As a writing teacher, I have an interest in correct grammar. I know from first-hand experience that having to read someone who doesn’t have a clue about grammar can be massively distracting from the message you are trying to convey.
One of the biggest questions I ever had growing up was, how do I, personally, deal with the apostrophe-s situation? I have a particular concern about this issue, because it directly affects me.
To review, the rules for apostrophe-s are basically as follows (I’m sure someone will nail me if I have misstated these rules):
Add an apostrophe and s to show possession for all words not ending in s.
ex. Jason’s, team’s, child’s
Add just an apostrophe to words ending in s.
ex. cars’, bakers’, fields’
Makes sense, correct? However, there is considerable debate regarding one issue in particular. What is the proper style in the event that you are trying to show possession for a subject that is a proper name but has an S at the end of the name? As someone with the surname Liegois, this is pretty relevant to me.
I recently came across thesethreearticles on the subject. The general consensus is… there is no general consensus as to whether I should write, for example, Liegois’s car or Liegois’ car. Different stylebooks and grammatical techniques have it one or the other way.
Well, I believe I have decided for myself that Liegois’ will be the way I use it from this day forward. The tiebreaker for me is that the Associated Press Stylebook comes down squarely on the side of using just the apostrophe. As you might remember, I used to be a journalist, and we always kept one of those spiral-bound copies of the AP Stylebook on our desk to settle any uncertainties of language. So, Liegois’ it is.
You may or not be aware that I have two Liegois Media sites set up on social networks – A Facebook page and a Twitter page. I talked about it before, but basically both of those pages predated this blog. I got them started up back in the days when I was still in journalism and wanted to have separate pages for contacting people over social media apart from my personal accounts.
That worked out well for a while, but when I left journalism, I still had these pages sitting around, gathering virtual dust for a bit. However, I decided to repurpose them as the locations where I would write about/share articles about writing and writing-related topics. I also wind up sharing more than a few writing memes.
Those pages eventually helped inspire me to set up this blog. I also wind up cross-posting all of my blog posts onto those pages, which is pretty convenient for me. In time, as Iapproach having a book that people can actually buy, I have the feeling that those might be some of the primary promotional tools that I have at my disposal to do that promotion.
However, my own interest in social media has been wary in the past couple of years. I’ve long been concerned about what I saw as the lack of concern from those companies about online harassment and trolling. Now, the role Facebook played in the recent election and their reaction to it makes me very wary of it, as well.
Despite all that, for the near future, I think that I need to keep those pages to reach out to people. However, I wanted to make an effort to reduce my personal time on those platforms, both to indicate my disappointment with the companies, as well as trying to get rid of the time suck social media can be. If you examine this blog regularly, you can see how good I am at procrastination.
With all of this in mind, I made the decision last week to delete my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram apps from my phone. (I still have my Facebook Messenger and Page apps, as well as my WordPress app). It is amazing how much it has been helpful for me to reduce that screen time from what it was. I thought of that decision as a temporary experiment, but the more I look at it, the more I think I might make that decision permanent.
Anyway, don’t forget to visit my Facebook and Twitter pages. 🤣🤣🤣
(OK, that’s it for the hyperlinks. 🙂 EDIT: Sorry, lies. (see below))
I’ve had experience writing nonfiction as a journalist. I think that I’m doing well as a writer of fiction, and I’m a fan of writing book-length works.
However, when faced with the opportunity to write book-length nonfiction, I considered it for a while. At the time, it seemed like a great idea for a book.
In the end, though, I wound up walking away from the project for more than just one reason. Even though that project was not a story I eventually wanted to tell, the story behind that story might be worth a post.
So, I’m putting it off for another week. Right now, I have to complete revisions/proofreading on my book, write out a lit of corrections, find a synopsis that might work for a back jacket blurb and throw together an author bio. Hopefully I can have it all completed before next week, although I’ll be pushing it.
Plus, I’ll likely have to look for something to post on the social media feeds for next month. (Well, it will get done.)
That’s it for now. Sometime Sunday I’ll give you the rundown on how the week went.
…and I’m going to have to delay the post I had in mind this week. It’s coming next week.
But… I decided now might be the time to break some news regarding that book that’s been in the publishing process. That book? I just got the proof copy back from my publisher this Tuesday.
Right now, I’m in the process of editing, reviewing the copy, making sure everything is ready to go. (I’ll count that work towards my revising totals, as I might be too occupied for other revisions for a bit.)
As soon as everything is in place, I’ll be releasing all details about the book, especially where you can get it. 🙂
My mood is cautiously excited and my daughter appears impressed, which always makes me happy. The whole family is happy for me, although this is new territory for them as well.
If I don’t celebrate being a published author before the year is out, I have a feeling it will come soon afterward. It’s a cool feeling, no matter how many people buy my book at this point.
The title of the piece is the big question. I might have alluded to this turning point, at different timesduring this blog. But I really haven’t described the process behind going from someone who talked more about being a writer than actually someone who wrote. It’s probably about time I talked about that, right?
In the movies – hell, in plenty of novels – there usually is some sort of turning point scene, one moment when the protagonist’s life pivots and moves in a new direction. It is one moment of clarity, after which that person’s life has forever and irrevocably changed.
It wasn’t really like that for me. In looking through old word document files in my “fiction” folder, I see several starts and stops among the last decade. Some of them I talked about before; others fell stillborn after a few months of typing and procrastination. Then there was the anonymous blog I ran for a few months somewhere in the past decade. However, it really didn’t have any focus except as an emotional purge, and I eventually decided that I needed to shut it down to avoid any static in my real life.
But like St. Augustine once prayed during his youth, “Oh, Lord, make me chaste… but not yet.”
I think things started to coalesce in my head right around 2010. That was an interesting year, to be frank. I’m not planning to get into in here, but there was a bit of turmoil and uncertainty in my professional life. For a brief moment, I had a dream of becoming a college writing instructor full-time rather than teaching for a couple thousand per class. I say a dream rather than a goal because I only had a vague idea of what the job involved and how I would achieve it. (After a few years and different circumstances, I’d set that idea aside. An earlier version of me – maybe the guy featured in Volume II of this series – would have been disappointed. Nowadays I barely remember the idea.)
Recently, I had a chance to read through a notebook I was writing in for about three months or so back in 2010. I tried to read all of it, but it was a cursive scribble stream of consciousness. It was lists and lists of various things I was both positively and negatively obsessed with, among other things.
In reading through that notebook, I think I did what we used to call “burying the lede.” Others, like writing teachers, might call it an implied main idea. What I think I was describing in those entries was being addicted to distraction. Anything I could use to procrastinate from doing anything, thinking about anything, I’d be into.
I’ve discussed those tendencies before. But there was a time in my life that they would dominate me. For several years of my life, it seemed being entertained, being satisfied in whatever way, was more important than anything else that wasn’t my family.
Around 2007-2010, right after I moved back to Muscatine, I really started heavily surfing some backwaters and little-known areas on the Internet. It may have given me a couple of writing ideas, but mostly I was looking for, as I normally did, for a distraction.
Back in those days, I often read the web site Postsecret. It allows people to anonymously send it postcards on which they write their deepest and darkest secrets that they would not tell anyone. Around 2010, I read this postcard on the site:
For me, that had two effects. First, it gave me hope that it really wasn’t too late to get started (or restarted, whatever you want to classify it as) on my dreams of becoming a writer of novels. I always heard about people like Frank McCourt writing their debut books when they were in their 50’s, 60’s, or beyond.
Secondly, it was a prod in the butt, something that said yeah, if you’re about as old as this guy, why not get started now?
So, did Liegois actually take the postcard’s advice and Rollins’ advice and move forward?
As I said at the top of the article, nothing that dramatic happened. Someone’s personality and habits – at least, not my own for sure – is not something that can change direction like a fighter aircraft or speedboat. The process more resembles having to maneuver a jumbo jet or mega-tanker a few degrees of course.
Did your life actually change?
Over time, yes.
It was soon after that time that I began to reminisce about some of my days in journalism, what was happening to newspapers in this country, and the weirdness of the time specifically around 2008. Going by my computer file history, I’d have to say that I started to play around with the idea of doing a journalism/political thriller around 2011. By 2013-14, ironically when I was taking one last adventure into journalism, was when I finalized a rough draft.
It was somewhere around 2013 that I began keeping track of the word count that I was getting done on a daily and weekly basis. Although not effective at first, I think that having to keep track of what I am actually writing or revising has helped me be accountable to myself and have goals to work for, even though I rarely have weeks where I meet my daily goals throughout the entire week. (This is probably worth a separate post at some point.)
It took me until 2016 to get another draft of the piece I was now calling The Holy Fool done – I had to do a little bit of cutting to trim it to well under 100,000 words. By 2017 I had revised it into its current form and had begun shopping it around to agents and publishers. I’m now awaiting the publishing process.
Would I say that I have fully defeated my addiction to distraction and procrastination? Not by any means. I still exhibit those behaviors today, in doses both big and small. However, I’ve just started to get to the point where I’ve been able to manage this addiction to the point where I’ve become a productive writer. And I want to stay that way. I’m not exactly sure how long I have or how many books I have in me, but I want to make that time count.
(Btw, I take horrible photos so I put them through some weird effects like what you see below. Enjoy if that’s your thing.)
Anyway, welcome to the start of the current writing experience. That’s it for now; I’ll write more later.
Last week, I met with an acquaintance at my house. The guy, Dale, was picking up some old files from me for a writing project that I was dropping and he was passing on to another writer.
As I asked about the writer, I learned that he’d worked at the same newspaper as Dale had years back. That was more than a few years back, “before the buyouts.” And just like that, for a few moments we were swapping stories back and forth – the buyouts that had hollowed out Dale’s former employer, the cuts at the hometown newspaper that I used to work for that left it more of a zombie publication than a living, breathing institution.
I was flashing back to my time as a journalist. I call myself an old retired journalist, even though I’m 20-40 years younger than most of the people who claim that description as their own. In years past, I would have been in my prime as a journalist, with honors aplenty and years left to go in my career. Now I’m retired from the profession, with no foreseeable way to return to it, or any real desire to do so.
I think I’m ready for the big “Deep Think” revision on my project, The American Nine, and I’m super excited about it.
Whenever I get to about the third (out of four minimum) revisions I like to consider it to be my “Big Idea” revision. That’s when I take a look at everything about my story and see if there is anything structurally the matter with the piece. Are my characters (especially the MC) compelling? Does the story flow? Does my plot have any leaks or dead ends?
Thankfully, I had a chance to show my manuscript to some beta readers, and one in particular, a published author I’ve gotten to know well over the past couple of years. And she was nice enough to give me comments, the whole nine yards.
There’s a type of critique that really puffs you up and there’s a type of critique that pulls you down, pulls you down so hard it either breaks your will or you totally disregard it. The critique I got was a third kind – the kind that excites you with the possibilities that you didn’t see before. It’s the type of critique that shines a light onto something you didn’t realize and lights the way to a better story.
There was a lot to it, but the essential part of the critique was this (I’m paraphrasing here): “Well, it’s all good to have an interesting character going through interesting experiences. But it’s not like he’s in danger of losing, is there? Not the way you have it written. The way you have it written, I know he’s always going to succeed. There’s not the suspense there, is there?”
It was then that I realized:
I needed to raise the stakes in my novel.
Let me try to explain this a little.
One of the deadliest things that a beta reader, or any reader, really, can say about a book is, “Well, who cares?” If you want readers to care about your story, you have to make that story involve struggle.
If I was going to define what stakes were, I would lay it out like this. What does your MC have to gain if they succeed? What do they have to lose if they don’t? Are they the type of things that other readers could relate to, even if they don’t find themselves in the same situations as those characters? Could they relate to them, at least?
The problem was, my MC was always winning. Even that’s OK, but I have to make sure that it’s tough for them to do that. There has to be doubt in the readers’ minds that your character is going to succeed and some consideration of where the character is going to be if they fail.
Essentially, the premise of my book is, what would an American version of Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi look like? What would that person’s path be to soccer glory, and what would they have to overcome to make that happen?
In reading over my beta reader’s comments, I realized that I had dedicated most of my time to ensuring that my MC would reach those heights and not enough time putting obstacles in his path. For example, Diego had to overcome poverty, and Lionel had to overcome hormone deficiency to become the soccer gods they eventually became.
What did my character have to overcome to reach his goals, especially as a 17-18 year old kid starting to learn about life and what it takes to succeed? I had to show more of the building and less of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, essentially. I had to show the struggle, the climb to the top, to make sure that people cared about what happened to my MC.
That’s the challenge that I’m going to face with this next revision. I have to admit, I’m almost grinning at the challenge. There has to be a struggle, and there has to be a payoff, in life and on the page.
Good thing I promised to do this in a day or two, not right away.
Anyway, wanted to finally let you know how that conference went. I believe this is either the third or fourth such conference I have attended, and I think I learned something or got some insights from each of them. I think they have also given me more focus on my work and inspired me to take my interest in getting published more seriously.
I was thinking that this was going to be a massive post, but for reasons to be explained, it will wind up being relatively short. I will go over a few observations/points/notes in no particular order regarding the conference.
I did not attend too many of the events at the conference. Part of my reason for that was because there were not any sessions that applied to what I have been writing recently. In addition, I was attempting to save some funds and not have to make the trip up to the Quad Cities more than I had to.
What I did decide to do was participate in a critique of my work by one of the presenters at the conference and a pitch to the MWC Press for one of my works in progress. From the critique, I was happy to hear that my main character had made such an impression on her, even though she didn’t know his background and only had an excerpt from the book. She also had some good suggestions as well. Although I’m not sure whether anything will come of the MWC Press pitch, it was a great experience to be able to do that and be able to articulate why I thought it was a compelling project.
I also have to give thanks to the Midwest Writing Center and St. Ambrose University for hosting the event. They always do a top-class job of hosting the event and making you feel welcome. Any writers who live in the eastern Iowa/western Illinois area, especially near the Quad Cities, would do well to check them and their programs out.
Well, I told you it was going to be short. However, if I can make it to next year’s conference, I certainly would go again.
One of the cool bits about writing is how much of it is an activity that doesn’t require a lot of collaboration.
Unlike, say, movies, you don’t require a lot of collaboration from actors, directors, producers, and technical crew, not to mention additional writers. The financial budget of producing a novel, no matter how you classify that, is going to be insignificant compared to the budget of even a grade-Z film going directly to digital distribution. It’s not a coincidence that George R.R. Martin first started writing his A Song Of Ice And Fire series after being frustrated with the technical and financial limitations television had put on his ideas as a Hollywood screenwriter, ironic since that series would inspire one of the most expensive television programs in history. 🙂
Being your own boss as a fiction writer has tons of advantages. You don’t get into any arguments over whether a character or plot twist makes sense, or whether your story should be set in Los Angeles rather than an undersea colony, for example. You set your own deadlines, as well as the size of your work (within reason unless you are willing to pay to get it published).
However, one area where collaborative effort can play a significant part in writing is during the revision process. Whether you call them peer reviewers, first readers, or, as is now the fashion, beta readers, having another set of eyes to read what you’ve written can be the difference between an OK revision and a great one.
Why is this? Simply put: you as a writer are not going to be able to find every plot point not wrapped up, every unrealistic characterization, and every unfinished scene, not to mention every misspelled word. You don’t need a village to write a book, but I think you do need more than one set of eyes to revise it.
Where do you find these beta readers? Unfortunately, most of us don’t happen to live in the household of Stephen King, which wound up producing four different published authors.
So, you have to look around. I’m lucky enough to have a local writing group that I participate in. This next month, I’m actually hoping that some of them will do me the honor of reading my latest WIP. There are many online groups that have people willing to look at WIP’s, although the quality of this help can vary. I’d recommend developing acquaintances with members online before asking them to beta read.
Sometimes you can be lucky enough to get a professional critique. I’m hoping that my visit to a local writing conference will provide that to me later this month. Unless you have the resources, however, I wouldn’t spend a massive amount of money doing this.
As far as when in the revising process this should take place, I would say it should happen before you seriously consider adding and/or subtracting major portions of your manuscript. By that, I mean the heavy lifting.
Whatever form it takes, having more than just your eyes and viewpoint revising your work is key to making sure you don’t leave anything needed out and that you don’t keep anything that you don’t need.