Follow my journey toward publication. Laugh, cry, point and stare-- it's all good. I'll leave a trail so that you, my fellow author, may have a straighter path to finding your own elusive publishing contract. Adventure awaits. Let's travel together...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What I've Learned...

About my writing through the editing process:

1) The beginning of my story has stronger writing than the middle.

This is because the beginning gets seen the most, evaluated the most, and fret over the most.  Someone hears I've written a book, I show them the first couple chapters, right?  So those get tons of input, but the middle is often overlooked.  Not only that, but I get in my own way.  Do you do this?  You sit down to write a story; you're motivated and determined to DO IT RIGHT.  You avoid cliches, you use strong verbs, you describe vivid detail.  But then after a couple chapters, you slack off.  You don't take the time to come up with a clever turn-of-phrase, you just plop down plain words on your page.  You are too tired to show so you simply tell. Or you are so excited to write about the big plot-twist up ahead that you rush through the current scene your characters are in, leaving flat, boring prose in your wake.  Have you been there before, or is it just me? 

[A very sad example in my book was the line: "It was very soft".  Oh geeze, how boring!  (And I call myself a writer!)  How about "Soft and smooth as silk."  Better, right?  And you don't even have to know what I was talking about to know that it's better!]

2) My chapter endings are not always page-turners.

And they should be!  You don't want your reader to feel like "This is a good place to stop reading for now".  You want them to think "Oh my gosh, what's going to happen next?  I have to read just ONE MORE chapter before bed!"  Some of my chapters do this well, others might be good closers for the end of a BOOK, but not for the end of a chapter.  Sometimes (often) my chapters end with a satisfying conclusion to a big what-if, the man smiles and thinks God is good and all is right with the world, the girl closes her eyes at night happy that everything will be alright.  Ahh, sounds nice.  But too easy to stop reading!  No, no, no!  It's gotta leave you wondering what big bad problem is about to come crashing into the story, or whether boy will tell girl he's in love, or girl will tell boy her big secret.  As my friend Cathy says- Add tension!  And speaking of tension...

3) My scenes need more tension.

Some of my scenes are quaint and lovely but offer none of that magic tension mentioned above.  Sure, it's great when the hero kisses the girl and they live happily ever after- but it's more interesting when the hero kisses the girl but then finds out it was the wrong girl!  Or when the hero is on his way to meet his lady love but gets a flat tire and never makes it there.  In my story, a great deal of the tension comes from within the characters themselves.  So this means I simply need to open them up more and poke around inside of them to find out what they are feeling during an encounter that may, on the surface, appear easy and honkey-dorey.  What doubts do they have, what memories, what fears?

4) My chapter openings are prone to weakness.

Like the chapter endings, openings need to be strong and mighty and draw the reader further in.  In my case, this falls within the same category of lesson #1 with laziness at the center many times.  Take for example, this sad opening sentence of a chapter: "I was starting to settle in here."  BLAH!  Much better to say: "God was rebuilding my life brick by brick."  Now the reader wants to know what each brick is!  A job?  A home?  A friend?  Once I saw the fraility of some of my chapter openings, I understood how much stronger and compelling they could be if rewritten.  Had any of my friends ever said "You know, Michelle, that line about settling in is really boring."  No, not my non-writer friends.  Just my author friends who know the difference.  The "regular" reader didn't notice weakness but they sure didn't notice any strength there either, know what I mean?   But those non-writer friends will certainly have an even higher opinion of my work when I keep my writing strong and compelling all the way through.

5) I use too much passive voice.

Ok, I hate to include this here because I have a pet peeve about overuse of the active voice.  I like passive voice.  I don't want to sound like I just walked out of the class "Avoiding Passive Voice At All Costs 101".  But I DO use passive voice much more often than I should, and I do need to fix it.  Probably over half of the instances of passive voice can be switched to active without sounding odd to my ear and will make the sentence/scene/description much stronger.  There are still times I will still cling to my passive voice like grim death.  One day my book will BE released, it won't 'release'!  (So sorry to my friends who say it that way, but this is just me!)  I like my passives and I'm sticking to them.... just much less frequently!

*This wraps up my Lessons Learned for now.  I am almost half way through my book, but not halfway through my edits.  It's just that there were far fewer in those first chapters.  So I still have a ways to go, and only a month left to get there- but get there I must! 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fresh Eyes

I have mere weeks to get my manuscript submitted to the Operation First Novel contest.  I've been combing through it, trying to make it the best it can be, but I need some help. I need some perspective and an outside eye to help me with it- particularly in the middle.  If you are interested and willing to take a look at portions of my manuscript and give me some feedback on it, let me know!  Ideally, I would like to be able to send just the portions I really want feedback on, for time's sake, but I'm open to sharing the full story. 

If you are one of my writing buddies, you may get a direct request from me, but don't feel pressured.  Life is hectic for me and I know it is for you too!  Anyone can either leave me a comment here or send me an email or a FB message and let me know you are available to take a look at a couple chapters of my book. 

Thank you!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What's Going On?

Hello, dear readers. My apologies on the lack of posts lately, but I've been very busy.

Last week I started homeschooling my 7th grade daughter for the first time. It's been quite an adventure! Things are going well so far, though we are still getting the scheduling down and hopefully can shave some time off our day soon. Science has been a blast with 3 experiments under our belts already! Algebra is going great- I'm thankful for our online course through yourteacher.com. History has begun with the creation account in Genesis (far cry from public school!), and the History of Art is a fun addition to our day.  It's very rewarding but keeps me quite busy as you can imagine.

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary!  Last night we attended a dinner cruise in Newport Beach with delicious filet mignon and salmon and a decadent chocolate mousse dessert.  We also danced and watched the sunset and took some pictures.  It was a lovely night, punctuated by the fact that our 14 month old behaved well for my parents (which had been a major concern).

I have begun fundraising efforts for the WFTS conference.  I need to raise about $800- I'd love your prayers in this area!  I'm having a fundraising party/event at my mom's house in a couple of weeks and just praying for a good turn out, lots of fun and love from friends, and of course hope to put a dent in my fundraising goal.  Anyone with fundraising experience want to give me tips?  I'm having a candle party, raffling off a centerpiece, and conducting a Ping Pong Tournament (fun!).  We may also wash cars.  Sound good?  I'll probably put some stuff up on Ebay this week as well.  Maui Jim sunglasses anyone?  All this is par for the course in publication efforts, unless you are wealthy, which I'm not. =)

In the meantime I have about 6 weeks to enter my book in the Operation First Novel contest, so I've been poring over my manuscript to make sure it's ready.  Some days I feel confident I stand a good chance, other days I think mine will be among the first stories cut.  But whatever happens, I'm doing my best and leaving it in God's hands.

So, these are but a few of the things going on in the Massaro household right now.  Real life is much busier than just this, if you can believe that.  (Check out my recent facebook post on my son's school schedule!) But God is so good, I am so blessed!  Can't wait to see what's in store over these next few months.  Stay tuned, my friends!

~ Michelle

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Poem of the Day!!


In his yellow raincoat
And wet floppy hat
A fisherman's man
A good one at that

He casts out his nets
And pulls them in quick
Amassing the fish
And making them sticks

A savior to those
Who don't have the zeal
To spend a whole hour
Preparing a meal

So into the oven
350 degrees
Slide onto the sheet
With fishsticky ease

Yes Gorton, you've done it
For this you can gloat
Our lives are much better
With you on that boat

by Mike Massaro circa 2003

If this made you smile, or if you can relate, leave a comment for Mike. Enjoy your weekend! =)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Book Giveaway!

Ok buddies of mine- I have an opportunity and a favor to ask of you! The precious Roseanna White is hosting another book contest (I recommend following her blog for lots of opportunities to win books as well as great author interviews) and I really want to win this one! If you would be so kind as to visit and leave a comment mentioning I sent you, I would be very grateful! You'll be entering yourself to win too, of course! The book this time is Hope's Promise by Tammy Barley. Her first book, Love’s Rescue, landed on ChristianBook.com’s best-selling historical fiction list. Hope's Promise is the second in the series. Check it out and read the interview- you'll be eager to read the book too!

Thanks for stopping by and have a blessed day!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Singin' Tiffany

Need a laugh?

Tonight I found this old recording circa 1994 of me singing All This Time by Tiffany. I was 18 at the time. Anyway, I got a kick out of it and thought you all might too. Enjoy!

All This Time- (sung by Michelle Burkett/Massaro)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Active vs. Passive Smackdown!

[first, I have to celebrate: I have 20 blog followers- yay! It might seem like a small number, but it is a milestone nonetheless and I'm excited about it. When I hit 30 I've decided I'll do a prize drawing! ]

Now back to the matter at hand..


Okay, I have a question and a confession. First, the confession: I have not taken any writing classes. Nope, not a single one! I've studied and read a lot and gleaned much from writing communities, but I have never taken an actual course on writing/storytelling. Oh the horror! So forgive me if I am "wrong" in my thinking about the topic at hand. I don't know any better.

The subject of active/passive voice is one that comes up quite frequently, and though you may hear it referred to as being a hot debate, there really only seems to be one acceptable view: Active voice is always preferred to passive, duh.

But is this true? Or is this the latest fad coming out of the writing classroom being applied with reckless abandon? Lately I've found many books take active voice to extremes and I find myself as a reader really longing for some passive passages (like that?) Don't get me wrong- active voice is a concept I am so thankful to have learned about and I find it very powerful in crafting a riveting piece of prose. I just think there comes a point where it goes too far. I wonder if I am alone in where I think that point lies- because, again, I don't know any better. I truly might be in a very lonely minority of people who long for a bit less active voice in narrative fiction. I've kept silent on this for awhile now, for fear of revealing my naivety and lack of proper writing education. But I can't ignore it anymore. I'm revealing my hand. I simply must know if there are others like me.

Which brings me to the question, and my reason for this post:

How do you feel about the active/passive issue?

What irks you about the other camp's position?
What do you like most and least about the process of creating active passages?
If you are an active voice zealot, convince me of its virtues.
If you are a passive voice advocate, please speak up and let me know I'm not alone!


Thanks for stopping by- please join in the discussion!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Our Two-Day Vacation, Pt.3

We awoke the next morning eager to see the Canyon. None of us Massaros had ever been there before so even the quick visit was enough to excite us. We enjoyed a yummy breafast buffet at the hotel and set off...

The line to get into the National Park area was long; we felt as if we were in line at Disneyland! The passes are 7 day passes, no cheaper option for a single day but well worth the price nonetheless. We drove through some curvy streets and parked in one of the first lots. We snapped a few pics under the Vistors Center sign and headed up the trail. I took a few shots of our march, I breathed in the mountainous air, I anticipated.

O.M.G! The canyon is literally breathtaking! It almost looks fake- like a backdrop hung across the sky. It's not at all like I imagined but it is even more grand. What an amazing God I serve! As we stood there gawking, my heart rate soared. I was kind of a mess. My poor kids heard no end of my rants- "Don't do that! Sheesh! Don't get so close! Oh, stop stop! I'm serious! You're freaking me out!" Sigh. I knew I was overreacting but there was no reasoning with my pulse. You cannot see your children in front of the Grand Canyon and be totally comfortable. You just can't. There are no rails, no safety measures of any kind, it's just a huge drop. There were moments I thought I might actually get sick. Luckily I didn't.

We continued to wind up the trail and stop now and again to gaze in wonder at the magnificence of God's hand. The layers, the cutouts, the obvious evidence of massive flooding. Why anyone would believe a little water and a lot of time over a lot of water and a little time, I don't understand. It was like viewing history. Soon the distant thunder suggested we might want to head back to the car and move on.

We were right.

The trail back down wasn't that long. But as the sprinkles gave way to large (and I mean HUGE) drops we began looking at each other in that "can you believe this?" way. The thunder was closer, it was louder, it dropped more rain on our heads. We giggled at the absurdity of it all. Nobody had an umbrella and we were getting pummeled. The rain steadily increased as we made our way back down to the Center and by the time we reached it we were drenched! We were laughing, almost to tears, and nobody was cold so it was actually pretty fun and one of my fondest memories of the trip.

We hung out in the Vistor Center for awhile hoping to ride out the storm. We listened to a crazy, bearded evolutionist (seriously, this guy was crazy/silly as can be) tell the crowd how many millions of years old the canyon was. We felt stirred to put questions to him but alas, we chickened out. It was not lost on me that another seed had been planted in the minds of the children listening that there is no God who created the world, there is only billions of years and "natural" processes. No purpose to our existence. And we stayed silent, to our shame. We didn't feel ready to speak up. I barely feel ready to speak up here on my own blog. Such is the nature of my humanity. Anyway...

After a while we gave up and ran to our cars and decided to call it quits. The kids got souvenirs, Brandon left with my parents to continue their road trip to Colorado, and the rest of us Massaros headed out of the Park. But first we stopped at another view point which was spectacular! It was even fenced in for my peace of mind- yay! Once out of the Park we went in search of a coffee shop for the long drive ahead.

Okay. No offense to Arizona, really. But why is it that there is absolutely NO Starbucks in a 20 mile radius of Williams? Not just Starbucks, but no coffee shops in general. An employee at a Wendy's told us they served Starbucks coffee at the hotel up the road. So we stopped there and I went inside to get my cup o' joe. (I NEED my cup o' joe!) Nobody was at the coffee shop counter but I was told the souvenir shop girl also would help me with my order. Turns out though, that they don't serve Starbucks coffee there anymore. That's ok, I'm not a Starbucks snob- really, I'm not. What kind of coffee is this blend of yours? "Just regular coffee." Okaayy. Um, is it dark or light? Medium? Bold? "Just regular coffee." Sigh. I guess I really AM a coffee snob. Who knew! I ordered a mocha-something and she took my money at the souvenir counter before heading to the food station. There she opens a fridge and tells me she has no milk. Keep in mind, my family is out in the car and I waited for her for 5-10 minutes already before she would take my order (she was counting money in her drawer). I ask her how long till she gets her milk. She says 5 minutes or so. I decide ya know what? I can't wait that long! My man is getting frustrated with me enough as it is, making him drive all over this city looking for coffee. So I tell her I'm sorry I need to get going. She has to get a manager to get my money back. I ask if there is a Starbucks in the next 20 miles and she tells me no, she doesn't think so. I am very sad. Long story short... I didn't find any coffee in Arizona.

The rest of the drive home was somewhat uneventful. We slept, I read, we watched the same shrubs go by that we saw on the way there. We saw some flares in the night sky that could have looked like UFOs to those inclined to believe in such things. Oh yeah- and we almost ran out of gas! We had zero miles left according to the van's digital gas display. We pulled off the freeway only to find there was no gas station, or anything else, at that exit. We got back on the freeway and took the following exit- amazed we were still moving. Again, no station! Yikes! We finally found gas and praised God we hadn't ended up on the side of the freeway miles from home with no gas for miles around!

We pulled in around midnight and we all hit our pillows with exhaustion and satisfaction. It may have been just 2 days, and most of it may have been spent on the freeway, but it was a great trip! When's the next one?

Marketing through social media...

I subscribe to the Marketing Christian Books blog and I really liked today's article. It could seem to some that the ideas contained in it should go without saying, but they don't. I've met many writing friends who do not understand the importance of having a social media presence and who perhaps see it as an excuse to waste time online. As a result, they limit their influence. Like it or not, social media has made the world a smaller place and by not "getting out there" you make your sphere of influence even smaller by comparison. It is the norm these days to have a several hundred (or thousand!) "friends" on facebook, twitter, and other sites. Having 50-100 "real life" friends who know about your work is no longer all that impressive a number. You simply MUST reach out further and use the tools of our techno-age.

This article offers a great crash course in how to do that properly. You must not simply start spamming your online communities with information about your writing project. Do it RIGHT and you'll be building an audience and a circle of friends. You'd be surprised how close an online friendship can become (and no, I'm not talking about dating sites!) Relationships formed online are not just random and meaningless. Not if you invest in them like you would any other face-to-face relationship.

So, I decided this warranted a blog posting here and a link to the article, entitled Are You Talking or Shouting? , at Marketing Christian Books. (This is a great blog to follow if you need to learn about marketing. I definitely recommend it. )

What do you think?