Chicken Soup and Other Goings-On in my Wordworld

After a month or so of really struggling to hit the mark with my writing goals, I’m happy to report that I’ve come out swingin’ in the last two weeks. Oh, during the downtime, I DID write. But I wasn’t hitting my self-imposed marks in terms of either quantity or quality. I felt like I was pulling at my words while they stood with their invisible feet planted firmly in the ground, and the only way I was getting them out was by being stronger than their resistance.

Now, the opposite is happening. The words are banging on the door, clamoring to escape and breathe some fresh air. That’s an awesome feeling, and proof that the best thing a writer in a slump can do is to keep writing anyway.

Other than my recent posts here, most of my writing time has been spent on the book. Jay and Jill have been getting up to some pretty good hijinks. Here are a few of my other adventures in writing:

1. Last week, I received notification that a story I submitted has been accepted for publication in the upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride. The book will hit the market on May 15th.

Without giving away too many details, my piece in the book is the story of a crazy mishap that occurred during my own wedding celebration years ago. My hope is that it will help show any anxious, stressed bride-to-be that even when the unexpected happens, your wedding day can be wonderful.

I’m honored and still basking in writerly pride about my tale making it into one of the Chicken Soup series. Getting accepted by a publication of this caliber is a marker I set for myself when I started on this venture, and knowing it has happened makes me grin a silly random grin in the middle of the day.

2. Although I went through a bit of tug of war with my writing recently, I have been reading like a fiend. I’ve finished two Joe Hill books, which I plan to write more about at some future juncture. Today I want to talk about my current reading venture.

Instead of going with the known-to-me authors on my list for my next read, I uploaded a novel by a relatively unknown writer to my Kindle. I am a little more than halfway through it now, and it has been an interesting experience.

Please don’t kick me for this, but I’m not going to mention the author’s name here. Maybe later, when I’ve finished the book and have a more fully formed opinion, I will. But what I have to say is only partially complimentary, and I’m at a point where I have too much respect and admiration for those who have finished their work and gotten it out there to even semi-trash someone else’s efforts in my little corner of the web.

Because I also have respect for the writer’s trade, I think I’d feel differently if my reaction to this novel was “wow … this is total crap.” Self-publishing a piece that reeks of suck makes it harder for the rest of us to get our works read by creating distrust in the market.

But that hasn’t been the case with this novel. The author came up with a plot full of possibilities. The characters are diverse, complex and interesting. There is more than enough there to keep me reading.

However, there have been many points where I’ve been jolted out of my reading “happy place” by some awkward handling of the story. There are a lot of flashbacks in the book, and instead of flowing they seem random and disjointed. They sometimes make me feel like my reader’s brain is bouncing back and forth like a ping-pong ball. Also, the author spends way too much time explaining the mental states of his characters, describing them in such a way that I feel like I’m listening to a shrink analyze them.

I don’t want that. I want to come to my own conclusions about their mental states by seeing what they do and what they say. Show me how they feel. Don’t tell me.

We’ve all heard the “show, don’t tell” advice in a million and one articles or books about writing. But for me, this book has been the best example I’ve had of what happens to a good story if you don’t heed that advice.

As a writer, I’ve gotten a lot of good out of this read. At many points, I’ve understood why the author felt the need to explain a certain point, but I’ve stopped to think about how I’d handle it differently. I even went back to my own book and scoured it for the same kinds of mistakes, tweaking a few areas where I saw myself venturing down the same disjointed road.

I always learn something about writing when I read. Usually, this is because I’m reading a master who is light years ahead of me in storytelling. This time, I’m learning from a new writer who I think has a good first attempt that could have been a great one with less telling and more showing. We learn from our peers as well as our mentors in this game.

3. Finally, I have to give another shoutout to C. Hope Clark of Funds for Writers. First of all, my accepted Chicken Soup submission came about because I saw their call for submissions in her newsletter and that sparked an urge to write my wedding story.

In this week’s newsletter, she mentioned a new-to-me website, Read, Learn, Write.  Their call for guests posts on reading or writing was mentioned, so I checked them out this morning and ended up spending quite some time immersed in the site. If you’re a writer or a reader and haven’t paid them a visit, do yourself a favor and drop by.

Overall, the writing life is chugging along pretty well here in Baltimore. Hope you can all say the same! Fellow writers, I’m curious – have you ever had an experience where recognizing flaws in a book you were reading helped you improve your own writing?

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About hawleywood40

Writer, Steelers Fan in Baltimore, Frequent Visitor to the Shot Fairy
This entry was posted in Books, Creativity, Fiction, Reading, Uncategorized, Writer's Resources, Writing, Writing A Novel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Chicken Soup and Other Goings-On in my Wordworld

  1. T. R. Kolbe says:

    I have experienced the same thing. I read a book that was pretty good, but it had a lot of flaws. It was very helpful to me though to learn what not to do. I also found I did some of the same things myself, so I think it definitely helped my own writing. Congratulations on the Chicken Soup story–that’s awesome!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Thank you! Seems that learning what not to do is just as valuable a reading lesson as learning what works best in some cases – at least when the story is otherwise good enough to keep you going : ).

  2. Marcia says:

    I did have that experience. It was a book written by a blogger I was following. She writes well and the story theme was fun – what would happen if you could go back in time and have a ‘do over’? I loved the book except that she way overused metaphors. After the first few chapters, I expected a new metaphor in every paragraph…and I got one! It was annoying, so I skimmed through them. Otherwise, it was a great story, loved the characters and the premise.
    I’m very careful with metaphors and similes now. 🙂
    Congrats of the Chicken Soup story!! I’m so happy for you! I’m going to check out those links.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Overuse of metaphors drive me buggy too! Maybe that’s because they’re such a big thing in so many of the meetings I go to – sometimes it seems like people spend the old meeting just trying to out-metaphor each other LOL! I’m lucky that phobia has kept me from making that one of my own writing foibles : ).

  3. Terri Sonoda says:

    Hi Pamela! Congratulations on your upcoming “Chicken Soup” piece. Very proud of you! And thank you so much for all the good writing tips and advice you give us on your blog. I take many of your suggestions and visit the links in the hopes of improving my skills and broadening my knowledge-base. I appreciate your advice!
    Terri

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Thanks Terri! I’ve gotten so much good stuff from my blogging community that I try to pay it forward when I find something that helps me. We all gotta stick together in this game : ).

  4. So good to know that the writing is going well AND congrats on the piece in Chicken Soup. That’s a real motivator! I checked out the links you supplied and signed up for the newsletters. Thanks!

  5. Congrats, Pam, on your acceptance. That is such a cool anthology to be in! You definitely earned to bask in the writerly glow!!

  6. Jess Witkins says:

    I’ve been really fortunate in that the books I’ve read by bloggers so far have been really well written, but they’ve all been edited. I’m going to read some self-published ones yet this year and that is a worry of mine. Will there be triggers that knock the reader out of that flow of the story? Hopefully not.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      I know what you mean, Jess. As I writer, I’m actually glad for the experience, because it helped me catch myself beginning to go down similar roads in places. But if I was reading strictly for entertainment and not with a writer’s eye, it would have just plucked my nerves : ).

  7. Ter says:

    I meant to comment on this yesterday, but all my energy was gone early. Congrats! I’ve already done the wedding thing and don’t know of anyone with any immediate plans, but I’ll get it anyway. I’m *still* working on my now 4 yr old novel. ::sigh:: I’m in the editing stage, isn’t that progress?? 🙂

  8. Amy Isaman says:

    Congratulations on the acceptance of your story. You inspire me! In terms of submitting work, I so enjoy you sharing your ups and downs, and this is definitely an up. Its great to see hard work and persistence pay off.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Thank you Amy! This is one I had actually submitted last spring, and had pretty much written off when I hadn’t heard anything. Just goes to show you that you never know!

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