Yay, I did it again!
Take a look at my new science fiction short story:
Yay, I did it again!
Take a look at my new science fiction short story:
Read my Science-Fiction short story The Bumpy Way Home on the Re:fiction website.
I’m happy to announce that I won the awesome giveaway from Re:fiction
(More about Re:fiction at the bottom of this post.)
My prize was an Amazon gift certificate of one hundred euros to buy Fiction-Writing books.
Among many interesting recommendations from Tal Valante from Re:fiction , I had the following Fiction-writing books recommended to me. I didn’t get these only because I already have them, but I would also recommend them as very helpful books:
Wonderbook : The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer (Goodreads Author), Jeremy Zerfoss (Illustrator), John Coulthart (Illustrations)
And the Angela Ackerman‘s Thesaurus series
Now I wish to find enough time to enjoy all these awesome books! But summer is coming so I’m quite hopeful this will happen.
” Re:fiction is a fast-growing resource website for writers. We host everything from practical articles and tips to writing prompts and a story idea generator. In our newsletter, you can practice your skills by entering free, prize-bearing writing challenges. Need professional feedback for your work? Try our free editing scholarships.
Seriously, this is a must in every writer’s bucket list, a brutally honest beta-reader who tells you that he/she didn’t care about your characters, your story had a long list of faults, you must show and not tell and whatever else they have found of extremely badly written in your manuscript draft, especially if you are now starting your writing career and therefore clueless of where you have to improve.
If your writing is a career for you, then you need to study to develop your weak spots, you need feedback and you need to hear your beta-readers, even if he/she was brutally honest and even if the way how he/she manifested his/her opinion made you cringe at the sight of that feedback for a whole month.
I remember when I received that brutally honest feedback. I had swapped beta-reading with another writer, but I couldn’t get her story for two reasons:
First, she didn’t tell me that one of her short stories was a spin-off of a novel from her that I haven’t read, so, not understanding at all where her short story had come from, I found it confusing and with an underdeveloped story world. She should have told me as a beta-reader that I would only understand the short story if I read the novel first.
And second, her protagonist failed to do anything out of her own insecurity and misplaced principles until the end of her story. So the protagonist was arrested, the horrible and well-depicted villain won and the third character, whose goals weren’t clear for me since the start, went on doing nothing apart from being the (impossible to understand) passive love interest of the protagonist. It was a weak story without a fully formed plot where nothing happened. It masqueraded as a tragedy, but at least for me, a tragedy without enough reasons for its sad and inconclusive end. I confess that I don’t like tragedies unless that really makes sense in the context of the character arc. Her story didn’t make sense to me at the time so I was sincere enough to tell her my opinion, taking care though to also point out what I had found of positive in her WIP, so it would be a balanced feedback.
As an answer, she sent me a really long email telling me all the things she had hated in my WIP in a really emotional way. To summarize it, her main points were that my backstory was stupid, my writing was beyond terrible and she didn’t care for the characters or the story at all. Her feedback was much more emotional and negative than what I usually received from other beta-readers, so I concluded that being upset about my previous, not completely positive feedback, had influenced the way how she expressed herself in her answer.
I thanked her for her quite thorough feedback and said nothing about the emotional way she had expressed it. I was astonished that my writing had called such a strong emotional reaction, even if a negative one. So, I decided to ignore the emotional coloring of her feedback and concentrated on the more precise advice buried under all that emotion.
And the advice was:
I had to find ways to bring the reader into my story so the reader would care.
I had to flesh out summarized narrative (Change tell into show) and make better description and settings.
I had to make my characters intriguing even if not likable through a clearer character arc.
I had to break the backstory into smaller bits, weaving it into the plot.
I had to show, not tell.
I accepted that brutally honest feedback regardless of how it was expressed and learned from it, instead of dismissing it completely or being hurt/discouraged by it. The harsh way how the critique was written convinced me to study and try to improve my writing in a way that milder feedback had not. So it was a hard experience, but one that was vital and important for my writing development.
Bucket list item accomplished. 🙂
Of course, there are always exceptions. Once I received feedback where it was clear that my beta-reader was disappointed that my story wasn’t a courageous group of marines shooting around to save the world. So I read his feedback taking that into account. 😉
And you? Have you already received brutally honest feedback?
Here they are, not in sequence, since I like all of them. When I’m looking for writing advice here is where I look. Many of these bloggers have awesome books on writing I surely recommend.
1. Helping Writers Become Authors
2. Live Write Thrive
3. Writers Write
4. Rayne Hall, Making Good Books Great
5. Marcy Kennedy
6. Jane Friedman
7.Writers Helping Writers
8. What is a plot?
9. Jami Gold
10. She’s Novel
I could be mistaken, but I consider my current work-in-progress, my first book, the hardest. So by association, I would say the first book is the hardest for most authors, especially if you are strict on yourself and want to make as little beginner mistakes as possible. If you are in love with your story and must make it the best. Once I heard from a famous writer that you probably should start off with a smaller, not so important project and move on later to the stories you are dying to write. I didn’t follow that advice and neither could I, because I usually am passionate about most of my stories, but I still consider that advice wise, even if it’s meant for less impulsive people than me.
On your first book, you have a humongous learning curve. There are so many ways you can improve your writing that I couldn’t make a list of all of them, let alone which one I would consider more important. I could make a list of the books I already looked in topics like Structure, Characters, Viewpoint, Description, and Setting, but apart from books, there are tons of resources on the internet, amazing blogs on writing, videos, podcasts, online courses and so on.
Books are my favorite source of information though because on the internet you often jump from an interesting blog post on writing to facebook and then all your concentration gets lost. And a book will cover a subject in many more pages, in a longer way than any blog post can. And in a book I can underline the most important tips and read them again, I find that easier than jumping back on a video. Again, each one has their own way to learn. For me the less distraction on the side the better.
Together with learning the craft you have to find your own writing system. Once you establish what works for you writing tends to get easier. I wrote my first draft as fast as I could and then I had to establish a certain order to my rewriting process and this proved to be quite time-consuming. There were too many aspects to revise and it looked the first time as too much to juggle. Later I saw I should make a reread for each of the aspects I wanted to improve. It seems like a simple idea, but it took out the overwhelming side of revising out of the way. Now I just need undisturbed revising time to use all the insights I gained so far.
So, was your first book the most difficult? What lessons have you learned with it?
Jen’s love for reading came from her mom, who valued books above all things (except maybe the Dallas Cowboys and Michael Jordan.) She writes for the same reason some people run marathons, climb mountains, sculpt, paint, or put on suits of Mentos and jump into vats of Coke: because there is a fire burning inside her that doesn’t let her NOT do these things. Writing is necessary, like breathing or double chocolate chip cookies and perfectly salted potato chips.
Reading is not a lost pastime and Jen refuses to believe that something so magical could ever go away. Even during the zombie apocalypse, she will be reading. She will just have to learn how to wield an ax in one hand while holding her book in the other.
Jen Ponce lives in the Panhandle of Nebraska, with her boys, her cats, her goldfish Reggie and a large supply of books that help insulate the house in the winter and expand her mind.
She loves connecting on Twitter and Facebook. You can also send her email and she’ll write back. Visitwww.JenniferPonce.com to figure out how to do all of the above.
Jen Ponce. Writer of kick ass women and oogy monsters. One-handed, ax-wielding zombie hunter/reader.
How would you describe your story in one sentence?
The story I’m working on now: A young woman with a troubled past discovers that evil can wear a pretty face.
What inspired you to write your story/characters/theme?
This story came from a dream that inspired a three-day writing binge that left me with 275 pages of story. I’ve been picking at it for a long time, trying to figure out what the purpose of it is, what the ending is, why it has stuck with me as something that needed written. I’ve finally gotten the handle on what I want to say with this book and I’m about halfway done with it.
Which authors have influenced you?
There are a lot of romance authors who inspired me to start writing way back when: Johannah Lindsey, Laura Kinsale, Lisa Gregory, Rebecca Brandewyne. Then I picked up a novel that looked like a romance (with two lovers in passionate embrace) but of course, the male model was Stephen King. That book was Misery and started me on a nom, nom, reading binge of horror.
Which are your favorite literary genres?
Fantasy of all kinds, romance, and historical fiction.
What makes a book/story special for you?
Books with female characters who have agency and independence. Books that have fast action, gory horror, engaging characters and magic!
Where do you live? Did your hometown/country/culture influenced your story?
I live in the Panhandle of Nebraska and while I have used Nebraska as the location for several of my novels, it’s more because there aren’t that many novels set in Nebraska rather than my desire to write novels inspired by Nebraska. Does that make sense? I think of books like My Antonia inspired by and grown by the land about which they are written. My books just use Nebraska as a backdrop.
How long you needed for writing this book/for your first draft/ for your revision/editing process?
I can type words very quickly, but getting them into the right order for a novel is a lot harder. (Imagine that! LOL) If I have a firm grasp on the novel and where I want it to end up, I can usually get a first draft written in two or three months. I set the thing aside for a while, then pick it up again to read through it with fresh eyes. I’ll make corrections, revisions, and then get it to someone else to read. When they send back their feedback, I plunk it into a program that will read the text to me so I can hear all the things I missed during a read through. It’s different for each novel, too. If I write the book more slowly, there are less mistakes.
Did you hire a cover artist/editor/proofreader?
I’ve been making my own covers and looking back on some of my first covers, I see that I’ve made a lot of progress as a cover maker. I’ve translated that knowledge to my day job and have won a state-wide award related to the skills I’ve been honing through my writing.
What have you learned while writing and publishing? Did unexpected things happen?
I’ve learned that I am very much capable of planning a project, carrying it out, and seeing success from it. Writing will always be something I do, even if self-publishing goes away, even if no one ever sees anything I write. It was really the publishing and all the things that come with it that made me realize that I can accomplish what I put my mind to. I love that feeling.
What helped you to get inspired and overcome hurdles along the writing of your book?
I’ve been doing a lot of drawing lately in preparation for another book I’ll soon be writing. It’s an epic fantasy, a genre I haven’t really written in before (aside from some small stories) and it’s both invigorating and nerve-wracking to contemplate a book the size I think this one will be. The drawing helps me focus my creativity in different ways to enhance the writing I do. At other times, I’ve used writing workbooks or creative writing exercises to overcome hurdles, or I completely scrap all that I’ve done and come at the problem from a different writing angle. That one is painful and hard, but I’ve written pretty good stories from those moments of bravery, so as hard as it is, sometimes throwing away all that you’ve done to start fresh can work wonders.
What would you do differently on a next project?
I am a pantser down deep in my soul, but I’ve seen the benefits of pre-planning stories in my own work. I’ve done a lot more structuring of plot and character work for the upcoming writing project than I’ve done for most of my stories, so I’m excited to see if that makes a difference or not.
Best piece (s) of advice for first time writers?
Don’t forget to have fun with your writing and don’t show your work too soon. Valid or not, other people’s opinions can totally wreck your mojo. Keep the assholes and cheerleaders out of your creative space for as long as you can stand it.
Where can readers contact you in the internet? Do you have a blog/website?
You can visit me at www.JenniferPonce.com to see my books, read my blog, and contact me. You can also play with me on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/JenPonceAuthor or on Twitter: www.Twitter.com/JenPonceAuthor.
What are you planning to write/publish next?
I’m publishing my next book on June 6, 2016. I’ll be writing Brokeneck Raven (my epic fantasy) next, and then I’ll be writing Fungus Queen (horror novel) with the hopes of having it published in October of this year. I don’t think Brokeneck Raven will be done this year, but miracles do happen! 🙂