Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Editing - That's What I Meant

Have you ever found yourself telling somebody that’s what I meant or that’s NOT what I meant? Well, that happens all the time in writing. The entire story is in the writer’s head, but what comes out isn’t always clear, just like in conversations. That’s why it’s so important to get fresh eyes on your drafts. No matter how great or successful a writer you are, your work has to be looked over by other people who can catch all the things you meant to say but didn’t (outside of your own mind, anyway).

I started my first novel, The Anuan Legacy (coming fall of 2017), from a place of zero knowledge or experience on how to write a book. Therefore, it may have spun around longer than a seasoned writer’s work would have, but nobody should ever scratch together a draft and immediately send it out the door without putting it in the hands of qualified reviewers and editors first.

My critique group (The Plot Sisters), does a great job of being my first round of fresh eyes, and sometimes my second and third rounds, as well. But after a while, they don’t have fresh eyes anymore, either. They know all the things that have been cut and may no longer recognize when something is missing that should have been included. 

For The Anuan Legacy, after I wore out my Plot Sisters, I hired a trusted and reputable professional to give a critique as both a reader and someone who knows the current dos and don’ts of novel writing. (These change over time.) This resulted in more revisions. I then passed the manuscript on to beta readers. Beta readers are volunteers who have never seen the story before and are willing to read it and give feedback. Of course, this drove another round of revisions. Once those were complete, I ran the updated draft through a second professional critique. More revisions. Then my Plot Sisters graciously agreed to review the manuscript yet another time. The material had morphed enough since they’d last seen it that their eyes were fresh again. Of course, I received more revision suggestions. Next, more beta readers and, you guessed it—more revisions. My manuscript went through so many revisions it barely resembled the original draft anymore and the time had come to bring in the heavy hitters. I sent it off to an editor who gave it a good content edit. And, yep, I had more revisions to make. 

I might mention that after every set of comments, whether it be from my Plot Sisters, a professional editor, or anybody in between, I wanted to kick myself for not catching those things on my own. It always seemed so obvious after someone else pointed it out, but “tired eyes” just miss things.

This process can go round and round and round. So, where do things stand now with my debut novel? I just received the manuscript back from line editing. If you guessed that will result in more revisions, you’re right. But hopefully soon, it will be ready for proofreading and publishing—with a million other steps in between like blurbs, cover art, formatting, reviews, launch activities, and so on.

Suffice it to say that when this book finally reaches all of you, it will not just be made of paper and ink, but of my blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul.  I hope you enjoy it. J

Happy Reading!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

My Turn

My entire life I played a supporting role in my own world. A daughter to a single mother who could use all the help she could get, a wife to a husband trying to climb the ranks of a challenging career, a mother to an active daughter, a granddaughter in a sandwich generation that skipped a layer. Every time I see my daughter thriving, or remember a smile on my Granny's face when I did something special for her, I know everything I put into those supporting roles was well worth it. But, now it's my turn.

Yes, writing had reared its head a few times in my life. I ignored it. Because, you can't pay bills by writing. Right? (I suppose some can.) But when I discovered my love of reading, and ultimately writing, in my forties, I learned it's not about the money. It's about doing something you love to do.

So, I'm letting the worlds and words inside me leak out through my fingers onto paper and keyboard, and don't plan to stop them. I highly recommend you let your own passions out, whatever they may be. Don't stifle the fire in your soul.

Happy writing (or whatever fire-building you do)!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Stop the World. I Want To Get Off.

Does anybody else feel like their life is out of control? I can't seem to keep up or find enough time to do what I really want to do--write (some reading would be good, too). I recently received my manuscript back from my editor and I'm so anxious to dig in full-blast! I have managed to get through 71 pages (pats self on back) but want to give it so much more time than I've been able to. The immediate future doesn't look any better. My family will be arriving tomorrow for a visit (yay for that one!); one of my dogs has an ear infection (so vet visit); in the next few days I'm scheduled for a hair cut (already rescheduled once), allergy shot, annual female checkup (about an annual overdue), and a mammogram. I also need to pick up my dry cleaning, pay for my car registration and pick up some things from the grocery by tomorrow or my visiting family will starve. I'm trying to squeeze all that around extra hours at work settling into a new job. I'm sure I have other things to do, but my "to do" list vanished. My e-mail was hacked which caused a domino effect that included all my notes disappearing from my iPhone, not to be recovered. They contained every note I've ever taken about books, writing, publishing, and even had bits of manuscript that I'd jotted down until I could get it onto my laptop. I can't even count the other information that was lost never be reconstituted from this tired brain of mine. But, I'm on this side of my expiration date, which is good. Things will settle down, or maybe they won't. Either way, I need to do a better job of putting everything on pause for just a moment here and there to breathe and take in the beauty of this Earth that I pass by everyday without notice. Who's with me?

Happy Writing (or Pausing)!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What's Your (Query) Number?

Querying for a literary agent can be a long and arduous process. Rejections are plenty, so get used to that if you decide to take the traditional publishing path and are in search of a literary agent to represent you to one of the big five publishing houses—Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House (a fairly recent merger between Penguin and Random House), and Simon and Schuster. Even the best, most successful books can be rejected multiple times before finally being published. Here are examples of some best-sellers, along with the author and number of times they were rejected:

Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling, 12
A Time to Kill, John Grisham, 16
M*A*S*H, Richard Hooker, 21
Dune, Frank Herbert, 23
The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks, 24
The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger, 25
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle, 26
Carrie, Stephen King, 30
The Thomas Berryman Number, James Patterson, 31
Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 38
The Help, Kathryn Stockett, 60
The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde, 76
The Lost Get-Back Boogie, James Lee Burke, 111
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig, 121
Chicken Soup for the Soul, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, 134
Roots, Alex Haley, 200

Always assess and re-assess to make sure you're giving the best query you can and that your story is truly ready, but don't get discouraged and don't give up. These authors didn’t and look what happened.

That being said, the traditional path might not be right for you. Only you can decide that. I was determined to follow this traditional publishing route and query agents for as long as it took to find that just-right agent who connected with my story and would help my book's world find its way into your world. But, as I queried, I also researched and ultimately came to the conclusion that I'm too much of a control freak to publish traditionally. I want to have more involvement in the process and decisions than I feel I would have with traditional publishing. I write because I can't not write (you writers out there will get that), and that’s all there is to it. I don’t need a deal with one of the big publishing companies for that. It just happened to be the only way I knew to share my story with others, and at the time I started querying, it was really the preferred path. But things have changed (or maybe I've just become better educated) and many publishing options are available, including self-publishing. With print on demand (POD) now well established, self-publishing has become a very viable choice, one that is quickly growing into a legitimate and respected publishing path, and the path I've decided to pursue. I've learned to never say never, but right now, that's the plan.

Granted, there are still those who throw a half-cooked book out there via a self-publishing avenue just because they can, giving self-published books as a whole a bad reputation. But, more and more, authors are doing what it takes to put out a great self-published book and turn that negative perception of self-publishing around. I have a lot to learn in order to do this right, but I've never shied away from a challenge and I'm not going to start now. I'll tackle this one step at a time, with the first step being to make sure the book is the best it can be. So, that's where I'm at. After multiple reviews and revisions prior to this self-publishing decision, I feel I've taken the book as far as I can on my own (which included lots of critiquing eyes) and have now passed my manuscript off to a professional editor (for probably only the first round of edits). I'll share all about that journey in a future blog.

So, are you wondering what my query number was? Drum roll please…61. Anybody else want to share how many queries it took them to get published by whatever means - big publisher, small press, indy press, vanity press, self-published, etc.? Go ahead, tell us, what's your number? Feel free to share even if you are still on your journey (example - 61 and counting). And remember, every rejection puts you one query closer to a published book and no matter the number, you're in some pretty good company. YOU WILL GET THERE, just like they did!

Happy Writing!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Sandwich Occupation

You’ve heard of the sandwich generation. An entire generation (and generations to come) squeezed between taking care of aging parents and their own children. Full loads on both sides of running their own lives, including (usually) working full time jobs. They’re sandwiched between multiple slices of life, pressing down on them from every direction. A triple decker life sandwich, or more. 

If I had to give the occupation of writing a moniker, it would be the sandwich occupation. Let’s face it, this occupation (for most) does not afford us a life of luxury. And, even more realistically, often times, does not even pay the bills. Many aspiring writers have yet to make any money at all. But the call is still there, the drive, the passion. So we write. We don’t do it because we expect it to provide that life of riches, allowing us to live in huge houses and drive different fancy cars every day of the week. We do it because we love it. We do it because we can’t not do it. To not do it, would be like not breathing. Even though we don’t get paid to do that either, it must be done. So, we continue to slog to our “paying jobs,” squeezing in whatever precious time we can to devote to our true calling. Sandwiched in between all those other sandwich generation things, but adding one more layer, squeezing in the thing that calls to us most. Writing.

So, to all my fellow slices of ham, Tofurky, tomato, lettuce…may the thing calling to you like lungs call for air someday be the slice of life that pays your bills. 

Happy Writing!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Living the Dream (Temporarily)

I’ve been living my dream, truly, for the past week or so. I took time off work to give my writing undivided attention and loved not having to work it in around my “paying” job.

A normal, paying-job-day consists of trying to avoid interruptions during lunch long enough to at least get a new paragraph or two written. At times I’ve even slipped away to a closet where no one could find me. That worked, until they found me. In the evenings, I’ll squeeze in an hour or so between the suppertime and bedtime rituals. Weekends are tougher, things need caught up at home by then. Yet, I’ll usually huddle up at Starbuck’s or Barnes and Nobel with my laptop and a hot chocolate so I’m not tempted to dive into cleaning up the dust bowl that my home has become or I don't get pulled away by my dogs and their Frisbees and miss out on a precious full day devoted to the dream. The home and the dogs get squeezed in between the suppertime and bedtime rituals on weekends. My poor dogs. I owe them more exercise. I owe myself more exercise.

Oh, I’ll tease my co-workers that I’m living the dream there, but the comment is always accompanied by a sarcastically tone and an eye roll. The dream lives in this laptop, in those other worlds I’ve created. Worlds I can’t get back to fast enough, worlds I can’t wait to share.

On this, my last dream day before returning to work, my mood will drop lower and lower following the setting sun into a pit of darkness. First thing in the morning, I'll be back to the grind and to grabbing whatever precious time I can find to live my dream, if only in temporarily patches.

Happy Writing!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Not a New Year's Resolution

Many people make resolutions at the beginning of each year. Setting goals is a good thing (“spoken” by a list-checker), but why wait until the first day of a new year? I set goals all year, no matter what the date. On the top of my list for a while now has been to polish my manuscript, A Special Project (working title), find an agent and get that manuscript published. I’ve been challenged for over a year now to stay focused on that goal, but still managed to keep it in the crosshairs. The challenges? I’ve dealt with a nightmare government move to a new state and a new job, where I had to find and adjust to new everything. On top of that came the loss of my first grandbaby, which made all the rest seem like nothing.

On my first day in my new home in Moore, Oklahoma, after living in a hotel for a few weeks, the movers unloading my life into this new house couldn’t finish fast enough. A storm boiled on the horizon and they didn’t want to be anywhere near that city when it hit. I thought they acted a bit silly, it was only a storm, with some hail, maybe. But, I’d barely gotten the garage door closed when my daughter, who’d been there to help manage movers and box count, received a call from her husband saying a tornado had been confirmed to be on the ground in Moore. Everything I owned, my weather radio, my flashlights, everything, lay trapped in boxes somewhere in that house.

But, no problem, at least I had a shelter. Well, maybe one problem. I couldn’t figure out how to get the darn thing open. So, as the storm raged outside and the lights flashed on and off inside, my daughter, my two dogs and I huddle in the bathtub. Luckily, the tornado missed my new home by about a mile and no damage occurred—that would come from a tornadic storm in another couple months. That’s how my new life in Oklahoma began. And so it went.

As you can see, there have been challenges. Some greater than others, like the loss of little Lawson, but the goals remained: polish my manuscript, find an agent, get said manuscript published. After a re-write that started before I left Ohio and a couple rounds of critiques, the querying has begun. The timing just so happened to fall at the beginning of a new year, but querying has been on my radar for a while, just like the other goals mentioned. So, look out 2016, the culmination of these goals has been waiting for you!
Happy Writing!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cleared But Re-Writing Anyway (and Too Much Stuff)

Well, it’s been a while, so let me catch you up. Since some of the early scenes of my novel, The Special Project, are set at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the Air Force has to approve the novel’s release. As many of you may know, the Government has two speeds, slow and slower. By the time the Air Force finally approved my manuscript, I’d spent time away from it and had been working on my next novel. During that time, though there were no glaring faults in the story or writing of it, a little voice, the same voice that told me to write in the first place, kept whispering to me that I could do better. No, it’s good, it’s finally finished, it’s about to be cleared, I’d think and squash that little voice. But, when The Special Project finally did get cleared for public release, I couldn’t move forward. Why? Because I knew that little voice was right. The story is good, but good isn’t good enough. I want great! And, for the first time in a while, I’ve finally been able to carve out a writing day. My house needs cleaned, but that’s okay (I keep telling myself). So here I sit in Kroger’s snack area just finishing up my vegetable soup and about to get a Starbuck’s and dig into revisions. Before I start though, I’m compelled to share some thoughts…

While sitting here chillaxing over a bowl of hot soup on this cold afternoon, free for the day from my usual rip and run pace, I took the time to absorb the world around me. I observed people running (literally, in some cases) around like ants at a picnic, all going places that must be pretty important to be in such a hurry about it. At one point a mother came out of the restroom with her daughter who was trying to tell her something. The mother, apparently not even listening to what the girl was saying, just told her to hurry, they were already behind schedule. I’m wondering how much of this hustle bustle is self-imposed. What was more important than dialog with her young child? I wanted to ask, but didn’t. They were already behind schedule, after all. But still, I wonder, what was more important? A sick relative who needed help? Okay, I’d be alright with that one. Or was it a soccer game, or errands that needed to be run to keep up with a life too full of non-value-added activities and stuff? On that note, every few minutes someone would announce that free things would be given away in 90 seconds. People would come running. No time to listen to their kids, but by golly, they needed that free thing. They didn’t even know what it was, but it was free stuff and everybody needs more stuff, right? More stuff to keep track of, to clean, to store in closets already overflowing. I’m pot by the way, talking about all these kettles. Nobody likes free stuff more than I do, but I’m slowly starting to realize stuff is not what’s important in life. Maybe we should stop collecting stuff we don’t need and buying houses we can barely afford, and cars that cost too damn much, and boats, and toys, but instead listen to the people around us. Really listen, not text on your cell phone or check your Facebook, but hang out, actually in the same room, or better yet, somewhere out in nature, with your loved ones, and look into their eyes when they speak to you. That can tell you a whole lot more than words on a screen.

Okay, random thoughts in check now, unless they’re for my story.

Happy Writing,

Traci, a.k.a. Pot (but working to get better)

Friday, April 18, 2014

No Café, But Lots of Happy.

Hi All,

You may have noticed the big gap in my postings over the winter months, not that I was stellar at it in the first place. My completed novel (not published yet), The Special Project, had a few queries out. My novel-in-progress, Our Egypt (working title), was starting off strong, thanks to our government shutdown. Ahhh, for a short time I was living my dream - writing as my full-time day job. Except for the fact that writing wasn't my full-time day job, I was happy.

Then my daughter, Destany, calls me up and says, "You know that writing café you want to open someday? Why wait?"
My answer - "I can't afford to quit my paying job."
Her response - "I'll move home and run it. So, why wait?"
My response - "Yeah! Why wait!"
And with that, we were off. For the next few months there were business plans, site searches, small business meetings, food safety classes, researching suppliers for local, animal and environmentally friendly products, furniture bargaining and begging, you name it…everything but writing.  :(  And I was becoming grumpy, because that's what writers do when they can't write, right? So my daughter and her grumpy non-writing mother finally found a site. After hours of reviewing and negotiating, a contract was signed. And we were happy dancing! We'd finally get this rolling to the next phase and I'd be one step closer to getting back on the writing track. Not so much. Then came commercial loan applications (cha-ching), architect and contractor meetings (cha-ching), meetings with the city, planning for code upgrades (cha-ching), appraisals (cha-ching), inspections (cha-ching)--then EEERRRRRRRRRTTTTT (that was the screeching sound of breaks).  The termite inspector looked me square in the eyes and said that word, that word you bring him out and pay him good money (cha-ching) to tell you doesn't exist. The "T" word. Termites. Or at the very least, "evidence" of  termite damage--mud tunnels and floor joist that had been eaten into the walls. And, because of the positioning of the building against the next, there was no good way to treat. Ugh. I could see the straw floating, floating, down from the sky and landing gingerly on the camel's back, then I watched his knees buckle. Our budget could take no more cha-ching, so we cut our losses.

More site searches led to nothing suitable, so the Dayton Writers' Café is on hold and Mom is writing again, which makes her very happy. Destany has connected with other like-minded people and is becoming more involved with animal rights issues, which makes her very happy, too. So maybe, just maybe, things are exactly the way they're supposed to be. For now, anyway.

If interested, please check out Destany's new blog at


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop

Hi All!

I just got home from the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop. Wow, what a first-class program!  Well planned, well run, and the people--from speakers to presenters to attendees--were all amazing!  I've never been in the presence of so many accomplished people at one time.  It made me feel very small in comparison.

I discovered my passion for reading and writing late in life and am way behind everyone else in this world.  Frequently people speak of authors or books I've never read or sometimes never even heard of.  :(  How can I catch up on a lifetime of passion I only discovered a couple years ago?  My only answer is to keep moving forward and never say I can't do it.

Now, back to the conference.  I learned a lot over the past few days (besides the fact that I'm way behind the power curve), but one of the consistent messages was that writers HAVE to have a platform, whether we're going the traditional publishing route and searching for an agent or planning to self publish.

How many writers out there hate the thought of platforming?  How about the mere word, platform?  Yeah, me too.  But, I have a renewed commitment to do better, starting right here. Blog, blog, blog.