Hateful of Hollow OR Why Every Writer Needs to be Edited

You know when you hear a phrase or music lyric the wrong way and it sometimes takes you years to figure out that you got it wrong? For me, one particularly idiotic example of this was the phrase WINDCHILL FACTOR. As a kid, I always thought it was WINDSHIELD FACTOR. I used to think the colder temperature was somehow measured by how cold it is on a car’s windshield…because clearly it would be a colder temp on the windshield of a moving car than a standstill temp. Right? It’s not that farfetched. So I thought somewhere someone had this thermometer pasted to their moving car and they called in the windshield temp to the local weather stations…just so we would, you know, know how cold it was were we to decide to travel on the hood of our car that day. Makes sense.

This is going to be related to writing. I promise you.

I figured out the Windshield thing pretty quickly. It only took me a few years. Sooner or later one opens their mouths in the wrong company and someone is going to call one out on their awesomely fantastic stupidity. I was slightly humiliated when corrected about the windchill thing, but I learned. I grew.

Fast-forward to November 1984. The release of HATEFUL OF HOLLOW by THE SMITHS! Every single song on that album blew my mind so completely. It was perfection. But do you see what I did there? I called it HATEFUL OF HOLLOW. Actually, I called that album HATEFUL OF HOLLOW for the better part of 30 years. I had a poster of the album cover in my room all through the mid 80s. I listened to the album obsessively, so the sleeve and album cover were always laying around. And yet, after processing the title incorrectly that first time, I did it every single time I looked at it. Now, I like to think I’m not an idiot. But the evidence weighs solidly against me here.

For those who don’t yet know what I’m talking about, THE SMITH’s album was actually called:

HATFUL OF HOLLOW

Do you see my error? Exhibit A from the evidence of stupidity file:

HatfulofHollow84

There it is. Plain as day. HATFUL. It was only in recent years that I noticed my error for the first time. And I can’t tell you how jarring it was to realize I had it wrong for SO MANY YEARS. Hateful of Hollow just made pure and unadulterated absolute sense to me. It meant something. When I first realized my error, I spent the better part of a day contemplating the meaning of the ‘new’ title. Hatful of Hollow? What the hell? That doesn’t even mean anything. It has to be wrong. Somebody must be playing this crazy trick on me. Of course I can understand the meaning behind HATEFUL OF HOLLOW. Anyone would be hateful of hollow. Hollow is our enemy. It is sadness. Ergo, we hate sadness. But this hatful crap? What the hell?

Now let’s zero in on what this means to writers, shall we?

We don’t always see our own glaring errors. If you meant to write something a certain way, chances are you will read it the way you meant it to be. But often, we can slip in a wrong word or phrase without realizing we did so. You can go through your manuscript a hundred times, thinking you’re editing out every little error along the way. In actual fact, your ‘meant-to-write’ phrase or word keeps appearing in place of the actual error on the page. Here’s an example:

Your intended sentence: I took the potatoes out from under the cupboard.

What you actually wrote: I took the potatoes out for under the cupboard.

Unless you’re extremely diligent, you could read that sentence ten times and not see the error…because your mind is correcting it. I guess essentially this means you’re glossing over it. But this is a real issue.

It’s smart to edit your own work. Don’t get me wrong. You should ALWAYS edit your own work. But getting a second set of eyes on the manuscript is ALWAYS a smart idea. Someone else will catch the little things that make you appear sloppy if they’re not caught.

I’m not saying everyone should PAY for editing services. In fact, unless you are going with SELF PUBLISHING, I would suggest you NEVER PAY FOR EDITING SERVICES. You edit your manuscript to the best of your ability and then you have a friend/fellow-writer read it through for those glaring errors you’re always going to gloss over. If you’re submitting to an agent or a publisher, they are going to work with you on the manuscript. There is no need to spend precious money on an editing service. On the other side of the coin, I think one should always get their manuscript professionally edited if they are going the self-publishing route. You want to present the reading public with the most polished work possible.

Anyway, the moral of this story is, I suppose, to pay attention. I didn’t write the title of that Smith’s album, so it doesn’t really apply here. I just read it incorrectly for decades. But it is a good example of how our minds sometimes work against us by repeatedly replacing what we thought we read/wrote with what’s actually on the page. PAY ATTENTION! And have a reader in place! We should all have our work checked by at least one other person before we send it out into the world. It’s a cliche because it’s true…YOU ONLY GET ONE CHANGE TO MAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION! (see what I did there?!)

Matthew Quick, or Why I’m Allowed to Write for Adults & Young Adults!

When I first discovered Matthew Quick, I was at an interesting crossroads in my own writing journey. I had written a couple novels for adults and I was pondering writing for the young adult market. For some reason, I got it in my head that I couldn’t do both. One could either be an adult author OR a young adult author. I don’t know why I thought this, but I did. I’ve made it a point throughout my writing journey to always remind myself that THERE ARE NO RULES. There are guidelines, there is good advice and there is bad advice…but there are no steadfast rules. Writing is what you want it to be.

And yet, here I was…trying to make this decision. And while on the fence, I really sweated about it. I loved the darker issues I could explore writing contemporary adult novels, but I also loved the idea of exploring dark issues in a teenager setting…the coming of age in the high school environment novel. I was weighing the pros and cons of the two markets, because, as I said, I thought it had to be EITHER OR.

Enter Matthew Quick. No…I’m not going to be so bold as to call him my savior, or anything as nutty as that. I’m just gonna say that he reminded me of my own first rule of the Writer Club. The first rule of Writer Club is that there are no rules in Writer Club. He didn’t do this right away, mind you. At the time, I was mass-consuming YA novels…as part of my research in the market. Well, that’s what I was telling myself. Truth be told, I LOVE reading YA. But I was reading solely YA to get a feel for the landscape of the market. I was dissecting books for themes, formula, what-have-you.

I picked up BOY21 for several reasons. Because it seemed to have strong male and female ‘leads’. Because it was sportscentric. Because the blurb really caught my fancy. Sometimes, I’ll admit right here and now, I am sold by a cover. Or, at least, I am gripped by the cover and moved to learn more about a book. BOY21 had an awesome cover. Anyway, I picked it up and I read it. And I fell in love with it.

You know when you discover a novelist and then check out there other books and get excited because you get to spend more time with them? Well, immediately after I finished BOY21 I searched to find out what other Matthew Quick offerings there were on tap at the Kindle store.

HOLD THE PHONE!

The Silver Linings Playbook. Can it be? A contemporary ADULT novel?! Oh my God! He writes for adults AND young adults! YES!

Okay, so Matthew Quick may not be the first author in the history of authorship to do this. But he was the author I discovered doing it when I needed the permission to do it myself. When I needed to realize that it could actually be done. And not only was he writing for both markets, but it would seem he wrote quirky characters. I wrote quirky characters, too. I immediately purchased The Silver Linings Playbook. And I devoured it. And I thought it was a masterpiece!

Click on the book covers to read my reviews of these two Matthew Quick novels:

boy21

silver

I later went through Quick’s full catalogue and loved all his books. I eagerly await his forthcoming THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW! I have it pre-ordered. And on February 11th, when I wake up, it will have been magically delivered to my Kindle! I know what I’ll be reading that day!

Click on the book cover below to read the synopsis of Quick’s latest offering:

TGLORN-full-cover

Okay, so on the surface this post may seem like a commercial for Matthew Quick’s books. But I swear to you, the whole purpose of the post is to tell writers to keep reminding themselves of the fluidity of the rules they should live by. When you find yourself questioning whether or not you can do something, DO IT. Try it, anyway. Don’t listen to people who say do this, don’t do that. I was very close to saying goodbye to one of the markets in question, even though I loved both! It was through my discovery of Matthew Quick’s novels that I found the permission to carry on carrying on. Because I saw that he accomplished writing for both adults and young adults, I knew that I could take the same path. And I did. And I for one am extremely grateful for Matthew Quick.

But seriously, check out his books. You’ll love them! (-:

Being Human – The Crux of Social Media Savvy

You wanna know something that DRIVES ME MENTAL? I can’t count on one hand how many of my writer friends have admitted to me that they use some kind of bullsh*t service to provide tweets for their Twitter stream. Their confessions usually go something like this:

THEM: “Twitter. Yeah. I still have an account. I don’t tweet, though. God, I haven’t actually been on Twitter for months!”

ME: “But I see tweets coming from your account precisely every 13 minutes, all day long every day. What do you mean you don’t tweet?”

THEM: “Oh, those. I just set it up to tweet automatically for me. No fuss, no muss.”

ME: *&%$(*&^%&*^)$*%)(*%)*$)^*  %U$#)^U$)^  %U#)^U ^$)U^ ^)U%)$U%(*$&&^$#

For argument’s sake, I’m talking about WRITERS. Most of my social media contacts are writers. As are most of my real-life friends. I am a member of an extremely vibrant writing community. We are about 300 members strong and we meet on a regular basis. It’s not always the same people meeting up, so over the course of a few months I easily cross paths with 200 members of the community. Some of them are extremely tech savvy. Some of them are not even online. The spectrum is WIDE.

Don't be a dumb-ass bird! Be personable, not an automated clutterbug!
Don’t be a dumb-ass bird! Be personable, not an automated clutterbug!

From time to time I see some of these people on Twitter. Let me say right now that I’m quite active on Twitter. It’s my go-to social media network. It replaced Facebook as my fave quite a while back. I try hard not to inundate my followers with blah, blah, blah…otherwise known as verbal diarrhea, but the truth is that I’m addicted. I love the instant connection ability that Twitter has. You agree with a follower, you say so…you RT them. You engage in conversation.

So when I hear that some of the writers in my community have mindless programs spewing out a WHOLE LOT OF CRAP ABOUT NOTHING on their behalf, it irritates me beyond comprehension. They are basically SPAMMING me and all their other followers. Twitter, when used properly, is for communicating. Yes, it’s a great marketing tool. But sometimes the best way to market yourself as a writer is to engage. What Twitter doesn’t need is people hooking up to computer generated tweet-feeders. Please, God! If you do this, STOP!

Some writers think their fellow Twits are too stupid to figure out that their tweet-stream is actually unmanned. Guess what? They’re WRONG. I can tell just by looking at a user’s tweets if they are behind them or not. You’re not fooling anyone. Log in to Twitter once or twice a day. Compose personal tweets and send them into the stream. Read a few of your followers tweets while you’re there, and respond to them in a thoughtful way. This is how Twitter was meant to be used. Don’t clog up the tweet-stream because you’re far too important to actually create 140 character tweets yourself. NOBODY thanks you for doing this. Eventually, you will be labelled a BAD NEWS BEAR, if you continue to use Twitter improperly.

So, in case you didn’t get the gist of this rant…please schedule some ACTUAL REAL-LIFE TWITTER TIME and interact with people.

 

ETA: One of the BIGGEST no-nos in the land of Twitter is the DM Welcome Message. When someone follows you, please-for-the-love-of-God-and-all-things-holy-and-unholy…DO NOT Direct Message them thanking them—or sharing your links. That’s not what DMs are for. There is NOTHING more useless than a SPAMMY DM thanking for a follow…and asking the person to read your books or follow you on Facebook. JUST DON’T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Interact with people! Don’t be a Twitter Spambot!

 

/rant

As you were

March WCDR Roundtable Meeting – U25 Panel Discussion!

u25-2

Don’t let the name fool you. The March WCDR Roundtable Meeting is NOT just another Roundtable Meeting. Not that there’s anything wrong with all the other great Roundtable meetings put on by this fabulous organization! Each one is fantabulous! But MARCH, 2014—Now this one is a beaut! Think–WRITING CONFERENCE! Think CELEBRATION OF YOUNG ADULT, NEW ADULT, and MIDDLE GRADE FICTION! Think MUST SEE EVENT! You don’t want to miss this one! Why, this promises to be the best thing to happen for writers since Mr. Magorium opened his Wonder Emporium up for a writers’ sleepover pajama party back in ’07! BUY. YOUR. TICKETS. NOW!

WCDR-horizontal-logo-500

Let me fill you in on what you can expect to see at this extravaganza. First…let’s dissect the name, shall we. U25- This refers to the body of readers covered by the writers in attendance on the panel. UNDER 25. We have Middle Grade authors, Young Adult Authors, and New Adult Authors. In order to encapsulate all 3 markets, the name U25 was born. If you do NOT write for these markets, don’t count yourself out of this event! It is going to be geared towards these markets—but also, away from them. The panelists will be giving advice that will resonate for writers of all markets. Writing advice will not be YA/MG/NA specific.

Who will the panel be comprised of, you ask?

  • Joanne Levy
  • K.A. Tucker
  • Deborah Kerbel
  • Norah McClintock
  • Lesley Livingston

This panel is a who’s who of the Canadian YA/NA/MG landscape. You will want to be on-hand to hear what these authors have to say about the writing process!

CLICK HERE TO READ PANELIST BIOS

My literary agent, Stacey Donaghy, will be on hand to moderate the panel discussion.

It doesn’t stop at the panel, though. This Roundtable Meeting is set up like a mini-conference. You can sign-up ahead of time for PITCH SESSIONS WITH LITERARY AGENTS.

Agents in attendance on the day of this unique WCDR Roundtable WCDR U25 MINI-CONFERENCE are:

  • Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group
  • Sam Hiyate of the Rights Factory
  • Ali McDonald of The Rights Factory

CLICK HERE TO READ AGENT BIOS AND THEIR CURRENT INTERESTS!

This is an amazing opportunity! It’s not every day one gets to pitch their work to a literary agent. You don’t want to miss out on this opportunity.

For young writers, there is yet another aspect to the day. From the WCDR U25 Webpage, here’s the special invitation to young writers:

A special invitation to young writers

We’d especially like to invite local young people to join us, and have some great things planned specifically for young writers:

  • Join WCDR members and guests to listen to the panel discussion, and have a chance to ask questions of the panelists.
  • Receive a bag of writing-related swag, which will include a ticket to our young-writers-only raffle.
  • Opportunity to participate in a special writing challenge. Those who enter the contest have the chance to win and be published on our website—and get paid!
  • Attend a one-hour workshop after the meeting to learn more about writing.

Note:

  • Young writers from grade 8 to 25 years-old are invited to attend this event.
  • Registration fee for the RoundTable meeting only: $25
  • Registration fee for the RoundTable meeting and the special workshop: $35

CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE U25 PAGE AT THE WCDR WEBSITE

Here’s something to remember about the WCDR:

ALL writers are welcome to attend. You do not need to be published AND you do not need to be a member of the organization to attend a WCDR Roundtable Meeting. The WCDR Mission Statement is as follows:

Mission statement: The Writers’ Community of Durham Region encourages writers at all levels; offers opportunities for support, education and networking; and promotes the value of writers and writing.

So, what are you waiting for? Today’s the day you should consider becoming a member of this vibrant organization! And for those writers in TORONTO reading this, trust me…these meetings take place in AJAX. That’s only a 20 minute ride, tops, from downtown. If you’re in Toronto, there’s no reason you shouldn’t attach yourself to the WCDR. You’ll thank yourself for doing so. They will propel your writing career to the stratosphere!

The Sequel – My Lesson in Never Say Never

Before I get into this, I need to implant another ear-worm into your noggins. Here’s a little Romeo Void to start things off:

I had such a crush on Debora Lyall back in the early 80s when that song came out. She was filled with the awesome. We used to slam like crazy to it at the punk club we frequented.

Now that I’ve walked you down memory lane, I can tell you about one of my most recent NEVER SAY NEVER moments. Isn’t it true that we have these moments all through our lives, and yet we still have to learn the lesson over and over and over again!?

I was foursquare against EVER writing a sequel to a novel. I mean, I ranted on the subject. Although I always liked reading book series, I have never been a fan of the concept of writing one. “When I’m done with a book, I’m done with the characters in that book. Period! I will NEVER write a sequel.”

It seems that every time I say I’ll never do something, a challenge eventually comes up that pushes me to try doing it. And almost invariably, I’m grateful for doing it. This is true in all aspects of my life, not just my writing life.

So, during the 2010 72-hour Muskoka Novel Marathon I wrote HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN. It won 2010 MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL AWARD. It was actually my 3rd of 4 MNM best novel awards…my proudest accomplishment to date!

I was POSITIVE with a capital p that I had seen the last of the characters in that novel. I had a wonderful time getting to know them during that whirlwind weekend. I loved them! But their story was told…and I was ready to move on to something else. When I put a story to bed, that’s it!

Fast forward to 2014. My agent mentioned, in passing, that she loves dealing with series. “Do you see a possibility of a sequel with HD&FB?” My immediate reaction was, “NO. Never.” I don’t think I actually said it out loud. I’m more the hem and haw type. But in my head, I chopped the head off that notion in one fell swoop.

Then I had the Muskoka Novel Marathon to deal with. And limited ideas for story-starters. I was feeling particularly lazy and uninspired this time around. The marathon was in July, and the idea first floated by me around May. Little did I know Stacey had planted a seed in my brain that cultivated all by itself.

By the time the marathon rolled around I had tentatively decided to give it a go. I would take Carter Colby and his nearest and dearest friends on another journey. Carter is the FP POV narrator of Half Dead & Fully Broken. Like I said, I really enjoyed spending time with these characters. So when the back of my initial refusal to ever write a sequel was broken, I was really excited to hang with these guys again.

To give you a quick idea of what HD&FB is about…Carter’s twin brother Marcus dies in the opening chapter. Marcus’s ghost then comes into the picture to help Carter make some things right. That’s the short version. I went into the marathon with a vague idea for book two, which I decided to title ALIVE & KICKING. I would have someone else die and come back. Since Carter has already experienced working with a ghost to make things better, he would automatically think he was doing the same thing with this second ghost…but this ghost is vindictive. He’s back to screw around with people left behind. He’s angry. And he has an unknowing Carter at his service to help him tear things up a bit.

Starting a story with well known characters is amazing! It’s like a reunion with old friends. The tricky part is telling enough of the backstory from book 1 without telling too much of it. I wanted to recap, but not inundate the reader with TMI. It’s also fun to twist things around a bit and come at the characters with a whole new dynamic. I felt like Puppetmaster Extraordinaire! If I had had a long handlebar mustache, I would have been twisting the ends and laughing maniacally throughout the entire marathon. (-:

The point of this blog post is to suggest that, as writers, we should never take a stand against trying something new. Or, more to the point never say never about never saying never…or something like that.

Now, I ask you…would you do it? Have you done it? And if so, did you like it?

Whispers of Sandburg from a Poet Now Silenced

(A poem I had published some 4 years ago. I like to remind myself that I used to be a poet. In hopes of being prodded back to that calling.)

WHISPERS OF SANDBURG FROM A POET NOW SILENCED

In ‘22 I was Sandburg,
Swirling words into Susquehanna beauty,
but only for a single day,
just long enough to hear the bells
of money
as castanet clicks,
to declare the poets as workaday bankers.

I wore his august skin
to conjure lies,
wore that blond Warholian ‘do just to do it,
anything to chase the ennui,
‘fight against the bla bla
and lah de dah’.

There is, though,
a time to leave behind
the beautiful skulls of poets now gone,
to sift back down to loam
and resurrect the one who breathes
somewhere still
beneath his brittle tomb,
scribbling virgin paper
to something dirtier
than the words
he strives so hard to bleed.