Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Faking it

Those wonderful Brits have done it again over at the Guardian Unlimited: Arts Blog.

Check this out: How 'highbrow' became a dirty word - "Forget bluffing your way through intellectual art forms, these days the best way to appear cultured is to refine your ignorance."

According to this blog writer, a paper called the Daily Express has a bluffer's guide to faking your way through an intelligent conversation by appearing to have read literature. And although I have nothing good to say about their example of Catcher in the Rye... Mom always said if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything... I think even that should be read, if only to arm oneself against it.

But the important thing to remember is the author's point. If you're trying to be one of the 'in-crowd', what use is it to even fake having read the classics? You'll be more 'in' if you feign ignorance. Kinda sad when you think about it.

Me? I'm so far away from in... Wait, doesn't that make me 'far out'? Crap, it's a couple decades too late for that. ;o)

Suggestions for Beating the Block

In their blog, BookEnds, LLC. Literary Agency recently asked for comments about how to combat Writer's Block. The post itself isn't the thing I want to show here, but if you scroll through the comment chain, you see a great deal of awesome advice. If you're struggling, listen to these wonderful people. I really don't have any suggestions to add, other than to read those comments.

And remember, you aren't alone. We all get it from time to time. The comments above alone should be enough to prove that.

The Consequences of Speed Writing

Well, I finished the redinking of 'Blink' last night. The whole thing is a bloody mess of slashes and scribbles and my own brand of shorthand--big red question marks where I didn't know what the hell I was thinking, big red Rs for things that need rewording, big red Es for things that need expanding. In several spots I have written the word LAME, because to be honest, those passages are as lame as a three-legged dog. (Okay, bad choice of analogies because if you watch Animal Planet at all, you've seen three-legged dogs running around happy.) Let's just say, they're lame.

Now, you might think from reading the above that I'm worried. Not really. I knew I was going to have a mess when I was writing it. I knew this because I tried something different this time. I wrote the whole thing--straight through, no stopping, no editing, and no outline. The first third of the book took me about a month to complete, working at my usual pace. The final two-thirds took me a month working at breakneck speed. And now I'm facing the consequences of working that way.

I don't regret it. I wanted to see what I could do in a short timespan, and I succeeded. I wrote the first draft of a novel in just over 2 months. Almost 70K words worth. And all in all it's not bad. For all the lame passages, quite a bit of 'Blink' is awesome stuff, and even the lame passages just need reworking to make them awesome, too.

Still, the editing is going to take me a while. So, while I'm querying for two other books and writing a fourth, I'll be editing my brains out on this one. Wish me luck. ;o)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Little Water

Thanks to Therese Fowler for providing the following link on her blog: I Choose Not to Believe

It was water in the desert for me. Drink deep. You don't run across wellsprings like this too often.

Thanks also to Spyscribbler for writing the post in the first place.

Lessons Learned Over Time

I was just standing outside smoking and thinking about some of the lessons I've learned since I started writing seriously three years ago. (And yes, it's been three years almost to the day since I typed the first lines of 'Spectacle'.) So, I thought I'd share these lessons in hopes some aspiring author will learn from these mistakes. (Or to use a cliche, "You don't have to reinvent the wheel.")

  1. A query letter is NOT a standard business letter. No matter how many times you've been told writing is a business (and even though it is a business), these query letter thingies are a completely different animal. Read lots and lots and lots of query letter suggestions, research who is giving the advice, and K.I.S.S. (or keep it simple, stupid).
  2. Just because a rejection letter says something like "I think your project is interesting" isn't cause for getting your hopes up. It means NO.
  3. Just because a rejection letter says something like "I'm going to be very busy until after the end of the year and I'm sure you'll have an agent by then" and you get it in March, it doesn't mean re-query them after the first of the next year. It means NO.
  4. Just because you get rejection letters--dozens of them--it doesn't mean you suck as a person, or even that you suck as a writer. (It might mean your writing needs work, but 'sucking' doesn't really come into it.)
  5. The average person in your life has no idea what writing is, what it takes, or how the business works. So don't take it personally when your non-writing friends wonder why you're writing a second book (or a third, or a fourth) when you haven't sold the first yet.
  6. Having the support of your loved ones is crucial, because without it, your already bruised ego will have nowhere to turn when the rejections are pouring in and you feel like you suck.
  7. Chocolate helps. Alcohol doesn't. (Or any other kind of mind/mood altering substance.) It only gets in the way of putting your best work on paper. (And before anyone thinks I'm some kind of teetotaler... I'm not. I just think alcohol is for enjoying, not for blanking out/improving your personality/boistering your courage, etc. And I don't think drugs are ever appropriate. So there. =op)
  8. Even your family may not understand that when the keyboard's a clickin' it means 'leave me alone' - at least until the clicking stops, and maybe not even then.
  9. Even though you sweated blood into your work, and it's your baby as much as if you had spent 23 hours in labor, not everyone is going to love it.
  10. And if you find yourself writing utter crap, take a friggin' break. Even if it takes months, take a break. Sooner or later, the flow will come back to you. Take break, because if you slog it out, you'll keep writing crap and you'll only make yourself feel worse about it until you want to crawl under a rock and never write again. Take a breather, take a walk, take a class in basketweaving... Whatever will take your mind off the crappy writing until you can sit down and write well again. It's okay. Really. The pages will still be on your hard drive when you're ready.
  11. Oh, and speaking of harddrives... Since mine did a total crash in September, this is especially important. Back EVERYTHING up. I didn't lose my writing work, but I did lose all my submission data, so if I didn't keep a hard copy of my rejection letters, and e-mails, they're toast. Subsequently, I'm not really sure about who exactly rejected 'Spectacle'.

Hope this helps. If you have anything to add, feel free to leave it in the comment chain.

Good luck and keep on writing.

Reveling in the Blogosphere

Sitting out here in the middle of nowhere, amidst the masses of undereducated farmers and pseudo-intellectual bitties, it ain't easy to find like minds. And while I don't aspire to find a bunch of those anywhere (because I don't think there are too many who think like me), I've always thought it would be nice to find a few people in the world who understand what this writing business is all about. (Other than my husband, that is.)

First I found Absolute Write, which was pretty cool and had a bunch of people who really are writers and seemed like they knew what the hell they're talking about. Not that I've abandoned AW completely, but unfortunately, there's too much other crap going on there--too many distractions from the purpose--and so I went searching for other avenues and other minds. Whoda thunk I'd find them in the blogosphere? (ETA: Since the time of this post, I have abandoned AW.)

So, as I wander through the pages of blogs, I'll be linking from time to time to people who seem to share my purpose and my general philosophy of life, writing, etc.

My hope is certainly for each person who visits here to wander over to these sites, where knowledge can be acquired, learning can grow, and understanding can be found. One big writing community connected by the tenuous strands of internet links.

Enjoy.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Quandry

Here's a lesson in patience. Back mid-November, when I was feeling pretty much like no agent would be interested in Spectacle, I sent a query out to one publisher. (Because they seem like the type of people I'd like to work with, and like the type of publisher who would be interested in Spectacle.)

Then I got into a more positive frame of mind about my novel, and recently sent out a boatload of agent queries specifically for Spectacle. So far, only one of those agents has sent me a rejection (and a very nice one at that). This morning, while I was screwing off, I got an emailed request for partial from that one lonely little publisher.

Needless to say, I sat there staring at the email thinking to myself: "I haven't the faintest idea what I should do now." Took me about ten minutes of complete bafflement, after which I pulled up my synopsis and began repolishing that sucker. Plus, this publisher wants a logline. (WTF is that?) So I went online and found some excellent information on creating a logline. Then I went back through every bit of research I had done on this publisher, to convince myself they were as legit as I had originally thought, and not a scammer. They still check out fine, and look lovely to my weary old eyes.

The logline, BTW, is nearly complete. It needs time to simmer, and for my most important beta reader to give it the once over.

I'm still freaking out. I know this is just an RFP, but really... It's something positive. And some days I'm happy with someone not just slamming a door in my face.

I expect to email the package out tomorrow. I'll let y'all know how things go.

Oh, yes, and the quandry... I've spent so much time working on tweaking my query I wondered if perhaps I'm not jumping the gun going for this publisher when it's entirely possible an agent would like my work enough to represent me and make me millions. As my husband said earlier "Jumping the gun a bit, aren't you?". So, not really a quandry... More like me being silly ol' me.

I should be so lucky as to have such problems. Oy.

More Excellent Advice

Last week, I went blog-hunting again. I'm always on the lookout for new blogs to add to my morning read, and I was quite happy to find Therese Fowler's Blog. So happy, in fact, she made it past the waiting period and hit my link list the same day. (I try to wait because I want to make sure I'm linking to good blogs for all of you.)

Today, she's got an excellent post: Top Ten Writing Mistakes.

I'm happy to report, I don't think I'm making these mistakes too frequently any more. Please note: The author of the article doesn't say "Don't ever do this" with most of her list. Some things must be done sparingly. Like adding seasoning to a recipe. If you overdo it, you'll ruin the dish. Sprinkle a little stuff here and there, and see how it tastes. Unlike cooking, though, if you don't like it, you don't have to live with it. Above all else, do what works for you.

But please, PLEASE, make sure it works. You don't want to leave your readers gagging on a too-salty stew of words.

;o)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Why Mental Meanderings are Good.

Okay, I'm a writer. The more my mind wanders, the more stories I can come up with. The more story ideas I come up with, the more I have to choose from when I want to start something new. (I keep them all in a file on my harddrive... If they make it off the bits and scraps of paper lying around the house, that is.)

My brain scans through dozens of possibilities all the time. Happily, a lot of this goes on in the background while I'm doing other things - cooking, showering, smoking, playing poker. So it doesn't really interfere with my life. Unfortunately, it also occurs while I'm having conversations. I can't count how many times I've looked up into a pair of confused eyes because I've gone off into my own little filing cabinet of a brain. Thank goodness my friends realize I'm not being rude intentionally, and my husband knows every time I'm in my own world, it means I'm writing--which he totally supports. The few people I encounter who don't understand get slightly miffed, but such is life.

If you're like me, don't think of it as an affliction, but revel in it. It means your brain is too busy to be bothered with the day-to-day goings on of everyday life. Or...

It means you're a writer. ;o)

Mental Meanderings

And now for a brief glimpse into my mental meanderings:

Earlier I was talking to my husband and my mind started to wander. I asked him what he would like for dinner, and gave him the choice of baked chicken, Italian frittattas (baked omelets), or chicken fricassee. He said he would like the egg things. At that point my brain went off. I started thinking about how I'd seen someone put cilantro in their eggs, and then I wondered what cilantro tastes like. From there I went to Thursday's trip to Sams Club where they have a huge aisle of seasonings. Then I wondered at all the great things they have for cheap at Sams. Minutes after the beginning of our conversation, I blurted out: "Boy, Sams Club is really the mecca for tightwads like me."

Needless to say, he was very confused, but he's used to living with me. Thank goodness for that.

Tub Thumping

Don't you just hate when you wake up with a song stuck in your head? I'm listening to the chorus of 'Tub Thumping' over and over and over... Ad infinitum. "I get knocked down, but I get up again. They're never gonna keep me down..." At least it's a positive message.

And it's something we all need to remember. In this business there are likely to be a whole lot of knockdowns. After a while, you're going to feel like a hack boxer in the ring with Joltin' Joe Frasier, and you're going to want to just lay there so the beating will stop.

Don't do it. The minute you give up, you're giving in. You're letting the rejections win. You're allowing them to keep you down. And whether you believe it or not, you're stronger than that.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Update

Well, I just noticed that it's been a while since I posted an update.

Since the last update, I sent 2 shorts to Glimmertrain (and they'd rejected both of the first ones I sent), one short to The Kenyon Review, one short to The Pedestal Magazine. Pedestal gave me a quick rejection to 'Fire'. Kenyon's got 'Mirror', and Glimmertrain has 'Haudego' and 'AHNP' (A Hero of Novel Proportions). Still no word from Ploughshares on my poem, and no word from First Line on 'Pigwell' (which is actually titled 'Time Stops Here' but Pigwell is my petname for it).

Also, since the last update, I've sent out 9 new query letters for 'Spectacle'. I'm still waiting on several queries for 'Caldera', but I think they're toast. I just hope somebody bothers to use my SASE on those (except for the e-queries, of course - I'll never hear back on those if they aren't interested.)

I sent a short note to the agent who's had a partial on Caldera since 9/18/06. Her lead time shows 2-3 months, but with the holidays, I gave her 4 months. Still haven't seen my SASE, and she hasn't replied to my e-mail, so I'm guessing that sucker is probably toast and I'm out the unused postage. C'est la vie.

I'm stuck in the middle of editing 'Blink'. After determining I need to rewrite the middle, I can't seem to make myself finish redinking (look ma, I made a new word) the rest of it. Plus I've been distracted writing my fourth book - tentatively called 'Justice'.

Speaking of which, I hit 7500 words last night. It's turning more toward straight mystery without so much suspense, but I'm liking it. I don't think I'll end up killing off as many people as I had originally planned. (I wonder if there's a genre category called 'literary mystery'. If there were, this would certainly fit.)

Onward!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Speak of the Devil

Just yesterday (or was it this morning? I forget) I mentioned what I believe to be a truly horrid YA book - Bridge to Terabithia.

Tonight, I saw an ad for a movie based on this book.

I only have one thing to say:

WTF? (Which is internet for What the F***?)

I am constantly amazed by the utter crap that not only gets published (and wins the Newberry Medal, btw), but by what gets made into movies. If people really believe that book is good, we're doomed. My daughter saw the commercial, too. She reminded me that the commercial looks nothing like the book, so there's a bit of hope for the film. Still, if the film makes more kids read the book, that really sucks.

And if anyone reading this blog loves the book in question, I'm truly sorry. (Not for my comments, but for the twisted psyche that would make a man like that book. I blame the culture.)

Nuff said.

Brain Cleaner, Anyone?

Be as careful of the books you read, as of the company you keep; for your habits and character will be as much influenced by the former as by the latter. - Paxton Hood

I have no idea who this Paxton Hood person is, but his words make a lot of sense.

Leaving the 'company you keep' aside, the books you read can have a profound effect on your brain. And since you really only have one brain, you really should take care about what you shove in there.

When I was a teen, I didn't really understand this. I read anything, watched anything and listened to anything. As a result I have a lot of crap stuffed into the corners of my mind. For instance, I read this fantasy series - I don't recall the titles or the author - which in retrospect was so totally vile it jaded my perspective on romantic relationships for quite a while. (Anyone got a some Ajax? I need to scrub my psyche.)

So, in my writing, I am working very hard to make sure I'm not putting any vile ideas into the minds of the impressionable. This doesn't mean my books are all hearts and flowers. Bad things happen to people. It's a fact of life. But I don't make bad things happen to good people without a really good reason, and I make sure there's justice. And always--ALWAYS--there's a cause. If someone dies, there's a reason for it. (Another example of bad things going into good brains is "The Bridge to Terabithia" - a YA book where one of the main characters dies for no good reason. The damn thing had my daughter on an hour long crying jag. I read it, and the whole thing was pointless, unless it was meant to brainwash kids into believing life is utterly futile.)

Take care what you read. For that matter take care what you watch or you'll end up with Sybil burned into your memory for all eternity (Or Hellraisers, or Leaving Las Vegas... ::Insert negative movie of your choice::). And above all, take care what you write.

You never know who's going to read it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Distractions

I'm leaving up yesterday's quote. It actually reminds me that yesterday's post was not what I had originally intended. I was going to write a glowing post about what we read and how it affects our writing and our outlook in general.

Needless to say, I got distracted.

Today is going to be a busy one, so I won't be creating a long and insightful post today. This, too, is another distraction, and a welcome one. I need a day out. Recharge the batteries. See what is going on outside of these four walls.

So, what's distracting you today?

(And speaking of distractions... How about some old video games? Classic 80s Games - Scroll down to find Pacman, DonkeyKong, Space Invaders... My personal favorite - Tetris. All the ones from my youth, and maybe yours. And if you're too young to remember these... Well, they aren't as snazzy as the games of today, but they're fun.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sad, Strange Little World

It has occurred to me that this is a sad, strange little world we live in. If I concentrate on it too long, it's really very depressing.

Recently, a writers' blog I visit regularly had a post about this particular writer and her stalker. She's afraid, and she has every right to be. Apparently, this stalker believes her right to have her story ghost-written trumps the writer's right to make her own decisions and control her own life. Sheesh.

On an agent's blog I like, in the comment chain, is someone who has an obvious axe to grind and is anonymously using this agent as his personal whetstone. Apparently this commentor believes his opinion that the agenting community is out to screw writers trumps the facts presented by the agent and by her published clients. Go figger.

On Absolute Write, there are people who claim to be writers but whose only writing seems to be in the forums, and only ever seems to be filled with animosity. Apparently, their need to vent trumps the fact that AW is supposed to be a writing forum. Shucky-darns.

Play nice people. And if you can't play nice, find a nice quiet place somewhere far away from your fellow man, and slowly rot. You're slowing rotting inside anyway; don't subject anyone else to your deterioration.

I suppose if I was going to find an upside to this strangeness, it would be this:

All the sickness and bizarreness in the world makes excellent fodder for stories. Sad that truth really is stranger than fiction sometimes. (Or as I like to tell my husband, "I can't make this shit up.")

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Memories

I've been drowning in a sea of memories lately. Not that this is a bad thing. In fact, these memory floods seem to occur more often when I'm in the zone and writing well.

This morning I was remembering when I was a teen and I worked at Masoret Arabians. The manager there took pity on me one day when I was standing along the fenceline drooling at the horses and made me an offer. He would teach me how to ride in exchange for my labor in the barns. I would muck stalls at first, and then move up to brushing the horses, and then exercising them. It was a wonderful couple of years. He was also my first schoolgirl crush, which made everything so much sweeter.

I was also remembering my ten-year class reunion. I made a total ass of myself. On a dare from my sisters, I went to it dressed like a slut. Of course, back then I had the body to carry it off, but I still shouldn't have done it. Instead of presenting myself like the upwardly mobile professional I was, I presented myself like trailer-trash. Not that I really care what most of those people think of me, but I met one of my long lost best friends while I was there, and I don't think she got the joke. I tried calling her after the reunion so we could get together like real human beings and she never returned my call. Of course, she was a teacher in a Catholic school, so my guess is we really don't have anything in common any more, but still, it was a missed opportunity.

Memories are wonderful things, and great fodder for your writing. I could probably use the above to weave into a couple of shorts. I know I could use my experiences to build better characters, settings and scenes. (In fact, I have done just that in several instances.)

What do you remember?

Monday, January 22, 2007

I'm International!

Looking at my blog stats, I keep noticing visitors from other countries stopping by. First off, let me say "Hi" to all my blog visitors. Secondly, I'd like to welcome you all.

Special howdies to my pals in FL, TX, and Israel, who keep coming back even when I'm not the sparkling wit I'd like to be. And a tip of the hat to my visitors all over the US, as well as in Australia, Great Britain, Spain, Norway, Denmark, South America, China, and The East Indies.

If you like what you see, leave a comment. Say Hi. Let me know what brought you by the blog, and if you're a regular, what keeps you coming back. I'd really appreciate any positive comments you have. Even if it's just a short Howdy.

If you don't like what you see, you are welcome to leave a comment as well. Even though I can't guarantee I'll post let the comment post, even negative comments can sometimes be helpful.

Unproductive criticism, however, can be kept to yourself. (I haven't received any yet, but there's always a first time, and I'd like to avoid that if at all possible.)

Toodles and have a wonderful day wherever it is you call home.

Entertainment or Ideas?

Let's talk for minute about the purpose of art. I mean writing is art, isn't it? Like the above quote ("The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. - Aristotle") for instance.

I'm old school when it comes to writing. I believe writing has a purpose above just entertainment. In my posts on philosophy, this is clear. But it seems to me that many authors have lost the objective, or they've unconsciously avoided it. Perhaps this is because many readers have looked at reading only as a simple passtime. (Or in the words of my mother, "I don't like to read anything that makes me think.")

Now, I'm not dismissing this idea as wrong. I don't see anything bad about reading for pleasure. I've spent countless hours involved in reading for pleasure. I'm just saying not all writing has to be strictly about entertainment. Nor should it. You as a writer have the ability to entertain and enlighten; to please and to teach. I try to do both.

Needless to say, Mom's not to keen on my books, but she's not the target market anyway. She's the kind of person who can zip through three entertainment books in any given Saturday. I'm hoping for the type of reader who wants to think about the ideas in my novels. I'm hoping such readers still exist, and in sufficient quantity to make my books profitable.

So, which do you prefer? Are you like Mom and want to read for entertainment, or do you want to read about ideas? Or is it a bit of both?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Middle Stinks

I didn't feel much like working on my WIP today, so I printed out the remainder of "Blink" for editing. And as I supposed, the middle stinks. The book is broken into three parts--separated by large breaks of time between each section. The first part is good. The last part I assume is good because although I haven't gotten to editing it yet, I didn't have any problems writing it. The second part only ended up being about 20 pages in first draft, which was a big red flag in my mind. And I was correct.

I'm going to need to totally rewrite it. It doesn't flow well. The prose is lame. The dialogue is even lamer. And my heroine acts like a big sissy fruitcake--indecisive and wishy-washy. Blech.

Let this be a lesson to all aspiring writers. Sometimes even the best work we do can get crappy in the middle.

No shame in a rewrite, though. It's better to catch your mistakes up front, then after you've had a dozen doors slammed in your face. Once an agent rejects your work, no matter how many revisions you do or how much your newly polished manuscript gleams, it's nearly impossible to open those doors again.

Don't give them any excuses to slam them in the first place.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Epiphany

The other night I had an epiphany. Suddenly, while I was trying to fall asleep, I got this brilliant idea for a story I've been laboring over for a while. It's been sitting at just over a thousand words, and leaning toward a literary piece.

So, I turned it into a mystery/suspense. As of tonight, I'm at 3700 words and my MC just found the first dead body (he thinks). Little does he suspect that it's not the first and it won't be the last.

Bwa ha ha.

It's going very well. I'll let you know if I feel the same way in a few weeks.

Rejection, Depression and Moving On

In February of 2004, I began writing "Spectacle" and I finished the first draft in August the same year. I thought I'd finished the second draft in September, and I began shooting queries out. At the time, I picked a handful of top agents who worked with my genre. (Of course, then I thought it was a literary work or a mainstream work, so some of my queries were pointless, but that's a post for another time.)

In the meantime, I started "Caldera". And it was coming along nicely.

Shortly thereafter, the rejections began rolling in. I tweaked my query letter, tightened my synopsis and my outline, and tried again. More rejections flew in.

And the depression began to set in. Looking back now, I went through the Five Stages of Grief - or at least the first four. At first I couldn't believe they were rejecting my awesome manuscript. Then I got really pissed the agenting community couldn't see how awesome my work was. Next I was trying to think of a way to bargain my way to representation - you know, thinking if I told them I'd be willing to give them a higher commission, maybe they'd rep me. And finally, the depression.

Suddenly, Caldera sucked. I couldn't look at it, let alone type another stinking word. Spectacle was still my baby, but I wasn't sure I had another book in me, especially if no one was going to buy the first one. So, I wrote... NOTHING.

I played poker instead. I watched TV instead. I tried reading other people's books... I couldn't read anything either. Everything I read sucked worse than I did, and I still couldn't sell my book. It felt absolutely hopeless.

I wish I could say a great golden light fell over me as my muse enveloped me in her motherly embrace, and all was right again. It didn't. My muse was on vacation--hanging out with some other writer who didn't stink on ice. I guess I finally booted myself in the ass, told my muse to bugger off, and got back to the business of writing. I sat down and wrote a short story, a few poems and tried to prime my pump. It worked. In January of 2006, I finally resumed work on Caldera. I finished it in June.

The rejection depression can and will thump you upside the head from time to time. I don't suppose there's any cure for it but a sale. The point is, keeping writing. Even if it's like pulling teeth, even if every word seems pointless. Get through your stages of grief and move on.

And if nothing else seems to work, remember why you started writing in the first place. If you started writing for publication, then you may be well and truly screwed, but chances are you began writing for yourself. If you never sell a single word, and you write to the best of your ability, you'll already have met your original purpose. You wrote for yourself.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The 'Rich and Famous' Dream

Browsing the net the other day, I came across the article "Want to get rich quick? Don't try writing" at a British writing site. "If it's fame and fortune you're looking for, don't bother writing a book. You'd be better off going into business, or sleeping with a footballer."

I don't know who Jenny Diski is, but if this article is any indication, she's one bright lady. And she's very correct.

I admit it. I had dreams of writing and making lots of money. Who hasn't seen Crichton or King and thought of the days when they're writing best sellers and raking in the dough? I never had the dream of being famous, but rich? Oh hell yeah. I had the idea I would finish my first book and everyone would see it for the wonder it is, and I'd sell millions of copies. I still think if ever gets published it has the potential to sell well, but I no longer harbor the illusion it's going to make me wealthy.

Back in the day, when there were fewer writers of quality taking all that time to pluck out a novel on their Smith-Corona, each of them had a better chance of making lots of money. It was a sellers market then. It's a buyers market now. So many books are being published, people can be very selective about what they buy. There's a larger pie, to be sure, but the pieces have gotten so much smaller.

The dream still hovers in the back of my mind. I still want to be paid for all my hard work, but after three years of writing as an occupation, I know the reality of it now. This doesn't make me want to write any less. It just helps me stay grounded.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Short Attention Span Theatre

Sounds like a joke? Well, it was. I'm not the person who coined this phrase. I gleaned it from some comedian back in the '80s. However, as much of a joke as it was, it has become a way of life today. Everything is thrown at us in rapid fire--from commercials to tv shows to writing. Nothing should be too long because for some reason, the idea is that humans have a very short attention span and if you don't keep it short, your audience's mind will wander. (And they wonder why ADHD is a problem? But that's a topic for a different blog.)

What I'd like to concentrate on here is the movement toward SAST in writing. I think this is best characterized by the 'Show vs Tell' argument. The popular philosophy in writing is that one should show what is going on rather than telling what is going on. Unfortunately, all Show and no Tell ends up with a machine gun effect story, IMO. I actually can't get more than a few paragraphs into an 'all-show' story before my brain revolts and I get a headache.

I believe it was Aristotle who said (and I'm paraphrasing here) - "All things in moderation." I like a nice balance between showing and telling. It shows in my writing. I mean, think about it. If you're writing in third person omniscient, some things are just going to have to be told rather than shown. It's natural. And from the standpoint of a reader, all writing should flow naturally. (And I'm not referring to a stream-of-consciousness type writing--that just sucks, no matter how 'natural' it's supposed to be.)

Now you might think I'm making this argument to justify my writing style. Perhaps I am. But that doesn't make it any less of a valid point. All show panders to the SAST mentality, while all tell is like listening to your great-grandmother extoll the wonders of linament. A nice mixture of the two seems like the best way to go. Unfortunately, I don't think the professionals in this business share my sentiment, so it may mean my books go unpublished until the day when the SAST goes away.

If any of you have a valid argument for 'all-show', I'd be happy to hear it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Who's Doing Your Research?

So, who's doing your research? A multiple-degreed professional with 30 years experience, or a pimply faced teenager with too much time on his hands? If you're using the internet, you better make sure you're getting the former and not the latter. (Unless, your book is about pimply-faced teenagers, then go for it.)

First off, let me say research is a very important thing. I can't think of a single genre in fiction or non (okay, maybe fantasy) that can get away without doing at least a little research. Like many, you're relying on the wonderful tool - Google - or some other search engine to assist you. Without a very specific search, you'll get ten of thousands of hits.

I would guess the thinking is: The first few hits are the most reliable, right? Well... umm... Not necessarily. (In a quick Google just now on 'volcanic activity' the third highest link is Wikipedia.) This is the point when you need to take a careful look at who's doing your research. Anyone can put anything up on the net without having the slightest idea what they're talking about. There's no internet watchdogs to protect the uninformed against misinformation. (Not that there should be, but that's a discussion for another time.) We all need to watchdog for ourselves out here. And the best way to do that is to look for informed sources.

The way I handle this, is to focus on experts in the field. If I'm researching a scientific fact, I hit sites I assume would have a high degree of expertise in the field - university sites can be, private scientific endeavors are probably better, and sometimes even government sites can be okay. There are plenty of knowledgeable places on the web. (Wikipedia ain't one of 'em. Too many people adding whatever they feel is true, doesn't make for the most stable source, IMO.)

Another way to handle it, if you can't find an expert, or you're not sure even a supposed expert knows what he's talking about, is to use your common sense. Some of the supposed experts are walking around with their heads so far up their hineys, they haven't seen light in years.

Which brings back me around to my point. Just because it's slapped up on the net for all to see, doesn't make it correct. You're going to spend months writing your book. Don't skimp on the time it takes to make sure your facts are correct.

So... Who's doing your research for you?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Never Delete Anything...

Okay, I was surfing through my favorite blogs just now and while reading an interesting entry over at 'Romancing the Blog', something occurred to me. The writer there talks about deleting and says something about all the good stuff lying unrecoverable on computers out there. She right, but that's not why I'm posting.

Call me anal, but I almost never delete anything.

I'm sure you're all gasping at that statement, but never fear. I mean permanently delete anything. I have my 'working copy' file, and I delete a ton of things out of it while I'm editing, but I also have back-ups of the stuff I tweaked out of the working copy. They look something like this "Spectacle103104" - title, date. No big thing, and it's all still there. So when I'm looking back to see the progression, I can accurately see each edit and know why I did what I did. If I was foolish and deleted something good, it's still there somewhere. I probably have twenty or more editions of Spectacle floating around on my HD or on CD. I have fewer copies of Caldera, but I edited that one less.

You might think this is overkill, and it may very well be, but imagine for a second: It's late and you're ruthlessly pruning your manuscript. Stuff is flying all over the place, and you're really in the zone. You save your work, and go to bed. The next day, you open your file and as you're reading through your manuscript, you realize you pruned out the scene explaining the relationship between the hero and the villian. (And it was really important to character development, damn it.) If you didn't have redundant files, you just lost some awesome and pertinent writing. And for what? To pare your book down from 99K words to 97K words?

Seriously. Save everything. These days, with 80GB hard drives, a 137,000 word manuscript in MS Word doesn't even make a dent in your available space. Tweak and save.

You never know what you might need in the future. If you need a further example, look at Stephen King's "The Stand" - originally published with tons of stuff cut out of it, and published years later 'Complete and Uncut'. King made a boatload of money--both times. Bet he's pretty glad he didn't throw those extra pages away.

Monday, January 15, 2007

That Naughty Word... Achievement?

Excerpted from today's post at Home Ed Musings (reprinted with permission because I was the one who wrote it).

When did achievement become a naughty word? Across our nation, the achievements of some are seen as somehow detracting from the self-worth of others. Horrors stories abound of schools where valedictorian status is being ignored, where grades are becoming pointless, and where awards are given to everyone, regardless of merit.

Sadly, this seeping ooze isn't just confined to the educational industry. Just yesterday, after the AFC Divisional Championships (football to the uninitiated) were played and won by the New England Patriots. And guess what those aweful Patriots did. They celebrated their victory. In front of the losing team. Which prompted Charger LaDanian Tomlinson to cry foul. Somehow the Patriots pride of achievement was 'disrepecting' the Chargers. Now I'm not a Patriots fan by any stretch of the imagination, but they played a good game, they busted their butts and they came out victorious. In my world, that's cause for celebration. I don't know what it's like in Mr. Tomlinson's world. (And I don't want to.)

To read the entire post go here.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Something to Ponder

Tonight I watched parts of a Lifetime drama called "To be Fat Like Me". As I thought, it was pretty much an after-school special, but I was surprised to find an important message at the very end of the movie. I don't remember the exact wording but the sentiment was along the lines of "The world will define who you are, until you define yourself."

Throughout our lives, we all step into the roles society would have us play. That is until and unless we define our own role and refuse to accept society's role for us.

As I said, I was surprised to see such a message on TV at all. My only wish is that they would have gone one step further, and included the fact that we never need care about what 'society' thinks of us at all. Once we get beyond caring what other people think of us, we'll all be better off. Myself included.

Just something to ponder.

(If you're interested in the show: http://www.lifetimetv.com/movies/originals/fatlikeme.php)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Excellent Advice

I'm in the process of researching agents... again. It's a neverending process, so expect me to say that over and over and over again. The world isn't static, why should the publishing arena be any different?

So, I went over to Agent Query to see what I could find today. I'm procrastinating (of course I am, that's why I'm here writing a blog entry rather than working) and I click on the link for 'Public Service Announcements' whereupon I stumble across some very good advice:

First For Love, Second for Filthy Lucre

I'm one of those people who refuses to give up on my first novel. However, I'm not one of those people who stopped writing. (As evidenced by the fact I'm trying to edit book #3 while I'm querying for #1 and #2.) I don't know that I'll ever give up on #1. It's pretty damned good if I do say so myself--and those few people who've read it agree, so I'm not nuts. But AQ is probably right about the marketability of it. *sigh*

Still, sound advice from the people who give you a dependable and free way to research agents.

...I'm still not giving up, though. ;o)

Friday, January 12, 2007

13th Anniversary

Okay, I missed it. It was yesterday. And actually, missing it was a good thing.

Thirteen years ago yesterday I was in a horrible car accident. I used to celebrate the anniversary of that day religiously, like it was an alternate birthday. (I used to live with a guy who thought the idea of celebrating that day was sick, or at best morose. So, I stopped telling him I was celebrating it.) No matter how horrible the day was, it was a rebirth of sorts. Basically thirteen years ago, I stopped being the girl I grew up with, and I was reborn into the woman I am now. Like the phoenix rising from its own ashes. (Or at least, that's what I used to tell myself. Being a writer is nothing if not dramatic. LOL)

The good thing about forgetting to celebrate yesterday is I finally stopped living my life as if that event were worthy of remembrance. Hurray for me. Some things should be remembered, and some things should be celebrated, but spending precious time dwelling on that was a waste. I was smushed, I got better, get over it. Not that it wasn't an accomplishment, surviving all that and coming out the other side better, stronger, faster... Okay, not faster. Would you believe smarter? So, from now on, I will give it only the attention it deserves--a slight nod and a small wry smile--no more.

Onward into the future.

Now, should I celebrate the 12th as the date I stopped worrying about remembering? ;o)

Honesty in Writing

I've heard it said that all fiction writers are basically liars, because we write what is blatantly untrue. Fiction is, by definition, something invented by the imagination. (www.m-w.com) Still, I take issue with the idea that writing fiction makes one a liar. Lying is the act of trying to deceive, while fiction is trying to reveal the truth through the art of creating a story. The former seeks to conceal while the latter seeks to reveal. Therefore a work of fiction can be profoundly honest. (Look at Atlas Shrugged for example.)

But I digress.

Within the world of non-fiction exists the opportunity to be profoundly dishonest and still maintain the guise of honesty. Sometimes this is done through honest ignorance, and sometimes this is done through purposeful stupidity.

Take for example Rachel Carson. Decades ago, she wrote a book called "Silent Spring" which masqueraded as a means to uncover the dishonesty of a world bent on destroying its environment. It has since been disproven but it still sways the minds of many people. This is the worst kind of dishonest writing, because she knew what she was doing was false, but she knew what she was doing would accomplish her dual goals of selling a boatload of books and pushing her agenda. Because of this book, DDT has been banned nearly worldwide (and for no good reason, I might add).

On the other hand, look at the early works of Michael Crichton. In his work, he seems to be saying that technology and/or mankind is bad. Based on the culture, it was an honest mistake, which he has since rectified with his book State of Fear.

Always when we're writing, we need to maintain the utmost level of honesty. Our books and essays and shorts have the potential to influence thousands, if not millions, of people. It is not an endeavor any of us should take lightly. So, each of us should take the time to explore our own work and look for the honesty within. And if we should find it lacking, we need to decide whether the ideas we are presenting are the kinds of ideas we want affecting the minds of our readers.

In all honesty, it is our duty--if not to others, than to ourselves.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

'Nuff Said

Did you ever have one of those days where there seemed to be too much blood in your caffiene system?

 *Image deleted to prevent any potential copyright issues*

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A True Interlude

Okay. After yesterday's rant, I'd like to offer the following:

Winter Evening - A painting by Bryan Larsen- one of the best, if not the best artist alive.

I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.

A few years back when I was living in Utah, I had the opportunity to meet Bryan. He is a very solid, very talented man with a beautiful and friendly wife (and last I heard, a bouncing baby). I wish I could've spent more time in their company, and I wish I had thought to introduce my husband to them for the brief time he was in Utah, too. Such is life.

If you can afford it, I highly recommend purchasing some of his work. The more he sells, the more he can paint. And the world needs more of Bryan's paintings.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

A Brief Interlude? Okay, a Rant.

Right now I'm going to take a not-so brief interlude (okay, it's a rant) from the writing to talk about something from the 'life in general' category.

A thread was brought to my attention today about how there seems to be an overwhelming trend toward negativity at AW. I noticed it, but haven't felt the need to comment on it. I'm commenting today, and I'm commenting here, because I don't feel a writing community is the place for comments of this nature.

Now AW is not mine, and I have no say in its workings. I'm not even a paying member (a fact I will comment on in a minute), which may make my comments seem out of line, but since this is my blog, I'm going for it.

I joined AW to seek help, guidance and comraderie from fellow writers as it pertains to the business of writing. I stayed to offer these things to people like me. I still like AW and I believe in its primary goal, but it seems to me that the forum has gotten off track. Lately it seems like people are there simply to use the boards as a medium for pushing their own agenda (political or otherwise). To me, a writing forum isn't the place for this. To talk about writing and writing related things, to network, and to basically grow as a writer--on occasion maybe even to blow off a bit of steam with other writers in a fun and friendly way. Not to debate, or argue (unless it's about the best place for a comma), or rant.

I haven't paid for a membership to AW because I can't, in good conscience, put money toward a place that allows people free reign to rant, debate, proselytize, argue, or promote hatred. I'd be interested in seeing just what percentage of AW posts go toward the business of writing and what percentage toward the crap. It seems to me like the scale is tipping toward the latter. Until it tips well toward the former, I can't and won't help finance it. If that means I get my membership revoked, so be it. (Although kicking me out of AW would only hurt AW.)

Now, as to the negativity seeping through AW--and it's not invading everywhere, AW still has positive areas and threads. I believe it's just indicative of the negativity oozing throughout our society and, if I may, throughout the world. I hold out hope, but the ooze is part of the reason why I have become a pseudo-hermit. It all goes back to philosophy. I won't repeat myself about that subject, but I ask all who are reading this to go back and read those threads.

One last thing, and then I'll shut up. If your only purpose for visiting a place like AW is to spread the ooze, please find another place to play. I'm sure there are hundreds of them out there where you can do your thing. Leave the writers alone to do theirs.

Update

Since I last posted an update on my writing:

Glimmertrain rejected both of the shorts (Fire and Mirror) I submitted in October and I got a rejection from Pedestal (Haudego). I'm still waiting on news from Ploughshares on my poem (TWIM).

Never one to dilly-dally, I sent another short to Glimmertrain (AHNP) for their January submission period, shot one off to Kenyon Review (Mirror) and sent one to Pedestal to see if they like it (Fire). I'm still thinking of where to send Haudego again, but that one's a little odd so I may never find a home for it.

Additionally, I still haven't heard back on my requested partial for Caldera, or some of my agent queries for that novel and for Spectacle.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to edit Blink. My editing process is to print off the first draft and then sit down with it and my red pen. I read through the draft--marking the hell out of it while I jot some notes in a spiral notebook. I'm through the first 5 chapters of Blink doing this. All that red ink makes my manuscript look like a crime-scene. But it's a good thing. I'm finding ways to fix a few problems, and ways to better relay meaning.

The next new project? I have a whole list of possible projects. We'll see what floats to the top.

ETA: I nearly forgot about the new short story I wrote for submission to The First Line. (Which is odd considering it's sitting right in front of me.) It's out to beta readers right now, but it'll be submitted before their Feb. 1st deadline.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Bad Advice

Early on in this whole writing thing, I ran across a bizarre piece of advice. To paraphrase: "If really love something in your writing, that's the part you need to delete." (That's not it exactly, and I can't find the link to who said it, but that was the general gist.)

Let's say it again: If you really love part of your work, you should delete it.

Ummm. Huh? I really don't what to say in response to that. It's one of those nifty little tidbits that has me shaking my head in disbelief. I mean, this isn't a case of 'If you love something set it free, and if it comes back to you, it's yours.' They aren't advocating deleting a piece of work, and then rewriting it (which would be insane, but at least partially better than cutting off your nose to spite your face).

Another related piece of advice I remember seeing on some agent website was along the lines of: writing should never reflect the opinions of the writer.

Once again, let me say: Ummm. Huh?

If they mean, you need to step back from your writing and get an objective view of it... Then they need to speak more clearly. I'm all for that. But you can't write something and NOT reflect your opinions. Unless you do it on purpose, and then you're undercutting who you are as a human being. Everything I write reflects who I am and what I think about life. If that's a bad thing by a particular agent's standards, so be it.

As you surf through the internet, or read any of the many books about this industry, you are going to run across many many pieces of advice. Take each with a grain of salt. (Including anything in this blog.) Look for the truth in the words, and if you don't find any... Run. Run far and run fast.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Poetry Scams

Browsing through my bookmarked blogs this morning, I read an excellent post by Victoria Strauss over at Writer Beware Blogs! In Evaluating Literary Contests, Ms. Strauss covers all the bases, so I really don't have much to add.

I already gave my two cents in the comment chain, but my comment there brought a slew of memories to mind, I like to share here. (And it all dovetails nicely with yesterday's post.)

My chief experience in the world of literary scammers deals specifically with poetry scams. I was young and naïve at the time. I had no clue people would actively try to screw other people. Whoa, was I ever gullible. (Or as Bugs Bunny always said it - Gull A Bull.) Back then I was cranking out poems, and whipping them off to every contest I could find in the back of a certain writing magazine which shall remain nameless (to protect the innocent--namely ME.) I was a teenager at the time, so I didn't have any money to enter legit contests, but if it was free, they were getting an entry from me.

And I was getting offer after offer to be published. I mean, like, WOW. Unfortunately, all of the offers came with a nice letter saying I would be published in X Anthology, which I had to purchase myself for only $39.95 (or $49.95, or $59.95). Now, they weren't saying I had to buy the book to be published in it--that's a no-no. They were merely telling me I was published in the book, and if I wanted to see my poem in print, then I had to cough up the dough. I wasn't making enough babysitting money to shell out that kind of cash, so I shrugged and felt wonderful about my poems being in print somewhere, even if I couldn't see the pretty leatherbound edition for myself.

Until one anthology was offered for $12.95. Now that was more my price range. I gave the cash to my mother who kindly wrote a check to these people. 6-8 weeks later, my copy of the anthology arrived. I was glowing. I flipped to the page and there was my poem. *happy sigh*

Later I read a few of the other poems. My pride and joy was stuffed in amongst some of the purest crap ever published. (Looking back, my pride and joy was pretty crappy, too, but that's the point here.) Once my joy wore off, I looked at the book itself. It's a paperback, typeset in the oldest font known to man, the cover art looks like something my child could have done when she was 8.

I wonder if I'd bought one of those $59.95 leatherbound ones, would the quality have been better?

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Avoiding Scam Artists

Doesn't sound very pertinent to writing, does it? If you're thinking it's not something you have to worry about, you definitely need to rethink that. Unfortunately, writers are massive targets for the scam artists of the world. A writer is the perfect mark: someone who's spent months or years pouring themselves into their work only to have it rejected. Then along comes someone who promises to help you see your work in print. And for a small fee (small by who's definition, I don't know) they'll be happy to help you get past those old meanies in the stodgy publishing world. They tell you how wonderful your work is, and how those other agents or publishers or editors have no idea what they're doing. You accept them at their word, because your work is awesome, and since they're telling the truth about that, they must be telling the truth across the board.

First things first. A rejection letter doesn't mean you stink. (Maybe a hundred does, but not one or two or even a dozen.) Just because several reputable agents have sent you a rejection doesn't mean it's time to slit your own wrists.

Second thing: In this business, the money always flows toward the writer. What that means is: You never pay someone to sell your work. At least not up front. No matter what business you're in, you NEVER pay someone up front to sell something for you, whether it's a novel or paperclips or cars. They sell it, THEN they get a commission. The work comes first, then the money. So, any of these schisters, who tell you they need you to send them a check before they can shop your manuscript around, is full of bull.

This also goes for those scammers who tell you they'll represent you AFTER you have your work edited for a fee--and they just happen to have a friend who does editing work. (Or they do editing work themselves, and they'll be happy to rep you after you pay them to edit.) Again, no money should flow to the agent before it starts flowing toward you. Now, I'm not knocking legimate editing services. They fill a necessary place in the biz. I'm just saying, you shouldn't have to use a certain editorial service to get a particular agent.

Which brings me around to the AAR - the Association for Authors Representatives. They are the place to research agents. You don't have to have an agent whose a member, but it helps, and even if your potential agent isn't a member, you need to make sure they follow the AAR's Code of Ethics. That is the surest way to keep yourself from being screwed royally.

Another quick way to check on an agent's integrity is by visiting Preditors & Editors. Dave Kuzminski is an awesome human being for keeping this database of Agents, etc. It is an invaluable resource.

But even before you run to those sites for help, use the best defense you have for avoiding scammers - Common Sense.

Good luck out there, and Success to you all.

New Blog

I must be a sucker for punishment, or have way too much time on my hands, but I started another blog. Home Ed Musings was created to help me keep this blog on track by splitting off any school-related writing. It has morphed into a group website, with a couple of other people saying they'll post along with me. (Thanks, guys.)

I hope those of you who drift from here to there enjoy the blog. =oD

Friday, January 5, 2007

The EPQL

This morning I stumbled across the blog for Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (see the link to their website and blog over there on the left somewhere). If you don't know, DGLM is a one of the big dogs in author representation, and although they've rejected both of my completed manuscripts, I still think they're an awesome agency.

So, while I was reading their blog posts, I happily read this one: Miriam Goderich's Musings on "The Perfect Query Letter".

Good advice for anyone hopelessly lost on trying to write what Ms. Goderich calls the EPQL (Elusive Perfect Query Letter). ::: Sadly, this blog has since been made unavailable. Sorry everyone. It was a pretty good post.:::

I'm one of the myriad. I admit it. Especially when I read Miss Snark saying that 'not right for us' in a form rejection letter means 'your writing stinks'. Although I just noticed, she amended her statement after I first read that post (Agentese Translation with a PS: go here and scroll down to 1.03.2007.) Still, whether she amends it to soften the blow or not, something in her experience must have made her say it in the first place. (Don't worry. I've gotten many letters with the aforementioned phrase, and although I do get in a funk sometimes, I don't honestly think my writing stinks--no matter what someone might say those form letters mean. *shrug*)

My point here is this: This game is all about learning the rules as best you can, especially when the rules seem to change from one agent to the next. And Ms. Goderich has gone a long way with her post to help struggling (depressed, funked-out, etc.) writers.

Thank you, Ms. Goderich, for helping point the way. (And thank you, Miss Snark. Even when you step on some necks and hurt some feelings, you're still okay in my book.)

The Malevolent Universe (Or Philosophy Pt 3)

I promise this will be my last Philosophy post (at least directly - you'll see philosophy woven throughout other posts because it's part of who I am).

What I'd like to talk about today is The Malevolent Universe theory. First off, let me say simply that it's a horrible way to go through life. Always waiting for the other shoe to drop; never simply taking the wonderful things in life at face value; always looking for the worst in everything and everyone. I oughta know. I was trapped in the MU for the better part of my life, and it still sneaks up and blindsides me when I least expect it. I have to fight against it everyday.

There is no amorphous thing floating around waiting for something good to happen to you so it can snatch it away. It's just the prevalent philosophy of our time. It's the belief that Murphy's Law (i.e. Anything that can go wrong, will) is really a law. It's allowing long-dead old men to control your life.

Oh, I can point to any number of instances in my own life to support this theory, but as I've said before 'correlation is not causation'. For instance, almost thirteen years ago, I was a hot babe with a sharp mind and the body to match. I had just started an awesome job, I had a hot boyfriend, and life was looking pretty good. Then I ran a redlight and I lost all of it. The bod was ruined, the brain was damaged, the job went poof, and the beau split. Back then, I was sure the accident was all part of the machinations of the MU.

Ummm, nope. I ran a redlight because I wasn't paying attention while I was driving. Simple as that. The redlight running caused the bodily damage. The job went poof because they couldn't afford to leave the position empty while they waited for me to recover, especially when no one could guarantee I would recover. And finally, the boyfriend split because I hadn't done a very good job picking a worthy man to share my time with. No floating malicious baddie needed.

The universe isn't malevolent, no matter what anyone else says. It's just a universe, and we all have to figure out the best ways to move through it. So when your slogging your way through this writing business (or anything else in life), just do the best you can to avoid the redlights and the pitfalls that come with them. Pay attention, for one thing. And if you happen to run a redlight anyway, do your best to make sure you escape with a minimum of damage.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Research and Opinion

If you've been reading along, you may have gotten the sense that I am very big on research. (And if you haven't, please understand, I'm a friggin' nut about it.) Probably because I am very big on fact and reality.

If you're going to write about something in reality, for godsakes, make sure you know what the hell you're talking about. Even if you're writing fiction. Especially if your fiction touches on something real. (I spent untold hours researching locations for my novels just so I could get them right. For instance, I've never been to Washington, D.C. but I now know where a person would have to stand at the Jefferson Memorial in order to have the sunset behind them.) If you can't get the facts straight, you'll come off looking like a hack.

But I digress...

I am posting this mainly in response to a pervading tendency to whip off articles and editorials--in essence, opinion pieces (OP)--without doing the research to back them up. (or in some case, not doing enough research.) And yes, you do have to do some research before you write even an OP.

Okay, I can hear you shouting "Why should I have to research my OPINION?"

Well, just because someone has an opinion doesn't make it right. How'd they arrive at their opinion? Did they read something, or did they hear something, or are they just giving their feelings about the topic? (Years ago, I was of the opinion Rachel Carson was believable... but more about that in another post.) Unfortunately, few people arrive at their opinions on their own.

So, before you run off at the mouth, spouting your opinions for the world to read or hear, go do some research (with multiple sources, please) and then ask yourself who gave you your opinion, and...

Were they right?

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Quotes

Among the many things I do, I collect quotes. Up until September, I had a database with upwards of 300 quotes--filed by author, subject and alternate subject. Then came 'The Great Computer Crash of 2006' (as I like to call it) and I lost everything. ::Note to everyone - BACK UP YOUR STUFF::

This morning I set about working on re-collecting those quotes I find inspiring, amusing, or poignant. Starting today, I will try to have a fresh quote at the top of this blog every morning. Feel free to use them if you'd like. If nothing else, I hope they move you in some way.

Additionally, I used a quote at the beginning of each chapter of Spectacle. I spent a lot of time searching for just the right quote for each chapter, and I am pleased with the results. Not that I am advocating all of you do this in your writings, but it does add something if used in the right place.

Enjoy.

Philosophy? Pt 2

As promised, here's another bit of musing about philosophy as it pertains to writing (and to life in general).

I'm sure you all read the word 'philosophy' and groaned--your minds full of thoughts of Death Valley dry and boring men who died hundreds or thousands of years ago. Lord knows that's what I thought when I signed up for a philosophy course in college. (Of course, I also thought it would be a blow-off course, and I would breeze through it to an A. Heh.)

I'm not going to teach philosophy here. I'm not qualified. I'm just here to open your minds to the possibility that your lives are influenced by it. Years ago, I would have laughed in your face if you'd told me my life was influenced by mummified old men I'd never even heard of. (Feel free to pause and laugh here.)

I don't even remember which ones pushed which tenets of philosophy any more. I have a vague recollection of Immanual Kant being a particularly rabid little bugger, though. I think he was the guy to whom we can contribute something called the "Malevolent Universe". (And if it's not him, don't kill me. Whether it was Kant or not is moot. Whichever one did it, screwed the world.)

One example of the Malevolent Universe philosophy: "Life's a bitch and then you die." Who hasn't heard or said that little ditty? Think about that phrase though. We throw it off the cuff--it's cute, it's catchy, and it makes a nice t-shirt (bumper sticker... Etc.) It also is a horrible way to look at life. Basically when you say it, you're saying that life is horrible and it always will be horrible, and the only way out of it is death. (And when you think about it, is it any wonder suicide's so rampant when the prevailing mindset is like that?)

Again, what does this have to do with writing? Well, for one thing, whatever your philosophy is, it will become the prevailing philosophy of your work. Your characters will behave according to that philosophy, and their actions and reactions will happen under its influence. If you believe man is ineffectual and life is hopeless, your characters will act accordingly. Things will happen TO your characters, and all they can do is react to those things. They won't ever make things happen. What's the point?

And another thing: Whatever your philosophy is, you have the ability to influence the thinking of others through your writing. So, when you think about your own philosophy of life, you need to ask yourself if it's one you want spreading throughout your readers. Do you spread the "Life's a bitch" philosophy, or do you spread "Ain't Life Grand?" - a philosophy where man is powerful and able and happy?

Which one would you want to read? Or better yet, which one would you want your loved ones reading?

(To be continued.)

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Contradictions

After I finished Spectacle, I surfed the net looking for tips on writing the much-needed query letter. I didn't think it was a big deal. I mean, I was a friggin' secretary (executive secretary, executive admin. asst., etc.) for years. I'd written letters to (and for) tons of people in various industries and at varying levels of importance. Writing is a business. Therefore, a query letter should be no more than a standard business letter, right? I searched and searched. I found bunches of sites giving helpful hints on how to write a great query letter, and it didn't take long for me to notice that the hints some people gave were directly opposite to hints others gave. I'm not a big fan of contradictions. To paraphrase my favorite author, in my favorite book: "Contradictions don't exist. Whenever you think you see one, check your premises."

Makes sense to me.

So I checked my premises. Writing is a business. Now this is true, but it's not like any other business. Seems like it would be, but nope. Therefore, a standard business letter isn't the way to go. Agents and publishers want to be wowed; they want to be 'hooked'. Got it.

Another premise I held that needed checking was: these helpful people on the internet know what they are talking about. There's an assumption that is guaranteed to make an ASS out of U and ME. And I knew better. Just because someone posts something on the internet doesn't make it correct, and it sure as hell doesn't make them an expert. I checked and rechecked my facts when I wrote my book; I should've done a better job checking when I was trying to sell my book.

Lesson learned.

In the end, the contradictions I was facing were a combination of my not knowing what I was doing and them not knowing what they were doing. So the lesson learned from all of this is: Acquire as much knowledge as you can before you start and then take the time to check your sources.

It's a lesson applicable to more than just writing when you think about it.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy New Year

So, it's a new year. What have I done this year?

I already outlined this year's accomplishments in "Giftmas Eve Eve" a few weeks ago, but here it is again:

- I finished my second novel: "Caldera".
- I wrote the first draft of my third novel: "Blink".
- I edited the hell out of my first novel ("Spectacle") getting it down from 137K words to 116K.
- I wrote a few short stories, and
- began submitting shorts to literary journals.
- I also began submitting poetry. (Okay, one poem I wrote years ago, but it's worth publishing.)
- I joined AW, and have learned a great deal about the business of writing while also finding a few like-minds to commiserate with.
- I learned how to write a 'hook',
- and learned better how to write a query letter.
- And finally, I started this blog.

On the non-writing front:
- I finished my first full year of homeschool teaching, and my child is now smarter than I am.
- I helped her prepare for the local spelling bee, and felt the pride of seeing her make it to regionals.
- I participated in my first political campaign, and felt the crush of my candidate's loss.
- I celebrated my 2nd anniversary with the most wonderful, loveable, 'perfect for me' man ever.
- I learned that the pain of losing my father still feels like kick to the guts, but that it hurts less each year.
- "Books by BES" was born on Amazon, and sold over 100 used books online, keeping my book buying addiction happy and adequately funded.

All in all, it's been a good year. May the next hold many more accomplishments.

Happy New Year everyone.

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