Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.

- Graycie Harmon

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reality Check

Well, I have something to say about myself. I ain't as good as I thought I was.

When I was at a low point last week, a published author offered to take a look at a section of my work and critique it.

I wasn't expecting much, to be honest. Most people send about 100 comments for the entire manuscript. He asked for just one chapter. I sent him the first chapter. The shortest chapter in the whole series thus far.

I got back an email so detailed and thorough I think it thrust me headlong into shock. I won't relay to you everything therein for fear of a) boring you to death or b) have you read a computer screen until you go blind.

The gist of the email was this:

I've got what it takes, I just can't write.

No one get mad at him on my behalf. This is the stuff I need to hear if I'm ever to improve and, hopefully, get published. I'll quote from the email, so that you might understand:

you have what takes. You can write, you have a superb sense of setting and imagery and judging from what I’ve read, the plot and characterization of your novels is excellent. Now, the only thing you need to learn is fiction writing or, in one word: technique.

My biggest problem? Passive voice. This one is going to be tricky for me to fix. I tend to write as I speak. Thankfully, the same said author provided a lovely .pdf book that I can read through to help me fix this enormous problem of mine.

I also tend to tell rather than show. This is something that had me confused for a long time, but I think I've figured out how to get around it.

Also, I write very, very, very long sentences. That one will not be too difficult to fix, I hope.

There were a whole slew of other problems that I won't detail here, but do intend to fix. See another long sentence. Hmph. Fixing this is going to be tricky.

Here's something else I didn't know. Formatting is not exactly what you think. Pressing tab to indent a paragraph is not sufficient! There's no such thing as double spaces in a novel manuscript (which is weird because I distinctly remember primary school in which the teacher insisted that periods are followed by a double space). Another long sentence. Lord help me.

It was incredibly generous of him to take the time to review my work and provide so much help. I am so incredibly grateful. I owe this man an enormous thank-you. Thus, Carlos,


I'm still working on The Osprey and the Crow to submit to competition. At the moment, I have abandoned the edits by a Beta Reader in favour of fixing the formatting. Once that is complete, I'll finish the edits suggested by the Beta Reader, then go over it again, using the knowledge I now possess to tighten it up. Wish me luck!

Have a wonderful Tuesday everyone.


Anonymous said...

This is Edwin (bazikg)

Well the guys said you can write and that's the important part right!
Imagine if he would have just said you suck go play in traffic.

I know I don't know you but I have always felt that you are willful, strong and have direction, purpose, and I am certain you will make all your dreams come true.

Shit I made a long sentence too..

S.M. Carrière said...

If by wilful, you mean stubborn, I'm all there. Even if I don't quite make it, I'll always be working to!

Hah! I think I should run a 'the longest grammatically correct sentence' competition. The winner gets bragging rights!

KuietKelticGirl said...

Uh-oh! Are you sure you want to do that? Leaving it open like that will likely encourage anyone and everyone to message you with the longest sentence that it is possible for them to write; meaning, it will be more like a paragraph without any periods in it and therefore there will be quite a number of commas, semi-colons and even the odd dash - like this - to ensure that the sentence continues, while giving time for breathers, without finishing the sentence until well after it should have ended (nevermind how much brackets may be used to add in additional comments before finishing the thought).

Are you sure you want that? I can't say I would...

Anyways, I'm glad you were able to get some awesome constructive criticsm! It sounds like some great help there. But it also sounds like some extensive editing is coming your way, so best of luck with that!

S.M. Carrière said...

Bragging rights go to you so far, KuietKelticGirl!

Can anyone do better?

It was incredible help, and yes, there is a tonne of editing that I will be doing. Gods help me.... After the submission to the competition, however, I'm going to take break from editing and just write that extra book in 'The Great Man' series that has been screaming for me nightly.

Carlos J Cortes said...

After pressing "send" I went into hiding, half-expecting bolts of wrath to come hurtling across the ocean. I'm glad you found my ramblings helpful.

Anna L. Walls said...

That is soooooo cool that you were able to get that kind of advice. Sounds like you are having the same kinds of problems I'm working through. You'll learn. I have confidence in you. You do tell a great story.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sonia,

If I remember, you have done a lot of academic writing -- which uses passive voice. Here is a short article that explains why academic writing uses passive voice:

We use active voice most of the time in fiction writing. We want to know who is acting.

You have a strong impulse to write and good story sense. You can learn technique! I don't think you'll have any trouble changing to active voice now that you know.

Hang in there kid!

Jeanne Voelker

S.M. Carrière said...

Hah, Carlos! I get that a lot...

I found it extremely helpful. Hopefully I'll be able to apply it.

S.M. Carrière said...

Anna, it was more than cool. I can't remember the author of this quote:

Do what you are passionate about and you will meet the people you need to meet to make it happen.

That is precisely what happened!

Also, thanks for the compliment!

Jeanne, that is a crazy good excuse! I'm using it. I did do a great deal of academic writing - four years of it, in fact. That must be why it's so easy for me to write passively....

Well, that's my new excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Thanks so much for your support and encouragement.

Everyone is simply awesome!