LAV Blog Hop: S. E. Leder

The “Like A Virgin” contest allows aspiring authors the opportunity to present their work to a highly talented group of published authors, editors, and agents for critique. It’s a fabulous opportunity. In the spirit of the contest, they would like to get to know some “firsts” of the authors involved, so here’s my list!

1. How do you remember your first kiss?
 It was with a guy who turned out to be a real jerk … I still follow him on Facebook though. Is that wrong? He seems lovely now.

2. What was your first favorite love song?
 “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. (I just asked my husband if that’s a love song, and he very adorably recited the lyrics to prove that it is.) I saw them in my first concert, which I didn’t admit for a long time. Now it’s awesome again. In fact, when Scottish Booker Prize nominee Andrew O’Hagan found out I’d been Dollywood, he grabbed my arm with his eyes wide and said, “I … LOVE … Dolly Parton!!!” Who knew she’d be so cool again?

3. What’s the first thing you do when you begin writing for the day?
 Set myself up in our library with coffee, a dog bed (so my mini-dachshund doesn’t whine at me to pick him on), and slip on some headphones blasting some inspirational instrumental soundtrack music for the scene I’m doing. I might also try to watch a movie that’s similar to what I’m writing the night before. (See my post, How Movies Can Inspire Your Writing).

4. Who’s the first writer who truly inspired you to become a writer?
 I was always trying to write something my whole life, but I didn’t try to emulate anyone until I read Morgan Llywelyn’s “Lion of Ireland.” I’ve since spent a day with her IN IRELAND. It was amazing. She’s a great lady. Very Audrey Hepburn.

5. Did the final revision of your first book have the same first chapter it started with?
 HA! Are you serious? I rewrote the beginning 439508405493543 times, to the point that I now feel queasy looking at it. That being said, I am always willing to revise to improve my work. I’ll just wait until I have solid feedback. 🙂 The Battle of Toc prologue/chapter 1 got cut last year BUT it’s mostly been the same. That is the first official section I ever wrote for this book, in Ireland, back in 2001.

For your first book, which came first: major characters, plot or setting?
 Characters I would think. I actually wrote a section featuring Melandor Ormonde, King Cromas Morgenroth, and Selatse that I didn’t use in the book but always referenced in a historical context. That was invaluable for me to know.

What’s the first word you want to roll off the tip of someone’s tongue when they think of your writing?
 Epic. This is a cast of thousands, full of battles and betrayals, love and loss. I am hoping it’s the New Adult version of Game of Thrones.

What are some of your firsts, fellow writers?



How to Get Back Into Writing Your Manuscript!

I write for my job, so when I work on my book on the weekends, it can start to feel like I’m never away from my laptop. So when I new I was going to miss my weekly writing group for a Chieftains concert, I decided to take the weekend off.

I reaped benefits from this, of course. I get to take a step back and look at what I’ve accomplished. I feel rejuvenated. My brain isn’t so distracted by all of the plans and characters in my universe.

But there are also down sides. I’m apart from the story, and it’s easy to feel like maybe I’d rather watch a movie or take a nap or read a book — anything besides working through my weekend again. 

Good tactic: Although I talked about how revising can bog down your forward momentum in the draft stage, revising can be a great tool to use when you’re trying to write new material. When I sat down to write the next submission for my writing group, I decided to look at my 60+ pages and implement the changes they suggested. This allowed me to revisit my story and become involved again. So on Sunday, by 5pm, I was able to submit a revised section to my group.

By 7pm that night, I had three more pages of new material already crafted. In fact, I’ve had trouble focusing on my day job because I’m so darned excited to keep going forward! (It also helps that this is Vespera’s section; she is the easiest POV for me to write, for some reason.)

In any case, that’s how I’ve gotten back into my schedule. How do you tackle taking a break and then returning to your manuscript?

~ S.

Let’s Examine “Moving Ahead” Versus “Revising” a First Manuscript

After I turned in Helain the White’s first section to my regular writing group, I laughed at their response. What did they say? “This is SO well written … but I have no idea what’s going on.” Of course I took no offense. This actually seemed to echo what I was feeling, which was that this particular scene was a beast to write. This happened before with The Ormonde’s section, and there too I had to significantly rewrite the scene.

When you’re working on a first manuscript, sometimes it’s difficult to keep up the forward momentum — especially when you run into problems. However, I’m learning that when I myself have problems, that most likely means it isn’t right.

Kerry gave such great feedback. She said, “How did he find Jered?” And I said, “He learned from interrogating someone that he visits this tomb.” Then she said, “That’s interesting. Why not show him DOING THAT?” Ummmm … right. Helain is one of those characters who benefits from actions. I constantly have to stop myself from explaining why he’s doing the things he’s doing. I want the reader to draw their own conclusions. As my favorite creative writing instructor in Dublin said, the writer’s job is to say “2+2” and the reader’s is to say “=4.”

So I went back and reimagined this scene, and I think this works so much better. However, this begs the question: “Should I stop to revise, or should I keep going?”

Sometimes I think new writers get bogged down in perfecting a piece of the whole. Sometimes you need to press onward and worry about the hardcore revisions later. Do I still consider my revised scene a draft? Absolutely. However, the plot particulars are so vastly different that I would have gone off on the wrong tangent had I not reimagined the scene. That’s when I think it does work to stop and rework something.

I’ve still got my writing group’s previous weeks’ edits sitting in my inbox and in my computer bag. I haven’t applied them yet, even though that’s like an itch I want to scratch. Instead, I want to focus on getting out pages. There are a lot of future Book 2 scenes I am SO looking forward to writing, so here’s hoping I can keep moving forward!

PS The draft is now at 54 pages!