Did You Get Your Feedback Yet?

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Before Ken’s War was accepted by Melange Books, I asked readers for feedback on sections of it and, if I thought they had time and interest, I asked some people to read the entire manuscript.

This is a delicate, yet oh-so-important step in the writer’s editing process.

First, I had to surrender my ego to sincerely solicit comments.

Then, I had to find people who know how to express constructive criticism. The writers’ circle I attended provided a pool of readers.

I also wanted to choose readers with knowledge about aspects of the story. Because the protagonist in Ken’s War is male, I asked males to be among my beta readers. The story takes place in a military setting during the Vietnam War, so when mistakes were pointed out by a Vietnam veteran, I verified that the suggested corrections were accurate and used them.

Fanstory (http://www.fanstory.com) members pointed out areas in characterization that needed shoring up.

Thank your readers for their critiques. Do not argue with them about their comments. If you have to explain or justify your writing, it’s lacking something…you won’t be able to explain or justify your story to agents or publishers.

You’re the author. You have the final word. In the meantime, get feedback. It’s one way to make your manuscript even better than it already is.

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Ken’s WarWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide.  https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

Author reveals insights ken's war cover

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award-winning author of YA books.

THAT INSTANT CONNECTION

     CREATE THAT INSTANT CONNECTION BETWEEN READERS AND CHARACTERS

     By Guest Blogger Tara Fox Hall

 

Making a reader care about a character is the most important job of a writer. If a reader cares about a character and sees him or her as a believable personality, then the reader begins to identify with that character, and lose himself or herself in the story. As writers, that instant connection is essential to establish early on, so you hook readers and get them to stay for the whole story. They need to want to know what is going to happen. You need to set the hook deep on your first try, and not lose them in the second chapter, or worse, the second paragraph.

How do you do that? Presumably, you are telling a story either because you just plain love that story, or because the plot and/or the characters in it are important to you personally in some way. Your characters need to be as vibrant to your readers as they are to you, and someone your readers can identify with. That doesn’t imply that readers have to be just like your characters, or have the same background. But there does have to be something either in the makeup of the character or the plot of the book to make the reader care about the character.

Yes, I acknowledge that if you write series, it’s a bit easier to hold a reader’s attention once it’s gained. In my short story “Partners” from the Promise Me Anthology, I wanted to tell the story of how Danial and Theo, the two main characters from my novel Promise Me, met and eventually became friends. Anyone who has read that book would naturally be interested in this story, but what about new readers who hadn’t yet sampled my vampire series? How to make them connect with my characters, so that they not only enjoyed the story, but also wanted more?

My tale begins with the vampire detective Danial on one of his jobs, trying to find a thief at a construction site. Instead he discovers the werecougar Theo, scavenging off garbage. Right after, the real thieves show up in force. While Theo does help Danial capture the real culprits, he then melts away in the night, leaving Danial to face the police.

Hopefully, this first scene intrigues the reader. Why is Theo scavenging for scraps when he’s a powerful supernatural being? Why does Theo help Danial, when he could easily run instead? And why does Danial let him help, when he obviously chooses to work alone? Last but not least, why is Danial the vampire solving crimes and not out seducing young women in nightclubs, like so many of his paperback fellows are wont to?

Promise Me connects readers with its characters.

Promise Me connects readers with its characters.

Another story in my Promise Me Anthology is a vampire romantic suspense called “Night Music”, newly published its own novella. The young heroine Krys has come to a park she knew in her youth, fresh from the double whammy of her brother’s death from cancer and her new divorce. She hears music that night that brings her to tears with its aching melody, yet her handsome neighbor David denies he created it.

Again, hopefully the reader wonders who David is, and why he is making the music, even if they suspect he’s a vampire. How will Krys discover his vampiric nature? Will he bite her or will they have sex, or both? After that happens (‘cause one of the two ALWAYS HAPPENS in vampire romance, if not both), what will be the consequence?

Make readers want to know what happens next, and your reader base will grow, guaranteed!

Book Title: Tempest of Vengeance (Promise Me Series #11) – paranormal dramatic romance

Date released: April 2015

Melange Link: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/tarafoxhall/tempest.html

Blurb: A chain of tragic events culminating in the shattering of the magical “dream bond” between Theo and Sar turns the lovers against one another, as Ulysses attacks from all fronts, hoping to destroy Devlin for good. The return of Lash reignites the fire between he and Sar, even as he saves her daughter Elle from certain death. Finally joined under Oath, Lash, Devlin, and Sar face the storm of Ulysses’s wrath, knowing it will take their combined strength and courage to save all they love from his tempest of vengeance.

Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, erotica, horror, suspense, action-adventure, children’s stories, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal fantasy Lash series and the paranormal romantic drama Promise Me series. Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice. All of her published children’s stories to date are free reads on www.childrens-stories.net.

 

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Beth Fowler is the author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

“It’s Good” Isn’t Good Enough

Good critiques help writers improve

Good critiques help writers improve

Have you ever written something that you worked on for a while, then asked for feedback? And the reader said, “It’s good.” Period. That feedback, while pleasant, isn’t especially helpful to a writer who is hungry to make his or her writing shine.

Here is a Critique Form that will help generate useful critiques that lead to better writing.

Writers’ Critique Sheet

You don’t have to comment on every item, however the more feedback you provide, the more valuable your critique will be to your fellow writer and the more you’ll learn about good writing.

Be respectful. Be specific. Be helpful.

Author’s name: _______________________ Title of work: __________________

  • What (if anything) “hooked” you at the beginning?

 

  • How long did it take for you to figure out the setting?

 

  • Is progress/movement/change conveyed? Progress might have been a person literally moving from point A to B or an emotional shift or a new insight.

 

  • How smoothly are transitions between paragraphs handled?

 

  • Which senses does the piece stimulate? (sight, sound, smell, tactile, taste)

 

  • How is the pacing? Slow, varied, fast.

 

  • Were strong verbs used instead of weak verbs? (i.e. strutted, sidled, eased, tiptoed versus walked.)

 

  • How is the balance between showing and telling? (Showing: “Jay slammed his fist into the wall.” Telling: Jay was angry.)

 

  • Do facts and data support and elucidate or bog the piece down?

 

  • How satisfying is the end?

 

  • How does the piece make you feel?

 

  • What did you learn?

 

  • Where does it leave you wanting more? What are you curious about that is unexplained?

 

  • In hindsight, is the title appropriate?

 

  • Other comments:

 

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

Beth Fowler headshot

 

 

Oops! Avoid Career-Killing Writing Mistakes

error-101409_150  You’ve seen those inset boxes in publications that say, “Correction” or “Retraction” or “Oops, we goofed!” And you wonder, “How can I avoid a slipup like that?”

Correction notices diminish an author’s credibility and future job prospects.

While even the best writers occasionally misreport information, novice writers are more vulnerable to making unintentional mistakes. Sidestepping booby traps requires knowing where they’re hidden and doing the homework.

 The Becoming-a-Mouthpiece Trap

Example: A journalist writing a feature about a new medicine contacts the company that patented the drug. The company’s public relations weenie Fed Ex’s glossy brochures and factsheets sprinkled with Latin terms and charts highlighting the drug’s development and its manifold benefits to humankind. The journalist writes his article incorporating info from those documents.

Homework: Research multiple sources. The journalist must uncover facts the PR rep doesn’t want divulged to the public. (Every closet contains a skeleton or three, otherwise there’s no story.) In journalism this is “balance.”

Our journalist needs to check out Who has something at stake? (Stockholders, the drug company’s competition.) Whose experience or perspective might be different? (Lab employees, people who trialed the drug, natural therapy advocates.) Who has info, but wasn’t asked for it? (Medical writers, pharmacists, doctors, peer reviewers, government agencies.) Who parroted “party line” responses and can be probed with deeper questions? (The PR rep, the CEO.) Researching information from adversaries, skeptics, watchdogs, regulatory agencies and nitpickers leads to balance. Click http://cancerguide.org/research.html for “How to Research Medical Literature.”

The Ignoring-the-Moneybags Trap

Example: Researching material for an article about bread, I found this assertion, “Dr. Graeme McIntosh says, ‘We ought to be eating wholemeal or high-fiber breads with every meal, about four to five slices a day, besides our breakfast cereal.’ “Sound the alarms. Who funded Doc’s studies?

Homework: Further research revealed that the Grains Research and Development Corporation—surprise, surprise—provided dough for the studies. Published in Australia’s New Vegetarian and Natural Health Magazine, my “Bread: The Staff of Life?” quoted Dr. McIntosh, named his funding source and included support for opposing opinions that Western diets contain too much bread. Follow the money. Be wary of biased bucks.

The Repeating-What-Everybody-Knows Trap

Example: Everybody knows that Linda Eastman-McCartney was heiress to the Eastman-Kodak fortune just like everybody knows that the Great Wall of China is visible from outer space. Right?

Not quite. Rigorous checking reveals that Linda’s family isn’t related to the camera entrepreneur and images of The Great Wall of China were acquired by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) onboard the space shuttle Endeavor. That’s not peering out the spaceship porthole and seeing a wall down there. Visit http://www.urbanlegends.com for cock-and-bull stories caught parading in truth’s clothing.

Homework: “Errors are repeated in newspaper articles for months and years; cuttings are such a convenient source of information and deadlines can make checking less rigorous,” cautions Brendan Hennessy in Writing Feature Articles. Sidestep error hazards by researching info from the original source or as near to the horse’s mouth as you can get.

The Playing-Loose-with-Numbers Trap

Example: “Youth want William as next king,” declared a Reuters headline from London. The lead said, “Britain’s youth believe that dashing young Prince William should be the next king, a survey published yesterday showed.”

In the third paragraph, readers learn that 46 percent of the surveyed population thinks William should be next monarch. Hmm. Forty-six per cent is not a majority. The headline could’ve easily and more accurately declared, “Youth don’t want William as next king.”

Homework: Get the original data on which someone’s interpretations have been based. In the case of the future king, diligent researchers would find out how the survey questions were phrased, how many youths were surveyed and what ages constitute “youth.” For technical writing, find out how long trials were run, if double-blind controls were run, if previous trials were proved correct or false and other factors important to validating data. Even when numbers are correct, check for other facts and figures that put the numbers in context and might influence interpretation.

Check it One More Time

 

Check your final draft critically. Does researched info support the manuscript’s purpose? (Some awesome, hard-won facts mightn’t illuminate theme.) Do facts and data flow naturally within narrative? Did typos creep in? Did facts and data change between researching and finishing the piece? Did you avoid emotionally laden words?

Materials that organizations, agencies and institutes pass out can contain misspellings, grammatical errors and other bloopers. Verify. Correct.

List resources at the end of non-fiction work, and if appropriate, of fiction. Editors might want to re-check facts and you might need the same sources for other projects.

Make sure copyrights aren’t infringed upon. (Read up on copyright fair use at http://fairuse.stanford.edu. Generally, ideas and facts (like those in encyclopedias, dictionaries and reference books) aren’t copyrighted. Give sources for figures. Acknowledge sources from which you’ve borrowed heavily.

Check your homework. Gain credibility. Make sales.

And may you never be responsible for an “Oops!”

 

ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Housebreaking Pet Words

Every writer has pet words. Tabitha King’s pets in The Trap are hooked and hauled, as in “She hooked off her socks,” and “He hauled his boots on.” Strong verbs used in unconventional waysare refreshing until they’re overworked and become annoying to readers.

Pronouns, one breed of pets, are especially vague. “I hate and mistrust pronouns, every one of them as slippery as a fly-by-night personal-injury lawyer,” writes Stephen King in ­On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. And in The Book Alan Watts refers to the pronoun it is a spook, as in “It’s raining outside.” What exactly is it?

King, Watts and other successful authors use it when it’s unavoidable or natural sounding. Character dialogue, for example, sounds natural with a sprinkling of the neuter, singular pronoun.

Read the rest of this blog Housebreak Pet Words

http://www.dgdriver.com/write-and-rewrite

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ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Stop Barking! Tone and Facial Expressions by Mysti Parker

81Po2epTiXL._SL1500_By guest blogger & author Mysti Parker

Of the many things I learned from Deb Dixon’s “Goal, Motivation, Conflict” Workshop workshop, this quote stuck with me the most:

“You can do anything in writing, as long as you do it well.”

I struggle with describing how characters sound and their facial expressions. If I had a nickel for every time one of my critique partners said, “But how does (s)he sound when they say this?” and “What does his/her face look like right now?” I’d have enough money to buy a year’s supply of chocolate. But how often DO we need to describe facial expressions and tone of voice?

My conclusion: Not as much as you think.

As a critiquer, I notice wording and flow in a piece of writing more so than plots and character arcs and all that. More often than not, I see writers overusing things, whether it’s adverbs, passive voice, repetitive words, and yes, tone of voice and facial expressions.

Let’s see if I can show you what I mean with part of an impromptu flash fiction piece I wrote for Rebecca Postupak’s “Flash Friday”, not that this is a literary masterpiece in any shape or form, but here’s what I might do if I was TOO mindful of tone and expression:

Lana slid the crisp paper across the patio table. “Sign these,” she barked. “Why?” Joe whispered. His lips pursed as he stared down at the obnoxious logo: Burger, Smythe, and Villay, attorneys-at-law.

Her eyes became narrow slits and her voice sounded like two pots banging together. “All you want is your garden and your bush mistress.”

This is a snippet of dialogue, and I don’t know about you, but all those descriptions slow the pace for me. This couple is on the verge of divorce. The tension should move this along at a snappier pace. Take a look at how I really wrote it:

Lana slid the crisp paper across the patio table. “Just sign them.”

“You don’t want this.” Joe stared down at the obnoxious logo: Burger, Smythe, and Villay, attorneys-at-law.

“Why not? You left me a long time ago. All you want is that garden of yours and that silly bush of a mistress.”

Here we see no tone of voice and no facial expressions. What we do see is a different choice of wording to make the dialogue itself show us what these two might sound and look like as this little exchange is happening. In hindsight I think I could have also used stronger verbs to narrate their actions as well. Instead of “slid”, Lana might have “shoved” the papers toward him. Joe might have “glared” down at the logo and perhaps crumpled one side of the documents in his fist.

Readers will notice ANYTHING we use too often, so do your best to show what the characters look like and sound like by using strong, appropriate dialogue and action that fits the tone of the scene. Describe the tone of voice and facial expressions in moderation and also if they are important to what’s happening. For instance, if a character is lying, the tone of voice and facial expression could be tells that give them away.

Remember, the reason we read books as opposed to watching movies is so our imagination can join in and form the story in our own minds. If we feed the reader every single minute detail about how WE see the scene, their imaginations just sit there in the dugout and never get a chance to play.

Sitting_in_Dugout (1)For learning how to write tone of voice and facial expressions in fresh and new ways, I highly recommend Margie Lawson’s workshop or lecture notes on Writing Body Language & Dialogue Cues. She refers to some really good examples and includes some unique exercises to keep your descriptions from being blah and cliche.

Now go forth and write! ~Mysti Parker

31036_455754357815212_1296404459_nMysti Parker (pseudonym) is a full time wife, mother of three, and a writer. Her standalone Tallenmere fantasy romance series has been likened to Terry Goodkind’s ‘Sword of Truth’ series, but is probably closer to a spicy cross between Tolkien and Mercedes Lackey. Mysti’s other writings have appeared in the anthologies Hearts of Tomorrow, Christmas Lites, and Christmas Lites II. Her flash fiction has appeared on the online magazine EveryDayFiction. She serves as a class mentor in Writers Village University’s seven week online course, F2K. Currently, she’s working on her first historical romance and has two children’s books in the hands of a hard-working agent. When she’s not writing, Mysti reviews books for SQ Magazine, an online specfic publication, and is the proud owner of Unwritten, a blog voted #3 for eCollegeFinder’s Top Writing Blogs award. She resides in Buckner, KY with her husband and three children.

 

Links:

Subscribe to my blog, Unwritten 

LIKE my fan page on Facebook!

Follow me on Twitter @MystiParker

A Ranger’s Tale, Tallenmere #1 (Now FREE for Kindle!)

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Serenya’s Song, Tallenmere #2

Hearts in Exile, Tallenmere #3

 

 

 

 

How to Impress Editors and Get Published: Part 3

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During my short stint as an editor, I developed sympathy for editors who’d rejected my work in the past. (Contact me for your free copy of Travelers’ Tales, the anthology I edited.)

While wielding the red pen, I learned what pleases and annoys editors. I’ve also gathered advice to writers from other editors. Here’s the final part of this 3-part blog.

REVISE GRATEFULLY

After an editor is hooked on a writer’s work, she weighs its commercial potential. A Tor Books acquisitions editor put it this way: “We’re commercial. If your manuscript is your baby, if you won’t be willing to change it, then this type of writing isn’t for you.”

“Be willing to work with me on changes if the piece is almost right, but not quite there,” is an associate editor’s advice to writers targeting Tales from a Small Planet.

An executive editor at Simon & Schuster values “…a writer’s willingness to take constructive criticism and apply it to his or her work.”

Editors ask for revisions that will topple barriers to good communication between writer and readers and enhance the value and credibility of the work by fixing errors and smoothing out rough spots. “Don’t get upset when we reject or wish to change your article,” the editor of a global magazine said. “For the most part, we know our audience better than you do. We do this for a living, so take our word for it.” Thin-skinned, egotistic writers are a pain in the asterisk. Believe it or not, Jack Kerouac was a pain.

Kerouac dropped a manuscript off to his editor at Harcourt Brace. In spite of having published Kerouac’s first novel, Robert Giroux refused to read the uncorrected, original draft of On the Road. Kerouac declared that the Holy Ghost had touched his book. Giroux countered, “After you have been inspired by the Holy Ghost, you have to sit down and read your manuscript.” The novel needed revisions, in Giroux’ opinion. Kerouac refused to change a single word, denounced his editor and left in a rage. Who knows how far that power struggle set back Kerouac’s career?

“As two professionals,” said an editor at Houghton Mifflin, “you should be having a cooperative, constructive, ongoing relationship.”

BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

Successful writers build good relationships with editors from the outset. Editors have lost my work, asked me to re-write articles only to reject them, introduced errors into my articles, and forgotten to pay me. Through it all, I kept in mind that editors are my customers and I’m their supplier. Hoping to work with those same editors in the future, I wrote courteous follow-up letters.

An editor at a major publishing house said this about the author/editor relationship: “Look at the editor as somebody who is going to be your most important critic. There has to be an extraordinary amount of trust between editor and author, which is fostered by a great deal of respect for each other.”

“Show respect for my time,” said Pat Samples. “I’ll be likely to show more interest in you and your work, and give you more of my time.”

John Wood, a magazine senior editor, described numerous ways to build and maintain good relationships with editors in his How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query & Cover Letters. He pointed out that writing prompt, specific thank you notes to editors after works have been published can “bond a relationship.”

LEARN THE LINGO

Chemists talk about valences and isotopes; mechanics about torque and viscosity. As writers, we should be fluent in the technical and specialized vocabulary of our field. If you don’t know ARC from FNASR, don’t bug the editor. Look it up or ask another writer.

Editors working under deadlines and mountains of mail decide, “Does this piece fit our publication? Is this writing better than good? Is this writer a professional?”

Impress the editor and he’ll say, “Yes, yes and yes!”

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When teen hormones and culture shock collide: Ken’s War

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