Tag Archives: author
February 11, 2016 · 9:38 am
As writers, we tend to plunk away at our keyboards in isolation. Even if you write your best work in the middle of a crowded coffee shop, you’re still enveloped in the protective writer bubble of isolation. It’s what shuts out reality and lets imagination reign. This is where the isolation begins and ends.
After we’ve fretted and pondered and written and re-written our literary works of genius, and before we let it fly on submissions, it’s time to let an impartial and objective set of eyes take a read. Yes, I know, you’re a brilliant writer, you don’t make mistakes, and your jaw-dropping prose makes other writers gasp in envy. But after the writing is done, the isolation of the writer absolves. Now it’s time for other people to get involved. It doesn’t matter if you have the gift, or that you believe your delicious prose is on fleek (did I use that word right?) your work as a whole could be a structural disaster. Or it may be an inadvertent expositional sermon. Your first twenty pages might read like a grocery list of character traits. A well-written grocery list, mind you, but a list none the less. And you might be able to fool the average reader with your clever prose, but publishers and book editors will see past all of that. They work with Stephen King and Margaret Atwood, remember? So, before you pay a professional to read and/or edit your work, join a critique group with a few other writers. Here’s the payback:
- Honest and objective opinions of your work. Writers have a tendency to be blind to their own work, but can spot errors in another writers work a mile away. Focusing on your work with other writers gives you specific feedback, valuable advice, and often creative suggestions that lets you view your work with fresh eyes.
- You will grow as a writer. Not only will you be receiving critiques but you’ll also be giving them. As you give and receive constructive feedback, you’ll be training your brain to look beyond the words and into the mechanics of your story. It provides the education and experiential growth that every writer needs to improve. And there is always room for improvement.
- It offers motivation and accountability. Setting regularly scheduled meetings with your critique group offers a certain accountability. Being prepared for your group every week with a new piece of writing can be the kick in the ass some writers need to set the necessary time aside to write.
I would also suggest finding strangers to critique with. They will be the most objective. And the smaller the group, the more opportunity each of you will have to submit your work for discussion. It’s also important to find writers who are on (or about) the same level as you and who are avid readers. As time goes on, your relationship with these writers will become more and more comfortable, but the habit of their honesty and objectivity will already be established. These critiquing partners will become champions of your work in the future.
And lastly, the most important thing to do before joining a critique group is to let go of your ego. You want writers who will shred your work to pieces and leave you weeping on the floor in the fetal position. (Well, maybe that will just be the first meeting.) If you require constant validation as a writer, get it from your family and friends. Joining a critique group is business. It’s education. It’s a commitment to yourself to become the best writer you can be.
Where can you find these other writers? In local workshops, writing classes, meetups, writing events, online, etc. They’re everywhere, and they need you just as much as you need them. And did I mention that all of this is FREE?
That’s it, there’s no more. What are you waiting for? Go get ’em.
September 16, 2015 · 12:13 pm
I’m a lurker, I lurk people. I’ve probably lurked you. Sometimes during my lurk-capades I find a little nugget of wisdom that blows my world apart. It’s usually mentioned in some off-handed way that suggests it’s common knowledge. In which case, this post should embarrass me.
I’ve been using Microsoft Word for some 20-odd years. It’s my go-to word processing application for everything when writing. It’s handy word-count feature keeps me on track when submitting to journals and contests with submission rules. After 20 years you’d figure I’d know all its secrets. But no, this morning’s lurk informed me that my word processing application has been quietly lurking me. After all these years it’s been keeping track of every minute that it takes me to grind away at edits. Well played Microsoft, well-played.
If you already knew about this little-known feature, congratulations, and where have you been? Tweet this information out immediately! If not, check your documents in File/Properties/Statistics (for Word 2003 or earlier) and Office Button/Prepare/Properties/Document Properties/Advanced Properties/Statistics (for Word 2007 and later.) I promise that Word doesn’t judge. If it did, maybe I’d have known about it earlier. (hint hint @Microsoft, forget Clippy, where’s my AI? I’d like the voice of Spock please, or Gandalf, yes, definitely Gandalf.)
Word: “Um, excuse me Catherine?”
Me: <fingers recoil from keyboard> “Woah… WTF?”
Word: “Yeah, uh, it’s me Word. Can you pick up your pace a bit? You’re slacking this week.”
Me: “What do you mean slacking? These edits are tough.”
Word: “Yes, right, well, you’ve been editing chapter one for 6,586 minutes already and you need to push on if you’re ever going to get this novel done.”
Me: “And what would you know about how long it takes?”
Word: “Well, I don’t mean to brag, but I am a child of Microsoft, and we know everything. Shall I give you the estimates of author chapter revision times in North America?”
Me: <pushes mute button>
April 1, 2011 · 9:35 am
When I think romance novelist, I imagine a dazzling woman in a satin gown and white gloves who delicately weaves tales of delicious emotional justice and unconditional love through a ruby-encrusted laptop while sipping champagne and eating bon-bon’s. Glamorous, right? Right, Candace?
I tried to find such photos as proof on Candace Bowen Early’s FB page, but there were none to be had. If glam and glitz go hand-in-hand with romance writing, Candace is hiding it from the world. What I did find was a down-to-earth woman plucked from the streets of Chicago who wipes noses, attends monster jams and plans to live forever—or at least until the Cubs take a World Series.
Candace catapulted into a writing career on March 17, 2008—precisely—when she was struck with the idea for her first novel, A Knight of Silence. Since publishing that novel, she went on to write, Spur of the Moment, (to be published spring 2012), and has finished, Jack of Hearts, which she currently has out for representation. But she’s not stopping there, oh no. Take a look for yourself. http://www.knightseries.com/
I’ve read an interview or two that tells me Candace is the ‘voice’ of historical romance. Her writing can transport you to another time—leaving the grit of the castle walls on your skin when you’ve put her book down. Sweet! Sign me up for castle grit—I’ll take mine to go please.
When she’s not stalking the medieval or hobnobbing with publishers and editors, you might find Candace loitering on a sunny Florida beach with a bag of M&M’s.
Thanks for your friendship Candace!
Click the image above to find out how to have your “buzz” posted on the uberscribbler.
February 16, 2011 · 4:24 pm
I defied nothing at all.
I followed the rules. I obeyed the orders commanded by the subjective authority and cynicism of naysayers. I let others dictate my pace and destination.
And that is just not true to who I am.
But I’ve been inspired anew and I’ve got a one finger salute ready.
I’m about to defy everything.
March 8, 2010 · 2:46 pm
Believe what you want. Just don’t bring it to my door on a Sunday morning — unless you were invited — or come bearing gifts. And just to be clear — a sampling of scriptures in ‘The Watchtower’ magazine you leave with me is not considered a gift.
Jamie is Jehovah’s Witness — not that there is anything wrong with that. He has been visiting me on and off for about 5 years now. He blows in like the wind — always with a friend — dressed to the nines in his black suit and tie. Under his arm he keeps his good book. His bible. His truth. I have never invited Jamie in — we seem to have a front porch understanding.
We have talked — at length — about his beliefs, as well as mine, and never could two people be more different. He believes he has the truth. If he doesn’t spread the message of GOD — as he believes it — then he has failed. He’s doomed. I believe religion is personal — that all paths lead to the same destination. I do admire his tenacity though. His relentless willingness to convert me — to instill me with “the truth”. We’ve adopted a sort of fair-weather friendship and sometimes I miss chatting with him when he hasn’t been around.
This past Sunday he came to me with his ‘book’ and quoted to me from the Book of Numbers — an obscure bible passage about a talking donkey. I didn’t quite understand his point but his conviction amused me — so I obliged him with wide-eyed interest. And then it happened. He came to the passage where he quoted, “Why have you beaten your ass these three times?”, and the child in me giggled uncontrollably with a “you said beat-your-ass” maturity. Jamie kept reading — although the veins in his forehead pulsed with his frustration and disapproval.
I’m not certain what keeps him coming back. Am I the ass whose mouth the LORD has opened? Perhaps. I have always thought of myself as a Jack-of-all-trades — the truth may be that I’m the Jack-of-all-asses.
May 12, 2009 · 1:16 pm
I’m a thirty-something, a later-on-down-the-road thirty-something, but a thirty-something nonetheless. OK, so I used to be a thirty-something, now I’m a forty-something AND a liar.
Much like you, I’m a very busy person. I am pulled in a plethora of directions by a multitude of people each and every day that I get out of bed. Which, incidentally, is when it all begins. A single day has a month’s worth of activity packed into it and lasts, seemingly, about 20 minutes. I pass strangers on the road, in the coffee shop, and while I’m about my usual business and occasionally I will see one that seems to be … smiling. How is it possible that they have time for smiling? And what are they smiling about? I’m confused, haunted and tormented by their smiles. But ultimately, I want what they have. It’s some sort of ‘oomph’ that sets them apart from the struggling, the downtrodden and the doomed.
Perhaps I just need to rearrange my furniture to be in line with my “chi”, or maybe its much more, like I should be seeing a new age herbalist that will begin with concocting special ‘smiling’ recipes for me that contain eye of Newt and molecules from the Dea Sea, and then I’ll be wrapped from head to toe with spirit blessed rice parchment that will have been painlessly pieced together by nearly extinct rain forest pixies, who will then squeeze their magic tears into my eye sockets each night before I fall into deep slumber.
I may look into that, I believe meeting a pixie would make me slightly giddy, and I haven’t been giddy since I was a twenty-something. However, I believe the truth behind these smiles is less about fairytale elixirs and more about their resolve. Their spirits are uncrushable. Each day is an adventure and their curious minds leave nothing undiscovered. They are life enthusiasts and their grit for adventure extends far beyond the norm. Their passion and vigor can be very contagious and after a little more than a brief encounter with one you find yourself on their mailing lists for dog sledding in Alaska and mountain hiking on Mt. Kilimanjaro. You know these people.
Maybe we should strive to live our lives with just a flicker or a hint of that ‘oomph’. I, for one, am going to stop scowling at the smiling people and instead remind myself to find the adventure for myself that seems to have found them. Something fun, something extraordinary, something good for my health and spirit, and something that will make strangers scowl at me.
I’m not much of a team player, I have problems with sharing, control and authority… and I lie, so traditional team sports are out. I’m far too buff as it is <cough> for free weights, and I bore easily with mindless repetition.
But… I do know a guy who could set me up for a week in a yurt with a magical chanting goat (I’m on his mailing list) and he claims you just haven’t lived until you’ve sung with a Bovidae.
Look, I’m smiling already.
March 30, 2009 · 4:32 pm
When the chips are down, asking for help can be risky business. There are some folks, however, who are all too comfortable leaning on others; they are altogether an entirely different story. For must of us though, asking for help is like making a deal with the devil. It means admitting that we are not the rugged, problem solving individuals that society expects us to be. Once we ask for it, we surrender our control; we become weak, needy and incompetent. We have a tendency to act as though it’s a complete and total character deficiency, as if we are letting our guards down to somehow invite hurt and embarrassment in. God forbid our request for help is used against us. We worry about what will be expected of us in return. What price must we pay for this help since modern civilization has adopted a reciprocal relationship system (tit-for-tat) so that we don’t feel indebted to those who answered our call? There is also the fear that we may present our request to the wrong individual and then suffer with a lifelong hovering and patronizing relationship.
Help me. How can two little words (three if you’re polite about it) have so much drama attached to it? And where did the drama come from? Deep down inside us – in one of our special places – lies an insidious beast that operates solely and inconspicuously on preventing our humility from being nurtured. This beast is Egocentricity. This egocentric thinking keeps us wrapped up in our own definition of a thing, even if it may be false. Most individuals, especially those that genuinely love us, want to help us and more importantly have a need to help us. They derive a pleasure, a personal satisfaction, and a (perhaps fleeting) sense of purpose to something outside themselves – when helping others.
People ask me for help all the time, and I give it… freely. I also know that I don’t judge those that ask me for help, nor do I condemn them to my egocentric thinking. On the contrary, I credit their strength and courage to recognize their limits as well as their willingness to stretch outside themselves to push past what they know – into what they don’t know. And sometimes this means requesting help. How can I consider this to be a strength in others and yet a weakness in myself?
In order for me to even the playing field, I need to let my ego know that I can not be identified on the basis of my achievements – or lack thereof. It should also learn that I have no need to always be right, (even though I do really like to be) and that I am superior only to my former self. I will not concern myself with what others think of me, even if their opinions are valued and loved. Life is not a game to be won, nor to divide it’s participants into groups of winners and losers based on our own egocentrically driven ideals.
Trust, not control, will determine my course. Faith in another, not certainty of outcome, will be my guide. We can’t always know/be/do everything, sometimes we will need help, even if it is just a safe place to express that we can’t always know/be/do everything. I will apply this understanding to myself and I will be better at asking for help, more direct in my approach and with less consideration to my unfaultering ego.
The choice is mine. Now it’s time for a chat with my pride…
March 15, 2009 · 11:01 am
As a young girl, I would hang around in my grandfather’s workshop daydreaming the hours away. Above his bench there was a small black cast iron plate that read “I once complained that I had no shoes… until I met a man with no feet”. Even as a young girl that resonated with me. My grandfather and his bench have been gone for 30 years, but that simple quote still plays in my head.
The other day I stood patiently in line for the cashier at the corner Dollar Stop. An old woman in front of me (moving impossibly slow) had far too many packages and bags for her cane to allow, and not near enough nimbleness of fingers to find her wallet and count out her total in coins, which I knew to be inevitability. With her back to me, I passed the time imagining her haggard features and the events of her life that led her to this moment in time where she now stood before me and my ultimate freedom from the store.
In one quick second the old woman lost her wallet to the floor and the coins bounced and rolled in all directions. Instinctively I dropped to the floor to begin the task of retrieval. I quickly gathered her entire payment into the palm of my hand and gently extended my hand to the woman …whose back was still facing me. She turned slowly and deliberately, (only later did I consider it a mustering of courage) and the old woman looked me in the face with the gentle eyes of a long lived life.
There was a white surgical bandage running the length of her face, starting at forehead space between her eyes and stopping just short of her thin and chapped lips. More startling than the presence of this white bandage was the absence of the bump from her nose. The bandage was neatly placed, without wrinkle, and placed as smoothly against her skin as it would have been upon a tabletop. I could hear the insensitive gasps of shoppers behind me and I squared my shoulders to block them from her view. I kept my eyes locked on hers and with a genuine smile I took her small hand and placed her coins into them. Her hesitancy broke my heart and in the same moment I suggested that if she was interested in throwing her money away that she might give me a moment to prepare a bag for catching it. With this small joke the cashier giggled and the old woman smiled and spoke to me for the first time; an offer of thanks and an explanation of age for her clumsy nature. With that, the old woman was gone and I was left with my silent curiosities and a total abandonment of my earlier impatience.
On the ride home the old woman dominated my thoughts. Again I considered the events of her life that had led her to this moment. The courage and strength she must wear out of the safety of her home like a coat and the sheer pleasure of a simple outing to the Dollar Stop. This was a teachable moment for me.
What I take for granted can sometimes be as obvious as the nose on my face.
February 9, 2009 · 1:58 pm
In 2006 I was dying. I was diagnosed with a voracious and debilitating disease that ate away at my mind, body and spirit. I was diagnosed with cancer. Upon hearing my diagnosis, I knew myself to be dead within 24 hours. I had been forever linked to a new race of people, a casualty of a physical war upon my body with a stigma of epic proportions. In a matter of moments my identity of strength, health and confidence was wiped clean only to be replaced by weakness, pity and fear. Total strangers would sigh their pity as I passed them and even my friends and family would avert their eyes from mine as my last eyelash came floating down before them. I was alone… alone with death.
A diagnosis of cancer brings together a combination of two unfortunate diseases in one – a double whammy of stress and strain. Physical cancer eats away at your cells with the sole intention of your eventual death and emotional cancer attacks your mind and your spirit but is as equally dangerous and unforgiving.
Not all cancers are the same, nor are all emotional impacts, but what I have determined to be true is that if left unchecked and ignored the emotional cancer can be your death… even if your body lives on. Physical cancer affects you individually; emotional cancer is contagious and can infect those around you. I have found this cancer, the emotional cancer, to be the most debilitating, the one that caused me the most suffering, and the most widely misunderstood and untreated cancer of them all.
We’ve been conditioned to fear cancer, and we do so dutifully. We fear – we fear what cancer does, we fear the mystery of it, we fear loss of life, incapacitation and loss of control. We avoid the discussion, we encourage those afflicted to think positive and we turn our loved ones into warriors insisting that they are not trying hard enough should treatment be failing. Cancer causes suffering, not just for some, but for all who are touched by it. There may be varying degrees but it’s not just some who struggle with fear and self-pity while others show courage and strength, everyone afflicted will have moments of each; its only the moments that you see them that you may pass judgement and decide for them. The emotional cancer is a culmination of all the dark feelings as well as the courageous and hopeful feelings all rolling around together competing to come out on top. Who wins one day is a coin toss really, and each day (or hour for that matter) can be different. These dark feelings are where our fears are; this is the mystery of cancer. It’s important to know that the cancer itself is not the monster, it’s our perceptions of it that makes it our reality. Recognizing our feelings and accepting that we will be engulfed in varying emotions from time to time is the first step in understanding the truth about cancer. Emotions are raw and honest and there is no shame in being human and allowing yourself to feel. When you understand this truth, then you can begin to teach hope.