Using paint names in poetry: Being Green

Bokeh shape photography of flowers on the lake behind a rosemary plant using a green filter

Just yesterday, I was exploring online paint chip collections–specifically Sherwin-Williams and Dunn-Edwards–in response to a paint chip poetry prompt. Then this morning, I took a look at the dVerse Poets Pub Poetics prompt from yesterday and it is to write a poem from the point of view of a color. It feels meant to be, so here’s my poem:

Being Green

What am I to you
when you admire my hue

The cool spring grass where
you lay your picnic blanket or
the grasshopper leaping
from the blades
to escape your hand
The gleeful spritz of electric lime
you add to your julep while
a lark tickles a breeze

And is the light true
when you see my value

As crisp as Romaine
or kale in your salad or
the luck in the clover
you pluck as you chew, feeling
the grip of envy tightening your chest
as you admire the parakeet flying

My value changes with the passing hours
like the roller-coaster dreams of day traders
I arise the delicate and dutiful lacewing
but may grow flat like Espalier against the wall
And somewhere in between
I sizzle with chroma,
letting my additive primary show
in the neon glow.

After night falls and I am no longer seen
I am the eerie call of the cricket
the chirp of the tiny tree frog
the needles falling
from the firs
in the wind
coating the driveways
carpeting the forest floors.


The Rabbit Hole of Revisions: guest post by Ferrell Hornsby

Alice and the white rabbit.

So, you’ve finished the first draft of your current work in progress. The hard work is done now, right? Not quite. Just because you’ve typed “The End” doesn’t mean your work is ready for the world to see. There are sure to be typos, missed punctuation, and (gasp) even plot holes that need to be found and fixed.

If that sounds daunting, it can be. Too many potential authors get stuck down the “rabbit hole of revisions” and never find their way out. It’s tempting to read our work and rewrite and revise. Then, we go back and read it again, rewriting and revising as we go. The cycle continues over and over. Somehow, we never feel our work is quite ready for anyone else to see. It’s not perfect. That’s the rabbit hole. Like Alice in Wonderland, we get lost in our own words, constantly finding that one last mistake, one misplaced word. Eventually, we may decide that it will never be perfect and thus does not deserve to enter the esteemed world of literature.

My advice: don’t go there. It’s a trap!

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t correct and improve our work. We definitely should. But we should have a plan (a map, so to speak) so we don’t get lost along the way.

Here’s the revision map I use. Perhaps it will help you as you devise a plan that works for you.

Alice at the center of a circle of characters: the queen of hearts is to her left and the white rabbit is at the bottom right.

Take a break

Let your story rest. Don’t jump right into revisions. Your original ideas are still too fresh and will cloud your objectivity as you look for problems that should be fixed. The amount of rest time will depend on you. Some authors need only a day or two. Others need a few weeks to let the original ideas fade a bit so they can look at it with fresh eyes. Experiment and see what works best for you.

Read as a Reader

When you’re ready, think about your target audience and read it as they would. You’re not looking for every mistake. In this round, you want to see if the story engages you. Does the plot flow? Do your characters develop through the story? Do they stay “in character” or do some of their actions and words feel out of place? If any of those things need fixing, rewrite as needed.

Let Your Baby Crawl

When you like what you’ve written, let a few people read it. Often, these are called beta readers. Family and friends may be your first go-to for this, but many times, they are like the Cheshire Cat. They will grin and tell you what they think you want to hear, sometimes in gibberish that doesn’t make any sense to your story. That’s great for the ego, but it isn’t as helpful as constructive feedback would be.

You don’t want overly critical beta readers, either. They may seem like the Red Queen. If it’s not written her way, it’s wrong.

The roses must be red. This is rubbish. Off with her head!”

I recommend finding a group of authors and/or readers in your genre who are not connected with you emotionally. There are many groups on Facebook and other online venues. You might find a local book club or author group, as well.

When considering anyone’s feedback, remember that they are only making suggestions, not issuing commands. Read them carefully, apply those that feel right, and let the rest go. Generally, if I have several people commenting on the same thing, I’m more likely to make changes than if there’s only one passing comment. When that’s finished, let it rest again.

Tackle the Typos

Do a proofread for correct punctuation, typos, etc. This time around, focus on the technical aspects of your writing. Do all your dialogues have matching quotation marks? Are there words that should be capitalized, or not? Are your teacups placed just so for your perpetual unbirthday tea party? (Hm. Maybe I carried that analogy a bit too far.) Time to let it rest again.

Alice at the Mad Hatter's tea party.

Turn It Upside Down

At this point, I recommend an inverse read. There are several ways to do this.

Change the colors (white type on black background, for example). The change in appearance can really draw your attention to the mistakes.

Read it backwards, the last paragraph first. That way you don’t get so caught up in the story that you overlook the errors.

Read it aloud, or have the computer read it to you. Hearing the words can bring weak word choices and other overlooked defects to your attention.

Personally, I like to combine two or all three of these methods. It’s amazing how many tiny mistakes would have slipped by if I didn’t stand on my head at this point. (Not physically, mind you.)

Let a Professional Take a Look

Now it’s time to send it to your editor.

What? Why do I need an editor if I’ve done all this revision work?”

Basically, for the same reason you use beta readers. More eyes on your work can bring flaws to light. I put a lot of stock in my editor’s suggestions, but at the end of the day, they are only suggestions. If they feel right, I incorporate them, if they don’t, I won’t.

Almost Finished

Many authors skip this step. I find it important for me to do a final read-through. I will generally do this one away from my computer. That keeps me from rewriting what doesn’t really need to be rewritten. I download the digital manuscript to my tablet and read with a paper and pencil by my side. If I find a really bad spot, I’ll jot it down, but this last time through is for my own peace of mind. When this is done, I’m confident that we’ve rooted out most of the errors.

Let your baby fly!

That’s it. Once I implemented this revision plan, I didn’t feel so overwhelmed with the amount of work still to be done on my first drafts. Step by step, I was able to rewrite, revise, improve, and prepare my books for the world.

This isn’t to say it’s the only way to revise your work. Each author must find their own path to publication. Keep in mind, I have yet to find a published work that has zero flaws, so don’t let that stop you from moving forward. If you have a plan, a map, you’re less likely to join so many others who never publish because they got lost down the rabbit hole of revisions.

Books by Ferrell Hornsby https://www.facebook.com/authorferrellhornsby

Cover of If We're Breathing, We're Serving by Ferrell Hornsby

If We’re Breathing, We’re Serving, Lifting the World series, Book 1

An inspirational story about a man’s journey through multiple sclerosis, and how he learns to serve others again. (Based on my husband’s real-life experiences.)

Ferrell Hornsby’s Amazon author page

Books by Emily Daniels (aka Ferrell Hornsby) https://www.facebook.com/EmilyDanielsBooks

Lucia’s Lament

Devlin’s Daughter

A Song for a Soldier

Emily Daniels’s Amazon author page

Books by Nana Ferrell (aka Ferrell Hornsby) https://www.facebook.com/hoppityfloppity

To Cry or Not to Cry

C is for Courage

She’s my Friend

Search for Claire’s Talent

Hoppity Floppity Easter

Hoppity Floppity Christmas

Nana Ferrell’s Amazon author page

Ferrell Hornsby has been writing stories and poetry since she could hold a pencil in her chubby little hand. Encouraged by her grandmother, she continued writing, even after receiving her first rejection letter at age twelve. Since then, she’s explored many genres, children’s literature, historical fiction, and most recently, inspirational fiction. Her own life experiences add a depth and emotional connection to her characters that is both rare and fulfilling.

Ferrell married her soul mate in 2011, and her life hasn’t been the same since! Together, they enjoy music, movies, eating out, and ice cream (the more chocolate, the better).

Fungi poetry: such a great prompt!

A circle of mushrooms on the end of a felled tree
photo by Maria L. Berg

Today’s Tuesday Poetics prompt at the dVerse Poets Pub is all about fungi. Mushroom poems–and I was just looking at Alice in Wonderland images. I had so many ideas while reading the prompt poems. Here goes:

Fungous Circle

My Swedish Mom took me mushroom hunting
specifically for chanterelles, small orange ruffles hiding
among the stones and birch one would think obvious
but for a tween too elusive.

I thought fungus was gross as was all food
but she caught my attention as she pointed out
the important signs of poison.

Like the beautiful little wild flowers that
sprung through the forest floor after the winter waned
I had been kept ignorant, though a curious child.

Now, it is understandable that I hadn’t been guided
to see, to hunt, to appreciate
each unique cap, each frill of a delicate gill,
each stalk and ring.

When our mushrooms grow from septic or near run-off
my wild palate wasn’t encouraged
free food can be dangerous
I was already known to eat flowers.

Taught the circle of life, I saw
the little trees growing from the fallen as
I traipsed across the canyon.

I told my parents I would be buried there.
They denied me. Said it couldn’t be done.
But now, it’s clear, I was not the only one.

To be put in a sack, made of mushroom spores
And planted, it’s happening, possible.
Then I read people are making mushroom sneakers.
Do I want to be stinky feet? That run comfortably and well.

I want to be a tree.


Revision Process: An interview with author Shelly Campbell

Cover for the book Under the Lesser Moon by Shelly Campbell

Last week I really enjoyed the TBRcon21 writing conference. The editing panel was fun and informative and the moderator even asked my question–Did you ever receive a piece of advice that made revision easier or more enjoyable for you?– near the end. If you missed the panel, you can watch it on Youtube.

After the panel, I asked one of the panelists, Shelly Campbell, if she would be interested in sharing more about her revision process here on Experience Writing and she so kindly agreed to answer some more questions I have about revision. So today, we are in for a treat!

My Interview with Shelly Campbell

After you finish your first draft and you are letting it rest, what are you up to? 

When I’m letting a manuscript rest—three weeks usually does the trick for me—I tend to take a total break from similar writing. Right now, I’m working on a fiction manuscript and, when I eventually reach the final pages of that first draft, I have a non-fiction project waiting in the wings. 

I also enjoy drawing and painting and find that I am usually inspired to create art when I’m taking a break from authoring. Visual art provides an almost instant gratification compared to the slow-burn fulfillment of novel writing, because I get the satisfaction of a finished project after a few hours, days or week, as opposed to the months or years of effort leading up to a completed book. There’s the added benefit that, if I’m really wound up in a draft I’ve just put down, I can always tackle character art, letting me revisit the story while still giving my brain time to switch gears into a more objective editing mode.

After (or during) your first read, how do you go back in? Do you summarize, outline, scene card? What are your tools?

I was very much a discovery writer when I wrote my first two novels, and I hadn’t done a lot of research into structure and form. While it was fun to just build a world with no restrictions and then play in it, it resulted in some long-winded, slack-paced manuscripts that needed significant developmental edits. I knew the books needed work, but in my inexperience, couldn’t pin down what they needed. 

My first reads for those books consisted of a lot of line-edit polishing, make-every-word-shine sort of thing. I didn’t know any better. But I would learn later that, without the bones of good structure and pacing, eloquent prose that doesn’t go anywhere won’t hold a reader’s interest! Much of those painstaking line edits were wasted when I trashed or changed large chunks of the manuscript later on.

With some resources under my belt, and having learned some of my own fallibility, I now have an editing bullet list that I run through on first reads. I’ve moved from pantsing to more of a three-act screenwriting structure, so the first thing I like to do is compare my manuscript with my initial outline. I chart out my chapters and their word counts and look at the big picture items first. Have I started the book too soon? Do I need to chop initial chapters and dive in closer to the inciting incident? Are all my major beats falling where they should? Is my midpoint a big enough pivot point—and is it actually occurring midway through the manuscript! 

When I’m comfortable that the draft is hanging properly on its structural skeleton, I dive into my first read with nothing on my mind other than, does this hold my attention? Anything that I’m tempted to skip over or skim needs work, because if it doesn’t hold my interest, it certainly can’t be expected to hold anyone else’s, right? After I’ve tweaked my tension, I read through again. My first drafts are skimpy on conveying internal emotion, need trimming when describing physical actions, and benefit greatly from tighter dialogue, so I’ll have a read through focusing on all of those things. Then I’ll go through my list of crutch words (words I overuse) and trim those out. After that, it is off to my beta readers to see what they think of the project! 

How do you approach your characters once you know them? Are they like friends that you talk to and hang out with, or is it more like sculpting, chipping the rock away for the fine details? Or something else?

Initially, it’s very much a chipping away process as I get to know the character. Often, by the time I’m ready to read through a first draft again, I can pick out things early on that I now know is out-of-character for this person, because I know them better. Many times, when I get stuck, I realize it’s because I’m trying to push my character in a direction they just wouldn’t take. Usually a re-examination of their goals, biases, fears and misbeliefs will point me in the right direction. So, yeah, my characters let me explore dead-end roads a lot, while patiently waiting for me to turn around and follow them onto the proper path.

What was the most challenging part of revising your novel? How did you come to a solution?

Honestly, my first novel was a mess. It was discovery writing. It wasn’t even one novel, it was two rambling manuscripts full of dead-end roads, but it had potential. My beta readers enjoyed it. Editors liked parts of it. I was fortunate enough to find a small publisher willing to take a chance on it with the caveat that I needed to do some significant developmental edits. I heartily agreed. My editor there, suggested a new outline for the combined manuscripts, and once I saw it summarized step-by-step, it didn’t seem so overwhelming to cut out a novel’s worth of words because I could see that the same story was still being told, just far more effectively and entertainingly than I had originally written it. I had a road map. And that’s when I realized, I really am a writer that needs a map! I need to outline or I end up exploring all those dead-end roads and lose my destination. 

When you get bogged down with the work, what do you do to get out?

I listen to my characters, or I revisit my outline. If my characters are responding in a believable manner, I have a look at my outline and see if I need to tweak tension. I normally get bogged down when I can’t pin down the intention of a scene. Is this supposed to further character growth? Provide a quiet moment to contrast with coming mayhem? Ratchet up tension by showing our reader something our main character doesn’t know? Ideally, each scene can multitask and, if I’m stuck, I often find I’m at a spot where this particular scene doesn’t need to be here at all, or what I’m trying to accomplish can be done by merging it into another scene. I’ll often enlist the help of my critique group because sometimes you just need a different lens on the problem to see the way out!

To what degree and at what point do you use beta readers or outside feedback during the revision process?

I rely heavily on beta readers because I’m lucky enough to have found a wonderful online group of writers and readers in my genre who offer great constructive advice. It’s hard finding good beta readers. You need someone who reads a lot in the genre you write in because they all do follow certain structures and rules that readers may not be able to list, but they certainly sense when you get them wrong! You need someone who is not your friend or family—in most instances they are just going to tell you your work is great because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. And you need beta readers who you just jive with. If you can’t take harsh criticism, a heavy-handed reader who only leaves you scathing comments is probably not a good fit for you. Unfortunately, this means a lot of trial and error finding the right beta readers for you, the ones who are able to help you lift up your work to a level you could not get it to on your own while still keeping your individual voice in there. I have been exceedingly lucky to find a crew of people who are honest in their comments and who each look at my work from a different angle, giving me the confidence to send my manuscripts out into the world.

I also want to point out that more beta readers is not necessarily better. Every person will have a different opinion and the more people who comment on your work, the more conflicting the advice will be. I use the rule that if multiple people comment on the same issue with the same feelings on it, it is likely something that needs to be fixed. If the correction would go against my character’s grain or cause my work to totally lose my voice, I tend to stand firm in my initial choices.

Where do you find your motivation to finish?

Initially, I didn’t! What eventually became Under the Lesser Moon rattled around in my brain and on my computer for decades. I wasn’t sure if I was good enough, but I had a story in my head that wanted out and, damn it, if I wasn’t going to finish it! So, I suppose, at first, what motivated me to finish—very slowly—was the fact that I’d put so much work into this one story and I felt I owed it to myself to at least finish it. 

Now, since the first book in the series is out, I’m motivated by deadlines (as well as readers who contact me to let me know how much they loved the first book and are looking forward to the second. Readers, have you any idea how very much that boosts a tired author?)

How do you know when you are finished?

I have to stop after I’ve addressed all my beta readers’ comments to the best of my abilities and have run through my own editing list. If I can write a good query letter that sparks interest when it is sent out, then I know I’m finished…for now.

Any other advice for writers new to or struggling with the revision process? 

What works for me may not work for you, but you do have this in you, revising. You learned how to write and revising is a skill you can learn too, one that you can hone with a bit of practice. Find a book on writing craft that resonates with you. Find a writers group. This is a lonely journey, but there are other people who are struggling just like you, and writers are some of the most helpful people I know! Don’t forget to feed your imagination. Often when you can’t write, you just need time to fill that creative well elsewhere. Read, garden. Do you! The well will fill. It always does 🙂


A headshot of Shelly Campbell.

At a young age, Shelly Campbell wanted to be an air show pilot or a pirate, possibly a dragon and definitely a writer and artist. She’s piloted a Cessna 172 through spins and stalls, and sailed up the east coast on a tall ship barque—mostly without projectile vomiting. In the end, Shelly found writing fantasy and drawing dragons to be so much easier on the stomach.

Shelly’s tales are speculative fiction, tending toward literary with dollops of oddity. She enjoys the challenge of exploring new techniques and subject matter, and strives to embed inspiring stories in her writing and art.

Her debut grim dark fantasy novel Under the Lesser Moon released with Mythos and Ink Publishing in November 2020.

https://www.mythosink.com/books/utlm/

She has a horror novel releasing with Silver Shamrock Publishing on April 2021.
You can find her here:

www.shellycampbellauthorandart.com 

https://twitter.com/ShellyCFineArt

https://www.instagram.com/shellycampbellfineart/

https://www.facebook.com/shellycampbellauthorandart