Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Call for interviewees: How do YOU revise your fiction?

I am looking for fiction writers and editors to interview for my new writing book. The book is tentatively titled Trimming the Fat: A Writer's Guide to Revisions. It discusses how various writers, from poets to novelists, can revise their work, along with tips and articles from other writers in the field.

Currently, I am working on Part Two, which discusses revising fiction. It talks about fixing a manuscript or story scene-by-scene, problems with characters, fixing your plot, how the "show, don't tell" rule can hurt your story, getting rid of the fluff and losing the filler in your stories, and POV problems.

I would love to receive feedback from you about those things if you are a fiction writer or editor. Or, feedback about any other thing as far as revising your fiction is concerned! You DO NOT need to be a published or famous writer of fiction to be included! I am totally open to receiving input from all writers of fiction. I'm also looking for checklists, tips and blog posts or articles by fiction writers/editors that is related to revising fiction.

You can leave a comment with your input on any of those things or email me for specific questions and further details about those chapters.

Thank you. :)

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 29, 2008

True confession

It's confession time! I have been doing something with my first draft of the new writing book that I SHOULD NOT be doing: Going back to fix what I wrote. Mostly, though, it's not so much the writing I keep fixing, it's the organization of the chapters. I keep changing my mind over where this chapter should be or what that chapter should have in it. Or what title a chapter should have. I keep adding, subtracting, and just changing. I can't seem to make up my mind about it!

And, as it is, I have even asked for feedback on either entire chapters or parts of chapters.

The good news, though, is that I FINALLY finished the first part. Woo-hoo! Now seven more to go. (Yup, that means I'm gonna be a little busy with it for a while.)

I know we should just start writing the first drafts of our books and not stop to change or fix anything until we reach the end, but given that this book is going to take a little time to finish, I keep thinking I won't remember the changes I want to make to chapter three, say, eight weeks from now! I know I could write it down, but that won't be the same. I won't remember that change the same way it is fresh in my mind right now.

I only hope I will break the habit of going back to change or fix something in due time. At least the book is still getting written, and not just rewritten.

Labels: ,

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The weekend without writing

I was reading this writer's blog today and came across this line: "A week without writing has been torturous."

I can totally relate, but in the sense of 2 days, not 7

That's right: I haven't been writing for 2 days. GAH!

After I finished a book on Friday, I wanted to take a break from working on my books this weekend. (Partly because I had SEVERE writer's cramp!) True, I have blogged, sent emails, and wrote up a grocery list. But there was NO WORK done on any of my books and NO escaping to the world of fiction to write up a story or such. No poems, either.

I made it a point to ensure I didn't do any writing work at all this weekend, but it's been really hard. I've got short story ideas crammed together in my head. I've got ideas for one of my book projects I want to try out. And ideas for poems to write. Plus, I need to get back to work on the haunted houses book! (Sorry for the hold-up, Martha.) I was practically crawling out of my skin to WRITE SOMETHING!

And not just a grocery list or blog post.

But I was determined to stick to the "no writing this weekend" rule. I tried to concentrate on other things. Catching up on watching movies. Taking my daughter to the park to play baseball. Catching up on reading books. Going shopping. Cleaning up the backyard. Catching up on old emails. Surfing the Web. Hanging out.

In other words, getting myself back into the REAL world!

Admittedly, part of my determination not to write this weekend came from guilt. As I neared the end of the book I just finished, I was SOOO consumed with it. My other projects did get worked on here and there, but not as much as before. I didn't spend as much time with my daughter as I normally do. I slept, ate and breathed my book. And I just felt really guilty for letting it be this HUGE THING hanging over me for that final week I worked on it. I know it's not good to be so obsessed with work, but sometimes I do get like that.

And I just needed time away from it all afterwards. This HUGE load was finally off of my shoulders. I wanted to relax and just NOT be a writer for a couple of days. I wanted to be Mom again. I wanted to be just plain ol' Dawn again. Not Dawn Colclasure, the writer. Or Dawn Colclasure, the author. I wanted to be Dawn Wilson, the wife and mother, again.

But like I said, it has been hard. I have wanted to write SOOO bad! And it hasn't been easy sticking to my self-imposed exile from writing.

But, I am optimistic. I will see this ban through. And, there is another plus: At least by the time Monday gets here, I'll be able to charge back into the writing work full steam ahead!


Friday, August 22, 2008

I finished Book Two!

First, there was fear. Fear and anxiety. My beta readers talked about how GREAT the first book in my series was. How much they liked it. Now that I was starting on Book 2, I had to ask myself: "Will I be able to wow them again?"

That's when a realization struck. This is what it must feel like for the series writer. People LOVE the first book, and they expect the second book to just blow them away as much as the first one. And there's
that doubt, that fear, that nervousness, over being able to give them another great story featuring the same stars of the show.

I already knew how I was going to do this. Each book in this series has to be able to stand on its own. Each book must be a brand new adventure that readers won't need previous books to read in order to understand. Book Two does not pick up where Book One leaves off. It's just another story with these characters. So I didn't have any concerns over the how.

Just concerns over the "what if?"

What if readers hate the second book, and decide NOT to read the next one?

What if I can't come up with ANOTHER great story featuring these same characters?

What if I lose interest?

What if I hate it so much that I don't finish it?

What if the agent/publisher I eventually find prefers the second book over the first one? Am I setting the first book up to be a trunk novel??

Eventually, I literally had to force myself to just write the story. JUST WRITE IT! There were so many fears and doubts and worries.

And false starts. I tried this beginning, but it just didn't seem right. Tried another beginning, THAT didn't seem right, either. Finally, one of the main characters just started talking. Just telling the story -- from her POV! The stories are written in third person limited POV, not first person. So I quibbled over writing it that way. That just wasn't right! But I eventually gave in and, soon enough, the POV went from being first-person to the one I wanted. (Which is why the first chapter in the final draft will be dropped.)

And I hated the first draft. LOL I did. The writing stunk. I kept making marginal notes over areas that needed to be fixed when I revise it.

But, you know what? It got written. The WHOLE thing -- all of it -- was written up and completed. I finished the very last chapter this morning. I DID IT! I wrote the second book in my series! Woo-hoo!!

When I got to the last chapter of this book, I was literally stunned. I kept thinking, 'Wow. I'm on the LAST CHAPTER. Of Book Two. This is it! This is where I finish it!' The funny thing is, I kept pacing back and forth, just STARING at the page reading "Chapter Fourteen." LOL Total nervousness took over. This chapter has to be GOOD. Better than all of the others. This chapter has to make the reader want to read the NEXT book. This was the Moment of Truth! So I eventually sat down to write it and I was satisfied with how it came out. Had a HUGE case of writer's cramp after I was done with it, though. Heh. (Makes a mental note to get some Epsom Salt.)

The only thing hard about writing the second book in my series was how different it was from the first book. The first book is shorter and it has 12 chapters. This book has longer chapters, and the chapters total fourteen. At first, I worried over this. Two chapters more than what is acceptable for this age group? Oh, the scandal! But I decided on two things: I could fix it during revisions AND I will leave the decision over the chapter thing up to my agent. If I ever FIND one, that is. But, that's my decision on that. Leave it up to the agent. There is nothing in there that shouldn't be in there. It's a well-rounded story and ALL of the conflicts get resolved.

There are parts of the story that highlight honesty, friendship, family, teamwork and respecting our elders.

There are parts of the story discussing a piece of equipment used by paranormal investigators. (It's a paranormal mystery series.)

There are parts of the story where the main characters recognize their mistakes and owe up to them.

And, of course, a couple of main characters struggle with a personal issue (one has problems with his mother, the other dealing with bullies at school), and that was resolved, too.

With the first book, I had to do research on EVP detectors and the Shakers. With this book, I had to do research on food poisoning cases and Massachusetts legislature. (The fictional town is set in the state of Massachusetts, though that's never mentioned in any of the books.) That second thing was a learning experience. I didn't know, for example, that towns in Massachusetts don't have mayors. I made a mental note to check out a bunch of books on that state and hopefully I'll be able to make everything appear more realistic. Even though it IS a fictional town! (Heck, I've never even VISITED that state. Well, it's on my "To Do" list. :) )

So, there you have it. How I Conquered the Anxieties of Writing Book Two! LOL Now instead of feeling nervous or fearful of writing the third book, I'm ready to take it on when the time comes. I did it before, and I can do it again!

Labels: ,

Sunday, August 17, 2008

How I get ideas for writing

One writer I know is participating in a blog chain. The bloggers pick a theme to blog about each week, and a recent question they had was, "Where do you get your ideas?" This writer posted her answer in her blog and invited other writers to share how THEY get their ideas for their writing.

So, dear readers, here is my response:

"As for me, the characters "come" to me, ready to tell their stories.

Or I will see something happen, read something, and, bing! There's another story idea.

I play the "what if" game a lot. I look at scenerios that unfold before me, take something someone has said, and turn it around asking "what if? what if?" until I have a story.

Dreams are another way I get ideas for stories, too. Some dreams, however, are just too hard for me to turn into a story. I once dreamed of where this woman goes crazy out of fear and, in her delusions, she accidentally kills her little boy, thinking he is someone else. There was no way for me to write that story! I dreamed it before I had my own son, and it was just too hard for me to write it. A writing contest I saw later gave me an idea on how to change that and turn it into a story that I COULD write. (Huge feeling of accomplishment writing that story. Yay!)

Also, I'll take a popular saying, or a spin on a popular saying, use it as a title and work from there.

Finally, I get ideas from reading books. For example, one story had something happen in it that was never resolved. And I was left asking, "Well, what happened???" Since the book I just read doesn't tell me, I create a brand new story answering that question. :)"

And just a quick note here: Sometimes, I'll discuss things with people and they'll suggest I write a story about it.

It's true what they say: Ideas are everywhere. Writers just know where and how to find them!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


When you've got a life that's insanely busy, it's hard to do all the writing stuff that you want to do. With me, for example, I don't just work on one thing with the writing. I'm doing several things. And as much as I try to do a handful of them every day, there are some days I can't do any of them at all. Those are my bad writing days.

But then there are the times I get around to doing the writing during the day. And that's a good writing day.

Today, however, was a VERY GOOD writing day!

Today I was able to do the following:

1. Work on the edits for one book.

2. Write up a chapter for another book.

3. Do the beta reading.

4. Write a short story. (Even though my hand hurt, I still wrote up the story.)

Yes, I was able to do ALL of those things today. And all before midnight! And now I'm squeezing in a blog post, to boot! WOO-HOO!!! (This is the third blog post I have written today. Yay!!)

It's not a typical day that I can do all of those things in one day. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to write a chapter for the new book in one day, and that's it. But today, I got VERY lucky, and the feeling is just SO AWESOME!! I feel so totally accomplished!! The children got themselves VERY distracted playing a lot today, so I was able to get more done! And the housework, too! And the errands I had to run!

Can I get a woot-woot??


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Plagiarism paranoia

Sometimes, I think I really should be careful about the types of articles I choose to read while also reading other things online.

Plagiarism is a scary thing. It haunts every writer living and breathing on this planet. We take measures to ensure protection of our work. Steps to avoid our work being plagiarized or copyrights being violated. But, really, there's only so much we can do.

The article I read this morning, "Dude, You Stole My Article," just goes to show how work can be plagiarized, often without us writers being aware. Here is the link: http://www.slate.com/id/2196810/pagenum/all/

While reading that article, I was also reading about a certain writer who has done Very Bad Things to other writers. Namely, betraying their trust. The more I read, the more I got the impression that this writer is up to shady dealings. Said writer has promised an interview with a certain literary agent, one I interviewed back in 2004. After reading Jody Rosen's piece and seeing that information all in the same sitting, I became scared. Paranoid. Nervous.

Of course, I'm not going to accuse said writer of lifting another writer's work for the sake of saving face (though I imagine it has been done?). I'm not going to suspect that out of all the interviews done with this agent, this writer would plagiarize or otherwise lift material from mine. But, all of a sudden, I wanted to hide my own piece, hoping it doesn't get plagiarized. Or that it hasn't been, already.

That's what the fear of plagiarism does to us at times. It can make us paranoid and suspect people we don't even know. After reading Rosen's piece, even with a writer like MW carrying around a title like "Staff Writer" -- a title endowed with respect and seemingly acknowledged honestty -- all I can say is, careful who you trust.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Distracted writing parent

Last week, I got an email from my editor, who'd sent out a request for any articles to run for August. Since it was almost the very end of July, I pulled out an article I'd been tinkering with. The problem was, I'd lost the outline for this article. GAH! But, fortunately, I still had the quotes, so I had to put it together again sans outline. (I created a new outline in my head as I went along.)

Thing of it is, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It turned out to be a LONG article! And I had to do some research on the 'Net while I worked on it. And send an email to one of my contacts for a quote, for good measure.

Meanwhile, the baby was literally at my feet, wanting attention. Now trying to type with a very curious 9-month-old on my lap is not easy. I have tried supporting him with one hand while bouncing him on my knee as I typed with the other. I have tried getting his attention focused on something else as he sat on my lap while I worked. And, of course, cradling him and singing a lullabye as I type. (Yes, I CAN sing and write at the same time. LOL) Sometimes those things work, but not this time. I ended up spending the first day working on that article in bits and pieces, actually writing up one paragraph at a time whenever I had a free minute to work on it. I passed on one paragraph where I needed to look up a book title, figuring I'd do that after I finished the whole thing.

I wasn't able to finish it that first day. It was one of those days when I was just WAAAAYYYY too busy. Out of frustration, and perhaps to vent, I wrote this poem:


The next day found me sitting at the computer in my jammies til noon, wrapping up the article. (Bless my contact's heart for getting back to me so quickly. Thanks, Martha!) Of course, I wasn't sitting there the whole time. I was going back and forth in between taking care of the kids and writing the article. Once again, the lil one was at my feet right when I FINALLY finished it. I did a quick happy dance in the chair, sent it off then got up from the computer to take care of the kids again.

When I finally took my shower and got dressed, I realized something: I'd forgotten to put the book title in there! Somewhere in my 1300-word article, I had a sentence ending with the word "and." D'OH!!!!

So I hurriedly made my way back to the computer, fixed the mistake in my article then sent this one off to my editor explaining the situation.

And guess what? He didn't even use it.


Ah, well. At least I got a poem out of it. :D

ETA: The article was later accepted. It will be used in a future issue. Woot!