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Posts Tagged ‘women questions’

Suck it up, arrogant author: even YOU can benefit from feedback!

For the next 19 days, we’ll be taking a little detour from the traditional marketing posts you’ve come to know and love on the Marcie Brock blog as I lead by example and follow my own writing prompts for the Author Blog Challenge. There’s still time to register. Join today and qualify for drawings for daily giveaways for every day that you post.

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Day 10 writing prompt:

Have you participated in critique groups? If so, how did it work out for you? If not, why have you avoided them to this point?

I can’t help but think that every writer goes through a period of feeling like their work is perfect, as is. No editing, critiquing, or reviewing necessary. Just turn me loose on the readers and let them drink in my wit, insights, clever turn of phrase. Then we step back and allow pinpricks of reality to pierce our consciousness, and we realize that no matter how good a writer we are, chances are there are improvements to be made to our work.

My experience as an editor has taught me that just about every writer needs one. After his death, I did hear colleagues of Christopher Hitchens say he turned in publishing-ready copy nearly every time – but it’s a very rare writer who can do that. Even the best athletes improve with good coaching; likewise, even the best writers improve with good editing. Editing is not necessarily a matter of rewriting, rephrasing, or restating the author’s original words: it’s taking those words and making them even better than they already are.

To that end, a critique group can help a writer improve their own writing, IF that writer is willing to receive feedback from others in a group setting. I have yet to participate in a critique group, but that’s more due to the fact that I’ve not yet finished a work that required that kind of workshopping. As I mentioned before, my novel is still in process. (Download it here if you want to read it, up to its current unfinished point.) Once I do finish it, I wonder if my search for a critique group will mimic my search for an editor for my first book.

I’ll admit, I have some huge pet peeves and high expectations for anyone who might be giving me feedback on my writing. Some of that may be fair (if you use apostrophe’s to make plural’s, I’m just not inclined to listen to anything you have to say) – but even the least grammatically inclined may be able to offer a great deal of input into character arc and descriptive details. I also worry about one person monopolizing the group and about the group devolving into a social chat circle, as I’ve seen these things happen with other reading and writing groups that were not dedicated to critique. Sometimes I think I just need to get over myself!

Would love to hear from others about your preferences for face-to-face critique groups vs. online groups. What has been your experience? Which method do you prefer? How did you find a critique group that worked for you?

Happy critiquing!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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1,001 Real-Life Questions = 1 very neurotic fictional character

For the next 20 days, we’ll be taking a little detour from the traditional marketing posts you’ve come to know and love on the Marcie Brock blog as I lead by example and follow my own writing prompts for the Author Blog Challenge. There’s still time to register. Join today and qualify for drawings for daily giveaways for every day that you post.

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Day 9 writing prompt:

If your book is fiction, how could you change it to make it a nonfiction book? If your book is nonfiction, what could you do to turn it into a story?

I wrote this brilliant question, so now I’ve got to do what I asked all the others to do and answer it. Unlike some of the folks who struggled with the idea of turning fiction into nonfiction (simple research about fairies, monsters, vampires, etc. would have made the most sense to me), this one seems particularly challenging because mine is a nonfiction book that covers virtually every scenario under the sun that an American woman could find herself facing.

Questions in the book range from funny to thought-provoking to scatological. Here are a few examples:

  • If you had to choose between life without TV or life without music, which would you give up? Why?
  • Is your fashion sense more peasant or Prada?
  • Do you ever snoop when you are a guest in someone else’s home? Have you ever found/discovered anything surprising? Are you a privacy freak? Do you worry that others will snoop when they visit your home?
  • Are you afraid of the dark? Heights? Enclosed spaces? Open spaces? Spiders? Snakes? Clowns?

And my personal all-time favorite question:

  • Have you ever called the object of your desire and hung up? Secretly driven by his job/home? Since you were 16?

So I suppose the best way to turn this book into fiction would be to create a VERY neurotic character who experienced every question at some point during the book. Wow – what a wicked bizarre life that poor woman would have! I suppose we could make her a little more stable by parceling out the oddities to her friends, family members, coworkers, and annoying boss – which is, in large part, where the questions came from in the first place. I certainly didn’t experience all of them!

I rather like the idea of having a fictional alterego who could go to some of the places I was willing to explore hypothetically but have never dived into in real life. Hmmm … screenplay fodder. I’ll have to put it on the back burner to let it simmer awhile.

Ciao!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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My LIFE was the research for my book

For the next 21 days, we’ll be taking a little detour from the traditional marketing posts you’ve come to know and love on the Marcie Brock blog as I lead by example and follow my own writing prompts for the Author Blog Challenge. There’s still time to register. Join today and qualify for drawings for daily giveaways for every day that you post.

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Day 8 writing prompt:

Describe the research process for your book. Did you interview people? Travel? How prominent a role did the Internet play? If you didn’t do new research, how did you learn what you needed to know to write your book?

My LIFE was the research for my book

OK. That’s admittedly a bit of a smartass response, but it’s also true. When it came to compiling 1,001 real-life questions about being a woman in 21st century America, much of the research came from simply taking notes on the day-to-day occurrences in my life.

But I did not, in fact, experience every situation mentioned in the book. Some of the questions came from incidents that happened to my friends or things I read in … gasp … women’s magazines. That was the first part of the book. Then came the Notes, where the Internet figured heavily into my research.

As mentioned previously, I’m quite aware that this is not the first book of its kind. Besides being a book about being a woman by a woman, the other significant thing that makes my book different is its resource section at the back.

Because the book deals with every issue imaginable facing women today, it felt nothing short of unfair to raise issues, put women potentially in a position to consider dealing with them, perhaps for the first time, and then just leave them hanging. Not every question has an accompanying resource. But the ones raising serious issues (e.g., rape, domestic violence, eating disorders, depression, etc.) do have websites and /or toll-free numbers that might help those who need further guidance around these specific issues.

As the savvy Marcie Brock readers surely know, keeping current tabs on the Web is a thankless job and an often unattainable goal, but I’ve done my best to be sure the resources are and remain current. (I definitely don’t envy the people who put together products like Writers Market, where you can be sure the information is obsolete by the time the book goes to print.)

I cut my teeth as a research librarian at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. That was back in the days before the Internet when we kept hard copies of news articles in drawer after drawer after drawer after drawer of manila envelopes and called people on the telephone to verify facts. When the Internet came along, I was one of the earliest adopters, and I remain in awe of its perpetually updated cornucopia of information.

Research is an essential skill – especially in the age of the Internet. There’s a lot of really good stuff out there, but there’s also a lot of pure, unadulterated rubbish. Trust but verify, a phrase made famous by Ronald Reagan, is a great rule of thumb for any researcher-cum-author.

So get yourself a good search engine; get thee to the library; and get out there and live a little!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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I only learned to outline because Homer made me do it

For the next 22 days, we’ll be taking a little detour from the traditional marketing posts you’ve come to know and love on the Marcie Brock blog as I lead by example and follow my own writing prompts for the Author Blog Challenge. There’s still time to register. Join today and qualify for drawings for daily giveaways for every day that you post.

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Day 7 writing prompt:

Describe your outline process for your book. What do you do to stay organized?

I’ve been writing for almost as long as I’ve been alive. In my formative years, I spit on the idea of pre-planning. This included researching or writing my papers any more than a day or two before they were due, and I certainly had no use for outlines. Then I got to advanced freshman comp at the U of A and my professor, Homer Pettey, (who’s still there!) required that we turn in our outlines for a part of our grades.

WTF?!? Outlines? I don’t write outlines. I don’t know how to write an outline. What kind of sissy writer uses an outline?

I still had to hand in my outlines.

The good news is that I learned how to write them. And now, I wouldn’t write without them. In fact, one of the primary things you learn in any screenwriting class is how essential the outline is to the success of a screenplay.

Outlines had less to do with the formation of my book than with the organization of its layout. As you may have read in my last post, I assembled 1,001 questions about every aspect of life as a 21st century American woman. I was encouraged to divide the questions by topic into chapters, of sorts – an idea I rejected. We don’t live our lives in categories, so I didn’t want to deliver the questions in such a compartmentalized fashion.

I did, however, create an extensive index, cross-referencing each question into one or more of some 80-plus categories. Eventually, I will act on the advice to segment the questions by topic, making smaller books or booklets that focus on subjects like work, family, money, health, and of course, sex. As it stands now, at the end of each question is a 3- or 4-character code that indicates which category(ies) that particular question falls under.

EXAMPLE:

Question #62: To whom did you last say “I love you”? Do you? To whom do you want to say “I love you”? Why don’t you? Who do you wish would say “I love you” to you? COM/LOVE/REL

In this example, the categories are Conversation/Communication (COM), Love (LOVE), and Relationships (REL).

Each question is cross-referenced in this way. The categories are listed below.

ACC … Accidents HEA … Health
ADO … Adoption HOL … Holidays/Birthdays
ADV … Advice HOME … Home/Household
AGE … Age/Aging HOMO … Homosexuality
ALC … Alcohol/Drugs HUM … Humor/Laughter
ANC … Ancestry/Family History HYG … Hygiene
ANG … Anger HYP … Hypothetical
ANI … Animals INF … Infidelity
ART … Art/Music/Creativity LOVE … Love
BOOK … Books/Reading MAR … Marriage/Wedding
CAR … Car/Transportation MED … Media/Advertising
CHIH … Childhood/Parents MET … Metaphysical
CHIR … Children MON … Money/Finances
CIV … Civic/Community MOR … Morality
CLO … Clothing/Apparel/Accessories MOST … Most/Best/Personal Records
COM … Communication/Conversation NAME … Names
CON … Conflict NAT … Nature
COS … Cosmetics OBS … Observations
CRI … Crime/Violence/Weapons PAR … Parenting/Children
CUR … Curiosity/Privacy PART … [Your] Partner
DATE … Dating PERC … Perceptions
DEA … Death PERS … Personality Traits
DEP … Depression PHIL … Philosophies/Beliefs
DRE … Dreams/Fantasies PHYS … Physical Appearance/Traits
EDU … Education/School PLAY … Play/Leisure/Hobbies
EMB … Embarrassment PORN … Pornography
EMO … Emotions REG … Pregnancy
EMP … Employment/Career/Workplace REG … Regrets
EXP … Experiences REL … Relationships
FAM … Family ROM … Romance
FAME … Fame SCI … Science
FAV … Favorites SEX … Sex
FEAR … Fear SHOP … Shopping
FOOD … Food/Eating SIB … Siblings
FOR … Forgiveness SLE … Sleep
FRI … Friendship SPO … Sports/Exercise
GEN … Gender Issues/Women & Men TAL … Talents/Skills
GIFT … Gifts TECH … Technology/Computers
GOD … God/Religion/Spirituality TIME … Time/Duration
GOV … Government/Politics TRAV … Travel
HAB … Habits/Behaviors TV … TV/Movies
HAP … Happiness TRU … Truth/Honesty

Outlining work in almost every kind of writing. How do you employ it?

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

Read Full Post »

How a zit and two gray hairs led to a bunch of questions … and a book

For the next 23 days, we’ll be taking a little detour from the traditional marketing posts you’ve come to know and love on the Marcie Brock blog as I lead by example and follow my own writing prompts for the Author Blog Challenge. There’s still time to register. Join today and qualify for drawings for daily giveaways for every day that you post.

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Day 6 writing prompt:

Describe how the idea for your book first came to you. Where were you? Who was the first person you told? How did they respond?

It’s interesting how seldom I actually talk about my book in this blog. I suppose it’s because over the years, I’ve spent so much more time on my clients’ books than my own. However, today’s question in the Author Blog Challenge asks specifically about where the idea for my book came from … so since we’re all in for the Challenge, we’ll talk about my book today. Fair enough?

My book, 1,001 Real-Life Questions for Women, had quite the silly start. Let me begin by admitting that this book was a L-O-N-G time in the making.

The time: March 2001
The place: My bathroom

One morning, I got up and looked at my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my teeth. To my horror, I noticed a pimple on the very tip of my nose, the most obvious place possible. No amount of concealer was going to hide this baby – it was there for all the world to see, like a big Rudolphian neon sign at the end of my nose. Bemoaning the fact that at the age of 33, I still got the occasional zit, I looked up at the mirror again, this time to discover, with even more horror, that I also had not one, but two, gray hairs! No way! NO WAY!!! Acne is the curse of the young, and gray hair speaks one word to me: OLD. How ironic! I wasn’t really young anymore, but I certainly was not yet old – and still I had these two antithetical things happening at once. I wondered at that moment how many other women were, that very day, experiencing this same exact age-related concurrence.

I spent that whole day wondering which other women were sharing this or that experience with me.

Who’s stuck in traffic right now?

What other woman fought with her boyfriend today?

Who else thinks their job is b-o-r-i-n-g?

Out of that wondering came other questions about every topic imaginable (and perhaps some that seem unimaginable). And out of those questions came the idea for this book.

I realize it’s not the only book of its kind. But it is, as far as I am aware, the first book of its kind written by a woman and geared specifically toward women. This is not to say that men should not read the book or would have no interest in it. The emphasis, though, lies with the universality – or lack thereof – of the experience of being an American woman in the 21st century. Young or old, rich or poor, beautiful or plain – there are facets of womanhood that unite us all. My goal is to examine these common experiences – and, hopefully, create a safe way to dialogue about them.

How could you know those things? I’ve never told
anybody about some of the things in this book.

— Ruth S., age 75

She wasn’t the first person I told about the book, but she was one of the earliest. And she was the first person to read the whole thing. My friend Ruth was 75 when I met her, a Jewish lady originally from Queens, New York. At the time, I was 35 – had grown up Catholic in Phoenix. Our backgrounds probably couldn’t have been more different. Yet I’ll never forget her response after reading my book. She came to me, put her hand on my shoulder, and whispered, “How could you know those things? I’ve never told anybody about some of the things in this book.”

That was all the validation I needed that I was on the right track. We’re all much more similar than we are different. Our experiences unite us much more than they divide us. And no matter how alone you may have felt in your life experiences, chances are someone else has gone through it, too. Even the “unspeakable” stuff.

More on this book to come…

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

Read Full Post »

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