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Cara Cilento

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  1. My last post was my take on revision, but what's the difference between revising and editing, exactly? "Self-editing" is a term used to describe the process of revising. When you sit down to review your first draft, you will make a list of the things you would like to modify. This is referred to as the revision process. Editing is the process of hiring someone to provide a professional viewpoint to a piece of writing and ensure that it is clear and accessible to others. You must understand the distinction in order to know what to do and in what sequence to do it. Initially, you revise (work on it yourself until you've made it as excellent as you possibly can), and then you edit your work (bring in a professional to make it better than you can). Realizing the distinction allows you to focus your attention on the most important parts of the paper and ensure that it contains all you meant to express. In this article, Barbara Linn Probst goes into the three aspects of revision. It’s a keeper! https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/20322-three-aspects-of-“revision”-reworking-refining-and-revisioning/#comment-28594
  2. It’s done. You finally finished that first draft after weeks, months, or even years of work. It was certainly difficult, and you probably pulled out your hair a few times, but it’s done. Hopefully, you took the time to rejoice, because now comes the unpleasant half of the process. The revision. If you are like me, then the purpose of the first draft of your story is to finish and complete the story arc. It won’t be perfect because, by definition, it’s a draft. The characters need to be developed some more, and the world building needs tweaking, but the bones are good. With a revision, your aim is to produce the best version of your tale imaginable, which is much more difficult. Getting through one more draft isn't enough either. There will be multiple drafts with multiple revisions. Seems impossible, right? With a plan in place, you can do anything, no matter how daunting the task may appear at first glance. Having a plan for revising your work may make all the difference in the world. So, what’s the plan? Take a break. Let your draft sit for a while. Look at it with fresh eyes. Revise in Stages. Working from beginning to end is a huge undertaking. If you revise in passes and focus on one critical element, it will make the process easier. For example, Pass 1 can be specifically focused on plot, Pass 2 can be character development, Pass 3 can be dialogue and so on. Take notes. As you pass through your work, take notes on what needs to be developed. Let your creative juices flow as you fill in the gaps that you find with each pass. Ahh...but you are asking...What am I looking for? What is something I should revise? I hear you loud and clear. To help you out, I listed ten questions to ask yourself. Are my stakes high enough? The stakes are inherently tied to your main character throughout the novel. Make sure your main character always has something to lose. Is my plot believable? A believable plot is paramount to having a credible story and satisfying ending. Are my character motivations clear? Character motivation matters because it affects how characters react to the conflicts or forces acting against them. It also affects how the reader will interpret the resolution of the novel. Does my opening have a hook? Without the hook, there is no reason to keep reading the novel. It should be clear and present within the first chapter, ideally the first sentence. Does each chapter drive the plot forward? Chapters have purpose, my author friends. Each chapter is integral to the plot and story arc. Make sure each chapter conveys the message of the story. Does the ending complete the plot? The ending should not have left any lingering questions unanswered or loose ends, unless it is part of a series. Does the pacing rise and fall? Pacing impacts your story's tone, develops ideas and themes, and allows readers to connect with your characters and events. It should ebb and flow with the story’s events so the novel flows seamlessly, Is it organized? Whether you choose to write linearly or non-linearly, the timeline is a road map for the reader. It gives them a clear understanding of how the story will progress and conclude. Is the dialogue natural? Write dialogue that is casual enough to be believable but polished enough to be readable. Do the descriptions use all five senses? Immerse your reader in the novel’s world wholly and completely. After these ten questions, you are probably ready to hit the ground running on your draft. As you go through your passes, you will find more questions to ask yourself. The ten questions are just the beginning of a world of opportunities available when you revise your draft into a masterpiece.
  3. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the coronavirus has put important life events such as weddings, anniversary celebrations, rites of passage, family gatherings, graduation ceremonies and retirement parties on hold. This holiday season, even though the nation was open for business, people were sick, parties were canceled, and businesses shuttered due to lack of staff. In my area, 30% of Broadway plays are closed due to illness, subway lines are shut, and so are some big box retailers. I was in awe of the lines of people attempting to get a COVID test and even more in awe of the fact emergency medical clinics were closed due to COVID outbreaks within the clinic itself. My social medial blew up with pictures of friends and family quarantined at home because they were sick. It had, but to a much lesser extent, pictures of friends and family who went out on the town but then posted pictures of themselves five days later quarantined at home. It seemed 2022 limped into existence as Omicron was thieving more time from us and had added to the spoils that COVID-19 had taken already. I hope you enjoy the article “Lessons Found in the Lost Year”, by Erika Leodice to remind us to approach setbacks with grace and how to use obstacles as propulsion to drive us forward. https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/17001-lessons-found-in-the-lost-year/#comment-25219
  4. Everyone has a point in time where advice was bestowed upon them, and they never forgot it. They refer to it and pass it on and on. To me, the best advice ever given was when I asked for someone to give me an opinion about a manuscript chapter and they uttered, “So what?”. I remembered my reply too. “I beg your pardon?” To write a compelling novel, you must not only come up with an intriguing idea, believable characters, high stakes, and conflict that propels the protagonist toward his objective, but you must also understand how to create a scene that compels readers—and fill your book with them. That is far more difficult than many people believe. When creating a scene, many authors must consider the scene’s purpose and where it fits in the overall novel. Hence, “So what?”. What is your “what” or your purpose in the chapter? In his article Writing Novel Scenes A to Z - Drama, Sex, and Sass, Michael Neff guides us, point by point, through an organization process. I hope you enjoy! https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/15612-writing-novel-scenes-a-to-z-drama-sex-and-sass/#comment-23905
  5. I have been working closely with a lot of aspiring writers and when we get down to the nitty gritty of their writing, the fundamental question I ask them is “What is driving your main character?”. Why? Because the notion of a protagonist originates in Ancient Greek theater, where the phrase originally meant "the performer of the first part or the principal actor”. Today, we define a protagonist as a character who drives the story's plot, pursues its principal goal, and changes or grows throughout the course of it. By the start of each novel, the protagonist sets out to attain a certain goal; at the conclusion, they have either accomplished their objective or failed to do so. The pursuit of that objective serves as the foundation for the protagonist's character arch. Therefore, our goal, as writers, is for the reader to say, "Oh no, what will this character do now?" (since, thanks to the start, we already have hope that he will do something) instead of saying, "Oh no, what will this character do now!" Watching a character fight the good fight drives the reader to keep reading. In her article, “Make your protagonist an actor”, Kathryn Kraft talks about just that. I hope you enjoy! https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/17075-make-your-protagonist-an-actor/#comment-25296
  6. I caught myself committing the cardinal sin of writers. I said, “I’m about 25K words away from finishing my novel.” YIKES! I have no idea what possessed me to say that. Maybe I was tired. Who knows? Everyone knows that your novel is never done. The arc may be complete, the tale could be concluded, and the characters' journeys have been completed. Everything could fit in together like a beautiful tapestry; however, the novel hasn't even begun yet. I have to edit and polish it until it is ready to be given to at least two no-nonsense beta readers who will tear it apart. Only for me to start the process all over again. But for those of us, including myself, who have momentary lapses and forget the laborious process, I found this article by Tiffany Yates Martin to summarize just some of the boxes we need to check off as we complete our manuscripts. https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/16940-how-do-you-know-when-your-story-is-“finished”-a-final-check/#comment-25155
  7. As if turning fifty wasn’t bad enough, a friend I have known for decades asked me to read her manuscript and give my opinion; at my birthday celebration, no less. If it was anyone else, I would not have thought twice about it, but I know my friend is not open to feedback. The only reaction she expected from me was positive and she would meet anything that was remotely constructive or critical, with defensiveness and a subsequent line of questioning that would attempt to dismantle my recommendations. Alas, my friend is a thin-skinned writer, but I hesitantly agreed. I hoped for the best but prepared for the worst and I’m glad I did. As I ran my hand through my hair and popped a million antacids, I carefully crafted my feedback. I hope you find this article by Richard Curtis and reposted by Michael Neff helpful as you make recommendations to friends about their manuscripts and revise your own. https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/15640-the-seven-sins-of-novel-rejection/#comment-23933
  8. This month I had a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful for individuals who wanted to read my work and provided ideas that I am most grateful for as a writer. I am thankful for the extra sets of eyes that went over my manuscripts. Their feedback made all the difference. I appreciated all the positive comments from others. I even appreciate the criticism. The criticism allowed me to see a tale or poetry in an altogether different light than I would have without it. My readers have helped me view the world in a way that allows me to see beauty in everything, even the most mundane events of life. I am grateful for that ability. I am mostly thankful because I'm writing—that I'm still inspired and motivated despite all the difficulties of everyday adult life. I posted all of these simple gratitudes, plus one big hulking meal, on social media to share with family and friends. It was my personal strategy to reach out to others, share, and offer them a virtual seat at my table. I did so to engage with them since I couldn’t do it in person. It is not much different from utilizing social media strategies to encourage our readership and engagement with an audience. I hope you enjoy the article, Social Strategy: 100 Content Ideas for Every Stage of Your Writing Career, by Sarah Penner. https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/17551-social-strategy-100-content-ideas-for-every-stage-of-your-writing-career/#comment-25807
  9. It is almost here. Winter. I don’t know about you but winter effects my writing and not in a nice way, either. There are more reasons to stay indoors, and I should be grateful that it is finally getting colder, and those temperatures are no longer in the 80s or higher. At the very least, I would anticipate that they would be my ideal writing conditions. However, once winter has maintained its chilly hold, and summer appears to be a distant memory I wonder if I will ever make any progress toward my writing. If you’re anything like me I’m here to tell you to please, don't quit. Just keep writing! Hey, we are all writers and I know I'm exhausted. I don't want to do anything other than sleep, I'm grumpy, and I have difficulty concentrating. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a difficult time composing during the winter, but everything moves with the cycles and seasons of the year. The ebb and flow of creativity moves with it. To expand a little further please enjoy this article by Deirdra Eden, Friday Speak Out!: There Is No Such Thing as Time, There Are Only Cycles and Seasons. https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/16915-friday-speak-out-there-is-no-such-thing-as-time-there-are-only-cycles-and-seasons/&tab=comments#comment-25130
  10. When you hear from a critic or agent that your characters do not feel 'real' or 'genuine', it is a strike to the gut that sits with you for a long time. It can be one of the most heartbreaking criticisms you may get. It's possible that you haven't noticed it in your own work, but as a reader, you have definitely come across characters that are completely unreal, and not in a good manner. It’s the difference between keeping a book on your nightstand or shoving it way in the back of your bookshelf. If you're a fiction writer, you want your work to be as true to the source material as possible. While there are many different definitions of "authenticity," we define it as the building of a strong connection between the audience and the tale in which they are participating. This link is essential for authors since it completely shapes the way in which a reader perceives a work. I hope you enjoy this article by Donald Maass, “The Walking Stick”. https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/19273-the-walking-stick/&tab=comments#comment-27441
  11. Never judge a book by its cover. However, in many cases, book cover reveals are how readers get their first view of a book, creating excitement and buzz months before its release. It may be a fantastic experience for you to view your book's cover for the first time so imagine how a potential reader may feel when they take a look at it? You want them to feel the same excitement that you do to generate interest. To share that moment with their followers, an increasing number of writers are opting for a spectacular "cover reveal." Cover reveals are not only entertaining, but they may also help generate interest and momentum in advance of a book's debut. Furthermore, they are simple to implement—with a little forethought and clear communication with your publishing staff. Additionally, if your book is offered for presale on retailer websites, they might be a fantastic method to jumpstart prerelease sales. Once your book's cover has been revealed, you'll want to promote it in front of as many potential readers as possible. The use of repetition in advertising is an effective strategy for making a product more remembered. Fortunately, there are a plethora of marketing materials you can update to ensure that readers can easily identify and recognize your forthcoming release – so many, in fact, that it may be a little intimidating. I hope you find this article by Greer McAllister, 3 Tips For a Great Cover Reveal, helpful in planning your own! https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/19256-3-tips-for-a-great-cover-reveal/&tab=comments#comment-27423
  12. It’s the season of writing fear, but honestly, do we really need a season to do it? I don’t. My relationship with fear is long and complicated. Anyone that knows me knows my relationship with the paranormal and horror stems from my desire to understand that space between fight and flight. It’s a difficult space to speak from, that’s for sure even though it is one of the most universal and primitive emotions people experience. As an author, you must generate a believable feeling that captures your reader and allows for character development. However, every writer who has attempted this has discovered that it is far easier said than done. Personally, I always found that a character's dread is best conveyed by their bodily reactions rather than their thoughts and feelings at that particular instant in time. By interspersing small pieces of what they're scared of throughout the tale, the reader will not only be aware that the character is terrified, but they will also be concerned for them when the moment of truth approaches. I hope you find this article, How To Add a Layer of Fear To Your Fiction, by Michael Neff helpful when adding fear to your novel. https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/20099-how-to-add-a-layer-of-fear-to-your-fiction/&tab=comments#comment-28349
  13. I spend a lot of my day teaching conversation skills. I am always surprised at the number of people who have either lost or never developed their ability to interact and remain engaged with people. The simple question, “What is your favorite…?” threw people in my pragmatic and social conventions class for a loop. A rough estimate of seventy-five percent of my class attendees either shrugged or replied, “I don’t know.” Using rubrics and flow charts, I worked with each person individually to make the reason for their attractions to foods, movies, clothing, and songs concrete enough to be put into words. But what about our characters? When our characters meet for the first time, how does the dialogue unfold? What do we do to make our characters’ initial interactions interesting enough to keep the reader engaged? How do we use those meetings to drive the story forward? I hope you enjoy these thoughts by John E. Kelley from his article Close Encounters of the Initial Kind – Tips for When Characters Meet. https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/19078-close-encounters-of-the-initial-kind-–-tips-for-when-characters-meet/&tab=comments#comment-27239
  14. As a writer, I usually get asked "Which portion of writing a book is the most difficult?" - whether it's the beginning, middle, or conclusion — I generally respond, "Everything." Sometimes, I will expand and say explain why a portion of a novel has its own set of difficulties: for example, Middles are difficult to plot, and endings must answer to the promises you made throughout the book, but the beginning of a novel is the most difficult to plot. If I had to pick, learning how to create a decent hook would be the most difficult thing I've ever encountered. Today, people want immediate gratification. They want everything all at once and not the cerebral revelation. We have short attention spans, and a plethora of other excellent fiction to compete with. So, the opening of a novel must capture the reader's interest right away. Other than the hook, the preparation it takes to write a novel is the hardest. Please enjoy this article, Best 10 Steps for Starting the Novel, by Michael Neff. https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/15631-best-10-steps-for-starting-the-novel-all-genres/&tab=comments#comment-23924
  15. For months you sat by your desk. You watched your inbox, mailbox and spam folder for the announcement your manuscript has been returned from your editor. If you had a deadline, you marked your calendar and compulsively checked multiple times a day, just in case the editor finished early. Along the way, you sent out a payment here or there as a reminder that you that you are investing in something that will be impeccable, flawless, and representative of you as a writer. Receiving your manuscript back from an editor is like receiving that package you have been waiting for. Then, it arrives. You open it. Is it what you expected? Putting your manuscript in the hands of an unknown individual is tough. It makes you vulnerable to criticism. You lose precious words and sentences. It's hard for writers to accept this mutilation of their good intentions. Be open-minded with the editor. Only you are as involved in creating a fantastic book as this individual. Both parties must be patient. The editor has developed this skill over time by working with many clients. I hope you enjoy this article by Jim Dempsey, What To Expect From An Editor. https://algonkianconferences.com/authorconnect/index.php?/topic/15774-awhat-to-expect-from-an-editor/&tab=comments#comment-24096
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