writing

Monday Musings 9-23-19

As a writer, obtaining useful feedback on my work before it’s published is a crucial part of the process. It’s also a difficult one. Any artist in any field wants their work to be well-received, and we’re particularly vulnerable when we put it out there. But, to improve our craft, we have to figure this part out.

I’ve come up with some strategies for managing feedback. Just like the article I wrote on working through writer’s block, I think these tips might be helpful to folks outside the writer’s world too.

Ask for what you need.

When I’m looking for feedback on a manuscript, I give my beta readers (those peeps willing to read my document and take the time to share their responses) specific instructions. For example, I want to know if they’re confused at any point, if they find themselves flipping pages from boredom, if they’re responding to characters the way I intend. Asking for the type of feedback I need helps direct the process. If not, it can become somewhat of a free-for-all because everyone has personal preferences.

Trust the experts.

If I’ve hired a reputable free-lance editor, or I’m working with the publisher’s professional editor, I listen to them. They’re job is to make my story stronger. Ninety-nine percent of the time I pay attention when my editor says something needs work. On the rare occasion I disagree, we talk about it.

Pay attention to the things you hear more than once.

If I hear a similar thread in the criticism, I pay attention. With my first novel, enough readers complained that everything worked out too easily for my characters. I recognized the truth in this. I’m uncomfortable making my characters too uncomfortable. In my next novel, I focused on creating more tension for them, and I backed them into some really difficult corners. That book had more emotional depth, a more interesting plot, and got better reviews overall.

Don’t ignore your instincts.

This is still our story and we should be true to it. Even so, if enough people have a problem with a certain section, it’s worth asking why. Is there a way to address their concerns without changing the vision? For example, I had one of my main characters commit an ethically challenging act of violence. In his mind, it was the only way to assure the mission’s success and his team’s safety. The end justified the means for him in this case. It bothered some of my readers because he’s set up as a heroic figure. I believed this scene illustrated one of the terrible costs of war – the fact that good people sometimes have to make terrible decisions. Instead of changing his decision, I added more scenes showing fallout from that choice, mostly the cost to his mental health.

Do ignore the nasty.

Or better yet, find a way to laugh about it. One reader said that my first book was as boring as a bowl of tepid oatmeal. My story may be a lot of things, but it’s a multiple award-winning space opera with battles, spaceships, and evil villains. It’s not boring. I know this. Still, I fixated on that comment for a while, alternating between anger and self-doubt. Now, I joke that I’m going to have t-shirts printed with my worst reviews. Have some perspective. A couple of nasty comments aren’t going to make or break your writing career.

Criticism is hard, but necessary! At the end of the day, I hope every subsequent book I write is better than the last.

And on another note…

I’ll be at the Greenwich Hotel this Wednesday, September 25th, 6:30-8:00 pm for LIVELY LITERATI!

It's sci-fi/fantasy night at the Greenwich Hotel! Join us for a 'lively' evening of literature featuring Tabitha Lord and Mike Squatrito. Our host Guy Natelli will ask embarrassing questions, we'll read from our newest releases, and there will be time for an open mic. FREE ADMISSION, but sadly, no Romulan Ale! Hope to see you there!

Monday Musings 8-5-19

Con season is underway. Today I am writing from a hotel room in Tampa, with one heck of a con hangover! Tampa Bay was fantastic. I spoke on five panels, signed and sold dozens of books, and got to know some really interesting, kind people. If we met this weekend, it truly was a pleasure, and I’m so glad we'll be able to stay in touch through Monday Musings. You can also follow me on Instagram and FB (Tabitha Lord), and Twitter @tlordauthor.

I use this space to share personal musings, tidbits of writing advice, and lots of pictures of my kids and cats. You’ll also be the first to hear about new releases and any projects I’m working on. Since most of you newer folks are sci-fi fans, here’s a link to a short story of mine produced by StarShipSofa and performed by the amazing Andrea Richardson: Quest Nine. On my website, tabithalordauthor.com, you can also find a list of most of my published works and all the back issues of these Monday Musing posts.

We had some great discussions on the panels this weekend. For those aspiring writers interested in more info on writing craft, check out the Inkitt Writer’s Blog. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see covered in an article, let me know. As the managing editor, I have a little pull!

Finally, I want to thank you if you bought my books this weekend. It is a joy to share my stories with readers and I truly hope you like the series! Don’t forget to leave a review:) Next stop, Boston Fan Expo August 16-18. If you’re in the area, I hope to see you there!

Below, for a Monday smile, Yennefer and Milo. Too cute for words!

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Monday Musings 7-29-19

Recently a friend sent me a panicked text message about her work-in-progress. She said something like, “Do you ever think your manuscript is just awful, and wonder why you ever thought it was a good idea in the first place? What if I’m just a girl with an idea, and not a real writer?”

Inevitably, sometime during the writing process, I experience crippling self-doubt about the particular project I’m working on, and my skills as a writer in general, but I have to put those feelings in a box and keep going.

Once upon a time, every writer was just someone with an idea. That spark of inspiration will only transform from idea to reality if we are willing to do the work, stay the course, and learn as we go along.

“The path from dreams to success does exist. May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get on to it, and the perseverance to follow it.” - Kalpana Chawla

In other news, I’ll be at Tampa Bay Comic Con from August 2-4. In addition to signing books all weekend with fellow RI authors Heather Rigney and Mike Squatrito, I’ll be presenting on several panels. Here’s a look at my schedule:

Saturday 1:30-2:30 room 22 - World Building 101

Saturday 4:30-5:30 room 5 - Feminism in Fantasy and Sci-Fi

Saturday 9:00 - 10:00 pm room 22 - Geek Out! 

Sunday 12:00 - 1:00 room 22 - Scene Building Basics

Sunday 3:00 - 4:00  room 22 - Exploring Real World Conflicts in Other Worldly Settings

For more info on the Con and details on panels and programming, you can follow the link here: Tampa Bay Comic Con.

And last but not least, here’s a little furry happiness to help start your Monday off with a smile. Yennefer loves helping with blog posts!

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Monday Musings 4-22-19

It’s official! EQUINOX, book 3 in the HORIZON series, will release on May 7th. If you’re relatively local, I’d love to see you at the release party on Thursday, May 30th. You can find more details here: EQUINOX RELEASE PARTY.

Last week I got to read a sample chapter from EQUINOX for an interview. Generally, an author will read the first chapter from their book since the beginning should offer a tantalizing hook to lure readers in. But I like to share something about my writing process with my audience, something that shows how I solved a particular problem with plot, or how I was trying to develop a character or explore a theme. I guess it’s the teacher in me! For the podcast, I chose to read Chapter 33.

For those of you who’ve read the first two books in the HORIZON series, you know this is really Caeli’s story, even though her male counterpart, Derek, shares an equal amount of page-time. In fact, it’s actually easier for me to write Derek’s scenes. He’s often smack in the middle of a dogfight, fistfight, or undercover operation! I’m a visual person so I tend to choreograph the action in my mind, scene by scene, before translating it into the written word, making Derek’s scenes fun and easy for me to write.

Three quarters of the way through EQUINOX, I felt like I needed to shift the story back to Caeli, ramp up the tension for a dramatic finish, and somehow get Derek offstage completely for a little while. Working out how to do that took me a while, and I played with several scenarios until I finally hit on the right idea. That pivotal moment shows up in Chapter 33.

So, here’s Chapter 33 of EQUINOX . I hope it entices you to keep reading, and gives you a little insider insight into my writing process. Enjoy, and see you May 30th!