Alas……

I’ve always wanted to use the word “Alas” as a title for something because the word says so much to me, and sounds so much nicer, than therefore, thus, consequently…and for me, it does not have a negative connotation

As they often are, my posts tend toward being egocentric—having to do with something I’m dealing with. My thinking is, if I’m going through/learning/puzzling over something, maybe my thoughts will help other writers going through the same thing? So here’s the latest from my little corner of the writing world.

I’m on the umpteenth adjustment/edit of my latest, “Never Forgotten.” My first novella. And though scheduled to be out right now—unfortunately “Never Forgotten is turning into seemingly “Never Finished.”

And I blame it all on Writers in Residence!

Alas, I’ve listened to both what my fellow Writers in Residence, and what our commenters have said here; and most importantly, I’ve tried to incorporate their insights into my thinking. If that sounds like a plug, it is. My advice to myself and others, has always been, listen, listen, listen.You may not use it all, or disagree…but if you don’t listen, you’ll never know if you missed a great tidbit.

And a lot of the great tidbits I’ve picked up are not direct editing(in the traditional usage), but incorporating concepts, ideas, story-telling enhancements.  Refinements that raise your writing to a higher level. And that kind of editing, for me, takes longer than fixing misplaced commas et al. (not that I don’t do an awful lot of that)… Here’s a recent example. I had several lead characters doing the activities in one day that you or I would need at least three days to do. I noticed that in this latest edit because of Gayle Bartos-Pool’s excellent post on laying out your time line.

Here are a couple more time consuming review items that I’ve picked up on this writing trail…

    • I write in third person and as such consider I need to be a disaffected narrator of events, while also getting inside the head of the current scenes POV(usually the protagonist or villian) character and emotions. Keeping that straight …
    • And of course, have I used the best words? i.e. Holding, clasping, clutching, or grasping LC’s diary in his hand.
    • Redundancies, and its counter-balance—not clearly explaining at least once.
    • Conclusions left out, because one is assuming the reader put my two and two together correctly.
    • Pictures of characters not clearly drawn (hard one), and again, its counter-balance, letting the reader develop their own picture from people they’ve known.
    • Words inconsistent with scene POV character’s life experiences

My point to all this whining is: because of Writers in Residence, “Never Forgotten,” whenever it’s finally out, will be better for all the advice and knowledge I’ve gotten here. So, I most heartily, not only encourage other writers to read our blog (another blatant plug), but if not us, find that group, that person, that editor—that can not only give “editing” advice, but also address good writing concerns. Having a story go from your head—to paper, is not enough. I definitely want a reader to understand and enjoy my little stories. And hopefully, want to come back for more. My egocentric opinion I know, but I really think a genuine area for thought.

As a side note: being privileged enough to be a Writer in Residence, has led me into thinking about my writing a lot, and I’ve received and taken in soooooo much great advice. And finally, on the “Never Forgotten” front, my LAST(smile) pass is currently being reviewed by my trusted editor Kitty Kladstrup.

A further nugget here besides just me bellyaching about editing…is to point out that good writing, I think, takes effort and hard work. That being said, I can’t really see Agatha Christie at her Remington Home Portable typewriter agonizing over whether Hercule was sitting, lounging, arranged in his chair…  Hmmm.

Alas, it’s never a straight line to anything….

Happy Writing Trails!

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21 thoughts on “Alas……”

  1. Well, that was a breath of fresh air, Madeline. How many of us actually question the writing itself rather than the elements of our mysteries? To mix the metaphor, you have given us food for thought. Thank you. My favorite book, kept beneath my desk at the ready, is the International Thesaurus. Now, some of my friends prefer to look online at a dictionary or thesaurus but I find that running my finger down an actual index page to look for the word I want provides many other options either before or after the description I am seeking. Yes, the book weighs a ton, alas (!) but well worth the effort

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Jill! And so good to hear about your Thesaurus! If I’m at my desktop already, I tend to use online searches for words, but like you, I(we) keep an old huge Websters Dictionary and a small Thesaurus in the kitchen near the TV and go to it first! And yes, alas, the more I think about those “writing craft/art” issues the more rewriting I do.

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  2. I agree that Writers in Residence is a fun and helpful group. I’ve always enjoyed hearing what other writers say about writing and considering how I can use it in my own. But part of the fun of writing is also doing things my own way–after considering the alternatives. And this post got me thinking about that again. Thanks!

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    1. Great point, Linda–that in the end doing things your own way gives you your “voice”! And that’s what speaks to your readers…I think. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mad – once again, as Jill said, a lot of food for thought. My rationale about Aggie (as my writer-mum used to call her) Christie not going through such angst about her writing as we do – there wasn’t a lot of competition in those days and she had a publisher who loved her! And I learn so much from you and our fellow bloggers on this site – often little things that make so much difference. Thanks – and really miss seeing everyone in person!

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  4. Mad, my dear, you have revealed a secret. We do learn by what other writers either write in their written words or what they share with us in their teaching. Some good advice and some more in the category of “Don’t let this happen to you.” But it all makes us think and polish our work. I do hope our Writers in Residence blog gives folks that food for thought. Write on!

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    1. Yes!!!, Gayle, I so hope what we produce in our blogs helps our readers (and us!) achieve some goals we have. Yes, Write on!

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  5. Madeline, I love your Alas’es, and all the other tweaks you so freely share with us. They allow us to see into your heart and mind and to confirm how dear you are! And how delicious your protagonists are. And how dastardly your villains are. And all from that sweet, gentle mind. HA!
    Can’t wait till the new novella comes out!

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    1. Oh Jackie, I’m blushing! I like the story line in Never Forgotten a lot…it’s coming soon! After this last review by Kitty then back to publisher for another proof. I really liked writing a novella, but ironically, taking me longer than several books! Geez… And I’m going to make sure hubby sees what you said about my mind! (smile)

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  6. Thanks for the insight on Agatha Christie, Rosie–talent, right time, and good support. The planets were aligned…I love Hercule and Miss Marple…ahhh, the golden age. Yeah, one day we’ll all get back together…one day (soon! I hope) covid will bite the dust. Miss ya…

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    1. Good writing does take effort and hard work, Madeline. Who’s to say that Agatha Christie didn’t agonize over which verb to use? : ) I’ve taken to keeping a word diary, where I write down particularly interesting verbs, adjectives and adverbs inspired by my reading. Then I agonize over whether using them makes me a copycat.

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  7. Mad,
    I’ve been watching a lot of reruns of The Waltons lately, smiling to myself as John Boy struggles to become a writer – smiling, because I can relate. A line from one of the episodes struck me: “A writer is never satisfied with their work. They constantly strive to improve it.”

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  8. I’m smiling, Miko, thinking about “Aggie” as Rosie’s mum called her, thinking about what verb to use, especially when it comes to my beloved Hercule! (who in my mind’s eye is David Suchet!) doing the kind of short stepped walk he does…

    And Yes! Is it copying, admiring, learning, adoration…our mind’s sure are complicated when it comes to agonies they want us to suffer through…especially while trying to sleep! I do get plot ideas from other mystery writers, in that something they do sends my mind on an off shoot or diverse direction…

    More to think about…

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  9. I guess it’s universal, Patricia, struggling to write it right! I haven’t watched The Waltons enough to know about John Boy’s writing agonies, but I do remember he was writing/telling their story? I’ve never thought about writing a bio or family saga–too dull!(smile) Thank you so much for stopping by–I love hearing what you have to say.

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  10. I can relate to a lot of what you said, Mad. By the way, I like “alas.” : ) One of my problems is that I repeat things, and sometimes it’s difficult to find an alternative word. But we do what we can and hope for the best. You stories always entertain me, and that’s more than half the battle.

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  11. Yes, Marja, I have the same problem! Especially with what I call connecting words like: but, therefore, thus, also, consequently… Thank you for stopping by and your kind words.

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  12. I also love the word “alas” and I’m sure it ends up in my writing. As for dictionary/thesaurus, I have the weighty paper versions, but, alas!, I need a magnifying glass to read the small print. Best wishes on your novella. Is Champlain Avenue still your publisher?

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  13. It is a nice word, Maggie! And it is amazing how “small” small print is these days!(smile) I wear bifocals and it’s still getting hard to read…fortunately on my Kindle can change the type size, and listen to a lot of audio books. Yes on Champlain Inc., but they’re just barely hanging in there as a publisher. Alas, my next one(do still have a couple ideas) will be self published by me only I’m pretty sure. Thanks for stopping by!

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