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Category Archives: Rewriting Fiction

Snafus getting in the way of your writing?

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

The actual “final” rewrite of my latest Beyond mystery is coming along and I am enjoying doing it because I get more creative insights, can fix inconsistencies, check the research and am really tightening up the wordage.

However, I’ve hit a few outside snags that are interfering with my writing time. And they make me angry. So, I’m doing something about them.

One biggie comes under the heading “My health ate my life.” So far since 2017 arrived I’ve been and am faced with two separate unexpected molar extractions. The dental surgery for the second is the day before my publisher’s deadline. As he has given me two extensions already and for health reasons, I do not want to push my luck – it would also not be fair to the publisher.

To get the manuscript and its synopsis (the latter rewritten this week with the word count part left open so far) done in time, I’ve arbitrarily given me an earlier deadline before the publisher’s and before the dental surgery.

It has also forced me to do something I had started to do this  year. Get rid of a lot of the stuff I do that isn’t really important and put some of the others in “pending”.

So far I’ve cancelled me going to a meeting tonight, limited what I get involved in within my community. Important are my East End Writers’ Group and keeping track of a nearby Light Rail Transit line being built as that will affect me in many ways. I am also a member of a local garden club and go to some of their meetings but no volunteering there this year. A couple of other community things I’m interested in I signed petitions and will let the persons organizing them do all the work – just keep me informed. At this point I am also careful of how many social and pseud-social events I go to.

And I finally found someone to shovel my snow when we get bigger snowfalls.

The big take-away point here for writers – whatever you are writing or rewriting – is you can’t do everything, especially what others think you should be doing. Figure out what is important and don’t be afraid to say “no” and/or put some of that on hold. Prioritize. Make the word “no” a big word in your vocabulary even if you have to post it all around your house and on your devices – maybe create an electronic file with a big “NO” and click on it sporadically. You can figure something out.

What I have kept in is family. Last Saturday I was to take out my son and his girlfriend for his birthday dinner (which is actually tomorrow but he will be out of town in the US for a tour with his band – Beams). Martin was sick last weekend. I wanted to see him and at least get his birthday present to him before tomorrow – the present, although not connected to music, is something useful for travelling. So, we arranged for me to make a “flying visit” to his and his girlfriend’s place in another part of Toronto last evening – if you can call buses and subway “flying.” He was feeling better. Dinner will be rescheduled when he returns home.

I know this isn’t exactly about writing, but perhaps if those getting distracted from their writing from whatever, can see one person’s way to deal with the problem, maybe it will help.

How do you deal with writing distractions?

Comments please in the comment section.

Cheers.

Sharon

And as usual, click on the book icon at the top to find out more about my Beyond books.

 

 

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Writing critique group comes through

Beyond the Tripping Point Cover 72dpiI have posted before about writing critique groups and how they can help us writers. But it never hurts to add more on the subject because we writers write in a vacuum of me, myself and I. So we often think in opposites – our short story, or essay, or novel is brilliant or our writing piece is awful. Sometimes we think with wisdom – we know something is just not working but we don’t know exactly what or if we do, we don’t know how to fix it. Enter a writing critique group.

As the organizer and facilitator of the East End Writers’ Group in Toronto, I don’t always bring a piece for critique to our almost monthly meetings There is only so much time for a limited number of authors to read and get their work critiqued, so  If I did bring something to each gathering, other members might think “oh, she runs the group, so she can do this.”  This isn’t true as I find we are all helping each other whether we bring in something or not. And we are polite as well as giving constructive criticism. Nobody should feel their work is really bad.Each of us has our own individual writing experience and knowledge which we can put into the critique – even if we don’t write in the genre of the writing work being critiqued.

So, last evening I brought in the first five pages of a humorous mystery short story for critique. And I learned a few things. One author who also writes short stories wanted to know the age of the two main characters. The ironic thing here (and I got it and mentioned it) is I am always suggesting he do the same in his stories. Somebody else misread the ages of these two characters and it was from what she read and also what wasn’t there for her to read. She asked me how old the two characters were and when I told her, she said they were much too young as women at that age nowadays would be more technical savvy. She said that one sounded like she was retired. After I explained that the “retired” one was currently unemployed and she was the one not technically smart, but the other one  was and that the latter was in the story, I realized that I needed to include some ages, fix the bugaboo I had in with the technological luddite, and mention she is currently unemployed. She should be early 50s and her friend 15 years younger. The latter would work, not only because she has an elderly mother who figures in the story, but my son is late 30s and is very tech savvy – in fact his work is with computers, software and architecture and the like. And he is my computer expert who helps me with my computers.

So you can see how a writer’s tunnel vision can work, or not work. I didn’t even consider including the characters’ ages. As one of the others said, and I paraphrase. You see in your mind how your story is going and presume everyone else knows as much as you do.

Wise words, and something for us writers to consider.

Do you belong to a writers’ critique group – in person or online? If so, how has the group helped you?

Cheers.

Sharon

And if you want a looksee at my collection of published short stories in Beyond the Tripping Point, just click on its icon at the top.

 

 

 

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Finding gold in partly written short stories

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford's mystery short story collection. Click on it for publisher's website

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford’s mystery short story collection.

One of my 2017 writing goals is to write more mystery short stories and submit them to contests and magazines for possible publication. As I’m registered to attend Bouchercon 2017 (in Toronto, Canada in October), I decided to enter their short story contest for possible publication in their short story book for the event.

I checked my files of unfinished short stories. The one I was thinking of needs too much work to make the January 31, 2017 deadline. Not a problem, I thought. A check through my other short-stories-in-the-works unearthed one that has been written and rewritten many times and shows a lot of promise. Of course it needs more rewriting, but there is time for that. Only one problem – the theme for the Bouchercon 2017 short story contest is travel and my story doesn’t even cover travel, unless you count travelling across a parking lot and inside a commercial building.

However, I am not one to give up – just change course if necessary. I decided to scrap the Bouchercon contest –  after all, I should be able to arrange to have my two published (so far) Beyond books there to be sold and I will be doing a lot of learning and networking there. So, I decided to focus on this one story and also did a big Internet search of possible markets. I have had short stories published in anthologies and also my first Beyond book – Beyond the Tripping Point – is a collection of 13 of my mystery short stories, five of them published first elsewhere and eight new. And who knoews? If I get going on writing and rewriting short stories, there may be another collection down the road. I already have on story published before that is not in Beyond the Tripping Point.

My point here is if you are stymied about what to write for a short story, don’t go crazy trying to think of  new plot with new characters. Check out stories you have already started. You might just find a gold mine there.

And as usual, if you click on the book cover at the top it connects you to more information about my books.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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Following your muse when rewriting novels

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

The more I rewrite my third Beyond mystery book, the more I learn about fiction writing. It is not all about making sure plot line works and is consistent and that characters are believable. The muse, that nebulous creative force does factor in. And not only when you are sitting at your computer, but when you are busy doing other things.

I can be making dinner, going for a walk (although not too much of that lately with our November weather) or even be asleep, when suddenly something will pop into my head to include in my novel. Sometimes it is an answer for some plot and/or character problem. But often it is something completely different that will work. Sometimes it is a reminder about what is missing.

The latter that happened with me is about my main character, PI Dana Bowman and is about including more emotion with her, especially after she suffers a severe trauma at the end of Part 1 in the novel. The novel’s first chapter has her feelings upfront and centre. She is feeling down and the weather (rain in November no less) is making it worse. She also runs into Don Fielding, the Detective Sergeant she met in Beyond Blood and where she ignored their attraction to each other. So, that comes up in the beginning of the new novel.

I have included the aftermath of her traumatic experience – emotional and physical but something still needs to be included near the end and the end of the novel. And so, the elusive muse brought this to me as well as an idea of how to write it.

Lesson learned? Let your mind (and body, too) go on to non-writing activities and get some sleep to give the muse the space to show up.

We writers need all the help we can get. Unlike some writers who claim they hate writing, I love writing, no matter how difficult it can sometimes get. What I don’t like is all the other stuff I have to do and the time it takes.

Well, now I have found something positive about doing housework, but with a disclaimer here. I do like to cook (and eat too), partly because it is something creative.

So, does doing one thing that is creative help another thing that is creative?

Speaking about Muses and being creative, a reminder for those in the Toronto, Ontario area. This Saturday, November 26 I will be participating in the Toronto Heliconian Club’s Gifts from the Muses Show and Sale – selling my Beyond books and reading an excerpt from Beyond Blood at the end of the 2 p.m. entertainment session – I’m after the musician then. More details here.

And if you can’t make it, the Beyond Blood icon at the top of this post links to my amazon profile – which also shows the Beyond the Tripping Point short story collection. Might make good Christmas gifts.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Gift of the Muses Show and Sale

Gift of the Muses Show and Sale

 

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Clearing the decks to write your fiction

Clearing the decks to write your fiction

This may be a case of do as I say, not what I do. But the past month and a half I have been inundated with unnecessary crap getting in the way of my fiction writing. A lot of it comes from what I refer to as “outside” – things like house repairs, computer problems, friends and others interrupting during my work time.. Then there are health issues and some things that I have something to do with happening.

Last Thursday Shane, the editor at my publisher’s (Blue Denim Press) came over for us to practice our authors’ skit for the Urban Folk Art Festival (Our skit went very well there and when Shane emails me some of the photos someone else took of us, I’ can post them). We also had a heart-to-heart talk about my third Beyond fiction book, which seems to be in a perpetual state of rewrite (see above paragraph for why). He is definitely interested in publishing it and is thinking of next fall (2017). We also discussed the book’s content and even a next book in the series. He also gave me a deadline.

This talk, particularly hope for publication and when, as well as a submission deadline has kick-started me into action. And so I am making changes in my life and some things will be no-nos during writing time, some things will go in the Pending file for at least a month, some things I just won’t do (yesterday I said “no” to something and it felt good); other things are getting the boot.

Am still fine-tuning the whole business as I go, but so far I am trying to do these:

  1. Specific time-frame to work on my fiction with flexibility for writing meetings and book promo events that come up. Like Shane is doing with his fiction writing, I am assigning two days a week for just that – rewriting my novel. And for flexibility, yesterday afternoon is flipped to this afternoon because of a writing group meeting yesterday. I did get some writing done on the novel yesterday morning.NOTE: I do write other things and have editing clients and teach writing. That is for other days and workshops sometimes evenings, but again for days, I try to be flexible. It is all writing and writing-related business
  2. Book PR is limited to one thing a weekday. Public readings and the like are on top of this.
  3. I set a timer for half an hour mornings to do business email .Personal email is for outside my business hours (except for my son) which are roughly 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
  4. Make more of an effort to get started at 9.30 a.m.Sometimes difficult with chronic health issues and house repairs.
  5. Get more sleep at night. Can’ control the insomnia but have to make an effort to get to bed earlier.
  6. I’m letting my friends know what has been on my voice mail for ages but some don’t seem to get it, i.e., personal calls evenings and weekends only.
  7. This one I’ve been doing for some time and it’s outside of business hours too – don’t pick up the phone for possible telemarketers and if I get someone trying to sell me something I just yell out “Not interested” or if they ask for “Mr. or Mrs. Crawford” I reply – no one here by that name (true. I’m divorced) and you have the wrong number.” If I’m really angry I then yell “And get me off your bloody list.: Then I hang up.
  8. Try to keep the house maintenance/repairs out of my business hours and that one is hard when someone has to come to clear out your damn eavestroughs at least three times because of all the leaves falling and clogging it up.
  9. Keep getting back to utilities and the like for their screw-ups, problems, etc. to after my business hours if possible.
  10. The garden fall clean-up winter prep kept outside of business hours, although it is okay to do a bit at lunchtime, especially with Eastern Standard time returning this weekend.
  11. And this one – some of you might think I’m being mean here. But I’m putting on hold so-called friends who are unreliable and don’t show up (and don’t let me know that they can’t make it for dinners and the like we plan to meet up for – we all have things that crop up, but let me know before the meet-up that you can’t make it.

Hopefully ,I will now have my time to finish rewriting my novel. Up to now this week, I have been making some progress.  I know it is because I’m starting to get some control of my life – at least some of it. Now, if the computer problems and issues would stop, that would give me more time too.

How do you make time for your writing? Everyone’s circumstances are different. I am lucky in that I work mostly from my home office.

Cheers.

Sharon

I am taking part in the Toronto Heliconian Club Literature Section Salon (dinner and readings) next Tuesday afternoon. I am a member and will be reading an excerpt form a short story in Beyond the Tripping Point. More details in my Gigs and Blog Tours Page here.

Again, click on the Beyond Blood icon at the top to get to one place where print and e-copies are available.

And this, updating events on my website and the Gigs and Blogs Page (and the other social media links) constitute my book PR for today.

 

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Rewriting Novels Using Both Sides of the Brain

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Rewriting a novel can be daunting, especially with the many, many rewrites that are necessary. I find there is no right way to do it, but with all the rewrites with my third Beyond book, I discovered by accident a way to be both creative and practical.

Use both sides of your brain – the right side for creativity and the left side for the logical and practical. Let me explain.

Without giving away the plot, let’s just say, like most of my story lines, it is complicated. That means the characters, like real people are complicated.

So I brainstorm outside of writing time for what I could change. When I sit down at the computer, I re-read all the novel and make a few notes. Then I tackle it from the beginning, dealing with it in parts. As I write more ideas come into my brain. But each idea leads to something that will have to be added or changed later on in the novel. So how do I keep track. Sure, I can make a few notes in another file, but mainly I use the Word comment for this with some suggestions.Then I can go back and update later. However, often the creative spirit married to the logical spirit moves me to do so right away. So I follow the thread to the next part that needs changing and do so.

I’ll give you one example which won’t give the story away. My Beyond novels, as well as four stories in Beyond the Tripping Point, feature fraternal twin private investigators, Dana Bowman and Bast Overture. While they partner in their business, they do split up the investigation a lot of the time. One of the things with this is the twins have to keep each other updated with what they find. So that has to go in somehow somewhere or else later on I will be writing from say Bast’s point of view as if he already knows what Dana found out – but nowhere does it say this.The reader can’t assume Dana told him. But I don’t always want a long dialogue between the two unless it can move the plot forward and/or develop the characters.

So, I sometimes use the phrase “Bast brought Dana up to speed about….” or “Dana brought Bast up to speed about…” Sometimes I don’t even do that but just have Bast in his next investigative action think “Dana had told him that… ” and very briefly mention it. I  do the same with Dana and do so when what one twin told the other is relevant to the other twin’s current detecting.

But with all this to-ing and fro-ing something else different has come up – what would happen if one twin didn’t tell the other twin what he or she found out?

Yes, it can be a somewhat constant shifting to different parts of the brain and I find that one feeds the other. And often you are rewriting on the creative side during most of that day’s writing time.

Now if I can just follow through with my rewrite of Beyond….  Nope, not even giving away the title.

Meantime, you can check out Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point. Link to all that can be found in the usual spot – the book cover at the top.

And later this month I will be back on the PR road for the Beyond books, so next week will be updating both the Gigs and Blog Tours part of this blog (a fiction writing workshop I’m teaching in October is already listed) and also the book page of my website. And yes, Dana will be doing another comedy skit gig in late October – this time with a really big twist. Stay tuned.

Cheers.

Sharon. A. Crawford

 

 

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Recharging you novel’s rewrite

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

This week I finally got back to rewriting the next novel in my Beyond mystery series. The plan had been to spend a good part of June, July and August doing this. But for a change I had a lot of client work. That I’m not complaining about. Neither am I complaining about spending time gardening. As well as writing, gardening is a passion of mine.

However, I am complaining about all the health issues I’ve had to deal with lately, some caused by others’ negligence. (See my post this week on my personal blog Only Child Writes.).

Still doing one client’s work – but no complaints. Client confidentially doesn’t allow me to discuss the client’s work, but sufficient to say it is interesting and challenging and when it arrives I switch over from the novel rewrite to the client work.

Getting back to the big novel rewrite is also a challenge. Having ideas percolating inside my head while I was doing other things and also some suggestions from the editor at Blue Denim Press (my publisher) have been big helps. So has one of my writer friends and colleagues – Rosemary McCracken – just publishing the third in her Pat Tierney mystery series.And having a wacky main character like PI Dana Bowman is good. At least I think so, although she does get inside my head a lot and likes to have her way in her stories. All inspiration to do more than put the seat of my pants to the chair.

How did I actually get back into the rewriting?

First, I reread the novel and comments I had made for changes and also noted what I had changed. Then I got in and made some changes in the beginning and continued on until I got stuck. But I had ideas for other parts, including the ending which needed a big change, so those are the places I focused on next. I feel better that I made changes in the ending even though I know that some of it will be changed as more changes in parts coming before will be made. That’s okay. Often just doing something that is a change is a good start.

Writing the ending before some of the rest, you may ask? I am following the advice given by another author Ken McGoogan who said when he gets tired of writing in chapter order, he will go the end. Mind you he writes narrative non-fiction. But I think it can be done with fiction as long as you realize it is not written in granite. Well, some writers think their prose, and even their punctuation, should be left exactly as they write it.

That is arrogance and maybe a little worry that the editor will mess up your prose so it isn’t really yours when it’s done. And yes, being an editor myself, and a former journalist who worked with several editors, it does happen. However, there is one thing we writers need to remember.

Writers work in isolation. Writers see their creations with tunnel vision. Another pair of eyes will find flaws and better ways to express something than the author.

So keep up the rewriting. Although you can get carried away with that. Another author colleague is still making changes in his novels after they are published. And yes he does have a trade publisher, so not being self-published he can’t exactly make changes in the print book for sale. But he can do so for his author readings.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

If you click on the Beyond Blood book icon a the top it will take you to my amazon author profile and books.

 

 

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