Finding Something Friday: Humor, Books I’m Reading, Contest, Writing Tips

That’s not a very catchy post title, but it does pretty much sum up the day’s catch.
If you’d like to read October’s column in Modern Senior Living, check out page 13 for “My Not-So-Smart Phone.” (I could probably write a book about phones at the Hall house. One time, I walked into Juniorest Hall’s room and found this mangled mess of wires and such on his bed. Just before I threw it out, he yelled, “Wait! That’s my phone!” Which he was actually still using. It was the phone I’d purchased 24 hours after I’d bought his first phone–but that’s another story.)
As you may remember, October is National Book Month, and I thought I’d update you on what I’m reading now: Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley (a middle grade novel with fairy tale overtones) and Bodies of the Dead And Other Great American Ghost Stories (Did you know Edith Wharton wrote a ghost story? Neither did I, but there she is with Ambrose Bierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Willa Cather, and Harriet Prescott Spofford. I don’t know Harriet Prescott Spofford from Adam’s house cat, but how many times do you come across a name with that many double consonants? When I finish this scary book, I’m giving it away in the All Hallow’s Read Giveaway. Don’t forget to mention BOOk in a comment if you want your name in the cauldron.)
Janet Reid (yes, the literary agent, again) is having a contest. You have till tomorrow (at noon) to write a 100 word themed Halloween story with the words she’s posted. You can win a critique from Barbara Poelle, and that’s pretty awesome for a micro-fiction story. (You get bonus points if you work in the word “insalubrious”. And yes, I know that you know what insalubrious means, but I thought I’d give a quick definition for all those folks who may have taken a siesta during 10th grade Vocab drills: insalubrious=not conducive to health, unwholesome.)
Finally, just a quick mention of the writing tips you can find over at Finders & Keepers this week. I mentioned that I attended an SCBWI conference and I wrote a “what I learned from whom I saw” post. It’s packed with stuff you can use, whether you’re a children’s writer or not. (Seriously. It’s kind of a long post. But no one will know if you skim it.)
And now, as my insalubrious tale won’t write itself, I have a story to find on this fine Friday. I’m pretty sure it’s rattling around in my head, somewhere.

Tuesday Tip on Revision: Adjectives and Adverbs

You know how you’re in the middle of a conversation, or maybe a hot bath, and you have that moment when your eyes glaze over, or you drop the soap, because you’ve just had THE MOST BRILLIANT THOUGHT EVER?

That’s how I ended up in the latest revision mode of my YA Southern, paranormal, comic, contemporary mystery. But this time, I had another brilliant thought. I would read, actually read, one of the writing craft books sitting upon my shelves. To wit, The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.

So, I blew the dust off it (Okay, it’s been sitting there for a couple years) and got to work. And as soon as I got to Chapter Two: Adjectives and Adverbs, I realized that, as long as I was revising, I might as well consider a few of Mr. Lukeman’s suggestions:
* Cut back on adjectives and adverbs, especially in those spots where you might have a string of ’em.
*Replace tired, cliche adjectives and adverbs with sparkly and unusual ones.
* Make your verbs and nouns stronger so they can stand alone.
Well, I applied a couple of the end-of-chapter exercises to my first chapter and you know what? It’s a better chapter, even if I do say so myself. So now I’m deep into the brilliant idea revision, but I’m also trying to keep in mind the tips from The First Five Pages.

Thanks, Mr. Lukeman. If my newly revised manuscript stays out of the rejection pile this time around, I owe you a big bouquet. (Make that an enormous bouquet!)

A Little Something About Critique

I have critique on the brain today. I needed to get a manuscript ready to send out for a formal critique at an upcoming conference. One of those paid critiques. So, as you can imagine, there was a bit (okay, a lot) of craziness involved. But here’s a little something something I picked up along the way.

A month or so ago, I attended a conference where I had this same manuscript critiqued. There were extensive notes, mostly about a frame I’d constructed for the story. Now, I really love this frame. But I also respect this evaluator. So I’d set the story aside and worked on other writing. Until this week when I pulled out the manuscript to review the notes. I figured I’d make a few corrections and let it go.

And then I read those notes. I read the heck out of those notes. The more I thought about that frame, the more questions I asked. In the shower, on my walk, folding clothes…I could NOT get those questions out of my head. I knew I needed the answer to this one, particular question: What was I trying to accomplish with that technique?

Once I sorted that out, I could work on the manuscript. And you know what? I kept a modified version of the frame. And now I know exactly why.

So, when you’ve got critique notes in hand, whether they’re the formal, paid kind, or the informal freebies, give yourself a little time to make those revisions. Let the ideas percolate awhile, and then before you do anything, consider why you will or will not make changes. Imagine that you have to defend your work. ‘Cause someday, when you’ve sold your book to a publisher and the editor has a little something something to say about your story, you need to be ready.