Poetry Challenge: Part 2

Another week of poetry for #OctPoWriMo

I hope you can find a piece to enjoy.

When Creatives Dream

We all want a sign
that it’s our time to shine
We dream what we dream
polish it to a gleam
Through toil and strife,
cut excess with a knife
To make–like a wine,
we work hard to refine
And then–oh our hearts–
to the world, we’ll impart
We’ll reach out and pine
Yet our luck must align
To find the right one–
An audience we’ll stun.”

My Precious

My Precious Busy days, busy lives Rushing here, rushing there After work, after chores that's when my treasure's found My precious, rare, spare time.
Busy days, busy lives

Rushing here, rushing there

After work, after chores

that’s when my treasure’s found

My precious, rare, spare time.


Hope

“Hope, like a river, ebbs and flows.
One dark day, a vicious act,
can somehow shrink it all away.

But the seed is hard to lose.
One kind word, a glimpse of hope
is all it takes to make it grow.

Shun the cruel and plant some hope,
At home, at school, at work, in life.”


It Calls

The sky is dark as the rain falls down. My bed it calls, so safe and sound. Too bad my book must wait again, For my day is not yet done

“The sky is dark as the rain falls down.

My bed it calls, so safe and sound.

Too bad my book must wait again,

For my day is not yet done.”


Word Sharer

“There once was a woman nerd

who wanted to share her words

she wrote them all down

then showed them around

and hoped she’d find her fan herd”

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Writing Short and Sweet – Poetry

I don’t often share my work on here, just what I’ve picked up about the process along the way, but I just figured out that today was National Poetry Writing Day 2018 and decided maybe I should switch it up.

For those of you who don’t follow me on other social media, I’ve been participating in #OctPoWriMo – October Poetry Writing Month. (Mostly out of jealousy that my lackluster drawing skills aren’t really something I want to showcase for the artists’ #Inktober.) I’m more of a novelist, but, like most writers, I’ve dabbled in poetry. Plus? I always want to keep stretching myself–honing my skills and learning new tricks. Thus, when I heard about the OctPoWriMo challenge, I figured I’d give it a try.

Confession: I’ve been ignoring the themes, but, in the spirit of Inktober–even if I’m an artist of words, not shapes, I’ve been hand-inking my creations.


Here are my first 4 poems:

For day 1, I kicked off OctPoWriMo with a poem inspired by the season. How nature vs nurture has given us opposing instincts…

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For Day 2, I decided to try to be clever — and then spelled it out (because it’s funnier when you explain it).

 


For day 3, I shared a taste of hope.

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And for today? As #OctPoWriMo continues into day 4, I might be ignoring the themes, but I’ve decided to branch away from exclusively free form and try some more constrained poems.

Today’s haiku:

 


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Is anyone else participating? Are you a poet (or a dabbler)? Share your work below! Or share a link.

What I Love Most About Being a Writer

Sometimes, when you’re stuck at some writing stage for too long, it can be hard to remember why you started this thing in the first place. Whether you’re drafting, editing, revising, querying, submitting, or marketing, there’s likely some point where you feel like you’re never going to reach the next stage.
Me? I’m currently stuck in the [Query -> Get Feedback -> Revise -> Get Beta Feedback -> Edit -> Send More Queries] loop. And have been, on and off, for nearly 3 years.
It can be really disheartening.
Fortunately, I keep getting small tastes–little reminders–of just why I do this.

Here are 10 things I love most about being a writer:

1 – Exploring new worlds!

Whether it’s a ‘what-if’ scenario in my head, or filling in the details from some hardly remembered dream, creating a world, exploring it, and finding out how it works is something I find FASCINATING.

2 – Meeting New Characters

I am a friendly person. I love getting to know my characters, finding out their hopes and dreams. Being there for them when they face their fears. And? Watching them grow into the person they were always meant to be.

Plus? I like watching jerks get their comeuppance.

3 – Finding out what happens and why!

Often, when I start a story, I know a couple of the key scenes and the broad strokes that make up my characters. It’s not until I’m there with them in the trenches that I find out how they got there and what pushes them on.

Instead of just a highlights reel, I get to see them, every step of the journey.

4 – When you get that turn of phrase. Just. Right.

This is a bit more of a technique related reason, but it’s true.

Sometimes, you have an emotion or a concept that you agonize over conveying to the audience. The phrasing might come on the first try, or 12 tries in, on the fourteenth draft, but when you get it right, you can SEE your readers opting to highlight and share that sucker.

You can see your story connecting with someone who’s been there before and needed to hear it.

5 – Getting to read other writers works early

I’ve opened myself up to the writing community and they’ve welcomed me with open arms.

The more beta reading/critiquing I do, the more I realize just how creative and talented my friends are. And? The more I dream about how awesome it will be when we’re all the big name authors, and we can say “I knew them when…”

6 – Helping my friends fine-tune their novels

The flip side of number 5. This way, I get to watch great manuscripts turn into amazing stories that fly off the shelves. Being there as they learn and grow — and hopefully picking up a few things, myself.

7 – The terrifying hope that comes when an agent asks for more pages

Hope has never been so sharp as when I get that request or send off those pages.

Need I say more?

8 – Having an answer outside of my day-job when people ask me, “so, what do you do?”

I’m in the DC metro area. Asking people, ‘so, what do you do?’ is asked almost before they get your name. But? I hang out with a lot of creatives, and I know that I’m more than just my day-job. I like supporting my friends, consuming webcomics, novels, and art. But? I like being able to contribute something, too. Not just as a consumer.

9 – Seeing how far I’ve come and how much I’ve accomplished

I may not be agented or published yet. But I’ve got one polished novel, two full rough drafts, a WIP, a handful of short stories, some poetry, a blog, and a community that supports me.

All this stuff takes work and dreaming and persistence. It might be ego, but I have to acknowledge to myself that I’m the reason it’s happened.

10 – And my favorite? Serendipity

When I figure out a plot point or background detail that makes everything just come together.


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If you’re a writer, why do you write? What’s your favorite part about writing?

If you’re not a writer, what do you do that fulfills you? What’re your favorite parts?

How To Beta-Read: One Writer’s Version

I almost entitled this “Beta-Reading: For Fun and Profit” but… I don’t usually profit. At least not monetarily.

I do a fair amount of beta-reading and/or critiquing. One can argue that beta-reading is commenting as a reader, where a critique is focused on craft-level commentary, but honestly, I do both. So, I’m not really going to break them out for the purposes of this post.

I read queries (obviously), synopses, short stories, essays, blog-posts, and, of course, novels. I’ve even been known to critique a non-fiction article, and the recipient claimed my excessive feedback useful, although frustrating because they believed they were closer to done than that…but I digress.

I beta-read for people in the writing groups I participate in, people who have beta-read for me, and for family members. (Or people who submit a query for critique to my QueryCorner at morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com)

You’d probably think that my beta-reading follows the survey that I send my own beta-readers. And… you’d be wrong. I follow it about as much as my own beta-readers do.

I use it as a guideline, and I generally keep the concepts in my head, but unless specifically asked, my commentary goes a bit sideways.

That said, what does Morgan’s beta-reading feedback look like?

1 – I can’t skip line edits

Okay, that’s probably a lie. IF, (and only if) I’m sending a single paragraph of general impressions after reading a partial or a short story, I can usually restrain myself.

But? If I’m going line-by-line and putting commentary in there? You’re gonna get at least some grammar edits, word-choice suggestions, and (for right-or-wrong) some comma movement.

2 – I’ll tell you when my eyes glaze over

I am predominantly plot driven. Or emotional journey driven? I want to know what is happening to the main character, what they’re feeling about it, and what they’re going to do next.

If you dwell on backstory, elaborate descriptions, or even fling too much action at me– scene after scene–I’m gonna toss in a note saying something.

I try to be kind, especially if it’s well-written. But you’re gonna see something like, “Can you filter in what she’s doing/feeling during this?” Action filtered into description or backstory helps move the story, emotional processing helps slow the story during too much action. Finding a balance? Is hard.

Pacing is tricky, so I want to help as much as possible.

3 – I’ll point out inconsistencies

I know I’m not getting your rough draft (I hope), and when you edit, sometimes you change things in most places… I’ll point out the spots you missed. Or things you didn’t mention earlier.

4 – I’ll say when you break my suspension of disbelief

If a character starts acting inconsistently? Or wolves show up where lions should be? I’ll say something.

If something or someone doesn’t fit my view of your world, I’ll let you know. It’s up to you to delete it, change it, or set it up better so it fits.

5 – I’ll applaud well-phrased sentences

Be it description, dialogue, or narration, a clever turn of phrase or beautiful imagery will get a shout out from me.

6 – I’ll start talking to your characters

Writing fiction? I have a low bar for getting sucked into stories and swept away by characters.

I’ll start cheering for your characters, putting in guesses about untold backstory and future plot points — both for me to find out if I’m right and so you can see what sort of thoughts your set up has inspired.

And? If I stop putting in edits and start just commenting on your characters and the plot? You’ve got 100% buy-in from me. Your story, my friend, is working.


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Now, my questionnaire has more points than that, and sometimes I even remember to summarize my feelings on plot/pacing/and characterization at the end of each chapter. But, in general, this is how I edit.

Plus? I’m plot driven. Once I start, it’s unusual for it to take me more than 3 days to get through a piece, unless I don’t get time in the evening to sit down in front of my computer.


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Have you beta-read? What sort of feedback do you give?
Is there something I should be doing that I’m not? Let me know!

One Method For Incorporating Feedback In Your Writing

If you’re a writer, at some point between you putting the words down and it going out to its intended audience, you’re probably going to solicit some feedback (and if you don’t, you probably should).

Be it from one or all of these:

  • an alpha reader
  • a flock of beta readers
  • a writing group
  • a critique partner
  • a paid editor
  • an agent
  • an acquiring Editor for a publishing house
  • or your mom

you’re likely going to receive some feedback other than, “I loved it! Don’t change a thing!”

But, when that feedback is more nebulous or overarching than typos and wording, it can be tricky to know where to start.

Here are the 6 steps I follow when receiving reader feedback

Step 1 – Read the feedback

You’d think it would go without saying, but it’s easy to get ticked off three comments in, decide that the person who sent the feedback totally doesn’t get your book, your genre, and might not read your language, and storm off.

Luckily, I can calm my knee-jerk reactions by subscribing to what I call:

Morgan’s Rule Of Thirds

  • 1/3rd is line and copy edits – easy to fix or skip if it’s a stylistic thing or they don’t know what they’re talking about.
  • 1/3rd is where the reader didn’t get your story and/or your writing style. You can probably ignore these. (But, don’t delete them just yet….)
  • 1/3rd is the stuff that you thought you’d fixed, but really? You’d just painted over it and called it ‘good enough’.
    • These issues are typically related to the tricky things like:
      • motivation
      • set-up
      • emotional impact

Step 2 – Give yourself time to cool off

Sit on the feedback for a couple hours, or days, or weeks. However much time you need before you open it back up, and can face it without your ego screaming.

Step 3 – Analyse the feedback and fix the little things

Maybe this should be two steps, but as I go through, line-by-line, I usually fix the little things- even if they might get deleted later. The typos and line-edits, so that the feedback is reduced to something I can actually process, without the noise of all the little stuff.

Look not only at WHAT the feedback is saying but WHERE it’s saying it. The reader might have given you edits telling you how to fix it. They are only SUGGESTIONS, not fixes. But look at the scene, the paragraph. Maybe there is something confusing, maybe it wasn’t set up properly and that’s why the reader got confused, maybe you need to move the scene.

Is there some way that you can make it so the way you had it was inevitable — given the world, characters, and issues? Is there a better way to change it, so that the pieces come together more smoothly?

The reader might be wrong about how to fix it, but they often know WHERE something needs to be fixed.

Step 4 – Make the edits

This is where you make the complicated changes — cutting or moving scenes or characters, fixing pacing, adding tension, condensing backstory.

Whatever you’ve decided needs to be done — taking suggestions and doing with them as you will.

Step 5 – Reread and blend the new stuff with the old

Whether you’ve used the suggested wording from your reader or your own phrasing, edits don’t always fit in smoothly with the rest of the manuscript.

After you’ve agonized over the feedback, debated how to integrate it, and finessed it with all of your skills, it’s still gonna need a bit more polish.

You’re gonna need to re-read the lead up THROUGH the outro of the sections you’ve revised. Along the way, you’re looking for:

  • continuity errors
  • awkward phrasing
  • scene pacing
  • repetitious paragraphs or phrases (my favorite)
    • The number of times I’ve added a paragraph to emphasize something, then found I’d already had it in there, nearly word for word a page later — where it fit better in the pacing… Well, let’s just say it’s more than a handful of times.

Step 6 – Send it out again

I like to send it to 2 types of people

  1. People who have read it before, to make sure I didn’t break anything
  2. A new reader, to make sure the confusion points were actually fixed

I write fantasy, so there’s a lot of world building involved, but even if you don’t, you may want to do this. An old reader can spot a lot, but they can’t tell if you’re introducing everything in the right order — soon enough as to minimize confusion, but slow enough as to not overwhelm the reader.

You can only have someone read your story for the first time, once. After that, your world starts to become familiar territory.

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And that’s it. That’s my editing process. For each and every round.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post – ’cause I’m ready for step 5 with my current revisions!


Do you have any editing tricks that I missed?

Anything you prefer to do differently?