December 6, 2017Life

TIME’s Person of the Year cover came out today. I’m guessing the Predator-in-Chief probably feels cheated that he didn’t make the cut. However, in an indirect way, Donald J. Trump opened that door to making the public aware of the crap men—both powerful and ordinary Joes—have been getting away with for decades.

I’ve lost count of how many times men have made rude remarks, ogled, groped, and tried to force themselves onto me. The first time I was eight years old. A man—a total stranger—exposed himself, masturbated and ejaculated in front of me.

Another time I felt something was off was when a friend of my parents would always greet me with a kiss on the hand and a cordial “How do you do, Miss Schiller.” It was creepy, but my mother said he was charming. Was it charming when he made inappropriate remarks and ogled me at fifteen and eighteen? My mother finally got the clue that wasn’t charm, but predatory behavior.

I’ve been groped at parties. One man shoved his tongue in my mouth. The guy I was dating thought it was funny. I’ve had men on the street whisper obscenities in my ear and touch me. And I’ve had boyfriends who refused to accept no for an answer.

Since I was eight years old, I thought it was my fault. I did something to provoke the bad behavior: for being pretty, for wearing something too revealing, for being too flirtatious or that I wouldn’t be believed for telling the truth.

Every single woman I’ve known has experienced a sexual indignity in one form or another. Not once, but countless of times. Is it surprising we’re angry, we’ve had enough, and we refuse to remain silent?

I don’t have one ounce of sympathy directed at the men who have been accused. Lost your job and the respect of your colleagues, friends, and family? Too bad, but it’s still not enough. Live with the fear and the humiliation and then you’ll have an idea of what it’s like receiving unwanted sexual attention and the shame that goes with it.

Congratulations to the Silence Breakers for their bravery and not keeping silent. Thank you TIME Magazine for making these brave women our Person of the Year.

We will never be silenced again.

Making Progress on the Sagging Middle

November 26, 2017editing

My goal this November was to complete Julius, but I have fallen short. I planned to plow through my sagging middle but as I began to write, I realized I reached an important juncture in the story that needed less pantsing, but more planning. Thus, November has been spent refining plot and character motivation.

I’m not disappointed with what I’ve accomplished so far because I believe the story will be stronger, but I’ve noticed I have few chapters that are like fish out of water flopping about and gasping for air. I usually try to salvage these, but this time I’m saying adieu. They no longer work for this version of the story.
When I’m not writing, I’m honing my editing skills. I’m currently reading Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Lyon and The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself by Susan Bell.

On page three of chapter one of Manuscript Makeover, Lyon recommends that during the revision process writers should cultivate deep listening skills. Reading your story silently to yourself isn’t enough. Read it aloud—slowly and carefully—and you’ll catch all the clunky sentence structures, catch typos, repetition and graceless transitions. By reading in a straightforward fashion, you’ll be developing an ear for deep listening. I used the deep listening method when revising the two sequences of part one of Julius. I not only caught typos, but an inconsistent voice when writing from my MC’s point of view.

I purchased The Artful Edit because I was interested in the case study of  how Max Perkins and F. Scott Fitzgerald worked together to refine The Great Gatsby. Any insight to what turned that into a 20th century classic is definitely worth studying.

Both Lyon and Bell provide checklists at the end of each chapter so that you can review as well as practice exercises. I admit I’m impatient and want to finish the book, but I know it’s in my best interest to do the exercises and pinpoint and correct all the potential problems that I may have missed.

I figure now that I’ve gone this far, I can extend it for another few months until I begin to query agents.

An Accountability Angel

November 22, 2017Accountability

Over the weekend I changed the look of the site. It’s still simple, but more colorful. I’m happy with the way it turned out. It’s easy to navigate, it doesn’t look bad on mobile devices, and the backend is manageable.

If you subscribe to this blog via feedburner, I encourage you to opt out and resubscribe via the form I have on the sidebar. I am attempting to grow my subscriber list with the intention of letting you all know of upcoming courses (Scrivener 3 and Scrivener iOS) but also some workbooks I’m in the process of writing, which will be available online.

Among the many topics I want to write about one is the importance of having an accountabilty partner. During the summer, I lamented to Facebook group I belong to that I was having a difficult time working on Julius, and that no matter what I did my mojo had disappeared. I was frustrated in the direction the story was heading. I didn’t feel motivated to write it because of the ongoing anxiety. And, I was doubting myself.

Most of the advice I received was that I needed someone for accountability. I agreed with them, but where would I find this person? As it so happend, a former Scrivener student and member of the group sent me a private message, suggesting we become accountability partners .

We’ve been working together since mid-July, starting with emails and exchanging chapters. We have progressed to once a week Skype discussions, as well as continuing our chapter exchanges via email.

The outcome of having an accountability partner has made me more productive with the added benefit of feeling more confident writing this story, and enjoying it.

I’ve had beta readers in the past and participated in writing groups, but I never felt that with the feedback I was getting that it helped me improve the story. It wasn’t until this partnership that I discovered the secret to a good acountability partner: you both should be covering similar topics. Both Debbie and I are writing about characters who are leftists.  Debbie’s book is historical fiction while mine is contemporary fiction whose characters are heavily influenced by events in the past.

Another key factor when you’re working with your partner is to ask a lot of questions. What works, what doesn’t work. What needs to be fleshed out. What might be backstory could be info dump to the reader. We both wear three hats: writer, editor and reader. We ask questions. We brainstorm scenes together, and with the feedback we both give each other we rework our scenes.

Her questions and feedback have been so valuable that I find myself excited to work on the manuscript and seeing it come to its conclusion. Writing this story has become a pleasure again and I love that I have a reader who tells me, “I love where you’re going with it.”

The big takeaway here is that if you find yourself in a slump find an accountability partner. The best partner is one who is writing in a similar genre and who understands the challenges of that genre.