Guest Post

If you have a book to promote, Lyrical Pens welcomes guest posts on Wednesdays. I can furnish a questionnaire or you can create your own post. FYI, up front: The site is a definite PG-13. Contact for details. cj

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Time to check the progress on my goals

cj Sez:  My goals for 2016 included critique group meetings, speaking at writers’ groups, attending a conference or two, and entering contests.

I also wanted to outline/plot that young adult fantasy I’ve been mulling over, complete the first book in a detective series, and rewrite/change a western love story into a western romantic suspense. Several months into these projects, the dust is settling around me, and I wonder how much of this ambitious schedule is wishful thinking. So I decided to break down the schedule and track my progress or lack thereof.

Our critique group has been able to meet once with a promise to meet again. I have, however, infringed on their computers by sending them pages of my newly completed short story … that would be the western romantic suspense. (More about that later.) Goal kind of achieved.

The Pensters Group, a gathering of writers who meet in Fairhope, AL, invited me to speak to the group on September 10. Looking forward to that. Goal achieved…almost.

The first conference I attended this year was the Alabama Writers Conclave in Birmingham, AL, in July. Now, I’m registered to attend Bouchercon in New Orleans in Sept.  Goal achieved.

I entered the first twenty pages of my unpublished, uncontracted, unagented, and heretofore unfinished detective story in a contest: The 2016 Freddie Award for Writing Excellence (FAWE), sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (FMWA). I have from now until December 31 to finish the manuscript. Goal achieved (because I entered).

I really like the protagonist in the detective story that I hope to turn into a series. There is a neat supporting cast as well. Jannecka Konner—“My name is pronounced Yahn-ekah, but my friends call me Jake.”—is a Yankee transplanted to the deep South. (Sounds a lot like me.) She is learning her way around Mobile, Alabama, at the same time she’s launching a career as a private detective. There’s the suspicion of infidelity, a murder with an unexpected twist, and a young boy in danger of being sucked into the foster care system. Jake’s sassy repartee with the lawyer who wants to be her lover is fun to write.

The also-unfinished young adult fantasy has been moved to a further-back back burner. I can’t seem to make myself want to study the genre yet. I do have it in my mind to return to this manuscript once I get the detective manuscript completed. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.) Goal missed.

The western romantic suspense short story is historical fiction, one of those complicated mixes of true, not-so-true, and outright lies. It’s out for a beta read right now. I’m excited about this story and hope I’ve hit all the right buttons. If it gets a beta-reader seal of approval, I will submit it for consideration to a publisher planning a western anthology. If it fails the test, I'll have another go at it. Here’s the story’s current tag line (I say current, because it’ll surely be changed again):

Men are murdered, an innocent man is accused of the crime, outlaws are shot down in the streets, a girl becomes a woman:  A romantic suspense torn from the pages of West Texas history.

What do you think? Would that invite you to open the book and read the first page?

Be sure to stop by Wednesday when Lyrical Pens welcomes C. Hope Clark as the featured blogger. Hope authors the well-respected Funds For Writers. (The site has been on Writer's Digest's “101 Best Websites for Writers” list every year since 2000.)

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. And remember, flood-ravaged Louisiana needs your help and your prayers.

Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Amazon Central Author Page:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Guest Jim Jackson delves into the Author's Toolbox

cj Sez:  Lyrical Pens is honored to have Jim Jackson as the guest blogger today. Jim is president of the 600+ member Guppy organization, a chapter of the international Sisters in Crime writers group. (Disclaimer: I’m a rabid fan and avid-lurking member of both groups.) Today Jim offers up some neat ideas on how to polish a manuscript to perfection.

Author’s Toolbox: The Auditory Read Through

Every author develops a toolkit containing writing skills and techniques, preferred software and hardware, and proven processes to develop a polished manuscript. I’d like to suggest authors add the Auditory Read Through to their stockpile of available tools.

If you are like most modern authors, you compose your first draft using a word-processing program, which means you first see your words on a screen. You may rewrite your manuscript using a screen to display your text, or you may print out a copy of your manuscript, make handwritten corrections and then convert those back to an electronic form.

Many authors have learned that they find different problems when they view their manuscript on the screen compared to what they find when using a hard copy. I suggest that you will also discover different issues when you read your manuscript out loud.

Even if on previous read-throughs you silently sounded things out in your head, you did not fully utilize your sense of hearing. Before the written word, stories were spoken, and you should listen to yours to discover a few last issues you may have missed.

My approach to the Auditory Read Through
I print out the manuscript single-spaced applying the same font, type size, lines per page and page size as the publisher will use. As I read, I’ll see, for example, a long paragraph that needs splitting or dialogue that runs unbroken for two pages. [I am not worrying about exact layout, orphan lines, where words break on a line, or anything like that.] 
What am I listening for? Anything that doesn’t sound right on a sentence-by-sentence basis, as well as considering a paragraph or page as a whole. Whenever I stumble or trip over a word, there is a good chance I need to rewrite something. This gives me the opportunity to straighten convoluted sentences and exchange flabby diction with precise wording. Often on the read-through I'll discover I used a word several times
within a short span. I never saw the multiple uses on screen or page, but my ear picks it up.

I pay particular attention to adverbs: are they covering for a flabby verb? Make sure every adverb is necessary. As an example, consider the line, “She quickly walked to the sidewalk.” With the multitude of verbs available to describe exactly how she moved to the sidewalk, this sentence employs a lazy approximation for what the reader should visualize as they read.

Where I used multiple adjectives, can I replace them with one perfect descriptor?
Have I noun-ized verbs (xxxxx-ness) or verbed nouns (xxxxx-ize).
Are my verbs ending with “ing” appropriate?
Have I fallen into a repetitive pattern? Do too many sentences share the same form? Are sentences all the same length?

You can do as I do, printing out the manuscript and reading it aloud to yourself, or you can use software that reads the words to you. I’ve tried both and they both work well. Using software has the added advantage that you use only your ears, since you aren’t the one reading. Plus, it can be entertaining when the software butchers a word it doesn’t know.

Some people record themselves reading their manuscript out loud. While they are reading, they muzzle the internal editor. Once they start the playback, they are truly listening (since they are not also reading). I haven’t used this technique, but it is intriguing, although it seems like extra work—but folks swear by it, and I may try it sometime.

I find the best time in my manuscript creation process for the Auditory Read Through is once I think the manuscript is ready for a final nit check. You may want to wait until you believe you have polished the manuscript to perfection. Others may find it’s useful much earlier in their process.

If you’ve tried the technique, how did you think it worked for you? If you haven’t performed an Auditory Read Through, do you think you might?

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. ANT FARM, BAD POLICY, CABIN FEVER, and DOUBTFUL RELATIONS. Jim also published an acclaimed book on contract bridge, ONE TRICK AT A TIME: How to start winning at bridge, as well as numerous short stories and essays. He is the president of the 600-member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. He splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the open spaces of Georgia’s Lowcountry.

You can find more information about Jim (including social media links) and his writing (including purchase links) at his website

cj Sez: I loved this post, Jim. It’s spot-on for how to uncover the weaknesses—and strengths—in manuscripts. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by…and congrats to the whole Guppy group on their anthology, Fish or Cut Bait, A Guppy Anthology, being nominated by Killer Nashville for a 2016 Silver Falchion Award. Lots of good stories in there (readers can check it out on Amazon.) 

Jim's latest book, Doubtful Relations, is hot off the presses, having launched yesterday!  Be sure to 
check it out as well.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same, but please take a moment to share your thoughts or questions in the comments below.  

Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
Amazon Central Author Page: