What Doesn’t Kill You…

As Kelly Clarkson likes to sing, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself as critiques begin to roll in.

At first glimpse of the e-mail detailing a review of my synopsis and first two chapters, I have to tell you, I felt nauseous. It literally evoked a physical reaction from me. Of course, that was followed by thoughts such as My novel is a piece of poo and I am a terribly amateur author who had no business thinking that this was ready for the eyes of others. But then I reminded myself to breathe, got up and walked around, and reread the person’s critique. Four times.

Yes, it was harsh. Yes, it could have been phrased better.

…But it was also true – and not in a your-writing-stinks kind of way.

I realized, after reading it for the fifth time, that, darn it all, the critique was right. The reviewer gave his impression of my characters based on my synopsis, and he got [most of] them all wrong. After some thought, I realized that the reason the critiquer (yes, it is now a word) thought that my characters were vanilla cliches was because that’s how the synopsis portrayed them. Most of them, in the novel, are much more interesting than that. And those that aren’t, well, those characters are the ones I need to chance. In both cases, I need to kick things up a notch, both in my synopsis (that will someday be my pitch) and in my manuscript.

And that doesn’t make me a bad writer. I just need to remind myself that this is what is supposed to happen – but it will only work if I lower my angry defenses and let it. Wish me luck. 😉

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Beginning Again

Now, this is a weird feeling. For the first time since last January, when I first decided that I was going to write a book, I didn’t have anything on my “Augira To Do List” for today. I finished the third draft on Sunday, and now I’m in a holding pattern as I await critiques from my alpha readers.

And it’s weird!

I sat at my computer, completely at a loss. I hardly knew what to do with myself. Okay, well, I should have been working on my next story, but, you know…

Anyway, Augira popped up in the critters queue this afternoon (not midnight, like I’d thought). While I wait patiently – NOT! – for critiques, I really need to kick myself into gear with my next novel while I wait. No sense in getting rusty, right?

Speaking of next novels: I’ve made a decision. For a while, I had been going back and forth about whether I should work on a sequel to Augira or something else. My arguments went something like this: If I write a sequel, then I would be able to talk about two books with publishers/agents (and my plan for a trilogy), instead of just the one. But, if Augira totally bombs and no one wants it, I don’t want to be stuck holding two books that don’t work. On the other hand, if I write something new, I may be wasting my time because someone might love Augira and not want this other piece. But, this other book could be even better than Augira and might be my breakout novel.

In the end, I decided to go with creating something new and entirely different. Not only have I thought of a new magic system, but I’ve also decided that I want to go with a first-person perspective instead. Woah! That’s madness! …Oh yes, I know. 😀 But, in my ever-valuable internet research findings, someone wrote in passing about how important it is to write something that we are excited about, something that moves us. And, honestly, I think I need an Augira break.

Beginnings are both terrifying and exhilarating, aren’t they? Let’s hope that you are ready to start all over with me!

Want to Critique My Novel?

Hi Everyone! I hope that you had a lovely Thanksgiving. I got to spend mine playing with a 7-week-old golden retriever puppy – he was very, very cute. I also got to finally – finally – finish my revisions to my manuscript. I am proud to say that the third draft is DONE! Woohoo!

And just in time, too. This Thursday (well, technically this Wednesday at midnight), my manuscript will come up in the queue on critters.org. At that point, members of the critters community will have the option to critique either the first two chapters, or to volunteer to critique the whole darn thing. I am so excited. I’m hoping that I get at least a couple people willing to take on the entire 112,000 word monstrosity that is Augira. More than a couple would be even better, but I’m trying to be realistic. It’s only sort of working. So, cross your fingers for me!

And, to keep you interested, here is a little snippet from Chapter 10. Some authors seem to like to give their blog readers 6 sentences from their manuscripts to keep them happy. I’m giving you 9. 🙂

After almost two days of travel, Renna was getting used to the banging and bouncing of the wagon. She was also getting used to the idea that the her recent illness was causing her to go slowly, inevitably mad.

Every time a Disciple got within arms’ reach of her, Renna could count on a sudden headache and itching hands. However, once he was close enough, those physical sensations were easily forgotten, drowned out by the overwhelming compulsion to touch the man. There was nothing romantic or sexual in that desire. It was a feral hunger, drawn out without her consent by something lurking under the Disciple’s skin that seemed to call to this dark impulse within her. If she thought about it, Renna was actually quite terrified. It took all of the restraint she possessed to resist these urges, and she was fairly certain that, one of these times, she would be overpowered.

She shuddered to think of what would happen then.

Self-Doubt, Critters, 50 Word Story Prompts, and Other New, Exciting Ways to Procrastinate

I am extremely talented at putting off working on my novel. I have just spent an untold number of minutes (hours, truth be told) looking at various tools for writers.

Why am I procrastinating? Well, let me tell you.

I’m starting to worry that, quite simply, my story isn’t interesting enough. In a guilty-pleasure tv show I watched recently, a female character was told that she was boring by an ex-boyfriend. Her best pal is immediately offended for her, saying that being called boring is “…like, the worst thing you can say to someone.” And, well, I’m terrified that, compared to the other stuff being published in my genre right now, my manuscript is just too boring. Yikes.

On the other hand, my self-doubt did lead me to stumble upon Writer’s Digest and their top 101 websites for writers. I eagerly jumped into that rabbit hole, and ended up on critters.org, an online writing group/workshop. I’d heard of it before, but today I am proud to say that I signed up. Soon, I’ll add my manuscript to the queue and have more real-life people critiquing my work. Of course, I have to do the same for others, but I’m really excited.

Another part of my morning procrastination landed me on a blog that challenges writers to create a 50 word story out of a one or two word prompt. I figured, hey, why not. Today’s prompt was “wake up.” I took some liberties, but here it is, in all its 50-word glory:

The barest hint of golden light seeps slowly across the seam of the night sky, the colors melding into something not-quite-black. Moment by excruciating moment, bright fingers grip the edge of the earth and pull themselves up, spilling light, pure and yellow, across the world. Awaken. It is time.

Alright, enough fooling around. Time to get back to work!

A Story That Sticks to Your Brain

I went and saw the new James Bond movie last night. It was enjoyable, but I ran into one rather large problem:

My thoughts kept drifting back to the book I’m reading.

I seriously couldn’t stop thinking about it. The story was stuck to my thoughts like a fly to flypaper. I had so many questions (most obviously: What happens next???), that I kept circling back to what I had just read. Never mind that Bond was seducing emotionally-damaged women in their showers – what is the plot of my book leading up to?

Now, that is good fiction.

And it made me also think about my novel, and how very, very much I want to have that effect on people. Now I am brimming with changes that I want to make, tweaks here and there, scenes to add, etc. However, I know that I am walking a thin line between wanting to make my manuscript amazing so that I have the best chance possible for publication and getting so stuck in making changes that I never actually finish it.

So, no, I will not change the entire thing into first-person, and no, I will not have a main character kill someone just so that she can grapple with death. But the other stuff, well…guess I’m just going to go with my gut on those changes.

How about you? Ever find yourself dancing along this knife’s edge of perfectionism? How do you know when to say “no” and when it’s worth it to rework things?

Oh, and the book I’m currently so enthralled with is N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Give me a mentally unstable protagonist any day, and I’m yours.

I Have Amazing Alpha Readers

I sent off the first half or so of my manuscript to my alpha readers last week. I suppose, technically, these folks are actually both alpha and beta readers. Some authors suggest that alpha readers only look at overarching story issues, while beta readers get into the nitty-gritty editorial stuff. Mine are doing both. L.A. Christensen writes that alpha readers read the first draft, and betas read the second draft. Mine are reading the second draft.

There are myriad definitions of these terms throughout the interwebs, but the one thing people do agree on when it comes to alpha/beta readers is that their job is to recreate their reading experience for the author.

And I’ve got to tell you, my best friend from middle school is reigning supreme when it comes to this task. She sent me her notes on the first 15 pages of Augira to check that she was doing it right, and, boy, she was. Her notes allowed me to tag along in her mind as she read. It was a highly educational experience, and I know without a doubt that this will improve my writing.

So, aside from a free, autographed copy when my book gets published, how do you, fellow writers, find ways to thank your alpha and beta readers? Any advice on how to make their time most useful and their advice most worthwhile?