If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our September Author Interviews--9/6 Kathleen Valenti, 9/13 David Burnsworth, 9/20 Jeri Westerson, 9/27 Frances Brody. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

September Saturday Guest Bloggers: 9/2--Anne Bannon, 9/9 WWK Bloggers, 9/16 Margaret S. Hamilton, 9/23 Kait Carson, and on 9/30 Trixie Stiletto.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.” In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Reset. Revise.



by Julie Tollefson

I’ve been drafting a new manuscript for about six months. For most of that time, I’ve been off balance, emotionally. My kid graduated from high school (yay!) and moved to college (sob). We took a long family vacation that though absolutely delightful also introduced quite a bit of anxiety during the months of planning beforehand.  And the beginning of a new school year (my husband is a teacher and coach) brought a different kind of chaos to our empty nest.

The emotional imbalance took a toll on my writing. Words did not flow. Plot languished. Characters malingered. I turned the first 30 pages over to my critique partner last week with a special request: Please, please let me know if the characters are as flat as I feel like they are.

But before I sent them to her, I spent a full day with a printout of the pages spread out in front of me alongside an open copy of my favorite how-to book: Writing 21st Century Fiction: High-Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling by Donald Maass. In chapters that cover everything from the emotional landscape of the story to micro-tension to writing style, Maass has put together practical exercises to help breathe life into characters and add depth to the story. It’s my go-to source when I feel like I’ve lost momentum, like the threads of story have unraveled in a way that can’t be repaired. 

At the end of that very intense day of revision, I was exhausted but much happier with my characters and my manuscript. My story has purpose and energy again, and I’m eager to apply the same techniques to the rest of the manuscript, daunting as that might be.

How do you reset when life throws you off balance?



14 comments:

Grace Topping said...

Thank you, Julie, for the tip about the book by Donald Maass. Sometimes I need all the help I can get.

Jim Jackson said...

I spent a week in a seminar with Donald Maas and found his ideas very useful for making my stories deeper. I’m sure the exercises in the book were derived from his experiences in those sessions – what was equally interesting was seeing how Don thinks when presented with an issue. He keeps worrying it from big picture to kernel of a problem – if you don’t get to that kernel, the whole is never quite right.

~ Jim

Shari Randall said...

I am running off to buy that book!

Tina said...

I usually need quiet time to just hang out with my characters to reset. I usually need it most when life is refusing to cooperate. Like now. BUt I am glad tohear I'm not the only one with those challenges.

Warren Bull said...

Sometimes I let the writing sit and percolate while I work on something else.

Margaret Turkevich said...

I'm brain dead after a seven hour workshop with Hallie Ephron on various aspects of writing, including a class exercise on deep POV.

I put WIP's that aren't working on the back burner for a week, and think things through while doing yardwork, walking the dogs, or mopping the kitchen floor.

KM Rockwood said...

It's interesting how our characters and our stories have minds of their own, and sometimes just won't cooperate when we try to summon them.

I usually fall back on the old idiom that "You can always revise your writing, but you can't revise a blank page" and just settle down to write something.

Usually I end up revising it, or even scrapping it totally, but it gets me going again.

One other thing I've discovered about myself. Sometimes, when I'm having other issues that distract me, I work on short stories instead of novels. Since I can begin a new day re-reading all I've previously written on a short story, I get back into it quickly. With a novel, if I stop to re-read everything, my writing time has been used up.

I have to admit I have not recently had one of those truly mind-numbing experiences, like the death of a child, that appear at some point in all lives, so I don't know how, or if, I could continue to write through them.

Julie Tollefson said...

Grace and Shari - I hope you enjoy it! I've found it very helpful.

Jim - I attended a one-day master class with him last year, and it was terrific. I can only imagine how much more I would have learned if it had lasted a week.

Julie Tollefson said...

Warren, Tina and Margaret - It's amazing how a little time away from a project can help me see more clearly where it works and where it needs work. It's a lesson I re-learn with every new writing project.

KM - Excellent suggestion regarding shifting to short stories. In addition to the benefits you mentioned, there's a nice sense of accomplishment with shorts.

Gloria Alden said...

Julie, I found it very difficult to work on my 8th book after all that was going on in my
life the past two months. I only wrote a few chapters, but now that things have calmed down, I'm back to writing at least two chapters a week. Still hanging over my head is all the leaves still to be raked as well as pine needles, lawns to be mowed before the snow comes and a lot
of bulbs to plant, etc.

I go back and do some revisions per my three critique partners, but I find I do most of my revisions when I'm rereading the whole manuscript as I put it into book format.

Kait said...

I hope that all is well. This year has been a challenging one. There were times when I absolutely could not face the written word, then again, there were times when I escaped into it and I would have 10,000 word days. I found the writing days most satisfying but never could find a way to force them.

Thanks for the tip about the Maas book, sounds like a great addition to the writer's library.

Peggy Rothschild said...

Great post, Julie. I've heard of Donald Maas' book, but never read it. It's going on the TBR list right away.

Having been stumped about how to end my current ms, I found myself staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night and 'what if-ing'. Finally, I took some time away from writing, then went back to the beginning and started reading; it seemed like the answer should be somewhere inside the story and --yay! -- it was. :D Like some of the other commenters, I find taking some time away helps me see the story more clearly.

Julie Tollefson said...

Gloria - That's exactly how I was feeling. So many things going on in life it was hard to carve out writing time or thinking time even. Glad you're back in the groove!

Kait - Thanks. Even when life events are good and happy, they can be such a distraction! :)

Julie Tollefson said...

Hi, Peggy! I hope you enjoy the Maass book. The best thing about it, in my opinion, is each chapter ends with a list of exercises/suggestions/questions that you can apply to your manuscript. So, for example, since I found my characters to be a little flat, I concentrated on the suggestions at the end of the Standout Characters chapter. Regarding finding the answer to your writer problems in a passage or passages you've already written - it's so great to find you've laid the foundation, even if you didn't recognize it at the time!