If you find yourself wanting to skim your own book to get to the wonderful end or if you want to just write “And more stuff happens.” and the get to the good parts.
Time for another course! Avoid that sagging middle readers skim. The course will involve ways to cure sagging middles in any story. Writers who don’t plot can find themselves painted into a corner or wondering what to do next. Even plotters sometimes find a story seems to be going nowhere. Sometimes the problems are solved, but the book needs to be longer. OOPS!So what can we do about that? Students and I will share ways to make scenes more meaningful and give characters problems that fit the situation and make those characters stronger for the new problems.I will give lessons/lectures about why stories need conflicts, small and large, internal and external, to keep excitement going and readers reading.Students will select slow scenes from their projects or create them so we can pump life into them with small or large rocks. I will give examples of problems based on the stories. We will brainstorm and share scenes on the loop each week.http://www.oirwa.com/forum/workshop-registration/ONLY $35 for a one month class!
I recently took a manuscript I had planned to update and load to create print books. The story was dear to my heart and filled with love and emotion. After both of my parents passed away and my marriage ended within one year, I needed to vent my grief, hurt, and anger. I did. I cried over my laptop keyboard.
That was all I needed to write a good book everyone would love, right? WRONG!
Some reviews said nasty things. “It was riddled with errors.” Say what? I skimmed for errors and only found some Southern spellings, like goin’ for going or doin’ instead of doing. I used Southern expressions. Surely they were the reason someone said there were so many errors she couldn’t read it. Maybe the reviewer was just being nasty. One reviewer even gave the book a 1. A 1? She liked the story, but it needed an editor and a proof reader. The nerve of that reviewer!
During this reading I found lots of things I missed. Some were about proofing, while others were mistakes caused by gremlins and my reading too quickly. If I can make mistakes and miss them with my knowledge and experience, maybe you could, too. We all have habits we need to break.
Hw meny tymes have you seen meems that misspelled wrds and omitt wurds and asked if you cud read and unnerstan them? Could you understand this question? I’m guessing you could. Now for the big question. WOULD YOU WANT TO READ A BOOK WITH LOTS OF ERRORS AND HAVE TO INNTERPRET THEM?
I taught school and read answers to essay questions by students of all levels, so I can figure out answers. I tutor and edit for students and writers at different levels, so I still figure out what they mean and use their errors to teach them. I would not read a book that had many errors or required straining my brain to read them.
Are you often tempted to skim books until you find the good parts? There are ways to save your readers from that temptation.
Clean up grammatical errors.
YES, you do need to use the correct punctuation, and, YES, there are rules. Learn them before you break them intentionally.
Read for weak verbs that don’t evoke images for your reader.
Watch ing verbs and how often you use was when other verbs would make your writing stronger.
Use dialogue that moves your story and involves readers.
Consider when using passive voice carries more impact or using active voice packs a stronger punch.
Never make your reader guess what you meant. Be clear.
If you tend to be verbose, learn when you need an economy of words. We Southerners know about verbosity and using five words when one or two would make our points.
Remember the Sci-fi, futuristic books and movies that had all learning virtual? Students used computers that presented lessons taught by robots or other AI. Disembodied voices came from nowhere to give commands or request information. That time might be closer than I had hoped.
Though I resist change, I got sucked in because one of my clients moved away and wanted to be able to take me with her kids. Skype permitted it! The students were home schooled and could have listened to lessons on line. They chose to “take me with them”, instead. I actually learned to enjoy working with them one-on-one. The family moved to Houston, and I went along on my laptop. We could still work on lessons and joke and laugh and get down to business.
The family moved to Canada, and we continued to work together. No passport was required. Then the boy got into college and, as you might have guessed, I worked with him when he attended college in Dayton and the girl in Canada. The girl and I made it through three years for her to finish high school and go to college in Canada.
Now a nasty virus is making it necessary to teach many students virtually instead of in person. Adults are meeting in groups through Zoom. After being stuck at home with a broken shoulder for 2 months I wanted to get out and hug folks! But we’re not supposed to hug. I still can’t meet my local students in person, and few of my networking groups meet in person. My local romance writers group meets on Zoom, and conferences meet virtually! Romance Writers of America and Dragon Con will have virtual workshops. How crazy is that? No costumes or wild parties? I could still wear costumes, but…
I sneak in a few hugs as long as folks wear masks and don’t kiss. One of these days, I’ll be one hugging glutton!
These days my laptop is my constant companion! No more chalkboards. No more classrooms for me.
Margo’s Choice, Women’s Fiction, builds tension based on character flaws.
Margo worries when she learns Jay, her EX, is coming back for their oldest daughter’s birthday. She doesn’t know Jay is retiring from the Marines and coming home to stay. Jay was her first love and her only love. Neither has remarried, and they still share a strong attraction to each other, but Margo is determined she will never fall for his charms again. He leaves her hurt and disappointed each time. Will she never learn?
“He sends cards and gifts for both,” Carol said. “The girls show me everything their daddy sends them.”
Margo’s response. “At first he sent cards and gifts for Rose. His mama sent cards and gifts for Dee, then she finally shamed him into doing it, since she was only a kid.“
Rose(Electra) and Dee (Deidre) have a lot at stake, too!
Electra is 20 and in college.
Electra couldn’t wait to see her dad again. He had always been so big and strong. He’d made her feel safe. Even last year he’d been able to hoist her over his shoulder, practically bench press her hundred and twenty pounds. That was after they’d run three miles. He’d carried her the last half mile and she’d nearly tossed her breakfast. At five feet five, she was no lightweight.
He’d be around all the time now, since he was retiring. At least he wouldn’t try to make rules and treat her like a kid the way Mama and her grandparents did. She’d soon be a college graduate and she’d be on her own. Sweet! Mama didn’t know Daddy sent her money every month. With that and her part time job, she’d paid for a car. Both sets of grandparents had given money toward her down payment. If he kept up the extra money, she could move into her own apartment soon.
She missed having her dad around. She loved the way her friends reacted to him and even pictures of him. The girls called him so-o-o hot and the guys said he looked cut. His muscles looked like they had muscles. For an old guy and a dad, he looked great, better than any football player or weight lifter she’d ever seen.
Why did Dad seem so strange about Dee? Everyone loved Dee. How could anyone not love her? She made good grades, didn’t get into trouble, and had no idea she was special. Dee never ratted her out, like about hidden piercings or tattoos or nights spent with a certain boyfriend who played in a band. Mama and the grandparents would shit a brick if they knew about him and the things she’d done with him.
Deidre is in high school and vulnerable.
Hell, her mom had married at twenty, and look how that ended up. No way am I getting tied down at twenty, even for Shark.
Deidre re-read her letters from her dad. Then she re-read each card. She’d printed her emails from him. They were all great letters but something made them different from the letters and cards he’d sent to Electra. Not once could she find the word love in any of them. Electra and Grandma M said men weren’t good at using that word, but she’d seen it in her sister’s letters from their dad. Now that he was coming home for good, she’d make him proud of her. She’d make him love her like he loved Electra.
She’d show him the manila envelope with her report cards and academic awards. This year she’d run track and done well, winning the last three races. Maybe he’d get her a car, too. She’d saved most of the money he’d sent for birthdays and Christmas and monthly allowance checks. Electra had guilted him into sending them extra allowances and laughed about it. Mama had no clue they had extra money
So much potential for growth and so much for pain!
Does your family go on picnics? We didn’t make a big deal of them. Mama packed sandwiches and took jugs of sweet tea when we went swimming. We did have coolers. Cups or glasses? Aluminum tumblers, I think. Who remembers? Our picnics didn’t look like this and mine don’t, either.
Day trips to the beach meant loading the ’37 Ford and later the ’50 Ford and heading out early from Augusta, Georgia and later from Macon. We 3 children and Mama would sleep most of the way. The last half of the trip meant girls begging for bathroom stops and Daddy pronouncing every gas station bathroom too dirty without slowing the car to check. Most of you won’t remember stopping by the side of the highway or a few feet down a side road or in the country and looking for the right spot to hide from view, but I do! No Porta Potty or outhouse to be found at a picnic spot. (That’s a topic for another blog.) Those trips meant smelling the pulp mill outside of Savannah and declaring we smelled ocean salt air thirty minutes before we got there and grins, giggles, and shivers of excitement with the first view of the ocean.
I remember brown bags with the food that was special because we were hungry and wanted to keep swimming. I’m sure there was probably a blanket, but my memory is sketchy there. I don’t remember potato salad or fried chicken or lunch meat. Maybe that’s because we were good with peanut butter or cheese sandwiches wrapped in wax paper.
Beach lunches were the same simple picnic food. Sometimes Mama packed a blanket. Other times, we used towels. Shivering, salty, sandy kids weren’t picky when they were hungry. Mama had her hands full getting us ready and out of the house with towels and food. Her picnic food wasn’t fancy, but we loved it. Potato chips were way better to kids than potato salad would have been. We preferred sandwiches to chicken salad.
The beach meant Sea & Ski! It meant fun and food with a bit of sand. It meant wet bathing suits under shorts and too much sun to make kids miserable all the way home.
In case you have questions about commas. Maggie, my cousin, annoys everyone. My cousin Maggie annoys everyone. One of my cousins, Maggie, annoys everyone.
Maggie, my cousin, has an antecedent. Cousin is the antecedent for Maggie. Cousin renames Maggie Note the comma before my and after cousin. One of my cousins, Maggie, Maggie is the antecedent of One, not of cousins. Maggie renames one. Note the comma before and after Maggie.
Grandpa James plays the piano! My grandpa, James Jackson, plays the piano. James Jackson, my grandpa, plays the piano.
My grandpa, James Jackson, plays the piano. James Jackson is the antecedent of Grandpa. James Jackson renames James. Notice the commas before and after James Jackson.
James Jackson, my grandpa, plays the piano. My grandpa is the antecedent of James Jackson. Grandpa renames James Jackson. Notice the commas before and after my grandpa.
When politics interferes with love, can love survive?
Getting married isn’t easy when your father’s the President of the United States! After reluctantly agreeing to a White House wedding, Sarah Lee Pearson, the president’s daughter, finds herself swept into a political maelstrom of unimagined proportions.
The White House staff and the first lady see the wedding as a political event, a way to sweep the president into his next term. Congress is complaining about the collateral costs. The media is delightfully rehashing every aspect of Sarah’s life, even those events that have nothing to do with the impending marriage. And the American public? Visions of an American royal wedding have swept them into a frenzy and vendors take advantage, making a quick buck off of everything from limited edition t-shirts to commemorative teacups.
Sarah and her fiancé, Sam, fight hard to ignore the craziness, but after learning a bounty has been put on their heads by an anti-government militia group, they have to decide whether a White House wedding is indeed worth it. And given all the hurtful controversy, perhaps a better solution is to not get married at all.
“How does my father feel about this?” Sarah asked.
“Your father wants you to do what makes you happy.”
Jamisen Powell entered his Chief of Staff’s office and nodded coldly at Jeremiah. He added, “He would never ask you to do otherwise.”
Sarah smiled and rose to kiss her father on the cheek. “Thanks, Dad. I knew you wouldn’t ask me to be a political stool pigeon.”
Jamie Powell chuckled. “No. That job apparently falls to staff.” He smiled at Sarah. “Look, hopefully, you only get married once. Make a memory that will mean the most to you and Sam. Nothing else matters.” He shook his head, “Maybe Jeremiah will get lucky and your sister, Melissa, will hook some poor sucker before the next election. She and her mother would be overjoyed planning a White House wedding.”
Jeremiah scowled. “I am only thinking about your re-election, Mr. President. Your first term has been a bit rocky. You need a solidifying factor, something that will grab the hearts and minds of the American public and provide a clear path into the next term. Your story, a daughter lost and found after twenty-five years, especially a daughter who just happens to be a stellar human being and a successful international law attorney, won their hearts in the first election.
“Walking that same daughter down the aisle, something you had never dreamed was possible? The ratings alone will rival a royal wedding. No offense, but Melissa’s marriage—if it ever happens—could never have the same impact. People don’t view her in the same light as Sarah. Melissa is a flighty socialite. Her deep-seated sense of entitlement offends. The ratings for her wedding would be nonexistent. But Sarah? She’s the golden child. The American public loves her.”
The president’s sapphire blue eyes, which mirrored Sarah’s, flashed with annoyance. “Be that as it may, I am not about to force either of my daughters into something they don’t want. Sarah has declined your request, and as far as I am concerned, that’s the end of it. You will have to find another solidifying factor, Jer. Surely I have done something that’s re-election worthy!”
About Seelie Kay:
Seelie Kay is a nom de plume for an award-winning writer, editor, and author with more than 30 years of experience in law, journalism, marketing, and public relations. When Seelie writes about love and lust in the legal world, something kinky is bound to happen! In possession of a wicked pen and an overly inquisitive mind, Ms. Kay is the author of multiple works of fiction, including the Kinky Briefs series, the Feisty Lawyers series, The Garage Dweller, A Touchdown to Remember, The President’s Wife, and The President’s Daughter.
When not spinning her kinky tales, Ms. Kay ghostwrites nonfiction for lawyers and other professionals. She resides in a bucolic exurb outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she shares a home with her son and enjoys opera, gourmet cooking, organic gardening, and an occasional bottle of red wine.
Ms. Kay is an MS warrior and ruthlessly battles the disease on a daily basis. Her message to those diagnosed with MS: Never give up. You define MS, it does not define you!
Want my autograph? Why, you ask? Didn’t you know? I Indie-published 8 novels and 2 novellas. That’s why. Not impressed? I contracted a book, and it has been published! Exciting news to me. Still not impressed? I was a guest Monday night at blog radio (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/hummingbirdplace) and am now a radio celeb. Well, you can’t have my autograph anyway, and one day it will be worth something.
In case you didn’t catch on, I’m messing with you! I think each person who completes a book deserves a gold star, and revising one earns an extra gold star. Each person who has submitted a book to an editor or an agent deserves more points, of course. (Have a handful of stars.)
If you took time to polish a book and Indie publish it, you deserve a medal. (We’re past the gold stars now.) Seriously, it takes guts/courage to do that. I’m not bragging or complaining, but the formatting part caused me pain and whining. I am not computer competent. BUT I did it 10 times.
In 1991 I started writing my first novel and some family memories as short stories. Since then I have taken courses, attended workshops, read books and magazine articles, entered contests, and submitted my manuscripts. Despite “good” rejections, no one wanted to buy my books. I really wanted to sell and get an advance and lovely royalties. That didn’t happen. One editor I respect and love for her writing suggested I self-publish a book she had to reject. I considered it, but still held out hope for that sale, even to a small publisher, even to an e-publisher. (So much for the New York Times Best Selling list and long lines in bookstores.) No one wanted that book or my others.
Finally I bit the bullet and uploaded one novel and then another and become an editor for a new small press.(Gilded Dragonfly Books) Finally an editor wanted my first novel. I had revised it and polished it and he wanted me to polish more. Because I didn’t give up or cling to old dreams, I found a new one. I have a romantic suspense novel published as an erotic romance. (Who knew?)
Finish the novels you begin, even if the stories and characters change and toss roadblocks in your way.
Revise and polish over and over again.
Listen to critique partners and beta readers, but remember the book is YOUR book!
Submit the book until you don’t have any options left.
If you decide to publish the book yourself, get it edited by someone who knows about story development and someone who knows grammar rules. Just because you think someone knows good grammar and punctuation doesn’t mean it is true.
Don’t give up on your dreams, but be willing to adjust them.
Try new things, like I did the radio interview.
Mary Marvella is a retired school teacher turned writer. She tutors and edits and writes, and that’s about all she does.