Friday, March 30, 2007
Since I'm at the beginnings of two separate novels, I thought I would share a bit about my own writing process. First, let me say that I'm one of those people who would love to be an outliner, but for the most part, I'm not. (Oh, sometimes I do outline, but I never seem to be able to outline at the beginning of a novel. I have to have some general beginning before I can see the rest of the path.)
I do something that I'm guessing would be a little bit strange. (Or maybe not, you tell me.) I get an idea for a book - usually something very amorphous, like a rhetorical question I ask myself or a vague idea of a general plot - and I sit down to start writing it. Before too long, I'll hit a brick wall. If all I have is an amorphous blob, I can't really get too far. I need some kind of idea where the road is going before I can get too far along it. At this point, I don't outline. I sit down on the couch with a spiral notebook and a red pen. (I don't know why I chose red, but I did and I can't seem to work as well with blue or black. It's just me.)
First thing I do is write the working title at the top of the first blank page. I do this because I never know what ideas I'm going to have at any one time, and if I don't notate what I'm brainstorming about I know I'll get confused when I go back. (One page of notes about AWJ and the next about my other WIP, with no notation? Ack.)
The next thing I do is I ask myself the one question that's foremost in my mind. For instance, "Who is the villian?" or "What am I trying to accomplish here?" or "What is this about?" Then I set about trying to answer my own questions. I have a lot of maybes and perhapses - "Maybe the villian is a ex-patriate doctor with an axe to grind" or "Perhaps he's a twisted soldier looking for revenge". This often leads to more questions. Usually I write a big fat WHY? in the middle of a page. It all depends on how complicated the story is, and how foggy the path of the story has become.
When I have all of my questions answered, I can come back to the computer and begin writing again. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules about sticking to my notes. Sometimes I stray far off the path, and then I head back to my old notes to figure out where I went wrong. Sometimes I go back and figure out that I didn't go wrong, I just took an alternate path.
Occasionally, I'll get stuck. Then it's back to the notepad and the red pen - asking questions until I find my own way out again. I have several pages in each of my past books where I simply wrote "WHAT IS THE POINT?!" (Sometimes of the novel, and sometimes of the whole writing thing, but that's a subject for another day.) Each time, though, I walk away from the notepad with a better idea of where I'm headed and how I'm going to reach the ultimate goal (i.e. climax of the novel and eventually 'THE END'.)
Ms. Gerritsen is absolutely correct. What works for one writer doesn't necessarily work for the next. If your way is working for you, stick with it and screw want anyone else says. However, if you're stuck, sometimes seeing how other people write and trying something new could shake you up enough to loosen the creativity clog.
This is what works for me. So, tell me, what works for you?
Thursday, March 29, 2007
So I started a new book. It's been filling up my mind with plot points and characterisations. I've got a lot of leg work to do on this puppy. I have to delve into technologies I'm only vaguely familiar with, and while I'm setting it in Michigan, I still have to research the locale because I haven't been to Michigan in six years and I have to make sure they have built anything important or imploded any buildings or anything. Don't get me wrong. I love research. It's just going to take a lot of work on the front end before I can really start telling the story. (Spectacle and Caldera were the same way. Lots of research to make the story believable.)
Last night, however, while I was feeling like something the cat hacked up, and wishing for my nice soft bed, I had an epiphany. It came, as it sometimes does, while I was having my before-bed cigarette outside on the patio. Suddenly, the plot for AWJ was as clear as a summer day. I could see for miles and the road ahead was straight and uncongested. Huzzah!
Now I've got a problem. Which story do I work on? I could throw them both into a pit and let them duke it out, but that would be a steel-cage death match and the only loser would be my sanity. (Especially when you consider I still have Blink to edit.) I think I'm going to give it a whirl and keep my fingers crossed that I can write two distinctly different stories without losing the integrity of either.
My sanity? Well, I wasn't using it that much anyway. ;o)
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The new book is another thriller. I'm not going to outline the premise here on the blog yet. It's still pretty fresh, and so far the only one who's had a real inkling of what the premise is all about is my CP. (Who said something to the effect of "Will you hurry up and write it so I can read it?" No pressure there. ;o) ) My husband only got the barest of bare bones back when I first thought of this one. More of a 'hey, I just had an idea for a book' kind of thing than a true plot outline.
I'm feeling good about it so far. I knew it was an awesome idea when I thought of it a couple months ago, but I was having a real problem with the logistics of it all. I sat down last night and wrote a few paragraphs of plot points, and then went back over the first 600 words I dashed out when I first got the idea. Good words for the most part, and they dovetail nicely into the points I outlined last night, so I'm going to keep them. I also added about a thousand words and the beginning is rounding out nicely.
Feels good to be back at the keyboard again.
On the business side of writing, I got out about a half-dozen query letters - several of which were immediately met with form rejections. I'm wading through AgentQuery now to pick the best agents to send to now. Can't rest on my tiny-hiney just because I got a partial request (although the urge is there to stop everything and wait on her decision). Nope. Submit Submit Submit.
Also, I'm planning on resuming my work schedule again. This means I will write new words on weeknights and edit on the weekends. Blink needs to be called up out of the waiting room... Hey! Put down that 1988 copy of Good Housekeeping and get to work!... So it can be polished and ready for my beta readers. I just hope my beta readers are ready for it.
So, what's on your plate these days?
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
I started reading it 6 hours ago. I just finished it.
It was a really good read. I have a couple caveats, but they're only because of my personal preferences. If you're like me, and you're not into sex scenes, there are a couple of places you're going to need to flip past. (I did it, and it didn't hurt the story at all.) But having said that, I would recommend this book for anyone who likes fast-paced suspense and mystery. (Like I said, I suck at defining genre. Maybe that's a question to put to Ms. Brennan one of these days.)
However, I told my daughter she's not allowed to read it until she's at least 18. Aside from the sex, it has some adult themes I don't think my daughter needs to read about until she's an adult. Just me.
Excellent book, Ms. Brennan, and I am going to recommend it to anyone who will listen. I hope it increases your sales. You have certainly earned them.
Forget Barnes & Noble; you have to really be somebody special to get into a small town grocery store in the middle of nowhere. Way to go, Allison!
I can't wait to see my own name there someday. (Of course, by then I won't be here anymore, but that's not the point.)
In my birding and bird research wanders on the net, I came across eBird. From their white paper "What is eBird?", they answer the question by saying: "A real-time, online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. "
I've been submitting my sightings of unusual birds ever since, but I never realized how much anyone was paying attention until today. This morning I got an e-mail from someone at Cornell, asking me to verify a sighting of lesser goldfinches that I'd entered a couple weeks ago. Huzzah! Lesser goldfinches are rare, and it's rare that they are identified correctly even when someone says they've seen them. So I spent part of the morning submitting exact observation notes to prove that I saw what I said I saw. In addition, I mentioned a data submission from last fall that no one ever verified, and now he's interested in that data as well. Two species that have never been sighted in my area before are now on record as being here. Yay.
So, as geeky as it may be, that's my big news for the day. Now if I can just get those darned Northern Phalaropes to stop by the pond again, I'll be able to prove I've seen them, too.
:End Geek: ;o)
Saturday, March 24, 2007
I've never run across a spiteful agent. (And hopefully never will.) However, reading though my rejections, I do run across a snippet here and there that is sometimes a wee painful.
Painful or not, they can be used to improve.
Last month I had an agent tell me she couldn't get into my characters. That one wasn't too helpful. She'd only read the first three chapters, and the kinds of people my MCs are don't lend themselves to an easy friendship. I get that. I wrote them that way on purpose. You can't put your best foot forward when you've got to spend the first three chapters of your debut fighting to make yourself heard. Myke's great, but warm and fluffy she ain't. Still, if I had been writing a different story, the criticism would have been very useful. In fact, that criticism of Caldera has helped me to improve my characters in Blink and made me think more about how I'm writing the characters in AWJ. In Blink, I want Mary to be sympathetic from the get-go and grow into being tough. (I still don't have a handle on the characters in AWJ, but I know I want at least one of the main characters to come off as less-than-sympathetic.)
What really made this whole idea stand out though was a letter I received recently. An agent told me that my theory in Caldera was implausible. (I've decided thatplausible is a wonderful word, btw. It rolls around in your brain, and slinks off your tongue. But I digress.)
Anyway, it hit me like a ton of bricks tonight. He was right. And that was the point of part of the novel. It's part of the conflict. In the story, people think the theory is implausible, and that's part of the reason why the protagonist has such a tough time convincing people she's right. Criminitly! If it were easy, it wouldn't be a thriller for cripsakes. Gotta have that conflict, doncha know.
So I took that blinding flash of insight, and rewrote my blurb for the query letter. I'm still tweaking it, but I could almost kiss that agent. Too bad I sent out another few before I had this epiphany. I almost wish I could retract them all, but it's too late for that.
And it's too late for that one agent. Poor guy won't know what he missed until he sees my name on the bestseller list.
So, lesson learned here. You really can take life's little lemons and make lemonade. =oD
So, having announced my break, I sat down last night and wrote a new beginning for Blink. Actually, I recycled the beginning from an earlier draft when I was still calling the book 'Prologue'. I shaved a few words here, and inserted a few words there, and Voila! It dovetailed rather nicely into the whole story.
I also did some work on AWJ, but that sucker is still going slow. Maybe I'll put it on hold and work on one of my other stories. I'll have to take a stroll through my files and see what tickles my fancy.
BTW, as a sort of short Update: I sent out five queries (one snail and four equeries) last week, and got two rejections back almost immediately. Thank you, gentlemen, for being prompt and thank you also for providing more than a form rejection. Your time and your consideration are appreciated.
(I don't remember if I said this before, but I have promised myself to never mention the names of the agents I've heard from, and rarely the names of those I've queried - at least not in relation to my work. If they say something informative online, I'll certainly link to them, but that's all.)
ETA: With regard to the reading portion of my sabbatical... Sorry to the Jane Austen fans out there, but I just couldn't get into Pride and Prejudice. I had the same experience with Emma a long time ago, but it was worth a shot. My daughter is now suggesting Austen's book Northanger Abbey would be the best Austen for me to try. What say the rest of you?
Friday, March 23, 2007
I just heard there's a massive pet food recall on. If you buy any wet food in pouches or in gravy, check this site to see if any of your pets' food is tainted: http://www.menufoods.com/recall/index.html.
The press release is here: http://www.menufoods.com/recall/Press_Recall_03162007.htm
NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/19/business/19pet.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin
Just so it doesn't go completely to waste, here it is:
“Six years,” Dan Lazar said, his words lost in helicopter’s noise. “Too long,” he decided. Over the treetops, he could see his rooftop griffin keeping watch over his wife; keeping her safe until his return. Even before they landed, a huge dog ran from the house, barking furiously. “Good ol’ Reacher,” he thought. Then he saw what he’d been waiting for. She was wearing a smart blue suit—nothing snazzy for his return, but still he smiled.
Before he could walk more than a dozen steps, she was in his arms. “Hello, moonbeam,” he whispered into her hair. “I’m home.”
(100 words - exactly, BTW.)
ETA: This was something I whipped together in about a half hour. If anyone is game, follow Miss Snark's directions and leave your entry in the comment chain. If nothing else it was a great exercise to get the juices flowing. =oD
Thursday, March 22, 2007
I've decided to take a little sabbatical from writing. Oh, I'll still be querying for Caldera, but the new writing of AWJ and the editing of Blink are on hold. Everything is feeling forced, and I'm just feeling drained.
No big deal. This has happened before. It's just a little wave that I have to ride out from time to time. At least now I recognize it for what it is, and I can roll with it instead of getting knocked under.
So, instead of writing, I'm going to read. I'm going to do what I did before I got too busy with life and with writing - I'm going to devour my books one after another until I am so full I couldn't' touch another page. Since Friday I have finished The DaVinci Code and The Joy Luck Club. Last night I started Pride and Prejudice. I'm going to attack my list of 'must reads' and see how many of them I can savor before my own muse says "Enough!" and flicks me in the back of the head until I write my own masterpieces again.
Should be fun. Heck, I might even read Anna Karenina - which is rather imposing, but I think I'm up to it. (Maybe... I dunno.)
What are you reading right now?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Now my friend is a nice person, and she's been very insightful with her comments on both my writing and my query letters. I'm wondering what in the hell this other person's problem is. She asked for advice; she got it. She ignored it. Then she got snitty and wanted more advice. (Can you say 'bite the hand that feeds you'? Bad dog.) If this person had paid any attention the first fifteen million times, she would've gotten pearls of wisdom. Instead, she irritated someone who could have been a valuable resource.
Over at Murder She Writes, Natalie R. Collins (in her post From the Mailbag) runs into some similar problems with people who e-mail her looking for her help. I mean, sheesh, the woman is busy busy busy. Even if she wanted to, she doesn't have time to read every manuscript some anonymous person wants her to blurb, or wants her help on. Leave busy people alone and be glad Natalie, and others like her, take the time to share their pearls of wisdom with the rest of the world.
I'm aware of the thousands of people out there who need help. (Tens of thousands?) Heck, I needed help myself. The most important piece of advice I could ever give anyone, though, is this:
Get up off your butt and learn. Pick up a book on writing. Use Google. Find the information on your own. If you still need help, join a writer's group of some sort. And when someone gives you advice, LISTEN. (Although as always, I suggest you Consider the Source.) You'd be surprised how much your writing will improve.
Otherwise, you're just running around pissing off people and screwing it up for the next person - who might be willing to take the advice you so callously threw away.
Several pages in and I could tell the agents of Wylie-Merrick are insightful and intelligent. I was particularly drawn by the post The Worst Queries in the World - where agent Sharene Martin-Brown shows us what a truly bad query letter means and gives us some perspective.
Thanks, Ms. Martin-Brown.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
You see, I was a band nerd. First chair flute, as a matter of fact. And he was one of the two oboes. The other oboe was one of my best friends, so we'd all sit together on bus trips to band competitions, and at football games, etc. My memory stinks, but if I remember correctly, we had a lot of fun. And he was one hell of a nice guy.
Now, while I'm a firm believer that one can never go back... (I've tried... believe me... It never works.)... I also believe that maybe one can move forward with the people you knew once upon a time. It's hard, I know, but there's hope.
As to the new friend... Well, not to put a damper on the happy note, but...
Last fall we were visited by a spectacular pair of Western Screech Owls - male and female. They're gorgeous little things, and funny to watch. They make this long, low-pitched warbling sound when they call to each other in the night. Occasionally, they would grace us with their presence at dawn and at dusk, where we could watch them and they would watch us from their perch in the tree. I was very taken with them both, and I became attached to them.
This morning, I found one of them in the middle of the road. I don't know which one it was, but I'll think of it as the him. (It's hard to tell the gender of a Western Screech without lifting up its dress, so to speak.) He must have been chasing prey when he got hit. Since we were on our way to my daughter's standardised test, the best I could do was move him to the side of the road so he wouldn't get smushed worse. After I dropped her off, I postponed my errands and swung back to retrieve him. He's now buried in our garden patch, just a few feet down from the squirrel I interred last year.
I'm a little bummed. I don't know if they mate for life, but that would suck. The only positive I can see is that the birds aren't nesting yet in this part of the country, so his mate doesn't have to worry about raising a brood on her own. Having to live without your mate sucks enough.
And this on the heels of my husband almost getting run over by a Great Horned Owl this morning. It swooped over the house, and when it came over the back part of the house, there was my husband. Lucky for both of them, the owl banked sharply and few to the next tree over.
And the few SASEs left floating in the ether... What the heck happened to those little buggers? Did the government pounce on them because I dared to... :gasp: put my own address as both TO and FROM? (Please show me the terrorist who would bother to kill little old no one me out here in BFE.) Or are those agents still pondering the pages of my work? (hope hope hope)
The longest time between query and return of SASE for me was 11 months. I don't know what in the heck happened there, but sheesh. 11 months and all I got was a form rejection. I think my query fell behind his desk only to be recovered by the cleaning crew nearly a year later.
Non-replies from e-queries are still irritating, but I find myself much more miffed about non-replies from snail mail submissions. Mainly because I paid for the envelope and the stamp. If they never use them, it's like flushing money down the toilet, and I hate the thought of wasting money.
As a final question - unrelated to the rant - how do you keep track of your agent submissions? Personally, I use an old DOS based contact management software program that I've had since... Egads... 1995. It still works great though. No muss, no fuss. And since it was the first software program I ever conducted training on, I'm pretty well-versed in its capabilities. (The newer versions of it stink for ease of use, IMO, but everyone has their own favorite.) What's yours? Or do you not use a computer program at all?
Monday, March 19, 2007
I can, however, see why numerous 'writers' would call him one. The man wrote an excellently crafted story, he spent countless hours in research, and he presented the world with a best seller. The last I heard, the DaVinci code had sold over 40 million copies. Call it jealousy if you will. Consider it hatred of the good for being good. To me, it just seems petty and vicious.
I loved the book, BTW. Oh sure, he could have done any one of several things that would have better suited me personally, but I didn't write it. Mr. Brown wrote it and it was perfect. Several times throughout the book, he had me guessing at the clues, and almost without fail, I was wrong. And I loved it. The only thing I got right was the last clue, and only after he practically spoon-fed it to me - but thankfully, I got it before Robert Langdon. (So there. =op )
So, if you haven't read the book yet, I only have one question for you. What's keeping you?
:tapping foot impatiently:
Over the weekend, while we were in Denver, I was laying in our hotel room trying to take a nap after driving for several hours. I was too pooped to party, so to speak, but my brain was humming. I don't know how I got to the line of thinking, but I had one of those flashes of insight. (Thank goodness I got up and wrote the whole thing down on the hotel stationery, or I'd be pretty p' o'd at myself right now.)
I have a whole file full of stories - most of which came to me while I was trying to sleep, and all the product of my overactive imagination. My bad fluffy bunny story, my historical thriller, a YA or two, and some romances - all sitting in a several-page-long list waiting to be written. I'd better get cracking if they're all going to see the light of day before I die of old-age. (And at the rate I get new ideas, I can never die.)
When do your blinding flashes take place?
Sunday, March 18, 2007
A long time ago, someone told me: "Never try to teach a pig to dance. It just frustrates you and irritates the pig."
I take this to mean: Never try to argue with someone you know is never going to see your point. It is just a waste of time--both yours and theirs. I used to spend a lot of hours trying to debate topics, pushing to convince people of my point while they were staunchly trying to convince me of theirs. It was an incredible waste of my life. They weren't going to change their minds, and I certainly wasn't going to change mine. Once you reach the point where you realize this fact, all conversation is moot.
I don't argue much about anything any more. If a person agrees with me, great. If they don't, sometimes we can have a nice discussion. If they absolutely don't, and they're firmly set in their opinions to the point where even dialogue is impossible, then I am happy to end the conversation and let them go on their merry way. Or, if I still value them as a person for other reasons, I can happily skirt the trouble topics and have intelligent discussions about other things.
Don't misunderstand me, though. I still have the urge to Dance with the Pig, especially when the issue is one I feel strongly about, but through a little self-control, I can usually manage to ignore the urge.
PS. Please note: "Pig" is a euphemism, and doesn't mean I think every person who disagrees with me is porcine in nature... just most of them. ;o)
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Friday, March 16, 2007
Then very late last night (or way early this morning) Maya Reynolds wrote an excellent post in a similar vein - Art for Art's Sake - where she discusses the reactions of an online forum to the idea that writing is anything more than art. I'm guessing 'sell-out' was the nicest thing they called her.
At this point, I can only say: WTF? The comment I left in Maya's chain was: "You tell 'em, Maya. Writing is an art, but it's not friggin' abstract act (thank goodness) - where you just splash whatever you feel like down and hope someone will buy it. It takes work, and anyone who's not willing to put in the work... They're the ones who scream loudest about having to follow the rules. Feh."
And if you haven't read my post from a couple days ago - Take It Like a Man... Even If You Aren't - then please do so. It goes back to the same basic principle.
Have a lovely day everyone. Me? I need a smoke.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Today, I'd like to give you a list of books to read JFTHOI - just for the heck of it. (These are in no particular order.)
The V.I. Warshawski novels by Sara Paretsky (mystery)
The Stainless Steel Rat novels by Harry Harrison (and if you're into those, try his books on Bill the Galactic Hero.) (sci-fi)
The Xanth Novels by Piers Anthony (fantasy)
The Americana Series by Janet Dailey (romance)
Elfstones of Shannara - Terry Brooks (fantasy) (I only picked one of this set because I think it's the best one)
Anything by Robert Aspirin (SF/F) (Very funny. Try "Another Fine Myth" or "Phule's Company")
The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler (mystery)(and its sequel "Perchance to Dream" by Robert B. Parker)
I know yesterday I said anything by Erle Stanley Gardner (who wrote the Perry Mason books) but give his DA series a whirl. The main character - Doug Selby - is awesome, and I like him better than Mason.
Enjoy. And once again, if you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comment chain.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
To use an analogy: Looking for an agent is like trying to find a husband.
It takes time. It takes patience. It takes... dare I say it... WORK. If you see a nice guy on the street, in a bar, at the mall, etc., you walk over. You maybe say Hi. You either hit it off or you don't. If you don't hit it off right away, this would be a rejection letter based on a query. If you hit off the first meeting, he may ask you to meet him for drinks. Compare this to requesting a partial. Once again, either the date goes well or it doesn't. It may lead to more dates (a request for full) or it may lead nowhere (a rejection letter). If you're lucky, by this time, he's giving you a reason it didn't work him. If not, you'll get the standard "It's been real and it's been fun. But it hasn't been real fun, so see ya." At this point, you don't scream at him because of his choice. Any more than he should scream at you for yours. Life happens. If it leads to another date, and you really like the guy, you get all gussied up and put your best foot forward.
Cut to the future where he's already read your full, so to speak. At this point, if you've done your homework and he's the right one - and he's done his homework and you're the right one for him - then it's time to make it all official. In romance, you get married. In publishing, you get a contract and you have an agent.
Now, let's say for argument's sake, after the first date, the guy tells you - nicely - that he's really not into you. (Maybe he likes hip-hop and you like jazz. Or he's into tattoos and you swear you'll never get one. Whatever.) At this point, shrieking at him is counter productive. (Actually, it's always counter-productive, but I'm trying to make a point.) He's knows most of the other available guys in your area, and he's not afraid to tell them what a shrew you are - not to be snotty, but because he doesn't want his acquaintances to go through the same little piece of hell he went through. In one fell swoop, you've alienated most of the good catches, and you're left with the rejects.
It's no different in the agent world, I suspect. They know each other, and they watch each other's backs. Lord knows I would if I were them. Writer A pulls a hissy with Agent Q. Agent Q has lunch with Agents T-W, and they share stories about who to avoid and why.
(Of course, this works in the opposite direction as well, but that's a subject for another time.)
So, do yourself and the world a favor. No matter how livid you are about a rejection, keep it to yourself. Buy yourself a big huge soft dolly and kick the crap out of it instead. Take boxing lessons and work out your frustrations there. That way, no one gets hurt - especially yourself.
If nothing else... Take it like a man. Even if you aren't. (And if you are a man, flip the genders. ;oD )
To illustrate: In the past, I staunchly refused to put 'Dear So-and-So' in the salutation of a letter to a person I didn't know. If I don't know someone, how can they be dear to me? Thus, all my query letters began with the agent's name followed by a colon. (Mr. Smith:) Seemed logical enough to me. I didn't want to be hypocritical, after all.
Instead, I have found I'm probably coming off as rude.
It was never my intention to be rude. I'm not a rude gal - at least not unless someone is rude to me first, then it's open season. (And even then, they have to be REALLY rude.)
So, to all the agents who may have gotten a query from me previously, I am deeply sorry if you caught my salutation the wrong way.
I learned, though. Hazzah! She can be taught.
Monday, March 12, 2007
I also finished editing Caldera, but I already told y'all that.
I jumped back into AWJ, but I'm still stymied, so not much in the way of new words tonight.
Tomorrow, the query process resumes and I've already got a short list of agents who I think will like Caldera. Send positive thoughts my way.
Tomorrow night, if I'm still stuck on AWJ, I'm starting on the next round of edits for Blink.
These words are important to consider in real life, and even more so in the blogosphere. If you say something in real life, chances are no one is going to hear it or remember it - unless you're unwise enough to say something in front of a camera or on tape. In the blogosphere, you say something and it's out there. Delete it and it's still out there. (Just try clicking 'Cache' under a link and see if you can't find something preserved for all time.) Heck, I had a website on geocities back in the late '90s that just disappeared last year, so when you stick something out there, it's out there.
Of course, your words won't really make a difference one way or the other if you're just doing a personal blog - but so few people are living in a bubble where nothing they say in their personal life has an effect on the rest of their life, that it's really moot.
Everything you blog about can be researched. Everything. By anyone. I heard a new term the other day which relates to this. "Dooced". It means losing your job because of something you posted in your blog. D'oh!
I suppose it could be spread to cover losing anything of importance because of a slip of the fingers on a keyboard. Want to lose an agent? Want to have something come back to bite you after you've made it big? (I won't even go into the scads of predators out there who could tiptoe through your blog finding everything out about you, your family, your children... Too scary to envision.)
So, I guess what I'm saying is follow Mom's advice when blogging. You never know when an agent is scoping you out via your blog.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Alas, I can't verify his representation. (I'm still looking for J&N's website, which I was almost certain I had a link to before my computer crashed.) Still, his words make sense and they seem like sound advice. Nothing funky in the article to make me wonder if he's a good witch or a bad witch. Just good advice.
Now, back to work. ::whipcrack::
Saturday, March 10, 2007
AWJ told it to get back in line. Pushy little story, ain't it? So, I have to get back to Jillian and Dennis before one or the other of them start plotting my demise.
I also promise to get back to reading my crit partner's next manuscript.
AND I have to help my daughter prep for standardized testing week and the spelling bee.
Nothing much going on here. Eh?
Friday, March 9, 2007
Soon, I query.
I like to look at something and look beyond what mankind thinks is impossible to determine if it really is impossible, or if our own feelings of doubt are stopping us from seeing the possibilities. The buzz-phrase 'thinking outside the box' doesn't quite cover it. I prefer to view it as if there were no box to think of at all.
I did the same thing with Spectacle, with a twist. I took a calamity everyone is terrified of, and I thought to myself, "What if the scientists are wrong? What if not only are they wrong, but they're making us afraid on purpose?" The solution to the problem is really a non-solution to a non-problem, and instead explores the real problem, which is trusting people we don't know to give us the truth, just because they have some letters behind their name or because someone else said they were right.
Any great writing has conflict - that is your 'problem' - and any great writing has a resolution of that conflict - your solution, of course. It doesn't necessarily have to be the BIG problems (insert whatever scares the living daylight out of you). But you have to have some kind of problem or the whole thing comes out milquetoast.
So, what is your problem?
Thursday, March 8, 2007
I liked what Nathan Bransford had to say on the subject: What Makes Literary Fiction Literary? - "In commercial fiction the plot tends to happen above the surface and in literary fiction the plot tends to happen beneath the surface." He goes on to explain what he means, so please read his thoughts on the subject. (You'll have to scroll past a couple paragraphs of Oscar stuff, but it's worth the time.)
Also, Kristin Nelson has some interesting insights in yesterday's post: Defining Literary.
(Keep in mind, these are not the only articles or posts I've seen on the subject, just the most recent and the ones that made the most sense to me.)
In her post, Ms. Nelson starts off saying: "Nothing dooms a query faster than mislabeling the genre of your work." Sound advice. When I started submitting Spectacle for representation, I was calling it 'mainstream' and just 'literary'. I was clueless about genre, and the rejections made that perfectly clear. (Especially when you consider I was sending it to agents who don't touch thrillers - except maybe when they're reading for pleasure.)
So, I've settle on 'literary thriller'. One person on an internet forum, who'd only read the blurb in my query letter, said she didn't think my work was literary, but since she hadn't read the work itself, I blew her off. Reading both Mr. Bransford's and Ms. Nelson's blogs, I'm happy I did. My writing fits their criteria. Good enough for me.
But even before I read their thoughts on the subject I was leaning toward literary because my work has a literary bent. You see, to me, literary work is defined by the ideas encapsulated in the words. IMO, if you're thinking about the philosophy behind your work, and you're weaving ideas into your story, then you're writing a literary work. Additionally, literary work is shown by the way the story is written. If you look at those works labeled as literary (and I'm not talking about the more recent 'literary' works, but those books that are literary classics), and compare them to the works one thinks of as commercial, you'll see a difference in the way the stories are written - how the author creates the story and it unfolds before you.
Mind you, I'm a neophyte in the writing world, but it seems pretty rational to me. So, until an agent or a publisher smacks me upside the head and tells me that my work is in no way literary, I'm sticking to my guns.
What do you think the difference is?
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
So I can go to sleep tonight without feeling like too much of a slug. (Slug, Toad... Same difference.)
I also did some non-writing related things, but that's neither here nor there.
Oh, and for good measure, (if you'll pardon the pun) I have a couple more recipes up at Help! I Have a Fire in My Kitchen. Click the link over there on the left and scroll down to find "Salad Dressing Cake" and "PeanutButterCup Cake w/ Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting".
Now I'm going to sleep...
My CP and I have decided to try something a little experimental. We're each at the point where we're tweaking a manuscript for querying, and since both are almost done, it's time to get those query letters written. Writing a query letter is close to rolling yourself in honey and laying down on an ant hill, so we've decided to write each others query letters and see if they come out easier than writing our own. It was her blurb I was working on last night. I confess, it came easier than trying to blurb my own.
So, I'll be working on that. I'm also going to be working on incorporating her excellent suggestions into my book. As soon as I can get off my proverbial ass, that is.
Still haven't gotten back to The DaVinci Code either... Dang it.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Personally, having spent a couple of years living in Utah, I can see where Natalie is coming from, and from the small amount of her work I've read, she knows how to tell a story. Go get 'em Natalie.
::Please note, as with any downloads, do so at your own risk. If your computer gets electron indigestion from this or any other download suggested here, please don't scream at me about it. I'm just the messenger. ::
Sitting here at my desk, I have a tiny bookshelf behind me - the bookshelf and most of its contents were passed down to me by my mother. The top shelf has a complete set of 1957 Encyclopedias, which my parents purchased just before the birth of their first child, and which I used throughout my pre-college education. (Imagine using encyclopedias printed before man walked on the moon, and you'll understand why my research papers in school weren't so great.) Below those are the textbooks my daughter is using for this term in homeschool.
Moving to the north, we have the dining area and its gargantuan bookcase. The top two shelves are strictly devoted to my oldest and rarest books. (The grandfather of which is a rare volume by Dumas dating back to the late 1800s.) The remaining four shelves have textbooks leftover from both mine and my husband's college years, as well as any textbooks I might be able to use to teach my daughter.
Shifting into the living room, we find another bookcase with old and rare books, plus some decorative things and knickknacks. It houses my husband's complete set of ancient engineering books. (Okay, not ancient, but really really old.)
Beyond that, in the back foyer, is my shelf devoted to non-fiction and philosophy. We've run out of regular shelf space on that one, so I commandeered the top of it and fashioned some bookends out of cut glass vases. On the top sits our collection of Ayn Rand's novels and non-fiction. The next two shelves are biographical mixed with philosophical and comedic - Robert Fulghum sits with Bill O'Reilly and Carol Burnett, while Kant and Sartre pester the heck out of Aristotle. Actually, this entire shelf has no real organization to it, other than being primarily non-fiction. I have books on birds, cars, finance, history... all lumped together depending on which shelf they fit on.
Moving past the living room, we hit the back hallway. That sucker is full - lined with some of my fiction books. I've tried to keep by books in alphabetical order by author's last name, and these shelves are pretty organized, except for the books lying on shelves waiting for me to find more room. I have everything from Alcott to Zimmer-Bradley. This is also another case of commandeering the tops of the bookshelves, and I've got my poetry and plays wedged nicely between an actual bookend on one side and a boxed set of Thoreau on the other.
Finally, though, we hit the spare room. This is my literary disaster area. I have books shoved into every available space on three bookshelves. One shelf is paperbacks - SF, Literature, romance, thriller... You name the genre, I've probably got it in there somewhere. The poor paperbacks are stacked - two stacks deep - from top to bottom. Another shelf holds any non-fiction that wouldn't fit in the foyer, plus it's got my audiobooks and a few miscellaneous volumes I couldn't stick anywhere else. My last shelf in this room is filled, floor to ceiling with any fiction that wouldn't fit in the hall.
Those are my books. If I went into my daughter's area in the spare room, or into her bedroom, I'd be here all day.
Anyone else game to try the meme? Like Diana, I tag the first three people to volunteer.
Monday, March 5, 2007
In order to get anything out of the well, there has to be water in there in the first place, right?
So, you read. Some people highly recommend reading everything in your genre. I'm not one of those people. Not that I'm saying don't read everything in your genre, but if you only ever stick to things in your genre, how will you ever move beyond it?
I can hear some of you in the back, saying "But I'm happy in my genre. Why would I ever want to move beyond it?" *shrug*
Well, it's fine to stay to one genre. Lord knows plenty of authors have done peachy-keen fine in one genre. Some writers never leave their genre. Of course, some writers never write more than a couple of books, but that's fine, too. And then there are those special few who even manage not to get stale in the same genre book after book after book. (I wonder what genre they read...)
At any rate, I don't plan on writing nothing but thrillers forever into eternity. And I don't plan to stop writing. (Not 'til they pry the keyboard out of my cold, dead hand that is.) So staying in the thriller genre ain't the answer for me.
But even if you want to stay in one genre, reading beyond that genre will only improve your work. Stagnating has never been the answer for me.
Chances are it ain't the answer for you either.
What I read when I have the time and inclination to read varies all over the map. I've spent untold hours reading the classics, and still I haven't gotten to them all. I've read fantasy and sci-fi, the occasional western (love that Zane Grey), historicals, romances, and even... :gasp: non-fiction. I like to think all of this makes me a better writer.
I'm currently trying to read "The DaVinci Code" - should I ever find the time. (Not to mention the textbooks I have to read for homeschool.)
Everything I read or have read goes into the well, and the pump gets primed. I'm full of ideas and full of words. I have the Bronte sisters, Douglas Adams and Richard Adams, Rand and Kesey andIrving - all rooting for me. Shakespeare's words are backing me up. Homer and Virgil and Aeschylus are the chorus. It's all in there and it's all good - even the bad stuff is good because it teaches me what NOT to do.
So, what's priming your pump these days?
Sunday, March 4, 2007
You see, I had this strange affliction of not being able to write and keep my own voice--not as long as I read other people. If I read Rand, my writing began to sound like Rand (which isn't a bad thing, mind you - it's just not my voice). If I read Joyce, I'd sound like Joyce (which is a bad thing, IMO). And so on. So, you see my problem. As long as I wanted to keep my own voice, I had to cease reading for as long as I was writing. Heck, back then, I couldn't even read while I was editing.
I'd sneak books in between manuscripts. Jam as many in as I could before the writing bug grabbed me again, and I got back to work. And I have a long list of books waiting to be read, so there was a lot to jam.
Over time I noticed I could read while I was editing, and not end up changing my words to meet someone else's voice. It didn't happen overnight, but it was a wonderful thing when it did. I could slide in a few more of someone's words between books. Yippee!
Just recently, it occurred to me that I wasn't having trouble at all reading someone else's work while writing my own. Heck, I'm critting and writing and editing now.
So what happened? I finally solidified my own voice so no one else's overlapped. My crit partner's voice and mine are different, and it's wonderful. Her work isn't infringing on mine, and mine isn't infringing on hers. I can read again. (I'm the last person to read The DaVinci Code, right?)
I've heard time and again that finding your own voice is paramount. Yet, another piece of advice is to read everything in your genre and out of it. My advice is: Find your own voice and write until it is so stuck in your head nothing can shake it.
After that you can read to your heart's content and still truly be yourself. After all, IMO, that's the most important thing of all. (Inside and outside of writing.)
Saturday, March 3, 2007
It could be considered SF, because it's set in the future...
It could be considered literary, because it deals with big ideas...
It could be a thriller, because there's action and it has fast pacing...
Picture if Crichton or Follett had written Fahrenheit 451. (Not that Bradbury didn't do an excellent job, but other than the scene where Montag is being chased by the robot dog, it isn't really thrilling.) Or if the protagonist in Anthem had decided to stay and fight for control of the city.
I know I've got to narrow it down if I ever want to sell this puppy. As far as I can tell, everyone is looking for where a book belongs on a shelf. After all, this is a product, and you have to be able to market it right if you want to increase your sales. (And who doesn't want to increase sales?)
I haven't started the 3rd phase of editing yet, so I have a little time. Maybe by the time I'm done editing, the genre will become clearer. Ever have problems with figuring out your genre?
For a little help, try: http://www.agentquery.com/genre_descriptions.aspx. I just wish they could help me.
(I'd make up a genre of my own, but I've heard that's a no-no. Otherwise, Spectacle could have been billed as a philosophical thriller. Is there such a thing as literary-SF? Ack.)
Friday, March 2, 2007
There's been some news recently about the latest bit of thievery (aka piracy). I'd give the name of the site, but I'm not giving those folks any free publicity.
It seems somebody got the bright idea to steal other people's books and post them on the internet for free. Not surprising since they've already done it with music, and software.
And once again, I've heard people trot out the same old excuses for this kind of stealing.
1) Libraries buy a book and hundreds of people, if not thousands, read that one copy for free. Ummm... Yeah. The reality is: The library buys a copy and allows other people to read it. They don't buy one copy and allow all of their patrons to make copies of the book. Also, every person who owns property or buys anything pays, in part, for the having a library in their area (i.e. they pay property or sales tax). Kinda makes this argument for thievery moot, ya know?
2) Writers are making boatloads of money anyway, so they won't miss the few sales they lose when someone downloads their books for free. Okee Dokee. I don't know what planet these people are living on, but from what I understand, most writers aren't going to be appearing on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous any time soon. But even if writers had more money than they knew what to do with, it doesn't matter. It's still their property you're stealing. With thinking like this, what's to stop a bum from taking your property - I mean, since you obviously are wealthy by comparison.
3) This free downloading is free advertising for the authors, and therefore, drives sales. That's like saying because every car stolen means another car gets purchased, and that car has to be built, which keep factory workers employed and in the end, car thieves drive the economy (pardon the pun). Please. I'm sure most authors don't appreciate the favor. I know I wouldn't. Leave the marketing to the people who know how to do it right.
So, if you're one of those people who thinks it might be okay to download a book for free, think again. It's stealing; plain and simple. And if you're too poor too buy a book, visit your local library. (And if you're too cheap to pay for a book, you probably shouldn't be wasting money on internet fees and computers anyway.)
Rant over. Have a nice day.
Just be aware, they're not 'deleting memberships' any more, not even when you ask nicely. (Odd that they'll ban someone for being nasty (or they used to anyway), but they don't let someone leave who legitimately wants to go.)
*shrug* No skin off my behind. I just don't want people thinking I forgot and wandered away. It's a matter of conscious decision - my decision.
But hey, even if she doesn't post my hook, the whole thing should be very informative.
So, is anybody else taking the plunge?
I'm still not going to say anything that isn't nice. Of course, I'm not going to say anything nice either. As of this morning, I am cancelling my membership at Absolute Write. It's been a long time coming. I won't go into the gory details. (Thanks to my mother for giving me the grace not to get nasty.) Suffice it to say, my personal philosophies and those of the forum's owner and some of its administrators/moderators are antithetical.
I was doing a darned good job of ignoring those members who went against my own beliefs. But when it comes down to that wide of a philosophical gap with the owner, I have to cut loose and walk away. *shrug* I tried to ignore one of the moderators, but under the new regime, you can't do that. (I've done it before when Jenna still owned the site, but under Mac, it's a bozo-nono.) Actually, it worked out to my advantage. The inability to ignore made me face an unpleasant truth - you cannot sit idly by with your fingers in your ears and your eyes closed. Just because you can't see it or hear it, doesn't mean it's not still happening.
I fully planned to just walk away and never come back. Then I got to thinking...
My words were contributing to the value of this forum. Perhaps a person was coming to the forum, and after reading the positive words of myself and people like me, they were being pulled in and not only adding their own value in words, but also paying a membership fee. Ack. I don't know what Mac does with the money she gets--she could be funding Greenpeace for all I care; it's her money to do with as she pleases--but I can't allow myself to be party to it anymore.
So, for the past few days, I have systematically deleted every post I made while I was an active member. (Makes me wish I hadn't been so prolific, but thems the breaks.) The only exception being any post I made which started a thread, (in which I deleted the text of my message) and any post made in a thread that had been 'locked' for one reason or another. Nothing I can do about those.
I'm truly sorry to have to do it. There are many many good people at AW, and there is still some value in their words. But when I weighed the value of the site against the disvalue, the scales tipped horribly to the wrong side, leaving only one logical choice open to me.
When I think about it, I'm actually relieved. This subject has been weighing on my mind for several months now. Deep down, I knew I would have to do this, but I didn't want to let it go. I'm glad I finally mustered the intestinal fortitude to say 'Enough'.
I hope those few wonderful people I met while I was there stop by the blog on occasion and say Hi. Those are the people I will miss. The rest is best characterized by Shakespeare... "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury; signifying nothing."
Thursday, March 1, 2007
How to Be a Writer in Ten Easy Steps - It's a hoot.
Diana Peterfreund shares some letters here.
Kristin Nelson outs a copyright pirate: Pub Rants. Way to go Kristin!
My cake recipe is up at: Help! I Have a Fire in My Kitchen. It's Hot Milk Sponge Cake. Vote early. Vote often. But please take the time to make it first. You won't be sorry.
I'll be online all day as usual. Feel free to drop me a comment or shoot me an e-mail if you need anything.