Archive for the ‘editing’ Category

Lately, I have shared some of the information from the Step by Step writer’s workshop, run by bestselling author Graeme Simsion, at our local writer’s festival. Graeme based his writing advice on his latest book, The Novel Project: A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Novel, Memoir, or Biography.
He said there were two parts to The Novel Project; the preparation and the process.

Under ” preparation” there were four parts:
Overview of the approach – which was a precis of the workshop.
Being a writer – Focus on being the best writer you can be. Don’t waste your time on social media.
Creativity – Figure out what works for you. When do you get your best ideas? Start looking for patterns. No matter how hard you work, most ideas will not come immediately. They need incubation.
Structure – Be knowledgeable about story structure. Learn the language. A three-act structure consists of setup, conflict, and resolution.

Under ” process” there were nine parts:
Concept: “What is your book about? You must be able to define it in a sentence or phrase (an elevator pitch). Keep a list of good ideas. One good idea on its own will have been done before, but two ideas mashed up against one another will be original.”
Synopsis – plot: “Beats are the things that happen in a story. I want to be able to tell the story from beginning to end in a few key beats.”
Synopsis – characters (players and decisions): Graeme gave us the inside scoop, “the Graeme Simsion method,” for getting to know our characters. He focuses on the motivations for their most important decisions. “I ask my characters three questions. What would you tell your best friend if you were asked about this decision? What would you tell your parents? and What would you tell your therapist? and follow this up by asking the therapist, What would you tell us about the character? Then this forms the framework for the entire story.”

Brainstorming the story: “Write every idea down. Write scenes in random order. I want lots of material to play with.” See the ‘bucket of scenes’ method in my first post on this subject, Step by Step.
Organizing the story: “Put the cards (from your bucket of scenes) in order. Usually, the setup is too long, the resolution too short, and there will be a lack of acceleration in the middle. A convention of story is to have acceleration throughout the body of the book.”
Reviewing the outline: “Once you have the cards in order, type them onto your computer. As you work on the scene breakdowns add everything you can think of. Flesh them out.”
First draft (manuscript): Graeme’s target is to write 1000 words a day. “Don’t get it right; get it done. I look at the beats and say to myself to trust the process.”

Rewriting (or editing): How many passes to get a better manuscript? Graeme said when he started writing fiction, it took him at least 70 passes, but these days it’s more like a dozen. His advice was that we wouldn’t improve our stories on the first passes, that it wouldn’t be 100%, but on each pass, we would make them better. And we should expect the process to take time. “At some stage, if you can leave the manuscript a few weeks, leave it then come back to it.”
Working with your editor(s): About this, Graeme said something quite beautiful, that “we need to be reflective practitioners.” We need to be willing to be flexible and change our darlings, but only to a certain extent. He told us to remember something Neil Gaiman had said once, “When the editors say something is wrong, they’re always right. When they say something is definitely wrong, they’re probably wrong. And when they tell you how to fix it, they’re always wrong.” That made us laugh.
Thanks, Graeme! And that wraps up his intensive workshop.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

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“A story must have a beginning, middle, and end, but not necessarily in that order.” ~ Graeme Simsion


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I have finished the first story in the next children’s series I’m writing and have done some preliminary editing. I’m feeling tentatively happy with the story as it stands, therefore it is time to share my story with other people to get feedback. This is the point I traditionally reach with every book, where I need to field it out to beta readers via a writing group. I want to know if the story is working. Where is it weak? And, the dreaded question, do you want to read more?
It’s easy to rag on yourself when you’re self-employed in a creative industry like writing fiction. I jump to compare myself to other more professional author friends, who pen their masterpieces and then move straight onto professional editing services. These authors are so secure in their prowess, that they go from writing to publication, without any need for a middle man to grease the tracks. I, on the other hand, acknowledge that I need feedback – a focus group! – first. The grumpy voices in my brain say, Why do you need a writing group? Let me pick this apart.

What are critique groups? Critique groups are friends willing to give critique in return for feedback on their work.
Why use a critique group? In 2004 I joined the newly-formed children’s writing collective, KiwiWrite4Kids. I remember asking one of the founders, Maria Gill if she had any tips. She said the best advice she could give me was to join a critique group. It sounded like good advice, although I will admit it took me years to act on it.
Lucky for me, I finally joined a critique circle in the 90s, because looking back, it was a turning point in my writing life. Which is not to say it’s easy. Criticism is hard to take. It was a jolt at first, having several other writers pick my story apart in a face-to-face situation. I didn’t imagine I’d stick around for long. But, the fact is that critique groups are on the fast track to growth. It didn’t take me long to figure out I was learning in leaps and bounds. How could I walk away?

The critique group process pushed me out of my comfort zones and made me aware of the reader. It made me accountable and focus far more on the writing.
The dynamic of critiquing other people’s work and then receiving feedback on mine changed my stories profoundly. I came to value the process highly and could see why Maria Gill had made the recommendation.
After a year of traveling to the city once a month to attend the in-person meetings, I left the in-person group and joined forces with a number of American authors to swap critiques online. And I have been a member of many online groups since then: The Magnificent Five, The Gang of Four, The Two Amigos, and The Inconsolable Pen.
This week I met up with my aspiring writer friend, Jane Doe. Remember her? She had always wanted to write books. Turns out, I have more than one friend who feels that way. When two more of my friends from Toastmasters learned Jane Doe and I were preparing to swap critique, our writing group swiftly gained two new members.

Exactly three days ago, we kicked off the new critique group over tea and coffee at a little old-fashioned cottage cafe. There were three of us present. Our fourth member is currently overseas. The three of us figured out the ground rules and collaborated on how to run our critiques. Every three weeks we will get together – yes, in person, – isn’t it wonderful to be able to do such normal things? We will each print out four copies of our chapters, then read them aloud while everyone else reads the printouts, and receive critique verbal and written. Yay! It is exciting to be at this point with my story. I can’t wait to see it flower into fullness.
The name for our writing group is still on the table. We are considering the merits of Inkplotters, Inky Fingers, or Fabulatores (Latin for storytellers). What do you think? Do you like any of them or have a better suggestion?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

‘Everyone knows writers are only a limerick away from complete insanity.’ ~ Lisa Scott.

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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words Newsletter Subscription in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

August 3 question – When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?
Whew! Talk about a challenging issue for authors, especially unpublished writers. When you’re starting out and unsure of yourself, you wonder do I follow my ideas or try to write for the bestselling genres? If an author wants a long career, can they afford to ignore the demands of the market? That is the million-dollar question.
When I started writing picture books in the 80s, agents and publishers said you couldn’t write about cats or dogs because they were overdone. Although that didn’t stop everyone else from writing about them. When I started writing children’s chapter books in the 90s, they warned against writing about witches or wizards for the same reason. Since then the Harry Potter phenomenon happened, so, yeah, thanks, guys. Several years ago, everyone was writing about vampires, then it moved on, and everyone wrote about zombies. I didn’t bother. Suffice to say, I stopped worrying about what the market wanted long ago.

I guess I’m fortunate. Being a hobby writer, sales are not my main focus.
I don’t strive for originality, either. Over the years, I’ve learned that the prose has to come through me in whatever state it arrives. Then I enjoy tinkering with the muse’s gift. After all, isn’t most of an author’s time spent on editing rather than the original free writing? It’s up to us how much we change the form.
At the editing stage, I appreciate the input of critique groups. I feel they give insight into how readers might think or feel. My sister always urges me to leave my stories untouched. Her point is that too many cooks can spoil the broth. I get it. However, I value the opinions of my critique group, feeling that at some stage, an author does need to consider their audience, even if they self-publish and their audience is few.

The danger is when you overdo the critique and meddle to the point that the essence of your creative intelligence gets diluted. Was it Terry Pratchett who said if you question the muse too much, you might stuff the whole thing up? I’m paraphrasing. But it was something like that.
Creativity is a divine splash of energy in our brains. My dear elderly friend, Meg, used to call it ‘the inspired whatevers.’ The writer’s task is to watch for when the muse might strike and endeavour to catch ‘the inspired whatevers’ straight off the ether. I remember one writing teacher telling us that we had to ‘grab the first word given, and from there, the rest would come.’ That has been true for me with my fiction. Sometimes, I have failed to catch the first word, which resulted in floundering, unable to get started. But, if I catch that first word, then we are away. The rest of the story tumbles out of the cosmos, ready and willing. That magical feeling occurs when art can happen, that tingling when you capture the spark. We authors act as the conduit for the sublime. As do all artists.

During the editing stage, we turn into alchemists. We try to bash and hammer the divine spark forcing it into a round hole. We take inspiration from the ether and try to make it fit within the standards of storytelling. I remain uncertain about how to get the balance right. How much do you add, and how much do you lose? It’s a constant balancing act.
How about you? Do you strive for originality with your writing? Or do you try to conform to current literary expectations? What do you think?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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I’m never truly happy with everything I ever put out. There’s always something I can improve on. Phrase a sentence better. Make the message pop. Not be such a dullard. But facing that doubt is part and parcel of the writing life. ~ Stuart Danker

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https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

May 4 question – It’s the best of times; it’s the worst of times. What are your writer highs (the good times)? And what are your writer lows (the crappy times)?
Writer highs for me are writing the rough draft. Man, it’s fun. Starting a new middle-grade series has been a total joyride. It has refreshed my awareness of where the true nectar is in this business for me. Prior to that, I had spent ten years editing when I was working on The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. And I had lost touch with the heights of giddy joy attainable when you’re writing a new copy. Truth be told, after ten sallow years of editing I was so sick of the process, I even considered giving up this writing gig altogether. Who would do this s..t? Seriously.

But six months later, once I had recovered from publishing my trilogy and regained the will to live, I sat down with a pen and paper to see if I could still summon something from the ether.
I did a lot of looking at that %$#@ piece of paper. The words did not spring from my pen straight away. I remember thinking at the time maybe my ability to write was like a giant rusted machine with all the parts seized up, in need of an oil and maybe a jumpstart. The only way through it was to do it. I made myself sit and write for ten minutes every morning.

Slowly, the cogs started moving, the wheels turning again. I was off.

To write freely again I felt like a child riding a bike down a hill, with the wind rushing through my hair. The muse was back and we were away and flying over hills and valleys far below, the horizon endless and beckoning with adventure. Riding with the muse in full effect with a book underway is intoxicating and it feels like summer all year round. The problem is the actual writing of the story is only the first and shortest part of the process, swiftly followed by the grueling marathon that is editing.

Suddenly, as you start to read your inspired thoughts and creative witterings, you come face to face with the fact that this really is the “rough” draft. Your brilliance is in need of some elbow grease. An utterly daunting, Everest-sized, a towering mountain of work.

You buckle up your pants and wade into the uncountable writer’s low of editing. The sort of fine focus an author must now bring to bear on the words is akin to the intensity of a laser beam. Each word needs to be examined and proven worthy. Sounds easy. Believe me, it is not. This focus needs to be maintained all day every day. It takes energy and strength of character.

Me, I’m asleep by the third paragraph. The only way to keep myself editing is to put matchsticks under my eyes and prod myself with a stick. Talk about sheer agony. Jumping up to walk outside in the garden, taking refreshment breaks, all sorts of tricks must be employed to edit hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
Just thinking about the editing process to come makes my nerves go taut.
I bargain with myself. I kid myself. Maybe I won’t polish this new series. I’ll just finish it, leave it in a mess on the floor and carry on writing the next thing. Yeah, right.

Such is a writer’s life. Yet, I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

What about you. What are your writer highs? And what are your writer lows? Let’s compare notes.

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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The first step in writing a novel is to accept that you have to get it wrong before you get it right. ~ Jarred McGinnis


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In 2020, I released my fantasy trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. Burned out, I took a writing hiatus that summer to recover. In January of 2021, I started writing another fantasy adventure series for middle-grade readers. For me, the rough draft has to be pen and paper. I sit and write fresh copy in the morning. And, it is a rule that I must type up each day’s copy in the evening. It was a lesson I learned the hard way. When I wrote the original manuscript for all three books in The Chronicles, I elected to leave the typing until the end and gave myself the job of typing out 300,000 words of my tiny handwriting. It was as bad as it sounds, and I made it a rule from then on to type new notes for my stories the same day I write them.

Since the beginning of last year, I have added to the copy for the stories every day and transcribed the notes each evening, including Christmas Day. It has been soothing to my creative soul to write genesis draft material again. I thought the exhaustive editing of The Chronicles for the last few years might have drained my joy in the process. But it hasn’t, thank goodness. Throughout the rollercoaster of the past year, I have cruised through each day, escaping via my writing portal. I have taken daily flights of the imagination and returned from each trip refreshed. These new stories have given me upliftment, comfort, and joy.
Creative outlets are good for us. My firm belief is that every adult needs one.

My father used to tinker away every afternoon building things in the garage. My mother used to knit or crochet her blankets. Throughout every trial and tribulation of our childhood, Ma’s needles would click and whirr most reassuringly. A sort of soft background track to our lives.
My outlet is my writing and new stories are the best. They are my happy place. Coming up with the material is the easy part, and I have loved every minute, enjoying the wild ride of “inspired thoughts,” as my grandmother used to call them. What could be more fun than writing each day to discover where your story is going next? But I write now, in the same way the dog days of summer turn into fall, with a tinge of sadness, knowing the changes to come. The picnic of penning the rough draft is nearly over. That means the unrelenting focus of the editing is about to kick in. Summer ends. Autumn begins. And so will the editing. Soon.

I can’t think about that yet. Right now, the hard graft of editing does not exist. It is just me, the pen and the empty pad of paper, out gamboling through the rosy fields of imagination, reveling in every moment.
*Good news* Drum roll. I am happy to report that my nephew and I are already conjuring up the cover art for the first book. Si was the artistic genius behind the covers for my trilogy. As a busy young working father of two, he needs a year’s grace to work on his art pieces. I told him, take as long as you need. I believe in his artistic ability and will always champion his work. Cover art from Si Kingi is worth the wait.

As a hobby illustrator myself, I have several pieces of artwork for most of the books. Some of them feature on the side panel of this blog. I have enough to put one original illustration into each book but still need to draw a second illustration for each volume. The one character I have not drawn yet is the young 8-year-old protagonist, Emily. I told Si, I look forward to seeing her!
The wait to see Si’s work is full of anticipation.
Vincent Willem van Gogh once said, “…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” Exactly. We must have all these things in times such as these to give us the strength to carry on and get through. Nature, art, and poetry are important because they bring us joy. They uplift our spirits. For me, penning new stories is bliss and to be part of the arts coming out now is exciting!
What about you. What are your creative outlets? Or are you yet to discover the right creative outlet for you?

(A pencil test piece Si created with his four-year-old daughter, my grand-niece)
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Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. – Ellen Bass


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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

March 2 question – Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story? How did you decide to write it or not?
Yes, the example that stands out in my mind concerns the first book in my Chronicles of Aden Weaver series. In the first book, The Or’in of Tane, Aden Weaver lives with his grandparents, Nana Jeen and Papa Joe. One night, two assassins attack Aden in the vegetable garden of his grandparents’ house. A big fight ensues between Aden and the two assassins. Nana Jeen and Papa Joe arrive, and the fighting is ferocious. In the first draft of my story, both grandparents are killed in the fight.
My then critique partner, the wonderful author and YouTube queen, Maria Cisneros-Toth, took exception to this version of the book. She cited good reasons: it was too much for child readers to lose both beloved characters so early in the story, it was unnecessary, gratuitous to kill both of them, etc. But what it boiled down to, Maria admitted, was that she did not like the idea of losing both the grandparent characters. Maria pleaded with me to keep them alive and change the storyline.

In the world of writers, there are plotters and there are pantsers. Plotters map out a story in detail first. Think of JK Rowling’s grid pattern story plans which detailed every significant development and turn in the seven-book series. Whereas Pantsers write stories as they come, flying by the seat of their pants. Then they edit for years afterward. I’m a Pantser, and I write all my copy as stream-of-consciousness material coming straight from the muse onto the page. I had set down the content for The Or’in of Tane as faithfully as it came to me. In other words, I felt wedded to the content. That’s one of the things I find most valuable about joining critique groups when I’m working on new material. They offer the dispassionate third-person perspective. They can reflect things the author can’t see. When it comes to editing I can delete an adverb and correct punctuation. But, I find it difficult to question the big things. And this was one of those times. Maria was able to reflect that it was too much to kill the grandparents so early in the series. And, I could hear the truth.

When I thought about it, I felt excited at the thought of them surviving the fight. I couldn’t wait to get started on the changes. And that told me I was going in the right direction. I went back to rewrite. In the new version, Nana Jeen and Papa Joe get badly injured in the fight. It changed many things about the way the rest of the story played out. It was the right thing to do. Furthermore, having the grandparents there in the final scenes of the trilogy, to witness their grandson on his triumphant return, gave an emotional resonance to those end scenes. I never once regretted saving the grandparents and rewriting that scene. I was just glad there was a seasoned eye on hand to guide me on the story development at the right time. Thank you Maria for the advice.

I had written the grandparent characters into the narrative for a reason. As the daughter of immigrants to New Zealand, our little nuclear family grew up without the benefit of extended family. My only experience of grandparents was through letters and those grandparents I saw in the movies or read about in books. My grandmother moved out to New Zealand when she was 79. We had some sweet years getting to know each other before she passed away ten years later.

My siblings and I grew up without grandparents, and for that reason, I revere the elderly and always have to add a grandparent or two into my fiction. I didn’t want to kill off Nana Jeen and Papa Joe. But, I struggle with questioning the muse. Maria more or less gave me permission to throw out something I didn’t feel worked and to replace it with something lighter. The story immediately improved.
Some edits are too scary to make on your own.

Sometimes you need a friend to hold your hand and say, it is okay. You can do this.

Sometimes you need friends.
What about you. Have you joined a critique group? Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt


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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

This month’s optional question: In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?
The most stress I’ve been under in my entire life was the six months I spent last year doing the final edits on all three books in my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. I believed they were ready to go. At that point, the books had gone through their paces. I’d polished all three with the help of my critique group (twice). I put them through my online editing suite with prowritingaid.com, then paid a professional proofreader and a copy editor. But, a funny thing happens when the actual deadline for publication stares you in the eye. Suddenly all the remaining issues that escaped detection up to that point gained a spotlight.
When I read again from book one, line by line, word by word, I found so many tiny errors that it became alarming. That’s the thing with checking copy, the intensity of focus required to question each word in an 80,000-word manuscript is almost a superhuman feat. Times that by three (volumes), and you start to get some idea of the Herculean task. It seemed like every time I made it to the end of a manuscript, thinking, right that one’s done, I’d re-read and find more errors. I began to fear I was losing my mind.

Electrified by pure panic, I stretched the working hours of the day longer and longer. I had freaking deadlines to meet. I got up earlier, went to bed later. I stopped doing the less essential things, like housework, gardening, exercise, and eating. To publish a novel as an Indie, the layout, cover design, printing, and PR, need to be booked months in advance of the launch date. The printing, likewise. My designer is particularly busy, and if I wanted any hope of releasing the book on the date advertised, I knew the date we would have to start working on it. That was my deadline.
My youngest son asked me, “When is this going to be over?” I gave him the death stare. He said, “You’re no fun anymore.” And he was right. Knowing the kids were suffering added stress, but I was knee-deep in the quagmire, and the clock was ticking. I had to slog on night and day until I thought I would combust.
Six painful, exhausting months later, in September 2020, I released my trilogy.

Party. Celebrate.
A collapse in relief.
A few days later, my brother said, “I know you’re not going to want to hear this, but I’m halfway through reading The Last Tree (3rd book in the series), and I’ve found an error.” No, I did not want to hear that. I was so beyond repair, so frazzled and burned out, I walked away from my laptop for six months and did no creative writing at all.
The youngest son asked with trepidation, “Are you going to put out another book?” Just between you and me, I am still undecided. I told myself I’d write my stories and keep them all in the bottom drawer where stories go to retire. I already have a plastic box in my room full of manuscripts from the last 40 years of penning fiction for children. I may just keep adding to that and die happy.

That was March. I took a pen and paper and sat down to write a new story. And that’s where the delight part kicked in. Like a soothing balm to my weary soul, the sheer joy of creative writing began to fill in the cracks and heal the tears. The bliss of writing a new copy is unequaled. To gambol about in the meadows of my unfettered imagination without the specter of publication hanging over me is akin to stepping back to the giddy glee of childhood. No restraints. No rules. No pressure. Just the daily outpouring of my collaborations with the muse in the heady blooming fields of my mind.
Realigned with my purpose and the delight is effortless. Inspiration needs no electric current. No data. No technological interference. Just a pure connection with life. Just daylight and fresh air. Just time to dawdle.

Give me time to daydream.

Nine months later, I am part way through writing a new children’s series. I’m in the zone. The genesis draft of any story is always the ecstatic part for me. The thought of publishing the result makes my knees knock, so necessarily, there is still no plan to publish the result. At least not yet. I might feel burned out as an Indie, but I have learned in this life “never to say never.” A faint maybe will have to suffice. I’m writing. That’s the main thing and always will be the main thing.


What stresses you most about writing? What delights you?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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You only fail if you stop writing. ~ Ray Bradbury


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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

This month’s optional question: What’s harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?
For me, for sure, it’s writing the blurb. A title is short and pithy, a soundbite. It can fly in on the wind and be dropped into your lap as the muse wings by. I like to use the wind metaphor. It’s one I borrowed from Elizabeth Gilbert. In speaking about writing during one of her TED talks, Elizabeth mentioned a friend who said ‘the muse came by on the wind.’ Whenever this author was out on her farm and ‘heard the wind coming,’ she would run for the house to get a pen and paper so she would not miss the words or lose the fleeting grace of the inspired thoughts. I liked that idea. Though I heard it years ago, I still use it frequently.

As for the title of a story, I never worry about it. Because I know that sooner or later, the muse will blow through and gift me something. If I’m paying attention and act quickly enough to catch the inspiration I can jot it down. Simple, huh? Not.
The blurb, on the other hand, is more complex. It is a short passage of text on the book cover, a teaser that invokes the entire story. It’s like the precis of the precis, and it has to be dynamic. For many readers, the blurb is the deciding factor on whether to open the book or not.

The author needs to get the tone right. There are parameters to keep in mind: the blurb needs to tell the reader about the book; it must give insight without spoiling the surprise; the blurb must elicit interest without making false promises. It must cajole, persuade and entice. Some blurbs I edited more times than the stories. It’s not the sort of paragraph that wings in with the breeze. Nah. A blurb is the sort of copy that gets worked to within an inch of its life. And then changed again two years later.

There is an expectation that the blurb is in line with the style of the story. If the book is a horror, the word choice and imagery need to chill. A cozy mystery needs to elicit knowing smiles and whet the curiosity. Comedy should make us titter. Blurbs should match the content.
However, some folks try to cheat by simply setting out a string of questions. Whenever I read a book cover like this, it feels like a cheap marketing ploy. *Note: do not piss off your potential readers. An author needs to be careful about posing a list of questions. A little more finesse is required. A blurb must lure the reader in without sounding like a bald advertisement.
If the blurb doesn’t say enough, the reader may walk away, but on the other hand, if it says too much, the reader may also be turned off. There is a fine line to walk between the two.

What to do?

Copy the greats. That’s what I do. I always look to my role models in children’s literature for tricky jobs like writing blurbs. Look at this excellent example, for Martin the Warrior, by Brian Jacques. The blurb reads: Badrang the Stoat dreams of becoming Lord of the East Coast. After two long seasons of killing and conquering with his ferocious army of weasels, ferrets, foxes, and rats, it seems as if nothing will stop him. But Badrang hasn’t bargained for the bravery and fighting spirit of a young mouse called Martin – a mouse who refuses to bow to the deadly tyrant and who will stand up for his right to freedom at any cost. This blurb does it all in three sentences, does nothing wrong, and manages to elicit reader engagement without asking a single question. It’s perfection.
Only the greats can make it look easy. The rest of us continue sweating.


If you’re a writer, what do you find harder, the title or the blurb? Or, if you are a reader, which do you respond to the most when it comes to choosing books, the title or the blurb?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. ~ Milton Berle


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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

June 2 question – For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

You always hear the seasoned authors say, ideally give yourself a break from a story when you’ve finished it, and then again, when you’ve completed editing it. They say you should put the piece away and not look at it for a while; that you get too close to the work and stop seeing what needs to be done. It sounds wise. Taking a breather gives the author fresh eyes and you can access the coveted third-person perspective on your work. You can read it as the reader.

The problem is things get sticky for me somewhere in the middle. As in, I get too attached to my stories. Once I have finished a story, I’m usually compelled to tinker with it, picking the pieces apart, and putting them back together again. It’s the “mad scientist” part of being an author which is so much fun. You have all the parts you need for a wonderful story but they’re in the wrong order, and your job is to put all the words in exactly the right sequence to create the perfect sense of tone and place. It’s like trying to solve a jigsaw of words. Once you’ve got one on the go, it’s hard to stay away. Just one more piece, one more look, one more read, one more tweak, and the picture will form before your eyes.

I loved it when Neil Gaiman said his primary directive with his fiction was, “How do I not make it dull?” This is a pithy sentence and a damn good way of describing writing fiction. It’s what every writer strives to do, but hey, if you don’t get it right in the rough draft, then the edits are where you hammer and bang that sucker into shape. In fact, some people think the editing is the best part.

Although I’d heard the wisdom of shelving work, whenever I finished a story in the past, as I said, I could never let the prose rest. I love editing! The temptation is usually too strong to resist diving in immediately and then editing endlessly until the story feels good enough. Once happy, I’d move onto the next project. At the start of last year, there was an enforced break from the work just by happenstance. When I went back to editing The Chronicles, it was with such new eyes on the material that I realized an enforced break is actually essential, and would probably save time and money in the long run.

With this in mind, I am doing things differently this time. I plan on shelving my work-in-progress for a minimum six months’ rest and putting that lesson learned into practice. I am underway writing a new children’s series of shorter books and recently completed the genesis draft of book one (of seven). Rather than going back to chapter one to edit, I moved straight on to writing the second book. The plan is to write the entire series this way, by which stage it will be more like twelve months from now when I finish the roughs for all seven books, and then I can start the editing from the beginning by reading book one.

Seeing the first story afresh will hopefully make the editing easier and swifter. So far, it feels very freeing, which has got to be a good thing, right? This works really well from the point of view of writing a series. If you write the entire set first, then when you go back to edit book one, you will have a tighter grasp on the story arc and will edit each story keeping that greater story-line and theme in mind.

With writing I think you’re constantly seeking what works best for you and if you’re smart, you’re always looking for ways to improve. I have learned through experience that shelving the story draft for six months before reading and redrafting is ideal. This time round, I don’t want to even look at the first story again until I’m done with the last one. That’s the current goal. Wish me luck!

What about you, what do you do?

Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

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The more I practice, the less I suck. ~ Joe Walsh

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No matter how bad the year has been, I always try to take time on December 31st to think about what I’ve achieved during the year and all the things I have to be grateful for. My dear grandmother used to say something wise at the end of every visit. As I would reach the door, having hugged and kissed and said our farewells, reminding her when I’d be back again–the following Thursday for our weekly lunch and afternoon together–Gran would say something wise, usually the same few old sayings over and over. I never tired of hearing her say them. I felt I needed to hear the words that often to get the message. And one of her favourites was to say, “Remember, my dear, to always look for the silver lining and you will find it.” I loved that saying then, and I love it now.

I remember, Gran, I hear you saying the words and it helps guide me in my life. You had certain wisdom you passed onto me that has become part of who I am and how I deal with things. In the most horrible of situations, I try to look for the good that can come out of it. My grandmother was a great believer in “the power of positivity” as she called it. Gran believed and often told us about the transformative power of having an optimistic attitude. She was an ardent admirer of the Methodist minister Norman Vincent Peale’s work, and The Power of Positive Thinking was her favourite book, one she often quoted from. She would grab her well-worn hardback copy, kept in a bookcase by the front door, and open the plain blue cover to thumb through and read aloud a much-loved quote. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

I respected Gran’s enthusiasm for the topic and warmed to Peale’s ideas immediately. I have several Norman Vincent Peale’s inspirational books in my library and refer to his wisdom often. It helps to have tools such as these when looking back on 2020, as I was doing last night.

As I say, I take the time on New Year’s Eve to appreciate the twelve months gone before. When I looked back on the year we’ve had, it was hard at points to see the good in it. Man, it has been and continues to be a struggle. 2020 took a toll on me. The strain and anxiety around the whole Covid situation was intense, my concern being for my two younger boys. Both are at high risk. Nathaniel, the youngest, is asthmatic, and Samuel lives with a condition called “wet lungs,” caused by his aspirating food and fluids. Both boys were/are highly susceptible to infection, and Covid would be a death sentence. So we lived through months of tension and strife just going to the store.

At the same time as being confined to my home with two huge teenage boys and an adult nephew underfoot, I was editing The Last Tree and revising the first two books in my series, The Or’in of Tane and The Sasori Empire. I had a release date that kept getting pushed further and further back because it took so much longer than expected. Home, property, and kids went neglected as I slogged my way through editing day and night. It turned into six long months of stress and toil, PAINFUL in the extreme. I thought it would never be over, and I vowed I’d never release three books at once, ever again.

But I got there, releasing The Chronicles of Aden Weaver on October 10th. That was a big win for me in 2020. The book launch was the culmination of fifteen years writing this story and pursuing a dream, and I’m proud of myself. The trilogy sits on my bookshelf, the crowning achievement of 38 years writing for children. I’m glad I achieved that goal. Now I have these books and my children to leave as my legacy to the world which is a good feeling.

When I looked back, I saw other blessings too. I’ve made positive changes for my health and wellness. I doubled my meditation time, so now I start every day with twenty minutes of meditation, and I have more barefoot time in the garden, which helps me feel grounded. The boys are well and have done more reading. When schools reopened, we found a carer supporter, so Sam started Special Olympics basketball, and Nat made it into “A-team” in volleyball. All good things!

Gran you were right, I looked for the silver lining and it was there. What’s your silver lining?
Here’s to 2021. Happy New Year!

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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Change your thoughts and you change your world. ~ Norman Vincent Peale