Emptying your veins onto the page.

Writing is therapy.

How much of yourself do you pour into your writing?  The answer may vary dramatically depending on the type of writing you do.  No one bares their soul in a technical manual.  But fiction writers, poets, lyricists… all inject their own joy and pain, fear and desire into their work.  The question is: what do we risk in exposing ourselves to the world?  How much do we give?  Sharing the very essence of yourself is either crazy or incredibly brave.

Part of it is about trust.  Do you trust yourself to convey those thoughts and feelings accurately?  Do you trust your readers to understand, to relate?  Because that’s kind of the point.  We are sharing.  We want it to reach someone, to entertain at a minimum, or to move the heart, stir the spirit.  This very notion gives your writing weight.  It’s a heady thing– moving a soul.  Choose carefully, the words you’re about to commit to paper.  Craft them with skill, arrange them just so.  Speak them aloud to see how they roll off the tongue.

Another part of it is honesty.  Do you share the difficult stuff, too?  The things that might make your readers cringe?  Exposing your fears, flaws, failures, and mistakes opens you up to criticism, rebuke and rejection.  And yet that cleansing, that catharsis may be just the thing you need to put out there.  Risk or not.

Consider your audience.  Who is reading your work?  Maybe you’re anonymous here on your blog.  That certainly gives you a lot of freedom to post at will.  For those of us blogging with full disclosure?  Not so much!  So what do you do if there’s something just eating away at you?

Some stories just beg to be told.  I’ve had an interesting life full of adventures and catastrophes, joys and pain.  The painful parts are the hardest to tell but they are also the stories that burn inside.  That doesn’t mean I have to write a memoir.  But I can tell a story.  Wrap a memory in the cloak of fiction and pen the narrative as if it happened to somebody else.  All the desperate hopes, crushed dreams and lost loves pour onto the page.

If you look hard enough, my writing empties my veins.  More of it flows out every day.  If you are able to separate the drops of fact from the volume of fiction, you will see the essence of me.  Go ahead and look.  I’ll leave you to decide which is which!

What do you say, writers?  Do you pour yourself out onto the page?

 

Going Pro Versus Going It Alone

Adventures in editing.

As I begin editing Breaking Bread, I can’t help but think about how I fumbled through the process with Book One: Three Empty Frames. As a first time, unpublished author, I didn’t feel I had the luxury of hiring a professional editor. Professional editing can get expensive. Depending on the length of your document and the level of editing you choose, it can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars. And though I knew an editor could take a good manuscript and make it great, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t so naive as to think I could do this alone. I had to get objective feedback before I published the book. Sure I loved the story, the couple of friends I let read it were enthusiastic about it too. But kind words from a few people close to me were not going to be enough. I needed beta readers: non-professional readers who will carefully read your manuscript with an eye to finding plot holes, disruptions in continuity, grammar and spelling mistakes and possibly highlighting aspects of the story that might be unbelievable.

When choosing beta readers, make sure they aren’t just going to tell you what you want to hear because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. You NEED constructive criticism. That’s why your mom and dad, husband or wife, or beloved aunt are not the best choices. So what now? Are you in a book club? Ask your group to beta read for you. How about an online writer’s group? Other writers are usually willing to help you out. Ask your blogging friends here on WordPress to read for you. Just be sure to choose people who will give you an honest opinion and some thoughtful feedback. Make sure to attach a copyright warning to anything you send out, too.

And for heaven’s sake don’t be thin skinned! Take the feedback and learn from it.

At the time I had completed Three Empty Frames, I belonged to a book club and asked some of the other members to read for me. Even though the group has since broken up, I can still count on the same folks to read my unpublished work. I also recruited my friend Brett, who is an English teacher to read it. I know I said don’t ask your friends, however, I know the teacher in him won’t let me put a foot wrong. If you have kids in school, perhaps you could approach their English teachers for help. But maybe wait until summer…

These days, I do use a professional editor. Formerly of Simon and Schuster in New York, my editor Kevin (now good friend) quit the rat race and works for himself. Often, he comes over with his wife and baby and hangs out with me in the pool. I ply him with beer and pick his brain. I have him cleaning up my first two books, the ones I published without professional help. Why do that? Because when I publish Breaking Bread, one of the older books might be part of a deal to market the new novel. I want it to be the best it can possibly be. The point in telling you all of this is that in handing Kevin my older work, his feedback assured me that I and my beta team had done a good job. The manuscript was ‘very clean’ in his words.

So for you first time writers, if you are meticulous with your process, AND if you find people with sharp eyes to spot your mistakes, give you good insights, and offer constructive criticism, you may be able to forgo the services of a professional editor.

In Medias Res

I meant to share this post by my friend Roger weeks ago because I enjoyed his illustrative description of a writing device called In Medias Res. It’s something I’d like to try as it lands you at a different point in the story than the beginning. My plan is to rework one of my existing pieces using this format to see how it works. Enjoy this piece and if you haven’t visited Roger’s blog yet, you absolutely must!

rogermoorepoetdotcom

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In Medias Res
Wednesday Workshop
12 April 2017

In medias res is Latin for in the middle of things or in the middle of the story. It is a device from classical literature, going back to Homer, that allows the narrator to start the tale half way through, to return to the beginning to show what has happened leading up to the current situation, then to end the tale in suitable fashion with all the necessary details now in place.

In some ways it’s a bit like the arrival of a pizza from a new pizza home delivery service. You are hungry, you make the phone call, you order the pizza, and then you sit and you wait. The doorbell rings and the dog comes rushing out of nowhere and barks at the delivery man who stands there with his delivery bag in which the pizza nestles comforting and…

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