Please excuse any mess around here while blog is undergoing damage repair.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What? A Shoe Without a Heel?

There's obviously been some kind of mistake! How could anyone walk in a shoe like this? This week, I've been talking about how my manuscript wasn't ready when I first queried it. So far, my discussions have been limited to the obvious--the uneducated errors that distinguish a newbie from a more seasoned novelist, things like word count and grammar. Like this shoe, these things stand up and shout, "Something isn't right here!" But what about the more subtle deficiencies? You know, those underlying issues that aren't so obvious--things like passive sentences and purple prose. Unlike word count and grammar, these deficiencies don't come with a formula for solution. There are no set standards for the number of times you can use "was" in your manuscript. There's no predetermined limit on descriptive adverbs and adjectives. And there's no word processing program tool to tell you when your writing has become melodramatic. These issues can only be remedied by studying the craft and improving our skills by writing on a daily basis. We can look at the publishing industry in this day, and think of all the negatives--too many writers, not enough agents, fewer books being published, etc. But one positive is this: So many established authors, agents, and editors have opened up their brains for us to have a glimpse of their knowledge of the craft. Sometimes, it's through a simple blog. Other times, it's handed to us in book format. Either way, they are sharing with us the things we wouldn't have access to otherwise. There are so many great resources out there for improving our writing skills. Have you taken advantage of them? If so, I'd love to hear what blog, book, article, or website you have found most helpful in your journey. Feel free to mention Stephen King's On Writing, but be sure to spell his name correctly, unlike I did in Tuesday's post. You never know...he could be reading our blogs.

32 comments:

Stephanie Faris said...

GMC: Goal, Motivation, & Conflict by Debra Dixon. It's a MUST read. It transformed my writing. Here's a link:

http://www.debradixon.com/gmc.html

storyqueen said...

I love reading about writing....and blogs are my favorite right now. When a writer is honest and opens up......it's so cool.

Thanks for being cool!

Shelley

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Where do you get these pictures of shoes? You've got a cool thing going with this blog!

I read too many craft books and blogs to count, but one craft book I've found helpful from day one is Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King, I believe. It's one that grows with the writer. Each new read helps me improve a little more.

MeganRebekah said...

Oh that shoe creeps me out on so many levels.

Edittorent.blogspot.com is my favorite website for learning about the craft and editing. It's helped me tighten up my WIP, even as I write it and not just in an editing stance.

jbchicoine said...

My fist big investment was The Chicago Manual of Style. That was good for a comprehensive answer to technical stuff. Strucks’s, The Elements of Style made it digestible. Stephen Kings, On Writing put it all in perspective. The blogs I find tremendously helpful are The Literary Lab and The Blood Red Pencil.

The newest and coolest thing I learned is how to embed a hyperlink in a comment, and I figured that out all on my own—yippee!

Patti said...

I think we should all get together and create a software program that will pick out those things you mentioned. We would be rich.

Right now the blogs have been the most helpful and mostly because they make me think of things that I might have missed.

Jungle Mom said...

I am learning as I go. There is so much I never knew! I am reading and working my way through 'Your life as Story' by Tristine Rainer as I endeavor to write my memoirs.

Strange Fiction said...

Great post LW! There is a lot of wonderful information (and support) available to guide us on our writing journey. I gain something from every book, blog, article, and discussion that I come across. I may not agree with all of the ‘advice’, all of the time—but every little bit that I take in is teaching me something and taking me farther down the road. I’ve learned to pick out the bits of info that resonate and toss the ones that don’t. (Like that nasty looking shoe! lol) I attempted to revise my first book far too many times before I realized that I wasn’t going to please all of the people all of the time. My hope is that if I just keep writing and moving forward, everything I’ve learned will come together in the end.

Karen said...

I love, LOVE Stephen King's On Writing. Wonderful book! I also have gotten a lot of great advice from the website www.castingthebones.com. This site is for fiction in general, whether it is for novels or screenplays or what have you. But it's a great resource if you're stuck on character development, moving the plot along, any of that.

And, just for fun, I occasionally wander onto 101 Reasons to Stop Writing. It's actually pretty motivating, in a backward sort of way.

Amy Tate said...

Susan, my critique group took turns reading each chapter of my manuscript out loud. It was only then that I caught those little words that I used too many times. It was also a great way to analyze the rhythm.

Tess said...

Oh, there are lots of good ones....Strunk & Whites, Bird by Bird, The Architecture of Story are some of my tried and trues.

And, that poor shoe model! ouch.

Lori said...

Advice... I have a little something lately against any type of writing advice. I'm fed up--a phase, which will pass. Bird by bird by Anne Lamott is by far my favorite book on writing.

K. M. Walton said...

King's, On Writing is one of my favorite books. Also love Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott - read each book multiple times.

And then I always go back to novels that I love and use them as mentor texts. I'll check to see how the published writer does whatever it is I'm trying to do. Very, very helpful.

Dawn VanderMeer said...

Great post! You do such a nice job here!

Most of my favorites have been named. THE WRITER'S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler is fabulous, and it doesn't only apply to screenplays (which I don't write). Think story.

Stephen King, if you're reading this, ON WRITING rocks.

Shelli said...

the book "The First Five Pages" took me from an ameteur writer to a more professional writer. You'd be surprised how much the little things can set you apart.

Lazy Writer said...

Everyone,
I'm checking back in a little late today so I'm not going to attempt to reply to each of you individual. Thank you all for your suggestions! I've read some of them, but a few I haven't heard of. And thank you for your nice compliments about my blog. It makes me feel good. :)

FictionGroupie said...

I devour the writing/editing/agent blogs, they are so helpful. And I'm a bit of an addict with books on writing. Some of my favorites: Stephen King's On Writing, The Book on Writing by Paula LaRocque, Scene by Scene by Jordan Rosenfeld , and Your First Novel by Ritterberg and Whitcomb.

Weronika said...

Oh, man, oh, man, oh, MAN. I really hate thinking about these subtle deficiencies because if, as a writer, you don't know about them and/or can't recognize them, it's going to be hard to solve them.

So, like many of those above, I devour the blogs of published authors, editors, agents, etc., online. I devour books on writing -- rereading my favorites time and time again. I pray. I sit back and think about my project.

It's a tough business. Unfortunately.

Lesley said...

You are so creative! I love the way you tie your shoe photos into your blog posts. Very nice.

I'm a commercial copywriter, and a book called "The Well Fed Writer" by Peter Bowerman helped me get started. It's a simple, encouraging, practical book. I believe he has a new book about self-publishing. Might be worth a look.

Lily said...

Thank you Susan, for this blog! I've taken notes on a lot of titles to shop for... SK's first. Seems to be an all-time favorite that I have not read.

I follow tons of agent blogs that I find extremely valuable. I add new ones on a daily basis.

I'll check back later to see what else I should add to my book list.

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

Loved the post, but two things resonate--melodramatic writing and passive sentences--I work very hard to avoid those things and they still creep in! I'm also working on understanding queries. The writing world might as well be on another planet.

Strange Fiction said...

I love Stephen King's 'On Writing' and I'm currently reading Anne Lamott's 'bird by bird'. Will have to check out all of these recommendations!

Jenn Johansson said...

I literally check out a different book on writing every time I go to the library. There is a lot of great information out there.

One place that I think I have learned the most is writers conferences and workshops.

They are awesome! :)

Diane said...

Great thoughts and I hope he is reading your blog. Why not!?!?!?!

Abby said...

Something for you over on my blog. :D

Anna C. Morrison said...

Aside from the great posts, I love your shoe tie-ins!

Kathryn Magendie said...

Anne LaMotts Bird by Bird - I read it years ago and loved it -- I want to pick it up again just to touch base with her words again and see how it reads to my now that I've published a book.

Your shoes made me think of a girl I saw in Las Vegas - OMG I'd almost forgotten about her and her shoes and how they made her walk with her knees bent and knockkneed - she was miserable - I heard her say "I hate you" to her friends ....she had on shoes similar to those in your photo

Tabitha Bird said...

LOL- I asked the same question on my blog today :) I follow Nathan Bransford, Rachel Gardner (sorry, don't think I spelt them right) and a bunch of others. The most helpful though are writer blogs. I have learnt so much since getting connected to other writers.

Jessica said...

That shoe is hilarious!

I used to haunt blogs and author websites. I went through RWA's list of author websites looking for writer tips. I'm very thankful for all of the generous authors/editors/agents who share their knowledge with us. :-)

WhisperingWriter said...

Stephen King rocks. I do have that book and love it.

I also have Book Publishing for Dummies I'm embarrassed to say..

Faith said...

Well, I haven't used it quite yet... but I plan to start Holly Lisle's 'Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers' this September. I've heard nothing but great things about it and have great respect for Holly, so I'm really looking forward to it! We'll see how it goes :)

Glynis said...

I am a Holly Lisle fan too, she keeps me motivated.

Victoria Beckham (spice girls), is the wearer of those shoes btw...enough said LOL