A Welcome Intrusion

I often view life, rather the “stuff” of life, as an intrusion on my writing. Just this month alone, I have had taxes to prepare, a book signing, a mammogram, a 13,000 mile oil change and maintenance check on my car, a haircut, a visit to a new allergy doctor, a weekend conference, close of escrow on a new home, two yard sales, six blogs to write—well, you get the picture.

I’ve only been to my exercise class twice this month and only visited my aging parents, once.

Sometimes I feel like throwing in the towel!

If you are experiencing similar feelings about your life, I am going to suggest something rather odd.

Take on yet another responsibility.

I know, it sounds crazy. However, I have recently done exactly that.

I needed a “shot in the arm”—something to energize me—and so I thought about mentoring.

 

24841939102_48f28f9d59

I have begun informally mentoring a couple of “new” writers.  One is a young girl—a cosmetologist—who has answered the call of her heart and begin to write in the evenings after her young children have gone to bed.  The other is a “winter visitor” here in Arizona. We will be able to communicate by email, for the part of the year she is away.

I love to “talk writing” and the opportunity to help others is why I went into public school teaching in the first place. Besides, one can learn so much by teaching others. I’m sure I will be the one benefiting the most from these two relationships.

ou may think you have nothing to offer a new writer, but nothing could be further from the truth.

You can share what you have learned at conferences, read in books, heard from the members in your critique group. If nothing else, you can listen to their frustrations, make suggestions,  and offer an encouraging word.

By doing so, you may find yourself energized and more productive as you are working on your own writing projects.

Think back to when you first started writing. Recall what kinds of questions you had, where it was you went for answers. Share what you found to be helpful.

Think back to some of the more notable mistakes you made. As you mentor someone, relay what you learned in those situations.

Instead if being an intrusion in your busy life, you just may find that becoming a mentor is just the thing to kick-start your next writing project!

Fashionably Late

And there’s more…

Repetitious words.  Overuse of exclamation points.

Now another problem needed to be solved—and here is why time spent in planning before writing can be invaluable:

I found that the last line of one of my chapters said something to the effect that “Snow began to fall.” However, it was raining in the next chapter. Big trouble. I had to do a lot of rewriting to those two chapters to make sure the weather was identical.

This will be the same for your writing. If it is snowing in chapter four, then it had better be snowing in the following chapter (that is, of course, if your next chapter follows the first one, consecutively).

If your character is wearing a T-shirt and shorts, then the next paragraph cannot have him shrugging off his coat.

You can save yourself a lot of work if you will plan these things out– down to the minutest detail before you write because it’s not as easy to fix as you might think.

It won’t be just a matter of substituting one word (rain) for the other (snow). No, what about the characters’ physical and emotional reactions to the weather (He shivered…) or the fact that they probably wouldn’t be playing tennis in the snow?

I found it to be, quite literally, a house of cards. Maybe Dominoes resting on each other would be a more accurate description. Just one tiny push—one small mistake—and it all comes tumbling down…

While we are ever-so-briefly touching on planning, I suggest that you keep a chart of some kind with the character’s name, followed by their physical description, age, eye color, etc. Nothing is more disconcerting to a reader than to find the character’s eye and hair color are constantly changing.

I guess what I am saying is that, as writers, we need to be at the top of our game. It is embarrassing to look at a proof and see gigantic mistakes staring right back at you. (I literally hit my forehead with the heel of my hand and said, “Duh!)

If you have to slow down and miss a deadline, then so be it. Better to be late than produce a book riddled with mistakes.

You may think, “I’ll just leave these things to my editor to sort out and clean up for me.”

That would be a big—and foolish mistake. I had my book edited twice and I still found mistakes on the twelfth read through!

That’s right. I had competent editors, about eight months apart, go through my manuscript. Still, content mistakes were found as I read through them later.  Part of the reason, I think, is that they don’t—and will never—know the story like I do. Or, maybe they just get caught up in the story. I’m really not sure.

But, the point is this: Ultimately, it is your book. The buck stops with you.

So, be diligent. Be a perfectionist. Make it the best it can be.

Even if, like me, you end up being fashionably late.