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Archive for April, 2010

For your entertainment…

Posted by Dave on April 19, 2010

Okay, so I didn’t get a chance to write the second part of Feedback Fun. Instead, here is the prologue of the book I’m currently editing. I hope you enjoy it.

Prologue

The ancient structure crouched in the middle of the Scottish woods. For centuries, it had waited…

The sound of crunching leaves broke the late afternoon stillness as a solitary figure pushed through the tangle of brush toward the building. Mesmerized by his discovery, Jason Bennett brushed off assaults by brambles and vines battling to hold their hard-won territory. The teenager stopped as a particularly stubborn bramble won a skirmish with his shirtsleeve, a victory heralded by a loud rip.

“Oh, man!” He scowled at the suntanned skin peaking through the hole in his new shirt. Mom’s gonna kill me, he thought.

With a sharp jerk, he freed his shirtsleeve and forged ahead. A few more steps brought him to the entrance. He eyed what was left of the door lying beside the building, almost obscured by weeds and grass, then looked at the gaping maw where it had hung. His gaze slowly traveled around the crumbling edges of the opening. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. Almost before the thought could register, he stepped inside.

Overhead, the roof had fallen in at several spots, speckling the dirty floor with rubble-strewn patches of sunlight. Vines and creepers covered portions of the walls, and a large section of one wall in the front room had collapsed. The musty smell of mold and decaying leaves hung heavy in the air. He kicked a clod of dirt, watching it disintegrate as it hit the wall. It was just an overgrown ruin, similar to the old, decrepit shacks he had seen back home, the only difference being that this one was made of stone instead of wood.

He explored a few of the rooms but found nothing except more dirt and dead leaves. It was beginning to get dark so he decided to head back to his great uncle’s house. As he was turning to leave, the lengthening shadows revealed a glow coming from somewhere deeper inside the building.

Intrigued, he went in search of the source of the light, the approaching dusk forgotten for the moment. He followed the flickering radiance to a room that appeared to have weathered the passage of time better than the others. The light came from a doorway on the other side of the room. It looked like it opened to the outside, although he would have sworn he was in the middle of the building.

Maybe there’s a courtyard or something like that, he thought. The light might be coming from something out there. Ignoring the small voice of caution in the back of his mind, he stepped through the door.

The light disappeared. The building was empty once more.

***

Something has changed. The being raised its head as a ripple in the ether disturbed its self-contemplation. Was it time? For centuries the being had waited, sometimes watching the interaction between the points of light and darkness that traversed the flowing colors of the vista before it. At other times, it would turn its attention inward, pondering its own existence for decades at a time.

Now, another moved along a dark thread toward the intricate ballet the being had observed for so long. Yet this new addition was neither light nor dark. It shifted between one end of the spectrum and the other, a rainbow condensed into a single point of existence.

A whispering echo broke the silence. “So, he has found the way at last.”

The being knew it was not supposed to interact with the dancers, and for the most part, it had observed the Covenant. It remembered how easily the points of light now twirling before it could be extinguished. But now it reached out and, ever so slightly, shifted the end of the dark thread upon which the newcomer traveled. The others will not know, it thought.

“And so it begins. A new song for the dance.”

Then it watched as the rainbow point of light approached the end of the dark thread…

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Feedback Fun (Pt 1)

Posted by Dave on April 13, 2010

Well, another week come and gone, but hey, that’s another week closer to publication. Right? (Yeah, yeah, that’s the ticket! I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.) Sorry, just drifted off into a little self-encouragement, but we’ll talk about that a little later. Schedule’s been crazy, so I’m a little late on this post. Sorry about that.

Again, just one time to the track last week. Still haven’t been able to make the different family schedules work together. On the plus side, I did get four miles this time, even right after mowing the lawn, so I don’t feel so bad.

For all that I huff and puff around the track, though, I truly feel for my daughter. She’s on the seventh grade track team, a league softball team, and a league volleyball team. Thursday night, she had track practice right after school. After that, she went straight to softball practice. Then, after that she went straight to volleyball practice. Needless to say (why do people go on after that phrase if it really is needless to say? Hello, Captain Obvious!), she was one pooped peep by the end of the day. I, on the other hand, would’ve been a corpse, or at the very least, in the E.R.

Now, before you get the idea that we’re the type of parents that push their kids into everything, that’s not the case. She wanted to do all three. We’ve never told our kids they had to do everything, and we’ve never told them they had to be the best. What we have told them is that IF they’re going to do something, we expect them to TRY their best. If it’s not good enough to win, oh well. Try again next time. Just as long as they give it their very best shot each time, we’re okay with the results.

Now, back to that encouragement thing…

Fiction writers do what we do because we like to tell stories (bonus if we get paid for it). At some point in time, if we ever plan on being published, we have to let other people see those stories. When other people read our stories, we generally expect some sort of feedback.

Now, not all feedback is created equal. There’s “yes, grandma, I know I’m your favorite author, but I don’t think I’m as good as Hemingway just yet.” And there’s “Wow, after reading that critique, I think I’m going to quit writing and just go sob in a corner for about a year.”

As writers, we have to be ready to get the harsh critiques. Let’s face it; not everyone is going to like our stuff. Writers have to have a thick skin if they want to survive, especially beginning writers who are still learning the craft. Lots of mistakes will be made, with lots of people more than willing to point out each and every one. But just because someone doesn’t like what we’ve written doesn’t mean it’s not good. And, on the flip side, just because someone does like it, doesn’t mean it is.

We have to consider the source (i.e. grandma may not be exactly impartial), and the tone of the critique. By tone, I mean how it is presented. Some critiques sound like they were written by someone who just got home from a crappy day at work and couldn’t find the dog to kick. I generally tend to ignore those.

The critiques I do listen to are the ones that point out issues that need work, but that do so in a way that lets me know that the reviewer is really trying to help me improve. I know I have a ways to go before I’m an “accomplished” writer (whatever that may be), and I actually appreciate it when someone pointing out my mistakes, as long as I’m fairly sure they’re trying to help me improve and not just venting because of something that has nothing to do with me or my writing.

I’ve got more to say on the subject, but I don’t want to make this too long. The next post will take a look at how to give and how to receive feedback, especially when it involves family and friends.

Have a good one!
Dave

What do you do if your reality check bounces?

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One down…

Posted by Dave on April 4, 2010

Happy April, everyone, and Happy Easter. I hope your Easter Sunday is going (or went) wonderfully, and I hope you pulled more April Fool’s pranks than you fell for. Due to schedules and weather, I only made it to the track one time this past week again. But, I did make three and a half miles this time. That’s a half mile more than last week. I might try to get there this afternoon, but I’ve got to mow the lawn for the first time in 2010 first. I’ll see how I feel after that.
My son and I planted a tree in the front yard yesterday in honor of Arbor Day. He got it from his elementary school. We’ll see if it survives the treatment of a rambunctious fourth grader and his definitely-not-a-green-thumb father.
I finished the first edit of Jaben’s Rift Friday night. From a starting word count of 125,295, I trimmed 7,178 words, bringing the new word count down to 118,117. Not bad considering I was focusing mainly on the little stuff I mentioned in my last post. It’s a really good feeling, getting through the first edit. I know there’s more polishing to be done, but each time through is a step closer (hopefully) toward publication.
Now it’s time to go back through the manuscript again and “kill the darlings.” (No, not my children!) When a writer kills the darlings, it means they go back and get rid of all of those witty little phrases, passages, and such that they were so proud of when they wrote them, but that really don’t add anything to the story. I mean, they seemed like a good idea at the time, but when you read the story, they don’t really do anything except make the author feel clever.
I did find at least one place where I think I need to do a little rearranging on the manuscript. I realized that, at least in this first book, I had a tendency to bring up a question for the reader to ponder, but then I turn right around and answer it too soon. I need to move some stuff around so that my readers have time to wonder what’s going on before I let them know.
Another thing I noticed is that my writing toward the end of the book took a lot less editing for the little things than the first half. I mentioned in my first post that it took me six years to write the first half and a year to write the second half. During that time I was also studying the craft of writing and reading as many books as I could on the subject. I was pleased to see that it looked like at least a small percentage of what I read sank in. We’ll see how the editing goes on the next one once I get to that point.
Okay, just about time to eat Easter dinner. Have a great week!

Dave

My doctor thinks I may have a split personality, but we don’t think so.

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