Separating author from story

One of my goals for this year is to finish my work-in-progress by the end of the summer. By finish, I mean publication ready, whether that means marketing to agents or self publishing it.

Exciting, I know!

However, I am finding it difficult to tell my story in a way that will be appealing to all readers, and I think it’s because it’s such a personal story. I don’t want to give away too many details just yet, but the plotline involves my main character overcoming grief and demons regarding her grandmother’s passing which resurface with the failing health of her grandfather. She thought she’d dealt with all her problems and overcome her emotions, but now she realizes that all she did was shut them out. Cue philosophical, life-changing emotional growth!

That’s only one story arc of two or three that I’m currently playing with, but the story is so personal to me that I am getting in my own way of telling it. I plan to make this an homage to my grandparents who have passed, and as a result I have given my MC’s grandparents many of their qualities and sometimes deviate into unnecessary vignettes, etc. that don’t contribute to my plot or move my story ahead. BUT THEY’RE IMPORTANT TO ME! Just not the reader! 🙂 (Side note: See my “Words to Write By” in the upper right — I picked that quote because I feel it’s very fitting to my issue right now!)

So my challenge is finding a way to stay true to what I’ve set out to do in a way that I can live with and still tell a compelling story.

Anyone experienced this or have tips for getting over it? They’d be much appreciated!

Great editing, supportive community at Scribophile

The reason for my latest absence from this blog (aside from a huge pickup in freelance work) is that I’ve joined Scribophile. I love it. And you should join if you’re an aspiring writer.

There are two versions, a free and a premium subscription. Due to my lack of funds, I have the free version, but it’s still a great resource for having my work edited and having people who are well-read provide constructive feedback. In fact, I’ve been inspired to take one of my short stories and try to expand it into a full length novel (which isn’t going very well so far, but I digress).

So far, I’ve posted two chapters for critique. The way the site works is that posted work enters a “spotlight” for others to critique for full “karma points.” As more works are critiqued, they leave the spotlight and others enter in.

So what’s the reward for critiquing? Karma points, which users need in order to post their own work. So, the more works you critique, the more karma you earn, and the more of your writing you can post to the site. Plus, critiquing more posted works gets them out of the spotlight faster so that your own stuff can get there.

Overall, it’s a system that works fairly well. Of course, I have a work waiting for the spotlight for over two weeks now, but that’s just because there are TONS of great writers using the website. Many of the users have been published, and it’s a great community with a lot of advice to share among authors.

Groups, forums, and contests are also available for users to interact with each other outside of critiques and exchange information. The site also has an area to announce publications and promote work, too.

Overall, my experience this far has been wonderful. I highly encourage joining!

Again, that’s Scribophile.com

YA Fest (we need more of these)

Check it out. http://yafest.blogspot.com/

A Lehigh Valley library (in Easton, if you’re familiar with the area) is hosting the first Young Adult Fest to celebrate YA Fiction next Saturday, August 4. They’ve got about 30 area authors coming to sell and sign copies of their books, and they will be having panel discussions with the authors. The goal is to attract local kids toward libraries and reading.

I think this is wonderful. With my background in education, I know for a fact that kids don’t read anymore. I asked my students once how often they read books outside of school, and the responses I got?

“You mean read a book that I don’t have to read for school?”

“I don’t even read the book we’re reading now.”

“I have better things to do than reading.”

“People read books for fun?”

This is not an exaggeration, and believe  me, their writing and test scores showed it. I made them read out loud every day by going up and down the rows in class, and you wouldn’t believe how many of these 15 year old students struggled to read materials that were at a 5th grade reading level (these were 9th and 10th graders).

It floors me because I was an avid reader in school. I love reading even now. More events like this YA Fest will help kids get interested in reading and writing again. I’m going to the event to check it out and maybe mingle with some of the authors, so I’ll post an update about it next weekend. If anyone in the blogosphere is in the area, I encourage you to attend as well!

Don’t Struggle to Finish!

I found this great post in the “Questions and Quandaries” section of the Writer’s Digest website. It’s about finding that time to actually finish a writing project, be it a novel or a short story.

The author makes three sound suggestions for making visible progress in your writing. Here’s the questions that prompted such excellent, clean advice from the people over at WD:

“Q: I am a working mom and frustrated writer. I have been writing a story for several months, but now find myself stuck. I know what the story is about, I have a very detailed and a clear mental image of the characters in my head. I am currently in the process of fleshing out the story, but what next? I don’t know anything about getting into this field, and outside of college, have never written such a long and involved story. What advice and directions can you suggest to a writing virgin? —Val M”

And here’s the link to the entire post: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/questions-and-quandaries/writing-advice/how-to-finish-that-novel

I think #1 is absolutely KEY. If you can’t take at least 15 measly minutes out of your entire day to find time to write something, how can you call yourself a writer? Even dedicating a small amount of time to a writing project will guarantee progress.

PS: For those still interested, here’s another article (also from Writer’s Digest) about the debate on short story and novel lengths! It has some helpful tips on how to make your manuscript more marketable, too!

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/questions-and-quandaries/marketing/novel-and-short-story-word-counts

How Long Can A Short Story Be?

My 9th grade honors English literature teacher told us during the first week of our unit on short stories that “a short story is short enough that it can be read in one sitting.”

That’s all fine and dandy, of course, except for one thing: I read the sixth Harry Potter novel in one “sitting” (I stayed up all night to finish it). I only paused for dinner, and there have definitely been times where I read short stories for school and paused to eat dinner. So the next logical question would be, “How long is one sitting?” And of course, there’s no real definite answer to that!

So how long can a short story really be? I’m currently refining a short story I wrote for publication in my college’s literary magazine, but it seems like every time I revise, the piece gets longer! I decided to turn to Google to see what the Internet’s consensus was on the appropriate or average length of a short story.

As you might have predicted, there doesn’t really appear to be a consensus. On one website, http://fiction-writing.yoexpert.com, there was a handy little chart that classified projects based on the number of words, as seen here:

While it might not be possible to capture all of the numerous subgenres of narrative fiction that have been imagined, here is a brief list of the more common types of stories, organized by length from shortest to longest:

•     Under 1000:     Flash fiction, or “short short” stories
•     1,000-7,500:     Short story
•     7,500-20,000:     Novelette
•     20,000-50,000:     Novella
•     Over 50,000:     Novel

But on the short story Wikipedia page, the length of a short story is placed at anywhere between 1,000 and 9,000 words, and uses Edgar Allen Poe’s The Philosophy of Composition as “the” measure for a short story at about 4,500 words. A third source over at http://talktoyouniverse.blogspot.com/ draws the line at 7,500-12,000 words. This author also mentions having a “natural length” where a writer feels comfortable with his/her short story, which is something to consider. Maybe I’m just naturally long-winded, and therefore have a longer “natural length” for my short stories!

Clearly, there isn’t a correct or universally accepted length for a short story. My current project is bordering on 7 double-spaced pages, so I’d estimate it at anywhere between 4,000-7,000 words. Guess I’ll find out when I try to submit it whether or not that’s too long.

Feel free to chime in on your own natural length or what you believe is too long for a short story!

Being an “Effective Writer”

Got another writing blog to share with everyone!

This one’s by Jeff Goins. You can find him at http://goinswriter.com/. Skim through his about page. Goins talks about the original intent of his blog and comes to the realization that there’s a “community of like-minded individuals sharing many of the same struggles.” I love this!  I think many writers/bloggers can relate, too.

After all, I began my own blog (which is going on one week strong already! Yippee!) to connect with other writers and hopefully learn from them and maybe teach them a thing or two myself. I’m sure lots of others do the same!

Anyway, the post I want to share from Goins’ blog is called “How to Be an Effective Writer.” He details his five recommendations for new authors on how to improve. Here’s a quote:

“As an aspiring writer, you want to get your point across without much difficulty, and that takes intentionality. Forget about being a “good” writer. That’s subjective. You want to be an effective writer and accomplish what you set out to do. Here are five tips for how to be an effective writer…”

I’m especially a fan of the first tip. My grandmother did almost the same thing when I was very little and just starting to read and write! The rest of Jeff’s post can be found at this link: http://goinswriter.com/writing-tips/how-to-be-an-effective-writer/

Hope you find it as useful as I did! Happy writing!

Merits of Self-Publishing

It’s not going away: products like Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Amazon’s Kindle, as well as their various spinoff technological devices are changing the way that we read. Digital subscriptions to newspapers and magazines, and electronic versions of books and novels are becoming more and more popular.

But besides changing how people read, e-readers are changing the way we publish books.

I did some light research on self-publishing (so feel free to add your own knowledge) to figure out whether it’d be an avenue worth pursuing when I’m ready for that step. Turns out that self-publishing can be a great way to get your name out there and get readers interested in your writing. And as it turns out, self-publishing a book doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get a “traditional” deal with a big-name publisher. Just take this advice, compiled by Joanna Penn at her blog “The Creative Penn,” as an example. Here’s an excerpt:

A successfully self-published book can propel you down the road to a book contract at a commercial publishing house.

That’s the truth of the matter, despite the worries I hear from writers that self-publishing could doom their hopes of ever landing a real book deal. Don’t listen to those persistent rumors and urban myths that agents and editors won’t take on books the authors have published themselves.

She also cites two examples of books she’s worked on with self-published authors. Check it out at: http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/2010/03/11/how-self-publishing-can-lead-to-a-real-book-deal/

For anyone who, like me, is just starting out and looking to test the waters before going full-throttle into getting published, I’d recommend looking into it.