Posts Tagged ‘feedback’

I’m far from perfect. And there are lots of areas I can be better (especially my impulse control when it comes to sweets). However, this post will be focused on the writing aspects I can improve upon.

There are a couple of reasons why I want to talk about that here. One is that for personal things I want to improve upon (damn you, sweet tooth! Damn you to hell!), I only talk about those sort of things here when it’s really important. Like if I’m really struggling with my choices in life, or if I want to talk about being on the spectrum. And at the moment, there’s nothing in my life I feel like talking about here at the moment. Second, this is a blog for a writer, so it makes sense that if I’m going to talk about improving stuff, it’ll be about improving my writing. And finally, while a lot of people I know in real life and even a few people online treat me as THE writing expert, especially when it comes to fiction writing, I’m far from an expert. If I were an expert, I’m pretty sure I’d have several bestsellers out by now, a few of them would have been made into movies already, and I’d be writing full-time in a nice three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath house (I have goals that I aim for).

Point is, as a writer there are areas I’d like to improve in, so I thought I’d list some of those and ask for your feedback. Many of you who follow this blog are writers, and have much more experience than I do. Perhaps you’ve dealt with some of the issues I’ve dealt with, and have some tips on how to deal with them. Anything’s possible, right?

1. I’m addicted to adverbs and gerunds. Now if you don’t remember most of the fancy terms from grammar class, adverbs are words that end in “ly” (wildly, musically, horribly) and gerunds are words ending in “ing” (ending, writing, killing). And I overuse them in my writing (see? Did it right there). One of the biggest criticisms I got from Rose, truth be told, is that I overuse them. In fact, I almost used “actually” instead of “truth be told” in that last sentence. And in the one before this, I started writing “nearly” before I switched to “almost.” And in that last one, “I switched” started as “switching.” And before that–oh, you get the idea!

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about how I had a similar problem with semicolons. I overused them, especially when they weren’t needed. Once I recognized the problem, I was able to correct it. But I have a feeling correcting these issues won’t come so naturally (see?). For one thing, while the semicolon issue was about fixing incorrect uses of punctuation, what I’m doing here isn’t technically wrong. These are speech patterns used everyday, you just don’t see them in a lot of fiction to the extent I use them. At least, not really good fiction. So one thing I’d like to do is know when to use adverbs and gerunds, and when not to use them.

2. Passive vs. active voice. I have a lot of trouble telling those two apart. Which is bad, because editors and publishers tend to prefer active voices in fiction, and I somehow always end up writing in passive voice. What’s the difference? Is there a video I need to watch or something that explains this? Help!

3. Writing snappier action. This is something I’ve taken steps to improve, but it’s still a work in progress. I tend to write these long sentences that illustrate a character taking a certain action. Example: “She stood, walked to the kitchen, and placed the glass in the dishwasher.” It’s a good sentence, but for fiction, this is better: “She put the glass in the dishwasher.” Boom! And if I’ve already established that the character is on the couch, it works even better. It shows the same amount of action with less words.

I’m trying to implement this sort of snappy action into my stories. Editors and publishers seem to like it, and when there are limits to how many words a submitted story can have, it’s helpful in reducing the word count. Still, it’s going to take some work. This, like the adverbs and gerunds and possibly the passive voice thing, are deeply ingrained habits.

No reason to add this photo. I just want to show you my new author profile pic.

4. Short story writing. I’ve written novels or works meant to be novels for most of my life. That’s what I mostly read, so that’s what I mostly wrote. I’ve learned how to write short stories and read plenty of them since high school and college, but I’m still not as good at them as I am at novels. Which is sad, because I’ve had many, many ideas for short stories and novelettes over the years. And since I’ve spent most of my time on novels, I’ve written only a few short stories, and not many of those have been published.

What I want to do is write more short stories and novelettes, get better at writing them, and get a few of those published. Is it necessary, especially since I prefer novels? No, but a lot of authors I like do great short fiction, so I’d like to do great short fiction too. Good news is, I’ve been reading a lot of anthologies lately, and I should have a bit of time after I finish the fourth draft of Rose. That should give me time to practice.

5. Not listening to my anxieties. All writers deal with anxieties, especially with how their work will be received. Sometimes I let them have too much control of my mind, and I start freaking out Just yesterday, I got panicky over whether certain characters in Rose might be called tacky stereotypes. After a lot of discussion online with friends and colleagues, I don’t believe they are, but the worry ate at me for a while.

The important thing for me is just to be a bit more confident in myself, and the stories I write. And I should work on techniques to combat those anxieties when they try to tear at me. Because at the end of the day, I’ve still written some decent fiction. And I won’t let doubt or fear keep me from improving it and making it into possibly publishable fiction.

 

Well, those are the things I want to improve on with my writing. What are your suggestions on fixing those issues? Let me know in the comments below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve only six chapters of Rose left to edit, so I’ll hopefully get started on the next one tonight. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

So good news, folks: as of around 6 PM today, I’ve received feedback from both of my beta readers for Rose, which means I can start the fourth draft of the novel! Why is the fourth draft so significant, you may be asking. Well, this is the last draft I plan to do until I get an agent and/or publisher! And I think that is significant enough to write a blog post (which would’ve been written earlier this evening, but I was at my dad’s for Hanukkah dinner).

Now if you have no idea what Rose is, it’s a novel I wrote as my thesis in college, which I started working on again earlier this year and finished editing back in October. The story follows a young woman with amnesia whose body starts going through incredible, magical changes. The only person she can rely on for help and information about these changes and about herself is a young man who says he’s her boyfriend, but he’s keeping things from her, and things are not at all what they seem.

Yeah, it is not a fun story. Not by a long shot. But I think it’s a good story, made even better after the most recent draft, which fixed a few issues with the story and doubled the word count (don’t less that scare you, it’s shorter than the second Harry Potter book).

Of course, before you start submitting it to publishers or agents, you want to make sure your novel is actually good. Not just good in your opinion, but in others’ opinions, and that’s where beta readers come in. They take a look at stories you write, and let you know what works, what doesn’t, and give you feedback on what can be made better.

One of my beta readers for Rose was my dear friend, Joleene Naylor.  She read the novel in about a month, and got back to me with a ton of notes, as well as plenty of feedback. Overall, she enjoyed the novel. She thought my characters and their development was deep and reminded her of anime characters, which are often complex and never completely good nor completely evil, but often a mix of both (you can now tell who inspired that post about why writers should check out anime). That made the characters within Rose not only multilayered, but often very surprising. For one particular character, Joleene hated him at first, but then she found out some things about him and actually became kind of sympathetic towards him. Then she learned some more things about that character, and her feelings changed again. It’s very hard to do that in fiction, to have your emotions about characters change that rapidly, and Joleene liked that.

However, she did have some thought about a few things, including grammar and word usage, and she thought some things could be fixed, changed, or worked around in order to make the novel that much better. Her feedback makes a lot of sense to me, so I’m going to be incorporating a lot of it into the story.

My other beta reader got back to me earlier today, and I was very glad to see his feedback. Who is this beta reader? Believe it or not, he’s my chiropractor. As many of you know, I have back problems, so I’ve been seeing Dr. Black since June to remedy them (and the progress has been amazing!). You see someone so much, you get to talking, and it turns out Dr. Black is a huge horror fan, so obviously we got to talking about Stephen King, HP Lovecraft, and my writing. When I was getting close to finishing Rose, he offered to read it as a horror fan, and I said I’d like that.

This is what a beta reader or two can lead to: a published novel.

Now, Dr. Black is not a writer, but a reader. However, it is important to have the feedback of readers, as they are who we write for. And Dr. Black did give his reader approval. He thought the novel kept his attention throughout, and that he especially enjoyed the flashbacks in the novel. I’m glad he told me that, because those were parts I actually worried about. Flashbacks are difficult to do, and different readers and writers react to them in different ways. I’m glad Dr. Black enjoyed them, and what they added to the story.

He also mentioned one issue he had in the story while reading one chapter, which I hadn’t realized was a problem, so I’ll make sure to fix that up so that the end result won’t have that same problem.

So I have both of my beta readers’ feedback, and I can start on the fourth draft. To be honest, I’m really glad I finally have all that feedback. I haven’t really been in a writing mood lately, waiting on getting that much-needed feedback. Sure, having my laptop in the shop for over a week didn’t help, but even when I had it, I just wanted to work on Rose (even if I was working on a great story in the meantime. A story I’ll have to put on hold for now, but whatever. I’ll get it done eventually). When you put this much work into a novel, and you think it has so much potential, you really want to see that potential fulfilled, I guess.

And now that I’ve gotten my feedback, I’ll put out a couple of blog posts I’ve been meaning to write for a while, and then I’ll get to work. I doubt it’ll take very long to get through this time, so hopefully that means I’ll have some good news soon.

Thanks to Joleene and Dr. Black for their valuable feedback. It means so much to me that you took the time to do this for me.

And thanks for keeping in touch with me, my Followers of Fear, and following my progress of this novel. I hope that if it comes out, that you decide to pick up a copy and that you enjoy it. Until next time, pleasant nightmares and Happy Hanukkah!

It’s Friday again, so you know what that means! That’s right, it’s #FirstLineFriday! And it’s also my last Friday in Germany (cue sad violin music). Well, I had a good time here and I’m glad I got to be here for so long. But like all good things, they come to an end. No use fighting it, I guess.

Anyway, here are the rules of #FirstLineFriday: You write a post with the title #FirstLineFriday, hashtag included, and then you post the first one or two lines of a possible story, a story in progress, or a completed or published work. You then ask your readers for feedback on the lines.

And since this is the month of October, I’m doing stories relating specifically to Halloween. This week’s entry is from a short story I might write someday, about two people who need a little help to fix the problems in their life on All Hallows Eve:

Sofia walked alongside the road in the direction Mommy’s car, cold and sniffling. Why had Mommy left her behind like that?

What are your thoughts? Anything that could be brushed up? Let me know in the comments below.

All for now. I’ll be taking it easy this weekend, so I might be putting out another post or two. Until then, have a good weekend my Followers of Fear!

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It’s been one week since The Quiet Game: Five Tales To Chill Your Bones was published in an elaborate post meant to take the place of an actual launch party (see here). I’m starting to wonder if I should’ve just said “The book’s out, here are the links to purchase it”. But anyway, it’s been a week since The Quiet Game came out, and since then I’ve sold about 10 print books and 8 e-books, with more to come as people tell me they are planning to buy it or will buy it as soon as they get home (thank you, everybody!).

And I’ve gotten some reviews, as well. One was from my mother, who said she can’t read me at night anymore (and has since given me a full report over the phone over what she liked and disliked), while the other was from Jason Haxton, author of The Dibbuk Box, which indirectly inspired one of the short stories, Samson Weiss’s Curse (apparently he really liked that one). As Jason told me, he thought the book was a strong start and wished me a hearty congratulations. Thanks Jason, I really appreciate the feedback.

And with other friends promising reviews I cannot wait to see what people think. In fact, this whole journey in publishing The Quiet Game has been a blast (except for the wait to get the copyright, but I won’t let that ruin the whole thing). I’ve learned a lot, had some great help from friends and family, and got to express myself as well. Maybe in a few books’ time I’ll write another collection of short stories, and it’ll be better than The Quiet Game! Sounds like fun, right?

If you’re interested in reading The Quiet Game: Five Tales To Chill Your Bones, you can purchase it off of Amazon or Smashwords, in both print paperback and e-book. And if you do read it, please let me know what you think. I always appreciate feedback, even negative feedback. It makes me want to work harder for my readers.