Laura Smith


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Posted by lsmith335 on July 23, 2012 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (0)

I like to write from numerous points of view. I’ve written from first person, third person, men, women, children, you name it. I like howa point of view can restrict the narration to a concentrated area, creating a limited but specific telling of events. I like how it can become bodiless andwander through characters’ minds and above the action. I use it like a camera, zooming in and out of scenes, narrating from different angles, bouncing arounda story.

I think that a point of view can make or break a story. I have actually rewritten entire stories and poems because I hated the point of view. I tend to avoid daring viewpoints, leaving them for more accomplished writers, the kind who can write unreliable narrators, those who aren’t directly involved in the story or relies on a noteor letter format to tell a story.

A good point of view will come naturally and be the onlyviewpoint that feels right to the story. It is the one element that shouldn’t be forced. Even on off days, you should be able to write a page of description or a filler paragraph. I tend to rely on my narrators too much. The evil act of“telling” over “showing” can come out in a narrator from my end. That’s my weakness showing through and the passages that I most heavily edit. It can also affect the content. When given writing exercises to complete from a specific viewpoint, I have sometimes neglected to include conflict or explanations or important details. An uncomfortable point of view can be distracting.

My first novel is written from the first person point ofview of the protagonist. My second novel is written in the third person and shifts from character to character with the main focus being on my protagonist.I think I made the choice I did with each novel based on the kind of story each is. My first novel is character-driven. So, I needed to be inside of her head.The second novel is story-driven so I needed to be able to maneuver through thecharacters to reveal how the story plays out and the characters interconnect.  I think that each one works best for that particular story.

Which stories or pieces contain your most favorite points ofviews? Which do you write most often?  Does it depend on the genre, story, character, etc?


Editing for Continuity

Posted by lsmith335 on July 9, 2012 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)

In editing my latest novel, I'm finding a lot of continuity errors in my work. I blame this on the fact that I wrote this one totally out of order and then pieced it all together like a quilt. Now, I'm finding that dates aren't working out, characters' physical features change from chapter to chapter and out names of locations that I have changed still pop up.

I have found this to be a real setback in the editing process, though writing it out of order kept me motivated during the writing process. I didn't feel like I had hills to climb in linking events together. I could write what came to mind until I had the frame of the story,  and it made the connecting scenes much easier to dream up.

Now, in the editing process, though, there is work to do. It's necessary to check for continuity no matter how long your piece or how you've written it. You can't remember every detail that you have written down or every change that you've made.So, you have to start at the beginning and read the whole thing through, noting every detail and making sure it all adds up.

A few tips that have helped me during this tedious step:

* Make a timeline of events either while you're writing or as you edit. I do mine calendar style, writing in specific events on each date to keep track of when or who did what within the timeframe of the story. So far, my stories have taken place in no more than a span of a few months, but there are also events that have occurred before that I like to note as well, just to remind myself of how to reference them within the actual story being told. This is especially helpful in determining how far back events took place in relation to the age of a character. You don't want to have someone graduating from college when they're five years old, unless they are some kind of super genius.

* I've found the search function on Word to be helpful whenever I want to change the name of a person, place or thing that I've referenced more than once. That button has kept me from having to scan ever line of prose to pull out one name and insert another. Since I change names a lot, this has saved me hours of work.

* Don't try to remember where you have mentioned a specific detail and look only for those scenes to chnage. DO the work and check the entire piece for this reference. You may have made a brief mention of it in a totally unrelated scene that you do not remember.

* I like to make sketches of my main characters and label their physical features along with basic information about them. This helps to prevent me from changing a hair color or middle name without remembering to go back and fix it elsewhere.

* I make maps of locations. In my latest book, I've made a map of the entire neighborhood, marking specific homes and businesses on the map and labeling every street so that I know which direction to point my characters in when they maneuver around the town.

Please leave a comment and share your continuity tips. I'm especially interested in hearing other ways that technology can aid in this process.


Posted by lsmith335 on June 17, 2012 at 10:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Is it me, or have you been given conflicting information about where to find inspiration for your writing? I've been told: write what you know, write what you don't know, don't write about your dreams, go ahead and write about your dreams, the list goes on.

While I love critques and advice from other writers, especially experienced writers, I have worried that their advice has limited me in deciding what I write about or who I plan to write for. I've had instructors who pushed towards writing only controversial topics, to break out of my comfort level as controversy and shock value are the only things worthy to write about. I've had others who have said that everything I'd ever showed them was brilliant.  I've been told which genres are acceptable to write about, and which ones just make you a trashy writer. In the end, I think it's best to only critique what a writer is doing, not what they should be doing. I think you should write with others in mind, but if you don't like what you're writing about, it's not worth it to you. You might as well go find somethin else to do. Writing takes too much time to spend it on someone else's expectations. There is an audience for all types of writing, whether large or small. You should write for those people...and yourself.

I spent a number of years with writer's block worrying about expectations. I got into writing when I was barely old enough to write. So, it was always my intention to write for kids. When I began to seriously study writing, I felt like that was no longer an option and that if you're going to bother at all, you should write genre-less pieces, hoping to become the next Steinbeck or Faulkner. Chances are, 99 out of 100 writers you meet will never live up to this. In my case, I didn't want to. I had to force stories and poems out of me. My assignment deadlines were my only source of inspiration. I would come to class, excited to have my work read, and I would be proud of a piece of the work, but ultimately, I wasn't connecting to my own work.

My last semester of college, my Fiction teacher met with each student one on one to discuss the pieces they had shared that semester. She pointed out one particular story I had written from a 13-year-old girl's perspective and said that if I kept the story going, I could have a story relative to "To Kill a Mockingbird" or "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." That was the permission I needed to go back to why I had originally intended to write. Luckily, this moment came to me in my early 20's before I wasted my key writing years trying to pound out stories I just didn't have in me.

That is not to say don't challenge yourself. I am a terrible poet, but I still try my hand at it often, hoping to develop it further. I will never be a great poet. I have no sense of rhythm, my vocabulary is something to be desired, and I cannot pull deep thoughts and feelings onto the paper, no matter how hard I try, but I keep at it. In the meantime, I devote the rest of my energy into writing novels for children and young adults. It is a competitve and risky market, but it is the type of writing I want to pursue and share with the world.

Most of my inspiration now comes from dreams. I get it now when they say you don't have to have an interesting life to have interesting ideas. They're in there. They just come in dream form. You just need to decipher them into something that everyone can understand and enjoy. Not to put those down who have done it, because I have done it myself, but just taking an interesting life experience and changing the names of those involved does not seem very creative to me. It would be like restitching an old blanket with different colored thread. You're not fooling anyone who has seen that blanket before.  Pulling sections out of several experiences and merging them together, however, seems a lot more interesting. It makes the blanket brand new.

Please leave a comment and tell me where your inspriation comes from. Give specific examples or just a general overview of where they come from. Sometimes, it's the most difficult part of the writing process.


Posted by lsmith335 on June 10, 2012 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

I have made a book of my favorite places to submit. In it, I've gathered the submission guidelines for each publication along with their websites and email addresses. Every publication has its own set of rules. However, most of these rules tend to be similar. Details to search for include:


* How many or how long of a piece to submit (usually submit between 3-5 poems or one story of a specified word count)

* Whether simultaneous submissions are accepted (indicate if you plan to submit elsewhere, and notify them if a piece is accepted elsewhere before they respond)

* Whether to submit via mail, email or an online submissions manager on their website. If through email, find out if they want the pieces attached or pasted into the body of the email. FInd out how they want your contact information formatted. I tend to include my name, address, phone number, email and page number in the top right hand corner of each page unless specified otherwise).

* How long to wait before a response (even if this time frame passes, don't try to withdraw your piece right away. I've had pieces accepted several months after a time frame was given. Despite this, do not always expect a response back, but feel free to resubmit your piece to another publication after their time frame has passed).

* I also like to mark down what the payment will be if accepted. Even if it is only a contributor's copy, it lets you know what to expect upon publication.

My guide is separated between publications that accept via mail and those that are by email. The mail system can get expensive, especially with the need to include a self-addressed envelope for a response. So, I have taken to submitting only to publications who accept online submissions for now. There is often little or no payment, but it seems to get me more acceptances and build up my credentials for the more difficult publications to review. That way, the postage will be worth it. While I hate to think that an editor factors in reputation and past publications into reviewing your submissions instead of the content of the work you are sending, it seems to be likely that they would.


Posted by lsmith335 on May 27, 2012 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

In this section of my site, I plan to share any helpful hints or experiences that I have come across in the writing/publishing process. I'd also like to hear tips from fellow writers as well.

For my first blog, I'd like to discuss how I keep track of submissions. My process is rather involved. I have developed several spreadsheets that I use to determine which pieces I have submitted to each literary journal. First, I keep a hand written spread sheet with the date of submission, the name of the journal the title(s) of the pieces) and the date of acceptance/rejection. I also keep a duplicate sheet in a Word document and color code each column based on the outcome of the submission (red for rejections, blue for acceptions, orange for journals that go out of business or for some reason are not taking submissions and green for pending submissions).Some may say that two versions of the same chart are not necessary, but I like to play it safe. There is no guarantee that your computer won't crash or that your paper charts won't be destroyed. It's always good to have a back up.

These two lists alone worked well for a time, but as my submissions chart grew longer, I developed a separate Word document which lists all of the pieces I have submitted to each journal. That way, when I decide to submit again, I don't have to shuffle through the first spreadsheet looking only for submissions to that particular publication. I also color code each submission  to remind myself of what pieces that journal accepted or rejected.

Keeping track of these spreadsheets can take time, but it prevents you from submitting pieces that have already been rejected by a publication, saves you hours of research time and helps to avoid the frustration of just plain trying to remember which pieces you have submitted.