Show, don’t tell

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I was introduced to the phrase “show, don’t tell” by a woman who runs a small publishing company in Arkansas. After she read the first three chapters of my novel, she gave me some extremely helpful advice. I have since edited those first chapters and am moving forward with much more knowledge about writing.

What she said to me made complete sense. In the first chapter, one of my lines ended with “the impending nightfall felt menacing”. It did not occur to me to show the reader how the night was achieving that menacing quality rather than just tell them. I was guilty of some rookie writing mistakes and rather than telling me my writing needed work, she showed me how to make it better.

This same phrase introduced itself to another realm of my existence, proving three words can pack a powerful punch. When new people join your work team, there are bound to be some adjustments, not only for the new employee but for the long-term team members as well. And when that new employee steps into a managerial role, some toes are going to be stepped on and some noses will be out of joint.

Once the employees aired their grievances, it was agreed that the new employee would show the team how his new ideas could improve the existing way of doing things instead of just telling them how he wanted things done. By showing them and not simply telling them, not only will he have his new ideas implemented but everyone will get involved and the team will become stronger.

When good things happen to good people

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I believe in Karma.  I hold faith in the fact that good deeds will be rewarded in kind and bad deeds will not go unpunished.  It is extremely uplifting when you are able to watch someone very close to you have those good things happen.

It is one thing to give so much of yourself to make others happy, but it is another thing to lose your happiness in the process.  It is a gradual slope and the journey down that road is almost unrecognizable. Suddenly, you are in a place where you never expected to be and you wonder how you traveled so far down without even knowing you were on that path.

The nice thing about life is there is always a choice. Watching someone make that choice to put themselves first and really feel alive again is a reward in itself.

Crash test dummies

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Time has a wonderful way of changing our perception of certain points in our lives.  I ran into a person yesterday and just the slight glimpse of that person reminded me of a decision that was basically made for me many years ago, but it was a decision I should have been wise enough to make myself.

I was a participant in a friendship I knew was toxic.  So many of the things this friend did should have been glaring beacons that the road we were headed down was hazardous.  We had navigated the small bumps along the way but, when the test car picked up speed towards the wall, I should have hit the brakes.  Instead, the car ricocheted along the track towards its inevitable end.  Thankfully, this third-party I saw yesterday unknowingly shoved me out of the car just before it hit the wall.  Although this gesture was not made with any concern for me, it nonetheless saved me from years of invisible pain.

Somewhere during our friendship, I had taken a back seat.  I had ignored my inner voices and let the reckless driving continue while I did nothing to stop it.  When I did finally speak up, the third-party had accused me of being unfair and told me my actions were very disappointing.  The only thing that was disappointing was the fact that I had not spoken up sooner. Narcissism aside, some of the things I bore witness to could be a plot in a soap opera.  The lies were just the beginning.  There were threats, blackmail, an exchange of money and flagrant manipulation.  It was incomprehensible.

The fact that my friend seemed unconcerned about the atrocious behavior and the third-party seemed to condone it through their ignorance and unwillingness to hear the truth was enough to make me appreciate the fact that they pushed me out of that relationship.  The betrayal had caused enough of a divide in our friendship that I was able to stand on one side of the chasm that divided our relationship and truly see what was on the other side.

Every so often, circumstances make me look backwards into that void.  Life has marched on for the three of us, some lives have been looked upon more favorably than others, but we all still bear our own scars of that crash test car.

 

 

 

Even crime is organized

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“Organizing isn’t about perfection.  It’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money, and improving your overall quality of life.” ~ Christina Scalise

I am a self-professed control freak when it comes to events in my life.  I love planning, I love having lists and I love being organized.  I’m an Aries, what can I say?

The questionnaire

(photo credit)

Routine and planning make me comfortable.  I like to know what to expect and I appreciate having my day flow in a way that can only come from planning.  I go so far as to arrange my grocery list according to the layout of the aisles so my shopping is not a haphazard trip, circling the store multiple times to find the items I need.  It is a coordinated dance through the maelstrom of people frantically running from aisle to aisle, having given no forethought to the layout of the store.

While I admit I am not a big fan of surprises, I do appreciate a little spontaneity.  It is a welcome change from the comfort of my structure but I could never be a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of girl.  I like setting aside time for certain tasks and find that I accomplish much more when I stick to a regimented timetable.

I have mellowed over the years and am not as systematic as I used to be.  I was once accused of planning a spontaneous event and, although I thought I covered it well, I was guilty as charged.  I’ve learned to let go of the reigns as I have matured and enjoy the moments of the unexpected.  But I will never give up my lists.

What about you? Are you a planner or do you prefer spontaneity?

The waiting is the hardest part

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If I had a crystal ball to look back at all the times in my life I had to wait for things, I would probably be astonished at how many hours I have spent in a holding pattern.  In those moments of uncertainty, time takes on a mystical quality and one day feels like a week, a week feels like a year and anything longer than that feels like an eternity.

Trying to connect with, and build a relationship with, a literary agent has taken waiting to a whole new level.  I have crafted something I am extremely proud of and want so much to find someone as passionate about sharing my story as I am.  But that takes time – a lot of time.  Agents are very busy people and I understand that.  My manuscript is one in a pile of hundreds that they have to sort through to find a collection of phrases and characters that speak to them and that they think they can sell to a publishing company.  I get it.  But that doesn’t make the waiting any easier.

I recently submitted my full manuscript to a literary agent in New York.  Her email, although encouraging, did say it would be a few weeks before I heard back from her.  That email was sent 9 days ago but, in my estimation, it feels like 9 months have gone by since we had any communication.  In that 9 days, my emotion has gone from elation to worry, from feeling confident to being self-deprecating.  It has been a roller coaster of emotion but it is a train I have been hanging on to because that ride up and down those tracks and through those loops is part of the thrill of the journey to being published.  I can only hope that the ride ends well and I don’t veer off the tracks into a wall.

 

Looking for a job

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Do you remember when you were fresh out of college or university and wanting to find that perfect job in the field you just spent four years studying?  You got money from your parents to buy the perfect “power outfit”, perhaps an attaché case to look more professional, and then you set off in search of gainful employment.  You arrived on time for each interview and got told the same thing from each prospective employer – come back when you’ve got some experience.  As you left the interviews, the thought in the back of your mind got stuck on a crazy loop in your head and played incessantly – if nobody will give me a job, how can I gain the experience I need?

Looking for a literary agent is much the same for a debut author.  It took more than four years, from conception to finished product, for me to write my first novel.  I put more focus and emotion into creating the story than I ever expended in college and I am truly proud of the finished product.  The people who have taken the time to read it have loved it.

But convincing an agent to give the whole story a chance is like applying for a job with no real world experience.  Those first five or ten pages you submit are like your first two minutes in a job interview, they are introductory and don’t really give the person reading you enough time to see what you are really about.  They can only judge you based on a succinct appraisal that doesn’t give your story time to prove itself and, in the end, they prefer an author who has been previously published.  In other words, they don’t want to give the job to people who don’t have experience.

This post is not an attack on literary agents, by any means.  I get it.  They receive a plethora of emails from thousands of people who think they could be the next Dean Koontz, Nicholas Sparks or J.K. Rowling.  Their email inboxes must feel like a revolving door, having multiple queries thrown at them every time the door makes a new revolution.

My intent with this post is not to blame literary agents for being so busy.  My intent with this post is to merely put a wish into the universe that, one day, that revolving door will find a giant foot wedged into it allowing my query to fall into the right inbox at the right time.  Just maybe, I can impress someone enough to have them read the whole manuscript and to get the job without having previous experience.