Category: Messages From Sharon

Behind The Scenes: Editing Week 1

Every author I have spoken with decries editing as the worst part of writing a novel. They pour their blood, sweat, and tears into writing for weeks (NaNoers) or months (normal people), creating stunning images and weaving fantastical tales with their words. Then they are asked to take this beautiful thing they love and ruthlessly slash and burn until it’s barely recognizable.

Yep. That’s where I am right now.

This is my first time editing a novel. I wrote one years ago, I got feedback on it, then promptly put it on a literal shelf and haven’t looked at it again. The daunting task at hand is to pare down my monstrous 163,000-word giant baby into an entertaining and coherent story. I started editing earlier this week and I have to admit it’s slow going.

I’ve edited 10% so far and am 0% confident that I’ve made it better.

In an attempt to be impartial during editing, I haven’t looked at this project since July or August. This story has been simmering out of sight since then. I wrote another novel in the intervening months (Okay, practically wrote another novel…) but I think I’m still too close to this one and am struggling to edit it objectively.

These are my words and I love them all dearly.

And boy howdy, do I LOVE my words! I pack words into a sentence like I’m padding a fragile item for shipment on a jackhammer. Apparently I find it necessary to describe every single movement from action to action – saying, turning, walking, looking – and I blame my third grade teacher, Mr. Holman, and his “peanut butter and jelly sandwich instructions” exercise. *More information available on request.

And those pesky adverbs, so reviled by Stephen King and many other writers, seem to have multiplied while I wasn’t looking! That makes it marginally easier to make cuts. I’ve had to re-write some clumsy scenes and I’ve deleted others entirely, so maybe I’m not fully in love with ALL the words. Thus far I haven’t chucked my computer out of the window, burst into tears, or curled up into a ball in the corner. Maybe that ambitious end-of-January deadline could happen!

Now, if I could only find my focus…

What editing techniques do you find most helpful? How many rounds of edits do you go through before handing your work off to beta readers? Drop your advice, suggestions, and discussion points below!

 

Setting New Goals For A New Year

Christmas is over, the excitement has come and gone, and now it’s time to set our sights on the New Year. Every year I make a laundry list of self-improvement items that I somehow convince myself I’ll magically follow through on this year.

There are common resolutions that I have tried on a time or two: to eat healthier, to exercise more, to save more money, to take better care of myself. These – or some form of them –  have been the top American resolutions for many consecutive years, telling me that not only are these common but they are commonly failed.

Jim Carrey’s movie Yes Man was on television today and I couldn’t help thinking what perfect timing it was. For someone like me who overthinks and second guesses and avoids not just confrontation but general social interaction whenever possible, the premise of this movie sparked something for me today.

In Yes Man, Jim Carrey plays Carl, a loan officer who is meek and mild and finds himself at a self-help seminar where attendees are challenged to live a life of YES! They sign a covenant agreeing to say yes to every opportunity offered to them, whether they want to or not. Of course, that creates some highly amusing situations for Carl, pulling him out of his comfort zone, kicking and screaming. But through this covenant, he begins to free himself from his fears, to learn skills and meet people he wouldn’t have been exposed to normally.

I’m not about to go out in the world and take on every offer and every opportunity placed before me. That would be insane and I can guarantee nowhere NEAR as amusing as it was for Jim Carrey. However, in lieu of making “resolutions” for 2019 that will, as they so often do, fall by the wayside due to life and unforeseen circumstances…

I will resolve to say yes.

Not in a reckless, “sure I’ll get in your sketchy van” kind of yes. But I will say yes to invitations from friends, to opportunities to share my writing, to attending gatherings of like-minded strangers. I will allow myself the confidence to continue my journey as an author, to keep meeting people and trying new things. In the coming year, I will say yes to surrounding myself with kind, inspiring, creative people who are also generous with their time and their knowledge. And I’ll do my very best to emulate them and pay it forward every chance I get.

When the clock strikes midnight and rolls over to 2019, what goals will you be pursuing? What experiences will you say yes to and how will you use what you’ve learned? Feel free to share your thoughts below!

Happy New Year!

Writing, what a difference a year makes, take a chance, take the chance, push yourself, leave your comfort zone

What a Difference a Year Makes

My second NaNoWriMo has come and gone. I have to admit I’m feeling a little bit of a let down. There was always something to do, someone to talk to or meet up with, daily goals on the line. I find myself having to rein in my enthusiasm and not barrage my writing group with random thoughts and observations. Everyone has a life to get back to, especially as we drive straight into the mouth of the holiday season. We’ve set aside family time and other obligations for a month and we all need to return to a sense of normalcy – if any of us remember what that looks like.

This was a different experience for me than last year. My first NaNo in 2017 consisted of forcing myself to attend events, to actually talk to people, to not give up on trying to reach that 50,000-word pinnacle. The local writing group I joined is made up of people who have been participating for more than a decade and who have a considerable shared history. That was a little daunting, and even more so for someone who faces a bit of social anxiety. Last year I challenged myself not only to write 50,000 words in 30 days, but to attend events and engage with people I didn’t know and who didn’t know me.

Is it too much to say that was a life-changing decision?

Sounds dramatic, I will readily admit. But I can’t deny that I have changed. A little background: I am very good at avoidance. Making plans with people I genuinely enjoy and then panicking at the last second and canceling said plans is almost an Olympic sport for me. It’s not intentional. As the reality of personal interaction and imagined judgement loom on the horizon, I become filled with dread. So throw in something intensely intimate like writing and that anxiety goes nuclear.

I talked myself into showing up at write-ins and attending informational meetings throughout the following year. Then a strange thing began to happen: I didn’t have to force myself anymore and I started instigating meet-ups. I led two month-long Camp NaNo groups, holding online and in-person writing events, spouting annoying encouraging platitudes throughout each Camp.

Honestly, I don’t know how the participants were able to stomach me.

From there, I started looking at writing as more than a little hobby to keep me busy and started thinking my writing might have worth outside of my own mind. Confidence doesn’t come easily to me. I am firmly entrenched in the “fake it ’til you make it” school of self-esteem. But I found that the more I wrote and the more I spent time with like-minded creatives, the more I valued what I – what WE – have to offer.

NaNoWriMo 2018 was a fantastic experience for me. I now have a group of people I consider friends that I hope to continue to meet up with for writing – or just for fun. In 2017 I scraped across the finish line with barely over 52,000 words. It took me from November through the end of July just to finish writing that project. This year? I hit 50,000 on the 14th, ended the month with a decent word count of 91,065, and “The End” is on the horizon within the next week or two.

What a difference a year makes.

Putting yourself out there and taking chances can be pretty terrifying. But there are also some astounding rewards to be gained from taking a chance. I highly recommend it.

What goals do you want to reach but have been too scared to attempt? Have you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone recently with surprising results? Share your story below!

some days are strange, writing, author strugles

Some Days Are Just Strange

We all have those days.

You wake up feeling “off.” No real reason why, just not really into it that day. It could be a lingering bad dream, or a negative comment online – or worse, ZERO comments online! Maybe you slept wrong, you couldn’t sleep, the atmosphere is charged with an impending snow storm, the planets are out of whack.

It happens to the best of us. Since this is the real world, and we’re all adults here, you can’t just pull the covers over your head and wait it out. Shoot, when you get to be my age, lying in bed all day just makes things worse. The creaks and hitches become cracks and full-on joint failures.

I was tempted today. Instead, I decided to shake things up a little.

I’ve been working on a fantasy story for my NaNoWriMo project. I have reached the 50,000-word goal and can now focus on making sure all my plot points are included and that my characters are behaving as they should. The problem with that is my brain is a bit frazzled today. So I poked it.

While some of you may be picturing Shel Silverstein’s drawing for the poem “Warning” from Where the Sidewalk Ends(It’s just me? Go look it up. You won’t be sorry) that’s not quite what happened. A few years ago, one of the kids got my husband a book of writing prompts called 642 Things To Write About. I decided to dust that off and see if anything jumped out at me.

On the very first page of this book I read, “A houseplant is dying. Tell it why it needs to live.” Now I have a new 1700-word short story out in the world and I feel better.

Here’s a little snippet*:

That was about the end of my pep talk and I was freaking out a little. There had been no change and I didn’t know enough about plants to be really effective. I lifted up one of the long, thin stems of the half-flowers and looked it over.

“Oh! And this little flower thingy that you have here? What would the bees do without this? You provide them the building materials they need to make their homes and their honey. Did you know all the bees are dying? If you weren’t here, you’d be hurting them, too! You have to do your part. Think about that. Plus – you are right in front of this glass, where all the other inside flowers can see you. If YOU give up, the one big strong plant that actually lives IN the sun and the fresh air, what will the rest of them think?”

I was really starting to connect with this plant and suddenly realized I didn’t know his name. Closing my eyes, I reached out with an open mind and waited for him to tell me. He wasn’t very forthcoming at first, and I’ll admit I started to doze off in the silence. I mean, the sun was warm, it was still early, and let’s be honest, he wasn’t too entertaining. In an attempt to revive myself, I took another big swig of water, sharing a little with the plant, too, before resuming my meditative state.

Finally, a name made itself known to me: Bernard.

Some days are just strange.

How do you “poke your brain”? Do you have any tricks to get your creativity flowing again – or even just to do the things you need to do for the day? Comment below or feel free to shoot me an email!

*You can find the rest of the story on my Channillo Channel

NaNoWriMo, novel writing

…And So the Writing Journey Begins!

November has rolled back around, and I am bursting with ideas and creativity!

And terror.

Last year, on a whim, I decided to join NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with the goal of writing a 50,000-word story, just to see if I could. It’s a daunting task for anyone and can be exceptionally challenging for someone just starting out. Through my writing journey last November and over the course of the year I learned a few things about myself.

I am far more goal-oriented than I could have guessed. The burning need to meet daily word goals, to stay on track to reach the winning word count on time, shocked me. I would get up early or stay up faaaar too late just to make sure the words were there. Having a deadline and a bar to clear was exceptionally motivating!

Being in a room full of other writers helps me work harder and reach farther into my own creative stores. THAT was a surprise, too. I had always considered myself a pretty solitary writer. Even now I prefer to put in my headphones and lose myself in whatever music fits the mood of the scene I’m working on. I feel more creative when I’m surrounded by creatives.

One of the most shocking revelations, though, was that I was more motivated and encouraged in my writing when I was encouraging others in theirs. By shining a light for writers who had hit a wall or were struggling with self-worth I was able to grow faith in myself and my writing. You know the saying, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle”? Not only did I lose nothing, I gained a confidence and a joy I hadn’t possessed in a long time.

Last year was my first attempt at NaNoWriMo and I had very little idea of what to expect. I went into it with a plan, with character biographies and a plot outline, but I wasn’t prepared for the welcoming spirit of the Central Iowa writing community. Somehow, I stumbled into a gaggle of supportive, fun, interesting and encouraging fellow authors. I now consider them my friends as well as writing buddies, and I am convinced that joining NaNoWriMo was one of the best decisions I ever made. I have found my tribe in this group of intrepid writers.

Throughout November I invite you to join me on my writing journey as I share my NaNo experience with you. Ask me questions, make comments, and engage with me in this endeavor to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days!

nanowrimo 2018 author

NaNoWriMo 2018!

As we are about to jump headlong into November and NaNoWriMo I decided this would be a good time to embark on my own author’s journey.

With a goal of growing my library of published works over the next year, I invite you to join me in my endeavor! I currently have one short story published in an anthology  and have two other stories waiting to be edited and queried – once November is over…

Thank you for visiting my Web site!

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