Friday, January 15, 2010

 

Friday Speakout: Surely You Just, Guest Post by Michelle Dwyer

Surely You Just (Cheesy, I know)

by Michelle Dwyer

Okay so, I recently received my contest critique for the WOW! Summer 2009 Flash Fiction Contest. Not too shabby I must say. I guess the past critiques have allowed me to refine those blunders called adverbs. Toning down these dust mites (as I now call them), has taken effort. But seeing less green (you know, the highlighted adverbs) in my critique is worth it.

Why was I using adverbs ALL the time? I was addicted to making a point—a point I never had to make.

I thought using “punch” words such as just, always, really, very, and some quantified my thoughts, made them more tangible for the reader to measure. For example, “I just got a request for a partial!” (That hasn’t happened. Just let me have my moment), is no more intense than, “I got a request for a partial!” They express the same joy. The “just” adds no value to the excitement that hopefully one day I will experience.

I took me a while to get it. In my mind, the reader had to know what had just happened, or what simply had to be a certain way. It made the stakes higher. Made those words very, very important, right? No. It just made me look like an amateur.

But I’m hard-headed (really, really hard-headed), so I’m still learning to give up the dust. Sometimes I leave particles in my stories. And guess what? Adverbs in moderation can actually add depth when done right; however I’ve learned that overall, readers don’t need to know that a car can go super fast or that my protagonist is immensely hot.

I can be defiant, refusing to let tried-and-true principles trump my need to be right. I needed proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that most adverbs are in vain.

I opened the file belonging to my 113,000 word manuscript. Blindly, I searched for and deleted every just, always, really, some, and very. I didn’t care about sentence structure or meaning. After this, I re-read the story.

What do you think happened? I put a handful of these words back into the story because the impact legitimately called for them. The remaining adverbs were never seen again because they’d added no value and would never be missed. I now have a leaner, meaner manuscript.

How cluttered had my manuscript been before the changes? In other words, how many adverbs didn’t make the cut?

2,497.

Pretty, very, really, amazing…don’t you think?

Wait. Start over.

Amazing, right?

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Michelle studied writing in high school and longed to become an author. But circumstances arose, causing her to join the military instead. However, she never gave up. She enrolled in writing school, finished her first crime novel, and will achieve her MBA this fall. She writes as Krymzen Hall at http://www.helium.com/users/421563/show_articles


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Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

 

Interview With Michelle Dwyer - WOW! Spring 2009 Fiction Contest Runner Up


Michelle Dwyer’s love for writing began in high school. She’d studied creative writing and soon after, longed to become a published author. However circumstances arose, causing her to join the military while pursuing business classes instead.

Despite receiving high accolades for her military service, she felt incomplete. When the opportunity presented itself, she finished her first romantic/crime novel and enrolled in the writing course given by the Long Ridge Writers' Group, all while completing her MBA. When she graduates from Texas A&M this fall, she will pursue her MFA in creative writing.


Through all that she has overcome, Michelle realizes that every experience, good and bad, has led her back to what she is supposed to be doing—creating stories that compel people to think.

Between graduate school and rearing two beautiful kids, this single mother writes articles as a premier writer on the Helium website under the pen name Krymzen Hall. She invites you to read her work at http://www.helium.com/users/421563/show_articles.

If you haven't read Michelle's entry, "Reflection", please check it out here, then come back for our interview with her.

Interview by Jill Earl

WOW: First of all, congratulations to you, Michele, for placing in our Spring ’09 Fiction Contest! How does it feel?

MICHELLE: Unreal, as if something good happened to me that only happens to other people. I was in a hotel room with my children when I checked my email and then discovered I’d placed. I started screaming and dropped my laptop. My kids thought something was wrong! To me, it was as if I’d won the lottery. Then, when I calmed down, and finished calling everybody, I had to check my laptop to make sure it still worked.

WOW: What a great response and we’re glad that your laptop survived your exuberance!

Reflection” was haunting, but also had me thinking. Our reflections see so much, and are probably the closest to us. What were the circumstances that led you to write your piece?

MICHELLE: It was personal. I went through a divorce that left me with emotional scars, and ultimately, I had to look inside myself to find the strength I needed to heal. “Reflection” has elements of physical abuse, as I’m sure you know, which did not happen to me, but the components of the story and the message are the same: No matter how bad an experience, we all have the strength to overcome, if we allow ourselves to. Change is scary, no matter how good or how bad. Moving on to better things is no different than any other change—the future is uncertain. Luckily, through writing and perseverance, I’ve been able to reclaim who I am and realize that change is good.

WOW: Glad that you were able to take such a painful situation and redeem it, so that you could heal. As you’ve alluded, writing can be a great help in this. Hopefully, someone will read this and be inspired to utilize what you’ve learned for themselves through their own writing.

Speaking of which, what kind of writing inspires you?

MICHELLE: Anything. That’s the beauty of fiction. Authors are only limited to their imaginations. I enjoy reading stories that evoke my sensual side, and once I tap into that, then I can write about love, sex, and chance encounters all night. But I can also read an article in the Wall Street Journal, and before I finish, I’ve created a character, perhaps a single father, who realizes he’s been set up by his peers through a phony insider trading scheme, and now he has to find a way out before his custody trial. Stuff like that.

WOW: I’m definitely in agreement with you regarding how fiction can give the imagination a workout, while providing sources of inspiration for future projects.

Let’s talk more about your writing habits. Have you established a writing routine or schedule for yourself?

MICHELLE: Lately, I’ve been so consumed in graduate work that I haven’t been able to devote the amount of time I want to the craft. But I never go to sleep until I’ve either finished at least one story of at least 500 words, or have begun a new story, even if it’s, just a few lines. Writers write, no matter what. If I stop writing, then I’m not a writer anymore. Needless to say I have a pile of stories.

WOW: “Writers write, no matter what.” I need to make sure I have these words before me all the time, especially during those times I'm tempted to pass on writing in my journal. And having those 500 words written before turning in for the night is a good habit to establish, I think. That way, you can be sure you won’t get rusty.

Now, what would you like to have readers take away with them as they read your work?

MICHELLE: As far as the story, it depends on the moral I’m trying to convey to my readers. In general, I believe in second chances and redemption, so I hope that my readers will end up falling in love with the same character they originally started out hating. As far as what I write, I want my readers to understand that I am not afraid of pushing the envelope with some things. And I want them to say, “Wow, that has never been done before.”

WOW: I did see the theme of second chances and redemption while reading “Reflection” and I felt that the transparency and vulnerability displayed was times difficult to approach. I think it was good that you pushed the envelope in creating your piece, because I believe sometimes it’s necessary to go to an uncomfortable place to reveal the story that needs to be told.

Let's switch gears. Your bio mentioned that you’re enrolled in a Long Ridge Writers’ Group course. What are you studying and how did you come to select them?

MICHELLE: I’m taking the Breaking Into Print course. I’d been looking into writing schools and one day, I happened to be reading WOW!’s ezine and I saw the link to Long Ridge. At first, I was apprehensive because the school is selective. I had to take a writing test just see if I was good enough to enroll. That is some scary stuff, let me tell you! For a couple of months, I put off the test. Then I decided to go for it, and luckily, the school accepted me. Now I am almost done. I think enrolling in Long Ridge was one of my smartest decisions and it will help me prepare for my MFA studies.

WOW: Sounds great, congratulations on nearing completion of your studies with Long Ridge.
it's always good for writers to continue improving our craft. Classes, workshops and seminars are fabulous ways to accomplish this!

Do you have a particular genre that you prefer?

MICHELLE: Can I say this on national Internet? I like many, but erotica is one of my favorites. I think some people lump this into the category of pornography, but it is far from that. Well-written erotica is actually some of the most beautiful and thought provoking prose a person can read. I also like a good romance with sprinkles of mystery and hints of action. I’ll write a good fight scene any day. I think what drives me, however, is the lengths that people will go for the people they love. How much can one man take to reconcile with his lady? How far will a woman go to spare her best friend’s feelings? In short, things that threaten our moral codes give me plenty of material to write a compelling story, regardless of what flavor the genre.

WOW: So, it appears that your tastes tend to be multi-genre, which can help in making a writer well-rounded. And I believe your words serve as encouragement for writers who may be interested in erotica.

Moving to your personal life, you’re raising two children as a single mother, completed your first novel, are finishing up your MBA from Texas A&M, and will pursue a MFA in creative writing soon after. Just going through that list wore me out! How do you manage it all?

MICHELLE: Yeah, I’m worn out too! Honestly, I don’t know how I manage. It has taken tremendous sacrifice to get to this point. I think sheer will, organization, and sacrificing sleep allow me to achieve my goals. I can’t do this forever, but I am close to the point where I can take my life in a different direction and start enjoying the fruits of my labor, and I can do more for my kids. I love the business world; however writing will always be my passion. So I am hoping my MFA studies will feel more like fun and less like work. All you MFA’s out there can chime in here and give me some pointers, hint hint.

WOW: (chuckles) Okay, Michelle’s put a call out to the MFA’s! She’s seeking advice on how to make her MFA studies more fun. Can you help a writing sister out?

Also in your bio, you mentioned writing your first book, a romantic/crime novel. More congratulations to you! Can you share with us how your book came to be?

MICHELLE: People say all the time, “Man, I could write a book about such and such.” Then they go on about their lives never again revisiting the thought. But “could” and “will” are two different things. I knew that a lot of feelings and memories caged inside me needed to be expressed, and in 2002, Understanding the Affair was born. I told somebody close to me, “I will write a book.” And there you have it. The story contains some racial controversy and at times gets gritty; but because of personal experiences, I am in a unique position to write about what I understand, can deal with what is not always pleasant, and relish in the fact that there are brighter days ahead of the drama.

The book is NOT a biographical account of my life. But there are elements in the story that have come from my personal experiences, some that will probably end up shocking the people closest to me. Writing is hard work. It entails a lot of late nights and research. But I must say I think I’ve done a pretty good job.

WOW: I'd have to agree! Looks like you’ve pushing the envelope again with such an intriguing novel! Do you have any other projects currently in the works?

MICHELLE: I am working on a few novels. Of course I had to do a sequel to Understanding the Affair, entitled Understanding the Trial, where one of my secondary characters will take on a more leading role. My next project, Girls Turning Into Women, Again, is the brainchild of one of my friends, and is the story of a few ladies who either need to grow up, atone, or reverse the fallout from not following their dreams. It was funny. My friend called me one night VERY excited. She gave me the title and said, “Please do something with it.” So I am honoring her request.

And then, of course, I have to throw in some interracial controversy with Connecticut, my third project. Stay tuned…

WOW: Oh, we will! Can't wait! Before wrapping up, what bit of advice would you offer to our women/aspiring writers?

MICHELLE: Don’t quit. Sometimes it’s the people closest to us that create our biggest obstacles. All we can do is respect their opinions but follow our own dreams. And those rejection letters? Sister, just get some tissue, cry it out, and move on.

And always remember this: It’s okay to think with your head while following your heart. The two are NOT mutually exclusive…risky maybe, but that’s the beauty of life…

WOW: Persevere and follow your dreams. Thanks for the reminder, more wisdom to tuck away for the future!

Michelle, you're such an inspiration to me personally and I'm sure to our readers! It was quite enjoyable talking with you today. Best of luck with your studies and your writing!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

 

Friday Speakout: To Be or Not To Be, Guest Post by Michelle Dwyer

To Be or Not To Be

by Michelle Dwyer

Like most college students, I had to take upper-level, intensive writing classes to graduate. And I dare say that most upper-level, intensive writing professors hate the dreaded “be” verbs. Those short words that provide the oxygen needed to breathe—the words that seem impossible to erase from our prose (am, I, are, was, were, be, being, been). So like many who have come before me, and who will come later, I worked hard to avoid such unwelcomed words in order to walk across the stage with a decent grade point average.

Abstaining from these words proved difficult enough. I didn’t need a professor who would take the term pet-peeve to a new level.

But that’s exactly what I got.

He docked an entire letter grade for every “be” verb he found in a student’s work. That’s right! Five “be” verbs on an assignment equaled a failing grade. He felt too many “be” verbs made papers too passive. (My guess is that some editors feel this way as well.) Needless to say I put in many hours of time and effort, many more of search and replace, and even more of total revisions.

I aced the class. I deserved to. And for the classes that followed, my papers carried a sharp, crisp, tight flow. My education definitely made me a better writer.

However something happened to me when I graduated. I got lazy and started writing extremely passive when delving into my fiction work. Fiction evokes passions, makes writing fun. Why cloud it with such a thing as attention to detail, right? I mean, c’mon. I have to work at creating stories? Are you serious?

Yes.

I didn’t figure this out until my contest entries and articles failed to make the cut with everyone. For a while, instead of humbling myself enough to find out what I was lacking, I simply chalked it up to “the industry” and continued. I knew my writings had the merit to win contests and/or get published. But they weren’t great. It wasn’t until I took advantage of WOW!’s critique service did my articles and stories pop.

I began applying the advice (write with a more active voice) from the critiques to all of my work; hence, I have reverted back to catching those “bees”. I’ve since sold one nonfiction article, won my first writing contest, and placed as a runner-up in the most recent flash fiction contest with WOW!.

*And if anybody remembers from my last post, nonfiction doesn’t like me very much. So selling nonfiction is validation for sure.*

Now for the moral: I’m sure somebody can read this article and find some “be” verbs. I haven’t discovered perfection. I may never. Sometimes I’m too wordy, other times too fluffy. Sometimes I just need use “be” verbs. We all do, even accomplished authors. But every day I learn to respect the craft of writing a little more.

Embracing criticism doesn’t make a writer weak. It makes a writer write.


Michelle studied writing in high school and longed to become an author. But circumstances arose, causing her to join the military instead. However, she never gave up. She enrolled in writing school, finished her first crime novel, and will achieve her MBA this fall. She writes as Krymzen Hall at http://www.helium.com/users/421563/show_articles



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Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.


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Friday, July 10, 2009

 

Friday Speakout: Will the Truth Really Set You Free?, Guest Post by Michelle Dwyer

Will the Truth Really Set You Free?

by Michelle Dwyer

I’ve wiped out many a box of tissues because of rejection. Rejection. Those emails with the subject line that reads: Re: Submission. Like most writers, I open the file with a sliver of hope, in the off-chance, that it is a yes. Who am I kidding? Before long, my mind starts telling me that I suck.

But now I know: That is simply not the case. Through critique groups and personal connections with other authors, I realize that the rejections are coming from my nonfiction work. Why? My niche rests in writing for a casual audience, not the starched suits that want to know about the latest in anti-virus technology or stock options.

For some reason, I felt the need to submit work to the business world, as if its approval made me good. However, after receiving feedback, I did some self-analysis (Maslow would be proud), and discovered that when I write my nonfiction pieces, I’m simply not passionate about them. They don’t evoke the emotions that my fiction stories have always done.

I love romance, chance happenings, personal growth, and sex. The stories, characters, and climaxes (pardon the pun), that come from my heart bring me to life, and allow me to create the wonder that is fiction.

So how did I end up writing about investing in the manufacturing industry and not about two people making love on the kitchen table? Answer: A warped sense of success. I saw others excel with their nonfiction work, and by golly, I was determined to be like them. How come their works were selected and not mine? For a brief time, I thought they were better than me.

It took some validation from peers for me to understand that I shine at fiction, and that I need to ease up on nonfiction. “But I’m an MBA,” I used to tell myself. “I must write articles that tell the truth.”

No. My MBA will come in handy with the business side of publishing, but my knack for creating a good story will always give me peace.

Don’t get me wrong, aspiring writers (and I am still very much aspiring) need to keep trying and never give up. I just think that all of us have a forte. Mine is creative writing. And now that I know my own truth, I will submit nonfiction pieces every now and then, while trying to hone the craft. But I won’t cry a river when I get rejected.

And now I can go back to working on my novels and other short stories. The ones I’ve neglected due to my misplaced effort at finding validity through real-life.

Who knows? I might just get an offer.


Michelle studied writing in high school and longed to become an author. But circumstances arose, causing her to join the military instead. However, she never gave up. She enrolled in writing school, finished her first crime novel, and will achieve her MBA this fall. She writes as Krymzen Hall at http://www.helium.com/users/421563/show_articles


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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Friday, June 05, 2009

 

Friday Speak Out: Writers and Their Finances, Guest Post by Michelle Dwyer

Writers and Their Finances

by Michelle Dwyer

Authors regard writing as sacred, fighting anyone who says it's not. They share the same goal, to be heard. With skill and a sprinkle of luck, they hope to make an impact on at least one person in this life while earning a living, or at least while supplementing the income from more traditional jobs. And as most starving artists would say, "Times are tough."

What I've learned about money has helped me tame money's excessive influence over me, thus allowing me to focus on what I love: writing. Maybe my life lessons will help you too.

It was a typical morning. The alarm drilled into my ears, and like a trooper, I got out of bed, dressed, then got my kids out of their beds, and we left for the day. After I dropped my children off at school, I went to Starbucks. The line was longer than an American Idol audition. But I waited. As I cursed and banged my knee against the car door out of extreme impatience, I remembered the words of an old marketing professor, "The mall has everything you want and nothing you need."

Those words propelled my thought process. Stores all over the globe entice us to spend money when our time, and our money, are better spent elsewhere. Starbucks is no exception. Please do not mistake my honesty for hate. Starbucks is delicious and a wonderful treat. But how could I be so weak-minded that I would choose to wait in a line for over forty minutes, be late for work, and then pay seven dollars for coffee and a breakfast that I can make at home for a dollar? I immersed myself in thought. And what I discovered was chilling. I needed validation in a world where I had none. I wanted to say that I had the power to buy anything at my choosing. But in reality, it was a form of self-sabotage. I loved Starbucks, true. But I hated my job more, and I was looking for some solace every morning, to help me survive the day. My own little piece of absolution.

Then I thought of another professor who'd said, "Leadership is the ability to make somebody act in a given way."

I did the math. Leadership plus desire equaled a person of awesome power, me. But I had given my power to my money and let it justify my being unhappy.
Now I'm betting on myself, living on student loans while going to graduate school and working on my writing. I plan to start my own business, maybe even a small publishing company. But I'm also being smart, saving at least 100 dollars a month. And you know what? I'm the happiest I've ever been, and I spend half of what I had spent before I quit my nine-to-five.

Through it all, I’ve learned that calculated risk, determination, and hard work will help me see my passions bloom...and my voice in print.


Michelle studied writing in high school and longed to become an author. But circumstances arose, causing her to join the military instead. However, she never gave up. She enrolled in writing school, finished her first crime novel, and will achieve her MBA this fall. She writes as Krymzen Hall at http://www.helium.com/users/421563/show_articles


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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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