Category Archives: That Writing Thing

Learning From Picky Readers

Call me weird, but I read one star ratings before choosing a book to read from Amazon. Some authors complain that competitor authors troll and leave bad reviews. I have no idea about that, but I find the brutally honest one star reviews point out characterization and plot flaws. With the bad side pointed out, I move up the star ladder. By the time I read the last two five star reviews, I know if I’m buying. As a newby writer, I pay attention to the one star complaints in order to learn what works and doesn’t work, from other picky readers.

Character Spirituality?

Everyone, between radical to atheist, has experienced ‘something’ in moments of crisis or glorious amazement. Feelings of Deja vu or unexplainable intuitions are common to humankind. Therefore, as writer, why would I create characters that exist in a void? Where does strength or resolve come from? Will characters chant, meditate, or pray? Will they connect through fate or destiny?

As a real life character, I have been shaped by life lessons and traumatic events. Sometimes I have come out on top and sometimes I’ve failed but, in all, I’ve changed and grown. (see Phyllis Stories.) All I can do, as a writer, is express my inner self through my characters and hope others are encourage or inspired to keep going in life and never give up.

I appreciate Donald Maass teaching the inclusion of spirituality in the life of characters in his book, Writing the Breakout Novel (eBook edition: 2012) in which he states, “… if God is at work in the world of your novel, then you have a chance at giving your readers an experience that is humbling, joyful and maybe even transforming.” (96)

The Downside of Critiques

There is a downside to receiving critiques from multiple writers/readers. For example, ten people will have ten different opinions on grammar and views of the story which, although helpful to catch minor issues, also adds discouraging doubts into the mix.

I end up revising the story and characters so much I hear my main character screaming, “Leave me alone.” Which is exactly what the real Mary, a non conformist, would have said. So, I’m restoring LIFE to my original scenes and taking my voice back.


Generational Word Confusion

The children, in my young adult historical adventure novel, sleep on straw-stuffed pallets in 1775. A young beta reader expressed confusion. She was picturing the wooded structures boxes sit on–SIGH.

What is another word for pallet, or how do I give further details without becoming wordy from a 1st person point of view? In other words, “I lay Charlie on his straw-stuffed pallet.”

Here is an example of a 1700’s pallet on a rope bedframe, but imagine it on the ground and easy to roll out of the way. I’m thinking about adding a footnote to the page words like this are first mentioned on.

1700's Pallet


Go Set A Wat…

According to an article published on International Business Times website, March 12, 2015: “Harper Lee: Elder Abuse And Fraud Charges Investigated By State Of Alabama” by Barbara Herman. The state of Alabama is investigating allegations made by a doctor acquainted with Harper Lee, who claims “she did not seem to be lucid when he visited.” He fears Ms. Lee maybe be the victim of financial fraud due to her supposed agreement with HarperCollins to release an early draft of the book that became, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960).

If Ms. Lee had deemed her original manuscript worthy of a second look she would not have allowed it to stay tucked away. And furthermore, what writer, in their right mind, would want a rough draft published after they worked so hard rewriting the book for publication. (see my post,”Fling the Manuscript Out the Window”)

I certainly wouldn’t want my original NaNoWriMo draft published.

That Comma Thing

Oscar Wilde is credited with the following quote: “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” Source: Definitive analysis of Wilde’s comma remark:

I try, I really do. But as I read all the rules for when, how, where, and why a comma is needed my brain freezes. Creativity is stifled by the added burden and waste of time. The way I see it, by the time I send my completed book to an editor it’s going to be bloody anyway. An acquaintance, with a doctorate degree in English, once handed back a partial manuscript stating, “Stop using commas, you use too many in the wrong places, and not enough in the correct places.”  

That was my first lesson in not using a comma just because I hear a natural pause.


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