Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Thursday, July 29, 2010

And that is how you do THAT!

This morning, I had a phone interview scheduled with a scriptwriter, for the Revisions book. This particular person is one VERY busy person, involved in some major Hollywood projects and a scriptwriting mentoring service. I've tried to get this interview for months and then he finally said " a phone interview will work best." Given my last success in handling a phone interview, I wasn't worried there'd be problems in using relay to do the interview with. What I was worried about is making sure my toddler was supervised.

My son is nearly 3 years old, and tends to get into EVERYTHING. Because my husband works the night shift, he sleeps in late (though last night, he stayed on the computer until 4:00 in the morning, a half hour before I got out of bed, so that probably adds to why he sleeps in so late). And my daughter is not exactly a morning person, either. So I tried to schedule the interview as late as I could, but it seemed like the best time available was 9ish in the mornings. So I scheduled a 9:30 interview and practically begged my daughter to watch her brother so that I could do this interview. (After all, I went all those months trying to get the interview -- couldn't lose out on this chance now!) I agreed to pay her $5 for the job.

Then today came, and I could NOT get my daughter out of bed. Even though she'd gone to bed last night earlier than usual, she just wasn't getting up this morning. The interview had been moved to 9, instead of 9:30, so I kept trying to get her up. But she wouldn't get up. So I tried rescheduling the interview, but, no luck. My source had to leave town this weekend. Sigh! So I just bit my lip and decided to go through with it, sans babysitter. I will survive! I'm used to jumping out of my chair a lot, anyway. (See, that's how we writers get our exercise. Heh.)

The phone interview started and, when my source was talking and talking, I used those moments to jump up and check on the baby. Miraculously, he stayed out of trouble, opting to play with his sister's rubber ball and net. I encouraged him to keep playing in between reading and typing for the interview. It was hard to concentrate, though, since I was so distracted, and I had to keep rereading things and second-guessing my questions before asking them, to see if they were good questions and something that would be helpful to the reader. Something a reader might ask. I also kept forgetting a couple of questions and had to stop reading answers to try to remember them. (Thankfully, I did.)

I did have to jump out of my chair a couple of times when the baby was not in sight, only to find him playing in his room. At least he did indeed stay out of trouble -- for once!

In the end, we all managed okay. And, actually, the baby ended up falling asleep on the little couch we have set up in front of the TV, drifting off while he'd been watching Little Bear. (Thank goodness for Little Bear!)

After the 45-minute interview, I did a little happy dance and said a quiet prayer of thanks that all went well. Too bad my daughter missed out on a chance to earn a little extra money, but I'm glad for this experience. Because now I know that I no longer need to rely on someone to keep an eye on the baby for me during a phone interview. Now I know that I'll be able to manage that kind of situation okay, with or without a babysitter!

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pushing aside doubts and stepping out of our comfort zone

Earlier this week, I got busy in the kitchen baking muffins for breakfast. As I read the directions, I puzzled over one line: "Gently press streusel on top of the batter." Why should I do that? I thought. Wasn't it enough for the streusel to even be on the batter? Still, I shrugged and did as instructed. Only then did I see the wisdom of following through with such a thing: It helped "set" the streusel into the batter better, instead of coming off down the sides as the muffin tops rose in the oven.

Watching this little mystery get solved, it made me think of how too often a writer will be in the very same situation. This usually happens when an editor suggests the writer change or remove something from their work. The writer would respond with the exact same thought I had while preparing those muffins: Why should I do that? Additional reactions to just such a request are:

"But it's supposed to happen that way."

"But that's what he said."

"I don't want to take that out, I like it."

"The writing is too good to throw away."

But, you know what? You're not really throwing away anything. You are only changing things around a bit. Nobody said you have to delete everything you remove from your writing. Save it for another time.

The important thing is to just try it and see. Think about why your editor suggested you cut something from your writing or how it would make your piece different. Try to put yourself into the editor's shoes. Instead of rejecting the suggestion outright, just try it first and see what happens. Play around with the suggestion or even improve on it.

As a writer, we sometimes need to step out of our comfort zone and try something different to improve our work. We may not understand why we should try this at first, or even how it could make our piece better, but just taking that leap and giving it a shot is the only thing that matters. Just try that suggestion and see where it leads you. It just might inspire new ideas.

Before I end this post, let me quote book coach Judy Cullins, whose article on overcoming doubts I read today and I thought this quote applied to this advice well: "Ask if your doubts are really true."


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dear Distracted Author: Stop being so distracted!

In case you're wondering, I'm still here. Just been very busy. This time, however, it is not so much being distracted by all the networking via the Web, but mostly because of the Revisions book. On that note, I have news.

After sharing with my publisher just how ginormous the manuscript was becoming, she said we'll probably have to turn this one book into a series of three books. Up until then, she had this idea, but it didn't really take center stage just yet. We played it by ear. Then the decision was made to, yes, go ahead and serialize it. So now this one Revisions book will be a series of 3 books. The first one will cover editing, revising novels, and revising nonfiction books. The second one, which I have been working on this week, will focus on revising articles, poetry, song lyrics, and scripts. Now it turns out that it will cover something else, as well.

Earlier this year, my publisher suggested that a section on revising short fiction should be in the manuscript. I, in my naivete (or was it distractedness??), thought that short fiction writers could benefit from the section on revising novels, so I thought it wasn't needed. However, after putting together a rough draft of the second book, and analyzing what it covered, I went back to her saying, "You know, Liz, I think we should include short fiction." She probably saw that note and thought, THAT'S WHAT I SAID! LOL (Sorry, Liz.) So I put together a list of chapters to include for a section on revising short fiction, focusing specifically on the mechanics of short fiction and the elements which separate short fiction from book-length fiction. I have articles written up on short fiction and I'll be going through the unpublished ones to see which ones can be revised so that they can be chapters for this book.

That said, the hunt resumes for interviewees. This time, I will need to find writers of short fiction to interview and obtain quotes for this book. I will go through my database of writers to see who writes short fiction, but I welcome inquiries from writers not included in the original manuscript. That door will remain open -- even for scriptwriters, freelance writers and songwriters.

We are also going to get in touch with literary agents for a special "agent section," which will go into all 3 books.

And I'm adding new chapters to the "Getting Out of Revision Hell Alive" section (Book 3).

Unfortunately, however, all of this busyness has kept me pretty distracted from other things -- namely, book reviews I have on the table, checking up on the haunted houses book (though miraculously I remembered to e-mail my co-author about this last night), taking care of business with the newly-accepted children's book (MUST! GET! TO! POST! OFFICE! Or the mailbox before the mail comes), and checking out other opportunities.

Those opportunities include an invitation from one of the musicians included in the book to contact someone she knows about getting a song I wrote set to music (oh, joy!) and getting short stories ready to submit to anthologies. I have one I'm currently working on for stories for children, and I just came across another call for stories for an anthology looking for dark tales.

Now all I need to find is an anthology accepting science-fiction short stories, and I'll be all set!

In other news, I recently had a short story published in a brand new anthology called Inner Fears. My story is called "A Phone Call Away." Check it out!

Inner Fears

Finally, I'm holding a "launch special" for my poetry book, to celebrate its print release. Stay tuned!

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

The 5 W’s and H of a Product Review

Recently, I had the opportunity to write a product review. I was contacted by a friend of a lady who had created a new device for parents and she was looking for reviewers. Being a parent, and curious to see if this new item would be easy for a disabled parent to use, I agreed to it. Sometime after I received this product, I held a review session for it, took numerous photographs, then wrote up a review. After I took my review through revisions, I submitted it, only to realize later that I left out one important piece of information.

When thinking about this information, I realized it was just one ingredient in the “5 W’s and H” that journalists use when writing their story: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. And, as my journalism instructor added to this combination, S, for Source.

In this case, I left out the “where.”

With this in mind, I decided I should write up this information and use it for future reference, just in case I am once again approached to review some product or another. Currently, I review books, but obviously I am open to reviewing other items.

What is it? What is this item I am reviewing? The reader cannot see it, hold it, or feel it. So I need to explain what exactly it is.

How does it work? The reviewer is the reader’s eyes, ears and hands (and, in some cases, even their taster). Show the reader how a product is used and how it can be helpful or entertaining. Explain every step of using this product (in my case, how to set it up), and how the reader can use it.

Who made it? What is the name of the person who created this product? If it is a movie, who is in it? Who directed it? Give some background on this person and their motivation for creating this product.

When was it made and when will it be available? If the item is brand new, be sure to indicate as much. If it’s been around for a while but not widely available, include this information, as well, and, if possible, why it was not available until now.

Why should I buy it? This is the one question many readers of reviews have in the front of their minds. Why should they buy this product? Why is it important to tell them about it? Why should they even care?

Where can I buy it? If it’s available through retail stores, online stores such as Amazon.com, and through grocery outlets, be sure to let readers know. Indicate if this is something they will need to special order at a store. If the product is sold exclusively through a Web site, include the full URL. Additionally, try to include snail mail contact info for the product’s creator, just in case someone reading the review is unable to order directly from the creator’s Web site. (Keep in mind that there are still A LOT of people out there who are A: Too nervous to buy products online. And B: Don’t have a computer, Internet connection or PayPal account to shop online with.)

When you write a review, you want to tell your readers about this amazing product you are writing about (whether it’s a book, video, or restaurant dish), but it’s important to cover all the bases. Using the 5 W’s and H in newspaper writing can ensure that everything a reader needs to know about a product is in that review. The next time I write a product review, I’ll be sure to use them just so I won’t have to send my editor two different drafts of a review.

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