Neil O'Donnell

Neil O'Donnell

About Me

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Buffalo, New York, United States
Nationally certified career coach with expertise in writing résumés and cover letters for professionals around the world. 15+ years of focus helping new graduates find jobs.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Show don't Tell?

'Show don't Tell' your reader... words I've heard or seen in print for a long time. Authors, editors, agents, teachers, professors and a host of other "experts" bash writers over the heads with these words, like Yoda scolding Luke or something. Funny thing; I'm not so sure anyone understands what "show don't tell" actually means. Or, maybe it's better to say not everyone agrees on what those words mean.

This past week, I looked in books and on numerous blogs/sites in an attempt to find some consistency on this topic. I gotta tell ya, there are a lot of mixed opinions out there. In some instances, "experts" describe "showing" as dialogue and "telling" as narration. In other places, it was the exact opposite. What the Frak?!!!

I'm not gonna bother hammering writers with some diatribe on what I define as "showing" or "telling." Instead, I'll simply state this. Write what works for you. Read over authors whose work you've enjoyed. Do you prefer a lot of dialogue or a good amount of narration. I've actually revised a portion of writings at a publishers and/or agents suggestion only to have another publisher and/or agent say the structure was better the way I had it. Write in a style that works for you and get further direction from sources you trust (writer's groups) and the agent/publsiher that ultimately takes you under their wing. You should also pay heed to feedback from publishers and agents that give you any feedback. But remember, there will always be someone else out there that believes in "show don't tell" differently.

Annoying, isn't it?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Going Historical

With the next fantasy book and Vlara's song moving along, I decided 'why not add to the pressure?' My anthropological research focuses on the prehistoric Native populations that inhabited Western New York. After compiling years of data thru archaeological excavations and archival research (basically digging in the dirt and looking at objects on dusty shelves), I now have enough data to write a dissertation of sorts. As for the format, I chose a format that people would prefer reading over a 300 page research paper. This new book, titled 'Calling Wren,' will focus on the Erie nation, which were an Iroquoian speaking population eventually driven away by the Haudenosaunee (the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk - the Tuscarora had not joined the Iroquois Confederacy as yet). My hope is to show the unique differences between the various native populations while also detailing the common cultural practices shared by them all. My hope is to have the novel completed by the Fall. Of course, it may take me that long just to develop the character sketches. Hope all is well with everyone.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Character Development

As with any part of writing, there are endless ways to accomplish a tak, including character development. For me, characters have to be real. Real in the sense that my main characters (and most of the secondary ones) resemble 'characters' I've met in life. No, this doesn't mean I've actually met wizards in real life. Yet, the complexities of Crarnock (he hatred for humanity) I've seen in individuals I've encountered in my life. For those looking for ways to contruct 'believable' characters, consider people you've interacted with. That should give you a good start.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thoughts about pubs and agents

Hi everyone:

I talked about professionalism in the last post and received some questions, which I thought I'd deal with in this post. Yes, I feel we writers need to act professionally. That said, agents and publishers need to be as professional as well. We (writers) have more options now then in the past with regards to publishing platforms. I for one will not work with publishers or agents that fail to respect me. My Mom taught me to be kind and respectful to everyone. She also taught me not to let people walk all over me. I keep those life lessons in mind with everything I do, including working with publishers and agents. Take care everyone.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How NOT to handle rejection of your manuscript

OK, so maybe I haven't covered the following enough. To writers looking for agents or publishers, please carefully consider the following:

The publishing world is smaller than you think. Curse out a publisher or agent for rejecting you and word will spread. If you are angered by getting rejected, vent with your friends in conversation. Never write back and curse the publisher/agent out, and NEVER write nasty blog entries trashing them. To make it easier to forget a rejection consider that:

1) The rejection may simply be because that publisher/agent has already published similar stories recently and wants to go in a new direction

2) The rejection may simply be due to the fact that the publisher/agent has too many clients at the time to sufficiently market your book

3) The rejection may simply mean the publisher/agent didn't really enjoy your story and doesn't believe she or he can provide the enthusiasm your deserve from an agent/publisher.

Rejection is nothing personal. If your manuscript is rejected, take time to consider any reasons stated for the rejection (if any) and move on. Trashing a publisher or agent in a tirade over the phone, thru an email or on a blog won't likely help you sell the story to the person that rejected you. But, such a venting of your frustration may get your name out to other publsihers/agents, who will possibly ignore all your submissions.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Keys to Writing

I'm sure that every author has a list of compnents he or she needs to have in order to write a story. I am no different. For the next couple posts, I thought I list the keys to my writing a story. The 1st thing? I need a part for me in the story.

If I'm not in on the action, there is likely no way I'll be able to finish writing a story. I have to be there, even if it's only for a brief scene. That connection is necessary, or I'll just drop what I'm working on and go read a David Eddings novel or watch Battlestar Galactica.

For those thinking of writing a book or a short story, and you don't no where to begin, think up a place or time YOU would like to visit; write your story based around your coming into that story/time/scene.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Writing update...

What's with July, anyway? Two days in and my writer's block has deteriorated. Last night broke thru more of RISE OF THE CELTS. With a long weekend coming, I'm hoping to have two chapters from each of the novels completed. And at this rate, that may be the minimum I get finished. I will keep everyone updated on the progress. Take care.

Do people really talk that way...

Morning. I wanted to take a moment to discuss complaints I commonly hear about books (including my own). Let me start by saying, I am a realist - some people aren't going to like the book. Amazingly enough, I learned this by the fact that the comments I received from publishers and agents indicated that what one publisher liked, another wanted changed. Now, I have shelled out too much money on books produced by major houses ripe with typos and spelling errors. That aside, the issue of how authors create dialogue often gets critiqued (I myself have questioned why authors picked certain dialoque for scenes). How do I come up with dialogue? I guess that's really the best way to explain my approach. You see, everyone of us encounters different individuals every day. The way these individuals communicate forms the basis for our knowledge of how people speak. That aside, I'm also a professional anthropologist... I'm trained to observe how people communicate. When I develop dialogue I consider how my family, friends and contacts interact and communicate. I try and make the conversations as realistic as I possibly can. I can't explain why other authors write dialogue the way they do. I can only say that any dialogue you encounter in my writings reflects conversations I've observed. Scary isn't it! Take care.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Getting Unblocked

So there I was... looking over the paragraphs I struggled to write Tuesday. Three bloody words I changed, and now I actually like how the scene progressed. Moral of the story... put your writing down and let it rest a day. The book is historical fiction about the Iroquoian speaking nation called "The Erie." The book itself, while fictional, is based on my research, primarily my archaeological excavations and examinations of data from Buffalo area colleges and museums. I will post more information about this novel as I get further into the writing, which should move quicker now that I finished that bloody scene.


So, here we are, the first day of the month. I plan on writing a new blog entry every day. In addition to updating readers on the progree of my writings, I will also try and give a bit of advice to other writers, advice I wish I had early on when I started this journey. For today, let me suggest one thing. Find 'readers' early on who will give you honest, CRITICAL feedback on you story line and characters. Doing so will help you find shortfalls in your writing quicker. Those same readers may offer good direction on how to correct those shortfalls. Take care.