Tuesday, 28 August 2018

But What If It's The Exact Word I Need?

A few days ago I sent the first chapters of my WIP to a friend to critique. She's a former commissioning editor so I was interested to get her thoughts. But now I have more to think about than I need and I'm worried that I don't know what to make of her advice.

She pointed out that there are certain words that novice writers use that act as red flags for editors or agents. You mark yourself out as a novice writer if these words appear in the forts few pages of your manuscript and the editor or agent may pop your word straight onto the 'Pass' pile if they spot them. And guess what, friends? That's right, there they were in the first pages of my WIP! I'm a novice and showing it to anyone who reads my writing.

Some of what she pointed out I saw immediately - that's one, by the way - and I knew it was something I needed to correct. She pointed out that I use the passive voice a lot. This I knew, I am a lover of passive voice but I know that it is frowned upon in modern writing so I do try really hard not to slip into it too often.

But she listed some words which she spotted that apparently mark me out as a novice. these include 'sigh', 'shrug' and 'nod'. Help! What so I do if these are exactly the word to describe what is happening in the story? I'll share an example, if I may. One of my favourite television programmes is Casualty. And my favourite character is Dr Dylan Keogh, a brilliant, intelligent, frustrating man. Now poor Dylan spends plenty of time being frustrated by the stupidity of others and what does he do when frustrated? That's right, he sighs. he lifts his shoulders, exhales loudly and sighs. I've checked out some synonyms for 'sigh' and they don't convey exactly what he does - pant, weep, groan, suspire, great words but not quite right. Dylan sighs and there's nothing for it but to use that word. So how can I as an aspiring writer avoid using 'sigh' if none of the other words fit as well? Another word that marks me out as a novice is 'shrug'. Again I have a dilemma. When my character lifts her shoulder sand then drops them she's shrugging, yes? Synonyms don't help me again - dismiss, disregard or twitch are suggested in the thesaurus. None of which describe the motion of shoulders and the implied meaning conveyed by the gesture. A final example is 'nod'. The thesaurus suggests bob or bow but they aren't exactly right either. She's nodding her head for goodness sake. I can use bow but that suggests deference and that's not my character's style; I can use bob but that's not quite the same as nodding, in my opinion.

So what am I to do? If I take her advice then I'll spend hours wrangling the wrong word and feel frustrated. But if I use words that mark me pout as a novice I may never get anyone to read what I'm writing! I've decided for the time being to carry on writing in my won style. I'll come back later and clear up some of the things where I think she's spotted something that needs correcting. And as for my novice word choices? I don't know. Maybe I'll wait until more than one person points it out, maybe I'll stick to my guns and use whichever words I please.

Any advice? 

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Dealing with the Unexpected

Yesterday was a curious day. Not in an Alice in Wonderland way, that would be awesome, but in a 'what the heck just happened?' way.

My morning started with a lovely trip to hospital for a mammogram. Yes. ladies, that lovely shove 'em on the shelf and squash 'em time! I know, doesn't sound too lovely but it was fine: a nice girl, very chatty and gentle doing the procedure and a super sunny day to be out and about in Oxford. I even managed a sneaky rose Cava tasting in M & S!

So far so normal, right?

When I got home I popped Twitter open to see what madness I had missed while out in the sunshine. Someone had retweeted an invitation to tweet a pitch for your book to a publishing company.
'Why not?' I thought. Nothing ventured after all. If one of the editors liked your tweet you were invited to submit a synopsis and some work for them to consider. A great way to practice my elevator pitch I thought. So I composed my tweet, sent it into Twitter land and tried not to obsessively refresh Twitter all afternoon!

I got a like! One of the editors liked my pitch and wanted to know more. Knock me down with a feather. Naturally I sat with my mouth gaping open, trembling and shouting 'OMG! OMG!' in my head.

This is the first time I have done anything remotely professional with my writing. I've shared bits with family and friends but never with someone who knows what they're talking about in the real world of writing. I still don't know what to think, it seems so surreal. I was sure that my writing was a personal thing. of no interest to anyone else. Now someone is sufficiently curious to want more. Gosh!

Now of course I'm obsessing about writing a synopsis, composing a cover letter and making the most of this opportunity. When I come down from Cloud Nine and DefCon Ten I'll get started, But for now I'm basking in a scary glow and going 'OMG' some more.

Wish me luck!