Writing: Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees

It’s true: sometimes you must step away from your work long enough to gain a different perspective.

This is why writers seek feedback. (Perhaps not all writers, but this one does!) We use our family members and friends, look for critique groups, employ the use of editors and book doctors – basically run our manuscripts through the wringer and then some. Some use feedback to gloat and marinate in praise. I need it because I see the value in being slapped silly every now and again.

Take my good friend, The Little Fluffy Cat. She’s not really a cat, but a great writer, and on top of that, a kick-ass editor. I’ve emailed her passages and she red-lines and returns them in minutes. “No, this won’t work.” “Adverbs?” “Purple here.” (These aren’t quotes, but it’s along those lines. Plus there’s many strike throughs. I can almost hear her sighing from Texas.) I don’t ask her often, because she’s a busy woman. I ask her when I need an unvarnished review. I’m not sure what she really thinks of me, but I must be somewhat amusing because we’re still friends after all these years.

It smarts a little to read a LFC edit, but she’s 100% right.

And while I have an Editor for Life, I like the idea of another pair of eyes. I’ve signed up for classes to work on my manuscript, one that’s already been through the editorial process. MANY times. I am thinking that my ED may be too close to me to give me an unabashed review. (He likes me. I like him. As a person, not just an editor.) I suspect my ED is like me, the writer. We are too close to the trees to see the forest. (Or too close to the forest to see the trees.)

Recently, I signed up for a Savvy Author mentoree class for my manuscript, Finding Cadence. The current edit is better, much better, but I’m going for making this manuscript the best I can. While waiting for my Book Doctor-Mentor to read the manuscript, I hurried to finish the current edit.

Then I put the book away.

She called me a week or so later and we had a nice chat about what she liked, what she didn’t like, what was unclear, and what could be improved. New Eyes Hillary pointed out a few things that were true, basically the sapling trees I’d forgotten were in my forest. She had me send her an outline. This took a while, because the outline saved on my computer was a few incarnations of this book ago and the middle and end was nowhere close to what it is now.

Again I put the book away.

Lately I’ve been working on a different edit. My brain has been full of Cadence for the last six months. It’s time to give it a temporary rest, while I pursue some other work.

If your work is starting to look like a blur of green, step away from the forest. When you return, it will be that much clearer.

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A Writer’s Beware… The Big Bamboozle

I don’t like to address this part of the writing biz, because I don’t look at writing (or any art I produce) as a business, but perhaps we as writers should. My cautionary tale today deals with the Big Bamboozle, or how people and companies can make money off your art, leaving you with pennies for your effort. And getting pennies is the positive scenario. There’s also outright plagiarism and broken promises and contracts. Several web sites and email blasts I’ve received this week deal with this problem. I also attended a Greater Detroit Area Romance Writers meeting on Tuesday, and many of the members addressed the issue.

Let me preface this by saying only that a writer should be aware, much like the adage ‘buyer beware.’ I should also say I know nothing from nothing, only whispers and reports. No decent writer wants to slam anyone, be it another writer, an agent, an agency, a publisher (either e-pub or traditional), because, let’s face it, we might not want to burn a bridge we may need later. But with the economy being tenuous at best and the publishing world now a cyber as well as a brick and mortar experience, the likelihood of getting scammed increases exponentially.

I am excited to write. I love it. I like creating a world that started out residing in my head and ends up living in an actual document. I like learning, too. Writing as an art is a learning experience. However, I’m kind of fuzzy on the mechanics of the business. Who wants to bean count anyway? Keeping track of sales is boring. And if you’re like me, you trust in the judgment of others, especially in names that are big, or purport to be big.

I self-e-pubbed my first book, because after a year of querying, I knew it would never be traditionally published because of a lack of narrow genre. It’s not a romance, but has romantic elements. There’s a mystery component, but it’s not a suspense. Chick lit? Well, maybe, if the chicks are old enough to have grandchildren. It’s definitely not literary fiction. It’s a beachy read. There were too many characters. Ya-da, ya-da. There was also the element of being based on the Internet, and the Internet was changing with every keystroke. I also have a sequel in the works, where I’ve updated the technology, but this is a losing battle, as anyone who has bought an i-Anything can tell you. You walk out of the store and *poof* it’s already an antique. So you see how this paragraph alone is enough to send most agents scurrying into the netherlands.

I’ve lately heard a lot of negative press about a lot of presses. This concerns me greatly. I actually spoke with the CEO of one of these firms, several times in person, during the course of several writers conferences. He seems very down to earth, very honest, very helpful, promised to do a good job, yet how could his company garner warning articles all over the Internet? Of not paying on time, not paying at all, providing false documentation as to how many books were sold, etc.?

I will not include links to these articles, on the off-chance that the reviews are specious sour grapes from disgruntled customers; however, I will say this, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. First of all, Google (or Bing-that’s my favorite) “writers beware.” What will happen is TONS of web sites will pop up. Peruse them, study them, keep them as bookmarks for later searches.

Secondly, if you know any writers, ask them if they’ve heard anything about a particular agent/publisher. Published authors have the inside scoop. They won’t want to tell you anything negative, at least the ones I know. Take their comments with a grain of salt, but investigate.

Third, if you’re considering any form of publishing, whether agented or not, read the contract. Understand the terms. If doing so leaves you with a sour pit in your stomach, at least walk away and investigate further.

With the proliferation of do-it-yourself and indie operations online and off, it’s a buyer beware world. It’s heady to see your name in print, but you don’t want to give it away, or worse yet, have it stolen. Don’t slip into the Big Bamboozle.