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This was fun. Did a little Q&A with Sally Dreskin at Les Femmes Folles. Go check it out! And thanks, Sally!

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Hungry bear is hungry.

Hungry bear is hungry.

In April, I handed out four copies of my novel manuscript to beta-readers. Two came back almost two months ago. One, I kinda knew wasn’t coming back (she was very, very busy at the time), which I had no problem with. The last I’m abandoning, despite being told that they’re *this* close to being done and getting it into the post.

I can’t wait any longer. I need to get back on this manuscript.

It’s been standing in the way of every other creative endeavor, so I just have to move forward with it, which, considering what great feedback I got from just the two MSs I did receive, isn’t a problem. It’s just frustrating that 1) it’s been four months, and two of those months, in the end, were for nothing, and 2) you want as much feedback from as many sources as possible. Lucky for me, the two readers I have gotten feedback from are tremendously smart and talented in their own right, so I count their input not as two, but as at least four, so we’ll call it even in the end.

Beta-readers. If you’re sitting in a grad school writing workshop right now complaining about how much you hate workshopping…stfu. No, really. Everyone hates workshopping (mostly because it makes them sad-clown-face inside when not everyone loves every word they write), but, unless you’re also really social (like, I think you have to be really social), this will be the last time it’s easy to find someone to read your work and give you feedback. (Granted, you might be cocky enough to think your fine writing requires no feedback, and to you, I say…stfu.)

It’s hard to find people willing to read your work. Maybe they’ll read it to read it. But to find someone to read your work and give you thoughtful, intelligent, non-ass-polishing suggestions is difficult. So, when I find people who are willing to do just that, I feel like I owe them a first-born (not mine, that’s icky, but someone’s). I’m intensely grateful.

So, tip to those nice and gracious enough to volunteer to be a writer’s reader: continue in the “nice and gracious” vein. Don’t take four months to return it; do your best to turn it around in a timely fashion. While reading the manuscript might be fun for you—something you don’t mind doing in your downtime—I guarantee you that the time waiting for its return is not downtime for the writer, though you might be holding them up and therefore it’s forced downtime. And there’s nothing worse than wanting to work on a specific project, but it’s in limbo because a reader just wants to push it off for one more week, but then take three more weeks to read twelve pages.

I guess the bottom line is—and this is sage advice for any similar situation: Do not fuck with a person’s creative process.

The “creative process” is a delicate, unwieldy, often vengeful thing. Where inspiration is frequently intense, yet fleeting, it’s best to tread quietly and cautiously around someone’s “creative process.” Treat it like a sleepy bear just having woken up from his winter’s nap; do you really want to stand between that bear and breakfast? And here’s the thing, if you prevent that bear from eating for the next four flipping months, that bear starves to death.

Why would you want to kill a poor, sleepy, hungry bear like that, miscreant?

And this bear is all like, fuck this, and it’s just walking over this reader and getting to breakfast before that shit’s cold and rubbery.

Seriously, the beta-reader process took twice as long as it took me to write the first draft. That’s pretty ridiculous.

So, yes, if you’re being nice and gracious, and offering to read your writer-friend’s MS, do it, do your best, and get it back to them before they go mad. Unless you’re preparing to move to South Africa for the next three years (I ❤ you, Marla…you are not the fourth reader of whom I speak!). That’s different.

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Revision Time!

RLSWriting2I’ve been pretty excited to get back to work on this manuscript. I had a bit of a hiatus because of work that needed doing around here and familial obligations, not to mention that I was waiting for input from beta-readers. Got two MSs back, one to go, but while I wait for the third one I’ve been going through the first two and creating a master MS from which to make edits and revisions. My readers are awesome and my mind’s at work thinking of ways to implement  many of their suggestions. Thankfully, nothing so far requires any huge, systemic changes to the story or MS as a whole, so that’s always nice. Some, though, will require some thought and some structural finagling…but nothing too daunting. All good things, all major improvements, and I am indebted to my readers.

Some writers hate the revision process. Some hate to have people tell them what is or is not working. I love it. This is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. Granted, like most writers (I think), being told what to do stylistically is one thing. That, no one is a fan of. But if you’ve got the right readers, or, hopefully, a good editor that knows what they’re doing and recognizes certain useful creative boundaries, you don’t really have to deal with that (also, it’s different if you’re asking for that particular input). Maybe that’s why so many writers hate the revision process; maybe they haven’t found readers that know the difference between helpful practical suggestions and stylistic suggestions. I’m extremely grateful to have readers who know that difference, because that is most helpful. And maybe that’s why this part is fun and exciting for me.

Well, whatever the case, I’m revising! I’m back to working on the MS and it feels good. How do you feel about the revision process? Fun? Work? Indifferent?

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April 10-15 201354It’s been pretty hectic here at Chez Everitt. April’s a busy month, preparing the garden, trying to get a jump on the lawn mowing, etc. Hence, fewer posts here. To get an idea of things, feel free to check out my other blog (that I can only manage to post to three times a week!), Heavy Metal Homesteader.

April 10-15 201355In terms of writing, though, I did happen to receive my contributor copies of Postscripts to Darkness Vol. 3, in which my story, The Obstruction, is published. (You can order a copy here.) This story was inspired by my friend and former MFA thesis adviser, Peter Oresick. Last year, we were all horrified (him most of all) to learn that he had a tumor in his brain. Luckily, it was successfully removed and he has been recovering ever since. He had mentioned that perhaps the episode could be fodder for one of my stories, and so, it was. And that is the story in PStD Vol. 3.

I’d like to take a moment, also, to plug Peter’s project, The Pittsburgh Novel: Western Pennsylvania in Fiction: 1792-2012. He’s just begun posting each entry and there are about 1,000 of them, so check back frequently to see the blog (and title list) grow. I’ve known he’d been working on this for sometime and had been really looking forward to it—now that it’s getting out there, I’m kind of ecstatic. My reading list is about to get ridiculous.

(Coincidentally, The Obstruction happens to be set in Pittsburgh.)

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Scary Words

FEARThis article over at The Christian Science Monitor is pretty interesting. There was a study published recently in PLOS ONE that analyzed 5 million digitized books on Google for “emotional language.”

The surprising conclusion they reached: There has been a marked decrease in the use of emotional words that fall in six categories (anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise), with the exception of an uptick in fear since the 1970’s.

I guess, take from that what you will. It mentions that those 5 million books are only about 4% of all books that had gone to press since 1900, which means it’s really a very small sampling.

My first observation are the categories into which this search fell: anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise. Really? What a bunch of Negative Nellies. I assume, given human nature, that if they had included straight-up “love,” it would have drowned out all the other categories (or, at least, I hope).

That said, my second observation, is obvious: …an uptick in fear since the 1970s.

That seems to make sense—at least, it does in the world I live in, but then, I pay way too much attention to the news, current events, etc. I suppose it’s all relative. But it’s a little chicken-and-eggy: which came first? Did the fear in the world result in a more literary reflection of it, or did the writing about fear result in more fear in the world. Or do they just feed each other? Of course, none of this happens in a vacuum, but it’s interesting to think about.

Hmmm…

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Insert Title Here

This is brilliant.

This is brilliant.

I wanted to write about titles today, because I’m so very terrible with them. Apart from math and numbers, nothing freeze up the ol’ brain pan quite like trying to come up with a title.

In preparation for many blog posts, I like to do a Google search on the topic, just to see what’s out there. This morning, I found this: How to Create the Perfect Title for Your Book. Check out Step Two.

Think of titles that could be used for your book and write them down.

This almost cost me one mouthful of coffee through my nose. Wait, what? First off, shouldn’t that be the last step? And second…is that really helping?

Well, heck! Why didn’t I think of that? Can’t think of a title for your book or story? Well, just think of them and write them down. Thanks WikiHow, you’re a life saver.

So, how do you come up with titles?

No, I’m really asking. I bet you thought I was going to help you come up with them.

How is it possible that someone can write a whole story—particularly a long one—with characters and twists and turns, hopefully all culminating into one big, intricate and interesting tale, but then when it comes to naming the thing, POOF. Blank.

Honestly, I always hope that, somewhere in the writing itself, the title is waiting for me to discover it. Problem with that is that I can never find it later. Like, I’m sure it must be there, but no matter how many times I go through the manuscript during the revision and editing processes, it’s no where to be found. Which leads me to believe that I really need to devise a better title-coming-up-with plan.

So, how do you do it? I’m sure there must be a thousand ways and everyone is different. Or the same. For all I know, there’s a special trick that all real writers know, and I just felt asleep during class that day. What’s the big secret?

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werewolfTHE NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP

What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way for readers to discover authors new to them. I hope you’ll find new-to-you authors whose works you enjoy. On this stop on the blog hop, you’ll find a bit of information on me and one of my books and links to four other authors you can explore!

My gratitude to fellow writer, Alyssa Cooper, for inviting me to participate in this event. You can click the following link to learn more about her work. Click here to get to her website.

In this blog hop, I and my fellow authors, in their respective blogs, have answered ten questions about our book or work-in–progress (giving you a sneak peek). We’ve also included some behind-the-scenes information about how and why we write what we write—the characters, inspirations, plotting and other choices we make. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!

1: What is the working title of your book?

Hahhaa…this would be the first question. So far, I haven’t got one. I’m terrible with titles. I can write tens of thousands of words, but force me to  fit all of that into a one-to-five -word sentence and I kinda suck.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

I actually blogged about that pretty recently. I had been reading a lot of biographical work about Robert Louis Stevenson, and then I started in on some of his travels books and essays. Something just clicked, with a little luck and a little research, I pretty much had a fairly strong foundational idea.

3. What genre does your book come under?

I tend to just say “Horror,” though someone else might have to tell me. Along with titles, I’m terrible about distinguishing sub-genres with my own work. I lean toward darker elements, but the work as a whole tends to come off as a touch literary. I dunno. It’s literary historical horror. Werewolves. Yeah, I’m just going to say, “werewolves.”

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh, good question. I haven’t thought of that. For Stevenson, maybe a younger, taller Robert Carlyle. Somewhere between Begbie in Trainspotting and Colqhoun in Ravenous. Except not a jerk and not a crazy cannibal. And with a donkey. I mean, he wouldn’t have to fake the accent.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Wait, isn’t it bad enough I’m crap with titles? Okay. “A young Robert Louis Stevenson journeys through the French highlands with a donkey and is trailed by a mysterious cloaked figure while having to dodge the terrible, vicious werewolves that have plagued the region for centuries.” You didn’t say it couldn’t be a run-on sentence.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

This book will be self-published, which I’m very excited about. I’ve worked for presses (I am currently on the editing staff at Nightscape Press, actually), and I’ve got a degree in publishing—it’s all stuff I know how to do. I also really enjoy working on that side of things, so, it’s fun to take my own work through the process and see what happens. I am still revising the manuscript, but am closing in on a final draft, and I’ve been consulting with designer/photographer Caroline Moore for the cover and layout. It’s nice to have this other kind of creative outlet aside from the writing, which authors don’t usually get to enjoy with traditional publishers.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a month and a half, which was a surprise to me. I usually take much longer, but something about this story just kept me going at it. It was almost miraculous, actually. I hit not one block throughout and I got up every morning ready to get back in front of my laptop and hammer away. It was a very satisfying process, which is great because sometimes, it’s not so much.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

That’s hard to say. When I started, I thought it would be compared to the Jane Austin monster books, or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. But it’s not necessarily written in the style of RLS, and the style and tone it does have is, I think, very different from Grahame-Smith’s work. And then I thought it might be compared Harold Schecter’s Poe mysteries, which I love. Schecter does a fantastic job capturing Poe’s voice, and they’re tremendously clever. If you’ve read the usual suspects of Poe, you’d love these books. But if you’re very familiar with Poe, you’ll love these books. For my book (and I had such a great time writing this; I fully expect there to be more than one), you only have to know who Stevenson was, I think. You don’t have to have read a single word by him to enjoy it. And I’m afraid that even if you’re very familiar with his fiction, I didn’t really look to his fiction for inspiration. But if you know anything about his life, and, say, you’ve read his book Travels with a Donkey through the Cevennes (which I’ve used as a template), you’ll probably get the most out of it. Again, though, it’s not necessary—I didn’t write it to be this inside game for RLS fanatics. They’ll have fun with it, I’m sure, but it stands on its own and is written for anyone who wants to pick it up and read a good story with frickin’ werewolves. As for the comparisons, I’m sure it falls into the category of those above, although, as there are stylistic difference between them, I believe there is the same between mine and them.

9: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Geez, I don’t know. I think I pretty much covered the big selling points: Robert Louis Stevenson, who, if you don’t know anything about him, you really should. For a guy who kicked it at age 44, he lived a pretty full, adventurous life. And that works for me, because I wrote this based on both his travel writing, but also on his life (and, like I said, I anticipate to follow this up with another). There’s mystery/intrigue: Horrible murders? You got it. Perpetrated by whom? Who knows…you’ll have to read it to find out. And werewolves. “Werewolves” are sweet and that speaks for itself, I think. Oh, I guess I’ll add that there’s humor in there, but it’s not just one joke after another—it works with the characters, not to carry the characters. And speaking of characters, I’m really happy with them. I like them (and dislike others), which, as a writer, is so much better than being indifferent to them. If I was indifferent to them, I wouldn’t dream of putting this out there. One last thing: despite my really digging these characters, don’t worry. You like gore? I’ve got that covered, too. So, really, there’s something for everyone.

10: Why are you so much better-looking in person than in your photo?

I guess that’s all relative. It depends on the photo, and on which side of me you’re standing. And the light. Lighting is important. And how close you are, or how close the photographer was. And how much sleep I’ve had. And how much sleep you’ve had. It depends on a lot, really.

Who’s next on the NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP?

No one. No one is next on this blog hop. Can you believe ten writers were asked and they had either already done it, had reasons not to do it, or didn’t reply? Sorry kids. Train stops here. What do I suggest then? Well, if you haven’t read any Robert Louis Stevenson, he’s new to you, so I suggest getting some and hunkering down for some damned good stuff. Can’t go wrong, really. Otherwise, check out Schecter’s Poe books (link above for titles). I also suggest heading on over to Nightscape Press and having a look.

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