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Deja Vu Blogfest - 2017

One of my pet peeves about the way our blogosphere operates is you can miss some really awesome posts if you’re away for a while. It’s typical to miss hundreds of quality posts (depending on how many blogs you follow) while off doing other things. Most people do what I do and simply pick up with the latest post of the regular blogs they follow.  You know what that means?  You missed that post about the signing of an agent!  A book contract finalized…missed!  A cry for help...missed!  A pregnancy or birth announcement…missed!  Some other special event in a bloggers life…passed by!  I just shake my head when I think of all of the special posts I’ve missed this year.  And then there are the informative posts about the topics I’m dying to know more about, yep I probably missed some of those as well.

Since 2011 I’ve used a rather unique Blogfest to catchup with my blog reading after being distracted for various reasons (e.g. WRiTE CLUB, A-Z Challenge, NaNo, etc). It’s called the Déjà vu Blogfest, and it’s become an annual event.  So I’d like to announce this years…. 

How this blogfest works is so simple I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to do it. Sign-up to participate with Mr. Linky below, then sometime during the weekend of December 30th thru Jan 1st re-post your favorite blog offering from earlier in the year, or one that you believe failed to receive the exposure it deserved. On that weekend what everyone will be reading is the best of the best (as determined by you) from this year.  The blogosphere will be chock full 2017 writing brilliance!  Encouragement, enlightenment, knowledge, bared souls, stimulation, hilarity, insecurities, success stories!  All on display…the very same day.  And it couldn't be any easier to take writing necessary! J

Please sign-up and then shout out to all of your blogging friends and encourage them to sign up as well.  Take the badge above and plaster it everywhere, blogging graffiti gone wild. Tweet about it (#dejavu2017) and post the picture on Instagram. Sign up below and start looking through those old posts! 


After months of waiting in agony for responses to the query letters I sent to a dozen publishing houses, watching my inbox like a hawk for anything that I could classify as a positive sign, it finally came – but from an unexpected source. And the message I received, while not what I was hoping for, in the end, could actually be better than I hoped.

Let me explain (or recap).

I once had an agent (representing a different book). We parted ways after an unsuccessful round of submissions when I felt she was losing focus. My agent was an author herself and her concentration seemed to shift to her own publishing pursuits rather than helping me achieve mine. Then I wrote a different book (PRICK) and went through the whole agent-query process again, but nothing panned out. That’s when I made the decision to submit to those publishers who accept direct author submissions (most of your larger publishing houses require agent representation). So that’s what I did. I had the book professionally edited and then sent out more queries approximately two months ago. During the time since I have received requests to read the full manuscripts, and also some rejections (one of which I opened on the morning of my birthday), but nothing happened I would consider thrilling.

Until I received a phone call.

Let me back up a bit. A couple weeks after I sent out all my publisher queries the editor I used recommended I send a letter to an agent she heard was looking for just the type of book I had written. What the hell, I thought. I had given up on going the agent route, but my editor was enthusiastic, so I emailed one last letter. A week later the agent asked for the full.

Guess who was on the other end of the line when I received that phone call? Yep – the agent my editor recommended.

The agent was very complimentary of my writing, and the book…but…she had some suggestions she felt would lift the book from the “good” shelf, to the “awesome” shelf. And these suggestions weren’t minor tweaks, they were pretty major. She described it as taking a shotgun to my book as opposed to a laser, and then she proceeded to discuss those idea’s with me. And while she rattled off the changes she’d like to see take place, she also explained why the changes were necessary and how each one would impact the books commercial viability. More importantly, she “got” my characters and only offered suggestions that would strengthen them. It would be a daunting task if I were to make these changes, but the combination of the agent's enthusiasm and the excitement I felt about the possibilities she laid out for me, had me 90% convinced. The other 10% came from the agents track record. After I did a deeper dive into her history and other authors/books she represented (a list that floored me), I was sold.

Although an offer of representation wasn’t in the cards that day, she did ask me to check back by the end of February to show her what I’ve done. Things are moving once again (I started tweaking my outline that night) and I have this feeling in my stomach that both excites…and terrifies me.

Something she said to me continually rings in my ears. “You can do this!”

Yes, I can!

The Karaoke Writer - Revisted

This is a re-post of a blog I wrote years ago.

Ever wander into a bar/pub/club/coffee house/party, where a karaoke contest was being held?  I’ve been to several and I must say they’re fascinating.  What’s so interesting is the types of people who take part in such events.  Naturally, the bulk of contestants are phase shifted (i.e. drunk or otherwise influenced) and really test the audiences patience.  Men and women alike brutalize classic songs by utilizing notes never intended to be included and change the lyrics even though scrolling prompters have them displayed, all the while attempting to make up for what they lack in vocal range by doing their best Mick Jagger with a microphone impression.  Not a pretty site! Then there are those who manage to sound better than they actually are because they’ve happened to choose one of your favorites songs, and let’s face it, you’re slightly inebriated yourself.  But the ones that make the evening are the ones that really stand out, the singers who after just one chorus hush even the most boisterous crowd and ends up eliciting a standing ovation.   Those are the performers who make you think of a quote from an old Billy Joel song (Piano Man) “man what are you doin here?”  Not only do they ultimately end up taking home the prize money, but also add an air of magic to the evening because everyone goes away feeling like they’ve just discovered the next diamond in the rough.  Those are the karaoke singers…that as a writer… I wonder about.

What do I wonder about?  I ask myself, what is the difference between this person and somebody like an American Idol contestant, or the lead singer of that new band I just found on some internet music site?  The talent is clearly there, so what is it that separates the person standing before me on this make-shift stage in a cruise ship karaoke bar, pretending to be a performer…and that actual artist doing whatever it takes to achieve success in the music business?  Is the difference drive?  Determination?  Do they not realize how talented they are?  Maybe it’s a matter of priorities or lack of connections, or they’re using these contests to hone their craft?  Or is it possible that this person is perfectly content shining brightly on a small stage? So many possible explanations, all of them just as feasible. 

Why do I give them so much consideration, and why should you?  Because we write novels and tell stories, and most of us ask ourselves what separates us from our published colleagues.   I believe I have a talent.  My own stage consists of all the friends, family, CP’s and Beta readers who’ve read my work, the only exception being that I perform all original material.  I’m not content pretending.  Sure, there are those where the goal of publication is not a motivator, taking pleasure in the writing itself, and there is nothing wrong with that. But for the rest of us, let's make it be known that we are NOT karaoke writers!    


(I post this same piece every year on this date. I appreciate your patience with me as I remember her again.)

My mom died on a Monday.  It was chilly outside and the sun was trying to peek through a gloomy grey sky.  I know because I was looking to the heavens a lot that day.  Her death wasn’t expected, but neither was it a complete surprise.  She went into the hospital a healthy woman with a minor case of Pancreatitis, which she suffered and recovered from previously, and two months later she was gone.  There were infections, multiple surgeries, breathing problems, kidney failure, and a long list of other complications that led ultimately to a coma.  In the end, it reached a point where it became a family choice to discontinue the life-saving measures that were keeping her alive and prolonging her suffering.  When she slipped the bonds of her tortured body and moved on to her next journey, I wasn’t in the room.  I couldn’t.  She was 69 years young.

A few days later, just prior to her funeral, I was alone in the basement of my parents home when my Dad came to me with a question.  He wanted to know if I would say something during the service.  I had already been contemplating the notion, so I agreed without hesitation. My dad appeared relieved.  I realized then that this rock of a man, who I had watched wither away emotionally as much as the woman he loved was doing physically, wouldn’t have been able to stand up in front of our friends and family.  He knew that even as shy and withdrawn as I am, my work had provided me experience communicating in front of groups.  It was important to him, and me, that somebody who knew her well would speak for her at the service. 

Even though my parents weren’t regular churchgoers, my mother was raised Methodist and the services were held at a quaint little church not too far from where they lived.  The two of them had only lived in Loganville, GA for ten years, but you wouldn’t have known it from the number of people who made it to the funeral.  Family and friends overwhelmed that poor little church. 

The service was performed by a priest I’d met that very day, and that my mother had never met.  It was generic, as only it could be until he asked if there was anybody who wished to offer a few words.  I stood up, nervously stepped to the podium and looked out over the gathering.  A rush of panic momentarily seized me, constricting my vocal cords and raising the temperature in the room to 120 F.  But when I found my father’s eyes a calmness settled over me, driving out the uncertainty.  I was ready. 

Although what follows isn’t word for word what I said back then, it’s pretty close. 

When Dad asked me if I wanted to speak here today I immediately said yes, but then I spent the next couple of days thinking about what it was I wanted to say.  The more I thought about it, the more this single question kept popping into my head.  Before long that question was all I could think about.  It tormented me day and night.  When the answer finally came to me, I realized it’s actually the reason I’m standing here right now.  I also realized that many of you might be asking yourself the same question.  I hope I can help answer it for you.

First I want to tell you of two memories of my Mom that I keep not in my head, but in my heart.  They represent who she was to me and to a lot of you as well.  The first one took place when I was just 7 or 8 years old and we were living in military housing at Quantico Virginia.  For some reason I was in a different school system than my two brothers, which meant I had to take a separate school bus.  This really terrified me, but I never let on to anybody.  One morning my brothers were already gone off to school and I was dragging my feet getting ready, feeling especially alone that day, when mom asked me what was wrong.  I can still see her standing there in her white housecoat that was three inches too long and dragged on the carpet wherever she walked.  Of course, I said nothing, but she must have known something wasn’t right.  She asked me if I wanted to take the day off.  The DAY OFF?  You can do that, I asked her.  We sure can, what do you want to do first?  We never left the house that day.  She made me pancakes, we played game after game, she watched cartoons with me, it was great.  It was one of the best days ever, and it came at just the right time.  And she knew it without me even saying a word.

The second story occurred years later when I was a sophomore in college.  I had just broken up with what was my first serious girlfriend and I had crawled home to lick my wounds.  Of course, I didn’t come out with it right away, but Mom again knew something was wrong.  Eventually, she got me to open up and I cried my eyes out to her.  The whole time she was calm and soothing, letting me just spill my guts out.  After a while, I felt much better, so she told me she needed to run into town to pick up some groceries.  What I didn’t find out until much later was that when she left the house she drove to the first gas station she could find.  She called Dad at work from a pay phone and cried her eyes out to him over the phone.  She didn’t want me to see how my pain was tearing her up inside.

That’s the way Mom was, and I think that’s why Dad asked me to speak to you today.  My Mother was not an emotional person on the outside.  It was hard to tell where you stood with her sometimes.  Everything with her ran very deep, with very little showing on the surface.  But she always knew when you were down or needed a little extra attention.  She was very in tune with peoples feelings, even though she didn’t demonstrate much of that herself.  And I’m the same way.  Of all us in this family, I’m the one who is most like her. 

That is how I figured out the answer to the question upsetting me, because I’m like my Mom, and she was like me.

And what was that question? Did she know?  When she left us, did she know how much I loved her, how much we all loved her and will now miss her?  Did I tell her enough?  Did I show her enough?

I can tell you now that the answer is yes.  She may not have been the hugging, kissing, or fussing type, in fact, that may have made her uncomfortable, but she knew how we felt just the same.  Just as I would. 

 She knew we loved her, that I loved her, and will miss her terribly. 

Goodbye, mom.

A parent’s passing is a loss that cracks your very foundation and makes you question your every step.  I feel cheated that now that I’m a father with older children of my own, and I’m really starting to appreciate what it truly means to raise a child, that I won’t have her here with me so that I can thank her all the more.  But writing this blog helps me keep her alive in my thoughts. 

I miss you, Mom!   

Telling a Good Joke…Badly

I’ve talked before on the subject of querying—whether it be to land an agent or pitch your book to a publisher—and just how difficult writing the perfect query letter is. The irony is if you read all of the guidelines posted on literary agencies websites, or the publishing houses, there is no such thing as a perfect query letter because although there are similarities, they can’t agree on what constitutes one.  So basically every query letter you send out needs to be customized for that particular recipient wants and needs, all the while maintaining your own unique style and voice in the process. Not an easy task, to put it mildly. And it’s a big deal because you only get one shot with this letter, and a rejection effectively poisons that literary agency or publishing house to you (for that piece of work). There are no do-overs.

I’ve always said that writing query letters (and synopsis – but that’s another story) requires a different skill-set that most writers lack in their toolbag. That’s why most of us struggle—mightily—writing them. You could have the next best-seller sitting on your desk, collecting dust, all because your query letter doesn’t generate enough interest. I liken it to being someone who is terrible at telling jokes. I can’t tell you how many jokes, some really hilarious ones, I’ve butchered while attempting to pass them along to my friends. I just suck at it, so I come off looking silly. And the joke…well, it suffers as well because of my stumbling and bumbling. Unfortunately, I’m the same way about query letters.  
So, what’s a guy to do? What should you do?

One approach (although not a very practical one) is to ditch the query letter altogether and make your pitch in-person, at a writers conference for example. It can be a rather expensive alternative and you could argue that making a live pitch requires a third, entirely different skill-set, but the format does provide something that a letter can not—a back and forth exploration of the material between two parties. Sitting down in front of an agent or editor allows them the opportunity to ask key questions that wouldn’t normally be asked if they were just reading a letter. I landed my agent this way and I can speak to its benefits, but it's not a realistic approach for most writers. Where does that leave us?  

Well…if I’m with a bunch of friends and we’re telling jokes, and I know there is somebody else there who knows the joke I want to express, and he/she tell’s jokes well…then I let them tell it. In other words, get help. I have my critique group review all of my letters and it makes a big difference. Don’t have a critique group? 1) Why not? Join one ASAP. 2) There are numerous forums such as Absolute Write or Query Tracker that freely offer assistance to writers needing help with their letters. Find a forum that suits you and pick the brains of people who know how to tell jokes.

To give you an update on my own querying process, I’m about a month in and I’m two for three. That means I’ve received three responses so far, two asked for the full manuscript and one passed.  So far…so good.


The manuscript has been professionally edited. My query letter treated to one final tune-up. I’ve created three different versions of the synopsis (1-page, 2-page, 3-page), sent out the first round of emails to publishers, and dropped the hard copies off at the Post Office. Now there’s only one thing left for me to do.


And wait.

Then wait some more.

Until the waiting becomes so unbearable you do the unthinkable…continue waiting!

You become an exaggerated version of the expectant father, pacing back and forth in the lonely corridor just outside the delivery room, waiting for the doctor to appear and announce that your baby has been delivered into the world. The difference being that the labor is internalized in your own mind and each contraction – the excruciating pain that yields nothing - comes in the form of a rejection letter.

And while all this is going on you attempt to keep your mind occupied by working on a different manuscript. But here’s the thing. It’s really hard to work on anything else while that cancerous thought continues to grow in the back of your consciousness. Call it a feeling, a hunch, or if you grew up in the 60’s or 70’s and experienced some of the hippy lifestyle, negative energy. It’s a thought you’ve struggled with since the very beginning. Am I good enough? Ironically, one of the elements it feeds on is…time. The longer you go without an encouraging, and significant, response, the more the thought gorges on your confidence. So working on the outline for another book or writing the sequel to the novel you’ve just submitted, as time stretches, loses its momentum and becomes - what’s the point?

But this isn’t a boo-hoo post predicting my eventual failure to see my book published. On the contrary, I am 100% confident that PRICK will see the light of day in bookstores (both brick and virtual) soon. I am simply doing what every published author who also blogs have done, document the both the process and at the same time relay my emotions as it progresses. That thought I spoke of earlier – Am I good enough? – has planted itself in the mind of every aspiring writer since the first Stone Age man contemplated scribbling on his cave wall. You simply cannot give into it.

Instead, I wait.

And wait.



A few of you might have a general idea of what this post title represents, especially if you work or have worked in some sort of managerial capacity. Those four letters, in broad strokes, try to explain just who I am – from a personality POV. Today I thought we’d take a look under my hood and try to decipher just what it is that makes DL tick. Anybody interested?

The letters above are my score from the Myers-Briggs personality test given by my employer several years ago.  It is just one of a battery of tests I was subjected to, but I picked this one because it is the easiest to explain. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a tool for identifying 16 different personality types that can be used to describe people.  The MBTI is based on the work of psychologist Carl Jung, who had speculated that there are four principal psychological functions by which humans experience the world – sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking – and that one of these four functions is dominant for a person most of the time.  The idea is to help explain why different kinds of people are interested in different things, prefer different kinds of work, and sometimes find it hard to understand each other – all due to their basic differences in how people take in information and make decisions about it. The chart below (from Wikipedia) will help explain.

According to the answers I offered, I fell into the ISTJ camp. The typical traits you’ll encounter with us ISTJers are:

Quiet, serious, earn success through thoroughness and dependability.

Practical, matter-of-fact, realistic, and responsible.

Decide logically what should be done and work toward it steadily, regardless of distractions.

Take pleasure in making everything orderly and organized – their work, their home, their life.

Value traditions and loyalty.

If you dig a little deeper you’ll find a more descriptive explanation. People with ISTJ preferences have a strong sense of responsibility and great loyalty to the organizations, families, and relationships in their lives.  They generally prefer to work alone and be accountable for the results; however, they are comfortable working in teams when it is necessary to do the job right, when roles are clearly defined, and when people fulfill assigned responsibilities.  ISTJ people are social when comfortable in the roles they are playing; however, they generally do not share their wealth of rich sensing observations and memories except with close friends.

My opinion of how I scored and the results? Dead-on! I was skeptical going into the process, but after reading the results I was shocked (especially since the questions themselves seemed so obtuse and unrelated to personality). There was no surprise in seeing introvert as part of the score (always known that much), but there is so much more that is involved. Now I wonder how other writers are scored. 

So why did I take the test in the first place? First off, understanding who you are and how you react in certain situations is the first step to developing positive work relationships. Secondly, I wasn’t the only one having my mind probed. Everyone I worked with took the same test, and it’s the differences identified between us where the most benefit was derived.

Curious how you would score? Take your own Myers-Briggs test HERE.

Care to share your score?

To Prologue…or not to Prologue…That is the Question!

I’ve written five books and four of them have included a prologue. Those books have been read by a multitude of critique partners, beta readers, family, friends, and even some industry professionals, and inevitably someone will make this comment (or something like it) “there are lots of agents and publishers who frown on the use of a prologue. Why don’t you just change it to chapter 1 instead?”

The inclusion of a prologue (or not) is one of those literary questions heavily debated and naturally everyone has an opinion. It’s right up there with discussions about how much backstory to use before it becomes excessive, or whether or not past tense or present tense is more suitable. It came up again (for me) this past weekend, thus the motivation for this post. Many highly respected and uber-successful authors (George RR Martin, Clive Cussler, to name just a couple) make consistent use of the prologue, so it can’t always be bad. But why such a negative response by a substantial segment of the industry? Let's get into it, shall we?

I’ve done a bit of research and here are some of the most common complaints I've read about using a prologue.  1) The prologue is nothing but an info-dump. The device is used to force-feed a lot of exposition or backstory instead of working all that knowledge into the plot of your story. 2) The prologue has no relation to the story. It takes place within the realm of your novel but offers little insight into the story’s basic ideas. In truth, it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of your story. 3) Your prologue could very well be chapter one. Who are the characters in your prologue? Does the prologue hook the reader and set up the rest of the story? If you answered ‘my main character’ and ‘yes’, then you just wrote an awesome first chapter. 4) The prologue is just there as a hook. There’s some crazy stuff going on in your prologue. It’s gripping and it hooks your reader into the story…but does it really? Does your flashy prologue have anything to do with the book, or is the author using the prologue to foreshadow future events to artificially offset low-energy early chapters?

There are some solid reasons why the use of a prologue makes it seem more like a gimmick than anything else, but conversely, there are times when a prologue makes sense. But what determines whether your first chapter is just that – chapter one, or it needs to be deemed a prologue?

First and foremost, the prologue has to contribute to the plot. It has to reveal significant, relevant facts, without which the reader will be missing something. Establishing atmosphere cannot be its only reason for existing. Its first duty is to supply information that is or will be vital to the understanding of the plot. But for me, the true test of a prologue is that it must stand out from the body of the novel in at least one fashion: the time of the events (which should be stated both in the prologue and in the first chapter), the POV character, and so on. The reader should feel a distinct switch in his mind when he begins reading Chapter One.

Who knew that the label above the first section of a manuscript could stir up so many conflicting opinions? Even with a sound reason for using the term prologue, you still have to ask yourself -- as an aspiring writer -- is it worth the risk of alienating agents/publishers who are steadfastly against it? Why not just call it chapter one and avoid the hullabaloo altogether?  I can either play it safe to appease the literary gatekeepers who cannot get past their own prejudice to recognize a perfectly acceptable writing tool, or remain true to the spirit of the label. Well, if you’re like me, you’re a fan of books with a perfectly executed prologue and shape my own writing to emulate those authors.

For me...I choose the prologue. If that means my book(s) ends up in the slush pile because of that choice alone, then that wasn't the agent/publisher for me anyway.

What about you? How do you feel about the subject?

Critique Much?

Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.
-Henry Ford

Many hands make light work.
-John Heywood

Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things, but just look at what they can do when they stick together. 
-Source Unknown

The audience’s reaction to writing is subjective, made up of a wide-spectrum of points of view and experiences. So why wouldn’t an aspiring writer use the same to help shape their voice?
-DL Hammons

A couple weeks ago I employed the services of an editor to help me get my manuscript into the best shape possible before I send it out to publishers. She has been extremely helpful and I have no doubt that her insights will improve both my novel, and my writing. Making the decision to layout hard earned dollars for her expertise was a hard one, but one that I am now grateful I made.

When we got together and she learned a little bit about me, specifically my writing background, she was impressed by the fact that I’m part of a critique group and yet I still chose to pay money to have my book edited. In fact, it was her idea to write this post. In her words – “If you ever want to write a blog post on your process of using critique partners, how you found yours, and the value they add before professional editing, I would be happy to post it to all of my social media sites.”  Okay Shelly (that’s my editor), your wish is my command.

I’ve been pursuing publication for almost nine years now and been a member of numerous critique groups, both in-person and on-line. Some of them small (three members – including myself), some not-so-small (a dozen members), some I considered a waste of time (all romance writers except for me), and others that have improved my writing by light-years (my current group).  The group I’m part of right now has been together for three years and during that time it has seen several members have their books and/or short stories published. I’m very proud of what this group has accomplished, even though I am not one of those who have made their way into the published spotlight. That is one of the things I’ve learned over the years about CP groups, a member’s accomplishments are shared by the whole group.

What else have I learned or advice can I offer by my experiences? First off, I’m discussing critique partners, and not beta readers. (Yes, there is a difference). Beta readers are individuals asked to read a novel – usually after they’ve been critiqued – and offer an opinion on a macro level. They don’t get into the sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph type of detail that CP’s do. In a good group, CP’s are involved from inception to delivery. Beta readers are last minute tweakers.

Also, let me say that this is just one person’s opinion. Just as with our writing, interactions within a group are subjective. Not all groups are created equal – nor should they be – and the dynamic within a group is key. One ill-fitted member can tear apart a group. In a perfect world that square peg would realize the hole they’re trying to fill is meant for someone else, but unfortunately that’s not always the case and in those situations a strong team leader will need to take action. That leader should work with the group in selecting the type of writer/person who joins. Which is another element of a good group – fluidity. Frankly, the turnover rate for aspiring writers is pretty high and it is very common for others to go dormant at certain times in the year.  Keeping the workload within the group both steady, and manageable, can be a challenge. It’s usually dealt with by allowing the enrollment numbers in the group to inflate at times, recognizing that some CP’s are inactive. And when an inactive CP re-surfaces with new material, most of the time another member is going quiet.  Like I said, fluidity.

What should you expect to experience inside a good critique group? In my opinion, an equal amount of constructive criticism and praise. I’ve been in groups where everything said (or written) is nothing but positive, or neutral (“you forgot a comma”). That shouldn’t happen, because let’s face it, we’re critiquing 1st or 2nd drafts and I don’t care how good a writer you are, things need to be adjusted. But I’ve also been in groups with members who do nothing but bluntly criticize (which in their mind - they are doing the writer a favor) and that level of negativity doesn’t work either. Favor or not. Yeah….yeah…I know what you’re thinking. What about someone who makes their way into a CP group and whose work is clearly sub-standard? How do you honestly balance your critique in that case?  First off, I refer to my previous paragraph where I discuss the make-up of a group. If vetting is done properly, that person shouldn’t be in your group.  Secondly, I don’t care how bad the writing is, YOU CAN STILL FIND SOMETHING POSITIVE TO SAY. PERIOD. END OF STORY!

To get the most out of your CP group, take the Ying-Yang approach. You'll only get out of it as much as you contribute. Don't expect to receive quality critiques of your material, if  your not doing the same for others. Be thorough, which means schedule your time accordingly so you don't have to rush when meeting time arrives. And be ready to answer follow-up questions about your suggestions. The interactive dialogue between a writer and critiquer can be some of the most productive time you spend.  

So, if you’re part of a good critique group (which I am), then why would you even need a professional editor. Multiple reasons, or motivations. For me, I have decided to give up my quest to find an agent and there is a good possibility that my novel may be self-published (although I’ve not given up on publishers yet). My CP’s are good (and qualified), but the line-to-line detail editing required for a book before it debuts in the marketplace is not something I would ask them to do.  It is painstaking work (for 90k words), and something I feel a professional should be entrusted with. Being that one of my weaknesses as a writer is in the technical aspect (grammar, tense, etc.), I am using expert eyes to shore that up.  

Why bother with a critique group then? Why not go straight to an editor? The obvious answer is that it’s not cheap and if you can avoid it, then avoid it. But for my real answer I’ll refer to my quote at the top of the page.  The audience’s reaction to writing is subjective, made up of a wide-spectrum of points of view and experiences. So why wouldn’t an aspiring writer use the same to help shape their voice? My book has been influenced, molded if you will, by the numerous eyes and opinions by my critique group. If I went straight to an editor, I would be relying on one person’s perspective. A single frame of reference. No matter how good that editor is, I just can’t do that.

That’s it. That’s all I have to offer on critique groups. If you have specific questions that you would like for me to answer – fire away. I’d be happy to answer any you might have.

Best of luck with your own CP search!

The Impatient Inertia

Inertia - the resistance of any physical object to any change in its state of motion; this includes changes to its speed, direction, or state of rest. It is the tendency of objects to keep moving in a straight line at constant velocity (via Wikipedia). 

I’ll admit that patience is not one of my finer qualities, which is not a good thing when you’re seeking to get published. But you can (and I have) adapt to the trodding pace of this industry if the end goal means that much to you. What I struggle with…mightily…is the lack of continuity, consistency, and the feeling of a sustained momentum within my own world. I’ve posted about it several times here, but only recently have I come to grip (to some degree) with the fact that I’ll continually be faced with these disruptions and need to adapt my tactics.  

I’ve always done my best work when totally absorbed in the process, but it’s impossible to sustain that level of involvement with the demands of my real job and our active family. Consequently, most of my writing is done on the weekend. To enhance and prolong my productive periods I would dedicate vacation time to creating my own pseudo writing retreats. I’d isolate myself – which meant I’d hunker down at my desk, headphones on with the music cranked and my writing cap turned backward (a signal to my family to stay away) -- for three to five 12 hour days of intense outlining/writing. That approach has gotten me this far, but where I’m at obviously isn’t far enough.

My youngest son (my last child still at home) will be starting his senior year in high school in August and has begun to demonstrate a good bit of independence, so one of the roles that compete with my writing time is fading, which is good for my writing but depressing in other respects. And although 

I’ll be turning 61 in a few months, retirement isn’t a possibility anytime soon so my “day-job” will continue to place hurdles in my path to manage.

So, what can I do differently to maintain that sense of inertia I’ve been lacking? I’ve already cut my blogging back to the bare minimum (I’ll never give it up totally – I owe too much to do that), which was a HUGE chunk of my time the first 3-4 years of this journey. I’ve maximized the free time available for creativity and there is seemingly nothing left for me to do. Or is there? What I’ve come to realize is that the inertia I seek needs to be focused on, and originate from, the work -- not just me. If I can find assistance to help me shore up those area’s of my writing that are the weakest, especially during times when I’m not available to contribute, then things can continue to move forward. Since technical skill (i.e. grammar, structure, etc.) is at the top of the list, that’s where I’ll focus first.  Yes, I’ve learned and benefited tremendously from my critique group, but what I need is a one-on-one “coach” to provide insight and guidance, as well as aiding me to bridge the gaps when I’m pulled away. It will cost me some $, but I view it as a necessary expense to compensate for what I’m unable to give freely.

I’ve already reached out to some editors I trust to fill that role, and things are already in motion.  I feel really good about this move and my expectations have been properly recalibrated.

I’ll keep you updated on my (or rather my work’s) progress.


Cue the ‘Rocky’ Theme

Seven years ago, back when my blog was just getting underway, I posted a segment entitled Are You At Your Writing Weight?  With my current state of affairs, it seems rather appropriate right now.  I don’t know about you, but how productive I am – with almost everything I do – is closely tied to how ‘fit” I’m feeling. The same thing is true for how much enjoyment I derive from almost everything else. Coming off months and months of travel involving constantly eating out, endless nights in hotels with limited activity, and stress levels that would make a combat vet raise his (or hers) eyebrows, my weight ballooned thirty pounds over my goal and my overall fitness was poor, to put it mildly. There at the end, I began to experience back problems and the number of “restful” sleep hours I enjoyed nightly shrank considerably.

Now that all that is behind me and I’m trying to recapture my creative drive, I’m finding that I have to take care of the engine first. That’s why I thought about this old post. Competitive athletes rarely maintain their bodies in the same physical state that they do when they are competing, and in that previous post I postulated that the same thing could be said about writers and their cognitive acuity. Intellectually, I feel that I’m in peak form. Working on the company project kept me on my toes and I spent my time in airports and on airplanes reading A LOT of books. But something was missing. I needed to feel good about my body and health again before I could immerse myself in back into the writing waters, and to do that would take time and its own type of devotion.

So, I’m watching what I eat and exercising again. I’ve already managed to shave off fifteen of the thirty pounds, the pain in my back is less and less noticiable, and I’ve returned to the land of happy dreams and wiping the sleep from my eyes. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I can feel that creative drive returning as I shed the weight and push my endurance. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I can feel the momentum pushing (pulling?) me in the right direction. If things continue on course, I should be where I need to be in another 4-6 weeks.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I need to go drink some raw eggs!  😄


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