Thursday, 25 August 2011

3 ReasonS why i Knead a pRoofreadeR

Now that you've worked out the title, I must confess my mistakes of that nature are few and far between (thank the Lord). However it does highlight one obvious reason proofies are amongst my bestest friends in the whole wide world: I make mistakes!

Here are just three of the reasons I love the varied friends who are brave enough to read my stories, and why I trust them with this scary line of work.

Proofies are objective. When we've put our heart and soul into thousands of words of MS, we're heavily invested in something that stands every chance of not being able to work for any multitude of reasons. I need someone detached who can cast their eye over what I've written and spot the holes so it can be improved. I like what I write but am usually too close. Being told what is downright dumb really helps. If it doesn't wash with the proofie(s), chances are it won't with someone else. My proofies have helped me shelve some stuff quite happily.

Proofies are brave. My dear mother was my first ever fiction proofie when I was about 15 years old or so, but when I started writing I was only prepared to hear her gush about my prose and storylines and twists. I had no room to hear her negative criticisms. It only took one person to make me realise my writing could be bad. My mother. Proofies must be as thick-skinned as the writers they read for. They must be honest and prepared to step on toes. If you're acting as proofie for someone who's assuring you they want to grow, you stand a chance of hurting their feelings. I try and make it easy on my proofies - if what I've written is tripe, I want to know and will absolutely 100% not fall out in a dead faint if it's bad (nor will our friendship be over). After all, you think I want to go unpublished forever? You're helpin' me out, here.

Proofies are generous. They are giving up precious hours of life they may not get back. Oftentimes this is a favour when there's a multitude of other things they could be doing. They do not deserve a whipping, but abundant thanks. They are helping you see what you don't, and to fix what you thought was quite alright. If you ain't payin', don't bemoan their (perceived) tardiness. I value my own time like crazy. Value the time of your proofie, too.

My heart is always full of thanks to my proofreaders, and the only thing that flattens me is when I can feel the honesty I so desire is being hidden behind courtesy. I am not my story, and I am aware not everyone is going to like it because everyone is different in what they look for in fiction. Proofies, I value you like only the best kind of chocolate. Who can live without it?

PS~ If any of you is reading this and spots a mistake, I'm sorry! It's you who make me look good ;)

Decide: Who is on your list of proofreaders? Why have you chosen them? Are they doing your ego wonders but your writing a world of harm?

"The way of fools seems right to them,
   but the wise listen to advice." Proverbs 12:15

L'insensé pense toujours qu'il fait bien,
      mais le sage écoute les avis des autres.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Playing With Fire & Writing Prompts

Some people are afraid to let anyone see their work in case their original ideas get stolen. A little bit of mine is about to show up on the Writer's Digest site for writing prompts, so I'll take the liberty of saying "Y'all saw it here first, folks."

Am I afraid of this heinous scenario? Not exactly, because true writers ARE original. They don't need to steal. The latest WD prompt's first and last sentences (required) actually fit with a novel idea I played with and made notes for about a month ago, so I toyed with their 500 wordcount and was interested to submit it. For now, the rest of this story's details remain mine...

Enjoy, and please leave a comment.

My mother always told me not to play with fire. It’s a pity the local boys’ mothers didn’t give them the same advice. If she did, they never listened.
            Effortless and unbidden the memories returned as I waited, scantily clad, seated in a director’s chair fingering a box of Redheads. As a result of their firebug antics my house burnt down when I was in the next town getting my passport photo done. While I was there, a visiting photographer guy handed me a card urging I ring without delay, that Genevieve might have work for me. Apparently I had “the look”.
            Ring I did, and was told to come. Being ‘discovered’ is every girl’s dream and I never once believed it could happen to me. Genevieve was falling all over herself with delight, proclaiming me the next Miranda Kerr. Cheeks like a chipmunk and legs like a sculpture. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my parents, hoping they’d see the legitimacy on offer and not the seedy side.
            Ha. If only I’d not been so naive.
            I arrived home to discover my house was gone and my parents were taken with it. There would be an investigation with hell to pay when the arsonists were uncovered, but all this meant for me was that after my immediate grief was assuaged, I would be utterly on my own. My adoptive parents were the only ones I’d ever known. They’d brought me from India and that’s all I knew.
            Not long after the fire, Genevieve was ready to pounce and I was ready to be loved. The shoots started instantly, ensuring my cataclysmic rise to fame. The world loved but couldn’t soothe me. By the grace of God I did manage to elude the seedy side for the better part, but there was always someone ready to take advantage of my proportions. How wrong was it to resign myself that lingerie and swimwear shoots weren’t all bad, that they weren’t clashing with my inner moral compass?
            Quickly this became the life I never expected, the life every girl never actually truly wants. I could do the job and make brands like D&G look fantastic, but at heart I remained the teen who’d lost her parents in a fire. Perhaps everyone loved me more because of it. Whatever.
            All I knew was that I was fast losing my own identity and I needed it back. Was there any chance I could trace my roots? All the way back to India? Surely it was possible.
            Until then, I was working as clotheshorse for Moontide. Striking the pose I still found a little too suggestive, I might as well be naked. I always blamed the fire when I was in situations like this. The beach was awesome, but the day was long. Everything in my life was prearranged for me. All I had to do was show up.
            And that’s how I ended up in the middle of nowhere—naked.

Decide: Are writer's prompts worth it? Have you ever tried them? What was the result?

"By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night." Exodus 13:21

L'Eternel marchait à leur tête, le jour dans une colonne de nuée pour leur montrer le chemin, et la nuit dans une colonne de feu pour les éclairer, afin qu'ils puissent marcher de jour et de nuit.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Know Your Market

Here are a few tips about market and genre taught to me back in the olden days, as my kids would so fondly put it, even though it was only the year 2000. The information is based on writing articles for magazines yet much of it applies to the current fiction market in some form or another. Bear in mind it's not the exhaustive be-all and end-all, but a great starter and guide.

Either way, use the principles here for both magazines and novels. Apply liberally like a good cocoa butter during pregnancy so you can avoid being overstretched in places you might later want to show off as your best work yet.

Identifying your genre should be straightforward if not easy. I say this because it’s not an overly technical thing to know where your story fits. What’s the subject matter? Is the story funny or fearsome? Is there romance? Is there mystery? Where does it take place? Ticking some of the boxes and applying them together will soon work out where your story stands.

Of course if you tick too many, you might need to hire a darn good editor or at least employ the mind of an objective friend to tell you if you’re trying to cover too many bases in one hit. Word documents aren't about to leave the planet so don’t rush to get all your ideas out on one character.

Perhaps it would be helpful to first identify what some of the main genres are.

o   Action/Adventure
o   Romance
o   Inspirational
o   Crime
o   Sci-fi
o   Western
o   Mystery
o   Fantasy
o   Horror
o   Detective

Most novels tend to be a combination of two or more, yet the main theme of the book will bring it under one heading. The Big Fat Fiction Genre List shows a graph of how much each genre sells (and this is just one graph).

So, here are some tips that might help with learning how to ID a given market. Back in the day my teacher repeated that knowing your market can save a lot of time and trouble and pointless writing for a magazine that simply doesn’t take your thing. Give yourself an advantage. Homework’s not over yet...

His Golden Rule: Never write an article or story then try to find a magazine for it; Always find the magazine first, then write the article or story for it.

Ø  What subjects does your chosen publication favour and which ones are taboo?
Ø  What length word count do they prefer?
Ø  Do you use their preferred layout?
Ø  Is there a writing style they favour?
Ø  Can you obtain several copies of the magazine to analyse in detail?
Ø  What do the publication’s advertisements tell you about their readership?
Ø  Are you covering an exhausted topic, or can you find a new angle?
Ø  What is the age and gender of the readership?
Ø  Why do they choose this particular publication?
Ø  What does the readership expect from the publication?
Ø  If the information you seek can’t be found, can you ask for help on how to find it?

The last point I would say is one of the important ones, and something I’ve learned since embarking on my writing journey many moons ago is that simply asking for information is the best key ever.

Once you start to look and write down your answers, you’re well and truly on your way to knowing helpful things about your genre and you will more easily be able to identify different markets in the future so you won’t waste your own time or anyone else’s. It can be pretty disheartening to work for months only to have it rejected because you didn’t pitch in the right direction.

Decide: What other could questions can you come up with to help you find out more about your market? The list of helps is endless, so start searching with confidence! If your story falls into more than two categories shown above, what are the main two?

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7v7
Demandez, et vous recevrez; cherchez, et vous trouverez; frappez, et l'on vous ouvrira.

Faithful Love Endures Forever!

So I’m sitting contemplating this morning with my Bible open at Psalm 107. The page heading says “BOOK FIVE, Psalms 107-150”. The Psalms have a general theme of praise and petition, but really there’s so much to say that it must be broken up into five separate books!

Psalm 107 is a favourite of mine that I first truly discovered many moons ago whilst being extracted from a pit of despair. I like it because it lists several different scenarios but the Lord in His great love delivers the troubled. Check it out.

107 starts out telling people to “Give thank to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Get to verse 4 and the first scenario begins.

 4 Some wandered in the wilderness,
      lost and homeless.
 5 Hungry and thirsty,
      they nearly died.
 6 “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
      and he rescued them from their distress.
 7 He led them straight to safety,
      to a city where they could live.
 8 Let them praise the Lord for his great love
      and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
 9 For he satisfies the thirsty
      and fills the hungry with good things.

Verse 10 shows the next situation.

10 Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom,
      imprisoned in iron chains of misery.
 11 They rebelled against the words of God,
      scorning the counsel of the Most High.
 12 That is why he broke them with hard labour;
      they fell, and no one was there to help them.
 13 “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
      and he saved them from their distress.
 14 He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom;
      he snapped their chains.
 15 Let them praise the Lord for his great love
      and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
 16 For he broke down their prison gates of bronze;
      he cut apart their bars of iron.

The following set shows only a slight change in circumstances to the second. Rebellion seems to reap rewards no matter where it goes!
 17 Some were fools; they rebelled
      and suffered for their sins.
 18 They couldn’t stand the thought of food,
      and they were knocking on death’s door.
 19 “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
      and he saved them from their distress.
 20 He sent out his word and healed them,
      snatching them from the door of death.
 21 Let them praise the Lord for his great love
      and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
 22 Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving
      and sing joyfully about his glorious acts.

These guys found themselves in an unforeseen state of affairs not of their own making:

 23 Some went off to sea in ships,
      plying the trade routes of the world.
 24 They, too, observed the Lord’s power in action,
      his impressive works on the deepest seas.
 25 He spoke, and the winds rose,
      stirring up the waves.
 26 Their ships were tossed to the heavens
      and plunged again to the depths;
      the sailors cringed in terror.
 27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards
      and were at their wits’ end.
 28 “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
      and he saved them from their distress.
 29 He calmed the storm to a whisper
      and stilled the waves.
 30 What a blessing was that stillness
      as he brought them safely into harbor!
 31 Let them praise the Lord for his great love
      and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
 32 Let them exalt him publicly before the congregation
      and before the leaders of the nation.

From where I stand, no matter where you are or how thick in the mud you found yourself, God hears when we call on His powerful Name and ask for help. Imagine one of your kids calling to you from outside the house, “Mum, Dad—HELP ME!”

One thing’s for sure. You’re not going to decide on how much you love them before you act, and you’re not going to see if their bedroom’s tidy first. You will RUN to get to your kid and save them from whatever’s making them scream because you love them.

 42 The godly will see these things and be glad,
      while the wicked are struck silent.
 43 Those who are wise will take all this to heart;
      they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.

And verses 1 and 2 again?

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
      His faithful love endures forever.
 2 Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!
      Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.

This Psalm is pretty much a story of exiles, and in some form or another we’ve experienced exile in life whether we admit to it or not.

Remember: Whether you’re wandering, stuck after rebellion, or simply finding yourself in a predicament you never asked for, no matter what situation you’re in you can sincerely cry out, “Lord, help!”and know that He will respond. When He has saved you, tell people. That’s what you call a testimony.

Monday, 1 August 2011

What if we were real?

There's a song going around at the moment by Mandisa called What If We Were Real. For me, there's times I'm avoiding the blogs and tweets because that's what it feels like to me. They feel like a fantastic show and tell session, a gigantic horn-blowing for individual kind. It seems like no one's in the world anymore for anybody except themselves. Peeps are in such hot pursuit of their own dreams that their expression of love for other people falls by the wayside.

When was the last time you made time for your friends? I had a girl come for coffee this morning with her two boys who are still tiny darlings. She struggles with these difficult years when it seems like the butt-changing and toilet training is never going to end, when the husband offers the advice but not the help, when it seems like you're the only one doing anything because there's so dang much of everything to do, and you can't get out of the house except for groceries and fuel.

Motherhood as well as life can be isolating even in a room crowded full of friends. Friends who might as well be a man on the moon for all the genuine relationship going on. Freinds who promise to call and have coffee, or who say, 'We should get together'.

Yes, You should.

How hard is it to cancel something we deem of utmost importance in order to fit in the truly necessary? When we get to heaven, God won't be asking how well we maintained our house, our car, our yard, or our bikini line. He's going to be interested in what we did with our life and our fellow man. How perfect or capable we sought to appear will be ultimately confronted.

This week, I challenge you to rise to the best occasion and cancel one of your YOU appointments to meet with a friend who might need your relationship. The world is starved for love. Ask God who He might have in mind for you to drop everything for and go see. Be available. Be loving. Be there.

Decide: Could there even be someone under your very own roof who needs you? Could it even be God? Chances are, He might need you to be available to your 'neighbour'.

"“Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." Ecclesiastes 4v8b-12

«Pour qui donc est-ce que je travaille si dur? Pour qui est-ce que je me prive de bonnes choses?» Cela aussi est dérisoire; c'est un mal affligeant. Mieux vaut être à deux que tout seul. On tire alors un bon profit de son travail. Et si l'un tombe, l'autre le relève, mais malheur à celui qui est seul et qui vient à tomber sans avoir personne pour l'aider à se relever. De même, si deux personnes dorment ensemble, elles se tiennent chaud, mais comment celui qui est seul se réchauffera-t-il? Un homme seul est facilement maîtrisé par un adversaire, mais à deux ils pourront tenir tête à celui-ci. Et une corde à triple brin n'est pas vite rompue.