Sunday, October 9, 2011

Inspiration

This morning, I woke from a dream. One that I'd had quite often (leaving my husband), except this time there was a future, one that held new love, appreciation for life, tragedy, then rebirth. It. Was. Powerful. I woke in tears. As I laid there with my eyes squeezed shut, the emotions swirled like a kaleidoscope, blending with my own. I could see the characters and scenes clearly: gentle looks, dishes smashing, a child's casket... A full-length novel played itself out right in front of me. Then the strangest thing happened. A title popped into my head. An amazing literary title that would have taken me days to come up with. I needed to write this down.

Throwing back the covers, I got to my feet, then rushed to my laptop. My fingers flew across the keyboard as I drained the thoughts from my head into print. The story was so beautiful and came so naturally to me, by the end of my summary I could no longer see the screen through my veil of tears.

When my son came up to me and placed a tiny monarch butterfly sticker on my shirt, I knew. I knew this will be the story that will capture a thousand hearts. It will twist and grind them before slowly letting go.

And I have to wait to write it. :( I'm 190 pages through my paranormal romance rewrite and I can't stop now.

Where have you received your most powerful inspiration? Has the entire story ever come to you at once? Or has it come to you in bits and pieces?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Google+

A couple of months ago, I wrote about social networking and how it affects the budding author. You can read that post here

One of my complaints with platforms such as Facebook and Twitter was the inability to separate writing from normal life without having two separate identities. For instance, if you want to post a writing milestone or your word count, do you really want Aunt Ruth or that high school friend to know about it? Or if your three-year old just washed his hands in the toilet, do you want to make that information available to agents, publishers, or whoever else accepted your friend request in the writing community? Up until a week ago I had to use Facebook for friends and family and Twitter for my writing connections. But now I’ve found something that can completely replace both networks quite smoothly: Google+.

You’ve got to love Google. It’s a smart company. They wait in the wings while others push their “new” services then swoop in later and offer the best of everything their competitors do, but without the bad. I’ve seen them do this with email, phones, and now with social networking. Here is why I LOVE Google+. It’s basically a mixture of Twitter and Facebook, but with customization options that make a writer’s life much easier. The stream is set up like Facebook as opposed to Twitter. Why is this good? Um, because I hate Twitter’s feed. Besides the hashtag annoyances, the retweets, the cryptic names, and the limited characters, you read miscellaneous comments, which when taken out of context, make absolutely no sense. It’s like I’m reading parts of conversations here and there that mean nothing to me; a bunch of gobbly goop. With Facebook, you see the main comment, then all the responding comments lined up nice and orderly beneath so you can get a complete sense of the “conversation.” Thank you, Google, for choosing this format. *forehead swipe*

The next part, though, is a huge improvement on both Twitter and Facebook. It’s the concept of “circles.” Circles are basically categories which you assign people to. There’s family, friends, and acquaintances. Before you post a comment, you have to select which of these circles you want to see your comment. WOW! What a great idea! So you mean if I don’t want Nathan Bransford to read about my toilet dunking son, but I think Aunt Ruth will get a kick out of it, I can just assign my “family” circle to read it? And if I don’t want Aunt Ruth to see that I’ve written 48,986 words on my MS, but I want my writer friends to, I can assign it to “acquaintances?” Yes siree! No more identity crisis for us writers. I can be Julie the mom, sister, and friend, and Julie the writer all using the same account.

But that’s not all. (I feel like an infomercial here) Google+ also allows you to “follow” people without having them accept your friend request. You just do a search for them, add them to your circle and voila! You can now read their stream. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. How can you read their stream if you’re personally not in their circles? Well, because besides family, friends, and acquaintances, there’s also a “public” option when posting comments. Anything you post under public (which the majority of agents and publishers do) can be read by anyone as soon as they follow them – Twitter-style. As I've noticed recently, you can also read the public streams of any commenters by clicking on their names. You don't even have to add them to a circle. So if I notice someone makes a particularly clever comment on something Nathan Branford says, and I want to read a bit more about that person, I can simply click on their name and read anything they've put out publicly.

And there’s a neat little feature that utilizes your GPS. You can actually connect with people right in your own neighborhood using the “Nearby” screen. Oh, and did I mention how easy the Google+ site is to get to? If you have a gmail account, you’ll notice in the top left-hand corner of the screen it says “You+” (mine says Julie+). You just click it and you’re there – no signing in required. How handy is that? And the IM feature is simply Gtalk, which many of us are familiar with.

There you have it. The best of both worlds, wrapped up in one social networking site. So, when are you coming over? :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why Multiple Betas Are Important

The other day, I was chatting with my writing partner and she mentioned that another beta reader found some issues with her chapter she had to work on still. The gears in my mind instantly started turning. What was the issue? How big was it? How come I didn’t notice it? Does that make me an unobservant beta? Maybe I’m letting down other writers too? And of course, these questions were followed by a short-lasting depression.

But then I thought about my own manuscript. I currently have two alpha readers. When I receive back their comments the only similar change is their corrections to my punctuation. Everything else is different. One might question the realism of certain actions or dialogue. The other doesn’t notice anything about the realism and instead has issues with telling instead of showing. One may zero in on extraneous words and the other combats clich├ęs. It made me realize this: although we’d love to think we can be everything to everyone, we simply cannot. As writers ourselves, we naturally focus on our own problem areas when beta reading. Or the opposite - our strong points. It’s those areas in between that may go unnoticed. Honestly, there’s just too much to look for. Besides what I mentioned above, there’s back story dumps, “to-do lists” (as I call step-by-step action with no internal thought/dialogue breaks), adverbs, grammar…the list goes on. Then there’s the issues that aren’t noticeable until after you’ve finished the entire book like character development, plot holes, and loose threads. I read a piece once where the story came full circle with no growth in the MC or change in circumstances. Sure there was lots of action and the writing sucked me in, but when all was said and done I felt cheated. The story almost seemed pointless, but I would have never known that until I got to the end.

Just imagine all the hidden issues that could be missed in your manuscript with just one beta readthrough. This is why it is so important to have several readers, consisting of alphas: to keep you motivated and fine tune your draft as you go, and betas: to catch anything your alphas haven’t, and to review for pacing, etc.

So how many betas do you use, and what has been your experience with similar/different catches?