Tag Archives: perfect

Another thought on “perfection”

I should have a “perfection” category on my blog. I’ve had a lot of posts related to those. The reason is that I want things to be perfect in my writing, but I know I can’t have that.

I go to a monthly writer’s group where we often will write a short piece and share it with the group, get feedback on it, etc. We keep the writing under 2,000 words, so it’s a nice easy writing exercise, at least for me. I love short pieces. But in the month between when we decide what we’re going to write, and when I actually share it with the group, I probably read and edit it at least three or four times. I go to the group and share it, hoping to get lots of good feedback and suggestions on how to improve it and most often what I get is this kind of stunned silence and a general, “That’s really good” comment. It sometimes frustrates me because I look at it and see all the problems. That’s my biggest stumbling block when it comes to publishing stories. I keep reworking them because I never feel like they’re perfect.

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I recently had an incredible experience in regards to this. One of my writing friends, Julia Ward, just published her first book. Every writer talks about how their novel is their baby. Well if Julia’s novel was her baby, I was the novel’s Auntie. I was there through the writing stage of the book, the editing stage of the book, the “why did I write this? It’s awful!” stage of the book, the “Oh wait, there are a few funny parts. Actually, this is pretty good,” stage of the book and finally the, “Holy crap, I’m just about to hit the publish button!” stage of the book. Through the whole thing, I saw that endless struggle for perfection, that endless self-doubt that she would ever be able to reach it. It was the same kind of feeling I had when working on my first novel, the same kind of doubt that it would be any good.

When the novel came out, I picked up my copy and started reading. It was cute, it was fun, it was funny. It wasn’t perfect, but I really didn’t care. I enjoyed it, and I was glad I had it to read. And it made me realize that, yes, I strive to make my novel the best it can be, and that struggle makes it such a much more enjoyable read to someone else, but I will never get it perfect, and I don’t need to, because people want to be transported to some other world, some other life, and as long as the imperfections aren’t extremely distracting, they’re happy to read what has been written.

If you’re interested in Julia’s debut novel, go check it out It really is a great read. (And I’m not biased, being the novel’s Auntie.)

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.

Sometimes… You just have to do it your way.

I think there’s a saying in the bible I need to use.

“I shall repent myself.”

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post all about staying focused as an author. I went on and on about how the difference between being a writer and an author was about caring enough about getting stuff finished that you actually worked on something until… it was finished. And just one something.

I was guilty of the opposite a lot before that blog post. In fact, as a kid I used to open five or six documents and work on multiple stories at one time.

The post I wrote was timely for me, and an important step in my progress as a writer. The truth is, I really hadn’t been focusing. I had wanted for a long time to be able to get something published, but I’d work on something for a while, get bored, then go do something else and never come back to the first thing.

Lately I’ve been letting myself feel guilty. As most of you know, I was part of this “It Gets Darker As You Go” anthology. So I focused on writing and editing the short story for that. And then thanks to that I remembered what fun it is to write short stories, so I crafted one titled “The Life of Miranda Chance” and edited one called “An Acceptable Future,” both of which will be coming out shortly. Then I started thinking about “Slavery’s Circle,” the first novel in my next trilogy that I’ll be releasing when I’m done with the Afterdeath series.

But with all of this focus going in all these different directions, I wasn’t working on Turning Point, which is book two in my Afterdeath series. There was kind of a dual reason why my attention wasn’t on the novel. The first was because I just don’t really know where to take it. I’ve written the entire novel already, and the revisions are going hard and slow. The second was because it was just fun to slip back into my old routine of multiple projects at once.

It was last night that I had a moment of genius, and I realized that even though picking one work and focusing on it is a good tactic, and it was certainly a great thing for me to do when I wrote Love is Death, that it’s not necessarily “required” of being an author.

Last night I opened up two documents. I opened Turning Point, and I opened Slavery’s Circle. I got one chapter revised on the Turning Point, and three chapters done on Slavery’s Circle. Now I realize, there’s a greater focus on the book that I’m not planning to put out right away, but it was time well spent, because otherwise I would have been surfing the internet or wasting my time creating a cover for some book I probably won’t publish for a few more months. Last night, though, when my mind hit its usual brick wall on Turning Point, I simply turned to my other novel. My productivity skyrocketed. Even if not all my time was spent on the one I’m supposed to “focus” on, I spent all my time writing, and the other book I was focusing on was one that will need to be finished eventually.

It’s great to pick one thing and focus, and there is definitely a time when that’s appropriate. In my opinion, NaNoWriMo is great for doing this. But at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with doing it your own way, doing what you’re most comfortable with. Even if that means writing two books at one time. With Camp NaNoWriMo coming up in July, I actually plan to work on both novels. I’ll be setting word count goals that I want to achieve for both Turning Point and Slavery’s Circle. I’ll be focusing. I’ll just be focusing on two things at once. Which, honestly, is something I do really well.

Have fun. And enjoy the writing.

3 ways to avoid inconsistency

Think… Monsters Inc. Remember that line, when Mike and Sully leave the apartment and Mike says to Sully, “You’ve been jealous of my looks since the fourth grade.” Remember that? Good.

Now, think… Monsters University. And how jealous Sully was of his good looks in the… Fourth grade? Wait.

The entire premise of Monsters University makes that line in Monsters Inc completely impossible. Not to mention they act like they’ve never met the Abominable Snowman when they get banished in Monsters Inc, but the end of Monsters University flips that on it’s head as well.

You can’t blame Monsters Inc too much. I mean, how long was it between the first movie and the second? Time between storytelling is a perfect excuse for inconsistency. Just take a look at X-men. Which one? Oh, take your pick. You can pretty much sit down and watch any two x-men movies and there will probably be something that contradicts something else.  My favorite is “X-men Origins: Wolverine” versus “The Wolverine.” We find out in Origins that Logan had bone-claws, got them fused with adamantium, and then shortly thereafter lost all memory of his life before. But the opening sequence in the Wolverine shows Logan hanging in a well using his bone claws to hold him up. When this scene is mentioned later in the show, Logan seems to remember the occurrence.

inconsistency

photo credit: mememaker.net

Inconsistencies pop up in almost any series, and even in standalone stories. What we say at “once upon a time” might conflict with what we say at “happily ever after.” We’re never going to be able to make that perfect (That’s a recurring theme throughout my blog) but here are some pieces of advice you can try to minimize them.

Style Sheets

I learned about Style Sheets in an editing class I took a few months ago. Basically it’s one piece of paper, or excel document, or whatever works best for your mind, where you write down anything that you might forget. Did you spell your main character’s name Marc or Mark? Write that down. Did your supporting character tell his friend he has a severe peanut allergy? Write it down, because you don’t want him eating a PB&J halfway through the book. (Unless you intend to do a hospital scene shortly thereafter.)

Style sheets are going to help you out in keeping things straight for the novel you’re working on, but if you end up writing a series, make sure to keep your style sheets from book one and two, etc. They will be invaluable. It means you won’t have to go back and read through the first few books while you’re trying to write the next one. That being said, it leads me into my next tip.

Read what you wrote

I know this one seems a bit obvious. But it’s a little more than that. I suppose I should say “read what you wrote, and read it fast.” Don’t skim, because you might skim over the inconsistencies. But before you hit “publish” on that novel, read through the whole book, not with an eye to edit or “fix” it, but with an eye to catch any inconsistencies. It’s incredible how taking a whole afternoon and crashing through your novel, (kind of like one of your addicted readers might do) can help you realize you said one thing in chapter 2 and something else in chapter 28.

And last but not least,

Know your weaknesses

This one I might just be preaching to myself, but I know my weaknesses when it comes to inconsistencies. I might write something on page 87 that says the drive would take seventeen hours to get out to the test site. Perfect. But on page 92, after they’ve done their tests, gotten some lunch, shot the breeze, or whatever, they get in the car to head home and show up just before dinner.

I know I’m awful at timeline stuff. Some people could just put timeline stuff in their style sheet and have no problem. That doesn’t work for me. I invested in a timeline program just last year, and absolutely love it. I can keep track of when things happen, and can even put in notes of how long google says it takes to get from point A to point B. It gives my story a lot more realistic feel to it, when I can say “it took us a day and a half to get to L.A.” rather than just saying, “Sometime later we arrived in L.A.”

So what techniques do you use to keep track of and avoid your inconsistencies? Let me know in the comments below.

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.

 

My Turn to Rave

I know it’s been a while since my last blog post, but here’s why.

I just edited a 56,000 word novel in 10 days. Not to mention having to take care of children and do all the other amazing things I do.

I’m not saying the following things to brag about myself, more to brag about my editor. My editor had a lot of really nice things to say about my novel, Love is Death. You know, it’s great to have your family and friends read your work and tell you it’s good, but there’s just something different about having a professional look at your work and tell you this was a great story and she really enjoyed it.

And speaking of professional, that’s what my editor is. She had a chance to rave about my book in her comments and emails to me, and now it’s my turn to rave about her.

Let me tell you a little more. The “Edited By” acknowledgement of my novel will proudly hold the name Miranda Miller of Editing Realm. Their “tagline” at Editing Realm is “High-quality editing services at affordable prices!” and that’s the truth. I had been looking for an editor for a few weeks before I found Editing Realm, and I was seeing quotes of $2,000, $3,000, sometimes even $5,000 for my novel. It was simply unattainable. I have to be honest, when I stumbled upon Editing Realm’s services I was a little leery of how cheap the prices were, but I desperately wanted an editor, and I figured if I made a mistake picking them, then at least it wasn’t an extremely expensive mistake.

Now that I’m done with my edits, I can assure you it wasn’t a mistake at all.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that an editor should improve your work, but not change your voice. Miranda was brilliant at exactly that. She immediately identified several of my weaknesses: My characters looked a lot. (look, people gotta look at things worth looking at, right?) Using repetitive phrases repetitively, (see previous parenthetical.) Passive voice, (Although the passive voice was trying to be fixed by me as the author as I was doing my own edits.) Oh… And overuse of ellipses… but, I mean… they’re just so dramatic when you have ten of them in one sentence… aren’t they?

Sorry if that previous sentence was painful to read. It was a bit painful to write, and I totally got off track with it. Miranda was probably twitching as she read it.

Not only did she find my weaknesses, but she strengthened my word choice. She was like a magician. I brought in this beat up old parrot of a word, she put it in a box, waved her magic wand and out came a shinning, glorious new dove of a word. I mean, I use the thesaurus sometimes and end up pulling out a pterodactyl, but pretty much every word change she suggested I looked at and thought, That’s a perfect word for that. Why didn’t I think of that word?

As I started out this post saying, Miranda had a lot of great things to say about the story as it went on. As authors, we don’t get to hear our readers’ gasps when that love interest gets hurt or see their eye rolls when that antagonist does something stupid. Miranda put those gasps and eye rolls in the comments, as well as a lot of really great suggestions on how to improve the characters and flow.

I had a few questions and several scenes that I had changed heavily in the edits. I sent them to her and she was always quick to respond, and clear in her answers.

My point is that I want to tell the world, (or at least, anyone who reads my blog) all about Miranda Miller of Editing Realm. I will definitely be using her for my future novels, and have already recommended her to a friend who is planning to publish soon as well. She has erased one of the major concerns I had about self-publishing, and that was having a book that I didn’t feel was truly “polished.” It’s less than a month until my novel hits the virtual shelves, and I couldn’t be more excited.

So have fun, and enjoy the writing, (or editing as the case may be.)

Publish this, Publish that.

I’ve been writing this blog for a few months now, and as you may have noticed one of the themes that comes up in my posts quite often is perfection, (or the lack thereof.) Mostly I’ve been writing about perfection because I need to come to terms with my realization that I’m not, and I won’t be perfect, and that’s okay.

So a lot of my posts have helped prepare me for publishing my upcoming novel by letting me work out the thoughts and worries I have about publishing, but they’ve also helped in a much more practical way.

They’ve helped because I’ve been publishing them.

I write my posts. I read them, (probably two or three…or eight times) and then I click on the little blue button that says “Publish.”

I love that it says publish, because it’s giving me practice for that moment when I click my own “Publish” button on my novel. Just like my blog posts, it will not be perfect. it won’t be interesting to everyone. Some people might read the first few paragraphs. Some might get halfway through and then get struck with an acute case of boredom. While yet others might get all the way through and rave about how wonderful it was. (By the way, if you’d like to rave about how wonderful this post is in the comments, I wouldn’t mind. 😉

The fact is, though, that I’m publishing it. I’m putting it out there for others to see. I’m talking about it and sharing it, and giving other people the opportunity to like it or to hate it. Because writing is meant to be read. Ideas are meant to be shared, be they the small ideas expressed in a few hundred-word blog post, or the big ideas expressed in a 60,000 word novel.

So now that I’ve finished writing this blog post, I’m going to read through it a few times, and then I’m going to push that pretty blue “Publish” button. And in one month and eight days, I will click the Publish button on a different website, the one that will make my debut novel available to anyone who wants to read it.

I love it.

So have fun. And enjoy the writing.

 

Painted Blind

Here’s my debut book review post. I’ll be reviewing a wide range of styles and books. Here we have a YA Romance, but I have plans to review a classic Scifi novel, a western, a post-apocalypse novel, a romance novel, and many, many other genres. Just like with my writing, I really enjoy reading a wide variety of genres. So let’s get started.

I must say, this is an excellent book to start with. Not only because my debut published novel will be YA romance, but because this is by far one of the best books I have read in a while. I rave about it. I told my mom and all my sisters to read it. Told my friends at church to read it. I’ve picked it up and skimmed the pages a few times since I finished it.

I know. You’re wondering what this amazing book is. Let me welcome to the spotlight…

Painted Blind by Michelle A. Hansen.

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Every story has a story, and I would like to tell the story of how I got this story. (Whew. My editor would be like, “Repeated word usage here.” I know. Sorry.)

I picked this book up at an author conference back in October. Michelle had two books and I asked her which she recommended for me and she suggested this one. After reading it I’m ready to go get her other novel; Before They Find Us.

But first, let me tell you about Painted Blind.

This is a case of bad inductive reasoning. I bought Painted Blind at the same time as I bought another book that I…um…did not enjoy. So Sherlock mind of mine assumed that this story would be exactly the same. Don’t think about the fact that it was by a different author, was a different story, different category, etc. etc.

So it went home with me and sat on my bookshelf for three months. One afternoon I was cleaning up around the book shelf, noticed it, and thought, “Hmm. I should give this book a chance.” So I took it upstairs and put it on my headboard. Where it waited another week.

Then one late evening while I was feeding my sweet little baby, I was bored. What better way to cure boredom than to pick up a book. Thankfully, Painted Blind was on my headboard.

I read the prologue, and thought, Hmm. Interesting.

I read the first chapter and thought, Very interesting.

By the end of the second chapter I was hooked. Oh. No. Every fear Psyche had in the first chapter has now come true. I needed to find out what she would do, so I chewed through that book in a couple of days, (which is an impressive feat when you have two young children at home.)

What’s it about? you ask. Well…

Psyche is a down-to-earth drop-dead gorgeous girl who has just gotten back to her small Montana hometown after a summer of modeling. She promised her dad when she left that there would be no nude photo shoots, and she…mostly…kept that promise, but that one single shoot she did that was questionable, ends up on a billboard in the center of town.

She meets Erik, a mysterious and–strangely–invisible young man who is willing to help her out of all the trouble and publicity she’s dealing with because of the ad.

They pretty much fall madly in love with each other. Want more details, go read the book. I’m just going to spend the rest of the time telling you why it was so perfect. (Well, almost perfect. Make sure to read my post about that here.) I could go on forever writing all my reasons, and explaining them to death, but I’m just going to turn it into a nice little list.

  1. The Hook: I felt like Michelle did a great job of introducing the conflict right off the bat. The end of chapter one leaves us with some foreshadowing of what’s about to come. By the end of chapter two, Psyche has seen her face and nearly naked body on a billboard in the center of town.
  2. The Conflict: There is constantly increasing conflict in the story. As I read I thought, “oh yeah. That’s bad, but…she can fix it.” then something happened, and I thought, “Yeah. That’s worse. But she can still get out of it.” And then…something worse happened. Every time I started to feel like things would work out and Psyche could solve this on her own without too much pain, then there was another problem and another.
  3. The Pacing: This is kind of related to the above, but the pacing was really good, (for the most part…more on this later.) I would read a chapter and feel all tense and worked up, and then she’d put in this chapter where the hero and heroine just talked and hung out. It was a real nice break from the stress of the novel. Then she’d hammer me again with another problem.
  4. The relationship: More of my brilliant inductive reasoning that I mentioned above came into play here. When I read the blurb on the back of the book I thought, “A hero who’s invisible? How the heck are we supposed to fall in love with that?” You know how? Banter. I loved the way the two characters talked. The relationship, the conversations were natural and funny. One of the few books I’ve read that has made me actually, literally laugh out loud. (I chuckle sometimes when reading, but full on laughing? Not often.)
  5. The Characters: Besides having a really great hero and heroine, the supporting characters in this book were great. I was having an internal battle trying to decide if I was more in love with Rory or Aeas as supporting characters. Not sure that I decided which, but I do have to say, the epilogue made me laugh and cry. (and it has to do with Rory, so he might have won the battle.) I love to mention the characters I love, but my goodness, she can make you really hate some characters, too. The only word I can come up with to describe the antagonist is “despicable,” (and not in the cute “despicable Me” way.) But last of all when talking about the characters, I simply can’t leave out that I truly feel awful for the poor wolf that got pepper sprayed. To this day I think about that pup and just want to join in its pitiful yips and whines.
  6. The Settings: I swear, I felt like I was traveling the world as I read this book. The settings were absolutely beautiful, and stunningly described.

Whew. Now that the list is over, just a few more things and then I’ll let it be.

There is only one major complaint I have about the novel. I personally felt like the journey leading up to Psyche’s final task was too long and drawn out. Don’t get me wrong, the descriptions and setting were beautiful, and I actually had the opportunity to ask Michelle a few questions and think I understand the reason for the rather drawn-out journey, but I found myself feeling extremely bored in those couple of chapters. The ending is worth slogging through them, though, and here’s why…

She’s a princess.

Yeah. It’s a YA novel. Like, every girl becomes a princess, right?

Well that’s not what I said. She doesn’t become a princess. I said she IS a princess. The whole book long.

I’ll try not to give too much of the ending away, (but seriously, it’s a romance. If I tell you they lived happily ever after I’m sure you won’t be surprised.) So I’ll just say it. They live happily ever after. And at one point near the very end, Psyche stands up and commands people–just like a princess. When I read that scene I had to stop and think for a moment. Was she acting out of character to give such royal commands? Where did she learn to be a princess and act like that?

As I reflected on the book, I realized that she acted that way throughout the entire story. I won’t tell you where, but as you read it, (because you should) keep an eye out for her princessly acts. You may be as pleasantly surprised as I was to realize that she is royal to her soul.

This point alone was what made me love the book so much. As a mom, even though my children are young, I am constantly on the lookout for novels that portray the kinds of values that I believe are important. Having morals is one of those values I respect. In Painted Blind, Psyche was real. She held standards for herself, but they were part of who she was, not just thrown in in order to make a point. They were integral to the storyline, and she certainly wasn’t perfect in upholding those standards at times. Her imperfection is what gets her in trouble, but her willingness to change and stand for her values at the end is what saves her. I have read some YA novels by christian writers who force their character to have morals. Those books feel more like a lecture than a novel. I believe it’s important to show morals in a realistic way, with the characters failing and screwing up sometimes, because, let’s be honest, nobody is perfect.

So there you have it, basically every reason I could think of for you to go out and buy the book. When I get enough time to read her other book, I will almost certainly be posting another review here again. So tell me what you think in the comments section. Have you read the book? Did you love it, or am I crazy? If you haven’t read the book…Um, what are you waiting for? Buying it is, like, two clicks away.Michelle A Hansen 2015 small

A big thanks to Michelle A. Hansen for writing her book, and for sharing some fun insights into the project through an email conversation. Perhaps if anyone is interested I’ll write another post and share some of the info she said I could use on my blog. This one’s already really long, though, so…

Have fun and enjoy the writing.

 

Perfection or Publication…You Pick

My last blog post talked about changing your mindset from a “writer” to an “author,” and I mentioned a little something about perfection. I want to go more into that today.

One of the biggest problems I had when I spent my time as a “writer” was that I kept waiting for my book to be perfect. I waffled between self publishing and traditional publishing for a long time. (I may talk more about that in yet another post.) But I had these two thoughts:

  1. If I go with a traditional publisher, they’ll provide an editor for me. I won’t have to worry about it being perfect…but if it’s terrible, then they won’t even pick it up. I should do another two or three revisions.
  2. If I decide to self-publish, I don’t want to be like one of those writers who throws a book together, maybe reads it once or twice, and then puts it up on Amazon for the world to see. I should do another six or eight revisions.

I was stuck in a circle of seeking perfection, and never got it ready to publish. A friend reminded me today of the aphorism “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” That search for perfection may very well have been the cause of my distraction as a writer. I would sit down to revise it and get frustrated because it wasn’t perfect and it never would be, so I would work on a new book instead, because first drafts don’t have to be perfect. Published manuscripts do. (At least, that was what I thought)

And then…Painted Blind.

I’ll be posting a book review of Michelle A. Hansen’s novel titled Painted Blind on Wednesday, but let me tell you just a little bit about it now. I met Michelle at a writer’s conference last October. I asked her which of her two books I would like best and she suggested Painted Blind. So I bought it, brought it home, then put it on my shelf and forgot about it for three months. Long story short, when I finally decided to pick it up, I couldn’t put it down. I loved it. And do you know what? I found a few errors.

I didn’t throw the book in the trash and walk away from it. I didn’t circle every error in red pen and send the novel back to the author. No way. I saw it, thought, “Oops. That was supposed to be gait, not gate” and then kept reading to find out what would happen to poor Psyche.

It wasn’t perfect. But it was published, which gave me the opportunity to read it and experience a story that I absolutely loved. If Michelle had refused to put that book out there until she “knew” it was “perfect” then I would never have read it.

Right now I have done the best I could do on the revisions of my upcoming novel the Afterdeath. It’s currently in the hands of my editor who will take what I’ve written and polish it up. When she’s done I have three beta readers lined up, and then Shabang…it’s off to the presses.

So the next time I ask myself, Perfect or Published? My answer will be simple.

Polished AND Published.

So what about you? Have you locked yourself in a never-ending cycle of perfection? Look at the wikipedia article about Perfect is the enemy of good. I saw my writing woes in so many of the “related concepts.” All I can say is, it won’t be perfect, but if I tell a good story, then the readers will enjoy it no matter what errors are present.

Have fun and enjoy the writing.