Category Archives: Writing Craft

Writing Out The Storms

This morning, I sat wondering for a few minutes if it’s “bad form” to begin a blog post with an addendum. A quick Google search on addendum placement yielded too many unnecessary bits, so I’ve decided just to go with it.

So here it is: I was supposed to post the following blog over two weeks ago. In the interim, a devastating earthquake ravaged Mexico, Hurricane Maria inundated an already-decimated Puerto Rico, and a gunman slaughtered 58 innocent people in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Some days, I feel so deeply hurt that I hardly know what to do. I certainly don’t always feel like writing. And even when I do, the words don’t necessarily come out the way I’d like.

With all the madness in the world swirling around, I also had a smaller, though personal, issue to deal with, the poison ivy/oak I mention below. Apparently, I’m severely allergic, so I’ve spent almost 3 weeks on steroids and dealing with swollen and blistered arms and a rashy body. The drugs gave me woozy head, and sitting down to write or brainstorm yielded nothing good.

Well, I’m slowly returning to the land of my living, and still processing the incredible events of these past weeks, trying to make sense of what I can and trying to keep going in a positive way. I hope you’ll take a few more minutes to zip through the rest of my original post below. And I truly hope this finds you well and striving to be happy in this crazy world. Thanks for spending some of your time with me! <3

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I’m not sure if Hurricane Irma wiped out all my thoughts and blog ideas in a wild, massive rush of wind, but it sure feels like that tricky witch did something to my brain. Though I can’t say exactly how she managed to do so, since I was about 5000 miles away in Europe when she hit my home in Florida.

As happens more often than not, this isn’t the blog I’d planned to write. But as circumstances change often and quickly, I usually try to go with the flow. When it comes to writing, that feels most natural and hopefully, therefore, is the best writing I can do.

When Irma blasted the Caribbean and the Southeast, my reaction was different this time than with Matthew last year, because I couldn’t return from Europe. I’ve only been home for one week, and it’s been hard to get back into writing.

I want to write again—especially, to work on the edits for Treasure Bound—but I don’t have the words yet. My creative brain has disconnected or something. Not a breaking off, but more like a pulling away to process what’s happened in the world.

Too overwhelmed with reality? No, that’s not it. Reality often overwhelms me ; ) so that’s nothing new. (October note: Hah! If only I’d known how much worse things would get. It all feels so unreal still.)

And maybe I’ll come back tomorrow to reread this before posting and will feel completely different. Tiredness impacts my creativity, and we’ve been tired a lot since we began following Irma’s antics almost three weeks ago.

Let me back up a moment. You see, my husband and I had planned a relatively last-minute visit to his family in the Czech Republic, and we were due to fly home—to Orlando airport—on September 9. The airline, Irma, and MCO all had other ideas, though.

So, we spent many hours on the phone with various people and places and eventually were able to book a flight home on September 15.

But I have to say, not being here—home—to ride out the storm brought me a different sort of anxiety. It felt strange and wrong not to be here, to be too far away to help, to know if family, friends, home were all right.

So, I guess I’m still sorting through the different levels of emotion and tiredness that’ve followed me. Though we did enjoy our extra time away, it was more stressful than you’d think, and the travel home kept us awake for almost 26 hours.

In all, though, we’re immensely grateful that our friends and family are all right. Things are so much worse for so many, and my heart breaks with the latest news from the Caribbean and Mexico. How truly overwhelming.

So from my perspective, the few more downed trees we had, though sad to see and to lose, are merely proof that far greater things than us exist. It’s a process, though, dealing with the changes and problems. I don’t downshift that quickly, unfortunately.

A small segue: I do have to sneak in a photo or two of our yard here, because Lou and I could hardly believe what had happened on the rear of our property. A huge tree with water-logged roots toppled, ripping up a chunk of ground. Check out this mass of dirt and roots!

Tree roots
Downed trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortunately, when he cut the tree apart, the stump rose and the dirt/roots have settled back into position. But I wonder how long that’ll last.

The almost-week’s-worth of jungle clean-up did leave me with one other present: a nasty occurrence of poison something-or-other, worse than last year, it feels. So, just add steroiding myself to the list of “out there” feelings, and I think we’ve got the lack-of-writing issue mostly clarified.

Anyhoo…maybe writing this blog will help get my head on straight. Though I did write some on vacation, it was without regularity and not often. Me falling off the writing wagon is not pretty, as it takes several ugly attempts before I can claw my way up again. Think I’m finally getting there, though. I hope.  : )

And here’s a nice ending to this post: the birds are coming back. A blue jay streaked by the window and nestled in the pine tree. And a pretty bright-red cardinal just landed on the orange tree outside, perched amid the yellow-lime fruits, which I hope survive till ripeness.

Happiness, seeing that flash of crimson and imperious crown, since I think of angels when I see cardinals. And I have a few special guardians I know are looking out for me and my hub, through all the madness this world can throw at us. <3 Stay strong.

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It’s True, I Do Exist. But TB Is Half Missing.

The pinned post on my Twitter page is a photo of my first printed copies of Emerald Obsession with the comment: “It’s true, they do exist!”

That sentiment feels applicable to me today as I sit at my computer and—once again—attempt to finish my (one and only) June Blog. I started this post earlier in the month, and it had an entirely different vibe. I’m a little sad to say it was a better vibe then than now, though the change in vibration is not permanent nor completely overwhelming.

Here’s the gist: my original plan for this post was a progress update on Book Two of my series. I had completed the first draft of Treasure Bound, TB, as I still call it, and had in mind to scoop you on a few of the next steps: first-round edits, adding in a few transition scenes, prelim brainstorming for cover design and final title. Yeah, I was being optimistic; I liked how TB had wrapped up.

But no. That is not happening.

I began writing the blog while still organizing my electronic files and before I finished my critique-group edits. For your laughter and entertainment, check out these photos of my initial pile of work:

Once I made those edits, I printed the hardcopy files again and did a word count. That’s when I had a minor (okay, not-so-minor) cow.

Turns out, my much-loved (by me) sequel is not nearly as long as I thought it was. More to the point, it’s only about half the length of Emerald Obsession. OMG. I’m still uncertain as to how that happened, since the story feels much fuller even now. But I digress.

Now, since this is a sequel, and there’s a third (and final) book still to come, it’s not a problem that TB is shorter, but that was quite a helluva lot shorter than I’d expected. My plan for the editing stage had always been to write additional scenes to smooth out a couple of plot points, but this will require a chunk more writing. Ugh.

Well, not necessarily “ugh.” I do love writing, after all, and really, this is just more writing on a story I already really enjoy. The “ugh” comes into play because I’d anticipated publishing either end of this year or early next. See this photo? Notice the deadline I’d given myself?

Now that’s questionable. Not impossible, but questionable.

So, dear readers and friends, there you have it. Partly I’ve been MIA as I’ve tried to cope with this writing setback, partly because I’ve already begun work to flush out certain aspects of the storyline (yay), and partly because I’m still working ri-donk-ulous shifts at the “day” job, which severely interferes with my creative brain power and awakeness. Ah, the joy. Wink, wink. But I do exist!

To think, this month started with so much promise. I’d just held my first book signing for Emerald Obsession, courtesy of the fab folks at The Starving Artist Gallery, and was high as a kite over the response—I sold all but two books! Their best signing!!

And now this. Guess it’s back to reality and back to work for me.

Thanks for sticking by me through the mayhem. Oh, did I mention that in between, the hub and I managed to buy a couch and a bedroom set and mattress? Yay!! We’re finally living in almost-adulthood, like the real people do! So, it’s been a wild ride these past two months, as per usual. Guess some things don’t change.

Thoughts? Share a laugh? Cringe at the delay in TB? Please feel free to share your comments below or by email. I really do like to hear from you. Thanks and wish me luck on the additions. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

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Book Club Brilliance

Every year, February’s brevity catches up with me, no matter how many times I remind myself it’s a short month. In my effort to keep on schedule, I’m squeaking in my second February blog with a few hours to spare. Whee! I’m lucky, though, because I have a fun topic for this post: book clubs. More specifically, my first invitation to attend a book club and to join the discussion as the author of the group’s chosen monthly read! What a freaking treat for me. : )

Through the most excellent graces of my friend Monika—she talked me up to her friend Melissa who’s part of this club—I was introduced to a wonderful group of authentic, candid readers who are in love with books.

As much as I appreciate book clubs, I haven’t participated in one before, even as a reader. And it hadn’t occurred to me to offer to speak to or participate in a book club discussion as a writer. Those of you who’ve followed my blog from the onset know I feel challenged by marketing and putting myself out there as an author.

And I’ll share this: discussing books and telling stories to friends is one thing, but stepping into the spotlight of this group felt so intimidating. It’s an entirely different experience to sit before a group of intelligent, time-pressed individuals who purchased your book on someone’s recommendation and then be held accountable for your words, creativity and entertainment value. I mean, what if these people hated my book? Or found inconsistencies? Or thought it too simplistic? I’ll say again, a tad bit intimidating.

That was, until I met this group of lovely people. Well-read, well-traveled, outspoken and outgoing, these women welcomed me and treated me like a friend while being honored I, “a local author,” joined their discussion.

And let me tell you, these guys do Book Club right: their once-a-month evening meeting begins with catch-up chats over a welcoming glass of vino and simple starters, is followed by a delicious, no-fuss meal (we enjoyed chicken chili, salad and fresh fruit; I’m hoping Natalie will hook me up with that recipe!), and culminates in the discussion of that month’s selected title. Their discussion format is straightforward and begins with the host opening with a book-related question or discussion topic to get the ball rolling. The conversation is free-form, with members commenting and asking additional questions until by consensus the evening ends. Simple, fun, effective, entertaining.

Vino
Cheese Platter

 

 

 

 

 

Every writer I know struggles with the desire to share stories but not to feel rejected by those who dislike, don’t understand or fear them. And we struggle with how to tell those stories the best we possibly can. The club’s questions were engaging and thought-provoking and even gave me ideas for a couple points I plan to work into the sequel I’m writing now, TB. Though a bit unnerving in the anticipation, in all ways, this experience was fantastic: the welcome, the interest, the engagement, the thoughtful and valuable questions and comments.

Bunch of Books

Though the group said they felt honored by my presence, I have to say I’m the one who was pleased and humbled by their invitation. They welcomed me and my story, Emerald Obsession, into their lives for a time; they allowed themselves to be carried away by my characters’ antics and transported to unfamiliar locales where they feasted on exotic fare. How fortunate am I?

Special thanks to: Melissa, Natalie, Leslie, Carolyn, Sarah, Kathy, Eleanor, Maggie, the fab ladies of (mostly) Davis Shores for their warmth, interest and welcome. Also, for your encouraging response to the vignette I read from Treasure Bound, my work-in-progress sequel.

You guys rock. Read on, ladies!

So, readers, do you belong to a book club? How does yours work? As I mentioned, I haven’t been in one before, but this experience really made me want to start. How about you? Let me know below or by email (carolyn@carolyngreeley.com). Thanks!

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An Editing Trick for World Read Aloud Day

I’m still writing the first draft of TB, Emerald Obsession’s sequel, which is great and frustrating at the same time. I’d hoped to be finished with this first run-through by now, but no dice. When I set writing goals, I like to think they’re realistic, but somehow I can’t always make them happen on schedule. That said, when I look back to where the time has been spent otherwise (whole-house reno!!), I’m not too disappointed that this first round is taking longer than I’d hoped.

But as I near the writing end, I’m beginning to think about the edits I know I’ll need to incorporate in order to improve the flow and arc of the story. That’s kind of cool for me. Editing is a challenge that requires different creativity, different vision and different skills. I edit my manuscripts at least four or five times, looking for specific elements on each revision. For example, here’s a sheet of proofreader symbols. One of my review rounds focuses entirely on this level of editing:

Proofreading marks

Today is World Read Aloud Day, so I wanted to share my take on how this helps during early-stage editing. You may already know it’s smart to read your work out loud. Reading, either to yourself in an empty room or to some sort of audience (cat, hub, writing buddy, etc.), allows you to focus on how the language sounds, whether you’ve chosen the best words, whether the story flow is natural and realistic. And a biggie: whether the tone and voice are consistent.

Reciting your story is a crucial part of editing and one I enjoy. I admit I read out loud frequently, sometimes unconsciously, which makes my hub laugh (I suspect this’ll happen a lot more now that we’ve moved into to our renovated office, yay!). I just tell him geniuses often talk to themselves, so he’s lucky he married up. ; ) ; ) Hahaha. Yeah, he laughs at me for that. And if you don’t want to go the “genius route,” you could read to your neighbor cats; here’s a photo of mine who randomly travel through our yard:

Neighbor cats sneaking in for a listen

So, while reading your own material is a great idea, how about next time you try this trick with your critique group or a writing partner: swap stories and read each other’s piece out loud. Not only will you focus and hear the words differently, you’ll hear how someone else interprets your words. Did the story flow naturally? Did the reader stumble over words or ideas? Did the plot progress realistically and believably? Hearing your words in someone else’s voice will give you a whole other level of insight about how readers might experience your story.

And you know me, I hope my stories sell, but first and foremost, I really want to tell my stories in a good, logical, fun, exciting way. This you-read-me, me-read-you technique can help build a great story. It’s super helpful to receive feedback from other readers, too, but I digress. Finding beta readers can be a topic for another blog. : )

As much as I love a good writing tip, I’m sure you guys know reading aloud has more benefits than simply helping you edit. I’m no expert, but do a search online and you’ll uncover many more pluses to reading for an audience, especially to kids. Think of the impact on imagination and vocabulary! Love that. <3

Tell me, readers, writers and friends, do you read your work aloud when you edit? Or just for fun? ; ) What other benefits do you find to reading out loud? Do you read to yourself or to others, like your critique group or writing partners? Me? Definitely a combo of both. Boy, my hub’s gonna get an earful!

I’d love to hear your answers. Let me know in the comments section below or by email at carolyn@carolyngreeley.com. Thanks for hanging out.

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3 Reasons to Find Your Writing Mentor

I discovered an interesting tidbit the other day as I scanned an online calendar of fun facts: January is National Mentoring Month. Okay, maybe you take that sort of online info with a grain of salt, as I do (Really, National Crown of Roast Pork Day? It’s March 7, according to some.), but now and then I run across a factoid that stays with me and spins the gears.

Such is the case with National Mentoring Month. This struck me because I’m an advocate of mentors (and not just recognizing their usefulness for a month). This past year, I’ve been talking about their importance with my husband, whose business is expanding. As it grows, I’ve encouraged him to reach out to friends and colleagues who’ve already traveled similar paths, so he might learn from their experiences.

Why take this path:

Foggy path

When you can travel a clear path with a trusted advisor and friend:

Path to follow

But to be honest, I hadn’t thought of a mentor for myself as an author before now. I don’t know why. It took that chance mention to make me look at my career and realize how critical a mentor could be for a writer. And many of the ways in which a mentor helps say, an entrepreneur, are the same ways one would help a writer.

So, as ever on my kick about continuing to learn and grow, I searched around for more information. 🙂

Here are three ways a writing mentor can help you:

1—Experience. One of the best things a mentor can do is share the wisdom of their experience. I love the expression “work smarter, not harder.” By finding someone who’s attained the goal you’re aiming for and having them mentor you, you’ll benefit from their knowledge and hopefully will avoid their mistakes. An established writer will counsel you on both creative and business aspects of writing and will guide you along your specific career path.

2—Connection. Another benefit of your mentor will be access to their broader network of contacts. Though writing is usually a solitary effort, if publication is one of your goals, then connecting with others—readers, publishers, agents, editors, other writers—is essential. As an author looking to grow and reach an audience, having a mentor to open doors and offer ways to connect with people will be invaluable.

3—Inspiration and Input. Inspiration can come from anywhere, but for me, it doesn’t happen on a consistent basis. With a mentor, though, you may be only a call, text or coffee chat away from the butt-kick motivation you need to flush out that sketchy scene that’s vexed you for a week. The right writing mentor will offer creative support and unbiased, constructively critical insights. And that’s huge for gaining confidence and thickening the skin to the rejection prevalent in the writing world.

So, readers, what do you think about writing mentors? I believe engaging with one is a great idea for anyone looking to grow their career or passion. Do you have one? Or would you consider mentoring someone less experienced? What would you hope or expect to gain from that association? Please let me know in the comments section. I’d appreciate your thoughts. Or feel free to email me at carolyn@carolyngreeley.com. Thanks!

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Resolutions and Revisions—A Writer’s Reality

With another flip of the calendar, I find myself staring at a relatively clean slate. And so I decided to jump on the January-resolution bandwagon this year. Why not? The fact is, the changing of the year is a great time for people to reexamine goals, and I’m no exception.

A clean, snowy slate in NY

Since this blog is about my writing life, I’ll let you in on my writing resolution for this year. I made a small-yet-large-for-me pledge that pertains to you, dear readers and fans: My objective for 2017 is to blog more often and about more writing topics of interest to you.

To that end, I plan to blog twice a month. Yeah, no great shakes in the world of blogging, but in my world of chaos and distraction, doubling my monthly output is a major thing. Especially now, when I’m trying to power through the first draft of my second novel in the Found Mystery Series, still lovingly referred to as TB. ; )

As you may know, I believe life should be a continual learning experience, and I feel the same way about writing. I always want to learn more, become better at the craft, and I enjoy passing on what I learn.

Blogging isn’t my passion the way storytelling is, but the more I write in all formats, the better writer I become (hopefully). So, increasing my post output helps two ways: to give the readers what they want, and to sharpen my skills doing what I love.

In this first post of 2017, I’d like to share a link about one author’s editing process. I found this courtesy of Mary Ann de Stefano on the Florida Writers Association Facebook page, and I think it’s fantastic.

People often ask what it’s like to be a writer. Well, there are as many different answers as there are scribblers, but there’s a common thread: to write is to edit. And so, to learn to write is to understand you must edit.

This author, Patrick Rothfuss, was asked what it’s like to revise his own work. I think his answer is spot-on as he details the challenges we face, large and small, to make our manuscripts the best we can. Please take a look and let me know what you think.

As with writing, there are aspects of editing and revising that I love and those that I can hardly stand. But they go hand-in-hand. To be a better writer, I need to become a better editor. I’m working on it. 😉

Happy New Year to you all. Here’s hoping your resolutions are both fun and productive. Otherwise, they’ll be a pain to stick with. 😛

And with respect to my goal of blogging about your writing interests, please share what you’d like to hear about, either in the comments section, or by email: carolyn@carolyngreeley.com. Thanks and looking forward to your input.

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Christmas Presence: My First Author Talk

My heart rate doubled. So many faces stared at me. In my hands, the pages of my speech shook, so I laid them on the smooth white tablecloth. Took a few deep breaths.

Did not imagine the audience in their undies or naked. TMI, for sure.

But the thought made me smile, loosen up, and I dove in. This was it, my first speaking gig as an award-winning author. And my early Christmas present. Huge!

Christmas tree

I’ve done a good deal of public speaking in various forms in my previous life as a Manhattan ad woman. Those appearances had been nerve-wracking, empowering, frustrating. But none compares to the experience of speaking about writing and my indie publishing experience to a group of attentive, non-captive Florida Writers Association members and guests.

In November, I’d been asked by one of our St. Augustine FWA chapter heads (thanks, Nancy Quatrano!) to join a panel of speakers for our December holiday meeting. When she approached me, I immediately said yes, thinking of the honor it would be: The opportunity to speak about my love, writing. I felt the first flicker of nerves later, when I sat to brainstorm the specifics.

But the truth is, writing my short presentation turned out to be crazy easy. Sure, I toyed with a few different directions to start, but once I sat and began typing, the words flowed, the message clear and concise: I took myself from NYC newbie writer to FL published, award-winning author, and I learned a hell of a lot—about publishing and life—along the way.

Author Awarded 2016
2016 RPLA Trophy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My real anxiety didn’t hit until the morning of my talk. But the openness of my fellow panelists, and the welcome of the FWA heads and audience members helped mellow me. After the first couple of minutes, I felt like a million bucks.

One of the best parts? The questions and interest from the group after my speech. Holy smokes! People asked questions, sought my opinion on publishing, wanted to know more about how I handled the pressures, time-constraints, technical aspects of publishing on top of simply writing. I knew I’d learned a great deal over the past years, but I hadn’t truly realized until then how my insights could help other writers, at least in some small way.

So now, at the end of this incredible year of more firsts, I give thanks again for the unique and humbling ways in which my life continues to unfold.

The holiday season makes me as reflective and maudlin as the next person. The new year is around the corner, and that’s soon enough to contemplate resolutions and remedies.

For the last days of 2016, I plan to be grateful for the joys of this year. They are many, though interspersed with sorrows. Though we’ve lost a terrible number of artistic souls this year, my year has ended on a writerly high note. I hope the same is true of yours.

I’m sending all best wishes for a year of betterment, of love, peace, happiness, growth and wisdom. Let’s continue to strive for this.

By the way, if you’d like a copy of my speech and the list of online resources I found useful on my publishing road, please let me know in the comments section or email me at carolyn@carolyngreeley.com. Sharing = caring. <3

Thanks again and Happy New Year!

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