Jul 13, 2010

Spilled Tea - Laptop Died - I Cried!

Yes, it happened – I spilled tea on my, relatively new, and very expensive laptop. I couldn’t believe it. I was always so careful. And from the time my daughter was old enough to tap her tiny fingers on the keypad I have preached about the importance of never having liquid of any sort near the computer. I was stunned, speechless, and that’s a rear happening for me I can assure you.

So what did I do? What did I learn? What did it teach me – for I do believe most things happen in our lives to teach us something; my default thinking I’m proud to say after 20+ years of watching the Oprah show.

Well, the first thing I did when I recovered my vocals was screech. And, I hate to admit it, but the second thing I did was spew a litany of unrepeatable profanities as I saved and closed files at record speed.

The stench of burning wires was unreal. My adorable little silver box of technology suddenly reminded
me of  Old-Sparky on Death Row in Stephen King's  book, "The Green Mile" only it was my ass frying along with it. Once I had it unplugged, I yanked it off its stand and turned it upside down while open in an attempt to let the tea drain out of it. Quote – I did say in an attempt – nothing came out.

I tried a blast of the hair dryer, on the cool setting mind you, I didn't want to fry it any worse that it already was. More tears, and a few words no good honest Irish Catholic girl would ever want her father to hear her say. Finally, I sat in the chair horrified at the sight before me and thanked God and every Saint known to mankind, that I had backed up my work the night before.

I wasn't just tired the previous night, I was shattered. It is nothing short of a miracle that I plugged in Click-Free to let it do it’s job before collapsing into bed. No, you don't have to copy or paste, or do anything with it other than plug it in and wait for it to backup – but when you are out of your face with tiredness after a long day at the computer it’s very easy to say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Boy was I glad I hadn't left till tomorrow what I could do that day, as that wonderful saying goes.

The second thing I learned was NEVER EVER go anywhere near a laptop with liquid of any sort. You would think I would have known that after preaching for years to my daughter but…
Now don’t get me wrong here – it’s not like I was stupid enough to sit down to have a cuppa beside my laptop – oh no, far from it.

I suffer horrendously with sciatica; a burning sensation down my legs and it gets particularly bad when I am sitting, so I get up every hour or so and stretch my limbs. On this occasion, I decided to get a cuppa and read a chapter while pacing the floor slowly. It was either that or lie flat on my back on the floor, and whilst I often write that way, it’s quite difficult to drink tea in that position. Anyway, with tea in hand I reached across the laptop to get my glasses. I staggered, caught my toe in the base of the chair, and splash…..

Now if ever I needed proof that I am addicted to my writing, that writing is my oxygen, by golly I got it when my laptop fired. The fear of loosing my work consumed me. I knew I had backed up but I had never actually tried to replace work from my backup to know if it was working properly.

My fingernails got the works – the dog got yelled at – sleep eluded me, copious quantities of tea and coffee was consumed and my daughter was blessed she was away until my fingers were back on the keypad. Basically, normality only resumed on discovering my files were safe.

So my dear people – learn from my mistake and make sure you are ten foot away from the computer when you have the cuppa in your hand, and Back-Up, Back-Up Back-Up your work daily.

With a smile

Jul 1, 2010

Why Pay For A Professional Critique

Why pay a professional to critique your work – why not just get a very honest friend or family member who is capable of being objective to do it for you?

I’ll tell you why – without meaning to offend anyone, they are not lightly to know what to look for in the processional sense of what you as the writer need in a critique.

Yes, they will spot some major error in your writing, which is great – like the following little beauty a friend spotted in my writing recently.

“…when I woke earlier with Mison howling!”

Obviously, I wasn’t howling with the dog, though anything is possible during a full moon phase where I am concerned, but in this instance, that wasn’t what I meant.

I doubled laughing when she pointed it out to me. Oh, the difference an “’s” can make within a sentence. It obviously should have read, “…when I woke earlier with Mison’s howling, or, when Mison’s howling woke me.”

But, in my defence, because the writer knows the story in their head it is hard to spot the foul-ups, blunders, errors or inconsistencies that will be apparent to someone reading the story for the first time. Thus, it’s great to have fresh eyes to check things over for you.

If you have a friend capable of proofreading your work and giving you an un-biased opinion, you are blessed. But note, I did say review, (as in look over) not critique your work – there is a world of difference.

When you need a piece reviewed, in the sense of proofreading for typo’s, grammar, and punctuation, by all means go to sharp eyed friend who is on the button in such matters – but when it comes to getting your work critiqued you need to find a professional that you are comfortable working with.

There are many critiquing services available to writers but I consider myself privileged to be a member of the phenomenal Inkwell Writers @ http://www.inkwellwriters.ie/whose founder, Vanessa, not only runs fantastic writing workshops by Best Selling authors, but also offers a wide array of services for writers at every stage, and provides a critiquing service of the highest standard.

And if you attend the Inkwell workshops, you are even lightly to meet the Best Selling author in person – it’s a win-win situation for all writers no matter what stage you are at in the craft.

I chose Best Selling author Tracy Culleton @http://www.inkwellwriters.ie/Critique-Service.html#TracyCulleton2 from the panel at Inkwell, and with the butterflies doing a fine rendition of River Dance Re-visited in the pit of my stomach, I bunged off my chosen segment for critiquing by email.

The level of professionalism with which Tracy analyzed my work was second-to- none. Not only did I get an honest in-depth line-by-line appraisal of my work, but her suggestions to improve my work were astounding, and her encouragement heart-warming.

The praise and encouragement are important for more reasons than the obvious boost to ones ego that one might expect. Yes, we all need a boost to our ego from time to time. Writing can be a lonely experience where rejection batters the ego, and if that’s not bad enough, we beat ourselves up at times; comparing our work to the best – which is always going to fall flat, but with our professional editing head screwed firmly in place – the praise in the critique plays an entirely different role.

In the editing mode, you use the comments like, "excellent - deep in POV here very vivid and powerful and the right side of purple prose Very good ‘timeline’ here making it clear whats happening when vivid description, and excellent use of back story ah! There’s the needed locator, nice work  great use of strong verbs love this Para, etc," and study what you did in those sections that earned you this response from a Best Selling author, and then use that knowledge to improve the rest of your ms.

Thus, an in-depth critique by a professional highlighting the positive with the negative is actually all positive and worth ten times what you paid for it when you are in either editing mode, or study mode.

At the end of the day, as regards ego, if you want to be a published author – you need to leave your ego on the shelf during the critiquing process. Critiquing is about improving your ms, learning, and moving closer to being published, and nothing else.

To conclude:
Unless they work in the profession, your friends are not qualified to give you the in-depth analysis you need to put your work forward as a polished ms for publication.
What you need is a professional analysis like the one I received through the Inkwell services, which will improve your ms a thousand fold.

With a smile
Ita x