My tenth days don't last nearly as long as they used to, thank goodness. At first, they lasted months. I got over this most recent one in 24 hours. Yay.
Last night I got out 1800 words again. It seems to be a pattern with me and this book. 1800 words and I'm spent. Of course, it might have to do with the fact that I start writing at 8pm and by the time I get those 1800 out, I'm ready for bed. (Yes, folks, if that means 90 minutes of writing, I'm in bed by 9:30ish. I'm a night writer, not a night owl.)
In other news, I got some lovely link-love from my blog-buddy JenWriter when she listed the best places to find agent info and listed my post Agent Sites, Blogs, Etc. (ETA 3:44pm: I just finished updating it) as one of them. I'm glad someone is finding that post useful besides me. I really did put it up so other writers could have one page of links to traipse through. Plus, when I want to visit a site, I no longer have to wade through my favorites folder. I just go there, find the alphabetical listing and I'm looking at the site.
On my own query front, I thought about putting my stats on the blog somewhere, but decided against it. Why advertise a rejection rate? It just puts up a big sign that says: My work failed with x-number of agents. Any agent researching me is just going to be turned off, no matter what those rejections ultimately meant. (And in this case, it says more about the subject matter of the book than the quality of the writing itself. I knew going in that this was going to be a touchy subject, and I'll take my chances with it.) So, while I have been submitting, I won't be sharing the results of those submissions. Let's just say, I've had two requests for partials, and leave it at that.
A vulture just flew over my house. I wonder if that has any hidden meaning. Which reminds me, for a fun look at superstitions, read Deborah LeBlanc's post over at Murder She Writes. Stop by and contribute some superstitions you've heard about.
Now for the question of the day... Notice the subject of this post is written in dialect. As a reader, how do you feel about reading dialects in novels? Do they irritate you, or do they help you get a sense of the character? Or if the author gets the dialect wrong, do you just want to throw the book against the wall?
Nine days out of ten, I'm a optimistic about writing. It's the tenth day that wrecks me.
As I said at the bottom of yesterday's post, in the comment that never got left on Karin Tabke's blog, "...if I sit and think about all the little things there are to be afraid of in this business, I freeze." Well, that's usually what happens on the tenth day, and yesterday was that day.
My morning rejection (which came shortly after yesterday's post) didn't help. One rejection--not a form, but not very personal; not nice but not nasty either--derailed me. It was something along the lines of 'this agency doesn't handle that, but thanks for thinking of us.' Innocuous really, but it hit me and knocked me off-kilter.
I started to think about every little thing. Like the cliched snowball, it started small and by the time I got to writing last night, it had grown to overwhelming proportions. And I didn't even see it coming. Just heard a rumble and then whoomp! Every word I wrote was wrong... or if not wrong, at least not perfectly right. Type a sentence, delete it, rewrite it. Worry over whether this word or that word would be better, change the word, repeat with next sentence. I meant to write the hospital scene last night. It should've been a couple thousand words at least. Instead, I got the lead-in down, and after 800 words, I stopped.
90 minutes, 800 words. That's what I meant yesterday about my output being effected by my confidence level, or my optimism level if you will. I have to maintain a certain level of assurance about my work, or I can't do the work. I get all 'deer in headlights'.
Thinking about it now, it's like those rare times I worked as a commissioned salesman. You see, working on commission-only means: if I didn't sell, I didn't get a paycheck. If I didn't make a sale right away, fear would creep in, and I would begin to doubt every little thing I said in my pitch. And then I wouldn't sell. Needless to say, I never held a commissioned position very long. Give me a base plus, or a base with bonuses for performance and I'm selling slushies to the Inuit. Let fear enter into it, and I can't sell parkas for a penny in Siberia.
Not the best analogy, but the fear and the failure are the same. Boiled down to its bare essentials: Fear of failure causes failure.
This rejection reaction happens to me about once a query session. (More on the first book, but I was new to the biz.) I recognize it afterwards. I just never see it coming until it hits and I'm left under a pile of excrement several yards thick. I've learned recognizing it is half the battle (and if I could see it coming, I could probably avoid it altogether). Now I just need to pick myself up, shovel myself off, and stuff all the little fears back into the dumpster where they belong.
They'll sneak up on me again sometime in the future. Some tenth day*, perhaps weeks from now, they'll get me and I'll have to go through this again. Until I learn to see it coming and avoid it altogether, or figure out where it's coming from and stop it at its source.
(*it's an average. Since I went through months of this early on, now I can go weeks between.)
Fear of failure... Fear of success... Fear each word you write isn't the best word, or that your story is headed in the wrong direction, or that your character just said the wrong thing. All of it can be a killer. Fear sucks, literally. It sucks the energy right out of you; it sucks the life from your story; it sucks the creativity from your brain.
The other day (or maybe it was the other year... after a while everything runs together) someone asked me how I write so much so fast. Over the weekend, I was thinking about the answer to that question.
You know, until this came up, I never thought I wrote fast. Two thousand words for one day doesn't feel like enough for me, whether it was done in two hours or eight hours. I always feel like I could've done more, like I should've done more, but was too lazy. But talking with other writers, I see that 2K in two hours is a lot more output than some writers can get to.
So, why me and not them?
I think part of the answer is that I used to be a secretary. Simple typing speed has something to do with it. If you've only got an hour to write during your day, the more words you can get onto the paper in that hour, the higher your output. Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm not anywhere near as fast a typer as my mother, who touch types, can read and type at the same time, and can transcribe from dictation. Put in a typical secretarial position, I'm a mediocre typer at best. What I can do, though, is type quickly when I know what I want to say and I'm not afraid to say it. And there's the key, I think.
During the first draft, I just let the words come and I don't worry so much about each particular word. I'm just trying to get the ideas down on paper, so I can get a sense of what I want to say well enough to make refining the section easier during edit time. I don't let fear stall me at this time. This might be part of the reason, also, why Spectacle took me so long. I obsessed over every word and every scene. I went back and edited while I was writing, and if I couldn't think of the absolutely right word at that time, it hung me up.
I got over it. Now I just sit down and write without letting fear enter into the equation. If I make a mistake now, I figure I'll worry about it in the edits. I know I sure as hell don't worry over whether what I'm writing will ever be published. If I let that fear in, I wouldn't be able to write a word. (And that's what happened in the middle of Caldera, so I know whereof I speak.)
A million little things can stall your writing. If you let them. Don't allow fear in because it will be the biggest stall of all.
Are you a fast writer or a slow writer? Either way, what do think might be holding you back from your potential? What are you afraid of? If the answer is Nothing, share your secret.
(If you haven't read it yet, check out Karin Tabke's post on Fear. Great minds think alike this morning. I've been trying all morning to post a comment, but it's not letting me, so look there later for my thoughts on her subject.)
ETA: Since it still won't let me post a comment, I'll leave it here: Awesome post, Karin. One thing about me is if I sit and think about all the little things there are to be afraid of in this business, I freeze. Deer in headlights frozen. Reading your paragraph about all the little things to fear got my heart doing its palpitation routine. What if I never sell anything? That's the worst fear for me. Well, the only thing to do about that is to keep writing, keep improving, keep learning. Sooner or later something will hit. If not this book, then the next. (And if not that one, then the next one. And so on.) If one genre doesn't fit, try another. Find something that will sell, and hope it opens the door for the good stuff you wrote before. Kick the fear to the curb where it belongs and forge ahead.
And now that I'm fired up, I think I'll go finish my blogroll and get some query letters out. Onward!
I took the last two days off. I admit it. I'm 99% finished with my blanket, though. That was yesterday. Today I spent the day reading and watching baseball. Oh, and making the most awesome dinner - Sauteed chicken, asparagus and mushrooms in a lovely cream sauce over pasta. To... Die... For...
I must've needed the break or I wouldn't have taken it, but tomorrow it's back to work.
In the words of "Hannibal" - I love it when a plan comes together. (For those of you who didn't live through the 80's, Hannibal was the leader of The A-Team. He was a cigar chomping, balls to the wall, kick ass kind of guy.)
Last night I managed to get the scene written, and it's the key to a major plot point. I had a general idea how it was going to work in my head, but it came together so much better than I planned. It also flowed like water from a burst dam, and I wrote almost 2K words in 90 minutes.
The villian is deliciously demented with a side of sympathetic (a very small side of sympathetic). Readers should be able to see where she's coming from, understand what's driving her, and still have their skin crawl.
Anyway, this is a good one. It should sell well, and it's fun to write. Looks like I got over my previous thing about writing on it every day. I'll admit, it's still draining to write - something about the action it the book sucks the energy right out of me - but I'm forging ahead regardless. I'll just have to make sure I recharge my batteries at some point during the day, so I can keep this up.
And... I need to send a batch of queries out today. I've got it so I send out a few at a time with about a week between. It takes longer than sending them all out at once, but it gives me a chance to tweak my materials in between, if need be. *shrug* Try new things and see what happens. Or to use the old standby quote "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten."
Well, just when things get rolling, other stuff happens to derail the plan. In my case, we had power problems last night. We were completely out for a while, and then it was intermittent. Needless to say, during those intermittent up times, I didn't want to power up the computer. The last thing I need is some electric thing trashing out my 'pooter. When we finally got the all clear, I was already in bed. Dang it.
Sometimes writing every day doesn't work out like I want to. Sure, I could've gone to hardcopy, but I didn't. Sitting in the half-light provided through the windows in this house, trying to write longhand, isn't my idea of a good time. Excuses, excuses, excuses... I know. The guilt is already smacking me upside the head.
It did give me some extra time to crochet, though. My blanket is almost finished. I didn't realize how huge it was going to end up until I started sewing all the pieces together. Egads. My husband could fit under it comfortably, even if he stretched out. Still, it's been fun and a good way to sort through plot issues without being at the computer. (So, I guess in a way, I was working on writing, even though it wasn't measurable.)
Barring any unforseen difficulties, look for the progress meter to move tonight. I have a crucial scene to write, and some dastardly deeds to commit. Bwa ha ha.
Part of the problem with my madness of writing at night is sometimes by the time I get around to my writing time, I'm too bushed to think let alone create. From shortly after dinner until about an hour ago, I was snoozing on the couch, trying desperately to find a little bit of energy to sit here and write. I didn't want to. I wanted to spend tonight playing the part of broccoli in the couch potato olympics.
And then I remembered my admonition the other day about committment. If I couldn't get my tired ass of the couch for at least an hour, how the hell could I look at myself in the mirror? For that matter, how the hell could I face any of you who'd read that post?
I dragged myself off the couch, and sat myself down here. I could've let it slide when I got to a stopping point after 200 words, but it wasn't much of a stopping point. (Anyway, laziness makes me feel guilty.) Besides, I promised last year that I would get at least 500 words out when I sat down to write.
They probably aren't the best 500 words, but I did it. Now I'm having a smoke and going to bed. G'night all.
Sitting here thinking about the whole writing thing, I came to the realization that the process has been different for each of my books. I don't know if this is a function of growing as a writer or of how each story needs to be told.
Spectacle came out in fits and spurts. Some days I would type furiously and the words would just flow onto the page. One day I wrote thirty pages or roughly 7000-8000 words - a personal best to this day. Other days I couldn't write a word, and often went for a week or more without adding anything. This book also took me nine months to get the first draft done. (And the first draft topped the scales at 147K - which meant a bunch more time spent editing.)
Caldera started out pretty much the same way, except after I got a major case of discouragement from Spectacles rejections and spent months not writing at all. Once I got over that, the book came out in regular chunks, though.
Blink was the first book where I committed myself to writing x amount of words every day, come hell or high water. I was participating in an online writers' community then, and a bunch of us promised to write at least 500 words a day. Most days I was hitting 1500, but some days getting those 500 words out was murder.
AWJ ended up being another fits and spurts thing. I was still committing myself to 500 words a day, but every day was a hard day. I knew what I wanted to say and where I was headed, but the words wouldn't come. (Oddly enough - or maybe not - this is the book now stuck in the editing phase. I want to finish it, but I can't seem to muster the urge to leave my WIP and edit this.)
RTL flew out of me. I started writing October 10th of '07 and finished the first draft on November 15th. Out of those days, I only missed writing on a couple. A few of those days, I managed around 5000 words. It was an amazing experience. I wish all writing could be that easy. I spent the next four months editing, and decided it was finished on February 25th.
Now I'm writing again, and the book I refer to as Manhunter (or New WIP) is coming together, but oddly. So far, I write gangbusters one night, and the next I'm spent. It's like I need a day off between sessions. The writing is draining to the point I'm physically tired afterwards. I don't get it. *shrug* Maybe the energy a straight suspense takes to write is more than any other writing I've done so far. I hope it's just me, otherwise Allison Brennan is one tired lady. Last night I cranked out 2500 words. Here's hoping I can repeat that tonight. I don't want to take every other day off. I want to write every night.
Your turn to tell me: Do you have a pattern to how you write? (Do you even bother to keep track of your progress?) Is each work different? Or if you're on your first, do you have a writing schedule?
If you've been reading along, you may know that I keep trying to insert a weekly segment on the blog. So far, none of them have stuck. *shrug*
So, here I am again. This time I'm shooting for a regular Sunday post called "Bird of the Week". Since I'm a bird watcher and my birdfeeder sits right outside the window in front of my desk, this works with the writing theme of this blog. You see, as I'm sitting here working, the birds entertain me, they keep me sane, and they remind me of the beautiful things in the world. They also provide a nice distraction when I need a quickie break.
To kick things off, I'd like to share a bird that's quickly become one of my favorites - the White-Crowned Sparrow, or as I like to call them: Skunky birds.
*Image deleted to prevent any potential copyright issues*
(Here's where I got the picture.)
If you'll notice in the picture, their little heads are black and white striped (for the most part - there are color variations where their heads are tan and brown striped) - hence the 'Skunky' label. They're mostly ground feeders, but since the other birds like to knock stuff out of the feeder, they're feeling fat and sassy at my house.
One of the things I like about these little guys is a little shuffle they do when they're feeding. They jump forward and scootch back, dragging their claws along the ground. The Skunky-bird Shuffle. I'm assuming they uncover food better this way, but whatever the reason, watching them do it makes me smile.
Right now, I have about a half dozen scratching their way through the grass around my feeder and underneath the neighbor's lilac bushes. (Along with scads of house finches and common sparrows, as well as one lonely little lesser goldfinch.)
This week when you're out and about, look at the birds around you. You just might see a Skunky-bird. If not, you'll be sure to see some other feathered wonder. =o)
It's a question many people ask both themselves and others. What is the right way to write? If you came to the blog looking for an answer, here it is. And it's so simple, you'll smack your head like you were in a V-8 commercial.
Ready for it?
There isn't one.
Not universally for all writers, that is. There may be one right way for you, but as far as I can tell, everyone does it differently. One person outlines; another flies by the seat of their pants. Some people let the story flow and they follow. Others have a clear path and the story follows their plan.
The reason this came to mind this morning was a blog post the esteemed and humorous Travis Erwin wrote the other day. Just a few minutes ago, I went back to read the comments people had made, and one in particular made me think about this topic. The post is about writing yourself into a corner - something I've done on numerous occasions - and the commenter stated that they don't do it any more because they outline.
My initial reaction was: How sad.
You see, I can't conceive of having the entire book plotted out ahead of time. Those times when I have written myself into a corner, while frustrating almost to the point of tears, have forced my brain to think outside the box. Each time, my story has come out better for it. If I'd had everything plotted out ahead of time, those moments of creavity would never have happened, and my story would've been flattened because of it.
Don't get me wrong. I tried this with Caldera. I had the whole thing outlined before I wrote it. And truth be told, it damn near killed the book with blandness. You see, I can't write that way. For me, writing that way was too boring. I knew what was going to happen, and so writing it didn't excite me in the least. It was only after I threw out the outline and just let things happen, that the book shined through.
I tried it the other way, too. I wrote Spectacle without any idea of where it was headed. Everything was new to me. It was great. And it also took me way too long to write because I had to do a lot of deleting, and going back to check facts, and make sure all the loose ends I'd left were tied up, and... Well, you get the picture.
Now, I do it both ways. I plot a little and I pants a lot. (Not a plotter; not a pantser - a plantster.) It works for me.
That's the point of this post. My way is not everyone else's way. I can't do it the way you do it, and vice versa. Guess what? Neither of us is wrong. Each writer is doing it the way that works for them (or they should be).
My advice? If you haven't found the right way for you, read what other writers have done, pick out the parts that work for you, and come up with your own right way. Your books will come out better for it.
If you've found your own 'right way', share it in the comments. Maybe you've got something that could work for someone else.
:sings: Nighttime is the right time for writing...
Ahem. Umm. Bent over the keyboard, cranking out writing... climbing into the head of one seriously deranged chick. Doesn't make for the most mentally stable blogging.
She likes to sing while she drives. *shrug*
She's coming together quite well. I'm hoping she gives everyone else the same heebie-jeebies she'd give me if I was only reading about her and not writing her. (Although, come to think of it, she does give me the creepin' willies, even though she's coming out of my head.)
A while back, I was talking to mystery writer, and the issue of writers killing people off came up. In any given book, some of us can kill of dozens. (My record was about a thousand at one time, but that was volcanic in nature.) One would think with all the thoughts of murder floating through our heads, people should be very afraid of us. I pointed out that while we think about murder, since we get all our violent urges out on paper, we're purging the urges. In fact, I'd venture that we're probably some of the safest people on Earth. (Look at Stephen King. If he weren't a BoSox fan, he'd be totally harmless.)
Any time anyone seriously pisses me off, I can create a character and do really nasty things to them. Why would I need to do it in real life? Besides, not only can I knock someone off, I can make them look foolish while I'm doing it. So much more satisfying my way, trust me. Writing it out cleanses the feelings away. Like Drano for the soul. ;o)
Are you a murderous writer? Kill anyone lately? Were you thinking of some total asshole in your own life when you did so? If you've never tried this, it's very cathartic. Forget cold blood. Kill your enemies in cold ink. ;o)
Now it's time for me to get back to Emma and her slow slide into madness. Or to put it another way...
Not novel, as in original, but more like the novels you've written. I'm jumping on the bandwagon after Carrie Ryan - on the Manuscript Mavens blog - said 'feel free to join us'. I'm feeling pretty free today, plus it dovetails nicely with yesterday's post, so here goes:
The Mist Stone - co-written in 1984 with my best friend at the time. She started it, pulled me in and I took over. I took all her hand-written pages and typed them up on my grandmother's portable mint green typewriter. While I was typing, I edited and added my own words. When I was finished, I kept going, even though by this time she was bored with the whole project. Needless to say, I never finished it.
Bethbook - That's the filename. I don't remember the real title, or what this was about. It was a romance I started in 1995 using Lotus WordPro. Since I don't have access to that program, and it doesn't translate into Word, it's lost to me until I can find a way to convert it.
The King's Crown - a romance I only worked through partially until I finally got tired of my significant other at the time constantly berating me for taking time away from him to write. I posted a bunch of it over at Tabula Rasa, and it's got a good beginning. Sadly, I don't think I'll ever finish it.
Summer Vacation Story - another romance I only wrote partway back in 1996. It's got a cute premise, but my days of writing with the hopes of being published by Harlequin are over.
Fear Itself (aka Spectacle) - flash forward to 2004. What started as an idea that popped into my head after watching the movie Armageddon turned into my first full novel. I did get some interest from a small publisher on this sucker, but in the end, it didn't fit their list. I still believe this one has publication potential, but I've moved on to other projects. Maybe someday. *sigh*
Nature of Destruction (aka Caldera ) - my second completed novel. This one gleaned some positive agent comments and a few requests for partial, but they never went anywhere. Like Spectacle, it's waiting for its day, but I'm not holding my breath.
Be Careful What You Wish For - another unfinished project. I have the beginning nailed, and the end, but the middle never quite got there. I've had the urgings to just turn the beginning and end into a short and try to sell it to lit journals. I think it would work, but time will have to tell on that one.
Redemption - another lost soul. I love the premise, and I think I can make it work, but I'm thinking it may not go over well enough to sell. I was going gangbusters on this one when an idea I'd been playing with for over a year finally came together in my head. Needless to say, this fell by the wayside. The idea became...
Blink - my third completed novel. I wrote this during Nano, but not as a Nano project. I started about two weeks before and finished by the end of November. I really love this book, but when it was finished, I'd also just finished the first draft of RTL, so it got set aside. It's ready for publication, but I haven't queried more than a few agents on it. RTL takes priority.
AWJ (aka A Widow's Justice) - my fourth novel, but not completed yet. It's stuck in the editing phase as Blink's polishing and the writing of RTL pushed it to the side. This was my first venture into the mystery genre (at least the first since a short mystery I wrote in 8th grade).
Nano - unfinished, but has promise. I fully intend to get back to this one. The idea is fresh and I think the market will respond to it. It just got kicked aside with all the other projects I was working on last year.
RTL (aka Right to Life) - My last completed novel. I'm really proud of this sucker, and I'm just wading into the query process. So far, with just a few queries, I've already got a request for partial from a well-known agent. It's in her hands now. LT around 4-6 wks on a partial, from what I've heard. Keep your fingers crossed. This could be the big one.
Title Redacted - Pseudonymous Mystery. This will be finished, but my current WIP pushed it aside. It's a break from anything I've done before, but so far I'm really liking it. Unfortunately, it's just not making the cut above the other idea. I fully expect to get back into this when I'm done with the first draft of...
Manhunter (lame title, I know, but it makes a good file name - short, simple and to the point). This suspense is a bit of a break from my usual stuff, but it dovetails nicely into what I've already written, and has some major sales potential. (Rather than the books I'm not sure the rest of the world is ready for - like Spectacle and Caldera.) I'm making some good headway on this book. I don't think it'll be the 6 week first draft RTL was, but I expect to get to THE END by June.
This is my typical meme - which means no one else has to play if they don't want to. Hell, it wasn't even directed at me, and I did it. I think it really helps to go back over what you've done in the past, to see the progress you've made along the way and give you a glimpse of what may be ahead. If you give it a whirl, drop a comment so I can come check out your answers.
Seems like an obvious statement. Right? Writers write. Not every once in a while. Not just when the mood strikes us. Not just when we're bored, or have nothing else to do. Not even only when we can jam it in between all the rest of life's activities.
The reason I mention this is because of a post my blog-buddy, JenWriter, mentioned this morning. The linked post is by Lilith Saintcrow over at Fur, Fangs and Fey. IMO, it's a hell of a post, and so true I didn't think anyone could have a problem with it. If you read the comments, you'll see someone did (at least one person anyway - I didn't read all the comments because they were starting to rub my fur the wrong way).
Lilith's point seems to be this: Writers are people who take writing seriously. She even goes so far as to say that if you aren't writing every day, you really shouldn't be calling yourself a writer - at least not in the professional sense of the word. Think about it. If you're just mucking around writing here and there, are you really a professional writer? Or is this a hobby for you? Sure, you may really want to be a writer - with all your heart - but if you aren't really doing it, you're failing at the necessary part of being a writer.
Hell, I wanted to be a writer for years (YEARS). I started a half dozen books, short stories, poems. But I never finished a damn thing (and by finished, I mean not only getting all the way to 'THE END' but polishing enough to make them readable). None of that made me a writer, no matter how much I wanted it.
I started my first book when I was 14. It's moldering in a blue folder in a box in a closet somewhere in this house. It's half finished, and it'll stay that way. I also have a folder full of poems from around the same time. I wasn't a writer then, no matter how much work I put out. Over the years, I started several other books, wrote more poems, and a few shorts. Every time I started writing, I let something get in my way - the significant other who was jealous of my writing time, motherhood, work... Ad infinitum. Most everything I ever wrote prior to 2004 is incomplete and gathering dust somewhere. I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of words I'd written during those spurts, but those words didn't make me a writer.
What made me a writer was when I finally took writing seriously. I sat down to write a book, and told myself I was going to finish it. I promised myself that no matter what else happened, I was going to get to "THE END". I made myself learn about the industry and sent out queries, wrote synopses, polished until my manuscripts bled red ink. And you know what? I still didn't consider myself a writer. IMO, I hadn't earned the right to call myself one yet. Why?
At that point, I was still writing in fits and starts. Whenever the mood struck me. Not every day, or even every other day. Hell, there were other important things I needed to do - like watching every back episode of Charmed, and reruns of The Nanny. Oh, and the few weeks we got free Cinemax definitely needed to be attended to. During this early time - mid-2004 - I didn't even have homeschooling to contend with, but with all the other things calling for my attention, I just didn't have the time to write.
Pardon me while I barf.
When my husband and I were courting, he asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told him I wanted to write, but then groused about not having the time, not having a quiet place to work in, having to work a full time job... He told me that if I wanted to write, I should write, and to quit making excuses for not writing. It was a real kick in the ass, and it was just what I needed.
I got the first book done in 9 months. Okay, not really done. I didn't know what the hell I was doing, and I only thought it was done. I sent out a few queries and the subsequent rejections sent me scurrying to hide under the bed. I stopped writing. Which is just as well, since I wasn't really a writer. The missing piece was still missing. I wasn't committed to writing.
It wasn't until late 2006 that I think I really could carry the title of WRITER with pride. I made a choice to work. I promised myself I was going to write every day (or barring that, at least do something writerly every day). And for the most part, I kept that promise.
Don't get me wrong. I don't write reams of words every day. Some days, the most I can do is some plotting or some editing or at the minimum, research. That has nothing to do with time. It has to do with my brain and its abilities to form coherent sentences. I also fall down sometimes and don't write for days. (Don't even get me started on the guilt that comes from those interludes.) Every once in a while, I even let myself have a mini-vacation between books.
But no matter what, I get back to work, and I work hard. It's all about commitment, folks.
If you're committed to writing, and it's an honest commitment, you'll find the time and you'll get your butt in that chair every day. Some days finding the time will be hard. Life's rough all over.
Look around you. There are writers with full time jobs, with physical disabilities, with a half dozen kids, with demanding and unappreciative spouses, who homeschool their kids, with life-threatening illnesses, who run their own companies... etc. What's the difference between them and the millions of people who want to be writers and aren't?
So before you take issue with someone else calling into question whether you can call yourself a writer, take a look at your priorities, and ask yourself how committed you are to the task. If you can't find a few minutes to make writing a priority, can you really wear the title with honor, or are you just fooling yourself?
It's way way early, and I'm doing my psycho (pronounced puh-sy-ko) writer imitation this morning. Which basically means I'm free-floating my way around the internet, making less than coherent observations.
At least, I was. After I posted the last comment, I went back and read it. It sounded too 'stream of consciousness' for my liking. Once I recognized my current state of bizarreness, I stopped commenting. To anyone who read my comments this morning and followed me here to find out if I'm okay...
I am. I'm just tired.
Up too early with too little caffeine in my system. *shrug*
Anyhoo, I'll be offline for most of the day. I'm making the haul to a real bookstore so I can haul me some new releases home. Yay. I also get to eat at a real restaurant for a change. (Yes, I know Red Lobster is not a *real* real restaurant, but it's lightyears ahead of the joints around here. Maybe someday I'll venture into Denver and try something non-chain.)
Today's post is over at my other blog: Tabula Rasa. It's an experimental short I wrote last year - "Haudego". (Bonus points if you know Latin and can tell me what 'haud ego' means.) It's told entirely as a series of voice recordings as a scientist tries to eradicate what he thinks is the cause of all mankind's ills - selfishness.
Yesterday with all its problem was a PITA to the nth degree. As far as I can tell only one of the many calls was important, and they called back last night. (Not an agent, though, dang it.)
Thanks to the awesomeness of my local phone repair person - who was working on my phone at 6pm last night in near blizzard conditions - I'm static free and my DSL hasn't gone down once this morning. Yay.
On the upside, I got a lot of crocheting done (I'm two-thirds finished with my huge blanket), and while I crochet, I plot in my head. I didn't do any actual writing, but I got some things worked out so I can sit down tonight and bang out a few more scenes. I'm loving how this new book is working out. I can't wait to finish and send it out to my CP and BRs to read.
You know, Agatha Christie once said: "The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes." I think she was onto something there, but it's not just dishes. It's any activity where you can let your mind wander while you do it. For me, it was always while I was outside having a cigarette, but now I can also include while I crochet.
What are some activities where your muse seems to be more active?
We're having a Spring snow storm, and it's screwing with my phones/DSL. Phone is still very staticky, so if you're an agent and you called today, I'm very sorry about this. They're promising me 24 hour service. Right now, the DSL's back up, but for how long, I don't know.
Sorry this couldn't be more exciting. Talk amongst yourselves until this thing settles down long enough to post something coherent.
I don't usually plug TV shows, but I feel the need to mention one in particular, and how it translates to writing.
I'm talking about the show Biggest Loser. If you're not familiar with the premise, it's a contest wherein people with a large amount of weight to lose leave their lives and hang out on a ranch for, I believe, six months. While they're at the ranch, their diets are strictly monitored and they exercise heavily. At the end of the six months, the person who has lost the largest percentage of weight wins $250K. But that's not the most important thing - as one of the final four contestants indicated last night. For Roger (who needs your vote to make the finale), it isn't about the money. He wanted to get on the show because he needed to lose the weight and live long enough to be a Dad to his kid. In short, he did it because he wanted to improve his life.
Now, some of the contestants on the show have other ideas. They're in it for the money, and the weight loss is secondary to that goal. Oh sure, they pay lip-service to the health benefits, but you can tell from the gleam in their eye that the want to moolah - maybe so they can afford the doctors they'll need after they gain their weight back.
Don't misunderstand me. From my own perspective, I have no idea what these people are going through. Sure, I weigh 20+ pounds more than I did 15 years ago, but that means I went from 135 to 155. (Okay, I went from 135 to 165 to 110 (don't ask - I looked like death warmed over) to 155, but I've hovered around 155 for the past 4 years, so I think I'm staying here for now.) Anyway, despite my average weight, I do have some understanding of being overweight. My sister was over 300 pounds when she graduated from highschool, and she lost enough weight to equal a whole other person all by herself. Lord knows, I wasn't any help at the time, but I was a kid and a twerp back then. I'm so proud of her now, I could burst.
What did it for her? Mulish stubborn tenacity. (It runs in the family.) She hated how much she hated herself, and she made up her mind to change her attitude. And along with it, she changed her life.
I'm guessing the real contestants of Biggest Loser experienced the same thing. Sure, they may not have changed their attitudes by themselves, but somewhere along the way, they had to make the choice alone. The trainers, while helpful, couldn't change their attitudes for them - they only pointed the way.
It seems like every season, you have one or more contestants who constantly kvetch about the work. They don't put in the effort; they don't want to follow their diets; they miss their families and whine about it. Whatever. Some of those wally and wanda whiners get an epiphany during their time on the ranch. It's almost like you can see the little lightbulb over their heads, it's so obvious. Once their attitude changes, they see they can change their lives. And at the finale, you get to see which ones kept that attitude after they got kicked off the show, and which ones didn't.
It's like writing. (Bet you were wondering when I was getting to that.) Some people kvetch and moan about how hard it is to sit and write. Other bitch* and whine about the query process (myself included, so don't think I'm throwing stones from inside my crystal palace, here). Some just sit and think about someday writing a book, and either never begin one or never finish it. And a few change their attitudes.
The ones with the changed attitudes? They're not just people who want to write, they're writers.
Tell me, have you ever had a change of attitude that was like a little lightbulb? Did it change your life - even it was only in some small way? Let's hear some positivity out there. =oD
Oh, and did you vote for Roger yet? Didya didya huh?
(*Bitching every once in a while is totally acceptable, but making a habit of it is unproductive. Bitch and then get over it - and get back to work.)
After yesterday's grousing, I sat down to write the little bio paragraph. (Everybody deserves a little PAM* session every once in a while.) It's not award-winning prose, but I think it gives a good impression of who I am, while not sounding like I'm handing out buffalo bagels or sleeping pills.
I also think I have a fairly good synopsis - finally. So, ready or not... Here I come. ;o)
The only thing I hate worse than a synopsis is when agents ask me to put some info about myself in my query letter. Not that I don't like to talk about myself. I'm great. My life just isn't all that pertinent to my books, and aren't we supposed to be putting only pertinent info in our query letters?
Part of it is that I haven't sold a damn thing yet. (Mostly from lack of trying, I like to think.) I have a half dozen shorts that I think are publishable, but other than a handful of lit journals, they aren't really out there. I have four completed (as in through all the editing levels) novels and one novel I've written all the way to THE END that I haven't finished editing yet (because newer, zippier ideas keep pushing it aside). Of the four finished books, I've only really queried for the first two, and frankly, I didn't know what the hell I was doing at the time. I sent out five queries for the third book, and then stopped because the fourth book was demanding my time and effort. Now I'm beginning the query process for #4. (Hence, the four years, five books and nothing published thing - but let's leave all that for another post, eh?) Can you tell I'd rather write than query?
The point here is: What the hell do I put in a paragraph about myself that will make the agent in question think I'm the bee's knees?
Don't get me wrong. When I first jumped into the fray for Spectacle, I talked about myself. And then as I learned about the business, I learned I was saying all the wrong things. Read the net and you'll find instance after instance where the agent doesn't really care when you say you're committed to the process (everyone says it, and not everyone means it). They aren't really interested in the fact that you've spent your life teaching yourself everything you can about anything that interests you. And any writing you did for any corporation you worked for doesn't really count for selling a novel because that isn't fiction.
From what I understand, you can say you spend x-number of hours writing every day, and studying the industry, and perfecting your craft, but so does everyone else, and we come back to the point that not everyone means it. If you say it, are you going to sound like you're peddling another cartload of buffalo bagels - even when it's the truth?
Of course, it helps if you have a platform. But how many homeschooling, ex-salesmen, former boozehound books are gracing the shelves these days? I don't write about my life. I write about other people's lives, and for the same reason I wouldn't read a book about my life (except for the whole brain-damage memoir thing, which is still floating in the back of my head with a dozen other ideas).
Let's face it, folks. Right now, I live in the middle of nowhere, and my life is rather bland. I like it this way because it minimizes distractions and helps me focus better on my work. But it doesn't help sell my books. On paper, I look like a hermit or a hayseed. Looking at me now, you wouldn't see the high-powered sales meetings held in the suites at the top of the Las Vegas Hilton. (Some day, remind me to tell you the story of the green semi-formal suit and how it got me more attention than any sales executive wants.) Listening to me talk about my life here in BFE couldn't possibly show how I inherited my gift of gab from my father or my ability to blend into any situation from my mother. Nothing I could tell in a query letter would show you who I am, and what having me in your stable of talent would do for your agency.
Put me in a book signing, and I'll show you who I am. Get me a gig on CSPAN's BookTV, and you'll see what I can do. (Which reminds me, I've also been on TV before, so it's no biggie. True, it was public television, and I was 17, so if the cameras didn't freak me out then, they won't freak me out now.)
But please don't ask me for a paragraph about myself in a query letter. I'll come off flat, and you'll walk away bored - and then we'll both miss out on a wonderful opportunity. For now, let's forget about the chick behind the writing and concentrate on the writing itself. Trust me, if you like the manuscript, you'll love her.
So the question today is: If you don't have publishing credits or an MFA or a platform, just what do you put in your 'some info' paragraph?
(And before anyone says it, I've thought about using the whole 'brain damaged author' thing, and dismissed it. I'd rather not be defined by what I've overcome, and it's not pertinent to anything but the memoirs I may or may not ever write.)
In poker, there are basically two ways you can play it - passively smooth-calling and checking or aggressively betting and bluffing. If done right, either way can win you money. But the most money is won by the player that mixes it up. The theory is it keeps the other players guessing what you're going to do next, and wondering if you're bagging a good hand or bluffing with a bad hand. If you're lucky, more often than not their guess at your hand is wrong and you're raking in their dough.
With writing, the two ways you can write it are passive and active. Unlike poker, though, it seems like the trend is that you can never play it passive. While I do agree that a book written entirely in passive will end up being about as interesting as oatmeal, I don't think passive voice should be left out entirely. You have to mix it up. A little active here, a little passive there - keep your reader wondering what's next and keep them hooked without a constant barrage of active sentences or a total snooze-fest of passive ones.
Years ago, when I was first learning about the whole writing craft thing, and this debate first jumped into my consciousness, I picked up a book by a major proponent of the active voice (who shall remain nameless). I read about three pages in before I had to put it down. Too much, too fast. The whole plot was rapid-fire thrust into my brain. It felt like a book written for the A.D.H.D. club, and I'm not a member. For that matter, I don't want to be.
Sometimes writing in passive voice says something important about the characters and the story. Something you really need to get across without blatantly saying so-and-so is such-and-such. In the case of query letters, you only have so many words to accomplish your mission, and using passive voice to show that a certain character IS passive works much better, IMO than telling the reader so-and-so is a wimp, but she gets better. For example, I needed to use this device when I wrote the blurb for Blink. At the beginning, Mary is very passive - her world acts upon her and she really can't do anything about it. Over time, she becomes more active - and I think my blurb reflects this. Unfortunately, some agents are so anti-passive, I'm afraid the passive voice of those sentences would turn them off. *shrug*
As a reader, I like the ebb and flow of sentences. Sometimes a character does something, and sometimes something is done to them. That's the way the world works. Isn't it?
"John was hit by a book." - passive "A book hit John." - active
But can a book really be active? Watch for flying tomes? (Okay. In fantasy, maybe.) Think about a situation where the character really doesn't have any control - an earthquake perhaps, or a tornado. A writer could use passive voice to show how really helpless a character feels. Maybe John is huddled under a heavy object trying not to die, and he gets hit by a book. He is frightened by the trembling house. He is knocked to the floor by a gust of wind, or a powerful tremor, or by his dog - who's scared shitless, too. John feels like the world is acting against him; he feels like he has no control over his environment. He's passive.
But in the same situation, things are acting against him. So you mix it up. Huddled under his grandfather's massive oak desk, John is hit by the same copy of Moby Dick his father read to him as a boy. The wind whips his hair into his eyes, and the desk rocks. Above him, the roof creaks as the tornado whirls closer. As the heavy furniture begins to pull away from his grasp, he is knocked to the floor by an unknown force. He feels the fetid breath of hell upon his neck.
Not the best example, but you get the picture. All day every day, things happen. Sometimes we make them happen, and sometimes they happen to us. Active and passive.
Let's try another example (because it's fun and it's good exercise):
"She was hugged by her husband." "Her husband hugged her."
IMO, the passive version leaves some things open for interpretation. Maybe she just sat there and let him hug her because she wasn't really a hugging kind of gal, or perhaps because she's pissed at him. It tells me something about her. The second sentence, while active, is kind of bleh to me.
Maybe it's a fine distinction. Or maybe it's just me. I want to see an author mix it up. A little roller-coaster and a little merry-go-round certainly makes the experience more enjoyable for me. And sometimes just sitting on a bench watching the people stroll past makes for a nice break from the action.
Time for you to chime in. Do you think I'm off my rocker? Can a book be all active, or do you like a mix?
Hello. It's once again time for the weird and wonderful ways people find my blog. Most of the searches that bring people here are writing related. You know, people doing research on writing and agents, looking for ways to improve their craft, etc.
And then there are the weird ones...
This month's weirdest searches were:
spanking - I don't know why you were here, but I'm not into that. (Except in the case of naughty children, but let's not get into that debate.)
"hit head" "wet burrito" - This brings to mind a whole series of hilarious images.
pseudonym for brown noser suck up - I think the word this person was looking for was 'synonym'. Use a thesaurus. And a dictionary. Please. (On the upside, at least they spelled pseudonym right.)
what is pmmd? - In my world, PMMD stands for Post Manuscript Malaise Disorder. (I don't know what it stands for otherwise.) It's a little thing I made up to describe that feeling you get when you just finished writing a book. Sometimes there's a little bit of a lost feeling that comes after you just spent 6 weeks typing furiously to get a book finished and before you're ready to either start another book or edit the one you just finished. It's not contagious, and it's not fatal.
plum tuckered - This one keeps coming back. It means dog tired, whooped, bushed, beat, exhausted... You get the picture. It just says it in a more colorful way. Maybe I picked this up those couple years I spent living in north Florida. (Which is not really Florida, but more like Georgia-lite.)
Finally, I seem to be getting an overwhelming number of searches related to the chocolate cake recipe I posted a while back. Welcome to the site, fellow chocolate lovers!
So, tell me some of the weirdest ways people find your blog, and what are some of your most popular non-writing posts?
I don't have too much to report on at the moment. It's been one of those weeks. You know how sometimes you don't feel good, but you don't really feel sick either - just... I don't know... off? That's been this week.
Nonetheless, I did get started on my new book, and it is making progress. (Not quite the progress RTL made, but not every book can be written in 6 weeks.) This new book will be a suspense novel. I haven't decided if I'm going to throw a romance in with the suspense, but right now, it's not looking like there'll be a love interest for my MC. She's not striking me as a woman who will tolerate a distraction in her life right now. We'll see if that shifts as I get to know her better.
The villian is coming together nicely. I'm striking out into a less populated area in the realm of serial killers and focusing on a female murderer (they do happen every now and then), because as Kipling put it so well "The female of the species is deadlier than the male." She's kind of a trophy wife gone mad. So far, it's fun to write. Also, I sent the first pages off to my CP and she proclaimed it 'fierce'.
Other than that, I've restarted the query process with a newer, tighter blurb. (If you want to see it, let me know.) Just a few queries at a time, to test the waters. I know RTL is highly publishable and should make some nice sales, so if I don't get some interest right off the bat, I'll revise my query letter - as many times as it takes until I get it right and get an agent.
On the home front, my blanket is also coming along nicely (even though I ditched the blanket-meter). I finished the first seven strips, sewed them together and started on the next set of the pattern. So far, so good. And so warm. As I was sewing the strips together, my lap started to overheat. LOL The blanket is all in cream and rose with a strip of light sage for pizzazz. (I'd offer them for sale, but at the amount of time I put into one of these things, I don't know if I could recoup that financially.)
That's the AP story, and thank goodness it's sans reader comments. I read another take in the Atlanta paper, and some of the comments were almost as WTF as the story.
Seriously, though, WTF is wrong with the world that children feel it's okay to plot against their teacher because she reprimanded one of them for standing on a chair. And now, it looks like no punishment is going to be given. I heard on the news yesterday that the local law enforcement thought 'behavior modification' was the best way to handle this. These kids have never been taught about consequences, and from the sounds of it, they still won't be. From the sounds of it, they haven't even been expelled, but are instead on 'long-term suspension'.
(Update: I missed the part where three of them are being charged as juvenile offenders. I'm glad someone is taking this seriously. Finally.)
Give it a few years, and the ring-leaders will kill someone.
Of course, someone's already blaming the TV, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the parents. Sure some kids get to watch CSI - which IMO is way too graphic for little kids - but when it comes down to it, the parents are the ones letting them watch. And then the parents are the ones who don't explain the show to the kids afterwards. The parents apparently haven't impressed upon their kids what right and wrong are.
Teaching morality is a parent's responsibility. Not the TV, not the school, not the government. Not even books. When did people stop taking parental responsibility seriously???
And thus ends today's unscheduled rant. Proceed with your regular daily activities.
I love it when a new writing blog shows up. I love it even more when it's already got at least one writer I'm already familiar with. (Last time it was Manuscript Mavens, and look how well that's turned out.)
From their Welcome post: "We, The Six (Melissa Francis, Kristin Painter, Rhonda Stapleton, Amanda Brice, Gwen Hayes, and Chrissy Olinger) are an elite team of YA authors at different points in our publishing careers. We cracked each other up so much that one day we decided it would be nice to share with the world our unique perspectives."
As you all know, I'm not a YA writer (not that I haven't played with the idea), but these gals know what they're talking about. I predict much of their insights will translate across to adult writing as well, and if not, the posts look to be fun to read anyway. Check them out when you get a chance, and add them to your blogroll if you like what they have to say.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled blogrolling.
Writer of suspense, speculative fiction (aka dystopian, futuristic, post-apocalyptic... pick one, they all work), and urban fantasy for the adult market. Minor conspiracy theorist and major hermit, armchair Jeopardy! champion and fount of useless knowledge, pessimistic optimist and hopeful romantic, B.E. Sanderson spends her time reading, writing, gardening, and generally enjoying life with her husband and their cat.