Monday, June 23, 2014

How To Get Rid of Shallow Writing & A Quick Technique Book

Those Shallow Writing Days

Have you ever felt that you were writing a story as if you were looking at it from an outside window? Those are my bad writing days. I hate it when the prose goes flat, the characters have to be pinned up against wall (or as, in this case, a tree) they're such paper cutouts, and the plot has become a series of not-too-exciting episodes.

A few years ago I heard a speaker at a conference who gave us an exercise to try in small groups. It was this: We had to think of a single picture of something very private. Something we wouldn't want anyone else to see--so secret that we wouldn't even carry it in our wallets for fear of being in an accident and having a paramedic discover it. (Kind of the ratty panties or shorts your grandmother warned you never to wear in case you wound up in a hospital.)

Then once we had the image that made us squirm with embarrassment or discomfort, we had to write or re-write something--a scene from one of our WIPs, a character description, a setting we'd been trying to nail and hadn't.

The premise behind this was to make us understand our job as writers is to reveal what's hidden and disturbing and in some cases fear-provoking. We can do that best if we start by revealing what we've hidden: that deep seated panic of being lost, that sense of despair when someone we love dies, the intense hatred of another, the embarrassment of the flub in front of people.

I have a few of these snapshots and I use them when I'm doing what I call shallow writing. And, no, you can't see them. You might get a peek at my shallow writing, however.


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I'm doing a Summer Sale for Sliding on the Edge, so it will be selling for .99 through June 26. 


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A writer friend just published a concise, but jam-packed little book. She presents her 5 last techniques she learned. These are what saw her fiction published. It's out in paperback and Kindle. A great QUICK desktop helpmate. I did a REVIEW  if you want to see more specifics about what I found positive in her book.

AMAZON BOOKS

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I'm doing a little unscientific survey. Want to help? Here's the hypothetical situation. The book is in the submission phase, so the writer is in that wonderful hell called WAITING-TO-HEAR-BACK. 

What do you think is the most important thing this writer should do, believing that s/he will be published and will soon have to tell the world about this new book?

84 comments:

  1. I think the writer should keep writing and work on strengthening their social networking platform. And wait, knowing the dream may or may not happen.

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    1. I'm with you on strengthening the social media. That makes sense.

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  2. What Natalie said.
    A picture I wouldn't want anyone to see? I think it would embarrass my wife more. Wait, I probably shouldn't admit to that, should I?

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    1. Oh dear. Maybe not. But I'll bet your picture will help if you ever find yourself in the writing shallows.

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  3. OMG being discovered in my bad undies in case of an accident is my worst nightmare..... Sadly, bad undies are usually the most comfie ones...

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    1. They're well broken in, right? Ambulance people must understand.

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  4. That's why I always color-coordinate under my clothes.

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    1. Yep. I still hear my grandmother's voice telling me I should do that.

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  5. Answer to survey:

    Work on next project.

    This answer following the hysterical laughter on the "wonderful hell" comment.

    That exercise--it gave me chills, made me squirm oh yes it did. Thanks! Really!

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    1. So you have a perfect picture to refer to when you need that boost. I do, too and I'm never telling. :-)

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  6. p.s I was sure I had your email, but cannot find it. You won a copy of Peculiars, could you email me with your address. justdeb at debamarshall dot com Congrats!

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  7. That's a pretty cool technique for addressing those moments when the writing wades into shallow territory. Thank you for sharing that.

    I better check my TBR to make sure I have Sliding on the Edge already purchased. I think I got it a while back around the time I got Alligators Overhead. But I'll get it if I slipped up and missed getting it before.

    Congrats on Victoria's release. It's great to share what helps to make one a success as it can help guide others to their successes.

    Answer to your survey:
    Craft a decent tagline (something I'm learning to just now start doing so yeah, I'm late to the tagline party lol!!) and work on the next book, whether it's a sequel or another stand alone novel. Got to stay busy or the waiting will cause a lot of cra-cra-crazy :-)

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    1. Ha to that tagline thing. Those are tricky little devils all right. Thanks for checking out Sliding. Appreciate that and, of course, your taking time to be here.

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  8. That is a fantastic tip about the shallow writing days.

    The survey: Start the next book. I think the only exception to this is if you've been doing so much writing lately that it's legitimately time for a break for the well-filling phase. Read. Give a little time to your social media, especially if it needs some updating. But focus on a new project or at least the idea-phase of a new project as soon as you can. Falling in love with a new project is the way to manage our emotions about the old. We should also realize that not only can a rejection come at any time, but so can a sale, and we need to accept the topsy-turviness of that when it happens.

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    1. Great answer, Marcia. I agree that keeping busy while waiting is a good idea. And there's so much you can do that will help if or when that acceptance comes through.

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  9. That's a great idea--I'll have to try it sometime. I think starting the next book would be the most important thing. You don't ever want to stop writing, or put all of your faith into the book you've already sent out. And I'd imagine it would be a great distraction from the stress of waiting.

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    1. Increasing your chances with new projects makes sense.

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  10. Interesting technique. I'll have to try it when I have those days. And I do.

    As to the survey... waiting is tough. I agree with keep writing and work at building the network.

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    1. I guess you can never work on the networking enough.

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  11. Ooo, that is a cool exercise! I can see how it would work well.

    As for what a writer should do while waiting to hear back, keep writing, of course!

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    1. There should always be something you're working on.

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  12. Thank you for sharing this Lee!
    It sounds like an excellent exercise.
    Now I'm off to photocopy this page, and then I'll file this gem in my private stash of 'writerly pick-me-uppers'...
    (The 'ratty panties' issue made me smile... definitely belongs to the USGC - Universal Society of Grandmotherly Collaboration...)

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    1. I knew there had to be a club for this! You're the best.

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  13. HI, Lee...

    LOL to those incriminating photos....We all have at least one of those that make us cringe...

    As for the survey... since I am in that same situation... what I'm doing... critiquing other's work, RESEARCHING other agents, because the rejections are coming in... and what I found very odd is in my research many agents are asking for a SYNOPSIS along with the query and first five or ten page. EEEK! SO, if you don't have a synopsis, I STRONGLY suggest writing a tight one right now... I mentioned this to a writer friend of mine and she sent me a link on how to write a synopsis that will give you a good in with an agent. Here's the link for anyone who needs it...

    ALL the best to your friend.

    http://www.bethanderson-hotclue.com/workshops/writing-the-tight-synopsis/

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    1. Synopses are so hard, yet so important. I usually have one, but last time I subbed, they wanted an outline!!!!! Come on, publisher. I don't write to outline. :-0

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  14. I don't have shallowness problems with my MCs, but my supporting characters and descriptions always need a lot of tweaking so I don't end up with standard rooms in the burbs, populated by mannequins with 2.5 baby mannequins. (Those half mannequins are especially boring.)

    My opinion is to make sure social media is in place. If it already is - just write that next book, and then the one after that. :)

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    1. Getting that social media in place is a bear. Keeping it up to date more of a bear.

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  15. The most important thing a writer can do? I'd say write the best manuscript you can, and know your market. (Okay, that's two.) ;0)

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    1. My issues is when is it the best? If I waited a year, could I write it better? Would I toss it? Hard call.

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  16. I will have to try this, because shallowness is a problem for me sometimes.

    As for how to pass time in the waiting room, it depends. Write a new book. Research the anticipated next phase of the publishing process. Design a website. Do taxes. Clean the bathroom. Go to the beach. Whatever is most needed right now. ;-)

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    1. I'll do anything to escape cleaning bathrooms. Now the beach has possibilities. Thanks.

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  17. That's an interesting idea for writing.

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  18. Great post. I'll have to try that exercise one time. As for what the writer should be doing, I think they should be making a marketing plan.

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    1. Marketing plans are at the top of my list.

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  19. We have to dig deeper as writers--to that place we never really want to show anyone. That's the tough part. But the good news is, often people don't realize you're putting those secret parts out there because you can hide them as having come from your imagination!

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    1. Yep. Nobody really knows what's going on in your head, do they?

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  20. Yes the writer should always write. It's difficult though when you have to wait.

    I hate when I write flat.

    If I don't have your book I'll get it.

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    1. Writing while waiting is a chore. Thanks, Teresa.

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  21. Hey there, celebrity author, Lee,

    I do understand, however, I try to write with transparency and put up my fears for all to read.. However, a small picture of something very private. Right then, time for a selfie, now that I know it's not supposed to be a rude thing.

    The most important thing a writer can do to help publicise the awareness of their book is to have a blog hop. Hang on, promote yourself on "Farcebook", on "Twittery Tweet", or "MissingLinkedin."

    If that doesn't work, the writer can contact Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar! Acclaimed pawblisher and pawmoter!

    Yep, your starstruckest fan is going now....cheerio.....

    Gary :)

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    1. A blog hop. Yes. Of course. Why do you always come up with the best ideas? I could hire Penny. Does she have a 401K plan? Maybe the UK equivalent?

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  22. I am not an author but I know anyone who likes to write and keep a blog can use theses tips. Thanks for recommending the books.

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    1. These people are filled with good information. And they share.

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  23. I'd say first have a glass of wine. Then keep writing steadily so you're still in practice. Then, um . . . more wine.

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    1. Finally, wine! I thought no one would ever mention this.

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  24. In my opinion, said writer should take a short break & breath after all that hard work. Then, read and start brainstorming a new project. :)

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    1. A break is a good idea. My bum is sore. It could use a break.

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  25. Im so glad I caught your sale... gonna go now... but firsIt...most important thing to do? Overall? not necessarily toward promotion? I suppose it would be to keep writing but perhaps with less focus on an actual goal and just for the enjoyment of it to keep your chops limber...I dunno really... hmmmm...gotta think....

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    1. You're in the majority on the keep writing. I like your take on this, too. Keep loose. Enjoy. Thanks, Zoe.

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  26. A great tip about the embarrassing picture. I agree with Natalie - work on the next project and work on social media.

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    1. I'm going to tally these results and post them. We know the answers, it seems.

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  27. Thanks for the writing tip, Lee. In terms of your survey, I would say organizing a mailing list of who you will tell when you get the good news. Other options include setting up social media accounts if you haven't already, joining places like Goodreads, and possibly planning a website update.

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    1. I've heard that direct mail is still one of the most effective marketing tools. Thanks for bring that up.

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  28. I like this exercise. I can see where it would be very helpful. Glad you shared it with us. Will have to give it a try.

    As for being in the submission stage, I would recommend looking ahead to marketing - potential blog tour spots, places to guest post, Facebook groups, etc. - all places to help spread the word. I'd write up a good handful of "stock questions" that could be used for interviews on the tour and otherwise (for those who don't have time to interview you but want to share more than just the book info). I'd draft a handful of guest posts to potentially share during the tour and later. And I'd definitely take time for a chocolate or other kind of break. :) Launching a book can get a little taxing, so a little treat is always nice.

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    1. I like setting up stock questions ahead. Saves time for both you and the people who support you. Thanks.

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  29. I can see how the exercise you described would be very helpful. Thanks for sharing! I will have to give it a try.

    I would say to begin marketing planning and strategizing. :) Best of luck!
    ~Jess

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    1. Maybe you could riddle us something to make us blush? You're a great riddler.

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  30. Find my private picture. Will try that. :)

    I think the author should make a list of possible reviewers, plan a tour, and blog about it.

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    1. Following up with blogging about your tour is excellent.

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  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  32. I would also follow Natalie's advice. Let us know if you ever decide to unveil your secret photos! Thanks for the great sale on Sliding On The Edge! I look forward to reading it!

    Julie

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    1. I'll never show anyone my secret photo. I'd have to stop writing if I did. :-)

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  33. What great advice. i've never heard of anything like that before, but it makes so much sense.

    -Lauren

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    1. Thanks, Lauren. I'm trying to gather up helpful tips for writers. This is one I really liked.

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  34. I've never heard of that before and at first I didn't really like it. Because, duh, it made me uncomfortable! But i can see how that would be really useful, so I might have to push myself to use it.

    I think I writer on submission should work on another writing project. The next book. Because once the book gets picked up by an editor, she has to start... editing.

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    1. I've tried this once. It worked. I definitely squirmed while visualizing the photo.

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  35. That sounds like an interesting technique, because then you're dealing with deep emotions and writing tends to be shallow if you're emotionally disconnected.

    If you're waiting to hear about something, keep busy - writing or editing. If it doesn't work out, you should always have other irons in the fire!

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    1. I like more irons in the fire. Makes sense.

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  36. The action- and or emotion-packed scenes are not my problem. It's the transitional ones that give me the most grief.

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    1. Those are slippery eels. Hard to make them carry the reader along.

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  37. Best advice for waiting writers: Write the next book. =)

    I love that technique for finding heart behind the writing. Going to have to remember that one going forward.

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    1. I'll bet your image involves cheese!

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  38. What a clever idea! It beats the idea of drinking while writing to overcome the fears.

    I'd say write and build the social network is the advice I'd give the pre-published.

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    1. Drinking only puts me to sleep. Not much writing happens when I'm asleep, well, tipsy asleep.

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  39. Very good exercise. I'm squirming in my seat as I write this. Can't wait to put it to the test. This is the kind of advice that rocks my sedate writing world. Thanks, Lee.


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    1. Laughing and trying to think what you're imagining. We should all try to guess what others have for their photos. That might be a whole different experiment.

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  40. Wow - that's a good exercise.

    And for the survey - it's crazy, but I think the #1 thing to do is keep writing on the next project, or even something for fun. #2 ask blog buddies in advance for help with a cover reveal, book promo post, etc. - I didn't do that enough this last time.

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    1. The something for fun appeals to me.

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  41. Ooh, very interesting exercise. Uncomfortable, but useful for sure.

    I agree with what a lot of others have said...keep writing, whether it's the next book in the series, or something completely different, or even something that's purely for enjoyment.

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    1. I'm thinking of doing a bit of poetry. I'm lousy at poetry, but I never expect to publish any of it, so it would be no-pressure writing.

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  42. I'm squirming just thinking about those fake pictures in my wallet!

    So many things an author can do: Keep writing (#1), polish a synopsis and blurb, brainstorm alternate titles, create a book bible it there is series potential... lots of fun!

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  43. HI Lee - I'd pin myself against that tree splatters, ugly truth and all ... yugh!!!

    It's keeping all the balls up in the air and the positives up front .. not sinking but keeping doing .. writing especially ... and social media - help when my time comes ..

    Have fun though - of to get your book .. cheers Hilary

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  44. I think the most important thing for an author to do is to keep on writing and submitting. There is no guarantee that their work will be accepted by the agent/editor they sent their story to. Building their social media platform is also highly important.

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  45. Forget about the application, get on with writing the next book. If you have no platform (naughty and negligent) get one, but otherwise, keep writing. :)

    shahwharton.com

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