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LIFE IS PRECIOUS

Life is precious no matter what kind of life it is.  I have been fortunate that the only death my three girls know, in our family, has been two dogs.  Maxwell, a seventeen-year old Chihuahua, died in his sleep early last summer and Monday I put our beagle to sleep (undiagnosed diabetes—shutting down her organs).   

When I was growing up, my family was poor.  Reduced lunch, hand-me-down clothes (from other kids), blue light K-mark specials, and Goodwill, was my life.  We did not have much, but we always had pets.  Dogs, cats, fish, snakes, rabbits, birds, mice, rats, hamsters, frogs, lizards, and once even a wild turtle that lived under a window box, were a part of my life.  Death was a common occurrence and we had half an acre to bury them on.

My girls however, this would be only the second time they have experienced death and only the first time for an animal they bonded with.  I watched my three girls kiss Cassie (the beagle), with tears in their eyes, and say goodbye.  The vet then took the dog to a back room, where they would put her to sleep.   

Today the call came to pick-up the ashes.  I will bury her in the garden along with her friend, Maxwell.  They both liked lying in the sun, and now they will both be in the sunniest part of the yard.  

I hope that next week I will be back on track with my blog.  On one positive note, I did finish a fairytale-fiction short story.  On a downside, I was rejected for publication in Encounter Magazine.   It will not stop me and I will keep writing. 

“I love writing.  I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.”  ~James Michener

Happy Writing!

Shelly  www.shellygoodmanwright.com

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ARE YOU READY? For an agent

ARE YOU READY?

            We have written our novel and now we are ready to seek out an agent—or are we?

            Today I spent much of my Saturday afternoon making a list of possible agents.  On each site, I not only read about each agent and what they represent, but read their blogs.  One agent wrote, “If this is the first draft of your first novel then don’t even bother.”  Wow, that hits you hard in the face.  Here we have spent hours, months and possibly years to write our masterpiece and she’s going to slap me in the face.  OUCH!

            Her statement is completely understandable.  Thousands of query letters hits the desks (computers) of agents/publishers on a daily basis.  I read on one agent’s blog, fifty percent of queries sent to him, have either misspelled his name, addressed the query letter “To Whom It May Concerns”, do not include the genre they seek representation for, or simply have basic spelling/grammar errors.  “No thanks, I’ll pass.”

            It is much the same with most agents and publishers.  If you can’t get the short query polished, what is the rest of your manuscript going to look like.  YIKES!

            But let’s go back a moment to my original statement.  Are you ready to seek an agent? 

            Say you have just finished your novel.  First thing I would suggest is to join a writer’s group.  Here you will get honest feedback from people who are not afraid to hurt your feelings.  Trust me, it might sting a little a first, but your writing will grow stronger and you will have the opportunity to analyze others writings as well. 

            Secondly, know your genre and search for agents that represent that genre.  You are not ready to submit yet, but by signing up with their blogs and finding out about them, gives you an upper hand in knowing what they are looking for.  Most of the agents I ran across today have no problems telling you what drives them insane or gets them excited. 

            Third, learn the craft.  Joining a critique group, reading editor, agents, or publishing blogs are great resources for learning.  There are also writers’ magazines that feature advice from writers, editors and publishers, and keep you current on the publishing world.

            And while you’re doing all these, you can check out my blog Building A Platform www.shellygoodmanwright.com  as your next step.  You really want to have something you can add to your publishing credits.

            Currently, I’m on my seventh draft of “A LIGHT INTO THE DARKNESS”.  Each draft, tightens my novel and quickens the pace of the story.  Why?  Because of the critiques and I’m so grateful to those who aren’t afraid to tell me what they think. 

            Am I ready?  I like to think I’m close.  Fine turning my query, synopsis and first fifty pages is more than nerve racking, but worth it.  I don’t know if I’ll ever publish my first novel, but I have enjoyed those who have begged me for the second and third novel.  I’ve also enjoyed writing for the local paper and creating short stories for publications. 

            What tips do you have?  Do you follow a blog of an agent, editor, or publisher?  And why them? 

            Are you ready?

Happy Writing,

Shelly Goodman Wright

www.shellygoodmanwright.com

My Story

I grew up in a typical, dysfunctional home like most people.  My parents, although still married, lived apart; and when my dad came home on an occasional weekend, he could suck down six Moosehead beers before noon.  Hiding in my room or taking off on my bike for a long scenic tours of downtown Hesperia (population 3548) was the only way to avoid conflict. 

I didn’t like conflict. 

In my room time, I filled journal after journal of stories and poetry.  Of course, when I moved out on my own, most were lost or destroyed.  Lacking direction for my life, I failed out of college and flopped around for a few years.  I guess you could say I broaden my horizons with a few odd jobs.  Some were a lot of fun.  I remember working at the Ski Shop in Wrightwood where I met a lot of cute guys, but in the end, the cost to drive up and what they paid me, wasn’t cost-effective.  So I ended up where I started, back as a waitress at Red Robin.  I’m not sure how many times I left, only to come back again.  But I have to say, I met some great folks and had some fun times. 

It wasn’t long at Red Robin before I tended the bar.  I suppose that’s when I started going down the same path as my dad.  Drinking after work, hitting the karaoke bars, driving home barely able to see the road, and sleeping until two in the afternoon.  Funny how fast these things come and you don’t even realize the danger you put yourself in and call it ‘a good time.’  I was chasing my tail with no real direction, but I was living carefree and who cares.

My life changed when I met Tim.  A Christian most of his life and determined to show me a different way of living.  I like to say Tim changed my life, but it wasn’t him.  God was using him to get to me.  To tell me I care about you and want better for your life; and although he’s been pursuing me all my life, finally, I was listening.

Now God really does work in mysterious ways and until recently, I knew where my place was.  My service, my husband, my children, my household; all my duties as a housewife, was very clear until my youngest child started school full-time.  It was then I felt the calling that had always been there before and I thought about those journals I wrote in so long ago.

That’s all it took and before I knew it, I was staring at 70, 000 + words and a completed novel.  That was May of 2009.  Since then, I’ve completed two more novels, had a few published articles, one short story up for publication the end of this year, and now waiting to hear if a magazine (distributed in churches, Christian schools and colleges) will be published the end of this year. 

This has been an interesting journey to say the least.  My father still drinks, and my mother is in a cult, but I keep a relationship with them regardless.  My point to my story is that it doesn’t matter where you come from, or the obstacles that get in the way.  I’m turning forty this year and although I sometimes wish I would have started this writing journey earlier, it’s never too late to follow your dreams and you’re never to old to accomplish them.

As a writer, we all want to write something amazing.  We want the reader to fall into the world we created; to get lost in our creative mind, and to emerge with a hunger for more.  That is what every person who ever wrote anything wants:  to either entertain or enlighten.  So how to do we get to that point?  How do we make this happen?

I’ve briefly mentioned a few idea’s in previous blogs, but I’d like to go into more detail with the one thing that has been the most important in my own writing–Peer Editing.

An article on the Guilford College website explains one of the benefits of peer editing:  “The individual editors get valuable editing practice, which enables them to edit their own work better in the future. One of the best ways to improve as a writer–other than through practice, practice, practice!–is by consciously using the criteria of excellent writing to make judgments about what is good in a piece of writing and what is not and then applying those criteria to one’s own work. Thus students in writing classes that employ peer editing regularly praise the practice highly, sometimes reporting it to be a class’s most useful aspect.”  (sited on Guilford College web site:  http://www.guilford.edu/about_guilford)

Belonging to a fantastic writers group in my area (coloradospringsfictionwritersgroup.org ), I could not agree more with the article, especially the underlined sentence above.  Go back and read it again.  What does it mean to you?

When I finished my first novel, I did pass it along to a few friends to read, but having someone tell you “it’s good”, or even “great”, is not as helpful as someone pointing out tense shifts, or overused words and phrases.  Our friends may buy the books we self-publish, even suggest it to their friends, but if it’s sloppy and badly written, was it worth it?  Let’s say the writing is excellent, but your character isn’t strong enough, or your plot is weak.  That will be the lasting impression you leave on the reader’s mind and they won’t be running down to Borders to buy your new book. Peer editing will not only bring these things out in our work, but we begin to see it in other writers work—the same mistakes.  I couldn’t see the mistakes in my own writing, until I started to edit others.  Now, not only do I have feedback written on my piece, but also I’ve learned something from the editing process, helping me become a stronger writer.

There can be a few pitfalls, so before you do the internet scan for peer editing groups, we all need to remember one thing—YOU ARE THE AUTHOR!  Not everyone’s feedback is helpful, and not everyone will agree with our critique of his/her work either.  That’s okay.  In my writing group, there are about ten of us.  Some of the critiques are very similar to each other, so then I know it’s a red flag to fix.  But occasionally one person might say something that no one else agrees with.  In the end, it’s your piece, your baby.  What I ask myself before I scrap a scene or begin to re-write: “Who is it I’m reaching too?  Am I missing my target audience?” and most importantly, “Do I agree with the suggestions?”  Nine times out of ten—for me–I enjoy the critiques that tear my writing apart.  I believe my writing gets stronger because of those who aren’t afraid to say, “I just didn’t get it.”

I’ve had readers tell me that they don’t know how to critique.  They feel inadequate and “not the best person to give you a critique”.  But, I bet you if you asked them about the worst book they ever read, they could ramble off a list.  Maybe you’re one of those people and for a moment, I’m going to assume you are.  Here are some basic things I look for when I critique:

  • Read the entire piece to make sure you have a good idea of what the person submitted.  Make a mark on spots where the flow stops, or you got lost—but not much else yet.  Find the beat!
  •   Start-off with the positive/strengths and give specifics.  Ex:  You liked the premise of the piece, strong characters, good descriptions, etc.
  • From here, you can either talk about the weakness of the piece—again being specific–or go right into the line editing.
  • Line Editing–Hopefully the piece submitted or exchanged is double-space with one and a half margin for adequate comments.  This is where you note grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, below, above, or in the side margin.
  • Finish your critique again with something positive and encourage the writer.  They say half the battle in life, isn’t whether something is easy or hard, it’s your attitude about it.  Leave your writer with something they can hold on to, even if you hated it, without lying to them.  It does them no good for you to say you liked the story if you really didn’t.

These are just a few things I look for, but I do know there are other writers who critique as well and I would love to know your methods, or something I may have left out.  You can add your comments to my web site blog, www.shellygoodmanwright.com to share your strategies with other writers, including me.

Anyone can write and many do.  Unfortunately, in this self-publishing age, badly written books line the shelves everywhere you turn.  Join a group, strengthen your story, polish your writing skills, then head over to agentquery.com and begin the search.

As always, I wish you the very best of luck and happy writing!

Write Your Novel in 2011

Having a Writing Life

Two and half years ago, my life changed with a dream.  Literally—I woke up and began to write down the events of a dream.  It was not the beginning of the story, or the end, and not the high-tension action scene, just a girl torn between two immortal brothers seeking her affection.  One brother, a moral and Godly soul; the other power hungry and siding with the devil.  Oh, and the dream took place in a swamp.

That is about all I knew when I started the novel.  What swamp, what type of immortal?  That came after I did some research on swamps, anchoring my story in the Okefenoke Swamp, GA.  History is full of real events to play into your fictional world, giving your reader the believability that it could have happened.

I wrote my first draft of A LIGHT INTO THE DARKNESS in thirty days.  I know, it seems impossible, but it really isn’t if you set personal daily goals and follow some simple tips I’ve learned from writer blogs.

  1.  Forget grammar!  Number one suggestion—editing is going to happen.  No one can write a novel and get it published.  Even established author’s have editors.  So allow yourself to make mistakes—write broken sentences and mess up your tense shifts—allow your soul to write and don’t hinder the story.  Then, when you have finished the novel, you will be able to really understand your characters and where they are going, making the editing process much easier.  Writing and rewriting the same chapter repeatedly only stops you from completion.
  2.  Set a realistic daily writing goal.  A typically novel is 70-100 words, so take the days you want to complete your novel in and divide the word count.  Mine was 1600 a day.
  3. Think about what motivates you to write.  Is it music?  Is it a quiet place?  Or maybe it’s sitting in a bookstore/coffee shop.  Where are you most productive?  (Where ever that might be, keep in mind your posture and sit in a good chair).
  4. Keep a notebook with you at all times.  Waiting for the oil change or for the kids to get out of school; anytime is a good time to scribble down the next part of your story. (I’ve recently acquired a net-book which fits neatly in my purse.  I wrote sitting in the dental chair before my root canal.)
  5. And every writer should always have a book on their nightstand!  Keep reading and it wouldn’t hurt to pick up the Writer’s Digest Magazine!  Chalked full of great advice and suggestions.

The next problem is being stuck and you’re not sure what to do next.  Here are a few things I’ve either done, or have heard others say worked for them.

  •  If your novel was a movie, what type of music would you hear?  Make a soundtrack for your novel.  When stuck, play the tune, close your eyes and see where it takes you.
  • Where does your novel take place?  Is it real, fiction, or fiction based on real?  Develop some physical and mental pictures of your world to help inspire what comes next.
  • Do you have a ‘bible’ journal for your characters?  I have to say, I do not.  (However, I can see for my next new novel, I should establish one.)  This includes all aspects of each character, where they are born who their parents are—what makes them who they are; whether or not you use it in the novel, it can help spark you out of a rut.
  • Another way to break out of a stuck mind, get active!  Jump on a dread-mill, take a walk around the block, get the blood flowing.

Finishing a novel is not beyond your reach!  Set your goals, follow through, and before you know it, you’ll be staring at your first complete novel.  And congradulations in advance for accomplishing what most people only talk about.

For more about me or my road to publication, you can click on my website at www.shellygoodmanwright.com  or email at swright011699@msn.com

Shelly Goodman Wright

SHELLY WRITES

Building Your Writing Platform

http://fictionwriting.about.com/b/2011/01/12/how-to-write-edit-and-sell-a-novel-advice-from-the-forum.htm#gB3

Ginny is a great mentor and it so happens that she’s features a new writer (me) in her blog this month.  Find out all the things she say I’m doing right and then head over to my web site to read samples of my work.