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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Help me name my character

All right, I've been around long enough to know not to use similar sounding names in a MS. It confuses the reader. So how in the world did I end up with four names (more than half of the characters in my novel) with "B" names?

I caught the Bane and Bailey early so I started have my demon referred to by his first name. He was no long just "Bane", he became "Mosalic".

I like "Bailey" so I'm keeping it.

I didn't pick up on "Bobbie" and "Bombos" though.

Two-thirds through my MS, it finally hit me. I've got: Bane, Bailey Bombos and Bobbie.

What in the world is wrong with me? Don't worry, I'll "B" okay. Har. Har.

So, Bombos is now Demetris--no problem. But I like Bobbie's name. It suits her. So either Bobbie has to be changed or Bailey. Boo-hoo.

I know these characters by their name. In fact, their names have helped me define their actions. I could just wait until I've finished the whole MS and then go back and do a search and replace to insert the new name. That would probably help keep their personalities from changing with their new name.

But, I'm trying to sell this thing as we speak and I don't want an editor who read about Bobbie, to now be reading about Taylor and not know who she is. So, I'll probably work on changing Bobbie's name today.

Any ideas? I like the longer name that shortens into a boy's name. But that's not absolute. Though it does have to be a longer name I can shorten to a nickname. She's a spoiled rich girl. Very Fendi bags and high-heels. She's half Phillipino too if that gives any ideas.

Anyone?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Writing to Market

The first story I ever penned with the intention of publication was a story about talking fruit. This was years ago, before I'd ever heard of Veggie Tales.

It was a cute story about racial prejudice for young children. The story rhymed.

I sent it out, it promptly came back.

I did some research and read that three things were a no-no at that time in childrens books:

1. No rhyming stories.

2. No talking animals (or fruit)

3. No obvious moral theme.


Hmmmm. Guess I blew that one. But it was a cute story.

Years later I'm writing novels. In the CBA the supernatural element in a story really limits the possibilites of which publishing house will accept it.

A supernatural thriller is not an easy sell. But, its a great book. Unusual, exciting, funny and ...and...and...

Crickets chirp.

With a first novel, I probably should have stuck to a straight thriller. But I'm a salmon at heart. Always was.

I tried to write a sweet romance once. Ha. My lovely heroin stood in a field of bowing grass gazing into the distance for her beloved. When out of nowhere, she spotted two almond shaped yellow lights glaring at her.

Oh well.

I suggest to other writers getting ready to start a novel, for the first one, write to market. Instead of talking animals, make them people. Tone the moral theme down a notch. At least don't make it so obvious.

And write a legal thriller instead of a supernatural one. Then, once you've got the sales behind you, go for it and push the envelope.

I really believe The Demon Chaser is the book God had for me to write. People need to know they've got power over the darkness, with Jesus shining within them.

Christians are truly soldiers of light and need to be going to battle.

As for me, I'm going to battle, actually my agent is on my behalf, trying to get an unusual book on shelves where it can relay that message of hope.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Practicing Your Pitch

When I went to my first writers conference a couple years ago, I had my proposals and business cards and went prepared to sell.

I made an appointment with an agent, published author and editor. I shook their hand, had a seat and said, "I've got a book I'd like to tell you about."

"Go ahead," they said.

Then my cheeks caught fire, my voice broke up and I began to ramble.

I didn't know my story well enough to put it into a coherent pitch.

I hadn't practiced my pitch. I even fumbled when asked what kind of story it was. I wasn't really sure what category it fit in. Big mistake.

My second conference I did a little better but still froze up when I was asked what my story was about. Flustered.

This conference, I'm going to be ready. Besides my written pitch, (my query, synopis, and first three chapters, which make up my proposal), I've written a verbal pitch that I am memorizing.

I will know my pitch inside and out. A couple of critique friends and I are pitching each other to get used to doing it. We're practicing the sit down pitch we'll get to make with editor appointments. And we're practicing our elevator pitch. After all, we might get an opportunity at lunch or as we walk to class, to talk to an editor that would be perfect for our book.
We plan to be ready.
To know our pitch so well, we won't ramble on.

And we plan to be prepared for some questions:

Who do you see your novel appealing to?

What's the setting?

Who is your hero/heroin?

What do they want?

What is standing in their way?

How many words?

Who can you compare your work to?

That type of thing. I can't stress enough how important the verbal pitch is. I know published writers who received their first contract because of it. They probably wouldn't have if they came across as someone who didn't know their own work. If they couldn't articulate what their story was about.

Memorizing one pitch is going to be hard, but I've got two books I'm trying to place. Two spiels to memorize. Egads. I'll practice everyday until I can ramble them off without thinking.

I never would have thought selling a novel would be so difficult and involve so much. I just wanted to tell a story. And I guess that's just what I'll be doing at my editor appointments. The cliff-notes version, with as much pizazz and excitement as I can ooze.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

How Big's Your But?

Gina got a big ol but, oh yeah.

I can't write today. . .

It's too beautiful out!
I'm blocked.
I've got housework to do.
blah
blah
blah
yada
yada
yada

With me being home at least 5 days a week now, there's no reason I can't churn out a chapter a day and get a rough finished draft of my book in about a month. Maybe two. (Remember, I'm already more than half finished).

I did finish a chapter yesterday and I'm going to aim for a new one today too. BUT there's my big ol but now... I won't accomplish that every day.

My but's just too big some days. "I'm tired." Being my favorite excuse. Some nights I don't sleep well. I wake up groggy and have zero motivation on those days to write.

Tell you a little secret though: when I sit down at the computer, well rested, fresh from the shower with a cup of coffee and complete silence, I get her done.

When I stumble to the keyboard with troll pencil hair, four hours of interupted sleep and two little maniacs tearing up my house in the background, and I FORCE myself to write. I get her done too.

When I go back and read a chapter I wrote on a day that had perfect writing conditions, it's pretty good.

When I go back and read a chapter I wrote on a day that had pathetic writing conditions, it's pretty good.

I can't later pick out which chapter I had to pry from my tired brain and which flowed from me like a river of inspiration.

If you got a big ol but like me, time to work it off.

Friday, August 26, 2005

I've Found the Cure For the Road to Publishing Blues

You all know I'm looking for a publishing home for my work.

It's been a long road.

I started writing children's stories, then magazine articles, then short stories. I did find a bit of success early, though at the time I thought I had waited sooooooooooooo long.

Ignoramous that I was.

I think it was six months into writing non-fiction that I got my first sale.
"Finally!" I said.

Idiot.

Truth be told, I wasn't ready then. Far from it. Couldn't tell me that.

Anyway, I've been writing novels for, let's see, 2-3 years. I could figure it out exactly, but it doesn't matter.

I had some close calls. First with a story I wrote for a well-known compilation. I signed a contract and everything.

Only to be cut in a final draft.

I was devastated. I cried and prayed and said, "why me?".

Ding-Dong.

Then, my first novel had a lot of interest from a publisher. The editor said it was going to committee. He sounded so excited about it.

Months passed, along with tumbleweeds, and then a letter that tore my heart out. Yup, a rejection.

It was amazing that it being my first book, I even got that far. And without an agent.

The writing still needed some work.

Anyway, I've felt sorry for myself over the years from time to time. I've given my writing over to God, but waiting is still hard.


Well, I visited Brandilyn Collins blog yesterday and read "How I got Here".

Shame on me for feeling sorry for myself. This woman's road to publication was a decade long and unbelievably heart rendering. I could tell you why, but it's so much better to read it.

www.forensicsandfaith.blogspot.com

You'll have to go to the Archives to the first month she started posting, I think.

You won't be sorry. Reading her story will probably cure you of having your own pity party.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Know the Rules Before You Forego the Rules

I've still got a lot to learn about storytelling. I can hear the collective gasps.

No, it's true.

(I know you're not really shocked.)

I know to cut the "ly" words.
Get rid of superfluous words, incuding "that".
Show don't tell.
Don't overdo the dialect.
Don't use names too close in sound or spelling.
No head hopping.
Keep flashbacks to a minimum.
Don't use italics for emphasis.
No cliches.
etc.
etc.
etc.


When my work is critiqued, the "ly" words are cut, the flashbacks are highlighted, when I tell--I'm told. My critters know the rules too. The real trick, is to know the rules so well, you know when you can break them.

Like most writers, I read a lot. I read for pleasure and I read to learn from others.

I've noticed now that I'm so used to editing others work, I can't stop myself from editing as I read.

No book have I read that I didn't catch something that, at least in my opinion, would be better off not having been included.

I mentioned I'm reading a King novel right now. I'm studying his techniques. Some of them anyway.

The book I'm reading is Insomnia. The man's an incredible storyteller.

A quarter of the way through the book, something stopped me cold.
Dull, hot blood pounded his cheeks.
I don't have the book in front of me but that's pretty close to a direct quote.
Blood is hot, yes. Dull? No.

I folded over the page to have another example to prove my point today, and continued reading. Guess what?
Very next page, another reference to that "dull, hot blood" this time it was pouding his temples, I think.

Hmm.

Now, I guess Mr. King's editor caught that and said, "Stephen, take another look." And King said, "I like it. It stays."

He's Stephen King, he can do that.

You and I cannot have dull blood. Our blood can pound dully, if it must, but it cannot be dull.

But, some rules can be broken. Should be broken, once in awhile.

First, you must know the rules inside and out. Then you can decide on a case by case basis when to forego them.

Not a book I've ever read, that I can think of, doesn't have some "ly" words. Once in awhile "perfectly" is the perfect word.

Since I know the "ly" rule, I look at each one and decide if it is absolutely necessary.

Telling is bad: usually. But, sometimes it is just right to get to point A from point B without boring the reader to tears.

I've read a manuscript where the writer refused to break any rule ever.
SNORE.
Dry as shredded wheat.

Sometimes, rules need to be broken.

Head hopping is a cardinal sin in writing. Tell that to Peretti. The man does it and tells an awesome story besides.

Learn the rules of writing inside and out, so you'll know when to ignore another writer's or editor's advice to cut or change something.

You'll be ready. When they put the line through that word you italicized for emphasis, you'll already have looked at it, and painstakingly judged that the work is clearer and better with it in there.

The rules of writing are rules for a reason. Many of the times the rules have been broken in a published book, the work would have been stronger had they not been. So, always, always, take a careful look when you're ignoring a writing rule.

Once you're as popular as Stephen King, you can change the natural properties of blood.

Though, I wish you wouldn't.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What's Your Style: Hilfigers or Levi's?

Eva Marie Everson wrote on my manuscript at last year's BRMW (Blue Ridge Mtn Writer's ) conference, "I like your writing style." Colleen Coble said the same thing. What exactly is my style?

I've heard discussions where writers were trying to write in the style of so and so. I read the work. Their words did not sound like the famous author's words, they sounded like the writer's.

I'm not sure exactly what my "style" is. I just write to ear. If it sounds right, it sounds right. I'm not a flowery writer, though I do appreciate a pretty line. I like one word sentences and sentences set off in their own paragraph for drama.

I suppose those things comprise my style.

I love the way Stephen King writes. I study him, not to write like him, but to see how he pulls off his down to earth story-telling. I don't write like him, but I think he has influenced my style.

In the past few years, I've discovered Francine Rivers. When I read Redeeming Love, I snapped the book shut and said, "That's how I want to write!" She's amazing.

I study her novels. But, I don't write like her. Though, she influences my style.
So does Frank Peretti, Alton Gansky, and many others.

I don't conciously try to duplicate any of these writers. I think if I tried, it would come across as a cheap copy.

I wonder if style is something that can be taught. I don't know. I suspect not entirely. If I sat down to write like my friend Cindy, I might could pull off a short story in a similar folksy style. Though, it would be incredibly draining. Like paddling against the tide. And, I suspect, my own style would creep in. Those one word sentences, similes, etc.

Is "style" the same thing as "voice"? I hear about writer's trying to find their voice. I think when I was writing, Saving Eden, I was still searching for mine. But, while writing The Demon Chaser, I've became comfortable with my style, falling into it like a favorite pair of jeans. I stopped trying to squish my big butt into a new pair of Tommy Hilfigers that were too tight and tossed them aside, for my broken in Levi's.

I'm getting comfortable in my own literary skin and that feels good. I'm not Alton Gansky, or Francine Rivers, or Stephen King. I'm Gina Holmes. I may never pull off a story the way those writers have, but I will pull off my own story in my own voice, in my own jeans.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

My Critique from Colleen Coble

I mentioned I'm going to be attending the ACFW conference next month, God willing. One of the perks of conferences is the paid critique from an author, agent or editor. Somehow I was blessed enough to end up with award winning author,Colleen Coble. Yey me.

She graciously critiqued my chapters ahead of schedule so I, and the others, could tweak the proposals prior to pitching at the conference.
That was thoughtful, no?

Anyway, I'm in a tough critique group that will rip my work when it needs to be ripped. My skin's gotten pretty tough over the years.

As I opened my attachment from Ms. Coble, I braced myself for such a ripping. But, instead I was pleasantly surprised.

She typed: "FABULOUS PROLOGUE! MAKES ME HUNGRY FOR MORE JUST AS IT SHOULD. GREAT WORD CHOICES AND CONTRASTING IMAGES." and "Great writing! You’re tremendously talented with super word choices and a very compelling writing style."

Hooray!! Writers are an insecure bunch and I'm no exception. So, I can't tell you how good that made me feel. Like maybe I'm not a hack that needs to give it up. You know?

Of course, she did find a few things to pick at. Some of which I had already fixed after I sent it to her.

Let's see..She didn't like me using "Nan" instead of "Nana" outside of dialogue. Thought it looked like a typo. She wasn't the first critter to say that, so guess it goes.

She also thought I should make my protagonist, Valencia, take a little longer to come to the conclusion her nana was demon possessed. That ones a little harder to fix. Again, she wasn't the first one that said that,so I need to take another look.

Oh yeah, and this one's embarrassing: I misspelled "Prologue". I think I spelled it Progogue. UHHH! Don't ask me why my eyes or spellchecker missed that.

I sent it out to my agent that way. Maybe I need to read Noah Lukeman's, The First Five Pages again?

Oh yeah, and once again my formatting got screwy in the translation. It looks fine on my end, but when I e-mail it, the indentions move.

She offered me a suggestion on how to fix that and if it doesn't work, offered to let me send her the whole thing and fix it for me! What a nice lady.

I think I'm doing something small wrong in my wordprocessing that's messing up, but haven't figured it out just yet.

Anyway, there were a few other things, nothing big.

Oh wait, there was one big thing. She said as she was reading, it bothered her that she thought Nana was a Christian yet was demon possessed. Actually, we find out Nana was not a Christian, but she thought I should find a way to show that right away as not to turn off readers who might be thinking my theology is off. I can fix that with a well placed comment. No problem.

I asked her if it would be alright to share with you her comments and she said:

"Of course you can share whatever you want, Gina! I really love your writing style. You're going to make it, girlfriend. It's hard to find an unpublished writer with such a vivid writing style. You've got great word choices and similies that really made the text sing."

Don't worry that I might get a big head. When I sit down to write my new chapter tomorrow (today I'm working at the clinic), all the insecurities will come crawling back, with pin in hand, ready to bust my bubble.

But, for today, toot, toot! (that's not me flatulating, btw, it's me blowing my own horn.:)


Monday, August 22, 2005

Murder: How sharp's your knife?

I spent this week reading through The Demon Chaser, doing some rewriting and I added a new chapter from my antagonist demon's pov, (point of view).

Then, I came to the little darling chapter where I introduce my quirky cops.

After I wrote the two chapters involving my cops, I blocked. Yep, writer's block. It didn't last too long. Just a week or two, but I think it would have gone on indefinitely had I not figured out what was fractured in my story.

The problem with the cop chapters wasn't in the writing. Actually, I thought it was pretty good. The problem was,I subconciously knew if I kept it, I'd be writing myself into a corner.

Originally, I planned on having the protagognist's brother be implicated in the hit and run of her best friend. Heck, that's even in my blurb for the book.

But, I didn't need it there and would have one heck of a time getting him out of that later on.

I could probably pull it off with a lot of thought, but I didn't need to.

Bailey already has a huge motive to keep his sister frantically trying to find him. A motive much stronger than cops trying to get to him. I won't give it away, just in case, God willing, this baby actually makes it to the book shelves.

There's already a ticking bomb. Adding the second, weaker, bomb just muddied the waters.

Two chapters written had to be cut. Two chapters edited-- gone. Two weeks worth of work bites the dust.

But you know what? Without batting an eye, I highlighted said chapters and clicked on the scissors icon. See ya.

I did save those chapters to a drafts folder. I may be able to use some of that in my next novel. (A mecial thriller swirling around my mind).

It didn't used to be that easy for me to murder my darlings. In fact, I refused to do it. But I've learned through experience that it is far better to cut the gangrene than to lose the whole leg, or worse--have the work die completely.

Is there a piece of writing you've been holding on to that others have told you is dead weight?

Do yourself a huge favor and cut it. Give it a month and go back and read it. Chances are, you'll realize how much healthier your ms (manuscript) is without it.

Fellow writers: sharpen your knives and don't be afraid to use them.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Like to get a sneak peak?

I recently figured out how to post the first chapter of my novels.

If you would like to have a look, click on the link in my links section.

Let me know what you think.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

What are you reading?

You've read that good writers are avid readers, right?
There are writers who say they simply don't have time to read.
Gina raises an eyebrow and tsk's them.
The best teacher is a well written book. If you're not reading, you're going to miss out on being the best writer you can be. I firmly believe that.

They say you pick up subconciously, through reading, the elements of good story telling. That's probably true, but when I read I also take mental and paper notes on a very aware level.

Sometimes, I sit with notebook in hand, writing tag lines that I like and words that would work in my story.

One thing I'm struggling with now is showing fear in my characters without always resorting to a pounding heart or sweaty palms, and derivatives of such.

I plan to read a scary novel by a best selling author and see how she does it. I will be taking notes. Free lesson from a master. Gotta love free.

Speaking of which, I actually won another author signed book! Am I lucky or what? Lynn Coleman had a chatroom lesson on show vs. tell last night and they had a drawing for an autographed novel of hers and they picked my name.

That lady seems to know her business so I look forward to reading it. I'll share my insights afterward.

What I'm reading now: Writer's Digest's, Short Story Writing Vol I and II.
I've read them before but they were so helpful teaching me symbolism and a plethora of other subjects I thought I'd look again. Those are great books btw. Among my favorite how to's.

And, I'm also reading Kathryn Mackel's, The Departed.
It's dubbed a "Christian Chiller" and lives up to the name. This lady is great at suspense. I'm learning a lot from her. She can really write.

I urge anyone that likes Peretti and Dekker to check her out. She also wrote, The Surrogate, which I haven't read but plan to.

I'm almost done that book and then I'm going to read that scary secular novel to learn technique from. Then I want to read Ron and Janet Benrey's, Dead as a Scone, etc. I've got about 10 books waiting for my attention.

What are you reading?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Investing in Words

My office chair is a mismatched hard maple leftover from my kitchen table. It's an eye sore and isn't terribly comfortable.

So, I went on-line shopping. I found a beautiful wood swivel bankers chair at Pottery Barn. Perfect! Except the four hundred dollar price. Ouch.

I went to e-bay and found a simlar chair for less than half the price. Plus, it has a nice cushioned seat. I can almost feel the softness beneath my fanny.

So, I bought it. And then, I had buyer's remorse. I'm going to the ACFW conference next month and that will add up to nearly a thousand dollars with rooming, gas, the conference, and all the books I'll be compelled to buy from the faculty.

Working part-time (only one day a week at this point) is great for my writing output, but bad for the pocketbook.

The last time I made a dime on my writing was years ago when I was still trying my hand at non-fiction.

My full-time job is writing and I work for free. Actually, that's not quite right, I pay to do it.

I had to have a new computer, a new printer with a scanner, a desk and a bookshelf to hold my hundreds of dollars worth of writing books. Then the endless novels I buy to research how others pull it off. Sometimes I do go to the library but I also want to support other authors and many CBA novels aren't available at the library.

I've been to two conferences and am going again. All of this adds way up. Then there's the ink cartridges and I'm stunned how expensive plain old paper is when you use as much as I do.

My husband shakes his head and I can see his wheels turning as he does the calculations.
Gina's writing = $0.00 - (all she spends on this hobby) thousands = ??

Something's not adding up.

He's as understanding as a person can be in his situation but sometimes we do have heated disagreements about the negative cashflow I bring in.

One thing that sticks with me from college are words from my sociology proffessor: The difference between the classes comes down to instant gratification.The succesful know how to wait.

Someday, maybe tomorrow, maybe ten years from now, my investment in my writing will pay off. God willing.

But, for now, I'll have to get my instant gratification from the novels I read and of course, my new chair.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Symbolism--accidental or intended. It's all good.

When I was in high-school, I had a fantastic English teacher. Actually, I had a few of them. One in particular stands out in my mind. Probably because I had him my junior and senior year (and I had a crush on him).

I always loved books. But Mr. H opened a new world to me within those books.

Our required reading was Lord of the Flies. Fascinating book that I would probably never in my life have picked up had I not been made to.

I read the book, thought it was powerful and entertaining. In class, we dissected the symbolism. Up until that point, I had no idea there was such a thing.

If I recall, the character's initial's were JC. Symbolic for Jesus Christ, or a sacraficial lamb. Wow, I thought. How cool.

There was much symbolism in that book. The lord of the flies represented satan. The killing of the pig scene was symbolic of a rape. etc.

I love symbolism. I love to catch it in a book, kind of like buying an ice-cream and getting an extra scoop for free.

I love to use symbolism in my writing too. Although, seldom does anyone pick it up. Instead, they point out the symbolism I hadn't tried for. And then I see it too and that's a cool feeling.

For instance, in my first novel, Saving Eden, the book opens with my protagonist's ring finger laid out on the cutting board. She's ready to slice her finger as a means of severing her relationship with her husband. She's desperate and depressed and under the influence of darkness. But, as she goes to bear down, she hits her wedding ring instead of flesh.

My friend pointed out how symbolic it was that the marriage saved her. It was so obvious when she pointed it out. Maybe my subconcious had it all figured out, I don't know, but it doesn't really matter. It's there.

Later in the book, I had the protagonist's husband give up on their marriage and as he left the house he bumped into an expensive vase on a pedastol. The crash resonates through him and "Countless shards of beauty lay wasted on the floor." (in his mind, his love for his wife)

Later, the protagonist learns the vase was a cheap copy. Not worth much.
And that too was symbolic. What lay on the floor was not something worth saving. It was a cheap copy of a marriage. Later, they would have the real thing.

The symbolism of the cheap vase also foreshadowed the deceit of the witch antagonist.

Symbolism is fun. It adds layers to a work. It's great to have a good story, but to me at least, its even better to have one that someone can read over and over and find a new gem each time.

UPDATE

My productivity yesterday was pretty good. I read through the first six chapters of The Demon Chaser. I rewrote some stuff. Realized my demon's name was "Bane" and a main character's name is "Bailey" maybe too close. So, I have him referred to mostly by his first name, Mosalic to avoid confusion.

Then, I added another chapter from the demon's pov. It's taxing writing from his pov. He creeps me out. I guess that's good. So I've got a new chapter seven. Today, I'll reread the new chapter and make some changes then continue on reading and editing. And that's the update. Now, I'm off to get another cup of coffee and read my Bible. Great symbolism in that book, btw.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Moldy writers

I've mentioned before that I'm part of an amazing group of writers. Penwrights has done more for improving my work than a hundred "how to" books.

Mostly we crit each other's work. The tougher we are on each other, the better.

Sometimes we share rejections or acceptances. And sometimes we just goof off.

Recently, we came to the conclusion that writers have a lot in common. Made from a similar mold. I believe all of us have at least some of the melancholy personality.
(I'm a melancholy/sanguine mix).

Melancholy personalities are perfectionists. They are introverts mostly, creative, and thinkers. Theres a lot more to them then just that.

Read Tim La Haye's "Why you act the way you do". Not just a great book to learn more about yourself and those you love, (great eye opener though), but also wonderful for learning about the characters you write.

Anyway, we also found all of us who responded absolutely love music. Many have visual arts talents. I've done some acting and before I fell in love with writing, that was my dream. Also spent about ten years in a choir and later was chosen for "The Circle Singers", a small all girl group.

I don't know about non-fiction writers but those writing fiction all seem to possess a similar, quirky sense of humor. At least the ones I know. Myself WAY included.

I wonder what else we all have in common? I'd guess we experience extremes of highs and lows emotionally. Probably not too many flat-liners among us. I'll bet we're also a very passionate lot.

Something to ponder.

Okay, today I'm going to officially begin my full-time writing. I woke up, did my devotions, had a cup of java and blogged.

Now, I plan to read through all 200 pages of my ms, rewriting as I go.

I've been away from my story too long. It's become stale in my mind. Rereading will freshen it up in my psyche.

I know I've got a few chapters to add and a few to cut.

I can't wait to get back in the swing. I really love this story I'm writing and I'm as anxious as a reader to know how it will all turn out.

Off to what I love. . .

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Back to Part-time Nurse, Full Time Writer

I am officially back to being a full-time mom, writer, and homemaker and a part-time nurse. Hooray.

While working full-time I did manage to eke out 200 pages of my new book, The Demon Chaser. But, that was in 7 months.

I wonder how my productivity will increase now that I can write almost every day. When I used to be home full-time, I wrote about 2 chapters a week. Fairly polished. Of course, back then, I was also home-schooling a 2nd grader and keeping up with a toddler.

This year, Jacob is going off to public school and even the 3 year old, Levi, is going to pre-school for a half-day.

For the first time, ever, I'm going to be home alone to write.

Since Levi will be going to school from 9-12, I think those will be my writing hours. Well, more like 9:30 to 11:30 since I have to take him and pick him up.

So for those hours I'll tap out nothing but new stuff.

Then, in the afternoon, I'll do my home-maker duties. I still have to find time to critique for my writer friends and rework in their suggestions in my previous chapters.

I haven't worked out the logistics just yet.

I'll keep you posted on how I do with the new arrangement.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Sewing in the Theme Seam

Today, I thought we'd talk about theme, since it's on my mind.

When I was writing my first novel, I was also reading every 'how to' book I could on the craft of writing. (Still am).

While I was busy mastering pov (point of view), cutting superfluous words, layering in description, showing instead of telling, I learned that there was yet another thing my story needed: a theme.

I remember thinking, 'or crying out loud, they've got to be kidding!'
It felt like an impossibility to weave in a theme on top of everything else. Something only maybe a literary genious could pull off.

I was overwhelmed and feeling inadequate.

Until. . .
I read that even if you don't have a theme in mind while you're writing, one will usually emerge.

So, I ignored the dreaded 'theme' and just wrote my novel.

Guess what?

A theme did indeed emerge. With the first novel it was: Ask for what you want.

Simple. I just didn't know that was my theme till I wrote the last chapter and I needed to tie it all together.

I told you I've recently read Ray Blackston's, Flabbergasted.
The book was fresh and funny but what will make me buy his next book is the satisfying ending. The theme: God has great plans for us if only we'll let Him lead us.

Now, that I've got a little more experience writing novels, theme is not overwhelming. Mostly, I suppose, because I'm no longer working on trying to master the basics.

I knew the theme of my current novel within the first few chapters. It emerged early. I didn't sit down, however, and say I'm going to write a book with the theme of letting God use us as He sees fit.

Something tells me I'd end up with a book that was more lecture than story.

But, as I write, I am keeping the theme that has naturally emerged in mind. Though I don't know how the story will end or all the twists and turns just yet, I do know what my protaganist must learn by the end of the book. I know how to bring her home.

What's your theme?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

All the Book's a Stage

I'm crititiquing some newer writer's stuff and I'm noticing a pattern: They give a lot of narrative. Telling instead of showing.

I did the same thing. You probably did too when you started out. I think its par for the course. But it if we ever want to get out of the sand dunes back onto the green and maybe someday even get a hole in one, we need to show instead of tell. (I don't play golf, so hopefully that metaphor worked.)

A writer friend put it this way: Put the story on stage.

Instead of: A man, who looked like a bum, walked in.
How about: The man shuffled in, his patchy white beard full of crumbs, his ripped jeans soiled with grease and dirt.

Instead of: She looked as though she'd been crying.
How about: Her swollen blue eyes were veined with red.

Instead of: She was beautiful.
How about: Her long auburn hair fell over her creamy white shoulders and when she smiled, nearly every man's mouth fell open.
(Let us be the judge by the details you give us).

Learning to show instead of tell is one of the more difficult things to learn, I think. It took me awhile. But when the light bulb finally went on, it stayed on.

Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King, (yes I'm naming that book again), was a great help to me. Along with my friend's words, "put it on stage."

Anyone care to share what helped them with Showing VS. Telling?






.

Another Freebie. . .

Another Superman Saturday is here. However, with me getting ready to start working only one day or so a week outside the home, I guess I probably can't call it that anymore.

You were sick of me calling it that anyway. Admit it. : )

What I plan to accomplish today is a little different than most Saturdays where I make myself finish a chapter.

Today my goal is to make the editing changes to my excerpt from Saving Eden. The chapter I plan to enter in the Faith in Fiction Blog, short story contest. (See my links for more information on how you can enter).

Then, I plan to send the thing off to Dave Long and have it off my mind and more importantly, off my plate.

Then, I'm going to work on getting my "one sheet" together for the conference next month.

A one sheet basically is, well, one sheet with your name, picture, a short bio and what you're pitching.

Then, I have to secure a babysitter for Monday so I can go to work and actually earn some money while I wait for my elusive publishing contract that will propel me to writing stardom. (That was a joke, btw).

So, that's what I'm doing.

Hey, is everyone signed up for "Publisher's Lunch"? Its a free e-newsletter that has publishing job listings, some news and lists new book contracts. I can't remember the URL off hand. I think its
www.publisherslunch.com but you can google if that's wrong. They do also have a longer paid version, but I just subscribe to the freebie.

Now, enough procrastinating. I'm off to accomplish my set goals for the day.

Friday, August 12, 2005

In and Out of My Hands

I want a contract. Bad.

I want to see my book on the shelves of Barnes & Noble. My name on the spine. My picture on the back cover. A paycheck would be nice, too.

I could make myself crazy trying to make it happen sooner than God has planned for me. Although in reality, what could I really do to speed the process?

When I hear of a market that might be appropriate, I let my agent know. I'm already signed up for a writer's conference next month where I can go promote myself and network.

I'm working hard at writing the new book. I learning all I can about the craft of writing and applying what I know.

I'm even going to enter an excerpt from my first novel, Saving Eden, to the Faith in Fiction Blog conversion scene contest. That might help get some attention and grow me as a writer.

I feel like I'm doing all I can. It really is out of my hands after that. And that's okay. I trust my agent, but more importantly, I trust God.

It's hard letting go, but its much harder trying to control what is out of my hands.

I'm not sitting home twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the phone to ring. I'm sitting home working as hard as I can and trusting that when it's my time, the contract will come. God willing.

Tough Love

I'm in a writer's critique group. A group full of talented writers, some nearing publication, some just starting out.

Our mission is simple: Find stuff wrong in each other's work.

When a piece of writing has got major flaws, the critiques are tough. Tough to give and tough to get.

Sometimes, I feel like the good fairy waving my wand and pronouncing this piece of writing wonderful and that piece of writing ready.

Not this week.

My critiques these past few days have been unusually tough. Maybe I'm getting better and finding more stuff wrong or maybe the writing slipped a little.

I feel like a heel telling someone, "this needs major work."
I just want to say, "I loved it." and be done with it. But that wouldn't be the loving thing to do.

I'm always happy to get an easy crit, where everyone says wonderful things and tells me it's there. But, I'm eternally grateful when someone tears my stuff to shreads. Particularly after I make the changes to my work and find my work is so much better for it.

Growing pains hurt but we need to embrace those causing us to grow.

My critique partners and I have a delicate relationship. When your job is to criticize someone's work, it's hard to feel overly warm and fuzzy toward them. But, we do care about each other.

I know they care for me when they mark up my manuscript. It takes a lot of time to edit someone's work. They want to just tell me, "good job" and be done with it. That's the easy thing to do. The likeable thing. But not the loving thing.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in what I'm reading I do stupid stuff. Like pick up a urine sample instead of my orange juice.  Posted by Picasa

Where do your ideas come from?

Where do your ideas come from? That's a question I get asked a lot. I bet you do too if you're a writer.

A coworker today asked me where I got the idea for the premise of my latest book, The Demon Chaser.

I told her about the patient I took care of that I was absolutely sure was demon possessed and how I didn't know at that time I had power in Jesus' name to help her.

My coworker's eyes kind of glazed over as she shook her head. "I guess I'm just not creative."

I don't understand how people can't think the way I do. I've always had a wandering and wondering mind. I've always been a "what if" kind of girl.

When I tell someone I write, I either get a vague, "uhuh." or a "wow, that's so cool. I could never do that." Followed by the question, "how do you come up with characters and storylines?"

The simple truth is: I steal them. Not blatant plagarism mind you. More like borrow this trait from him, this event that happened to her. And what if that event happened but in the arctic after an avalanche? Maybe she dies and he has to burn her body to send a smoke signal to be rescued. What if the plane that was going to rescue him crashed as it landed? Maybe the pilot doesn't die but is seriously maimed? That would complicate things even more. Maybe the pilot is a beautiful woman who my hero falls in love with. Maybe this. Maybe that.

One of the things a lot of green writers worry about is someone stealing their ideas. That strikes me funny.

At any given time, I've got a dozen or so story lines floating in and out of my head. I've got the next several novel premises already stored away in the back of my overactive cranium.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. I don't need yours, I've got way too many already.

My ideas come from life. Some parts borrowed, all parts embellished.

Where do your ideas come from?

Swiss Cheese: Get the holes out of your story

We're having a birthday luncheon at work today. We're doing subs and everyone is supposed to bring in something. My requirement: pickles and swiss cheese.

I asked my husband to pick up 2 lbs of swiss. This morning when I woke, I found 2 lbs of swiss in the fridge. 2 solid blocks of swiss. I looked at the package and they are indeed 16 oz.s each.

Although technically, that's exactly what I asked for, its not what I needed.

One of the reasons we need to give our manuscripts to trusted readers is to find the holes. Things that may be technically currect but don't quite get the intended meaning across.

I could give my finished manuscript to a dozen people and they could each find something wrong. Or be unclear about a characters motivation. One of the big ones is when I get a question like: Why did Jack kill Bob?

Ahhhhh. Jack didn't kill Bob. Bob killed Jack!! "Oh, that wasn't clear."

Oh dear. I go back through and read to see what made them think that and I find it. Maybe something as small as a misplaced comma.

"Having already murdered, Jack he lay on the floor like a discarded side of beef.

Oh, it should say "Having already murdered Jack (COMMA) Bob lay on the floor like a discarded side of beef."

Alright forget that's a terrible piece of writing. You get the point.

If readers are unclear of what you meant, or who did what or why, you need to fix it before you send it off to editors. Because if one person misreads it, likely others will too. Maybe even your dream editor.

I need to go now and hand slice 2 lbs of swiss. Lucky me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Making Our Words Sing

I got my Jonny Lang CD today. I love it. This kid is amazing. I mentioned before I love music. Maybe as much as I love books.

I enjoy some instrumental stuff now and again but mostly I like stuff with lyrics. What can I say? I love words in many forms.


Great, great stuff on this CD. "Give Me Up Again" and "Red Light", the first two songs on the cd, were written by someone who is able to articulate what the rest of us have felt but couldn't put into words. (Probably the rest of the songs are like that too, I just haven't gotten past the first two just yet.) It's no wonder people fall in love by letters, e-mails and phone calls. Words are powerful.

Will I ever write something that someone will want to read over and over like I listen to these songs?

How amazing would that be?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Weird Writing Practices?

I can't write without a cup of coffee in front of me. Well, sometimes I will settle for tea but it's not quite the same.

I can write with the tv right behind me. My office is an open sunroom adjacent to the family room, where my boys watch their videos and play.

I can do background noise. No problem.

I heard Deb Raney say that she liked to put music in as she writes. Kind of put her in the mood. But, it couldn't have words or she might start typing the lyrics.

I thought I'd give it a try. I bought some classical and some jazz and let it play as I wrote. Or, I should say, as I didn't write.

I LOVE music. So much so that I can't write when it's on. I must hum, sing and dance. (I just ordered Jonny Lang's CD and it should be here today! Not that you care, but I'm excited. That kid's got soul). Anway, what works for Deb, doesn't work for me.

I'm curious about other's writing practices. I'm sure there's probably some weird rituals some of you have. I wonder if anyone would care to share what they do to prepare to write.

I know my coffee isn't terribly interesting. I'm not too eccentric. It'd be way cooler if I had to have my pet halibut's tank resting across my lap before I could type a word, but what I am is what I am.

I do, however, write much more productively if my coffee is warm, not hot, and in my favorite coral Fiesta mug. That's kinda quirky, no? Alright, no.

I'd love to hear your quirks or rituals if anyone cares to share.

Eat Your Broccoli: Editing Your MS

Writers love to write.

Good writers love to edit.

When I started writing, I bought how to books on symbolism, setting, on characterization and plot weaving. My writing benefited...somewhat.

After a bunch of rejections, I begrudgingly bought a book on editing.
I didn't want to. Kind of like a kid spending their money on broccoli instead of the candy she really wants.

No fun.

The book I bought was Self Editing For Fiction Writers by Browne and King.

That book has changed my writing forever. I didn't know how important editing, good editing, was to a work.

I was a knuckle-head who wasted a lot of time.

Though editing may seem tedious at first, you must embrace it if you're to become any good. Really. I'm not just blowing smoke.

Many writers spend more time on editing than on the first draft.
I spend MUCH more time on the editing than the writing.
Does it pay off?

If I showed you the early drafts of Saving Eden, and then the later edited version, you wouldn't believe it.

Embrace the editing process. It's what will get your work to the quality editors are looking for.

Self Editing For Fiction Writers is a great place to start. If you don't have that book, you're work is missing out. Another good one is Editing Your Fiction by Michael Seidman. There are plenty other good books on the subject.

Eat your brocolli and see how strong your writing grows.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Great Book I wanted to Recommend

I just finished Ray Blackston's, Flabbergasted.

It was his first published novel and it was fantastic.

Man, the CBA has some great works out there. If you haven't read "Inspirational fiction" in awhile, you may be surprised at the quality of work.

I just finished Flabbergasted today and was blown away. Ray writes in a fresh, honest style. I found the book immensely entertaining. I laughed a lot and that's always good. The ending was a complete surprise. Deep and satisfying.

The book is about a man who joins a church to meet women. Don't have a heart attack, his faith is sincere by the end of the book. And at least he's honest about his early motivations. We should all be honest when we write.

So, if you're looking for something to read, check it out.

I can't wait until I'm done the pile of books waiting to be read on my nightstand so I can get the two sequels.

A Contest You May Be Interested In

I've said it before but this year has been horrible. Something rocked my world months back and I haven't been the same since. I don't know if that incident propelled me into my midlife crisis or if I would have gone through it anyway.

But, I think I'm finally coming out the end of that dark tunnel back into the light.

I've felt far from friends and family during this time. Worst of all, I've felt far from God.

But, I want to come home. And I know He's waiting with open arms. Though I don't deserve it. But, then I didn't the first time he welcomed me either. No one does.

I'll never forget the day I realized how horrible I was. How sinful and dirty. And the humility that came with that. And the awe that a perfect God could love a wretch like me.

If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and been washed of your sins, you know what I'm talking about.

The very wonderful faith in fiction blog site, (see my links for the address) is hosting a conversion scene contest. (For those of you who aren't saved, that's when someone accepts the free gift of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and asks him into their life).

All the rules aren't out, But Dave Long (the site's owner and acq. editor for Bethany House) has posted some information on it. So far I only know that it needs to be under 3k words. He mentioned that the winner of the last contest he had may have gotten a contract out of it.

So, check out that site. Even if you're not interested in the contest, it's full of great information.

I've got a scene already from my first novel, Saving Eden, that I'm thinking of entering.

Now, I'm going to go and get with God.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Blind Leading the Blind

It's kinda funny that I should be posting advice on writing or publishing when I myself am no expert.

Though I've been writing for eight years and have had a few things published, I'm just as confused as everyone else starting out in this business. I have picked up a few things and those I share.

But for the most part, I'm shoving my cane around in the dark, trying not to wack other's with it as I find my way around.

I don't know how the ABA is, but those in the CBA are wonderful, approachable and extremely giving of themselves. Many, if not all, taking the arm of the blind new writers and leading them across the highway of the world of publishing.

Sometimes, we all can take them for granted. Shame on us.

Anway, I have been a bad girl today on my superman Saturday. I've written nothing new on my wip (work in progress). I did go over my new prologue and make the corrections my writer's group suggested. And I sent it off to my agent in case he wanted to add it to the proposal he already has.

I had the book starting out from my protagonist's pov. Now, it starts with the demon's pov. I think it gives the book a whole different feel. I like the new prologue very much. It's weird, like me. And I'd like to post it, but have to get permission from my agent first.

Like I've said, I'm blind and need guidance on what's acceptable and what's not. When I do things without seeking counsel, I tend to stub my toes and boy are they getting sore!

Why no writing my new chapter today? I'm taking the day off. Last week was my birthday but today I'm celebrating. Some of the lady docs and nurses are taking me to see a local band at the waterfront. I don't get out much so I'm very excited.

One more week of full-time nursing and then I can get down to some serious chapter turn out. God willing.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Lots of paper work at the OB clinic. Er, make that computer work. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 04, 2005

His First Writer's Conference: What's the Deal?

A writer friend is going to a one day writer's conference and asked what he should try and glean from the experience. How might he prepare and what should his objective be when he doesn't have a MS ready.

1st of all, let me say this: Great that you're going! You will learn more about the publishing business in that one day then you would have in a year of reading articles and books on the subject. You won't be sorry and will probably kick yourself for not doing it sooner.


Because it's his first conference, the main objective should be to learn. Learn what publishers are looking for. Learn the faces and names of those in the business. Shake hands. Schmooze. Get the business cards of other writers, espescially those who write in your genre.

If there is a critique you can pay for, fork out the extra bucks. This is invaluble. The professional will point out saleability issues in your writing that could potentially save you years of rejection. Really. They also might say some nice things that they wouldn't mind you using as an endoresement when you go to pitch your MS.

And just because the MS isn't finished doesn't mean you can't pitch it. Just be honest. Make as many appointments with authors, agents, editors as they will allow you. This is why you're there.

Bring with you to the conference: business cards (www.vistaprint.com has them for free) It's good if they include your photo, make sure they have all your contact info including e-mail and web-site if you have one. Don't write "author" on it, it's considered pretentious.

Dress business casual. This is a job interview.

Bring a bag to carry your notebook, pens and you'll be picking up lots of freebies and notes.

Thank you cards are a great idea. Someone will inevitably help you and you'll be ready.

The appointment:

You've signed up for an appointment with Mr. Agent. You walk into the room and sit down in front of him. Here's how it could go:

"Hi, Mr. Agent," you say as you extend your hand. "I'm Ralphie Morton."
The agent shakes your hand and says "I'm agent, nice to meet you." You sit down.

You've already memorized your pitch so you're ready. Time to give it.

"This is my first writers conference so bear with me," you say with a nervous smile.

The agent relaxes a bit. "No problem Ralphie, we were all there once. What you want to talk about?"

"I'm working on a supernatural thriller that I'd like to tell you about."

"Supernatural thriller? Go ahead."

"My tag line is: She wanted to serve God. She didn't know she'd have to go through Hell to do it. Valencia is the demon chaser."

"Great tag line Ralphie. Tell me about the story."

Here you'll give a short synopsis. Like the back of a book blurb. "Like I said, its a supernatural thriller, written from a Christian world view, approximately 80 k words. Valencia has an unusual call on her life to be a female exorcist. As soon as she hangs her shingle out for business, strange things begin to happen. First eerie phone calls, then frightening visions. blah blah."

The agent's eyebrows go up. "A female exorcist. I like that. What would you compare this book to?"

"It's kinda like Chick lit meets Frank Peretti."

"That's an unusual combination."

"Yes, I think its a niche that needs filling. There are lots of female thriller readers. There's a hefty dose of romance in the book and women love that, along with humor. I know its the kind of book I would like to read."

"Sounds great. Are you finished?"

"Not yet, I'm a little over halfway but expect to be finished in January. I was wondering if I could send you a proposal."

"That would be wonderful. Here's my card." Agent hands you a card and you take it, not snatch it. Smile, and thank him for his time. (When you actually send the proposal. You will write on the envelope "requested" and your proposal will get rescued from the slush pile.)

"I appreciate you taking the time to come to this conference. We've still got about five minutes of our appointment time left, mind if I ask you a few questions?"

Agent smiles. "Not at all. That's why I'm here."

"What publishing houses do you think this story might appeal to?"

Agent rambles off a bunch of names that you write down. Later, you'll query these houses saying that Mr. Agent recommended that you might be interested in this story.

"What do you look for in a good proposal?"

"Saleability. I want to be convinced that I can sell your MS. Sorry, Ralphie our time is up."

"Thank you very much," you say as you stand. "I'll be in touch."



So, to sum up: Go, meet other writers, agents, editors, get business cards, schmooze. Learn all you can. Listen more than you speak. And have fun!

Update

It's been awhile since I've updated you as to what's going on with my MS.

That's for a good reason. Nothing's going on. I'm in that wait period that seems to last forever.

I e-mailed my agent awhile back and got an automated reply that he was on vacation and would be into August.

Maybe there's a contract for one of my novels just waiting for him. I can dream.

So, he's sent proposals out for Saving Eden and The Demon Chaser. Nothing yet on the first book but The Demon Chaser has found some interest.

It's a great story, kinda chick-lit meets horror with a Christian world view. It's fun. I can't imagine why publishing houses wouldn't be in a bidding war for it. I'm just slightly full of myself tonight.

Anyway, so that's what's up with that. Then the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers Conference) is coming up next month. Now that I have an agent I don't need to pitch my stories myself. So, I asked my agent if I should still go.

He said absolutely! Very important to go and network.

I love networking. I can be a social butterfly in the right setting. And conferences are one of those that I feel comfortable in.

So, I'm preparing to go to this conference and blogging and still working full time. But only for one more week.

I'm critiquing my writing group's stuff when I can and doing a really bad job on keeping in touch with my family and friends. Really bad. But, after next week, I'm going to get better.

To prepare for the conference, I need to get my business cards ready. I still have a bunch left over from years ago. I don't like them because they say "author" on them and that's considered pretentious. And they ought to have my picture and don't. But the information is all correct and I can't bring myself to waste them.

Then, I need a one sheet. Which I've recently learned is a one page sheet with my picture, bio and synopsis of the works I'm selling. Basically a promo sheet.

Then, I'll need to get my wardrobe together. Business casual. Probably buy a new outfit or two. I need some fall clothes anyway.

What else? Get my proposals together and polished.

Then, my agent is going to tell me who he's pitched my stuff to and if there's someone at the conference he didn't, I may.

So, there's the not so exciting update. Since this blog is about my journey to publication, it seems I should mention where I am in the process from time to time.

Gordon and Jacob Posted by Picasa

The love of literature begins early. Posted by Picasa

Levi reading a book. Both my boys love to read. Go figure : ) Posted by Picasa

Mailbox Obsession

"You've got mail," your computer says to you. Your heart pounds, beads of sweat form at your hairline. This could be it. This could be the contract you've been waiting for.

You hurry over and click on your inbox. Just some mass forward from your Aunt Edna. You sigh, dissapointed. Again.

You my friend, have got mailbox obession. Whether its the e-mail you're checking every five minutes or the mailbox, you know it's not healthy. You know you've got to stop but you just can't help yourself.

Let me tell you as one who has lived through that strange ailment, this too shall pass. Well, sort of.

Let me share my sad story and maybe it will help those of you going through it now.

When I started trying to get published, like forever ago, I sent things out snail-mail. That was the only way back then. I would mail off my MS and then happily go back to writing something new as I waited.

I wouldn't even think of my hopeful MS, my hopeful contract--for about two weeks. But, then the mailbox obsession would begin.

I'd peek out the window every time the dog's ears would go up in the direction of the front door, wondering if it was the mailman she heard.

No, just a neighbor walking by. Drats. Where is the mailman anyway? There he is walking up the street, slow as slug. I go to the kitchen fix myself a drink, come back to the front window. He's still not here yet. Should I meet him halfway?

No, I can wait. Its only a few more minutes. I pace, I peek out the window again, and he spots me. He always spots me. And I think I see him roll his eyes, but I can't be sure.

I hear my mailbox clink shut and I wait for two minutes. I actually time this. So, he'll be at least a few houses down when I get my mail. I don't like anyone, not even him to know, how truly obsessed I've become. Though, I suspect he knows. Along with everyone in my house.

With anticipation galore, I file through the white envelopes tossing bills and cards aside, like a child trying to get to the prize at the bottom of the cracker jacks box. I see something labeled from a publishing company and my hands tremble.

It's a thin envelope, not thick enough to return my ms. That's good! It's thin, but not rejection letter thin. It's several pages at least. Just the right size of a contract. A contract! My stomach dances nervously and I rip my envelope open.

Dear Mrs. Holmes,

We would like you to renew your subscription to Southern Living. Enclosed you will find the needed paperwork.


Agggghhhh!

I throw the envelope on the floor and stomp it. I feel certain I will not be renewing my subscription to that insensitive, play with people's emotions, magazine. How cruel.

Any of this sound familiar?

This mailbox obsession, I think, is fairly common to writers at the beginning stages of sending their stuff out to publishers and agents.

After a dozen or so rejection letters, trust me when I tell you, you won't be stalking the mailbox quite as fervently. Though, I do still check my inbox way more than a normal person.

Eight years after sending out proposals and articles, I still check my e-mail at least twice a day with a glint of hope in my eyes that I will hear from my agent there is interest. But, that's certainly better than every five minutes.

With time mailbox obsession does improve dramatically and there is a cure. A contract. At least I think that's a cure. Of course, when you get your first contract, you'll have already started trying to land your second and the stalking of the mail carrier begins anew. And that's something both of you can look forward to.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

People Watchers

Want to make your writing truly great? Make it unpredictable.

One way to do that is to give your character's traits that are out of the ordinary--unexpected.

One of the things a great writer should be is a people watcher. I work at a clinic and I get to see a lot of people. Great material at the clinic. I'll bet wherever you work or hang out there's some good material too.

One person I come in contact with (and I have to be careful here so I'll be vague) is a woman who speaks in sentences that sound like one very long word.

Instead of Yes, I've been having some pain in my abdomen lately and I wanted to ask you a few questions about it, she says "yeahibenhavinpainatelyaneniwannaakyaafewkestionsboutit."

I have to really listen to try and decipher her meaning. Someday, I can almost guarantee you, that a character in one of my stories will speak that way. It's good stuff.

A friend of mine is so sweet he'd give you the fillings in his teeth. Even if you didn't really want them. I picked up a book of his by mistake, a book he still very much needed, but guess what his words were? "That's okay, you can have it." He says that a lot.

I'll save that little morsel away until I can use it in a story.

When I met my neighbor he told me his life story while tossing up a tape-measure and catching it, without ever taking his eyes off me.

Neat trick. Now one of my character's in The Demon Chaser has that attribute.

Making this stuff up is hard. But, we don't have to. Listen in on conversations. Watch people. Really pay attention. Then borrow something from this friend, something from that co-worker. Give your characters layers. Give them each something that will surprise your reader and make them seem real.

Just don't tell your friends which of your characters have traits based on them. Otherwise you'll start getting lots of friendly feedback that your character will need to be taller, better looking or smarter. Trust me on this one. If they guess on their own, just sing Carlie Simon's "You're so Vain" to them and walk away. Then watch their reaction. They might give you a funny look that you can use in the next story.

When It's Time To Say Goodbye

Saying goodbye is hard. Sometimes, it's devastating. But, time really will soften the pain. Today I'm going to talk about letting your manuscript go.

New writers have a tendency to not want to rewrite their work. I know this because that used to be me.I've mentioned before that I used to send my stuff out fresh off the printer. I might have checked for typos but I was in such a rush to get my manuscript out the door. The sooner I sent it off, afterall, the sooner I'd get my acceptance letter.

Hah.

I wrote the rough draft for my first novel, Saving Eden, in about 6 weeks. I rewrote it for close to two years. It really needed that long. I'd go through, edit, rearrange, chop chapters that didn't work, layer in the details, etc. Then I'd print out the thing, give it to a test reader and rework it depending on the readers comments. Then, I'd print it out and give to another test reader and so on.

Rewriting is very, very good. It's also very neccesary if you ever want to get published, or any good for that matter.

However, there comes a time when you must part with your baby and send her out into the world.

Don't send her out before she's ready: half dressed and with muck smeared across her face. Nobody will like her and she'll be made fun on.

But, when you're sure she's dressed and ready and all your test readers agree, send her.

Let go. Mail her off to the editor or agent, say a prayer that you've prepared her and then move on.

You may feel like you're losing the love of your life. But there will be others. There should be. Now.

Don't wait a day after sending out your ms. Get right to work on the next one. The quickest way to get over one love affair, is to begin another.

So, pucker up and get typing.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Living On The Edge

Conflict is not something I shy away from. If something is wrong, I say it. At times that makes others peeved at me. That's okay.

Without conflict, life is boring. Inner conflict of the spirit fighting the flesh to do the right thing. Outer conflict of standing up for what you know is right, no matter whom you may offend. No matter the cost.

Because of my personality, writing conflict into my storylines is not a problem. That may not be true for you. Some personality types, say phlegmatics for instance, hate conflict and will avoid it at any cost. While that may make them popular,it makes for terrible reading.

No conflict in a book equals no story. At least not a very interesting one. Whatever is happening in your story line--make it worse. Tie your protagonist to the train track and let the train get close. Give them little relief, when they solve one problem, create an even bigger one and then an even bigger one. Let there be misunderstandings and missed opportunities. Frustration. All the things most of us try to avoid in real life.

End each chapter with a bit of unresolved conflict to keep the reader turning. It doesn't have to be life threatening neccesarily,but it does have to be significant to the characters.

Conflict. Make your readers bite their nails, sit on the edge of their seats, stay up past their bedtimes to read just one more chapter to see how your characters got out of that one.

What's the worst thing that could possibly happen to your character in this chapter? Make it happen. The more uncomfortable it makes you, the better. The better for your story, the better for your readers, the better for your chance at catching an editor's eye.

No want wants to read about Edna and her happy family vacation. We want to see Edna's turmoil. The tornado that kills everyone but her and her struggle to get out of the Grand Canyon alive before the psycho murderer finds her.

Or think Bridges of Madison County. No life or death drama there but major conflict none the less.

Make the reader worry. Its what will keep them turning the pages...and buy your next book.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Put Your Goggles On: It's Gonna Be A Blood Bath

As a nurse you can imagine the body fluids I've had spilled on me. Pretty much you name it, I've been in contact with it. That's a job hazard.

The other day one of our docs got me with a good amount of blood. No problem. I cleaned my clogs, accepted her apology and moved on.

That type of thing doesn't bother me. But, what I'm about to do to my book, that's another story.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to amputate weeks of work. Several chapters and a major storyline. It's going to be a blood bath. I hope I have the stomach to perform the neccesary surgery.

I was laying in bed trying to figure out why I needed the added distraction of having Bailey be accused of Bobbie's hit and run. He'll have to be vindicated of it eventually or the book would be a bummer. So, what was the purpose? Well, the purpose was to get his sister, my main character, to go to Cyprus after him. She'd need to try to find him before the cops did. Okay. But...there's already the ticking time bomb of Bailey trying to find his parent's murderer to get revenge. That's a pretty good motive in itself to get his sister there in a jiffy. I didn't really need the complication of the other.

But, I already wrote several chapters, several weeks of hard work, developing that story thread. I introduced one of my favorite characters: the crazy pumpkin haired cop. I like him. I don't want to murder him.
But, better him than the whole story. Besides, I can always use him in my next book. That makes me feel better.

I'm not sure this part of the story has to be cut. Just pretty sure. I'll have to meditate on it awhile.

I haven't had to do any major rewrites up until now and at the 1/2 - 2/3 mark, for me at least, that's pretty good.

Cutting this chunk out is going to mean I have to go back through every chapter and develop the other motivation of my character. Beef it up to fill in the gaps, and make sure their is no reference to any of the storyline or characters being slaughtered.

This will take time.

Murdering my darlings, as the literary world likes to call this editing process, bites, but not as much as rejection from a publisher.

It's better to cut the gangrene off, then to lose the whole leg. So, hand me my saw and goggles.