Tag Archives: shortstory

The Art of Procrastination: Isn’t Writing Still Fun?

I did something for the first time the other day.  I procrastinated.

Now, I’m not talking about the laundry, or doing the dishes—I procrastinated about writing.

Editing to be more exact.

Believe it or not, I have NEVER procrastinated before when it had to do with writing.  Never Ever.  Writing was always my escape.  What better way to get away from the world than with characters that I love.

So here I am, vacuuming, and actually shaving the dog (which I had been procrastinating over for three months.)  Now, I’m not talking about a little procrastination.  This dog was on the grooming table for a full two hours straight.  (No, she does not look like the same dog anymore.)

And it was all because I didn’t want to edit.  So, why is that?

I think it is because I have a list of things from the publisher to make sure that are not in my novel.  I think it is because I need to dig in and perfect it.  But wasn’t it perfect already?

Well yes, and no.  There’s nothing like pasting your novel into a manuscript analyzer if you want to make yourself run and hide.

By now, yes, I have started editing.  I am fixing and sculpting, and despite my initial hesitation, LAST WINTER RED is actually getting better.

Hmmmm.  Maybe these publishers actually know what they are talking about 🙂

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Writing to a Deadline Part 14: Publisher response

Holy cow!

I submitted my manuscript at 11:30 PM last night, and when I got home from work, there was a response that hit may mailbox at Noon!!!

Okay.  Deep breath.  Open the email.

“The revision was great. You did a fine job incorporating our feedback and adjusting the story to a simpler, more defined and well written product.”

Woa… hold on.  This is my first submission to a publisher.  Aren’t they supposed to belittle me and tear me to bits?  Did a publisher just call my work “great”?  Did a publisher just call my story “well written”?

Last words are “We’ll be in touch soon regarding final selections.”

Okay… we are back in “wait” mode.  I can deal with that.  I am just so tickled that I might actually be actually in the running—I can’t stand it.

I find a stream of emails from my writing buddy.  She’s been having an email conversation with the publisher all day.  They wanted more revisions done to hers.  They want to know if she’d be willing to revise further, to some pretty stringent specifications.

My heart sinks.  They went back and forth with her several times.  Someone there likes her submission enough that they want it really polished.  What does that mean for mine?  Was mine a form email that everyone gets?

They told her that they have eight submissions that they are currently considering, and only 5 slots in the anthology.

Am I one of the eight?  She obviously is.

I hop over to Scribophile, and another girl in my Scrib Group got a response that they liked her changes as well, and they were waiting to make a decision… The wording she used in her post made it sound like her response was almost word for word identical to mine.

What does that mean?  Did we both get the generic “nice” response?  Is that a bad thing, or are we both in the top eight?

Your mind goes crazy.  I swear.

I know, I know, there is not a dern thing I can do but wait… and have a few quiet conversations with the Guy Upstairs.

I put a heck of a lot of work into this over the last month.

At first, it was just a challenge to myself.

Now, it’s something I want so bad I can taste it.

Deep breath… and the wait begins.  Again.

Writing to a Deadline Part 10: Rewrite and Beta Blast

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

Okay… fixed that climax.  Yeah!  I did it.  Oh no!  Now I am at 10,280 words!

That’s a whole page over!  Ugh!

Edit madness:  Extra word here, extra word there.  Unnecessary clause?  Can I tighten that dialog a little?  Does this person need to smile?  Is that dialog tag necessary?

Okay, I’m done.  Right?  Am I?   ARRRHGHHHH!

Beta Blast!  Call in the two people who the story really seemed to resonate with (Don’t bother with the person who didn’t seem to get it from the beginning)

Sorry, guys… I know it’s a lot to ask… but I need it back in two days.

Wait….  Wait….  Wait….  Tear a fingernail off.  Wait….  Water the plants… again.  Groom the dog… again (not that she’s complaining.)

Then the panic moment happens.  Through a writer’s group, I find out that someone submitted, and got a positive response.  Not an acceptance, but a request to make changes and re-submit through private channels.

Oh No!  There is a possibility that they will close for submissions if they fill all five slots.

It’s okay… take a deep breath.  I decided that I need to submit NOW, even though there are two weeks left until the deadline.

My two betas came back with minor changes.  Of course, while I was waiting I made changes of my own, so I pleaded for one more read.  Yeah, I can be annoying that way.

My worst writing nightmare is that all of these people call in the favor at the same time while I am up against a deadline of my own ***gack***

Okay… their responses come back.

Remove that comma, change that word…

Easy fixes.

Slow and steady.

Writing to a Deadline Part 8: “Calling in the Beta Reading Army”

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

I was happily surprised when I sat down to edit, that I had very few things to change.  Mostly typographical errors and little things like switching sentence structure to make it flow better.

The one scene that I purposely wrote as “tell” took a little time to work out, but it’s finally done.

So, I took a deep breath, and called in a Beta-reading army.  Crossed genres and ages.  These are all people I have a fairly high trust factor with:

Two are currently mercilessly ripping apart my novel and making great comments

One is a college professor who teaches creative writing (She has never read my work)

One is a Romance/ Middle-Grade soon to be publisher author who hasn’t read my work (she’s there for that kissy stuff I’ve never done before)

A memoir writer, who also has not read my work

A High Fantasy writer (my writing buddy for the past year or so—-who’s sick of reading my work) (ONLY KIDDING!)

My first ten pages will also be reviewed by three people in a critique group who I’ve never met before.

It’s kind of like submitting to a publisher, but you know these people will get back to you.

Funny, I was more nervous about this beta-read than I was about my novel.  Probably because I feel deep down, that the story is pretty solid.  After dissecting the Gold Mine Manuscript for seven months, I think I know what NOT TO DO.  The question is… did I write what I THINK I wrote.

I also have that deadline looming over my head.  And I don’t want to wait until the last minute… just in case the publisher decides to close for submissions early.  It’s enough to make you a nervous wreck.  Will I have time to make all the changes they might suggest? (If I agree with the suggestions, of course)

What stupid Writing Error did your Beta Reader come across this week? – Verb Confusion.

I just love verb confusion.  It’s a riot.

Unless someone points it out to me in my own work.

Okay, well it’s funny for me too, as long as I catch it in time.

The lovely Miss Dawn just pointed out to me that I have to be especially careful with my verb confusion, because in a fantasy world, it is entirely possible that furniture might come to life.

This is what I wrote:

Nurses tended to beds holding the badly infected.  Some held the patients withered hands.  Many smiled.  How could they provide comfort?  Weren’t they afraid?

I read this at least ten times on my own.  I knew what I thought I wrote… a beautiful scene of nurses tending to their patients.  But when Dawn read it, she saw nurses tending to the beds, not the people.  She saw beds holding the badly infected people.  (Like the beds were alive)  She also saw smiling beds.

When I read it back, I realized (after I stopped laughing) that she was completely right!

Thank goodness this is a very simple fix.

Nurses tended the badly infected.  Some held their patients withered hands.  Many smiled.  How could they provide comfort?  Weren’t they afraid?

The funny thing is, Dawn is a new reader for me.  She is not a fantasy writer, and she picked this up.  Three other people completely missed this.  That is why you send your manuscript out to multiple people…. To save you the embarrassment later.

Thanks, Dawn!

Row 80 4/2 Writing to a Deadline Part 6: “Writing from the Outline”

My goal is to get published.  At the moment, I am working on a novella for an Anthology.  This is where I am:

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

I’d love to tell you that this outline is absolutely useless, but I’d be lying.  I think it is actually helping me.

I keep referring back to it, which is good, because it is keeping me on track.

Since I have my story clearly outlined, I know all of the “little carrots” that need to be dropped early in the story so they are not “big surprise veggie bombs” later.  I even caught myself forgetting one, and I had the chance to re-write a conversation that included that little snippet before it was too late.

In the first three scenes, I set up my world (and clearly defined it since it is a Futuristic Dystopian).  Introduced all the characters.  Gave the conflict of the main character and all subordinate characters.

I looked at my word count— 2,685.

Hmmmm.  The submission guidelines say the story needs to be between 5,000 and 10,000 words.  Can I finish it in that parameter?

My outline has 26 items/scenes/”things that need to happen”.  Some are more in depth than others.  I very carefully looked over the list, and placed a word count next to each number.  This is how many words I think I will need to get each idea down.

300 here, 500 there, 1000 there, 2000  for the climax.  You get the idea.

When I totaled it all up it came to 9,685.  That was a bit of a surprise.  I thought it would be higher.  However, I am also brutally aware that I only have 315 words to spare.

Now, my challenge is to hold to those numbers.  If I can’t finish each item it the allotted word count, I need to subtract words from somewhere else.

The writer’s retreat is here.

Two full days of writing with a goal to finish.

Too lofty a goal?  We’ll see.

Writing to a Deadline Part 5: “I Love this stinking outline”

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

Wow… one thing that the outline “in my head” wanted me to write just wouldn’t work.  Yikes, would I have wasted a lot of time.  The whole scene would have been lost in editing.

And I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t outline first.

Yes, I’m a pantser, and I cringe every time I read over this outline.  But it is helping me to figure out how one scene will flow into the next.  I stare at the outline every day and make changes to the story before I’ve even written it.  It’s a very strange place for me.

Why aren’t you writing yet?  Deadline, Jen, remember?  What are you doing?

I do most of my writing in the car driving back and forth to work.  Okay, stop gasping… I do it in my head.  I have a pretty good idea of where key scenes in my outline are going.  My question now is whether or not I will be able to write this story in the “10,000 words or under” parameter.  Being concise was never my forte.

I am now four weeks in.  Yes, everyone else is a month ahead of me.  Some of them may have even submitted.  The publisher may have already picked a few that they may include in the anthology.

Maybe.  I have a little cheat card up my sleeve, though.  I am going away to a writers retreat over a weekend.  Eight writers closing themselves in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with no internet, and no ambition other than word count.

My challenge to myself is to be completely prepared going in.

Ready, set— go.  Write, Edit, Polish, Complete.

When I get home, send it out to Beta readers.

Re-polish.

One last read from whomever I can convince to put up with me

Submit.

Cutting it close?  Well, honestly, yes.

Today I actually start writing to my outline.  New ground for me.  Let’s see how this pantser does.

Stick to the outline, Jen.  Stick to the outline.

Resist the urge to explode something.  You can do this.

Writing to a Deadline Part 4: “I hate this stinking outline”

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

Outlining is not a waste of time

Outlining is not a waste of time

Outlining is not a waste of time

ARGHHHHHH I hate this stinking outline thing!

No!  I am not going to give up.  I have an idea, but I just want to start writing dern it!  I know where I am going.  The outline is in my head.  Just let me GO!

But it’s already in my head.

Don’t you just hate it when you argue with yourself?

My problem is I have precious little time to write.  Half an hour during the day while I’m at lunch.  That’s it.  I just can’t “get into a character’s head” at home (Dog, husband, three kids… you get the idea.)

Writing down this outline when I could be writing the story makes me want to throw things!

In my writer’s group last night we went off-topic, and someone mentioned that after they outlined, the story flew out of their fingers because they knew exactly where every scene was going.  They are probably right.  There is a “bridge” that I need and I am not sure how my character will get there. That is usually the fun part for me… finding out.  The problem is I don’t have the luxury of the time to figure that out while I am writing a scene that might end up getting deleted.  Deadline, remember?

What fun is that?

Erggghhhhhh!

Going back to the outline, now.  I’ll let you know how I do.

Interview with Published Author Fran Metzman “The Hungry Heart Stories”

No, it is not a little blue woman from Mars (although that would be totally cool, too.)

Today my humble little site is part of Fran Metzman’s promotional blog tour for the release of her short story collection:  THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES.

Each of the twelve stories in Fran’s collection involves food as a means to fulfillment (If it were me, it would be a book all about chocolate)  🙂

Without further ado, let’s welcome the lovely and talented Fran Metzman!

Hello Fran, and welcome to “Learn from my Mistakes”

Fran:  Hello everyone!

***Imagine Fran smiling and waving madly***

This site is dedicated to new and soon to be published authors. At the end of this interview, would you be willing to answer questions from inquiring minds?

Fran:  Yes.  I would be delighted.

Great!  Keep that in mind, guys.  Okay, let’s get started.

Fran, would you tell us about the first time you were published.

Fran: I consider this publication of THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES, as my first, as it is actually the first one published with only my own name. The other was co-written. In UGLY COOKIES and THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES, each story deals with relationship issues – a theme that has always intrigued me.

What part of relationships intrigues you so much?

Fran: We are all trying to find a level of satisfaction in relationships and it is common to feel cheated at some point in our lives. We yearn to fill emotional voids. I want to answer the question – how far will we go to find a relationship that answers deep-rooted needs?

As a writing teacher, what do you see as a re-occurring problem you need to “teach out” of new writers. What are the common mistakes they make?

Fran: I do encourage people to write from the heart, but all too often that is where they want to stop. In my opinion, it is vital to understand the structure of fiction writing because in today’s world of publishing whether it is non-fiction, memoir and even journalism, they are expecting the works to follow the form of fiction. Once a writer has that under his/her belt they have the option of experimenting. It’s like art – you must understand the structure of the body in order to sculpt or paint a figure before going on to other genres.

Can you explain that a little more? Do you mean “fitting into a set mold” or is there a certain structure that is undeniably necessary?

Fran: I don’t mean for anyone to be locked into a particular writing style. My undergraduate degree was from Moore College of Art in Philadelphia and I was a sculpture major. When we learned how to draw a person we did it step-by-step. First we did a skeleton then laid a clear sheet on top and did the muscles and sinews next. The final plastic sheet presented with skin, face, hands and toes. It was a process that enabled us to understand the structure of the body so that all parts were anatomically correct. Once we understood that, we could use that information to evolve into our own thing.

Interesting.  How did this help to make you a better writer?

Fran:  Figures differ but when the different body parts are out of scale it disturbs the visual rhythm the same way the written format may become unbalanced. For instance, if there is too much description that goes on for pages you will, in all probability, lose your reader unless you have presented such a strong, unique voice that we get lost in the work. That doesn’t happen often. Once you have an understanding of the structure, you can experiment.

Wow.  Not too many of us have the experience of learning art in that way, and can relate that to our writing.  Interesting insight.  How do you think a new writer can get there, without sculpting in clay?

Fran: Write regularly on a set schedule even if it is only once a week. WRITE!

Tell us about your first novel “Ugly Cookies”.

Fran: I co-wrote UGLY COOKIES with Joy Stocke based loosely on several short stories that seriously involve parental/child relationships, romance and feminist ideals. It also has a sub-plot of prejudices toward the elderly, something that has become a hot topic nationally today.

What was your reaction when you first saw a “real” printed copy? What did you do?

Fran: Seeing that book in print thrilled me and made me incredulous at the same time. Was that my name on the cover? How could that have happened? It had a dream like quality to it. But that didn’t last long as we had to immediately get into the huge amount of work involved in publicity.

I’ve had a lot of discussions with people, and this is what they are most worried about… Promoting.  What did you do to publicize?

Fran: It has changed so dramatically from the time my first novel was published about 10 years ago. Now it is VIRTUAL TOURS. Book chains and many independents have folded in the interim and fewer people attend live readings. We have generations who are constantly on computers, texting, googling, IPhoning, game playing, and connected tightly to screens for a myriad of reasons. The new way of publicizing is not easy for someone like myself who still prefers hard copies of books.

It’s okay, you’re doing fine.  We bloggers are a friendly group.  What’s been the hardest part about cyber-publicizing?

Fran: Today it’s all about being online for links, connections, websites, tags, Facebook, Twitter and the plethora of connections online. This consumes mammoth amounts of time as I worry when will I get back to writing.

Piff!  Speaking to the choir, my friend!  Let’s talk about some awards.  “My Inheritance” was nominated for a Dzanc Books Award for Best of the Web. Was that a surprise? What do you think made it stand out from the others?

Fran: That story has always impacted me emotionally, but I was a bit surprised as there are so many mother/daughter stories out there. It is a sensitive subject and many women choose it as a topic. I hoped I had a somewhat different spin on it. I did know someone who went into therapy when her mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I didn’t know any details, just had this nugget. So the story is a total fiction. But as in all my stories, there is a seeking for redemption.

You just released “The Hungry Heart Stories”. Each short story in the collection relates to food in some way. Why did you choose food as a theme?

Fran: My own mother was a sensational cook and baker. It was a major way for her to express her love. When I came home from school the house was filled with the most delectable scents, oh those wonderful peach pies. There are a couple of downsides and one is that I was a chubby kid. The other was refusing food could be a serious problem in my house. I believe, my mother interpreted it as a rejection. So, I learned to eat every morsel put on my plate.

Tee Hee. It was the same way in my house, but since my Mom was raised during the Great Depression, it was more “There are children starving somewhere” rather than a rejection thing. Did this affect your eating habits as a grown-up? Personally, I cannot TOUCH beef stew, asparagus, or boiled spinach.

Fran: Indeed, I developed bad eating habits. If you eat every bit on your plate beyond the point where you are full, it is just unhealthy excess. For years I have had to be very careful to get that under control. It is a fight every day not to overeat or eat the wrong foods. For years I didn’t eat strawberries (I do now) because my mother insisted I eat her cake that had strawberries in it. I wasn’t hungry and I sat for two hours staring at it. Finally, I gobbled it up so I could go out and play.

I’m looking at the cover of THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES.  There is a woman gazing into the distance. It feels like she is old to me, or maybe taking a step out of time.  Also, there is no food to be seen. Is there some underlying symbolism there?

Fran: The woman on the cover was to represent women of all ages who are yearning to fill an emotional void in their lives. She looks into the distance, hoping to find some answers. That kind of void is threaded throughout the stories, but the protagonists are all pro-active in trying to backfill a hunger yet to be satisfied. Some go to the edge to fulfill what they perceive as the missing piece that once found will make their lives whole. But in seeking to resolve this lack of fulfillment – they might go to the edge.

After having been through the publishing process twice, what little snippet of advice would you give to soon to be published authors?

Fran: The publishing industry is, as everyone knows, very, very tough. This is where knowledge of fictional structure pays off. You have to submit a near perfect piece in order to get it published. The time is long gone when an author could say that something they wrote needs some work but publishers have editors for that. The industry has leaned down so that there are fewer editors and little time to do overhauls.

So, do you think everyone should look into a professional editor before they even submit a manuscript? Does that go for submitting to agents, too, or just publisher direct?

Fran: Yes, a near perfect manuscript is expected from agents and editors. Since an agent doesn’t make money until they sell the book, they are especially reluctant to spend time trying to make it pitch perfect for publishers. As for professional editors, that could be expensive. If you can afford it, I say go for it. Check the editor out as well to make sure they are good. If money is an issue, find a friend who is an educated reader for content and clarity. If they are grammarians or can edit well — even better. Workshopping with a group of writers is also very helpful.

Other than editing, do you have any other advice?

Fran:  Not only does it have to be in excellent shape, the beginning has to be a grabber.

There you have it… words of wisdom from author Fran Metzman.  Thanks for stopping by Fran!

I am now opening it up for questions.  If you have a question for Fran, just post it in comments below.

Fran Metzman Author Bio

Award-winning author Fran Metzman is a graduate of the Moore College of Art and the University of Pennsylvania.  In addition to publishing numerous short stories and two novels, she also teaches writing at various local colleges and universities.  Her blog “The Age of Reasonable Doubt” can be found at Wild River Review.

THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES
Wilderness House Press
ISBN 978 0 9827115  5 2

On Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/7xgqgsn

On Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/6pubq6c

Ugly Cookies: http://tinyurl.com/7tod2er

The Age of Reasonable Doubt: http://www.wildriverreview.com/metzman/

Wild River Review: http://www.wildriverreview.com/

“My Inheritance”: http://www.wildriverreview.com/FICTION/My-Inheritance/Fran-Metzman

Want more Fran?  Visit these great sites, also hosting this tour with reviews and more interviews.

Monday, February 13th
“Welcome to Hell” by Glenn Walker
http://www.monsura.blogspot.com

Tuesday, February 14th
“Writing – Art – Metaphysics” by Shelley Szajner
http://shelleyszajner.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, February 15th
“BeccaButcher’s Blog” by Becca Butcherhttp://beccabutcher.wordpress.com/

Thursday, February 16th
“GilbertCuriosities” by Marie Gilbert
http://gilbertcuriosities.blogspot.com/

Friday, February 17th
“The Author-in-Training” by Mieke Zamora-Mackay
http://www.miekezmackay.com/

Saturday, February 18th
“A Reference of Writing Rants for Writers or “Learn from My Mistakes” by Jennifer M. Eaton
https://jennifermeaton.com/

Sunday, February 19th
“GilbertCuriosities” by Marie Gilberthttp://gilbertcuriosities.blogspot.com/

Monday, February 20th
“BeccaButcher’s Blog” by Becca Butcherhttp://beccabutcher.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, February 21st
“The Dream Between” by Robin Renee
http://dreambetween.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, February 22nd
“Literary Debauchery” by Krista Magrowski
https://kamagrowski.wordpress.com/

Thursday, February 23rd
Wrap up with Glenn Walker
http://www.monsura.blogspot.com

Row80 — I Finished My Novel!!!!!!

Well, the Header post says it all.

I am all grins and giggles galore.

Can you guys see me smiling all the way in Argentina?  Canada?  UK?  Well, if you were wondering what that bright light was here in the USA its ME!

Here are the final stats for all you who’ve been traveling this journey with me.

109,812 words, 411 pages

I was trying to edit down to 100,000, but that was just so I could submit to a single publisher who maxes out at 100,000.  I started this mad edit at about 120,000 words, and when I got it to where it is now, I decided to heck with it.  This is my novel, and it is perfect.  Taking anything else out at this point would make the story suffer.  I will always take creative critisizm, and am ready for it, but this is where I am staying for now.

Edit stats:

65,724 words cut from the first draft.  That’s 233 pages.  Funny, I think the first draft was only a little over 350 pages.  It shows you what kind of roller coaster ride you can take on the way to perfection.

My Row 80 goal for the end of the year was to finish HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT, and here I am.  Wow.  What an amazing feeling.

I’m going to submit my one and only recent Short Story to a magazine shortly.  I have a few comments from Betas to look over, and am waiting for my “subject matter expert” to get back to me to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes.

I need to pick some new beta readers and “just plain readers” to do one last read of HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT now that it is complete.  Some of it has been changed so drastically that no one but me has read many of the chapters, and I need to take my own advice and NEVER query anything that hasn’t been fully and completely Beta-Read.

Anyone interested?

If you are, send me an email.  (there’s a “contact” button in my header bar.)  I better note that I can’t do a mutual beta exchange with EVERYONE who follows this blog.  I’m not Wonder Woman (although my kids think I am) but I can take on 5 Beta partners if you think your manuscrupt is ready.

Thanks everyone for your support.  I hope your week has been as exciting!