Monday, April 30, 2007

Wrtiing Life

At the moment I'm in the obsessed by story stage. Mainly I'm wondering if the new heroine has enough issues. True love can not run smooth. Boy meets girl, falls in loves, and lives happily ever after doesn't make a good story. Nice if they are your parents or best friends. But not the stuff of great fiction.

What makes a story delicious are tortured characters. Outer conflict is all well and good and critical to keeping the tale moving along at a good clip. However, inner conflict is what rivets the reader, forcing her to stay up too late because she can't sleep until the real story question is answered.

In romance the heart of the question is always the same. What keeps the heroine from loving the hero and living happily ever after with him? By the end of the second act she usually admits, at least to herself, that she loves him madly. Yet, there is still something standing between her and happiness. Some issue that is believable for this particular couple and yet ultimately resolvable, through growth, sudden insight, or a twist of fate. Hmmm.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Publication Quest

The current story is zooming along, a novella length erotic romance. I do realize it's insanely ambitious or just plain insane to target multiple publishers when I've yet to sell a single title.

But crazy might be part of the writer's job description. Consider how many aspiring writers pour their hearts' blood onto the hard drive day after day, facing such odds requires a certain amount of willingness to disregard reality.

I like to read different genres. I like to write different genres. There are others who've blazed this trail before me. When I consider how nutty it is to choose writing for publication as a goal, then writing more than one type of story seems like a harmless aberration.

Current year's goals

1) Study characterization to add depth to the story's cast

2) Three submissions

3) In roads in the TBR shelves

Progress report:
Done reading the stack of books related to characterization - Creating Unforgettable Characters deserves a second read, still not reading it. Hmmm distinct lack of discipline here.

Three submissions sent!

Working on number four (see word meter number four)!

Status: still waiting to hear from the publishers :(


Number One: four months and two weeks - estimated response time from publisher 3 months

Number Two: One month and one week - estimated response time from publisher 1 month

Number three: Three weeks - estimated response time from publisher none*

*Publisher did acknowledge the submission, but included a warning not to contact them about this submission. :( Word is they got lots of submissions (new line) and are sorting them out.

TBR shelves are continuing to thin - the row of books behind the front stacks are now visible on all shelves. . .

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Writing Craft

This may not be, strictly speaking, about writing craft. Since it's my blog, I'm not strict. Which is actually today's topic - lack of strictness.

For the past few weeks, I've spent as much time on emails, loops, chats, and groups as I've actually written. The other day I was chatting, in real life, with an incredibly generous and brilliant woman, who mentioned an agent would like to see something fresh from me in a couple of months. Panic began seeping into my bones at the thought. I don't write all that fast and I certainly don't polish all that quickly. Writing a new eighty thousand plus word story will take me eighty days. And that's after it's clear in my head - characters, plotting, synopsis, the whole shebang. A process that takes at least a week. Then the polishing takes another two weeks and goes so much better if I can set the raw manuscript aside for at least two weeks first.

In order to have something fresh ready to go by the end of summer, I should have started a couple of weeks ago. Or I could pare down the time spent on cyber socializing and increase the daily word count to fifteen hundred. Writing is what I want to do. Therefore writing needs to move back to number one on the priority list.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reading report

I'm continuing to make inroads into the TBR shelves. My Goal, of course, is to thin the ranks enough to justify buying more books. Have I mentioned there is a Barnes and Noble within walking distance? I try to avoid crossing their threshold because I'm not to be trusted in a bookstore. But sometimes I weaken.

First up was a Harlequin Superromance; Brenda Novak's Stranger in Town , frankly I never got the title. But it doesn't matter because the story is lovely. Yes, for any skeptics, it is category full of introspection and predictability. Which is exactly why fans like them. Superromance is part of the home and family line, the heroines are frequently older than the twenty-something stars of straight romance. There are usually children present as part of the equation. The story focuses on the heroine's journey to true love. This particular title is part of a series Ms. Novak created set in Dundee, Idaho a small fictional town.

Next was a Samhain anthology, Caught by Cupid . The collection included three Valentine's themed stories. Gwendolyn Cease's Be Mine is the red-hot version of the classic friends to lovers tale. Bianca D'Arc's Forever Valentine is erotic vampire love. Maya Banks Overheard is another take on the friends to lovers with the added spice of two friends conspiring to please one heroine.

Last was Jude Deveraux's A Knight in Shining Armor. A time travel historical,which predates the famed Outlander. This book was urged on me by the charming proprietor of one of my favorite bookstores. She declared it one of her all time favorites. I've already admitted I'm not to be trusted inside a bookstore. Naturally I bought the book, but having read Ms. Deveraux before with indifferent results, the title lanquished for a few years. Ms. Deveraux writes well and is most likely intensely romantic, judging by her fans. But alas her story choices fail to connect with me. There's way too much detail of day to day events that fails to charm me because I'm not engaged with her characters. But this boils down to personal preference and is not a reflection of her story telling ability. I don't care for Hemmingway either.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Writing Life

Music helps me enter the story world. For each project I create a playlist. Since I'm mired in a Microsoft world and am running windows media edition as my operating system I have a fair sized library of window's media formatted songs.

There are a few artists or groups that I like so much I'm willing to buy their latest CD when it's released. But that is a small group, about the same size as the auto-buy book list. :) Since I adore music, I have a continual list of single songs I want. Downloading music via the internet should be perfect for me.

Hasn't worked out that way. First no itunes, the site is user friendly, the selection terrific the price competitive, but their songs can not be converted to windows media files. At least not by me. Rhapsody, MSN music, Napster all demand a monthly subscription fee for the privilege of buying songs - thanks anyway. Lets not even discuss the problems with free sites.

Yahoo music failed. When I took the time to complain to their customer service department - they were unable to offer a solution. But the customer service agent did move my problem up the chain of command.

Here's some free customer service advice for Yahoo, start from the assumption that your site may have a glitch and the customer complaint may be valid even if your experience has proved this to be unlikely.Beginning with premise the customer doesn't know how to enter her billing information puts you at odds with your customer. This is not a good thing.

Wal-mart offers this service but I'm not running over to their site to see if I can make it work. I've already spent way too many hours in an attempt to buy a single song. A process that shouldn't be this hard. I may have to give in convert to itunes. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Publication Quest

This past week I got a big chunk of a line edit for submission number two. A couple of new-to-me grammar rules are now firmly embedded. Sheesh! There's no end to this stuff. Time consumming but good for me and for the story.

I've been planning and plotting a fourth submission. Cleaned up a few pages of submission number one based on the newly acquired grammar rules learned from submission number two's edit. Thinking about entering another contest with submission number one (a favorite editor is the final judge), but would much prefer getting feedback from the lovely editor who has already has the story in her TBR stack. ;)

Current year's goals

1) Study characterization to add depth to the story's cast

2) Three submissions

3) In roads in the TBR shelves

Progress report:

Done reading the stack of books related to characterization - Creating Unforgettable Characters deserves a second read, still not reading it though. Got sidetracked by research reading this time.;)

Three submissions sent!

Plotting and planning stage for number four!

Status: still waiting to hear from the publishers :(


Number One: four months and one week - estimated response time from publisher 3 months

Number Two: One month - estimated response time from publisher 1 month

Number three: Two weeks - estimated response time from publisher none*

*Publisher did acknowledge the submission, but included a warning not to contact them about this submission. :( Word is they got lots of submissions (new line) and are sorting them out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Writing craft

Having multiple submissions was on this year's list and I'm so pleased with the results I want to do more. But not at the expense of each story being less than as perfectly polished as I can manage. Nor do I want to edit the life right out of my stories.

Learnng to be objective about my own work is one of my goals. No, it is not on the official annual goal list. Maybe it should be.

Here's a short list of advice that I've found helpful for gaining objectivity.

1) Print it out - editing hard copy helps me

2) Read aloud, noting any rough spots, another technique that works for me

3) Color code the text (one color for dialogue, another for setting, another for action, another for emotion and one for introspection) it makes what's missing vividly clear, very useful for me, especially the first few times

4) Put the story away for a couple of weeks. Time aids my objectivity.

So how do you all go about taking off the starry-eyed creative writer hat and pulling on the steely-eyed editor cap?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reading Report

Last week I read and e-book. Deadly Games by Jaycee Clark. The beginning was a little slow. This is a common complaint on my part, which I blame on excess movie watching and thriller reading. Impatience with scene setting and backstory is a personal character flaw and one I need to work to overcome. The information given in the opening chapters is vital to understanding the story. I would have preferred it slivered in as needed, but this is a quibble.

After the opening, the story moves swiftly, coming alive with engaging characters, a taut pace and genuine suspense. There's really nothing like reading a new author telling a gripping a story. The unpredictability factor adds delicious tension. This story was one of the best suspense titles I've read in a long time. Technically, it is romantic suspense, but the romance while believable is definitely secondary.

The title is available here as a downloadable file or it may be purchased as a print book here.

Karen Marie Moning's Darkfever was next off the TBR and the sole paranormal title on my shelves. I'm still thinking about this book. But I'll give you my preliminary reactions.

Ms. Moning is one of my very select autobuy authors. She's moved away from her base story of a time travel romance into a new area, which I will categorize as paranormal quest.

Missing from this new adventure are several elements I was fond of: ancient Scotland; romance; and hot sex. Present and fully accounted for is the ancient other world of the fae; a naive heroine; a brooding alpha hero; and a compliment of fully realized villains. This is book one in a new series, book two, Bloodfever is scheduled for release in October.

Ms. Moning's writing voice is in fine form and the story came alive for me. Unlike her earlier books, where each title stood alone quite nicely. This tale ends with more questions than it begins.

I will read the next title, but I feel no compulsion to own it. Darkfever marks first rift in our author/reader relationship. Can she win me back? I suspect I'll have to read the entire series to find the answer.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Writing life

I'm still thinking about contests and whether or not they do anything good for me. I get opinions on my writing, but due to the blind nature of the arrangement I have no idea how qualified those opinions are. Only finalists are judged by an editor. The possibility to getting a second chance for a beloved story is definitely a plus mark in the pro contest column.

I've seen hopeful writers enter contests year after year and do well, yet remain unpublished. Then there are those who spring directly from contest to publication.

From my limited personal experience I can testify that judges vary wildly in their assessment of the same story. The most recent contest included four judges per entry. Two wanted to buy my book (as soon as it comes out), one gave high marks,and one ranted.

Oddly enough, or maybe not, the harshest of the judges had the most to say. She started her remarks by being offended by the instant attraction between my hero and heroine. A situation she found credible only in perverts. My list of shortcoming grew. Purple prose, verbosity, poorly handled POV shifts,and wandering body parts (she strongly suggested I replace eye with gaze)are just the highlights of the entry's sins. She went on to assure me that that story had tons of potential.

According to the score sheet, this a published romance author. There was only one issue that bothered three out of the four judges.

Since judging is so subjective, is entering contests worthwhile?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Publication Quest

The update on the current publication quest continues shortly. But first a bonus bulletin on contests. :)

Earlier this year, I entered my second contest. For a modest sum, this contest offered the unpublished writer four critiques on the first thirty pages of the manuscript.

As with last year's contest, the score were divergent. Three out of the four judges liked the story and offered small suggestions for improvement. One judge really didn't like anything. The most critical of the four judges gave me a total score that was less than half of the average from the others. Again, as happened the previous year the lowest scoring judge had the most to say. From her comments I sensed that she sincerely wanted to help me.

But here's the problem with accepting her guidance - the other three judges didn't share her concerns. I have the sense that if I were to act upon her suggestions, then I'd be ruining a story most readers would enjoy.

This is not to imply that the story could not be improved. It could and will be. Where two or more of the judges mention the same issue, I'm going to listen carefully and try to improve that area.

Of course, it would be even nicer to have input from the lovely editor. . .

Current year's goals

1) Study characterization to add depth to the story's cast

2) Three submissions

3) In roads in the TBR shelves

Progress report:

Done reading the stack of books related to characterization - Creating Unforgettable Characters deserves a second read, still not reading it though. Now I'm indulging in the TBR pile, precariously clinging to the reading plan.

Three submissions sent!

Status: still waiting to hear from the publishers


Number One: four months estimated response time from publisher 3 months)
Number Two: four weeks estimated response time from publisher 1 month)
Number three: one week estimated response time from publisher none

Number three did acknowledge the submission, but included a warning not to contact them about this submission. :(

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Writing - real life

I've managed to develop a sinus infection, a nasty, evil thing that makes my head throb if I do anything foolish like bend over. Housework and gardening are on hiatus. I'm between writing projects so I'm indulging in reading (more on Tuesday's reading report) and thinking about what to work on next.

All three of the most recent writing projects have been submitted to publishers. From a practical viewpoint it would make excellent sense to work on more of which ever of those garnered the most positive feedback. Or, God forbid, actually sold. ;)

Last year I was fortunate enough to get some editorial feedback. It was genuinely helpful and insightful advice. Did I (sensibly) sit down and apply that advice to a new story for the lovely editor? No. I considered that, but found my optimistic writer's heart was already engaged elsewhere.

However, the rejected story still held a claim on me, so I did indeed revise it. The new version no longer fits the originally intended line. Stories have their own identity, at least in my reality they do. I figure it will be much easier to look for a market that suits the story than writing to suit a particular market.

So until some nice editor says, wistfully, do you have more of these? I shall write the stories that speak to me the loudest.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Writing Craft

The moment a story is complete, the best I can make it for now. My mind begins to mull over new story possibilities. One of the first choices is setting, which includes time period, location, and thousands of details until the story world is complete.

The story world is a sacred contract between the reader and writer. As a reader, when I open a fiction book I want to be entertained. I want to be surprised, or enchanted, or worried, or frightened, or amused, or perhaps even educated. I need at least one character I can identify with and cheer for. This character should be the protagonist because if the only character who engages me is a secondary I will quickly lose interest in the story.

The quickest way to shatter the story world is tell me a lie. Have something happen that couldn't happen given the story rules, or disrespect the history, or fail to research the facts. This applies even when the story is set in some distant galaxy. If you don't know what you're writing about, then you have two sensible options. Get busy and learn about the setting, the subject, the time period or pick a different story. One you know well enough to write about convincingly.

If you choose to write fantasy, paranormal, science fiction, or history you automatically sign up for lots of research and world building.

The writer's ordinary world seldom seems exciting enough to be a story setting. Yet the best loved stories are those where the fictional world was created without seams. Your everyday reality may be someone's exotic and exciting setting.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Reading Report

I'm still reading Ms. Bronte's classic, Jane Eyre. Writing cuts my reading time. A classic story that I've read before is perfect for dipping into when I've achieved the day's word quota.

Now that the short story is complete, Jane's trials will move more swiftly. For those bored with Jane Eyre, tune in next week. I'm not at all tired of Jane. Miss Eyre lives, barely at the moment, and breathes as if she were a dear friend.

Since I am a critical reader, every time I close the cover and trundle off to bed I ask myself how does she draw me in so thoroughly?

The obvious mechanics of grammar, punctuation,and sequence of action, reaction, and introspection are handled seamlessly. This is the first level of writing.

The actions and events of the story make sense, i.e. they are well motivated. Even the most fantastic situations and behavior become not just believable, but authentic. This is the second level of writing.

The fully-fashioned characters, quirky and interesting, are alive and talking in my mind as the pages turn. This miracle of animating the imagination via the printed word happens by tiny increments of telling details. The setting is slivered into the unfolding tale with surgical precision. As a horse rears, a dog barks, lighting strikes a tree, not one word is wasted or careless placed. Each packs its full share of weight. Mundane items: a creased handkerchief, cold porridge, a mossy rock each steer the actions and emotions sweeping the reader along. This is the third level of writing.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Writing Life

One of the things that drives me crazy about the business of writing is the time line. Three months to hear back on a simple query letter,and synopsis. Three months! This does not compute. Is it that the poor editors are simply that inundated with story proposals? I know they have lots of other duties and that their established authors have priority, as they should. But come on - three months?

BTW three months may not be three months. Five months might be closer to the mark.
Obviously, I lack patience. The other day it dawned on me that this may not be my year even though I'm working hard to get three submissions in the works. Each one takes time to work its way through the publishing system.

Even assuming a positive response, i.e. a request for a full from one or better yet both of my current proposals, there would be another five or more month wait following that submission. It's April already, if I get a request this month or next add six months and it's almost 2008!

There's today's rant. Thanks for listening.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Publication Quest

Current year's goals

1) Study characterization to add depth to the story's cast

2) Three submissions

3) In roads in the TBR shelves

Progress report:

Done reading the stack of books related to characterization - Creating Unforgettable Characters deserves a second read, too impatient and cranky to actually read it at the moment. :(

Two submissions sent

Status: still waiting to hear from the publishers


Number One: three months four weeks (estimated response time from publisher 3 months)
Number Two: three weeks weeks (estimated response time from publisher 1 month)

TBR inroad halted due to extreme crankiness and obsessive need to finish current short story.

I warned you this is a sloooow and boring journey.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Faves and Raves

Anyone But You is my all time favorite Jennifer Crusie book. It is misnamed, should be called Fred's Story or Fred Plays Matchmaker or Fred Takes Charge, something along those lines.

Fred, the Basset Hound on the front cover, is the star of the story. I'm sure the author intended for him to be a secondary character, but, as in movies, animals steal the show.

There are no surprises, no dark deeds, the heroine is a little depressed but downright pleasant compared to some Crusie women. The hero is sexy, fun, and an animal lover what more could you want in a romantic comedy? How about truth, emotional conflict, and sexual tension that sizzles?

Thanks to the miracle of backlists and smart editors this book is available now and revised by an older and smarter Jennifer Crusie.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Writing craft

A few years ago I read LaVeryle Spencer on the subject of backloading, unfortunately the advice came too early for me to absorb it or apply it to my writing. I was still struggling with punctuation. :)

Last year I signed up for every class Margie Lawson offers. Backloading was mentioned again. This time I got it. The concept is simple, but like lots of writing devices, it is all in the execution.

Backloading effectively is one of the details that seperates great writers from those who are not. The term refers to putting the strongest word last in a sentence, in a paragraph, in a scene, in a chapter.

Here's an example sentence:

Without backloading.

"Yes, he is a murderer," she said casually, not even looking back at me.

With backloading.

"Yes," she said causually, not even looking back at me."He is a murderer."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Book Report

Since I'm obsessive about everything, I made a reading plan to pare down the TBR shelves before buying more books. A sensible move considering the weight of the TBR titles were in danger of damaging the two bookcases, which have been dedicated to unread titles. And no, sadly there is no room for adding more bookcases.

My plan has been only marginally successful. Yesterday I ordered still more books. I still lack sales resistance. There was a book I needed that I did not own - truly. But once the cart is opened, surely I should buy enough to get free shipping. It is the only sensible option. Shopping for books is nearly as much fun as reading.

Last week's genre (dictated by the PLAN) was classic.Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre hopped to number one on the current TBR pile. This is the first reading of my well-loved old friend since taking up writing. I worried that I might be disappointed. Nope. I find Jane's adventures to be as compelling as the first time I met her. Perhaps even better, because knowing what is coming I have no need to race through the pages. Rather I am content to savor each sentence and marvel at how deftly the author leads me into her story world, setting the scene with unfailing credibility.

Do you reread old friend books with trepidation or anticipation?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Writing Life

Recently it dawned on me that lots of women who write romance or dream of writing romance have other priorities. The dream of writing is appealing and real, but for reasons as individual as the women themselves, they make only small efforts toward realizing the dream.

In short they don't take their writing seriously, and neither does anyone else. In real life I'm a shy writer. I don't tell everyone I know about my writing ambitions. But I'm plenty serious about them. This my character. This setting of goals and working toward them, and revising, and adjusting as reality forces new constraints on my dreams.

Strangely enough, I don't believe in a world of perfect justice where the most talented or the hardest working reap the greatest rewards. Luck is a capricious bitch. If I'm ever offered a choice between luck and any other attribute, I'll go for luck. Despite this cynicism, I do believe chance favors the prepared, the diligent, and the persistent.

So how do you feel about ambition? Are nice women ambitious? Do the good finish last? Or is it okay to be driven? Is success scary? Go ahead and share - I won't tell anyone. :)
Free Hit Counters
Free Web Counter