Exterminating Weak Voice Ninjas #amrevising

hokusai-sketches-hokusai-manga-vol6-crop

This ninja seems to be climbing a rope.

In my last update, I mentioned how I decided to take a break from querying to revise my manuscript from third person narrative past to third person narrative present. Happily, I’ve finished that revision, which required changing every verb in my manuscript, and while doing so I noticed something else: I had hidden a lot of weak voicing behind the word “seem.”

For example: “John seems uncomfortable.” As an editor, I had been conscious of trying to avoid too much  phrasing like “John is uncomfortable,” but I noticed this time that the former phrase doesn’t really say anything different. “Seem” is just a less certain way of saying “is,” and the narrator should not be uncertain.

To some degree, there may be an implied indirect object, e.g. “John seems uncertain to Barb.” (No, there is no John or Barb in my manuscript.) Now, it’s not as if “seem” has nothing more to offer than “is,” but still, there are stronger, more descriptive ways to say “John seems uncomfortable.”

For example: “John fidgets”; “John avoids eye contact”; “John attempts to lean against the wall but his arm slips, provoking him to attempt a sloppy recovery, brushing his hair back and putting his hands in his pockets.” Continue reading

Narrative Now! #amwriting #amrevising #amquerying

Reading Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake for my book club, I realized that my manuscript needs the narrative present.

Narrative present (or historical present), is basically what it sounds like: instead of telling a story in the past tense, you write it in the present.

Thus:

Heathcliff felt discouraged as he walked to the store.

Becomes:

Heathcliff feels discouraged as he walks to the store.

(No, my manuscript does not contain a character named Heathcliff.)

There are important pros and cons to the narrative present, and some have complained that it has been overused in recent years. But it hadn’t even occurred to me to use it until reading Atwood. Continue reading

The Blessing of Form Rejections #amquerying

I recently started to query agents seeking representation for a novel I wrote (sorry, no details right now). While new to the querying process, I’m not new to writing or, thus, rejection. Furthermore, as an editor, rejecting people, smart people who may have done a lot of work on a submission just to get rejected by me, is part of my job. I know that, even though rejection never feels good, it isn’t personal.

Having received two form rejections already, and having read this great post from an agent’s perspective, I thought I might add something positive from an author’s perspective, something authors new to writing might find hard to see: form rejections are a good thing. Really.

Rejection sucks, sure (actually I’m skeptical about that too), but form rejections do not. They may feel bad to an author who isn’t used to the submission-rejection-revision-submission-and-then-maybe-getting-published process, but here’s why I think that feeling should be tempered: Continue reading

Fiction: The New Fairy Science

Note: The story originally appeared at How We Lost the Moon, which is now defunct.

As dusk approached, two fairies debated the nature of their universe.

“Well, we both agree that the sun is a big ball of fire.”

“I mean, basically.”

“Okay. So let’s start there.”

“Fine. The sun is a big ball of fire that gives us light and warmth, much bigger than the Earth.”

“Bigger?”

“Yes, bigger.”

“Really? How much bigger?”

“I can’t say for sure, but hundreds of times larger, maybe thousands.”

At this the younger of the two fairies shook her head in denial. “You’ve got it all wrong.” Continue reading

Fiction: The Conspiracy

A Play in One Act

Note: The story originally appeared at How We Lost the Moon, which is now defunct.

Characters

LEO FOX

DANIEL, his friend and host

MAXIMUS, friend

PETER, friend

STEPHANI, DANIEL’s girlfriend

ROBERT, friend

DANA, friend

THOMAS, friend

ALAN, acquaintance

Scene

The living room of DANIEL’s home. Two doors to the room are located at stage left and stage right, respectively. DANIEL tidies up the room when a knock comes from the door stage left. Continue reading

Fiction: The Time Traveler

Note: The story originally appeared at How We Lost the Moon, which is now defunct.

David Wells, a young, twenty-something student at a small-town, community college sat on a park bench to do some reading between classes. The fall semester had just begun, and a cool breeze caressed his unkempt hair on this clear autumn afternoon. Despite the cloudless skies, a loud, thunderous sound, accompanied by a flash of light, piqued his curiosity. He looked around several times before an old man in a jumpsuit emerged from the bushes ten yards from him. Presumably this man must be a groundskeeper, but he had no tools and approached David with interest. Continue reading