ImageI once read a bit of writing advice that said it’s important not to put slang into your story so as not to date your work.  In that way, your work will be able to have longer lasting appeal.  For a little while, I bought it.  I have a tendency to believe just about anything, at least at first.

Now I think that bit of advice is hogwash.

Having a story without anything to “date it,” when done deliberately, is a bit like cooking without any spices so that you don’t offend any taste buds.  I was reading a book today in which the author referred to someone watching Johnny Carson.  Until I read that, I hadn’t realized the book was published in 1990.  I liked reading that.  There’s another series of books, the In Death series by JD Robb, which are set in 2059.  The author has some of the characters use slang, different slang than what’s used now, but I like the fact that the characters talk differently.  I think that it adds to both the setting and adds depth to the characters.

Let’s face it, timeless classics are anything but “timeless.”  I like reading Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, not because they’re set in a time vacuum, but because the characters are timeless, the plot is timeless, and they way they make me feel is timeless.  It’s like the photos I talked about yesterday.  Reading these books is like looking back at a moment in time.

I don’t advocate adding slang just for the sake of doing it, or putting in things to date your work just because.  But if something fits, if it adds to the story, or the character or just feels right, then of course you as an author should add it.  I judge what to put in and take out by what I like to read.  If I enjoy it as a reader, then it’s the right thing to do as an author.

Editing, Editing, More Editing

I often feel as if the process of editing is never going to be done.  Just when I think that a story is about as good as it gets, I get some feedback that maybe this isn’t right, or that isn’t right, but not how to fix it.  Of course, nothing in life comes easy.  Everything is a process, and the more you work and fix and tweak, the better something is and the better it will be next time too.

It would be nice to have my own dedicated editor, helping me fix things and pointing me in the right direction.  Since I don’t have that, I’ll have to research and read until I get it right, just like my long and frustrating process with query letters.

Here’s my advice for the editing process.  Keep at it.  Take frequent breaks.  Drink iced beverages.  Get out of the house into a new environment (yelp is a great way to find a local coffee shop).  For those of you who’d like some instruction on the actual, you know, editing process, I’ve included a few good links.  Good luck, and happy writing!




Learning How To Write

My writing career started in third grade with a story called, “The Cream Colored Pony.”  It was good enough that my teacher had me re-copy it to give a copy to our principal.  From there, I went on to write several novels and more short stories and partial stories than I can count.  I wrote my first decent novel in 2004, and my husband changed my life when he asked me, “Why don’t you try to get any of this stuff published?”

I’ll be honest; it had never occurred to me before then.  Writing was fun.  It was a hobby, but to be published?  Who really did that?

Of course, it was a blonde moment.  I read tons of novels, so I know that people write for publication, but it seemed to be in the way of famous actors and people who keep their house clean.  Those are things for other people, not me.

So began a long journey.  I started by reading books and buying the Writer’s market books, blindly sending letters to editors.  I learned a little more when I went to my first Writer’s Conference, and learned how woefully unprepared I was for my new experience.  In 2007, I moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona, and my experiment in being published fell by the wayside.

I’m not sure how I discovered http://www.reviewfuse.com, but it was sometime in fall of 2009.  It was through the reviewfuse community that I learned I have several shameful vices.  I love adverbs.  I love to start sentences with an unnecessary “so.”  I love to put “that” where it doesn’t belong.  And I am enamored of passive voice.  I could go on and on.  I felt kind of ashamed that I’d ever considered myself a pretty good writer.

After I got over my own ego (it took longer than it should have, BTW), I realized that my choices were to cling to the way I wanted to write, or try something new and maybe get better.  I decided to soak up all the wisdom I could, separating the truly helpful tips from the ones that make me go, “huh?”

Today, I’m proud to say that I’m still improving as a writer.  I try to take advice gracefully, even when it isn’t offered gracefully.  I try to pay attention to other writer’s styles.  There was a time when I couldn’t read a book without automatically correcting passive voice in my head, even if it resulted in something ridiculous.  I’ve learned to take a step back now.  Not every bit of advice has to be followed to the letter.

For a while, I think I strayed from the path of writing being fun and kept looking forward to the destination of publication.  Now, I’m trying to just enjoy the journey again.  Would it be great to have my novel published?  Uh, yeah.  Will it make writing less fun if it never happens?  Nope.  Not one bit.

Writing Website

There’s a fun writing website called www.writing.com.  I found them through their free iPad/ iPhone app, “writing prompts.”  It’s a fun little app for jumpstarting a writing process.  My genre today was “dark” and my instructions were to free write for 5 minutes.  It’s a nice way to get the juices flowing at the beginning of a writing session.

Writing.com is a free website, but does require membership.  They have tools and other things to help the creative process.  They do offer the ability to give and get feedback for writing, though I haven’t tried that particular tool on their website.  If anyone does, let me know what you think.

Jane Austen

One of my all time favorite books is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  I’ve read that book in it’s entirety maybe a half dozen times, and I’ve read excerpts from the book probably two dozen times.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

Honestly, I’m the last person who’d ever say you should read something that isn’t interesting.  Literary fiction has its place, but not in my library.  I want something that holds my interest, that grabs me from page 1, and Pride and Prejudice does that.  I’ve seen the movie (only one version- the Keira Knightly one… Matthew Macfadyen makes my heart go pitty pat as Mr. Darcy), but I love it and coudl watch it over and over.

Apparently, Jane Austen’s manuscripts are going to be published online in digital format.  It will be interesting to see her journey from an author from age 12 to until her death at age 41.  Critics have suggested that her manuscripts show that she was subject to heavy editing, in that her manuscript isn’t as clean or without errors as her original.  Apparently, her handwritten manuscript has (horror!) spelling errors and grammar errors.  The tone of the article I read made this sound like a scandal.  I of course, wonder what I would have done in the days before spell check?  When I’m writing something at full speed, I can’t be tied down by little things like spelling and grammar. Those come later.  Of course, no one will ever see my process because typing erases all the little errors.  If I had to handwrite things, I think that my manuscripts would be full of errors too.  Just sayin’.

In any case, if you want to check out the new Jane Austen website, here’s the link.  Happy reading!