Friday, June 18, 2021

Honing Your Process of Receiving Feedback and the Revision It May Require

I've only slowly gotten used to my own stages of writerly reaction when I receive feedback. Positive feedback generates a warm satisfaction, almost glee, inside. A victorious feeling. Something worked, especially satisfying if I put in a huge amount of effort. Sometimes, I'm amazed--I don't quite believe it--but I'm basically over the moon.

Harder, though, is feedback that suggests the need for revision. What I do with that kind of feedback often determines whether the piece progresses or not.

I think of all the years I flailed over feedback. I didn't yet trust my own sense of what was correct and useful to my writing and what was just the reader's opinion and had nothing to do with the story I wanted to tell. It was all murky. Either I accepted everything, because who was I to know better. Or I got mad and hurt and stomped away, vowing never to share again.

Both responses were pretty useless.

Friday, June 11, 2021

How to Find, Develop, and Let Your Writing Voice Shine--Three Tips

One of my long-time students asked a great question: how does a writer develop voice?

I wanted to make sure she was talking about the writer's voice. Because there are two kinds of voice in books: the voice of the narrative, the writer's unique authenticity, and the voice of the characters. They are very different in how they are found, developed, and realized on the page.

Writer's voice comes as a natural process of maturing in your writing--as you begin to recognize what makes your writing unique and different in style and texture, as you begin to let go the fear of needing to fit in or sound like another writer you've long admired. It takes time, for most of us.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Special notice to my feedburner subscribers


Thanks for following my blog posts each week!  I've just learned that Feedburner will be discontinuing the automatic send to each of you as of July 2021.

If you'd like to continue receiving my weekly blog posts, please email me at mary[at]marycarrollmoore[dot]com and I can subscribe you.  The blog posts will arrive in your email inbox each Friday morning if you do.

Keep writing!


Friday, June 4, 2021

Theme: The Undercurrent of Meaning in Your Book and Why It's Vital to Publishing Today

When we finish a good book, something lingers with us. We have coffee with a friend and she notices we're distracted. It's not life--for once. Only the story we just read.

"I can't stop thinking about this book," we might say. "I almost miss it."

She asks, "What was it about?" and we try to answer. "It's about a woman who travels to India," we say, "but it's much more than that. You have to read to understand."

That's theme.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Finding the Best Comp Titles--What Your Query Letter to Agents Should Include

One of the most challenging parts of assembling a good query letter--beyond the sheer difficulty of writing it--is deciding on your comps.

Agents need and want and almost require good comp titles. These are the two or three titles of other books in your genre that will help yours sell to a publisher.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Why a Smart Story Location Matters--and How It's about a Lot More Than Setting

Realtors know that smart location is everything in buying or selling property. Try to sell a house that's near a busy highway or high tension wires, and you'll learn this. In story, a good location is also really important--I wouldn't say it's everything, but it's as vital as good characters and strong plot.

Unfortunately, it's the aspect of writing that many writers tack on or ignore altogether. Mostly due to impatience, I've learned. Or the belief that once you've described the weather and how a room looks, the reader can retain than for 300+ pages.

I don't know if the analogy really works, but I see smart location like a smart phone--it is where the reader taps in, to orient, to learn more, to feel the character's communication with her life.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Facing the Fear of Finishing Your Book

There's a kind of romance that happens between a writer and the book they have been working on for months or years. A relationship, at least, if not romance. They begin to have feelings for each other, a certain fondness, from all they've gone through together. It hasn't often been an easy road but it's been all-consuming. We live with our books, day and night. In waking moments, we're mulling over plot ideas. At night, we may dream solutions.

This bond forms ever more strong as time goes by and the book is still in progress. Sometimes, as an editor, I see writers hanging onto their manuscripts, fixing one more thing, not wanting to let them go. As a writer, I get this--my characters and the place I'm writing about and the situations all occupy so much of my interior life, I am loathe to release them.

Friday, May 7, 2021

How to Keep Writing When You Have No Time--or Energy or Enthusiasm--for Your Book. Or Do You Need To?

My spouse and I just adopted a puppy. He's adorable at 14 weeks, and full of energy and sharp growing-in teeth. He is slowly, after a week with us, learning how to use the yard for his bathroom duties rather than our rugs. He sleeps a lot, which is a blessing.

But my writing life has been upended. Not to mention sleep. Not to mention every other aspect of my every day.

We chatted with a woman this week who works with animals. She said some of her clients swear than raising a puppy is harder than raising a kid. I've done both and I'm not sure I agree, but it's certainly causes a lot of upheaval. Puppies are bundles of energy. They demand attention, care, love, as they should. They create havoc, happily. They are full of joy and curiosity.

I'm exhausted.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Pros and Cons of Using Present or Past Tense--What's the Effect on Your Reader?

A client told me about a recent meeting of her writing group. They discussed using present versus past tense when writing memoir. What were to pros and cons of each, what effect did they have on the reader?

Interestingly, one group member had spoken to her editor about this. The editor strongly encouraged her to switch her present tense chapters to past tense. She was confused about the virtues of each.

We're talking verb tense here. Past tense of your verbs or present tense--and what's the difference. Just to review, here's how a sentence looks with the verbs in past tense: John went to the game and arrived late. If you use present tense for the same sentence, here's how it would read: John goes to the game and arrives late.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Crafting Stronger Mechanical and Emotional Transitions to Keep Your Reader Turning The Page

I learned about the importance of transitions during my MFA study. One of my thesis advisers, a talented novelist, read my novel-in-progress and liked it but felt my background as a newspaper writer hampered my transitions. "You end each chapter like you would a journalistic piece," she told me. "It's complete, nothing left to push the reader forward into the next chapter."

She was right. As a syndicated newspaper columnist for twelve years, I had been trained to keep my thoughts short and wrap them up with a flourish.

The goal was reader satisfaction, a sense of completion. Closure.

"Closure is the last thing you want in the middle of a book," my adviser said. "You want to keep your readers turning the page."