Thursday, September 30, 2010

Randomness today

It suddenly became Thursday without me knowing it and I don't even remember Tuesday.

This weekend is the Emerald City Writer's Conference put on by the Greater Seattle RWA Chapter. This is the largest romance writer's conference on the west coast. About 250 romance writers will be filling in to the Bellevue Hilton starting tomorrow evening. A lucky group of us will also be attending a master class in editing by Margie Lawson. I've heard great things about her and her techniques from other authors. For the class, we're to bring 25 pages of a manuscript, 3-5 pages of a turning point from your manuscript, 5 different colored highlighters and a red pen. Why do I sense that my red pen will be getting a work out....

On a completely different note, if you're on Twitter, you can find a plethora of authors, agents, and editors to follow. Angie James, head editor of Carina Press, tweeted today a list of reasons why a manuscript might be rejected.
Here's just a few of them:
- too much info dump
- lack of driving conflict
- poor use of POV
- plot or characters too quirky or dramatic
- pace problems
- the story/conflict/setup seem too cliche
- your characters' actions are inconsistent

Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy Blogiversary!

Instead of my usual ramblings, this week I'd like to take the opportunity to wish my fellow Melt-Ink Potters a Happy Blogiversary. It was in September of last year that we decided to take the plunge and start this blog. I think we've shared some good and useful information here, and had the opportunity to do a few writing exercises as well.

So I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Andrea, Colleen, Katie, and Samantha for a great year together. I've enjoyed every minute of it -- well, except perhaps for those few panicked moments every week when I stare with horror at my blank screen and wonder what in heck I'm going to write about this time -- and I think the discipline of having to find a topic and do a weekly posting has been beneficial to me as a writer. It's helped me to stretch myself a little and think about why and how I write in ways that I haven't thought about them before.

In the coming year, I hope to be able to blog about topics like:

- Finally getting my website up and running;
- Actually writing a query letter and synopsis, and submitting a story for publication;
- Dealing with the inevitable rejections;
- Actually writing a novel that comes in at under 150,000 words

We all have to start somewhere, right?

For folks who have been following the blog (and I know there are at least a couple of you!), thanks for reading! Hopefully it's been entertaining at the very least. If there are topics you'd like us to cover that we haven't yet, or if you'd like us to revisit a topic, feel free to leave a comment, and we'll do what we can to get it covered.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


A few brainstorming methods:

1 - Write an autobiography of your main characters. New insights for your characters just might pop out at you.

2 - Make a collage for your book. I love doing this one.

3 - Brainstorm with someone else - another author, a non-writer, the bus driver...

4 - Create a soundtrack for your book.

5 - Analyze a favorite book or movie that is in the same genre as your book to see what worked for you and what didn't.

And be sure that when you're brainstorming that you have a way to jot down your thoughts - index cards, text yourself, send an email - you don't want to lose those ideas!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Zen of Editing; or Strategic Planning

(Sorry this post is late. I've been waging war against produce and an infection this week, and rather than stay up even later last night, I decided late was better than never.)

So this past week, I've been editing without actually making any changes.

No, really.

I'm re-reading my hardcopy version of The Daughters of August Winterbourne this week, trying to keep in mind some of the feedback I've had so far, as well as a few changes/additions that need to be made. I did a hands-on edit of about six chapters a couple of weeks ago so I could submit them to my WorldCon critique group. I took out one entire scene and parts of several others. When someone who had read both the before and after versions said that he couldn't tell where I'd made the edits, I knew I was on the right track.

I realized when I wrote the story that it was slow and meandering, at least for the first three-quarters of its length. Now, after a couple of re-readings, I'm beginning to see places where I could tighten up the plot and move things along a little faster. I've even identified two "darlings" that I'm going to have to kill.

One happens about a third of the way into the book. In the scene, Celia and her sisters meet Johann Strauss II, who composes a waltz in their honor (as he was wont to do when touring and giving concerts).

It's an adorable, warm, fuzzy little scene. And I like it a lot. Celia and Nicholas are very sweet together in it. We get some nice interactions between Celia and Emmy, and between Nicholas and Eudora. Plus I even did research for it, discovering that Strauss was indeed touring England that year. But in the end ... absolutely no plot advancement takes place in the scene, and therefore, it must go. (Perhaps I'll save it to a "deleted scenes" folder, and if the book is ever published, I can offer it as a "bonus feature" on my web site.)

The second one offers Nicholas defending Celia's honor -- with his fists. Which is also very sweet, but does nothing to advance the plot. We already know that he's very much in love with her, and that he would go to just about any length to defend her. The only necessary plot point it establishes -- which is to hint that Nicholas and Eudora once had a relationship that was more than just neighborly -- can easily be moved to one of the other ballroom scenes in that section of the book.

Another scene just never worked. It involved Celia and Eudora returning to London after spending Christmas with Eudora's mother and step-father. After about my eighth reading I figured out why it didn't work: It's boring and nothing happens. It just shows them on the train back to London and looking forward to being there. As I discovered later in the story, I don't always have to show the characters journeying from place to place. I can just wave my magic wand and *poof*, they're there!

So there are three chapters on the chopping block, which might get me 10K words closer to my goal of getting the story down to 120K (from 180K). All without actually doing any editing (yet).

Now to see what else can be trimmed out...

How do other folks approach these kinds of "macro" edits?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Submitting - or I don't wanna

After “the end” has been written and the book polished beyond all measure, the next step is actually submitting it. And this part of the process is where I get clammy hands and my inner 2 year old says “I don’t wanna”.

Submitting means drafting the perfect cover letter, which, not unlike a cover letter for a job, has to get the attention of the editor/agent in .234 seconds and make them not through your hard work in the round file (or more common these days, hit the delete button). There are whole books on the submission process and how to write the perfect cover letter and I own exactly none of them.

There are workshops given and conferences devoted to the submission process and guess how many I’ve attended? That’s right, none.

Mostly it was because I was still figuring out how to write – how to put in GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) in my work, create the perfect character, show not tell, etc. But now that I actually have things completed – things that are nearing the end of the editing process, I don’t have that excuse any more.

See if I want to sell my work, see it in that space on the bookshelf or featured on that website, I have to submit the thing. And I’m going to have to get rejected – probably more times than I want to think about. In order to do that, I have to learn how to properly submit a body of work to a publisher and/or agent.

Even if I don’t wanna.

How I Choose To Spend My Time; or, Why Should I Pay Money For That?

Okay, I haven't actually gotten to bed yet, so it's still Thursday, right? {grin}

A couple of weeks ago, we were at the Denver Dragon Boat Festival in Sloan's Lake Park. The Dragon Boat Festival is a lot of fun -- there are dragon-headed rowboats, and teams that race them, and all manner of oriental foods and goods for sale. We go every couple of years or so, if the weather's not too awful (which, since the festival happens in the middle of July, means "as long as it's not too hot and horrid").

And, of course, there are other vendors with booths there as well. Like the local cable and satellite providers.

We have cable internet, but that's all. No cable or satellite television. If we can't watch it on broadcast or DVD, we just don't watch it.

But for reasons known only to him, while I was shopping for trinkets, my Beloved Husband decided to go over to the satellite television booth and strike up a conversation with them. And of course, when I was ready to move along, I had to go over and drag him away from there.

The woman at the booth was very determined to make a sale, even when I told her that there was only one show I watched on a regular basis, and that show was available via broadcast. I don't think she believed me.

"No, really," I said. "It just wouldn't be worth it to pay $35/month to watch the one show I already watch for free."

"You don't watch it for free," Beloved Husband pointed out, helpfully. "You buy the DVDs when they come out every year."

"Which is about the same cost as one month of satellite service, anyway. So we could still be saving the other eleven month's worth. Besides, I'm too busy. I don't have time to watch any more TV than I already do."

"Oh, you'd be surprised," said the saleslady. "You make the time."

I could only stare at her, horrified. Because if I'm going to make time for more of anything in my life, watching television is waaaaaay far down on the list. Writing, spending more time with loved ones, and getting my darned house painted are all much higher priorities, as far as I am concerned.

That was when it hit me how much my priorities in life had changed over the last couple of years. I would rather write than watch TV.

Keep in mind that I grew up in a household where the television gets switched on first thing in the morning, and doesn't get turned off again until after everyone has gone to bed. It's a constant background to everything that happens in the house.

Apparently, I neither need nor want that in my life any more. I think that's a good thing. More time for writing.

And sleeping.

(Which I should do very soon now.)

Suffice it to say that we did not sign up for satellite television that day.

So what can or have other people given up in order to make more time for writing?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Writing Challenge; or, How I Did

So it's September now, and my summer writing challenge has ended. I wrote 30,163 words of fiction over the summer. It's not a spectacular amount, I'll admit, but I think they're mostly good words, and I enjoyed writing them.

What I ended up with was:

"Perceptions" -- longish short story, complete. It's the story of what happens when two tourist chicks who are more than they seem visit a small Nebraska town -- that also turns out to be more than it seems. It was great fun to write, especially since I based it on the road trip my friend Rivka and I took to Kimball, Nebraska -- including some of the actual sights we saw and things we did while we were there. 12,183 words.

"Faeries Living At The Bottom Of The Garden" -- novella, in progress, about 50% complete. I was reading a piece on how urban fantasy is still really hot, and how rural fantasy might be the next big thing, and I thought, "What about suburban fantasy?" And almost instantly, the thought popped into my head: What would having a faerie ring in the garden do to the resale value of your house? The result is turning out to be a lot of fun, but also a lot longer than I expected. Looks like it's headed for novella territory. 14,596 words so far.

Character Sketch, Philomena Kettlewell -- RPG character sketch written in short story form, mostly complete. My character is an Englishwoman forced to travel for her health, who ends up in the Old West, after traveling across India and Australia. She's a lot of fun. 1,346 words so far.

The Sturdy Princess -- possible novella or novel, barely started. Talitha wants to be a tall, blonde, willowy sort of princess, but no matter what she does, she's just ... sturdy. I'm thinking of giving her an uncharming prince to hang out with. Could be a lot of fun. 300 words so far.

The Locked Door -- Probable novel, perhaps one chapter written. This was my response to the story prompt posted here about a month ago. You can read it here. 1,738 words so far.

So ... I wasn't as productive as I hoped I'd be. I did meet the word count goal, but only completed one short story. I do still find writing short to be a challenge -- it's hard for me to find ideas that aren't novel-length. I really thought at first that the faerie story would turn out to be a long short, but it just keeps getting more complicated as it goes along. I adore the main character, though, and I've given her an OCD sister who is driving me bonkers, because she keeps stopping in the middle of a scene to clean something up. I have to admit that she's partly based on my mom, who would do something like washing a coffee cup that she broke the handle off of, because she wouldn't want the garbageman to think she never washed her dishes. (Mom actually makes her bed in hotel rooms. Honest.) So I'm really hoping I can bring that one in as a novella, but it might turn out to be a short novel after all. Which, I guess, would still be an improvement over the 180,000+ word tomes I've been producing. Right?

How have other folks been doing with goal setting? Is it too early to start talking about NaNoWriMo yet?