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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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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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When to rewrite your novel

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

When do you rewrite your novel? As you go along? After each chapter? After a few chapters? Or when you complete the first draft?

If you rewrite after you go along, it can slow down finishing the novel’s first draft. You are constantly changing words, thinking of better words or phrases, deleting scenes, and on and on. You may easily lose your train of thought. The best way here is to keep on writing and if you just can’t come up with a better word or phrase, do as I do put “word” in brackets. Bold or red it if you like.

After each chapter or a few chapters? Yes, and no to rewriting. Most, if not all of us will not finish a novel in one sitting, so you are going to have to go back to it constantly. This will involve reading at least the previous chapter. or at most, the chapters written in your last writing session. During this time, I do make a few word changes or even scene changes. The latter often comes from getting a better idea – either between the last writing session and this one or as I read. Or sometimes the main characters from the Beyond series take over with what they think is best. Dana Bowman,one of the fraternal twin PIs is definitely good at this. But other characters, such as her brother Bast Overture, also speak to me. This can be a good thing because maybe you stopped writing when you reached an impasse or you knew something you had just written didn’t make sense to your plot and/or what your characters would do.

To continue last week’s post on outlining or not. I mentioned that I constantly go up and down the screen to fix inconsistencies. So that means I do some rewriting as I go along there. I find if I don’t fix the inconsistency when I and/or my characters figure out how to do so,  it will affect the rest of the plot. SometimesI have to add something – such as bringing in some of the characters’ suspicious’ actions so when I out them as guilty of something later on it doesn’t hit the reader in the face, leaving them wondering “Where did that come from?” “Or “there was no indication of this earlier on.”

So to answer the question, yes, I do some rewriting as I go along – but after I’ve written a few chapters – but I will also do several rewrites after I finish the first draft.

The process is all subjective – whatever works for the individual writer.

How and when do you rewrite your novel?

Comments?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Click on the Beyond Blood cover at the top to find out where copies are available.

 

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Kick-start writing your novel when it hits stall mode

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Has the novel you are writing hit stall mode?

Maybe you’ve been procrastinating? Maybe family and/or work stuff has taken up a lot of your time? Or maybe, like me, 2015 has been shoving unwanted and unanticipated problems at you.

To get back on track with writing your novel takes some major work on your part. What I am doing to get back on track with writing the next novel in my Beyond mystery series may not be your cup of tea, but for what it’s worth, here it is.

When I get hit with a lot of problems from “outside” as I call it – and that can be anything from weather-related property problems to cable TV problems to computer problems, I find that getting angry about it helps. I use that anger to get at whomever or whatever is causing the problem to fix it. Sometimes I am even nice about it. But I find anger combined with persistence, can help get the problem resolved.

That’s when a third party doesn’t have to be called in to fix the problem, but that’s another story.

As you can guess, all this steals my precious time, time I could be using writing my new mystery novel. So how am I getting back to that?

  1. I switched over to Research mode – I had some research I needed to do before I could get much further in the novel anyway. Research can be worked into a fragmented schedule at home or in transit (except when driving) – whether online or from print material.
  2. Go back to your novel outline – plot and characters. Chances are your mind is scattered with all your problems, so focusing on just where your novel is going (or not) and fixing that not only gets your mind off the problem temporarily, it helps you move forward with your novel. Because of the crappy winter weather conditions, I decided to arrive very early to teach a memoir writing workshop last week at a local library branch. I didn’t bring my laptop because I was carting enough books and handouts for the workshop. But I did bring a small print file containing some plot and character concerns. So, I sat in the library branch and reworked some of the outline. I figured out exactly why I wanted X character to be the murderer and also how to add more suspense and foreshadowing in the novel.
  3. Make an hour or two during your day when you can actually sit at your computer and do some more writing – and to hell with the problems. This is a good distraction and also moves your novel along.
  4. I also went back to the beginning to work in more suspense and foreshadowing, mainly connected to the murderer. Sometimes going back to the beginning and just reading it, not only refreshes your memory, it might also provide more ideas and you will find yourself making a few changes.

 

And the problem causers?

They better watch out. I don’t take kindly to having my life screwed up big time. Especially when it interferes with my writing. Sometimes I work these people, organizations, etc. into my fiction-writing – changing names and details of course. All fodder for the fiction.

 

See, you can have some fun as an author and also get some writing done, too.

 

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

 

Author of the Beyond book series. See http://www.samcraw.com and http://www.bluedenimpress.com for more info. Book at top of this post links to my Amazon author profile.

To watch my interview on Liquid Lunch on thatchannel.com go to Go to http://youtu.be/i2bBaePIWgY and enjoy

 

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Rewriting your fiction

Click on the book cover to go to amazon.com

Click on the book cover to go to amazon.com

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out

–          Author Unknown

In previous posts I’ve talked about when you write that first draft you need to keep on writing and never mind fixing it up. At some point, you will need to wake up the editor inside your head and rewrite. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years and in particular while working with the editor at the publisher (Blue Denim Press) of Beyond the Tripping Point.

  1. What you think needs rewriting and others think may not always mesh. And that’s a good thing because you want many readers for your book.
  2. You don’t have to do exactly as someone else suggests – for example in my story “16 Dorsey St.” my editor suggested making the seniors younger. That would mess up the story’s timeline, so I compromised – I took three or four years off the seniors’ ages and worked in that they were not frail.
  3. Often someone else’s suggestion makes the story better. My editor suggested deleting out a very long ending to “My Brother’s Keeper” with an alternate shorter ending, plus deleting and/or changing parts of “Porcelain Doll.” I complied and had two better stories.
  4. Get feedback from other writers – joining a writers’ critique group (online or in person) is helpful here.
  5. When you get right down to it, you will be doing the rewriting and BEFORE you show it to anyone you should do some rewriting:
  6. When rewriting look for:

a)      Too wordy phrases – can you say it in one or two words?

b)      Anything that doesn’t make sense to you.

c)      Repetition – in action, scenes, words (do a “Find” for the latter – you’d be surprised how many times a “was” or my problem word “but” appear).

d)     Watch for any scene, etc. that makes you yawn (outside of when you are tired).

e)      In line with d) pace yourself in rewriting. Don’t try to rewrite a whole novel in one go.

f)       Make sure your plot and character actions make sense to you and aren’t vague and inconsistent. Sure, you want to leave your readers guessing about some things but having your character suddenly start karate-chopping a villain when you’ve already presented the character as slight in build, meek, with no interest in martial arts, oh…oh.

g)      However, make sure your characters undergo some change. This might sound counter to f) but show some characteristic that would motivate their actions despite a weakness. For example, in “Unfinished Business,” my main character, Lilly, avoids confronting her past until her past threatens her 12-year-old daughter. The story up to then shows that Lilly loves her daughter.

h)      Can whole scenes, parts of scenes, parts of chapters, even whole chapters be eliminated? Here look for a plot thread or tangent that isn’t really necessary to the story. In my prequel novel (still in rewriting stage), I removed whole scenes connected to one thread – another murder. Instead of having  PI Dana Bowman do a long trip down to Toronto to find a specific person (and finding her body), I had her computer savvy twin brother Bast Overture find a news story on the Internet about it. All it needed was a follow-up with Detective Sergeant Fielding for the police end to include an important plot part without all the extras. If your novel manuscript is longer than say 75,000 to 90,000 words (and the latter is pushing it), that might be an indication to cut. Or maybe rewrite it all into two books. (Note: as an editor I turned down copy editing a novel manuscript that was 205,000 words – gulp, although I had a time issue here too).

i)        For short stories, remember they are short stories, so even with the longer stories (6000 words and over) make sure every word counts – no tangents. A specific word count from your targeted market (contest, publisher, etc.) can be used here.

j)        On your later rewrites, do a line check for extra words and phrases. Be ruthless.

These are my 10 pointers for rewriting fiction. Does anyone have a pointer to add? How do you rewrite your fiction? Please share.

For my upcoming events with Beyond the Tripping Point, go to my BTTP page on my websitehttp://www.samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondtheTrippingPoint.html I continually update it. In particular:

Thursday, April 18, 2013,7 p.m.

Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Awards Short List Party Toronto http://crimewriterscanada.com/awards/annual-awards-events/shortlist-events

I’m reading a short suspenseful excerpt from Beyond the Tripping Point. Eleven other CWC readers  are reading excerpts from their books as we anxiously await the names of who made the short list. Our books are for sale, too.

Location: Indigo Chapters in the Manulife Centre, Bay St. at Bloor St. W., Toronto

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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