Blogger Template by Blogcrowds.

Work In Progress Wednesday 4/29/09

I'm back to working steadily on my Writer's Guide to Psychology manuscript. Four chapters are going to be devoted to disorders, and I've started work on the first one. Rather than rehashing the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), I'm focusing on what it's really like to have the disorder, facts most people are missing, and on myth-busting for each one. For example, many people think that Indiana Jones has a phobia of snakes when in fact he's not nearly terrified enough to qualify for a phobia diagnosis.

This first of the disorders chapters addresses mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder/manic-depression), anxiety disorders like OCD and phobias, and psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.

I'm almost done with it; next I think I'm actually going to work on a chapter about medications and biological treatments. A psychiatrist I know has graciously agreed to be interviewed, and it's easy for me to see the holes in my knowledge when I work on the chapter in question. So I'll write a rough draft and list my questions, then go back and fill in the blanks with what she shares with me.

I'm really enjoying the interviewing. It's nice to have another expert helping me make sure the information in the book is up-to-date and accurate. Plus, psychological professionals just have interesting jobs!


I finished the edits Mary gave me on ToM. I'm really pleased with them; alas, the manuscript is still too short. I sent my revisions back to my fantastic writing buddies Mary and Elana and asked them to look them over. Maybe I'll get lucky and they'll see some places to add, like, 5000 words. Ha ha.

In the meantime, I'm working on my NaNo novel again. I'm liking it more and more. I'm still on the fence about what genre ToM falls into, but I think the NaNo novel is an urban fantasy -- with lots of sexual tension. My hero and heroine are natual enemies, but that doesn't stop them from being outrageously attracted to each other!

Want to Do Your Own WIP Wednesdays?

I'm going to snitch from Kate for a little more info on WIP Wednesdays:

"And if you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below.

Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box. For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo as well!

Best Books for Writers

This round of the blog chain, Kate chose the topic.

This time...I'd like to focus on the flip side of the writing coin - reading. Specifically, what books have influenced you? This can be books that influenced you as a writer, or simply books that touched you as a human being. If you want to talk about one book, a top three, ten, or even twenty go right ahead.
Now, you all are fortunate that I only have a set amount of time to finish this post, otherwise we'd all be in trouble, because I love books!

I'm going to focus first on my favorite books for writers, because I think that's what will most interest the reader. Then I'll talk a bit about some favorite psychology books.

First come the books that help keep me going when things look bleak. You've heard me rave about these books before: The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsey Lerner, The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes, and The Writer's Book of Hope: Getting from Frustration to Publication, also by Ralph Keyes. These books emphasize attitude and persistence to reach success, two things you can control. I've blogged about confidence and determination in the past, and these three books were key in helping me form the beliefs I shared with you. I believe every writer should not just read them but keep them handy for the days the doubt, frustration, and rejection is getting to you.

Then there are the books that taught me to edit. I've told you before that I do some pretty serious editing on both my own work and others, and I like to think I'm pretty good at it. (Others seem to agree, so either I really am or those monthly bribery checks are working! *wink*) In any case, here are two books that really helped me: Make Your Words Work: Proven Techniques for Effective Writing-For Fiction and Nonfiction by Gary Provost and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne.

When it comes to ideas, I find The Writer's Partner: 1001 Breakthrough Ideas to Stimulate Your Imagination by Martin Roth particularly useful (I probably pull this book off my shelf more than any other).

On the nonfiction side, I could never have written an effective proposal to sell my book without the following resources. I like to work from examples, so I found Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why by Jeff Herman and Deborah Levine Herman invaluable. I also used How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen and Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody can Write by Elizabeth Lyon.

While I was writing my book proposal, I had to include a Marketing and Promotion section, and for that I needed some ideas. I relied heavily on Guerrilla Marketing for Writers : 100 Weapons to Help You Sell Your Work by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, and Michael Larsen. I honestly can't believe the book has gone out of print -- it's so valuable! I also recently read and liked Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing for Authors by Steve Weber. It's got a strong Amazon bias (ie it talks a lot about marketing on Amazon), but it's definitely worth a read.

On to psychology. What psychologist could live without her Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR Fourth Edition (Text Revision)? (If you want a sneak peek at how we diagnose but you don't want to spend $75, browse through Behavenet Capsules.) To get a sense of how clinicians conduct interviews and establish rapport, try The Clinical Interview Using DSM-IV-TR, Vol. 1: Fundamentals. I also have a fantastic book I think writers who are writing about therapy and therapists would enjoy called Clinician's Thesaurus, 6th Edition: The Guide to Conducting Interviews and Writing Psychological Reports. It's a big fat cheat sheet on lingo, how evaluations are written, what kinds of things clinicians look for during an interview, and questions to ask if you suspect (or see) certain disorders.

Finally, my favorite book on the psychology of writing is Alice Flaherty's The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain. The other book that might interest you on the topic is Kay Redfield Jamison's Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament.

What are your favorite books, writing, psychology, or otherwise? Post in the comments below!

And don't forget to check out Michelle's answer before me and Sandra's after me.

Contests and Drawings

I know a number of my subscribers have found their way here from the QueryTracker Blog, but I want to make sure everybody knows about some upcoming contests and drawings


Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary will be judging one-line hooks on the Blog on Monday, April 13th at 9am through Tuesday, April 14th at 9am. You can get more information to help you get ready here.

The Knight Agency is doing something similar with their Book in a Nutshell contest. You describe your completed novel in 150 words or less (about 3 sentences) and you could get your work requested by one of the agents. Hurry -- the deadline is April 20th!

Miss Snark's First Victim will also be running a Secret Agent contest on Monday, April 13th. Check MSFV for rules and how to enter!

Finally (for now!): On April 23rd, I'm going to be interviewing Steve Weber, author of Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing for Authors over at the Blog.  I'll also be holding a drawing over there for a chance to win copies of his book -- more details when I figure them out! ;-)  I recently finished reading the book and liked it a lot, so I sought him out for the interview.  He's been great to work with, and I'm looking forward to getting some copies to my readers!

As always, getting my WIP Wednesday in during the waning minutes of Wednesday!

Today in one of my classes, we started talking about how I ended up in psychology, and I confessed that part of me simply wanted to better understand my characters.  And someone said, "You mean you diagnose your characters?" And I said, "Why, yes. Yes, I do." 

My students thought that was funny.  And fortunately, I really enjoy making them laugh.

Want to diagnose your characters?  There are some tips on how to ask your characters good questions, read their body language, and give them psychological tests in the Resources >> Using Real Psychology section of the Archetype site. 

You can also check out the articles on disorders or fill out the Q&A form to ask the shrink questions about your characters' problems!

Now on to the WIP Wednesday report itself:

Nonfiction: I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't done much with the book for a couple of weeks. I keep sitting down to work on it and then having other things come up. By next week I plan to be writing along again, especially since I meet with the clinical/forensics specialist tomorrow. I hope to have more interesting information about what hospitalization in a state facility is like afterwards!

Fiction: I've done a good job on the fiction front. I'm still working my way through Mary's edits for ToM, and making good progress. I'm about halfway through the novel now, and I've done some total scene rewrites. The word count is still a really big problem -- I'm at 67,098. Oh, if only I wrote YA! (Nope, this isn't and wouldn't work as a YA.)

And I have in fact diagnosed my hero in ToM. (Just in case anybody needed proof.)  He has a Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) with suicidal ideation.  (In layman's terms, that means he feels really, really bad and is thinking about killing himself.)  You can read more about MDD for your fiction here and get information about how psychological professionals deal with suicidal clients here.

Elana's Throwdown Challenge

For those who are interested in a kick in the backside to help with their writing, Elana Johnson is organizing a Writing Throwdown Challenge.  She's going to create a RallyStorm forum for people to support each other.  I might join in and try to outdo everybody as I work on that nonfiction I promised you I was going to get back to writing!

Want to Do Your Own WIP Wednesdays?

I'm going to snitch from Kate for a little more info on WIP Wednesdays:

"And if you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below.

Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box. For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo as well!

Critique Groups

This round, Mary Lindsey chose the blog chain topic.  Here are her questions.

Are you in a critique group? If so, at what point do you send chapters to the members of your group? How detailed are the critiques you receive and give? Do all members in you group write the same genre?

I'm going to take the questions one at a time, but be sure to check out Michelle McLean's post and then follow the blog chain on through as each of the other members posts!

Are you in a critique group?

I am in a group that critiques my work. 

If so, at what point do you send chapters to the members of your group?

I send chapters when I've got things as polished as I can possibly get them.  When I think I'm ready to start sending it out to agents.  I've always thought it unfair to give critiquers unpolished works, because if you haven't edited it, what kind of feedback are they going to be able to give you?  Aren't they going to see problems you could have seen if you'd just spent the time to edit?

That's how I used to think, and part of me still does.  I developed the attitude when I was critting over at Critters.  It drove me crazy to critique some stranger's work and then have them write back and say "Oh, I know I need to fix those things.  What about ___?"  And I'd think "How the heck could I even pay attention to ____ when your grasp of the English language is so atrocious it was all I could do to keep reading?"  I've also heard people say that they use critiquers to edit for them.  (I need somebody scrape me off the floor every time I hear it.)  I think that's just rude.  If you're too lazy to do a proofread, then you don't care enough about your own project to waste my time.

Since I've started working with a small group of critiquers that
  • I know well
  • I trust to give me both useful and brutally honest feedback
  • Write novel-length mss, like me
              I now see the benefits of sharing rough-cut material with trusted crit buddies.

So for me, within the context of a good critique group (or when working with someone who meets the above bulleted criteria), I see no problem with sharing earlier versions of work.  In those situations the person may say, "Don't worry about line edits, I know I need to work on those.  Do you like my characters/how the plot is shaping up?"  "Am I building tension effectively?"  "Am I giving too much away?" Or whatever. I like that.  I'm getting to help shape what  might be a bestseller someday!

How detailed are the critiques you receive and give?

I get pretty detailed critiques, which I really appreciate more than I can express.  I recently got a very detailed critique, and it's one of the best I've ever gotten. It helps when you know that the person's nitpicks are really with your best interests in mind and at heart.

I give pretty detailed critiques, too, though once in a while I have trouble finding anything wrong with a manuscript!  I actually had one crit buddy call me the Editor o' Doom because I just shred things.  But if I care enough to do that level of work, it's because I think the work has a lot to offer and I care about the person whose work I'm critiquing.

Do all members in your group write the same genre?

No.  We all write different genres.  Within one group we have adult, YA, MG, and children's fiction.  Well, and I write nonfiction, too, and my group has kindly offered to read over that as well. We also have a range of genres from sf/f to romance and women's fiction.  I can see benefits to both homogenous and heterogeneous groups; I definitely think it's good to have at least one person who overlaps with you genre-wise.

So dear reader, are you in a critique group?  What have your experiences been?

Work In Progress Wednesday 4/1/09

Well...I didn't do much with my nonfiction this week except tell stories about how great my tour of the psych ward was last week. (How funny does that sound?) But...I know I mentioned last week that I need to do another interview with someone who has experience working in inpatient facilities. This time I need someone who works in a state institution, because state-run facilities are different from private facilities.

I posted on a social networking site to see if any of my friends, acquaintances, or colleagues had a connection to Twin Valley, our local state facility. And you know what? One of my friends was supervised by a guy who did his postdoctoral work at Twin Valley. So she put us in contact with each other.  (Katie, you're the best!) He and I have emailed back and forth a few times, and we're going to meet next Thursday to talk. 

I'm pretty excited because he's a forensics specialist. He does things like evaluate whether someone is competent to stand trial, and whether they were "sane" or "insane" at the time of an offense. He's been very enthusiastic about helping me out, and I know I'm going to come out of that interview loaded with lots of great information. (I'm actually wishing I'd set aside a whole chapter just for hospitalization information at this point.  I didn't because it was the one area I was weak on.)

So by now you probably know the drill...if you have questions about anything that has to do with forensic psychology, especially as it pertains to hospitalization, ask in the comments and I'll see what I can do about getting answers.

Let's see, what else can I tell you about my visit last week. Well, I know I told you how they'd suicide proofed everything. One thing they had done was use piano hinges on the doors instead of regular hinges. Regular hinges -- especially on big, heavy institutional doors -- stick out (see top picture at right), and someone could loop a sheet or something over it and hang themselves. (Hanging seemed to be the big concern.)   There's no way to loop something over a piano hinge (see bottom picture at right), and the hinges go from floor to ceiling, so there's no gap between the door and the jamb, either.


I'm working as steadily as I'm able on the edits my friend Mary gave me on ToM.  They're really good -- I keep thinking they're like what an editor would give you.  I do have a problem, though.  As I cut out scenes that aren't adding anything to the story, and trimming other things, the story is getting shorter...and shorter...  Normally I write things that are too long, but this novel has always been short (relatively speaking, of course), and I'm well into the red zone in terms of length.  Like, I'm at 66,000 words.  That's just not enough for an adult contemporary fantasy.  Eighty thousand would be good, but there's no way on this earth that I can figure out how to add that many words.

Occasionally I feel like giving up on it completely.  Not on writing, just on this particular novel.  But I keep telling myself that I know there's at least one place I need to add a scene, and I'm hoping it will get longer.  (Like one scene is going to fix my length problem?  Ack.  You can see why I'm having thoughts of digging a hole and burying the damn thing.)

Join the Fun!

Want to post your own WIP Wednesday?  Please do!  Kate explains how it all works here, and you're welcome to snag the logo she and Lady Glamis put together (at the top of this post). are your WIPs going?  Post a link to your own WIP Wednesday in the comments section, or just tell me how it's going there!

Newer Posts Older Posts Home