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Some writing advice…is less than perfect ‘good enough’?

 Today’s entry is from Randy Ingermanson, the ‘Snowflake Guy’.

IMG_20180720_165918081I’ve got to say that I’m of various opinions on this. Depends where my piece is going next.

If it’s a contest, where THIS IS IT, I tend to lean toward perfection. If it’s going to a beta reader or an editor, I want it to be good, of course, but I think it’s important to let go of perfection in favor of getting some other eyes on it and opening up.

Organization: Is “Done” Better Than “Perfect”?

by Randy Ingermanson

I realized recently that I’m a perfectionist.

That has an upside and a downside.

The upside is that when I finally finish something, it’s the best I can do. It’s something I can be proud of.

The downside is that it often takes me a very long time to finish things. And sometimes I don’t get them done at all. And that means there are a lot of unfinished things on my plate. Which is not something to be proud of.

So I’ve been asking myself lately whether it’s better to be “done” or “perfect.”

And I can’t see that either one is always the best answer.

The Argument to Just Get it Done

Some things simply don’t need to be perfect. (That’s very hard for me to say, but I have to admit it’s true.)

I own a couple of acres of land, in a state where there’s lots of rain and quite a bit of sunshine. Which means that weeds grow like crazy here. Short of a nuclear blast, I don’t think it’s actually possible to get the entire lot free of weeds at any given time.

But even if it was possible, they’d be back in a week. So it makes sense to just blaze through and knock out all the big weeds and leave the little guys alone. Painful as it is to let the little weeds live, there are just too many of them.

Now that summer is approaching, I’m facing that reality again. So there’s a case for getting the job mostly done, rather than perfectly done.

I had a manager once who used to say, “Make it good enough for now.” I never liked that idea, but often it was the only way to work.

When you have a hard deadline that absolutely must be met, usually the best you can do is “good enough for now.”

The Argument to Get it Perfect

But there are times when you really need perfection.

For example, when lives are at risk. Every airplane crash is a reminder that somebody, somewhere wasn’t perfect.

As another example, sometimes there are outsized rewards for being the best. If you’re IMGP0717.JPGan Olympic athlete in an event that gets a lot of media attention, there can be a huge financial difference between a gold medal and a silver. Even if the performance difference is only a hundredth of a second.

When you’re in a high-risk situation or a high-reward situation, “good enough for now” really isn’t good enough.

What About That Book You’re Writing?

Let’s bring this home for writers. What about that book you’re writing? Is it better to get it done, or get it perfect?

I’d say that depends.

It depends on what your goals are for the book. It depends on your strategic vision for your writing career.

It may very well make sense for you to write books quickly, doing the best you can in a set amount of time, producing good quality books on a regular schedule. That works for many writers. We might call this the James Patterson model. Mr. Patterson does very well by writing about a dozen books per year.

But it may also make sense for you to write the best book you possibly can, no matter how long it takes. You might take years between books, while your fans loyally wait, knowing that you’re going to give them an amazing experience every time. That also works well for some writers. We might call this the J.K. Rowling model. The last three Harry Potter books were spaced two to three years apart. And Ms. Rowling has done very well by that model.

You Get To Decide

You are in charge of your own life, so you get to decide how you’ll run your writing career.

Remember, it’s not all or nothing. You don’t have a binary choice between “fast and good enough” or “slow and perfect.” There’s a spectrum of options, and you get to choose where you’ll fit on that spectrum.

IMGP0748Here are a few questions to guide you:

  • Does your personality lean more towards “get it done” or “get it perfect”?
  • Does your target audience value high speed in writing or high quality?
  • Are there outsized rewards for being the fastest writer in your category?
  • Are there outsized rewards for being the best writer in your category?
  • Where do the writers you admire most land on the spectrum of “fast” versus “amazing”?

Every project is different. You don’t have to put all your books at the same point on the spectrum. You can bend some of them toward the “fast” end and some toward the “amazing” end.

I make only one recommendation here: make the decision on where you want your book to be on the spectrum at the beginning of the project.

And then live by that decision.

******

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

Lawyers are human, too

Businesspeople Meeting in Sitting AreaI write about lawyers a lot. I mean, they say, write what you know, right? After 30 years practicing family law, I know a little bit about them.

I don’t always like them, mind you–so I understand why some people really dislike them.

The same thing can happen inside a law firm. Lawyers have different ways of doing things, and sometimes those ways can lead to outright discord.  Wise senior partners do what they can to minimize these fractures, because that protects the bottom line.

Encounter_ebook_FinalIn ENCOUNTER, one such law firm with offices in Chicago, Washington DC, and Denver, finds itself in distress. Annike Lorant and Mitchell Kadeen, the law firm’s senior partners, have divorced, now working in separate offices, but their bitter split is poisoning the daily work of the firm. Cattrin Odeon works with Mitch in the D.C. area, a sniping little birdlike woman determined to make others as miserable as she is. New partner in the Denver office John Kirk Nicholas is still living his college football hero days, at least in his mind. Judy Norell is the worker bee who’s trying to bandaid things together despite the odds. Chicago partner Teo Haroun has just been given a deadly diagnosis that he’s struggling to keep from his law partners. Mitch and Judy decide a retreat in New Mexico is just the thing to get his firm back on track.

They hire a team-building group to lead them through the retreat, and venture to the Sherman Ranch, outside Santa Fe. The Ranch is managed by Jake Patrin, a recovering addict (and probably the favorite character of all I’ve written), who has his own issues.

What they don’t know is that they are about to collide with a truckload of illegal immigrants coming from Mexico who get caught in a freak March snowstorm. With 3214318748_2ff744f887_mnowhere else to go, the survivors make their painful way to the Ranch, dropping in on the lawyers, who must find a way to co-exist until the snow melts. As you might expect, some of the lawyers do better than others at this.

Here’s an excerpt:

The screaming from inside yanked Jake Patrin’s attention from the successful start-up of the generator where he worked in the shed. His head swiveled back toward the house. What in sweet Jesus’ name…

It was the women, he could tell from the pitch. Hell, maybe someone’d found a dead mouse in the kitchen closet, in amongst the merlot he couldn’t get out of his mind. Muttering a curse under his breath, he pulled his pea coat closed to trudge to the house through the knee-deep snow.

He came through the mud room, doffed his coat and boots, slipped on softer- soled shoes as the rumpus continued. The door between the mud room and the kitchen area was closed, but he could hear a babel of voices, some of which he recognized, others…

He frowned.

Someone was yelling and cursing in Spanish, male voices he didn’t recognize at all. It didn’t sound like a performance, one of his guests playing a role for effect. Jake didn’t speak Spanish well – hell, it had been nearly twenty years since his time in Central America – but he knew enough to understand it was a threat.

Christ on a rutting Harley.

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A quick look around the mud room showed him more than he’d noticed at first. Twice as many clothes as there should have been. Much more snow melting in piles than two men would have brought back. Something was seriously not right.

 

He scanned the room, but found nothing he could use as a credible weapon. Jake picked up a rough-handled shovel; it was the best he had. He leaned close against the door, listening a moment more to see if he could get any clue what might be going on, but there was only more yelling. The young kid from the team urged people to be calm, something about the fire. No help. He took a deep breath and swung the door open.

He was unprepared for the scene that faced him. He came in behind several huge dirty men in the kitchen, along with the kid, Will. The big boss, Kadeen, was pinned in a chair with something shiny at his throat, a wild-eyed wetback holding his shoulder. Everyone else cowered on the far side of the pass-through, watching with horrified expressions, eyes he was sure were as wide as his.

There wasn’t much time to think. It seemed to him to unfold in a jerky slo-mo. As the door opened, the two men closest to him turned, saw the shovel. The younger guy holding Kadeen yelled and made a movement with the shiny object as women screamed. It clicked in his mind that the men weren’t fat, they were bundled in layers of wet clothing. The kitchen floor was slick with water and mud. He went to raise the shovel, but Will Starlin jumped across the space between him and the others.

“No, wait!” Will grabbed the handle of the shovel, his gaze intense. “They don’t mean to hurt anyone. They need help. They’re half frozen! Please.”

There was a scream in the other room, and Judy’s anxious face appeared in the pass-through. “Will—they’ve passed out, the two women. Something’s wrong with them.”

The older blonde made some comment to the other fancy woman, sotto voce, looking down on the fallen. Judy, standing behind her, shot her a look, then turned back to Will.

A spurt of angry Spanish burst from the man holding Kadeen. Jake looked at the two men closest to him, both of whom looked worse for wear. Will pushed Jake forward.

“This man…uh,  el hombre es….um… medico. Ayuda. Doctor. Um…”

“Son, I ain’t no doc—“

“Shut up!” Will hissed, leaning close in to the older man. “You’re the closest we got. These people need help and fast. They’ve been out in the snow for hours, I think. Please, Mr. Patrin. They’re not thinking right, and I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

Jake took a deep breath. “Fine.”

 

ENCOUNTER, from Three Fates Press. Now on sale at Amazon—$2.65 for paperback! 

 

 

March’s Women’s history month– Second Chances

secondchancespromo.jpgExcerpt:

Inessa’s gaze flicked to the opening in the fence. The man waiting there stepped through, approaching with apparent reluctance. When he wavered at the steps, Ann took his arm and helped him onto the porch.

“Inessa Regan, this is Kurtis Lowdon. Kurt, this is Inessa Regan, the lawyer I told you about. She is fabulous! She can draft up what you need in no time at all!”

Inessa studied the man, taking in his thin frame, shadowed brow, and very close-cropped blond hair. Something about him wasn’t right. She set her wine glass aside and waited for one of them to explain.

“Sorry to disturb you,” he said. His apology was followed by a boyish grin, and that’s when the oddity of the picture came together. He moved and stood like an old man, but he had to be less than thirty, perhaps just college age. “Annie insisted.”

“It’s her way.” Inessa managed an answering smile, shreds of courtesy tugging at her conscience. “I usually don’t see clients outside the—” Realizing she was about to say “office,” the irony stopped her. “Well, seeing as I don’t have an office, I’ll have to make different arrangements.”

“No office?” Ann’s brow twitched, but she hesitated only a moment before barreling right on. “You can help him, though, can’t you, Nessa? Kurt’s just finished his second round of chemo. He wants to make sure his life is in order—just in case, you know? I told him not to worry, that everything’s gonna be perfectly fine, but he’s so stubborn, you know, like men are, and thinks it all has to be written down in black-and-white…”

Ann babbled on, but Inessa didn’t really listen. She looked into Kurt’s blue eyes and recognized there knowledge of his imminent mortality. His smile, however, was undimmed in spite of it. She felt like an ass for indulging her self-pity over an employment setback.

“Nice to meet you,” she said at last, leaning forward to shake his offered hand.

“Same here.” The warmth of his regard jolted through to her toes as their hands met. He glanced down at her feet. “Never met a barefoot attorney before. I guess I thought you were all born wearing wingtips.”

Nonplussed, Inessa finally laughed.

“Aha! My new marketing brand. ‘The Barefoot Attorney.’”

“It could work.” A mischievous streak sparkled in his eye. “When can I meet with you? Time is of the essence, as you people say.”

“I don’t know. I’m not even sure where.”

“Nothing wrong with right here, if you ask me. How about tomorrow? I’ll bring breakfast?”

That smile. Hard to resist. He and Ann together were like an oncoming city bus. Best get on, or get run over.

“Umm, well, all right. Sure. Nine a.m.?”

“Perfect. Thanks.” He squeezed her hand again and stepped back.

“Great!” Ann gushed. “I just knew this would work out! And so convenient, too. You’re a saint, Nessa.” She stamped a foot on the porch as the gray cat poked its head up out of the bushes. “Moonbeam! Get your butt back home now!” The animal vanished into the growing darkness. “Come on, Kurt, honey.”

She took his arm, and they walked away, Ann talking a mile a minute. The young man paused to wave before he closed the gate.
After he was gone, his smile lingered with Inessa, stirred something deep within her. She tried to get hold of herself. Inessa Lin Regan, that’s nonsense. You’re old enough to be his mother.

Well. Maybe an older sister.
Maybe.

An unexpected bubble of joy trickled up inside her. As night settled in and the stars flicked into visibility one by one, she finished her glass of wine slowly, looking forward to breakfast for the first time in years.
——————-
SECOND CHANCES, by Alana Lorens, from Zumaya Embraces; Trade paperback, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-61271-080-8, 236 pp.; Ebook, $5.00, ISBN 978-1-61271-081-5 (Kindle), 978-1-61271-082-2 (epub)

Available wherever fine books and ebooks are sold.)

secondchancespromo

Take a snow day in the warmth of the South!

Before I moved to Asheville, North Carolina, a few years ago, I used to visit frequently, IMGP0760because my daughter was a pastry chef at the Stable Cafe, a restaurant at the Biltmore House.

Then, I was delighted to attend local events with her, and there always seemed to be something going on! One of my favorites was the Bele Chere Festival, a street event with art, music and so much more.

Sadly, this festival has gone by the wayside. (Not to worry–Asheville and its surrounding mountain communities proudly support over 300 other festivals a year! )

bele chere

Photo thanks to the Mountain Express 2012

I wanted to commemorate the Bele Chere, though, and so I set a novella right in the middle of it. That Girl’s the One I Love, published by the Wild Rose Press, tells the story of Leyla Brand, a waitress whose crush on Arran Lake, a local band singer, turns into something more at the Bele Chere Festival.

If she could have predicted what a “soulmate” might be for her, someone who seemed to share so many common qualities, right down to their favorite peanut butter cup ice cream, she’d have chosen someone like Arran. A man who took no effort to be with. Someone she could really be herself with. No matter what she was wearing, or how her hair looked, or how much she earned.

            It was time.

            When they reached the end of the path at the rose garden, she whispered, close to his ear, “Why don’t you come home with me?”

            He drew back, his eyes narrowed. “Are you sure? You’ve just met me.”

            Another surprise. She’d always believed men were hardwired to say yes any time they were propositioned. Arran was indeed out of the ordinary.

            “I’m sure,” she said. “I’ve even got a couple of Danish in the refrigerator for breakfast. And coffee.”

            “Breakfast, hm?” He studied her a long moment. “Leyla, I don’t want you to think that because I sing in a band means I just use women. I’d never take advantage of you.”     

               Now, that could be one hell of a line. Maybe it was. But his eyes were so sincere. She didn’t want to frighten him off, not now. That kiss had promised much more. “Guess I don’t usually stalk guitarists and throw myself at them, either. Does that make us even?”

But as is often true, life gives with one hand, and takes away with the other. Arran gets the Call” from a record label and is gone. The long-distance relationship takes its toll, and soon all she has of him are his songs on the radio.

Is that the end of their love? Not at all.ThatGirlstheOneILove_w7116_300

To find out what happens, read the story–it’s short and sweet and can keep you warm on a snowy afternoon.

That Girl’s the One I Love, an ebook only $1.99 at the Wild Rose Press!

also available at Amazon and other online booksellers!

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Yes, it’s nearly Mardi Gras, that holiday that transforms the city of New Orleans (and

nola-pcola-013
Jackson Square

 many others in the South) into a major party town. My daughters and I stayed with an old newspaper friend and his wife one year for the event, and had a wonderful time. While those who venture downtown and out to Bourbon Street encounter a lot of drunk, happy people, out in the Garden District, where Hank lived, it was much more a family atmosphere. The whole neighborhood came out into the green area between the street car tracks along St. Charles Avenue, called the neutral ground, set up tall ladders for the smallest kids, and spent the day catching beads, and getting happy. nola pcola 003

 

The French Quarter, is of course picturesque and a must-see. I loved the balconies that stretched for blocks, overlooking the packed streets.

We stayed nearly a week, ate the obligatory beignets and drank chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde, visited the Voodoo Museum. The trip was wonderful, and research done then formed the basis for my novel VOODOO DREAMS. This is the third book in the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers series.

When her big trial goes bad, corporate attorney Brianna Ward can’t wait to get out of Pittsburgh. The Big Easy seems like the perfect place to rest, relax, and forget about the legal business. Too bad an obnoxious–but handsome–lawyer from a rival firm is checking into the same bed and breakfast.

Attorney Evan Farrell has Mardi Gras vacation plans too. When he encounters fiery and attractive Brianna, however, he puts the Bourbon Street party on hold. He’d much rather devote himself to her–especially when a mysterious riddle appears in her bag, seeming to VoodooDreams_w7507_medthreaten danger.

Strangely compelled to follow the riddle’s clues, Brianna is pulled deeper into the twisted schemes of a voodoo priest bent on revenge. To escape his poisonous web, she must work with Evan to solve the curse. But is the growing love they feel for each other real? Or just a voodoo dream?

Visiting this book, for me, is like re-visiting the city. Check it out at your local bookstore, or online at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.com  or at the publisher’s site, The Wild Rose Press.  Enjoy this read with your favorite coffee and king cake. Happy Mardi Gras!

 

She serves, too–but at a price

SecondChances-promoOne of my Pittsburgh Lady Lawyer novels, SECOND CHANCES, tells the story of Inessa Regan, a forty-something lawyer who is unexpectedly thrust into the world of solo family practice. She comes to know an Iraq War veteran, Kurt Lowden,  and his soldier friends, some of whom have serious issues from their time abroad.

PROVIDE COMFORT

One of the worst is the Post Traumatic Distress suffered by Susie Johnston, the wife of Kurt’s best friend.  As an intelligence officer, she’d be invaluable to her unit, gathering information about threats and targets from prisoners. Wall-to-wall counseling, in the local jargon.

But as a woman in a battle unit, she also faces risks she should never have to face: assaults by men in her own unit. Female soldiers in such theatres speak of being afraid to go to the latrine at night, staying in their beds for safety.

Susie is raped during one such trip to the latrine, and the resulting trauma triggers domestic violence and worse on her arrival back in the States.

Sadly, this is not the stuff of fiction.

And as in Hollywood and Washington, the pressure not to disclose, report and prosecute these crimes is hard on women. While the military gives lip service to criminalizing and going after sexual assault perpetrators, the reality is that no one wants to hear about it.

According to an article in the Washington Post, “sexual assault was something female troops did not dare talk about for fear that they would face retaliation and be discharged with a ‘mental health diagnosis.’ ” They go on to say that 62% of those who report face ostracism and retaliation.

In a 2016 story, Huffington Post quotes groundbreaking Chinook pilot Olivia Chavez as saying “she was sexually assaulted multiple times by several different men while on active duty.” Her determination to keep her job made her force all the trauma inside–leading to a worse trauma later when she finally had to deal with what had happened.

2856908465_1033eaedcaby theisKojorthReading comments on these stories, there isn’t a lot of sympathy for the women. Many blame the system that put men and women together on the battlefield, especially when the system as set up is so skewed toward men (i.e. even in VA hospitals, many times the women veterans don’t have equal access to restrooms and other facilities). Hardly anyone says, “Why can’t the men just stop raping women?” Is that really such a difficult concept?

What has happened to many of the 280,000 women veterans coming back from the Middle East is unspeakable. Their trauma leads to homelessness, mental health treatment, even suicide. The HuffPo articles says this: “A report released last year showed that for women veterans between 18 and 29 years of age, the risk of suicide is 12 times the rate of nonveteran women.”

Twelve times.

Unacceptable.

Maybe as the stigma of calling out criminal behavior lessens in the civilian world, we can hope that it does the same in the military world. At least the military leaders should lead and protect those who serve with them, instead of taking advantage, and the bureaucracy set up to help those who are assaulted despite policy should step up and make that happen. If our military is to be one of the best in the world, then we should hold them to high moral standards as well.

At least, in celebrating Veterans’ Day this year, we can remember those women who sacrifice their very soul for the right to serve.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

***

SECOND CHANCES, a book from Zumaya Publications, begins the day attorney Inessa Regan receives a pink slip after ten years of faithful service. She’s been a mid-level associate her whole career, partners telling her what to do, providing her with an office and everything she needs. Thrown out into the legal world on her own, she doesn’t know how she’ll survive.  Her neighbor brings her first client, Kurt Lowdon, a young Iraq veteran with cancer, who’s looking just to have a will made. Inessa struggles to give Kurt what he needs, and he helps make it easy for her.

Once his immediate needs are met, he takes her under his wing and brings her more clients as well as a place to open an office to see them. Things begin to fall together for her, including a very special friendship with Kurt that becomes something more. But his past military service, and the friends he’s made there, begin to cause problems for them both, as well as issues his drug-addicted sister delivers to his doorstep. He still hasn’t kicked his cancer, either, and Inessa wonders if falling in love with him is a blessing or a curse.

Book trailer here

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