In which I detail my adventures in writing and publishing

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Writng versus editing

A friend and I had a short discussion about writing versus editing. Briefly put, the initial act of creation often seems joyful in contrast to the plodding, methodical effort needed for pruning extra words and revising paragraphs. There is no better feeling than uncorking the bottle of creativity and allow the words to flow.

As my mother would say, sooner or later it's time to do the dishes. My current WIP stalled a bit after I had written the final sentence. In my defense, winter was over and I have other hobbies besides writing, particularly in spring and summer. Excuses aside, I have to admit that no agent or publisher wants to read anybody's first draft. A lot of authors don't enjoy reading thier own first draft. The word repetition, overwritten sentences and plot inconsistencies grate like fingernails on the blackboard.

The first thing is to take time away from the book before begin the edit. It will seem less like your own work to read and the job of editing will seem less like auto-amputation. Second, if you haven't done so, join a critique group. Not so much to have others provide feedback, although that is helpful, but to get in the habit of looking at a manuscript as an editor would. I learned that after I read exerpts written by others in the group I was better able to recognize problems in my own writing and to take pride in fixing them.

Remember in elementary school how much you hated seeing those red lines underneath your writing and the comments in the margins? No? You're luckier than me. Even in college I had an aversion to criticism, no matter how benign. I'm finally adult enough to realize criticism makes me a better writer. Putting my work under the microscope is a job that takes more time than creating prose in the first place, but the result can be a beautiful thing.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Strunk and White

A common punchline dropped in the Laugh-In TV show was "look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls," referring to the publisher of a popular dictionary and encyclopedia in the early part of the 20th century.

To writers I suggest looking things up in their Strunk and White. I'm referring to the slim but powerful book titled The Elements of Style, first published in 1959. Noted writer EB White studied at Cornell and took a course called English 8 from Professor William Strunk Jr. Professor Strunk used as a text a book of the same name which he had written for the course.

In 1957, eleven years after the death of Prof. Strunk, White revised the text for publication by Macmillan. It remains a classic and I recommend it to every writer, no matter how accomplished. In just 85 pages Strunk and White lay out in easy to read English a manual on how to write. Imagination and inspiration are possessed in varying degrees by writers. The Elements of Style is a tool box they can use to build and polish their projects.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

File management

When I made my first attempt to write a novel keeping track of the manuscript was easy. I had a single file on computer where I did all my writing. As long as I saved my work at the end of each session I had no problems.

At first I did all my writing at home. I had a computer at work but lacked the time to write there. Eventually I wanted to be able to write during the down times but couldn't because my PC didn't have Microsoft Word and I didn't want to pay for a copy. I started using one of my blogs as a writing platform. All went well until I tried copying and pasting from the blog onto my home PC. In a few words: major formatting issues. Not that I couldn't overcome them, but it took time. Lots of it.

I started bringing my laptop to work. I had plenty of desk space and, as it happened, more time to write. That was fallout from the economic recession.

Change happened at work and our computers got upgraded. Now I had Word on my work PC and I could write fiction when time permitted. New problem: how to collect everything into a unified file. By now I had joined a critique group and it seemed I was always making new files of chapters to send to the group. Unwittingly I found I had created a monster. I had multiple files of the same material--well nearly the same. If I made changes in a chapter and didn't update the files the same way I had no way of telling what was the best.

Solution: more time spent perusing the myriad files and culling the bad from the good. Now I have one master file containing my WIP as presently revised. Everytime I add to it I make a copy, email myself so I can update the workplace copy and vice versa. So far it seems to be working. For the next book, things are going to be different from the get go.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First pitch

This is my writing blog. If you don't like it, I have others, but right now they're dormant. I want to establish a presence, however small, prior to stepping into the realm of publishing sometime in 2012. Book publishing has seen more change in the past twelve months since the invention of the printing press. This is good and bad for unpublished writers like me.

The good news is that the traditional means of getting published, through an agent and a publishing house, can be circumvented by electronic self-publishers.

The bad news is that there is more competition than ever between authors for the attention of readers. It isn't bad in the most negative sense. After all, quality depends on competition to sort out the best from the mediocre and bad. However, aspiring authors have the challenge of not just writing, but also marketing themselves. From what I understand, even traditionally published authors are well advised to take the initiative and engage in marketing anyway. Publishers' budgets aren't big enough to promote midlist writers' books to the extent that they ought to.

Where am I in all this? I am writing my third novel. The first two are in suspended animation, probably never to be revived. The third, a suspense novel titled Win or Go Home, is undergoing revision and review by a critique group. My goal is to have the book ready for submission in June 2012. The dream of having an agent and a contract with an established publisher is still alive for me, but if I can't find an agent, plan B will be to publish electronically through Smashbooks.