Thursday, May 25, 2006

Did you want your critique with a two-by-four or battering ram?

I’m limping to the computer this morning with a sprained ego and a new list of writing rules.

#1. PISI. People Introduced, Setting Introduced - no white rooms!

(This scene’s happening amidst fluffy clouds in heaven. Right? Because you haven’t described trees or roads or buildings…)

Geez, Sandra.

You know, in real life I’m really bad for that. Just start talking about something without giving the person a bit of a clue at the jumpstart to let them know the who-what-where. So often, Kevin responds with, “Huh?”

Of course, he’s just as bad. But that’s beside the point, because I’m supposed to be a writer.

As much as this is an obvious weakness of mine, at least it’s a pretty damn easy one to fix. New scene - people introduced, setting introduced. Movement through the scene to a new location, just throw in a few tidbits to let people know.

Really, a short sentence here, a few words there.

The nice thing was, it was readily apparent where I should do this. And really, truly, this is such a simple thing for me to fix. I can’t imagine anyone having a flip-out over the need to put in a few descriptive touches, so no, my critiquer, I'm not offended.

#2. MALT. More Action, Less Thinking (Or Talk.)

Oh man, overkill. I mean, reader, did I mention overkill? Maybe you missed that the first time? And the second? Because I had a serious problem with overkill.

Get the idea? Man, these people talk too flipping much! Or they think too much!

In other words, Sandra, let the reader know what they’re thinking by what they do and how they act.

#3. PUW. Prune Unnecessary Words

Anyways, you know, it’s, um, like slightly okay

I, like, can’t hardly believe it’s so, you know, nasty. Like, anyways, actually thought I could like write?

Like, WHAT THE FUCK was I thinking? Or was I even slightly thinking at all?

I went through a manuscript and removed every occurrence of the word ‘slightly’. And there were a few other phrases that went choppity-chop-chop.

Now, I somehow managed to word something horridly in my post yesterday. And need to clarify, though I made a comment about it, because some seemed to miss that.

Yesterday, I did not receive a This is Shit letter. I have. Oh, believe me, I have.

In fact, I got a rejection letter yesterday from an agency I forgot I submitted my manuscript to, because it took them 9 months to respond.

But yesterday, I was lucky. Oh, I felt like I’d been run over by a truck by the end, not because the critiquer was cruel. It’s just that it required thinking, concentration and it was a lot to go through.

I know that nothing but an honest critique, tempered by sincerity, is the only thing that will do a writer any good. (Sorry, but if you get someone who wants to see you fail, their critique may very well be worthless. That’s the people who write “THIS IS SHIT” or “THIS IS SLOPPY WRITING” or “YOU SUCK” on your stuff. It isn’t really feedback, is it? It’s just an opportunity to insult you, and yes, I’ve gotten that.)

But If you can’t handle having someone who actually wants to see you get your stuff published give you feedback, take a hammer to the typewriter now and do something else. Because there are reviewers out there who won’t care if they rip you to shreds, no matter how certain you are that your work is perfect. And everyone gets bad reviews.

Next week, I’ll probably blog at more length about some of my rejections, some of the critiques I’ve received, and some of the days I wanted to crawl under a rock and die.

But I wanted to share a few things with you, because you know what? I laughed at myself a lot yesterday. Oh, yeah, I feel like an idiot. And incredibly embarrassed that some people are seeing my beginner’s mistakes.

But every smidge of self-consciousness about that is overridden by one thing – the fact that I’ve got friends out there who care enough to take the time to not only read my work, but offer extensive commentary on it. When I do the re-writes to Suspicious Circumstances and Echoes and Dust/Terms of Redemption they’ll be better books for everything I’ve learned from talented writers, like James and Trace and Russel (who has returned to the blogsphere this very day!) and Stuart and…and…and…

There’s a long list of people I hope I can thank in print in my book. Each one gave me a spanking, in their own fashion.

And each one has contributed to everything I’ve learned that’s going to make me better as a writer.

I’m lucky to have friends who push me to be as good as I can be.

I’ve shared a few of my new writing rules with you – anyone got good suggestions or rules they use to help them?

**Don’t forget the cozy noir pre-contest contest two posts down. Everyone is eligible to enter the pre-contest contest because readers here will vote for the winner over the weekend.** Unless I have no readers. But I plan to post those definitions sometime within the next 36 hours…with votes taken until Monday afternoon.

I swear, there was something else… But I’ve forgotten. If you know, email me and remind me.

** There is one raging debate still going, and I’ve got a 50-50 split on responses. TFONTF. If you know what that stands for, weigh in with your opinion.***

Now I’m going to go do something I didn’t get to do yesterday – jog!

“No passion in this world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.” - H.G. Wells.


Cornelia Read said...

To Fuck or Not to Fuck?

That would be the automatic direction MY brain goes in, anyway...

Sandra Ruttan said...

Then you get to vote!

S. W. Vaughn said...

Thanks for the rules, Sandra! I need work on the first one (and the others too, but the first one is my biggie. I get so caught up in character that 'setting' ceases to exist).

My favorite rule is "Be a 'Had' Nazi."

And, I'll take my critique with a two-by-four, because one can be more precise with a thick board than a battering ram. Just draw it out, please, and make sure you hit every spot. :-)

Sandra Ruttan said...

Sadists must love my blog, because they find people who come here and ask to be whacked!

Brett Battles said...

Sounds like you had a full, exhausting, yet rewarding day yesterday.

Here's my rule: No Writer is an Island.

Sure you can write that novel you think is the best thing ever. You can send it off to agents and editors without ever having let anyone else take a look at it. You can think you've written the best thing since The Great Gatsby. But you know what? You haven't.

You've got to have your support group. You've got to have those people you trust who will read your work and not automatically say "It's great." You need the people who will push you to make your work the best it can be. You need the people who will question the things you thought you could get away with. And you need the people who believe in you and want you to succeed, so will help you to put your very best foot forward.

No writer is an island.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Insert gospel choir with occasional "uh huh's" and "amens" and "preach it brother".

Damn fucking straight, Brett.

And I'm lucky enough to count you in my support group. This year I've met fantastic people who're serious about kicking my ass.

Which is a blessing.

Vincent said...

I remember coming across the 'state who, what, where in the first sentence' in a book on how to write, but I understood what it meant when trying to read The Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson - it breaks plenty of these rules (like jumping between different characters and different locations within the same paragraph) and the result is just confusing.

Is there a limit to how many people you can thank on your acknowledgements page? I've also got to credit a number of people for helping me produce my book. I'm thinking if it turns into acknowledgements *pages*, culling may be in order.

Brett Battles said...

Excellent question, Vincent. I'm facing this very issue. My editor has asked for my dedication and acknowlegements be included when I return my copy edited draft in a couple weeks. I've been working on the list and it's getting LONG. But if I have to cull, that is going to be painful.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I'd like to think that publishers know how important it is to thank people. Particular industry people, people who blurb you, people who help you with research. If you don't acknowledge those people, it seems kind of rude.

In my opinion.

But you don't always even get an option to put a "thank you" page in. I don't know if I do or not. But I do know I have a long list of people to buy drinks for, and I can always make a list on my website, I suppose.

Trace said...

I'm guilty of all those things too, Sandra. I think all writers are.

Sela Carsen said...

Sounds like what I did yesterday with my first round of edits. Other than the severe brain cramp, however, I am inordinately fond of saying things like "first round edits" and "my editor."

I'm such a dork. ;)

JT Ellison said...

To Fuck or not to Fuck-- my opinion is fuck away, but close the damn door first. I don't want to read words like thrust or pulsing, it makes me giggle.
Now, where is JB with that contest entry we came up with last night? Allow me a moment to go find one of the triplets and see what she's done with out joint description of COZY NOIR.

Boy Kim said...

What about throbbing, JT?

(Trying hard to engage someone other than our hostess in conversation here.)

*sings* Nobody loves me, everyone left me, they're all out without me, having fun (my thanks to Billie Joe for allowing me to paraphrase) (when I get around to asking him that is)

Sandra Ruttan said...

You're likely right Trace!

Sela, you aren't a dork! It's cool, after you've worked so hard, isn't it?!

JT, gyrate is the one that makes me giggle.

JT Ellison said...

Throbbing is a good one. Gyrate too. Laving pink folds is the one that totally cracks me up.

Sandra Ruttan said...

LOL, I'm sensing a whole new blog topic developing here.

Where's David Terrenoire when you need him? Oh, being loose on his own blog.

Brett Battles said...

What the hell has happened to this tread??? Gyrating, throbbing, pink folds? Sounds like human origami, not rules for writers...

...oh, highjacked...

JT Ellison said...

Human origami? Good one, Brett!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Origami? Sure you aren't confusing your words there Brett?

Although, it does send my mind in another direction...

JamesO said...

I meant to post a comment back when it was just about spanking. Now I think it's gone a bit too far for me.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh, I'm sorry, aren't you Mr. Sex In Zero Gravity Man?

Daniel Hatadi said...

Back on topic, I am often guilty of White Room Syndrome. And as you say, it is so easy to fix. if I'm not careful, rebellion against description will be my undoing.

An interesting aside is from author Peter Temple, who says he never describes his characters. I'll have to check on that.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

er...uh...I don't want to vote, thank you anyway...LOL

I think you're really smart and are going to turn out to be a dynamite published writer! So there!, you're brave...I can barely stay on my treadmill without it hurling me off the back (I read while I walk and sometimes get to a good part and forget to move) *sigh*

But for the last two days, I've been to involved in the scammer Barbara Bauer getting Absolute thrown off of their ISP and Miss Snark being fighting mad about it!

M. G. Tarquini said...

I'm having a helluva time following this blog post.

I think I need more sleep.

LOVE the fluffy white clouds comment at the beginning. Have you checked out yet?

Put down your beverages first.

Stuart MacBride said...

I'll add GNDN to the list of stuff to watch out for.