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On Self-editing & Show and Tell

By Mayra Cuevas

During my first agent critique session, the critiquing agent recommended the book “Self-editing for Fiction Writers,” by Reanni Browne and Dave King. For this jewel of advice, I will be forever in her debt. To read more about the emotional roller coaster that was the first critique click here.

“Self-editing for Fiction Writers” changed my outlook on self-editing. It’s a practical guide on how to polish your work using professional editing techniques. It provided suggestions on achieving fresh, active writing that is both confident and clutter free.

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My first agent critique, a confession of struggles and the happy news that followed

By Mayra Cuevas

After a decade-long career in journalism, I pride myself on the ability to take criticism and rejection. At least that’s what I’d tell my writing partner every time literary rejection came up.

I once worked on a mini-documentary series for six months only to have it cancelled after it was ready to air. But that is the nature of the TV business, so it was easy to accept.

But writing a novel, I have come to find out, is different. It is a very personal, almost visceral experiment that brings out every hidden insecurity. And faced with criticism and rejection, it can be devastating.

Last month, I participated in the Atlanta Writers Group Spring conference – my second writers conference and my first taste of literary judgment. My first conference, last October, was a mix of excitement and the unrealistic idealism of the first time novelist. This second time was a reality check brought about by an agent critique session.

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A Day with Best Selling Author Claire Cook at the Atlanta Writers Conference

By Mayra Cuevas

Last weekend I attended my second writers conference organized by the Atlanta Writers Club. If you read my previous post about my first writing conference you will know the bar was set pretty low. Last time, I walked into my agent pitch session with a tear in the back of my dress and my underwear showing. This time, I am happy to report my garments were properly stitched. Sadly that was not the case with my writing. The threads of my first chapter came undone after I received an agent critique that reminded me that I have many, many drafts ahead of me. But more on that later.

As part of the conference, I got to spend a day with award winning best selling author Claire Cook, whose story and advice I found very inspiring.
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“Wired for Story,” a writer’s guide to the reader’s brain

By Mayra Cuevas

This is the second installment in a series of three posts highlighting books that have helped me during the process of composing my first novel. The first one was “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. 

“Wired for Story” by Lisa Cron is a writer’s blueprint to the reader’s brain. Cron explains logically how stories affect humans at a physiological level and how the writer can tap into that experience to create a story addiction in the readers’ mind. Cron backs every premise with scientific research and study citations.

In a nutshell, Cron’s message is that our writing must cater to the reader’s brain function, literally. The writer can design a story that will resonate with the reader by connecting with the natural way humans process stories.
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On Writing Well, my take on William Zinsser’s classic

By Mayra Cuevas

The next three posts will highlight books that have helped me during the process of composing my first novel.

I will begin with “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser, and oldie but goodie that is as relevant today as it was in 1976 when it was first published.

Although Zinsser’s book is a guide to writing nonfiction, his principles can help the fiction writer achieve a more succinct and clean prose that is both practical and colorful.

Zinsser is a master at uncluttering prose. And he teaches how to distill the writer’s message to its purest form.
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Compassion for your Writer Self

By Mayra Cuevas

 

Rejoicing in others 

I deeply rejoice if you are a writer whose full time job is to work on your next book. I am not one of those people. At least not for now.

My main frustration with writing doesn’t come from lack of ideas, but from lack of time.  Like most of the aspiring novelist, I struggle with carving out time to write between my full time job, family, friends, volunteer work, spiritual studies and those pesky everyday responsibilities like doing laundry, paying bills and shopping for groceries.  Even when I try my very best to steal an hour here and there, the antagonistic forces are sometimes all too strong.  Writer’s block would be a luxury, but neither my critique partner and mother of four, Prof. M, or I have the time for such indulgences. Any time we get is spent furiously clicking our keyboards.

It is here that compassion for your writer self needs to kick in.
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Working with a critique partner

By Mayra Cuevas

Find Yourself a Critique Partner

Find yourself a critique partner was some of the first advice I received from published authors.  The first time I heard this I stared at the speaker blankly. What the hell is a critique partner? And where do you find one?

As always, I turned to my trusty friend Google.

A search for “critique partner definition” answered the first question. The role of the critique partner was to read my story, provide encouragement and point out what I needed to work on (more details on this below).

A search for “finding a critique partner” led me to a website that promised I would find the critique partner of my dreams. It was clear before I dived in I needed a strategy. Read more

Outlining Queen, or how I discovered that I’m NOT a pantser

By Mayra Cuevas

I’ll admit it, when I began writing the first draft of my novel I was clueless. I’m still clueless to a certain extent, but less so after having survived the first draft.

For two years before I started writing the first draft I carried around a pile of note cards with various thoughts on characters, plot and locations. Then in February of this year, I took an online course entitled Writing Young Adult Fiction. The course helped me organize those ideas into something that someone, somewhere would want to read someday.

By the end of the course I was feeling so optimistic about the process that I took three days off of work to write. Read more