Finding Time to Write -Versus- Taking a Sorely Needed Break

I set writing goals for myself. I determine when I want to finish the book, and then I break it up into pages/word count and have at it. Unfortunately, my goals don’t always meet with reality.

I don’t know about others, but there are so many things monopolizing my writing time–lack of motivation, writer’s block, burnouts. Okay, so maybe they don’t monopolize my time, but they do interfere with my writing progress.

I keep coming across this saying, writers write. So what if I don’t feel like writing? Does that mean I’m not a writer any more? I don’t think so. Just like with everything else in life, breaks are important. Sitting in front of the computer for 8 hours staring at the 100 words I’ve written and wanting to feel the inspiration that won’t come just doesn’t seem productive to me. <Big breath> Wow! Talk about your long sentences. Looks like a run on to me. Anyway, times like that require a break in my mind.

Take some me-time. Step away from the computer. Get out of the house. Enjoy life and come back rejuvenated.

Dealing with Rejection

As some know, I’m in the process of finding a literary agent for my first piece of work Shadow Cat. Though I’ve only been at it since December 26, 2009, it hasn’t been an easy task. I’ve had quite a few rejection letters, most of them a simple no thanks from the agent.

I’ll be honest. My first rejection came as a complete surprise to me. I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll mention it again. I’m a bit conceited. I think my work is great. That’s not to say it can’t use some improvements, but I believe in my work. It probably wasn’t until about the 5th rejection when I thought to myself…hmmm, something might be wrong with my queries or my first chapters.

I trimmed my novel, wrote a different query letter, and sent it out to the wonderful literary agents with too much to do and too little time to review. At this point, I have to admit, I was a little less confident. I was just happy I didn’t query everyone at once and burn all my bridges in one go.

One thing I found I hated more than anything was waiting. Many literary agents have this rule: Don’t bother us. If we’re interested we’ll let you know. If you even THINK about nudging, you can assume your stuff is rejected. I’ll be honest. I’d rather have a form rejection or even “No Thanks” in the subject line and an empty message than the silent treatment any day.

Anyway, more rambling. My next set of queries came back rejected also. So, back to the drawing board. I took time away from my current WIP to reedit Shadow Cat. This is where I totally became burnt out on writing. It took me days afterward to find motivation to write again. This time I limited my queries to agents who were responsive according to other writers.

Okay…this has dragged on way to long. Let’s just say I did this rewriting thing many times. Finally I received a request for a full manuscript, which was rejected by the way. But the feedback, just a couple of lines, was motivating (after I got over being bummed about the rejection of course). It gave me an opportunity to look at my work in a new light.

Anyway, I’m tired of the query process for now. If nothing comes of these last few queries, I’ll set it aside for about a month, unless I find some extra motivation. I need to concentrate on my next works of art instead of letting these rejections drag me down.

My stats:

As of today, I’ve sent out 28 queries. Not sure if that’s a lot in a 1 1/2 month period or not.

  • 15 Rejected Queries
  • 2 I’ve written as no response to Queries
  • 10 outstanding Queries (4 probably no response)
  • 1 request for Full
  • 1 rejection for Full

If nothing else, the novel after Shadow Cat is a stand alone, so I can market it separately. Onward!

Update 2/19/2010 @2pm: I couldn’t help myself. I applied to another literary agency.

Show -Versus- Tell: Why he asked and she said.

It’s been almost two weeks since my last confession…I mean post.

Anyway, in a previous post, I mentioned that typically readers overlook dialogue tags such as ‘asked’ and ‘said.’ This time let’s look at dialogue tags from the show versus tell perspective.

For starters, descriptive dialogue tags are lazy ways to evoke a response. And it’s telling. What do I mean by descriptive dialogue tags?

  • teased
  • interrupted
  • threatened
  • pouted
  • and many more

Rather than creative dialogue tags, a writer can convey a certain feeling to the reader by showing. So, let’s look at some examples.

  • “You like that, don’t you?” Sue teased. TELLING
  • Mischief twinkled in Sue’s eyes as her lips twitched into a smile. “You like that, don’t you? SHOWING

Telling that Sue teased leaves the dialogue lacking. What about Sue was teasing? If you show, you don’t have to tell your readers; the readers can decide for themselves.

  • “But I don’t–”
    “I’ve had just about enough of this,” Bret said. SHOWING
  • “But I don’t–”
    “I’ve had just about enough of this,” Bret interrupted. TELLING

The em dash already implies an interruption. Why bother telling what’s already self-explanatory? Give your readers some respect and treat them like they can actually think for themselves.

A technique I use, since I like visuals, is to close my eyes and play out the scene. What are the characters doing while speaking? What expressions are on their faces? Then, I write it.

Sometimes writers need to trust their readers. Let the readers make up their own mind without forcing them to understand what you’re trying to tell instead of show.

Commas, commas, and more commas

The topic of commas came up today. And it brought to mind a trend I see often regarding lists, as well as other common mistakes I see with comma usage. Commas fill up the biggest chunk of my Gregg Reference Manual. I’m not going to go through it in its entirety, but I will mention a few items. A comma isn’t necessary with every ‘and’ used in a sentence.  I notice a lot of people omit the final comma before ‘and’ or ‘or’  in a list. That’s okay. Just remember to be consistent throughout your work.

For example:
  • I went to the park, played on the big toy and went home. RIGHT
  • I went to the park, played on the big toy, and went home. RIGHT * My preference
  • I like pepperoni, sausage and meatballs on my pizza. RIGHT
  • I like pepperoni, sausage, and meatballs on my pizza. RIGHT * My preference

All the above are grammatically correct. Personally, I prefer the comma before the ‘and.’ It offers more clarity. I’ve read that in journals, they omit the serial comma to save space. However, if the sentence leads to ambiguity, definitely include the comma.

For example:

  • I often write about Jack, a friend and a businessman.
Is Jack a friend and a businessman? Or did I write about three different subjects?

A comma before a conjunction (and, or, but) is grammatically correct if there are two independent clauses. Like the serial comma, some choose to omit the comma. Not my preference, but to each their own.

For example:
  • I went to the park, and Jim followed. RIGHT *My preference
  • I went to the park and Jim followed. RIGHT
  • I had pizza, and I had hot wings. RIGHT *My preference
  • I had pizza and I had hot wings. RIGHT

Each of the above examples have two subjects and two verbs. A comma is not needed if there are two subjects and one verb or one subject and two verbs. AND should NOT be used. 🙂

For example:

  • Jim and I went to the park. RIGHT
  • Jim, and I went to the park. WRONG
  • I ate pizza and hot wings. RIGHT
  • I ate pizza, and hot wings. WRONG

Just quick grammar tips.