Writing Tips

Mark your Calendars!

We’ve got a lot of important dates coming up that we wanted to make you aware of. Book launches, opportunities to meet us and browse our selection, workshops, and even our submissions re-opening, we’ve got something for everyone!

September 18th – Open Streets, Windsoropen-streets-windsor

This Sunday Windsor is closing a large stretch of road from one end of the city to the other and we’ll be right at the heart of it in the artist fair, which is part of the Downtown Hub. The event runs from 9am to 1pm, so if you’re looking to take part, make sure to come early!

Here’s a link to more information on this event: http://www.citywindsor.ca/residents/planning/open-streets-windsor/Pages/default.aspx

 

contrastSMSySeptember 19th – Launch Party for The Secret in Mossy Swamp, online

Rita Monette’s newest Nikki Landry Swamp Legend actually goes live on September 17th, but we’re celebrating on Monday, September 19th and you can join us on Facebook for an online launch party. There’ll be prizes and games, a Q and A with the author, and general hanging out with the Mirror World team and other fans of the series. 4 pm to 6 pm EST.

You can get more info and RSVP here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1158930637504097/

 

September 25th – Word on the Street, Toronto

We’ve mentioned this one before, but on Sunday, September 25th we’ll be in Toronto for what promises to be a MASSIVE literary event. We’re excited to be a part of things and we’ll be a booth #13 in the Fringe Beat section if you’re local to Toronto and want to come out and see us. We’ll be there from 10 am to 6 pm.

Here’s a link to more information about this annual event: http://thewordonthestreet.ca/toronto/

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September 30th – Worlds Collide Gala, Windsor

This will be the event of the year for us. In partnership with our new imprint, Adventure Worlds Press, and local theatre arts group, Sho: Art, Spirit, and Performance, we’re celebrating different worlds coming together. We’re also celebrating the launch of all of our 2016 titles and an illustrated version of Adventure Worlds Press’ sci-fi anthology, No Light Tomorrow. Cash bar, prizes, readings, music, author Q and A, what more could you want?

7 pm at Sho: Art, Spirit, and Performance. 628 Monmouth Rd, Windsor.

RSVP here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1186485788080361/

 

2.ArtWORK.Oct16-350x226October 12th – Publishing 101, Windsor

Arts Council Windsor Region and Bookfest Windsor have asked me to facilitate a workshop on the ins and outs of publishing for beginners. This workshop will give an overview of a writer’s options once he or she has completed their manuscript, then we’ll go over some tips and tricks for creating a query letter worth taking notice of. $10 for members, $15 for non-members. 6:30 pm to 9 pm at Artspeak Gallery. 1942 Wyandotte ave, Windsor.

More info and registration for this workshop can be found here: http://acwr.net/event/publishing-primer-acwr-art-work-workshops/?instance_id=183852

lightertkdscoverwithfontOctober 17th – Launch Party for The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret, online

Like Time Travel? So do we and we’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of book two in The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Series by Sharon Ledwith. Monday, October 17th is the day and you can join us to celebrate the launch of another book in this great series. Again, there will be prizes, games, Q and A with the author, publisher and fans of these books. Best part is, you don’t even have to leave your computer to attend. Time TBD.  

RSVP here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1669063423411610/

 

October 24th – Our Submissions Re-Open

I’m sure this is the announcement you’ve all been waiting for. On Monday, October 24th, our submissions open for our 2017 season. So if you have a manuscript that you think would be a great addition to our current list of titles, then I suggest you take this time to go over our submission guidelines and start preparing your manuscript to send it in. And, if your manuscript still needs a little bit of work, maybe you’ll find our Mirror World News videos of use.

Our submission guidelines: http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com/submissions
Our YouTube Series: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-d6tf8fpn4_mjraKjM-hUQ

October 30th – Retrorama, Windsor

Sunday, October 30th, we’ll be at Retrorama in the vendor’s room. An annual event celebrating geek culture and collectibles, Retrorama is not to be missed and is the perfect opportunity to come out and meet us. Mirror World and Adventure Worlds will be sharing a table and we’ll have all of our books for you to peruse and pick up! $10 entry fee, 10 am to 7 pm at the Caboto Club, Windsor.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/207296576294831/

david-mclain.jpg.jpegNovember 17th – Launch Party for The Time Traveler’s Resort and Museum, online

Another launch party! Yep, we’ve got more books coming your way, and this one is worth raving about. The Time Traveler’s Resort and Museum by David McLain is a time travel book like no other and we’re really excited about this one because it encompasses every single genre we dabble in. Time Travel, Science-Fiction, Romance, Adventure, Fantasy, it has it all! Join us to celebrate this ground-breaking launch!

Event listing coming. Like our Facebook page to be kept informed! http://www.facebook.com/mirrorworldpublishing

toudesketchDecember 1st – Launch Party for #Tourdesketch Windsor, location TBD

We’re wrapping 2016 up with another book launch. This one’s special to us because it’s all about our home town. As you know, we’re about different worlds, but how can we celebrate other worlds without also celebrating our own? Owen Swain’s colouring book #tourdesketch Windsor will do just that. And, it’s coming out just in time for Christmas… which means, presents! Join us to celebrate this launch!

Location and time TBD. Subscribe to this blog to be kept informed!

 

Thanks for reading! Are we going to see you at any of these events? Let us know in the comments below!

Rita Monette On Writing in Present Tense

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Past tense or present tense, that is… or was… the question.

I’ve recently been researching the professional and non-professional views on tense in novel writing.

Why, you might ask? I am almost to the finish line of a YA novel I have been working on for…let’s say six years. I first wrote it in past tense, which is my usual way of writing. Then about half way through, for some unknown reason, I thought it would sound better in present tense. So I rewrote it. Now that I’m almost done, I’ve begun to see articles about the pitfalls of writing in present tense, which I—at one point or another—have encountered all. Have I overcome the warning obstacles? We’ll see.

According to David Jauss, of On Writing Fiction, these are three of the drawbacks of writing in present tense.

  1. Present tense restricts our ability to manipulate time, in that it is hard to switch to past tense during the story.

I didn’t seem to have a problem with that, as this information can be brought out in dialog or in the protagonist’s thoughts.

 

  1. It is more difficult to develop complex characters. He goes on to say it is harder to build depth in our characters in present tense. He states without the use of flashbacks, we can’t know enough about our character’s past and he ends up being generic.

 

I accomplished this feat by using dreams or nightmares in the beginning and on occasion to let the reader know what makes our hero do what he does.

 

  1. The present tense can diminish tension by eliminating the knowledge of upcoming events.

 

I didn’t find this to be problematic, but I suppose my readers will have to decide that. To quote Carolyn Chute, author of The Beans of Egypt, Maine, “What we gain in immediacy, we lose in tension. Present tense fiction can create another kind of suspense of course—the kind we feel when no one knows the outcome…”

 

Other articles I’ve read talk about how annoying some people find reading stories in present tense. I have to admit, I have read some that I couldn’t get past the first chapter. It seemed too jerky. But more recently, reading This Night Sucks, by Elizabeth Walker, I actually didn’t even notice it was present tense until well into it, then realized how refreshing it was to read it that way.

 

So, my humble conclusion on whether to write your story in present as opposed to past tense, is that it totally depends on the story,  the way it is told, and perhaps why it is told that way.

 

I will include here the first scene here for anyone that wishes to contribute their opinion.

Excerpt from The Zone of Fear

By Rita Monette

THE DREAM

It’s late August 1990, almost a year ago. My dad and I are sitting in the seat of his Ford Pickup traveling a couple miles west to pick up my friend, Darwin, then on to the park so we could shoot some hoops. He decides to pull into a convenient store to pick up some cigarettes.

“I’ll be right back,” he says.

Dad’s favorite CD, Unplugged by Eric Clapton, is playing Tears in Heaven. What a sad song, I think, and push the eject button. I twist the knob on the radio, looking for something I can get into, when I see a vehicle drive up and park at the end of the lot. Two men get out and head toward the entrance. I notice them because they are acting a little odd. They stand at the door and appear to be arguing, pushing at each other in the chest. One of the men turns and stares at our truck for a moment. He says something to the other man, then they enter the store. I can see Dad at the register handing the attendant some money. I am hoping he remembers to get me the Snickers bar I asked for. Dad picks up his bag and walks toward the door. He smiles as he looks at me through the glass.

Suddenly, I hear three loud bangs. Dad first turns to look behind him, then ducks and dives out the door. He runs toward the truck, staggers, then gains his footing. Then every…thing…turns …into…slow…motion. The front of his white T-shirt looks like a large red rose opening wider and wider. He drops the brown bag he is holding. Then things return to normal speed.

I crawl into the driver’s seat and shift into reverse. I back out of the spot, then swerve around to where my Dad is stumbling and holding his chest. I open the passenger door, and he crawls in. I push my foot hard on the gas pedal and burn rubber, leaving the scene behind us. But we never reach the hospital.

I always wake up at this point…sweating…alone in my room…back to the real world where my dad no longer exists, and the truth. That I had sat frozen in fear…watching as my dad fell to the dirty pavement. It’s the last thing I can remember of that day or for days afterward. I tell myself that I was only thirteen at the time, and no one could possibly

expect me to drive Dad’s truck. It doesn’t help. I could have.

Rita-studio pic cropped-cropped

 

 

Rita Monette is our featured author this month and her newest book, The Secret in Mossy Swamp, launches September 17th!! You can pre-order this installment in the Nikki Landry Series, written and illustrated by Rita, for only $0.99 with the promo code: LEGEND.

If you want to know more about Rita, please check out her website: www.ritamonette.com

Editing 101

Mirror World News is back! That’s right, this week and next you’re being treated to two ALL NEW episodes of our YouTube Show. This week’s episode is about Editing in all its forms, so I thought I would supplement that with a blog post on the subject.

But first, here’s the video:

So let’s recap. Step one, write the first draft of your manuscript. Step two, edit. That seems simple, right?

Well, editing can really be broken into a whole bunch of steps. Or that is to say, you should edit multiple times for different reasons. It’s impossible to catch everything in one pass anyways and as you make changes, or have other people offer their feedback, you’re going to want to edit again.  

So what are the types of editing, or the things you should look for? Here’s my list In the order of how I usually approach it:mistakes

Self-Editing

I’ve written a whole blog post on this topic already. You can find that here, but essentially this is the part where you go over your own work and improve it to the best of your ability. I look to correct errors and my own particular weaknesses, while improving style, word choice, and pacing.

imagesBeta Readers

I’ve also written a whole blog post on this topic. That one’s here. This is where you let other people read what you’ve written and offer feedback and suggestions. It’s important to keep an open mind when being critiqued, but also to take the suggestions of your beta readers with a grain of salt. Their ideas of what would improve the story may not always coincide with your own, and in the end, it’s up to you to decide what to change and what not to.


Content Edit

Tinfo-dumptruckhis edit can be done by a friend, or a professional. The editor in this case is looking for content-related issues such as inconsistencies in the plot, characters, or details. They should watch for places where there is either too much detail or not enough, and comment on anything that is unclear or confusing. Style, voice, pacing, and descriptions should all be paid attention to as well.

Line Edit

No matter what order the other edits are undertaken in, the line edit should come last. Again, this can be done by a friend as long as they are very strong with grammar, but I would recommend a professional or semi-professional for this part. The editor at this stage will be looking to fix any technical issues including, but not limited to spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

 

Hope that helps! If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and/or our YouTube Channel for more publishing and writing advice. If you have any editing related questions for me, or would like to suggest a future topic for me to cover, let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

The World Outside of your Comfort Zone

Us readers, writers and artists have a tendency to live inside of our own heads. This can sometimes lead to feeling isolated or creatively stagnant. If left long enough in this state, we simply run out of ideas, or the motivation to be creative.Around-the-World

In university I took a course called ‘The Creative Process’ meant to teach creative people how to overcome ‘writer’s block’ or whatever you choose to call it, depending on your discipline. Something I learned from this course is the value of new experiences. The easiest and most effective cure for feeling stuck or stagnant is to get out into the world and experience something new.

Back in university, we called these “Artist Dates”. As a part of our ‘twelve-week program’ to getting over writer’s block we were told to take ourselves out on a date once a week. These dates had a couple of rules:

  1. You must go alone
  2. You must do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do
  3. You must do something different each time and…
  4. You must make the best of it

The word ‘date’ is kind of misleading. This isn’t taking yourself out to a dinner and a movie, unless that’s something you don’t usually do on your own and you’d like to give it a try. It’s simply referring to doing something for your creative self and with your creative self. Some examples of things I did and that you can try are:

  1. Hop on a bus and see where it takes you
  2. Go to the dollar store, buy $5 worth of crafting supplies and see what you can make
  3. Try a new discipline. If you’re a writer, paint and if you’re a painter, try poetry or music.
  4. Go for a hike, or swimming, or find a beach.

07bcdcc12df687f02e58c2def519f9a9I don’t go on Artist Dates regularly anymore, but every once and awhile I will make time to nurture my inner artist by stepping out of my comfort zone and experiencing the world. For example, last night I attended a life drawing class put on by Sho: Art, Spirit and Performance. I went by myself, tried something I’ve never done before, and had an experience that I can later hopefully draw from in some creative way. Best of all, I got out of my own head for the evening.

Have you ever taken yourself out on an Artist Date? Would you try it? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Why Writers Should Also Be Readers

It’s not a coincidence that most people who write are also big readers. Besides providing entertainment and that window into lives other than our own, there’s a lot that reading can teach us about how to be better writers. To do this though, we have to learn to read critically even as we read for enjoyment. Here’s a few techniques you can use when reading to improve your writing.  

1. Vocabulary

This one may be obvious. The more you read, the more words you are exposed to in the correct context and so the more your vocabulary grows. Having a larger vocabulary gives you more words to draw on when you go to write. Now as you read, you tend to pick up some of these words subconsciously, but why not take this opportunity to learn them consciously? As you’re reading, if you come across a word you don’t know, or don’t know as well, see if you can gather the meaning from the context and if not, take the second it takes to look it up and commit it to memory. Heck, you could even make a list of these words for future use.

2. Visualizationapple-clipart-Red-apple-clipart

I learned this one in a creative writing course in University. We were asked to picture an
apple, hold it in our minds, and then afterwards describe it in detail. This is one example of how visualization can help your writing, but even more powerful than doing this exercise is to do it every time you read. As you read, let the words form pictures in your mind. Try seeing the story like it’s a movie, or a dream. Some people do this naturally, but if you don’t, it is a skill worth practising. The more easily you can visualize something, the easier it will be to describe it later when you are writing.

3. Genre

If you want to be a romance writer, read a lot of romance novels. The same goes for any other genre of writing. Once you’ve read enough romance novels, or if you’re reading them critically enough, a pattern will begin to emerge. This pattern will teach you what people expect from the genre you want to write in. Once you know this, you will know how to write in the pattern of the genre and how to break the pattern in new and exciting ways.

4. Foreshadowing and symbolism.

Another skill you can learn from reading a lot, or reading critically, is how to effectively foreshadow events in your own writing. If you pay attention, you can also pick up on common symbols used by storytellers. For example, crossing water tends to indicate a transition of some kind and wearing white can indicate purity or sacrifice. Symbolism can be used to convey themes, for foreshadowing events, or just to clue the savvy reader in to what you are trying to accomplish. Pay attention while you’re reading, especially if you are reading something for the second time to see places where the author leaves you hints for what’s to come. If you can learn to spot these, you’ll be in a better position to know where to put them in your own writing.

symbolism

5. How the experts do it

Perhaps the most beneficial thing a writer can learn from reading is how the experts do it. Reading critically or not, you can already tell which books you like and which you don’t. Reading critically will tell you why you like them and why you don’t. Then, you can use the good books as examples of how to do things well and the rest as examples of what not to do. Reading a lot of books and paying attention to what works and what doesn’t will go a long way towards helping you realize what works and what doesn’t in your own writing. And this is priceless to any writer.

Do you have any tips or tricks to share? Do you read critically, or just for enjoyment? Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below! Thanks for reading.

It’s Okay to Not Write

As writers we often get a lot of well-meaning, but ultimately harmful advice. One such example is the adage, ‘write what you know’ which has some truth to it, but leaves non-scientist science-fiction writers and purely imaginative fantasy writers out in the cold. Another bit of advice I hear a lot is ‘write every day’ or the even more potentially harmful saying, ‘writers write.’

96310b6a9f48e71a3d47f7be9699d5cbThese sayings come from a good place, but to those writers who aren’t currently writing, they can come across as a bit… judgmental. Writing is an art. It is a passionately driven creative endeavor that takes a lot of time, energy, and focus. It is also sometimes dependent on that creative spark that prompts artists to create. Sometimes writers find themselves between projects or on a break and sayings like ‘writers write’ can make those writers feel shame for not writing. It can make them feel less than writers, which is blatantly false.

Now, I’ve given the advice, ‘write every day’ or ‘write as often as possible’ on this blog and when asked for writing advice. What I meant was, write every day, where possible, while you are working on a writing project. The goal here is to stay motivated and ‘in the zone’ so to speak so that the words flow more easily and you don’t lose sight of the various plot threads you are weaving. It is not to intimidate anyone into thinking they are doing it wrong if they don’t write day in and day out.

Writing, especially something the length of a novel, takes a lot out of a person. It is perfectly okay and acceptable to take some time off afterwards. Also, no two writers are alike and their processes differ as much as their levels of experience do. Some writers will need or want more or less time to complete a project and more or less time between projects as well. And this is fine!

So yes, writers write, but they don’t have to be doing it all the time to be considered writers. Sometimes its okay to wait for one’s muse to visit. Sometimes that results in better ideas and a healthier outlook on this art we call writing.

 

 

How to write a strong opening

Openings are hard, but they are so crucial to get right. I’ll confess that I’ve had my share of trouble with them over the years. Typically, my way of dealing with them is to pay no more attention to them than I do the rest of the book, then return to them once I’ve completed the manuscript and re-work them while I’m tackling the second draft. This technique though is a lot like building the frame of a house and then worrying about trying to shore up the foundation, which seems a lot like the wrong way to do things.

So this time, I’m doing things a little differently. I’ve been working on a new project (forgive me if I’m sparse on the details, but I’ve only just started and I don’t like to share things until I’m sure they’re going to be things, if you know what I mean.) But for this project I’m working on perfecting the beginning first before I keep going with the rest of the manuscript. The reasoning behind this approach is simple. The opening is meant to draw readers in, so I figure when I get it right, the opening will make me want to keep writing.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

inmediasres

  1. Where the scene opens

You’ve all heard the advice, I’m sure; start in medias res, the middle of the action. But that doesn’t always mean starting in the middle of a gunfight, or even in a high point of tension. It can mean that, but it certainly doesn’t have to. What you need to consider is: where does your story start? What is the inciting incident that sets things in motion and how close can your opening get to it while still covering what the reader needs to know to be invested in your story.

It’s okay to struggle with this. It’s okay to have a few false starts, or write scenes that won’t end up in the final version of your manuscript just to get some knowledge of the backstory and the moments that lead up to where your story opens. Just as long as you are willing to let these first attempts go and focus on starting at the point that hooks your readers.

2.  The opening line

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. The first line is literally THE most important thing you write. This is your first impression. It’s your chance to engage your reader. It doesn’t need to need to be long, or complicated. In fact, it’s better if it’s not. It does, however, need to fit the style and the tone of your story and establish the other two things I’m going to talk about, the hook and the voice, right away.

You’ve been told over and over again that you have to hook your reader. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have them in a vice grip on the first line, it just means that you need to introduce some hint of mystery, some form of a question in their minds that piques their curiosity enough to keep reading.

3. The hooklandor

I talked a bit about the hook in the last section, but now that you’ve got an amazing first line, how do you reel the reader in? The easiest way to do this is to subtly dribble out information like breadcrumbs, so your reader will follow the trail you’ve set.

If you’ve hooked your reader in your first sentence, then do the same in the second one, and so on, you’ll keep their eyes skimming along the page. This way, within a couple of paragraphs at most, you’ll have them drawn helplessly into the world and the situation you’ve created.

4. The voice

Another tough thing to master, the voice of your narrative is also crucial to the success of your manuscript. It can also work to be a great hook, drawing readers in. Your voice relies on your character. Either that of your protagonist, or of your narrator if your narrator differs from your protagonist. It’s the way you tell your story, what kind of language you use, the length and complexity of your sentences, the style, all of it. Nothing is more powerful a tool for making your story interesting than the voice it’s told in.

If you want a great example of this, I would recommend checking out Rita Monette’s Nikki Landry Swamp Legends Series, specifically the first one, Legend of Ghost Dog Island. Nikki Landry, a ten-year old girl living in the bayous of Louisiana in the 1950’s comes alive as the narrator as early as the first line. In the spirit of being helpful, here’s a link to the Amazon sample!

I’ve written the opening to my newest project at least four, if not five, times now, but I think I’ve got something great now. For your own opening, you’ll know you’ve got something to work with when you’ve mastered the four points above and can really feel the story pulling you in as much as it will pull your readers. Remember, you can always pass it by a writer’s group, or a friend with a critical eye who is willing to tell you the truth without being too soul-crushing about it. If you don’t have any of those handy, toss your first paragraph into the comments below and I’ll be happy to take a look at it for you!

And on that note, here’s mine:

The change came without warning, unless you count the rain. It pounded on the window of my battered Oldsmobile, demanding to be let in. I sighed, frustrated. So much for the Weather Network. Wrenching the rusted driver’s side door open, I was drenched in seconds. I scurried across the city parking lot, doing my damndest to avoid the worst of the puddles, though it hardly mattered now. The damage was done.

The Art of Self-Editing

Some people might call it ‘writing a second draft’ but for me everything that comes after the first draft is complete and before I let anyone else have a look at my manuscript is self-editing.

I see a lot of advice out there that tells you not to ‘self-edit’. Or at the very least to put the manuscript aside for a long while before picking it up again to gain some perspective. On the first point, I disagree entirely, and on the second, I’ve found that it doesn’t work that well for me. At least not at the stage between the first and second drafts.

Here’s a look at how I handle the process, personally. If there is one thing I’ve learned it is that every writer is different, but if you can learn something from how I do things, then that’s what this is all about!

images3So recently Murandy and I completed the first draft of Uncharted. Typically, I will put the manuscript aside for a week or two as I celebrate our accomplishment and take a breather, but as soon as I feel like ‘going back to work’ I get started self-editing. It’s important to wait until the first draft is complete before starting to edit, even if you’re tempted to go back and fix things as you go, because for one thing, you don’t want to second guess yourself while in progress and for another, you don’t want to get so bogged down with editing that you don’t get the first draft done.

When I pick up the first draft to start editing, this is typically the first time I’ve read the story in its entirety as opposed to being focused on a scene, or even a paragraph, at a time, so I feel that gives me at least the illusion of ‘reading it for the first time.’ On this first read-through, I keep an eye out for the story as a whole, but I also watch out for a bunch of other things:

Pacing

While reading the scenes as they flow together, I want to make sure that the story stays interesting and engaging, especially to me as I wrote it and technically know what happens next. It’s good to keep an eye out for places where the plot lags, or places where events are skipped over too quickly that you can afford to flesh out. Also at this point, I take a really close look at my opening and eventually my ending. I want the former to hook my readers and make them want to read on and I want the latter to be satisfactory.landor

Worldbuilding and Exposition

When you know your own world and your own plot so well, it’s easy to forget that your reader doesn’t know it as well as you do. When reading through the first draft, I watch for places where a reader might get confused, or might need more information to comprehend what’s going on. This is especially important when working on a sequel in places where you have to reference back to the events of the previous book in order to make something clear. It’s also best to do this in as organic a way as possible and to also keep an eye out for places where too much exposition is given. You want to avoid bogging down the story with unnecessary details and also avoid over-explaining things and boring your reader.

Descriptions

As a writer, you know your own habits and weaknesses. A trap I often fall into is seeing places, people, and objects so clearly in my mind that I assume the reader can see them too and therefore, I forget or omit describing them to their fullest. So while self-editing, I keep a close eye anytime a character is introduced, or a new setting is reached, to make sure that I’ve fully described everything, and if I haven’t then I make sure to correct that omission.

story-pacingFlow

This is the part that takes the longest, but is also the most important in my opinion. As I read through the first draft, I often do so aloud where possible, or in my head at a deliberately slow speed to ‘listen’ to the flow and cadence of the writing. The sentences as a whole and the words chosen within them should flow together and ‘sound right’. This is a hard thing to explain, but what I particularly watch out for is awkward sentences, incorrect grammar and punctuation (reading aloud is a great way to tell you where the commas should go), repeated words or phrases, added words like ‘that’ and ‘very’, redundancy especially in dialogue and all sorts of other things. This is the part of the process where you go through your writing with a fine-toothed comb and make sure everything is the way you want it to be.

My Notes

While writing, I notice things that I want to change or fix, or things that I know I didn’t do as strong of a job conveying as I would like. In order to help me avoid the temptation of immediately stopping to edit, I keep a list of things to look out for when self-editing. Typically these are things like make sure to add foreshadowing of such and such in chapter one, but it can also be something as simple as, character A had a gun in that scene, what happened to it? Or really anything you want to have a second look at.

mistakes

And that’s it! Once I’ve gone through and created my ‘second draft’, I’m usually confident enough at that point to show my work to Robert (my husband and editor) and eventually, if he gives the ok, to beta readers. If I’m not feeling confident at this point, that usually means I need to go back and work a little more or, I’ll give the manuscript the shelf treatment and come back to it in a few months to try again. Or, sometimes as in Mirror’s Heart (sequels are hard) I needed the opinions of Robert and the beta readers to fix what was really wrong with it.

Good luck with your second drafts! If you have any questions or comments, please put them in the comments section below and I would be happy to read them!

Everything you need to know about Writers Conferences

This past weekend I attended the Windsor International Writers Conference – and what an experience that was! Not only was this my first time attending a writers conference, but it was also my first time attending that kind of event as a publisher, which as it turns out, adds a whole new perspective to the whole thing.

The biggest barriers to attending an event like this are fairly obvious. People often have the following misconceptions.:

  1. There aren’t any near me
  2. I won’t learn anything I don’t already know
  3. It’s not worth the expense

Well, first of all, there are A LOT of writers conferences and similar events. There are genre specific ones, and general ones. There are some that are members only and some that are for everybody. And, if you’re local to us there’s now one in Windsor, sowelcome-to-windsor you won’t have to travel very far. If you do have to travel, or the one you want to go to is further away, sometimes it is worth the trip anyways, even if you only go once. There were a number of people I met at the Windsor International Writers Conference who had come as far as Seattle, or Little Rock, Arkansas and these people brought a different perspective with them and were well worth meeting.

For the second point, it is simply untrue. Writing is an art and as such it is something that you should always be working at improving. It is also a very solitary undertaking most of the time, so it helps to get out of your head and meet people who get what it’s like to do what you do. And on the publishing side of things, there is always so much to learn. The industry is constantly evolving and if you are a writer who wants to see their books on the shelves, then you need to make connections within the industry or at the very least learn what it takes to bring your book to market as a self-publisher.

Lastly, the most common objection I hear is about the cost. The actual figures vary from conference to conference and I agree that on the surface they look a little high, but now having been to a conference I can tell you with no hesitation – you are getting your money’s worth.

Here’s an example of what registration (incl. Pre-conference and post-conference) covered at the 2016 Windsor International Writers Conference:

~2 roundtable intensive workshops with a publisher or agent.
~Optional 1 on 1 meetings with publishers or agents of your choice.
~Several Panels featuring publishers, agents, authors, and editors
~All meals and beverages during the official hours of the conference
~A welcome bag including pens, paper, and a program
~Guest speakers on various topics incl. Branding, blogging, researching, self-publishing, query letters, synopsis, perspective, and voice.
~Entertainment in the evenings incl. Music, theater, and a Mexican fiesta.
~Workshops, incl. Poetry and screenwriting.
~Contests for poetry, short story, opening paragraph, and descriptions. The winners of which were awarded free attendance to next year’s conference.

I hope that helps to clarify the value of a writers conference. If you’d like to know more, come back next week (or subscribe to this blog) for part two of this post when I share my experience as a publisher at this event.

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In the meantime, I would like to remind you all that the Cover Reveal for Elizabeth J. M. Walker’s This Night Sucks is this Friday, the 13th here on the blog and then next week Black Lightning by K.S. Jones goes live on May 17th! It’s not too late to pre-order this book. In fact, you can do so here.

Joshua Pantalleresco’s ‘Rules’ of Writing – Part 2

To find Rules 1-4 click here. Otherwise, here’s part 2!

Number Five: Revise, Revise, Revise

If you have made it this far, you have in all likelihood finished a draft.  Congratulations.  Seriously.  You went out there and finished a draft.  I’m giving myself a self high five in your honor.

So now what?

Well, barring insane deadlines, take a few days away from your creation.  Yes, it’s WatcherFront copymarvelous and glorious and you love it and stuff, but you’ve also been in the trenches awhile.  Get away.  Read some books, watch movies, date your significant other, whatever.  Just do something else for a few days.  The work will be there waiting when you get back.

When you do come back, you will have a fresher perspective and now is the time to revise your draft.  This is the point where you can say that your draft isn’t perfect.   It’s no longer a luxury – you are now a surgeon or a sculptor, cutting away pieces of unnecessary prose, inserting words in new places.  This process is a vital part of taking a great idea and making it an engaging piece for readers.  It’s probably going to happen several times which leads to…

Number Six:  Repeat rules one through five as necessary

Because as you revise, new ideas come up, and the story becomes more polished and that gem of an idea you now is a hard diamond of literary excellence.  Again, there is a fine line between polish and unnecessary revision, and as a writer you need to respect that.  After a couple of drafts or so, I recommend letting someone else read the work.  No matter how many times you walk away from a script, there are always going be things you miss.  Writers are too close to their own work.  We can’t help it, so try to pass it on to someone that will be honest with you.

Hmm, that is six writing things.  I don’t think I’m going to make ten, but I have two more things to mention before I go.

Number Seven:  Listen to your characters

Now some of you are hardcore plotters, and some like me tend to fly from the seat of the pants.  The truth is, writers are a mixture of both.  If we plot too much, we don’t let the story breathe, and if we don’t have an ending in mind, pantsers tend to wander on youtube too much because we have no idea where else to go.  But something I’ve learned is that the characters I’m writing about know where they are going better than I do.  Let them guide Cover-Final-8by11you.  Don’t worry.  They won’t steer you wrong most of the time.  Don’t force their path when they do this.  Let them lead you to their own promised land.

You don’t have to take my advice here.  That said, I found in the case of Stormdancer that it worked out far better than I imagined.  I had this idea that Kristen and company would end up in jail.  I had no plan on how they would escape.  Kristen had severe anger issues before ending up in prison and had no way to release those emotions.  I didn’t have a solution to her anger.  She told me she could use her anger to escape this place.  I trusted her, and realized the symbol of her being in a cage not just on the outside, but in it.  Jailbreak in Stormdancer is probably one of the strongest chapters I have written, and it wasn’t me.  It was all her.

Number Eight: Write from the heart

On my own webpage (http://www.joshuapantalleresco.com) I talk about this rule the most outside of rule one.  It took me fifteen years to realize that all my plotting and fancy ideas meant nothing unless I had a story that connected readers to it.

The human heart is one thing all of us share.  Art in any form is about expressing it.  People understand pain, anger, laughter, tears.  Good writing brings those feelings and experiences to the forefront.  If you can’t expresss what is in your heart, in my view you are not ready to be published.  What do you care about?  What do you believe in?

What matters to you?

Express it.  Because the one thing you can’t fake is what it is inside you.  It’s the most genuine part of you.  And if you can tap into it, you will find readers that will resonate with your work.   So be genuine on the page.  I don’t care if you’re writing about a jar of dirt or a quest to save the moon from the evil martians;  what in this story are you saying about you?

There you have it, my eight something or others about writing.  I hope this helps you.  Use what works for you, discard the rest.  There is no set formula to this other than rule one.

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Write.

Joshua Pantalleresco writes fiction, poetry and comics. He also lo

ves to do interviews. He has written columns for comicbloc and allpulp and currently does so for comicmix. The Watcher is his second book of poetry. He resides in Calgary.

He has a blog you can follow here.