A Year of Gratitude

In 2016, I focused on building an attitude of gratitude.

And I really wanted to do it every single day.

So I created my own hashtag on Twitter and started bombarding my social media followers with a new meme every day. Remember? #365DaysofGratitude

You probably already saw them all, but I thought I’d share the favorites of my followers from each month. What better way to recap a year of gratitude, right?

January

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February

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March

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April

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May

d143

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June

d172

Whew! We made it half way. Believe me, I was struggling to come up with fresh ideas by this time. That’s why there may have been a few similarities.

And you’ll notice how the format of the memes changed slightly. That’s because I hired a social media Jedi Master to help me streamline my all-over-the-place brand.

Did she do a good job?

July

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August

d228

September

d268

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October

d304

November

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And the Last Month of the Year (if you get the Christmas song reference, comment please!)

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And that’s a wrap. 366 days of memes to remind me of all I have to be grateful for.

Now. Let’s finish out 2016 with positive thoughts, and hold on to them for the rest of our lives.

What are you grateful for this year?

Even in Writing it’s who you know

My youngest son, recent college graduate, swears he doesn’t have to apply for jobs. “It’s who you know, Mom.” In writing, I’ve discovered, this adage is also true.

Not that I agree my son should sit around waiting for someone from his “network” to offer him a job, but I see that in the world – made much smaller by technology – people tend to “know someone” who would be “perfect” for that position.

That doesn’t mean you can sit back idly. Someone searching for employment should pursue the online application process and follow up an interview with a thank you email. Or in the writing world – send out perfected queries and submit to contests and anthologies.

Along with all that, you should reach out to other people in the business. Here are the ways I’ve done this – AND the byproduct for my “career.”

Following Blogs

I started my own blog as a college assignment four years ago. Since then, it has left the “free” WordPress site and migrated to my author website. It still doesn’t generate as much traffic as I need for my “discoverability.”

However, networking isn’t about people following MY blog. It’s about me following them. And I don’t do it just so I can ask for favors later (ugh! Using people: still out of fashion in this new era).

I follow writer advice blogs: Kristen Lamb, Jami Gold and Writer’s Helping Writers. I follow blogs of other indie authors: J. Keller Ford and Jennifer M. Eaton. I read their posts, comment when I have something to add, and share their content when I find it unusually valuable.

How has this network helped me?

Kristen Lamb critiqued a piece of flash fiction for me – just because she understood a new writer’s struggle to find good advice. I won a partial developmental edit from Jami Gold that took a story I was proud of to a deeper level.

The truth is, I have found helpful advice on these blogs and connected with the women behind these blogs in ways I never expected.

Connecting on Social Media

I am a late bloomer. I came to Facebook when it was no longer the edgy, fashionable thing to do.

The only reason I even signed up for Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest was because I trusted Social Media Jedi Kristen Lamb. If you’re trying to build an author platform, I highly recommend her book Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital Age.

It was on Facebook that I met J. Keller Ford (and began to follow her blog). She published a few short stories. I followed her publishers’ pages and shared interesting posts.

Thanks to my connection with J. Keller Ford, I found the submissions page to Roane Publishing, where my first short story was accepted to an anthology.

If I hadn’t been following her, I never would have discovered this small New York publishing company. Further, she is the one who shared her online critique group with me.

In fact, once I become a best-selling author, Jenny and I are taking a tour of castles in Germany. We’ve never met face-to-face, but I owe her a good deal in the scope of my confidence as a writer.

Joining a Critique Group

I’m leery of critique groups because I’ve been a member of a few. I wrote critiques like crazy. Read everyone’s stuff and offered advice about everything from word choice to character arc. In return?

“Too much telling. Show more.” No examples. Or they gave me a rewritten passage that was nearly identical and doesn’t feel any more like showing than what I wrote.

However, after I helped J. Keller Ford with an opening to her second novel in a three-book deal (I know! Crazy that a published author thought I had anything to offer her manuscript), she recommended me to a critique group in Scribophile.

It was here that I was offered some advice by Jennifer M. Eaton. When I rewrote my short story using her feedback, it was accepted to a short story anthology by a larger independent press.

Additionally, I meet monthly with a local group of writers. Several of them are independently published. We are regularly encouraged by a local published author (sci-fi novels and short stories).

We don’t do formal critiques. At first, I wasn’t sure about that. Everyone is welcome to read for five minutes and request specific feedback. Then we use various writing prompts to free write and share that writing for the second hour of the meeting.

This group helped me streamline the opening of the first short story I had published. One of the writing prompts helped me generate the opening for another short story I submitted. (It wasn’t accepted, but it turned into a marketable story.)

Paying it Forward

I’ve met with a local author a few times. Mostly, he has offered me advice about my next steps. I have hopes that he may help me with synopsis writing or perfecting queries in the future.

Other writers helped him, and he believes in paying that kindness forward. Without the encouragement (and introduction to an editor and agent) he received, he believes he would still be a moonlight writer. Rather than an award-winning short story author with a five book deal from Tor.

He’s the one who connected me with another local writer. She’s a humorist pursuing nonfiction writing. Now.

I invited her to Willamette Writer’s Conference last year because I didn’t want to go alone. Since then, she’s critiqued opening pages for me and offered me advice when I bounced ideas off her. She constructively criticized my website, helping me identify how to make it cleaner and easier to navigate.

Conversely, I’ve pointed her toward some of the writing resources that have helped me improve. I’ve asked her questions when she threw ideas toward me that set her on paths that have led her to paying work.

More importantly, I have another creative mind to jabber with about all the things no normal person wants to hear about. She celebrates my successes and kicks me out of my funk when things aren’t going well in my writing world.

In the end, networking isn’t just about WHO you know, it’s about how you reciprocate the good will with people you meet. In our ever-connected-to-the-Internet age, most of these people may live across the country – or across the world – but that just means your network can reach further than ever.

So, go ahead: network with other writers, editors, publishers and readers. Someday, they might drop your name in just the right place at the perfect moment.

What are so other ways writers network? Do you have recommendations for enlarging our circle of writing acquaintances?

That manuscript still isn’t perfect yet? – Part Three of my Manuscript Critique

You might be sick of reading about my numerous critique experiences. I know I’m tired of rewriting the manuscript.

Remember I mentioned rewriting the first pages of this manuscript. That rewrite was for a class given by Kristen Lamb.

If you don’t follow her blog, I suggest you follow this link and sign up. If you need to learn about craft or building an author platform, I suggest her classes and her book, Rise of the Machine-Human Authors in a Digital World.

Having met Kristen’s red pen before, I expected a good ripping from her. Good thing I had that sand-papery experience with Ms. Hughes to toughen my sensitive writer’s psyche, right? And don’t forget my friend Becky lambasting what I considered a polished manuscript.

First of all, Kristen called me on the phone to talk about my initial beginning. “Too much telling. Show me how crappy her life is” was the gist of that conversation.

Immediately, I sat down and cranked out a new beginning. I let it sit overnight and then reread it. Not quite where I wanted it to be, so I tweaked it and completely junked the first sentence. After one more go-through, I sent it off to Jedi Master Lamb.

Her response: “Here you go. Much better but watch the 1) odd sentence construction 2) too much physiology and 3) brain-holding.”

You know what rocked me the most about this short and sweet statement? She mentioned the odd sentence construction which was something Alex Hughes also noted. My. Sentences. Suck.

Epiphany: No matter what you think about your sentences, Shari, they are constructed in a way that obscures your meaning.

Time to stop trying to write with variety and just put the words down on the page. Say what you mean to say, Shari. Nothing more. Nothing less. And certainly nothing fancy.

If you’ve taken many creative writing classes, perhaps you have a voice in your head that says “Another subject-verb-object construction? Boring!” According to the professionals who critiqued my manuscript, I need to duct tape this person’s mouth closed and throw her in the basement with my inner editor.

On to number two. What does she mean about “physiology”? Do I have too much heart-pounding? I know there were a few areas where Alex said “choose one” about physical responses. I think Master Lamb is nailing me for the same thing.

Less heart pounding for the character and more for the reader. Got it.

“Brain-holding” stumped me. Given the context, it is obviously something in my writing style. Is she talking about over-explaining? Or am I spending too much time inside the character’s mind? I don’t know.

What do you think? I know you didn’t get to read the pages, but since she didn’t mark them so I knew where I was doing the “brain-holding” I don’t know if seeing them would help.

What is brain-holding in regards to a manuscript? Do you have problems with any of these three areas? How do you improve going forward when someone has pointed out shortfalls in your writing?

Pitching my novel and how movie loglines help

Image from www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk
Image from www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Everyone talks about how important it is for writer’s to have a single sentence pitch for their novel. Apparently, anytime you’re stuck in an elevator, you spew forth this sentence, hoping an agent or editor is trapped with you in that itsy-bitsy space.

Of course, your captive audience will love your idea and produce a business card. “Send me the full manuscript right away,” the amazed agent/editor says.

In every writer’s dream. I’m 99 percent certain it has never happened that way in reality. Okay, maybe once out of a million encounters.

The idea of just pitching my story to every stranger unlucky enough to get stuck with me in an elevator sounds insane. Granted, to be a professional writer is the number one indicator of insanity, but let’s not dive off the deep end here. You might not want to practice your pitch on every stranger you meet at a writer’s conference, but you should practice your pitch.

Bottom line: it’s essential you know the heart of your story well enough to sum it up in a minute or less. Since I have an appointment with an agent at the Willamette Writer’s Conference, I’ve begun devising the pitch for my novel. Once I perfect it, I will repeat it over and over until I can deliver it smoothly in a single breath.

Boiling a 60,000 word novel down into one sentence is not an easy task. Obviously. If the story could be told in a single sentence, why bother writing over 300 pages? (It could be that insanity thing again.)

Elements of the Pitch

Last summer, my Writing Jedi Master, Kristen Lamb, offered up a simple formula for a pitch. This information was included with a fantastic online class she offers about antagonists. I highly recommend the class; it helped me get into the mind of my bag guy and understand the true problem in my story.

Master Lamb calls this brilliant sentence a story log line. This sentence describes the conflict at the heart of your story, as well as the hero and antagonist.

Here’s the formula: Name the protagonist of your novel (Blake Snyder suggests you use an appositive to describe this character) as well as the antagonist. Now state what the hero must do and what the antagonist hopes to do, including the timeframe for the stakes if possible.

Here’s a basic sample for my Gates of Astrya trilogy (and I’m not saying it is incredible):

Jacinth Krick, orphan and awaited Daughter of Water, must collect three amulets, disenchant statues of her family and face three dragon trials before Chaermeny, the Dark One and enslaver of human souls, returns from exile on the Ides of October.

What do you think? Do you understand the premise for my series?

Movie log lines

The awesome Jedi Master suggests studying log lines from your favorite movies to perfect your ability to summarize your own story in this way.

Here are a few log lines from movies you have surely watched. Can you name that movie from this simple sentence descriptor?

  1. During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.
  2. When a woman’s long-time friend says he’s engaged, she realizes she loves him herself… and sets out to get him, with only days before the wedding.
  3. When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.
  4. Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought.
  5. Los Angeles police officer Brian O’Connor must decide where his loyalties really lie when he becomes enamored with the street racing world he has been sent undercover to destroy.

Hopefully you can see how each of these follows the formula Master Lamb gave to her apprentice writers during her class. In each case, the reader understands the central conflict in the story and the opposing forces.

Why don’t you give it a try for a book you’ve read recently? Practice makes perfect. And log lines make the perfect pitch for your novel.

What other advice do you have for pitching a novel?

(Movies: 1. Jurassic Park; 2. My Best Friend’s Wedding; 3. Jaws; 4. The Breakfast Club; 5. The Fast and the Furious)

Top Five Blogs for Writers

topfive

I am a writer. I use blogs written by other writers, editors and agents to help me find the information I need to succeed. Here are my top five choices in the category “Top Blogs for Writers.”

Okay, I didn’t take a survey. I don’t have any fancy algorithms in place.  These are the five blogs that have become my “go to” blogs for writing advice and inspiration.

1. Kristen Lamb

If you want to laugh, you need to click on this link and follow this blog. Even if you don’t give a whit about writing, Kristen is hilarious. Besides being great with words, she has sound advice about building an author platform.

WANA is Kristen’s “baby” (literally. This is why she’s affectionately called the “WANA Mama) and she cares about writers. I know this because she critiques a story of mine just because I complained about the difficulty in getting honest feedback in the comments section for one of her blogs.

I tend to have a love/hate relationship with Kristen (but it’s mostly love). After all, she told me to dump my series. I had to start completely over when I was two-thirds done with the rewrite of the first book and about one-quarter of the way into the first draft of the second book.

Sure, she helped me come up with plot ideas for the new series. She even made me laugh when I really wanted to cry (did that after I hung up the phone). The bottom line is that she wants to help every author who is serious about their craft.

2. Jami Gold

Jami’s a goldmine of information on structure, craft and the publishing world. Additionally, she’s a great instructor and believes in the WANA Way – authors helping authors.

I love her beat sheet template and have raved about it in other posts. Check it out here. While you’re there, subscribe to the blog. You won’t be sorry.

3. K.M. Weiland

Aside from loving Weiland’s book, Dreamlander, I first found her through a free download she offered. It’s an excellent booklet about creating realistic and relatable characters.

I don’t read every blog. I do subscribe to her newsletter and return to read the blogs that pique my interest. This is another writer who donates time and effort to helping other writers succeed.

4. Nathan Bransford

If you’re looking for practical advice on how to write query letters and other specific topics, look no further. Just follow Nathan.

Nathan was an author agent in his previous life. Now he writes middle grade fiction. His blog makes me smile. I feel like he’s talking directly to me.

5. Writer’s Digest

Okay, really I check out the whole website more than any particular blog. I do find the information that Brian Klems shares interesting and engaging.

This blog is updated on a daily basis, so I don’t read every post. If it doesn’t sound like something I care about at that moment, I know I can easily find it later with a website search.

Their general blog is probably where you’ll find the widest range of information on craft, publishing, conferences, finding an agent or anything else that comes to mind.

Are there other blogs that help you as a writer? Share the wealth, my friend.

Cure for Bullying?

One of the blogs I follow faithfully has been addressing the subject of bullying. It seems like bullies come out of the woodwork in digital areas like social media and blogs.

In recent years, bullying has been a huge subject in the news. Numerous teenage suicides have been attributed to bullying. It isn’t just peer bullying either; some of the most atrocious bullying has been teachers to students.

We tend to think bullying is something kids do. Everyone has to learn to deal with the bullies. Eventually, they grow up and the vile need to put others down or make them look bad disappears. This isn’t the case.

Bullies just get older. They feel empowered to continue their hideous behavior because no one has managed to stop them or convince them of the error of their ways. They up the stakes and suddenly stealing lunch money from the nerd down the street isn’t meeting their need for excitement or validation. Their need for – whatever it is that motivates them to bully.

You can read about one woman’s experience at work here. Can anyone believe that an employer would let such behavior go on unchecked? Maybe if it was the owner who was acting this way, but it wasn’t. One woman ruined a company and caused many people to lose their jobs.

One bully. If one bully can make a fracas, what happens if one ally steps into the fray?

In another post, Kristen Lamb shares some scientific data that indicates bullying behaviors can be stopped. How? Stop feeding the bully.

No, I’m not advocating physical starvation. However, some genetic qualities surface because of reactions in the brain that simulate pleasure or satisfaction become associated with these qualities. Behaviors like bullying and aggression are two such characteristics.

To starve a bully, we need to steal their satisfaction. How can you do this? Let’s take a lesson from my oldest son first:

He was in sixth grade, entering middle school. Before school and after school while waiting for the bus, he played catch  with some boys. A few 8th graders decided to have a little fun with this scrawny little jock-wanna-be. He came home covered in mud, with his shirt ripped off, with his hood dangling from his hooded sweatshirt and his backpack straps snapped in two.

You can bet Mama Bear was on top of that. Those bullies would be sorry – if they could still breathe when I finished with them. My son told me not to contact the school or their parents. He wanted to deal with it.

He laughed along with their pushing and shoving. He shrugged and submitted, pretending it was all in good fun. They couldn’t get his goat. They couldn’t make him cry. He wouldn’t shove back or try to get them to stop. Suddenly, it wasn’t fun for them anymore and they stopped.

It took about three months for this resolution. My son wrote a few stories about bullies for language arts assignments during this time. He maintained excellent grades and continued to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities.

I won’t say I didn’t bite my nails during this time or that my blood didn’t boil when another item of ripped clothing came home – courtesy of the bullies. I will say that my son handled the situation in the way he determined was best. At 12, he understood that if he didn’t give the bullies what they wanted – a scared crybaby or whiny tattletale – they would leave him alone.

That’s the essence of the scientific data. We can starve bullies of their satisfaction. Don’t engage them. Stand up as a unified front against them.

I don’t have the patience that my son displayed at 12. (He obviously inherited that trait from his father.) I prefer to be the change. I would rather step in and stand beside the person being bullied. I’m the one who got her face pounded in for telling the bully to stop.

I’m also the one who got spanked in the principal’s office for smiting the bully in the mouth when they spouted off filthy lies. In either case, I am not someone who can be a bystander. Injustice infuriates me. People picking on the little guy because he’s defenseless ignites a fire of ferocity under my feet.

What do you think? What’s the cure for bullying? Can a regular girl like me (or you) stop a big, bad bully in their tracks?

Stir the Pot to Gain Comments

I confess that I follow at least two blogs that are known to tackle controversial topics on a regular basis. I enjoy listening to those writers build their case and I’m intrigued by some of the intelligent responses they garner.

I don’t share these posts. Most of the time, I don’t even press the “Like” button. Even if I like them.

According to social media Jedi Master Kristen Lamb, tackling controversy is a sure way to ruin your platform.  Unless you write controversial non-fiction. When you’re trying to convince mothers everywhere that they should buy your young adult fantasy book for their teenagers and their nieces and nephews? Best to avoid the debatable topics.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to bring people to my blog. If they visit, they rarely comment. How can I increase participation without resorting to the platform-destroying tactic of blogging about hot news items and inciting an argument?

I’ve done my best to avoid filling this blog with samples of my fiction writing. I try to honestly share things – from my family, my insights and my heart – with my readers.

Sometimes, I can even pull off humor. Mostly, it’s just sarcasm, but people who know me well say most of my posts sound like me. My authentic voice is coming through. Shouldn’t that draw people in?

This is the part where I open it up to those of you who took the time to visit my blog. Please help me out. I sincerely desire your input to make my blog more entertaining and interactive. Choose one or more of these questions to respond to in the comments section:

How can I increase participation on my blog?
Does my voice seem authentic to you?
What sort of topics would you be interested in reading about here?

Crushing Critique

TSSBinseller

“Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it,” Clint Eastwood’s character says in Heartbreak Ridge.

A few weeks ago, I was flattered and honored when a writer (and editor) whose work I deeply admire and respect offered to read five pages after I commented on her blog that getting worthwhile critiques seemed impossible.

I really wanted to send her the first five pages of my work in progress. After I spend five days scrubbing the vomit into a semblance of writing I would be willing to claim, I still didn’t feel it was ready for an editor’s eyes.

Instead, I sent her a short story (previously published here) that I submitted to the literary journal at SNHU. Of course, it had been rejected, but the reviews and comments were so contradictory that I had no idea what was really wrong with it.

Aside from giving me her brutal and honest critique (for which I’m grateful), Kristen also used my story for the basis of one of her blogs. Read what she had to say here.

My reaction was comical. I was afraid to read her comments. Then I saw the blog and became defensive.

“I had to write the story in less than 1200 words. I didn’t have time to set the stage.”

We’re great at justification, aren’t we?

The truth: my writing lacks depth. Even though I feel like I have a handle on basic story structure, I’m not able to convey that same sense through my story.

The worst thing was the redundancy. I literally cringed each time she pointed out “you already said that.” I do the same thing on student papers. How did I miss this flaw in my own writing?

Seriously. This story had been written, critiqued, re-written, graded, revised and re-worked, but I still missed the redundant use of words. What do I mean? For example, “ineffectual thrashing” is a phrase I used. Her comment: “Most thrashing is ineffectual.” Duh. What was I doing? Think of the extra words I could have used to set up my basic situation if I hadn’t been wasting them repeating what I already said.

I didn’t agree with all of her commentary because some of the repetition was for effect (but it must not have been very effective, so what did I do wrong?)

I’m glad to know some weak areas to focus on (in the rewriting stages), and I happily ordered one of the books on story structure Kristen recommended. Do I wish she would have liked my writing? Sure. Would having her compliment me have truly been helpful? Not in the least.

Thanks, Kristen, for taking time to give me the constructive feedback I’ll need if I’m ever going to improve my writing to a publishable level.

(This was previously published on my WordPress blog on March 27, 2013. It received a number of likes, so I thought I would put it up for any new followers.)

Words of Power

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” – Proverbs 18:21

Langston Hughes spoke to me in his poem “A Dream Deferred.”  Many other words, written and spoken, altered my chosen path on the highway of life.

A similar conversation happened on the phone recently. I took a class from WANA International, which I recommend to those looking for inexpensive ways to learn more about the craft of writing. Part of the price was a one-to-one telephone conversation with Kristen Lamb, founder of WANA and instructor for the class I took.

Anticipation of the call is a mild understatement. “MY WRITING JEDI MASTER IS GOING TO TALK TO ME ON THE PHONE AND WAVE HER LIGHT SABER OVER MY MANUSCRIPT AND IT WILL BE PERFECT.”

Have I mentioned what happens when we have high expectations? If so, it bears repeating. High expectations can only be dashed while low expectations might be met or exceeded.

Boy, that Kristen has a powerful light saber. She filled my ears with wonderful advice and my head with plausible options for the fantasy world I had created. My idea was good and the theme (once we found it) will be a powerful one.

Bottom line: scrap that manuscript.

Okay, there goes the months of writing and the weeks of revising. I knew there were problems. I begged her to reconsider and give me ways to fix my hours of blood, sweat and fears (not a typo).

The woman is a rock. “You don’t want Bond-o holding it all together,” not exactly Yoda-speak, but true nonetheless. The infrastructure was shaky and too many patch jobs were needed. In the end, it still might not be something that an agent would buy.

I pulled out Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and skipped the first 50 pages. Actually, I skipped directly to the plotting portion. I promise to go back on read about character and theme. After all, according to Brooks, there are six elements in successful fiction and I want to master them all.

At this point, my job at the school district is looking better and better. Oh, right. I quit and they’ve hired my replacement.

Fine. All those emails I get from Career Builder and indeed.com will lead me to a new job. Instead of writing, I’ll fill out some online applications and send out my resume.

Writing is the dream. I’ve deferred it for too many years to list here and maintain the façade surrounding my true age.

I knew it would be work. The learning curve is steep. I thought college coursework was difficult? Ha! This is Mt. Everest to that Bunker Hill.

Kristen believes I have the foundation and that I’ll do the work. To encourage me, she offered to give me some names of people who could read and blurb my book ONCE IT’S READY TO PUBLISH.

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Master Yoda and Master Lamb, I bow to your knowledge of The Force. Time to get back to work writing.

Crushing Critique

“Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it,” Clint Eastwood’s character says in Heartbreak Ridge.

A few weeks ago, I was flattered and honored when a writer (and editor) whose work I deeply admire and respect offered to read five pages after I commented on her blog that getting worthwhile critiques seemed impossible.

I really wanted to send her the first five pages of my work in progress. After I spend five days scrubbing the vomit into a semblance of writing I would be willing to claim, I still didn’t feel it was ready for an editor’s eyes.

Instead, I sent her a short story (previously published here) that I submitted to the literary journal at SNHU. Of course, it had been rejected, but the reviews and comments were so contradictory that I had no idea what was really wrong with it.

Aside from giving me her brutal and honest critique (for which I’m grateful), Kristen also used my story for the basis of one of her blogs. Read what she had to say here.

My reaction was comical. I was afraid to read her comments. Then I saw the blog and became defensive.

“I had to write the story in less than 1200 words. I didn’t have time to set the stage.”

We’re great at justification, aren’t we?

The truth: my writing lacks depth. Even though I feel like I have a handle on basic story structure, I’m not able to convey that same sense through my story.

The worst thing was the redundancy. I literally cringed each time she pointed out “you already said that.” I do the same thing on student papers. How did I miss this flaw in my own writing?

Seriously. This story had been written, critiqued, re-written, graded, revised and re-worked, but I still missed the redundant use of words. What do I mean? For example, “ineffectual thrashing” is a phrase I used. Her comment: “Most thrashing is ineffectual.” Duh. What was I doing? Think of the extra words I could have used to set up my basic situation if I hadn’t been wasting them repeating what I already said.

I didn’t agree with all of her commentary because some of the repetition was for effect (but it must not have been very effective, so what did I do wrong?)

I’m glad to know some weak areas to focus on (in the rewriting stages), and I happily ordered one of the books on story structure Kristen recommended. Do I wish she would have liked my writing? Sure. Would having her compliment me have truly been helpful? Not in the least.

Thanks, Kristen, for taking time to give me the constructive feedback I’ll need if I’m ever going to improve my writing to a publishable level.