Requesting Feedback from Readers

The process of editing has me so frustrated that I have decided to turn to other bloggers for advice. I am having several plot issues and over the next few weeks I will be writing posts about these in the hopes that I will get some feedback from other writers and bloggers out there on how to handle these. Let me just say in advance that I will appreciate any and all thoughts and comments. At this point I feel that I am ready to just give up, but I know that I cannot and that I must finish this novel and publish it. I tried to do it alone and I feel that at this point the opinions of others who are not so attached to this will be a great help.

So here is my issue of the day:

As some of you may know, I am writing a Young Adult Paranormal Romance novel based on Hindu mythology. Although the heroine is from North America, obviously a lot of the action takes place in ancient temples and the jungles of India.

My question is this: How much explanation should I provide of terms  and actions etc, that might be unfamiliar to North American readers? For example, Namaste is a traditional Indian greeting. Having lived in North America myself for over twenty years now, I feel that many people know this. Of course I plan to weave an explanation of many things related to Hindu mythology and Indian culture into the story, but some of the terms aren’t really that unfamiliar in today’s ethnically diverse population. I also don’t want readers to think that they are reading a lecture on cultural issues. After all, this is a Young Adult novel. I would love to hear what you all have to say.

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What to do if you hate the novel you wrote

What do you do when you’ve finally finished your novel, but you look back at it and hate most of what you wrote?

I’m sure most writers have at some point in their careers looked at their completed work and decided that it would never see the light of day. A few months ago I just stopped writing. I didn’t write any posts, I didn’t want to look at my chapters and I didn’t want to read other people’s writing. In fact, even in the grocery store I avoided the book aisle like the plague. It was as if I was angry with writing in general and wanted to have nothing to do with it. Then a few weeks ago I decided to take a peek at the opening chapter of my novel. I read it as if it had been written by someone else. And I really liked it. So I read a little more. Then I read the comments from the editor I had sent my novel to . He had a lot to say, some good, some not so good, but all very helpful and encouraging. Then I remembered something I read somewhere and I realized that instead of just dropping this project which I had worked quite hard on, I could work at it some more and make it really good. I was already on the right track and all I needed was to stick with it. But that was the hardest part for me. I have a history of not sticking with things, not because I can’t do them, but because when something doesn’t turn out perfectly the first time I tend to give up.  It turns out that I’ve been standing in my own way. So my new goal is to fix what I can fix and then send it out into the world and hope that people like it.

Here is what I have learned from the last few months of wallowing in self-doubt:

I may truly just be a bad writer.

My internal editor may be taking control of my creative side.

I may be a perfectionist, which is pretty much a death sentence for a writer, because who can produce a perfect first draft?

I might be afraid of failure and it’s easier to just give up.

Lastly, I might just be a whiny pants who needs a swift, hard kick in the butt to pick up my novel where I left off and work at it until it’s the best that it can be.

So, today I’m deciding to do that last one. Hope to hear from you about your moments of doubt.

 

Prologues: To Have or Not to Have

I have been having this on and off relationship with the Prologue for my novel. I feel that it needs one, but then everything I read tells me that agents and editors hate them. Well at least the majority of them. Because the lives of the characters in my novel are intertwined with the gods and goddesses from Hindu mythology, I feel that it is important to set the scene, so to speak. I personally love prologues and I find that for certain stories they can provide valuable background details. I decided to delve deeper into what people are saying about prologues and here is what I learned:

1. Never use your prologue as an information dump about your characters or the setting. It is better to cleverly work that into scenes and dialogue.

2. Don’t use your prologue as a hook. That’s what the first chapter is for. Also readers will feel cheated if the prologue reels them in, but the chapters don’t deliver on that promise.

3. Your prologue should not be overly complex. This will just confuse readers and possibly turn them off the book entirely.

4. Never, never write a prologue that doesn’t connect with the main story. It will leave the reader wondering  and not in a good way.

5. Ask yourself whether your prologue can just be the first chapter. If yes, then that’s what it should be. Apparently many people don’t even bother reading prologues. In that case, if the prologue contains information vital to understanding the story, you’re royally screwed.

Clearly there is no single answer to the question of whether or not to write a prologue. But at least there’s a lot of good information out there on how to do it right. Since I am the boss of me and I love prologues, I will keep mine. I have a strong gut feeling that my readers will appreciate it.

Here are a couple of links I found helpful:

The Prologue – When to Use One, How to Write One by Marg McAlister: An excellent dissection of the prologue, its advantages and disadvantages by Marg McAlister. She lists several questions to ask when deciding to use or not to use a prologue.

http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/prologue.shtml: An interesting take on the multiple roles a prologue can play in your novel. If your prologue is not doing any of the jobs it’s supposed to, then it doesn’t belong in your novel.

Naming Characters in Fiction

Naming your characters is a lot like naming your children. You have a vision of what you want the character to be like, so you want to pick a name that they can grow into. But there are a few things you want to watch out for.

1.  Your character’s age:

Pick a name that is appropriate for the era that your character is from. If your character was born in the 1960’s for example, don’t name them Jordan or Alyssa. Raid your aunt’s attic for her yearbook and check out the names in there. Or you could just go to your local library. But the attic seems like a lot more fun.

Social Security Name Popularity  List

2. Your character’s ethnic background:

Keep in mind your character’s ethnicity as that exponentially widens the pool of names to choose from. You have to decide though if the character’s ethnicity has a role in your story. You don’t want to choose a name that overshadows the character. Do your research well, so that you don’t end up giving the character a name that will cause you problems later. In many cultures a person’s name, last and first, are indicators of other details, such as religion, caste and geographic origin.

http://www.writing-world.com/links/names.shtml

3. Roots and meanings:

Make sure that you check out roots of names and their meaning. This way you can incorporate some of your characters’ personality traits into the name. If your heroine is a tough cookie you probably don’t want to call her Heather. Also when it comes to choosing  the names of villains you might want to stay away from likable names, unless of course your story demands it.

http://www.babynamesocean.com/impressions_of_names.html

4. Convoluted names:

Remember that if your readers don’t know how to pronounce the character’s name, it may take away from how well they connect. Sometimes, complicated names are unavoidable, so perhaps you could work the correct pronunciation into your story. For example, you could have your character meet someone for the first time and have them ask for the correct way to say the name. That way when your book is made into a movie your fans won’t be shocked to realize that they had been saying the main character’s name wrong the whole time. Of course by that time it may not matter, since you will be rich and famous.

The most important thing is to have a good time naming all the characters in your story. I can’t think of anything more fun than creating entire personalities and watching them grow. On a personal note, I am still trying to come up with names for two evil shape-shifting brothers for my story, so I am open to ideas.

The Abandoned Palace: Fatehpur Sikri

Painting of Akbar the Great with Jesuits at hi...

Painting of Akbar the Great with Jesuits at his court; Akbar’s vizier wrote a gazetteer on the Mughal realm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imperial palace at Fathepur Sikri, near Agra, ...

Imperial palace at Fathepur Sikri, near Agra, India, built in 1580 Français : Palais impérial à Fatehpur-Sikrî, près d’Âgrâ en Inde, construit en 1580 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On our trip to India two years ago we visited Fatehpur Sikri. A lot of the action in my book takes place in old temples and palaces, so this was a perfect spot for some great inspiration.  The Mughal Emperor Akbar had this palace city built in the late 1570’s when he relocated the capital of his empire from Agra to Fatehpur. The architecture is a dazzling blend of Persian and Hindu styles. The design bears testament to the religious tolerance that Akbar was well known for. While the Mughals were devout Muslims, Akbar chose to educate himself on the tenets of Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism, as well as Christianity. In the palace he dedicated a large hall, called the Ibadat Khana or Room of Worship. There he invited scholars and leaders of other religions to meet and discuss their faith with the goal of enlightenment and brotherhood. Surprisingly forward thinking for his time, Akbar even invited women to join these weekly gatherings. But he didn’t just stop at gatherings and discussions. Akbar tried to create a new faith which was an amalgamation of all the faiths he had encountered. He called this faith Din-i-Ilahi, Faith of the Divine. Unfortunately for him, the ministers of his court were not quite so open-minded, and prejudices got in the way of his tolerance. Those closest to him began to worry that his open acceptance of the other faiths would pose a threat and political circumstances did not allow the new religion to gain popularity. Sadly, a few years later, Akbar’s court abandoned the palace at Fatehpur Sikri due to a water shortage.Today, the city still stands, nothing more than a ghost town of courtyards and surrounding pavilions. Walking around the complex you can almost hear the echoes of children playing in the gardens while the Emperor’s wives lounged by the pond. Inside the empty palace it is easy to feel the intensity and passion that must have filled the Ibadat Khana when Akbar led the scholarly discussions on the some of the world’s major religions.

As a writer there is nothing more inspiring than a place filled with so much  history and intrigue. Every room seems filled with secrets and stories just come alive as you walk in the footsteps of so many who made and changed the circumstances of their time.

Helicopter Parenting: How much is too much?

Week 36: Helicopter Parent

Week 36: Helicopter Parent (Photo credit: WilliamsProjects)

As parents we often have to tread carefully to avoid stepping on the fine line between good parenting and over parenting. How do we know when enough is enough? Is there a magic age when we can say that we have done all that we could for our children and that the time has come to step back?

I thought I was a helicopter parent. I hovered in preschool, in elementary school and would have continued to hover in high school if I had not walked into that invisible wall as my oldest daughter went off to her first day. It wasn’t an actual wall that stopped me…it was a look of sheer horror and embarrassment on my daughter’s face as she realized that I was stepping out of the car and following her. That look stopped me in my tracks. I realized that I had gone as far as I could. I stood outside her school like an abandoned child for a few minutes, before it hit me. This was it. No more greeting the teacher as the kids walked in and hanging around the classroom if they needed parent helpers. Apparently, once your kids hit high school, parent helpers are synonymous with the plague. I realized that I needed to get a life of my own, hence the desire to start a career as a writer. Also, I had some time to transition since I had another child and her teachers to harrass for a few more years.

Which brings me to the article  about helicopter parenting. Apparently it is a real affliction. It seems that there are parents out there who haven’t heard of the invisible wall I was talking about. And if they did, they may have just crashed through it anyway. I’m not judging because I know I’m just as guilty of hovering, but I do draw the line at calling my children’s prospective employers or future university profs. But extreme hovering tactics aside, when do we let go? Do we deprive our children the benefit of our experiences and failures and allow them room to make their own mistakes? Is it hyper-parenting to want to spare your child the disappoinments that you have faced and give them an edge? I don’t have the answers, but I do know that it is a daily struggle to decide when to step in or back off. After all, it is our children’s future that’s at stake.

Editing: Off To A Good Start

WAIITIN

WAIITIN (Photo credit: khalid Albaih)

My editor sent back the first twelve chapters of my manuscript and I must say that the feedback was very helpful. It’s as if we share a brain except he knows just how to organize the thoughts and I’m still all over the place. It was incredible reading his comments and realizing that he picked up on all the issues I was having and suggested ways to make them better. Am I lucky or what?

Now I am looking at massive rewrites, but that’s better than not knowing whether my concerns are valid or just the product of self-doubt. There was an interesting thing about his feedback when I received the second batch of chapters. I noticed that he gives compliment sandwiches. He’ll say something positive, then point out things he didn’t like and end on a positive note. Interesting…I wonder if that’s something all editors do or if my editor is just really nice.

Image

Liebster Award

Liebster Award

Ashley Manning nominated me for this award and I would like to say a big thank you to him. You can find him at ashleymanning.com.

According to the rules I now have to state eleven random facts about me, so here goes:

1. I was born in Germany.

2. I am fluent in five languages.

3. Growing up, I had an assortment of pets: five dogs, six pairs of homing pigeons, a hamster,  two mynah birds, two rabbits, two baby ducklings and a cat that thought it owned me.

4. I love to dance.

5. I finally worked up the courage to sing in front of people, so now I am a huge fan of Karaoke.

6. I have lived in five different countries on three continents.

7. I love sushi.

8. I love watching Merlin with my family.

9. I love dogs.

10. I’ve always wanted to be tall.

11. I would love to travel back in time, but I also want to know what the future will be like.

Now for the questions from Ashley :

  • What is your favourite book?  There are so many, but my favourite one a few years ago was The Time Traveler’s Wife.
  • What is the worst book you’ve ever read? I really can’t think of one that would qualify as the worst.
  • Do you think Crash Bandicoot is awesome? Had to google this one. I don’t play video games, so I have no opinion on this one.
  • What is your favourite genre? Fantasy Romance at the moment, but I also love anything historical.
  • Do you have any hobbies? Karaoke.
  • Do you like Poetry? Not really.
  • PS3 or Xbox? Neither.
  • Do you still buy CDs? No.
  • Which is better –  A purple dog with an apple on it’s head or a cow with a giraffe’s neck? Since my favourite colour is purple, I have to go with the dog.
  • Have you, or do you want to read Uylsses and why? Haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list. Why? Because it is one of those books that should be read.
  • Do you find it as hard to write 11 random questions? I’m about to find out.

Now the questions for my nominations:

1. Why did you start blogging?

2. If you could come back as anyone else, who would it be and why?

3. Who did you most want to be like as a child?

4. Who is your favourite character from a book?

5. What do you like to write about?

6. What country would you most like to visit?

7. What kind of music do you enjoy the most?

8. Do you like the feeling of holding a book in your hands or do you prefer e-readers?

9. During which part of the day are you most productive?

10. If you could have any superpower, which would it be?

11. How did you feel when you were nominated for this award?

And here are my nominations:

http://readfulthingsblog.com/

http://wordsformwindows.com/

http://elizabethblackbourne.wordpress.com/

http://nolanparker.wordpress.com

http://onthegofreelancer.wordpress.com/

http://moolta.wordpress.com/

http://suellewellyn2011.wordpress.com/

http://sophiebowns.wordpress.com/

http://blue88book.wordpress.com/

http://cruisingthroughmylife.wordpress.com/

http://www.happybeinghealthy.com/

http://www.happybeinghealthy.com/

Thank you so much for reading.

Authors and Editors

Edit Ruthlessly

Edit Ruthlessly (Photo credit: Dan Patterson)

I recently decided to hire a freelance editor for my manuscript, so that I could get started on my revisions. The process was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I simply went to the Canadian Editors Association website and looked for listings that mentioned YA fiction and sent off requests for estimates. A few days later I found someone that seemed to be a good fit and we got started immediately. I was mostly worried whether the editor would understand exactly where I was coming from. In the numerous emails we exchanged, I tried to explain what it was that I most needed his help on. When I first started looking online, I learned quite a few things. There is quite a confusing array of editing services available and some of them overlap. In addition, they can be quite expensive. So if you don’t do your research and fail to ask the right questions, you may end up paying for a service you didn’t really need. In the end you have to be clear about what it is that you need from the editor and make sure that they know it as well, so that there is no room for misunderstanding. If you’re lucky you will find somebody who gets your writing and will help make it the best it can be.

Girl Power

When I decided to write a book, I knew that the protagonist had to be a girl. She would be a strong, kick-ass sort of a girl. No standing on the sidelines and watching with big eyes as her man saved the world. No, she was going to save the world herself.I wanted to base my story on the mythology of India, because it is so rich and fascinating. And I knew that I wanted to write for young adults, because they are  at an important juncture in their lives. Not that my book is going to impart any great pearls of wisdom. On the contrary, it is pure fantasy. But I happen to believe that when you allow yourself to indulge in fantasy, you can discover a lot about who you truly are and what will make you happy. Plus it’s just really cool to write about a girl who has the powers of a goddess and can kick a demon’s ass.