing Fiction class at Central Piedmont Community College. 

Here are the previous installments:
  • Part I: Carin's insights into the different types of editing. 
  • Part II: Common editorial problems
  • Part III: More editorial problems. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Insights into Editing: A Conversation with Carin Siegfried Part III

Today Carin Siegfried, an independent editor in Charlotte, continues to share common editing problems which she finds in manuscripts. See last week's blog for her previous comments on the problems she frequently encounters. 
  •   Passive voice:  It slows action down and you want action in your book. In case you’re unfamiliar, passive voice is using any version of the verb “to be” including are, am, being, was, is, be, become, etc.  Sometimes it is the only real option, but that’s the case less than 25% of the time. It’s boring and, well, passive. Even when it doesn’t feel like you’re adding action– changing “is” to “seems” for example – still unconsciously registers with readers as less passive.  It’s actually a good exercise for you to go through and see how many passive verbs you have used as it will make you think more carefully about word choice. 
  •   Flat characters: Think of Sex and the City.  Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte all have very distinctive and easy to pin down personalities whereas Carrie does not.  She’s a writer and likes fashion, but neither of those are personality traits as much as one is what she does and the other is what she likes. But it’s very easy to say that Miranda is driven and judgmental and passionate, and Samantha is sexy and independent and impulsive, and Charlotte is traditional and caring and open.  Ancillary characters are easier to give more personality because, as they are not the main character, they are easier to see from a distance. But you need to have that distance to see your main character and give her more oomph. This is a common issue when the main character is a stand-in for the author. While Sex in the City proves this can work, the success of Sex in the City is more despite Carrie’s lack of character than due to it. 
  •  Author proxy. When the main character is an author-proxy, it's nearly impossible to see her clearly like an outsider would, and because you (of course) know your own personality traits inside and out, it's not always obvious to you when those aren't expressed clearly.  Characters that are closer to "types" are much easier for readers to understand and see clearly right away, and while you might think that "types" are the last thing that you want, in the course of your story you will show us that they're three dimensional.  So we start with a well-defined outline and then it's shaded in. But with a fuzzily defined main character, she stays fuzzy.  She's never been well-defined and so adding shades of grey to her as we go along doesn't make her character become more distinct. It’s best if a main-character isn’t a lightly veiled version of you.

This information is from Carin's presentation to my CPCC class on Writing Fiction


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