Total Pageviews

Monday, October 22, 2012

Criticism, Revisions and the Like...

     Every writer knows about revisions and helpful criticism. It is part of the writing life. First we write the story, then we have a few people read it (perhaps a critique group.) If there are four people in the group, you might receive four different views, various criticisms and error findings. This is all good. What one misses the other catches. The more input, the better. We take what's beneficial and then we send it off to our agent or editor. In most cases the manuscript will be returned with requested revisions.
     It is best not to view suggested revisions as negative criticism. Sometimes we get too attached to our way of telling a story, when there is indeed a better way to do it. Besides, criticism is good. It teaches us to write better and turn out a good manuscript.  While nobody likes criticism, it is simply something we, as writers, have to accept and acknowledge. Criticism is not meant to hinder, but to push us forward.
     Rarely will we not be advised of needed revisions in order to make our book worthy of publication, and even some published novels/books still have an error or two.
     Sometimes I think it is impossible to submit a perfect manuscript. The goal is to try our best to polish it and abide by the suggestions of our agent and/or editor. It is always best to strive for an error-free submission. Our good work reflects on those who represent and publish us. 
     A critique partner or group is a must. It is like having another or several pairs of eyes to catch errors and awkward sentences that we miss. There have been times when I've read my own work several times and missed the same error that a member of my critique group spotted right off. It also saves the agent or editor from sorting through a barrage of errors. There will probably still be changes needed, but the manuscript will be tighter and cleaner after the critique group or partner went through it.
     Best to not rush revisions and resubmit a clean manuscript than to hurry the changes, in order to get it back to an agent or editor as soon as possible. Unless of course, there is a deadline. Even then, find a time when you can work at a calm pace and not feel rushed to get to other work, chores, and so forth.
    Hey, being asked for revisions is never a bad thing. It certainly beats a rejection, and even then, we learn something through the experience.
    So, revise on!  Welcome criticism and add the knowledge gained from it to your next novel or non-fiction book. Imagine how it was back in the day of typewriters and no computers? Now,that would make revisions quite the dreaded challenge.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Research Tools

   One of the best tools for research when traveling to places of interest for a story, is the camera. I find it better than notes. I can go back and look at the photos and give an accurate description of a particular area, tools of the trade of certain cultures, and so on.  For example, the Amish people in one of the districts in upstate, NY have brown buggy tops, while other areas, such as Lancaster, PA, have black. The same goes for the bonnets that the women and girls wear. They are brown in some areas and black in others.
   Not all of us live in the country or near farmland, so an accurate description of barns, fields and the general topography can all be fine tuned by going over photos taken in such places. Or it might be that  the country is home and it's the city environment that is not familiar.
   Even if a story doesn't call for much research in so far as having to go visit a particular area, it's helpful to take photos of sunsets, sunrises, the ocean, lakes, the changes of the seasons, a bustling city...whatever is within our vicinity so as to capture what we hope to put into words at a later date.
   Don't forget the photos of friends and/or family who might have traveled to a place you are interested in writing about but cannot travel to. And if you can't travel or obtain photos from others, then search online for those places of interest and save the photos in a file so you can go back and look at them as needed.
   Of course, the Internet is a valuable tool for research, especially for those who cannot travel due to family, health or time constrictions. If we can't get to a place we need to know more about, there is always a message board or a blog somewhere with someone who has been to the area needing research. It's surprising how helpful this avenue of research can be.
   The imagination is a wonderful tool and in some of us, a marvelous gift. Never to be overlooked in the craft of writing stories.  Many memorable children's books came directly from the imagination of the author. And with that, many a child's imagination has grown from such stories.
    The good old fashioned notepad is not to be overlooked. Even if an iPad is available. Good to back it up just in case it is lost or stolen, not uncommon these days. Always keep a small notebook and pencil in your purse, suit pocket or briefcase, traveling to and from work, going on outings or even just getting to everyday places, like the supermarket. Keep one on the night stand too. You never know when a good idea will hit, and isn't it frustrating when you awake in the morning knowing you had a good idea during the night, but forgot it?
    Books on the topic of interest to be written about is a big part of research. Read about what you want to write about, be it historical novels, Amish ones, particular cookbooks, children's stories and so forth. If you can't afford to purchase the books, go to the local library or buy used copies at a lower price online. Lots of us might say that we have no time to read, what with chores, a job and trying to get a certain amount of words written each day. So, consider the reading as homework for your craft. Read in bed, on the train or bus going to or from work, while waiting for something to cook, in a waiting room at the doctor or dentist. Even in the car while waiting for your child to come out of school. Once you start to read good books in the genre you are interested in writing, the desire to read will take care of itself.
    Next time we'll talk about criticism of our cherished words...ouch!