Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fell off the blog bandwagon

So much going on it's hard to keep up with the little things like bragging about failures and planning wasting more money and effort on future contests. But it keeps me grounded in reality and the pleasant hope that one day I'll look back at this and say, "Hey. I WORKED for this success!"

The only works I've gotten published in the last few months are Twitter fiction. Everything else has been polite but firm rejections. Twitter Fic is fun, but not much in the way of recognition.

Currently working on two stories to try to get me into one of the two Clarion workshops. It will be a huge commitment of time and money IF I would happen to get in, but if I get accepted I will go. I'll find a way to raise the money. It's too good an opportunity. If I don't get accepted, then so what. I have to apply, though, because no one is going to come knocking on my door and asking if I'm the next George R.R. Martin. (If they do, I'd be suspicious!)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Share the love

Tomorrow I start my creative writer's club at school. I have 40 signed up. I doubt 20 will show. Fewer still will show up after they find out what's involved. I'm not doing tryouts, but I am expecting them to submit to at least one contest a month. I guess I could tell them I'm doing the same, that way they know I'm practicing what I preach. Additionally, they'll have to critique each other's work. Not just "I like it" but really delving into what is good and not so good about the writing. It's good practice, although tough. Maybe I can thicken their skins a bit.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

New joint venture

A friend of mine and I are planning on meeting every two weeks to critique each other's work. She and I think a lot alike, which is good and bad. Good in the sense we understand each other, bad in the sense if we understand it, others might not. It'll be fun, definitely. Helpful, probably. Looking forward to it.

There's something stuck under my "f" key that makes it not work every few strokes. Wonder what kind of typing demon it is. Hmmm....

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Feeling very unwriterish these days. Work is going well, but is stressful. It's hard to come home and work up enough energy to write something worthwhile. I've been keeping up with my journal, though, so as my September 1st deadline approaches, I aim to use those ideas with a vengeance.

A few days ago I wrote goals in my runner's blog for my race the next day. That seemed to help me during the run. So here are my writing goals for this week:

1. Get caught up on my contest entries in my gmail account. Won't take but 15-20 minutes. DONE!

2. Send out at least 5 more entries for August. Need to get going on that! This will include my piece for the writers' guild anthology.

3. Write at least 2 more pieces. They can be small ones.

4. Edit at least 1 previous piece.

My dirty dishes call. I ignore their cries of agony and continue to type. Let them suffer their rotten, smelly deaths. Reality has no claim on my sanity at the moment. (Wow. I think I need some sleep!)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

No revision in life

Last night my husband and I were informed about an old friend of ours who has ruined his life. Apparently, he and his wife split, there was a custody battle over their son, and one night our friend shot and killed his wife. We were obviously shocked at this news at first, but upon further thinking, it wasn't so surprising.

Some people have a deep passion about certain things: spouse, sport, child, hobby, etc. You take that away and all reasoning facilities disappear. Our friend was one of the smartest people we know. If he had been thinking logically, no one would have found the body and no one would have ever suspected he'd had anything to do with her disappearance. But what happened must have been  fit of passion over the child. He loved that boy more than anything. More than his wife, obviously. And in his passion he lashed out and got caught. He will probably spend the rest of his life in prison, possibly on death row.

It's this kind of passion I've never had. In some ways, I feel bereft that others can feel so much more deeply than I can about their lives. Even though this is a tragedy, I don't feel anything except disappointment and sadness for our friend, the son, and the family of the wife. I feel worse about the fact I DON'T feel anger.

Then again, I don't think I would ever get that angry about losing something/someone that I would kill a human being. That's a definite advantage.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Time lapse

With school starting, my writing/contesting has been put on the back burner. I need to get my bearings with these new kids before I can feel creative enough, have enough energy, and not feel guilty taking the time to write. My goal is September, which is two weeks. In the mean time, I'm going to make an effort to do more journal entries so I have seeds to write from.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tiny Publishing Credit

8/4/11 I was the "Today's Story" author on One Forty Fiction.
It also showed up on Facebook!/onefortyfiction

The fragrance of almonds pervaded the kitchen. The last flavor he’d taste, she thought. Smiling, she carried the cookies up to the bedroom.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

More contests

Six more out. Writing stories like mad so I don't have to multiple submit. Is this the last minute creative spurt before school starts in the fall and my brain goes dead for a few months? Maybe.

I need to start working on my sf/fan portfolio of stories so I can apply for the Clarion workshops. High probability I won't get accepted first time out, but if I don't apply, they can't say Yes. And if they do say no? They can't take away my birthday. Maybe they could in an alternate universe, though. Interesting.... ;-)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Journal stories

I've been keeping a journal with story ideas. Not something I have to write in every day, but a handy little book when my brain tickles me with a cool plot, character, or setting.

I typed in a couple today and am quite pleased with the results. I'll need to let them sit a couple days so I can get perspective and revise them, but I think they'll be good ones to market to contests.

I also pulled out an old issue of my college literary magazine. My writing was riddled with adjective bullets and adverbial hyperbole, but the concepts were still good. I'm also revising these pieces to send out. No reason to let good meat rot in the basement.

Friday, July 15, 2011

More rejection, YAY!

Several more thumbs-down received. In celebration, I submitted 4 more pieces to other places.

I think I'll take the rejection letters, print them on fabric, and make a quilt. That way I can sit on them and write more.

Funny thing is, all this rejection isn't bothering me a bit. So far my thick skin is holding up. As with running, you take your losses, figure out what you did wrong, and keep trying.

Friday, July 8, 2011

New contest entries!

Just received another rejection...more decoration for my wall of shame when I'm a famous published author. ;-)

So, in celebration, I just sent of two new pieces to Glimmer Train's Very Very Short Fiction contest (one is about 200 words, the other about 300). I also sent a 62 word piece to the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. How Exciting!

Now for more waiting....

Friday, July 1, 2011

Killing my darlings

What if you have too many darlings to kill? Seriously, I'm trying to carve 50 pp out of my manuscript and I'm finding very little I can pull out without major plot revisions. I'm about 2/3 through and only have about 15 pages out. Sigh. Maybe next read through....

Monday, June 27, 2011

Word sabotage

Just figured out that in MS Word when you put spaces between the ellipses, it counts them as separate words! The computer is off by 450 extra "words" from this glitch in the first 1/2 of my book. Grr and a half!

Even worse, when I went to some websites that claim they count words, they also count the separate periods plus counts contractions as two words. Gack my lunch!

The good news is, I don't have to worry AS much about pulling words from my novel, but it's still frustrating to know that an expensive program like MS Word isn't accurate.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Just spent the last 30 minutes changing passwords, cancelling accounts, and generally fuming. What would they want with my accounts? Grr. Anyway, FB, e-mail, and blogs are more secure and one of my throw away accounts has been thrown away. People should find something more productive to do with their time rather than annoy those of us who work for a living.

Staring at the monitor

I don't know how it is for other writers, but a lot of my time is spent staring at the monitor considering my next word, sentence, or concept. I don't like this staring contest. The monitor almost always wins. I get even more frustrated, though, when I just type and type then erase it over and over. So being lost in thought seems to be the lesser of two evils.

My current staring contest is with middle of my novel Shattered Certainties. Initially I was doing so to re-write the middle so I could market two smaller books, but I've since found a publisher that wants long sf/fantasy novels. Problem is, the whole monstrosity is about 12,000 words TOO long. So while I'm re-writing, I'm also trying to shorten the thing.

Every change I make here in the middle is changing vast tracts of the end. Not bad, really, because the changes are good (I've found some continuity errors that would later come back to haunt me!) but this means I'm going to have to throw most of the second 1/2 out and start from scratch. I've done this before, I know "killing my babies" is for the greater good, but it seems so overwhelming. It's like being confident in running your 5k's and suddenly signing up for a half-marathon. You THINK you can do it, but never having done it, yet, you know it's going to be a lot of work.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Short shorts

I'm not sure where my current obsession has come from, but I LOVE writing short shorts. Get in, make your point, get out. It's harder in a way, because I have to consider the importance of each word. But it's also easier in a way because I don't have to delve too deeply into plot, character, or setting. Plus, I love coming up with a twist or surprise ending.

I bought two books today of short fiction. One is 55 word stories, some of which are really cool. The other is a second volume of short stories, of which I have the first. I'm hoping to get more inspiration and make a collection of stories that may be marketable.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Submitted another short story to a contest tonight. This was an old story I went back and revised. Haven't heard from the other contests I submitted to earlier this summer, but I'll keep checking.

I'm now seeing enough contest/publication requests through my mailing lists that I'm getting a little overwhelmed. Sometimes I don't want to submit to any of them because I'm afraid none of my work really applies to what they want. Then again, if I don't try, they CAN'T say yes. So, tonight, I bit the bullet and sent in one of my slightly-weird pieces. We'll see how it does. All they can do is say no.

I've been keeping track of contests for short stories, flash fiction, novels, and collections, but I'm hesitant in submitting to the collections ones. Not only do I NOT have enough quality stuff for a collection, I'm just not sure I want to commit that much stuff to one publication. Maybe I'm being silly. I have to have 50 to 100 pages of quality stories to submit anyway, and I don't have that yet.

I'm considering entering a contest where I have to write an entire novel in 3 days. Crazy. You can do all the planning you want ahead of time, but you can only write the thing in the three alloted days. Still considering. I'm not sure I'll have the time to do that, but it might be fun to try.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Time and what we choose to do with it

I just realized it's been WEEKS since my last posting. I could list excuses. Reasons, even. But if I'm honest, it comes down to the fact that I've felt there are other things more important than writing.

That attitude will never get me published.

Additionally, I have this whole digital notebook dedicated to contests, publication possibilities and agents. I've written several new stories and have a whole collection that have never been submitted anywhere. Have I used either recently? No.

I can't get published if I don't submit writing.

So the conclusion is, if I want to be a writer, I need to quit making excuses and write. If I want to get published, I need to quit making excuses and submit things.

What am I doing tomorrow? Trying to figure out how I'm going to fit writing into my triple-booked schedule. Why do I do this to myself? Avoidance behavior is becoming my norm...if only I could use writing as my avoidance, maybe this attitude could work to my advantage.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Short submission, short post

Today I submitted 5 very extremely short short poems to a magazine called INCH. It's tiny. It doesn't pay anything except copies if you get in, but hey, it's only POETRY. haha. It'll be ironic if I can get these published before my good stuff.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A reading first

You know how when you start reading a book and you feel the obligation to finish it? Well, SOME of us feel this insatiable urge, even if the book is bad. It's kinda along the lines of "finish what you start" or "clean your plate."

So I just finished a book that I forced myself to finish thinking eventually this HAS to get better and it never did. It's by an author I adore, but the book was about cliche topics and went nowhere. The descriptions were gorgeous (but too long) the main character was good (but as plain as Great Value instant oatmeal) and the plot was interesting (but so convoluted I had trouble figuring out what to pay attention to and what to ignore).

After I finished the book I stared at the other two TOMES in the series and (here's the "reading first" incident) pulled up the Wikipedia entries to read the spoiler summary of both. Best decision I ever made. Saved me another week of torturous reading AND I found out what happened.

Part of me feels guilty because I didn't give the second and third books a chance. Then again, the readers on agreed with my assessment of the first book and didn't speak highly of the other two. My time is valuable and if I'm going to invest 3-4 days into a book, I need to 1) enjoy it and/or 2) learn something from it. I learned something from reading this one and NOT reading the other two: the bookworm secret agents didn't come take my reading license!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blah blah day

What do you do when your brain's creative juices are sucked out by (insert life happenings/biological event here)? Keep writing. Even if what you type/scribble is horrible, keep writing. Even if you know everything you write will be ripped out later like flood-soaked carpet, WRITE. Otherwise, you might get into a pattern (as I often do) of not writing at all. That's where I am today.

I'm in one of those ruts where I'll type a few minutes then be possessed with the urgent need to go check the mail. Write for another few minutes, then must do the laundry. Write, then I'm hungry. Write then this, write then that. I've been doing the up and down "ooh, shiny!" routine all day and I'm pretty disgusted with myself. About all I've accomplished is mended a crocheted shawl, finished a couple loads of laundry, and logged a few more steps on the pedometer. Oh, and I think my washer's leaking, so I had to sweep up the pool of water and re-check the floor a few times, too. Sigh.

So, back to writing. Oh, did I hear the dryer go off? Gotta go check.... ;-)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Wasting time

Ah, the computer is such a two-edged sword when it comes to writing. I can type much faster than I can write. Can edit faster, too. But when my attention wanders, it's SO easy to flip to Amazon or ebay or some games website and waste hours of time.

This past week has been really a challenge for me attention wise when it comes to my writing. Part of it's biological, part is stress from work, but I also take responsibility for my inherent laziness that I've given free reign. Some days my brain feels fuzzy and I don't want to do I don't. Sometimes I'm just sick of it all and want to give up. So I allow myself to be a slob for a couple days, then get some rest, pull my boots back on, and get back to work. I don't know if it's part of the female cycle or just mine, but after almost 40 years I realize this fuzzy brain laziness will pass in a few days, then I get back to work. Maybe it's the price I pay for being super focused/always busy the other 25 days of the month.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I've been spending my nights trying to locate possible agents and getting disheartened when I couldn't find any that accepted unsolicited manuscripts, my genre, or anything more than a query letter.

My first mistake was using only one source: an old Writer's Market book. Reading through the agent section and picking out only the ones that SAID fantasy left me few choices.

I figured out, though, that if I start at the beginning, type in their web address or search for their website, that I get different information. Some are under new management. Some have new agents. Some just have changed what they're looking for. And then I still run into some that think fantasy is a ridiculously hard genre to sell or they hate it. In any case, I have new hope.

I now have about 5 possibilities to send to, and that's going to be my project next week. I'm still saddened that most are query only or query and synopsis, but a couple I can send a few pages of the book, too.

Make the most of what you have!

All they can do is say "no."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Officially bummed

Okay, so I knew finding an agent would be difficult, but I thought the difficult part would be getting them to ask for a manuscript, NOT finding someone (ANYONE) who is willing to consider reading a query for a fantasy! Gack! Yes, yes, I realize the market isn't strong for adventure and magic and elves, but come on! EVERY SINGLE AGENCY I looked up this evening has agents who either A) not accepting fantasy novels (although they used to) or B) not accepting unsolicited manuscripts. GRRRR.

I may have to speed up work on my urban fantasy. Apparently that's "hot" right now. But isn't it Grimm's fairy tales (or Shakespeare) that tells us the older sister should get married first otherwise bad things happen?!!?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Print goes bad fast these days

I've been pawing through the 2009 Writer's Market for literary agents and finding a great deal is out of date. Some agencies no longer accept my genres, perhaps because those specific agents have moved on. Some listings are not quite what the book suggests. One was merely a catalog page of links to other publishing agencies. Suspicious!

I've passed on a few just on the "feel" of the web page. Not the colors or the pictures, more how easy it was to find information, how much information they had available, if they had agent bios/pics, and of course what they said. Some were very sparse with the info and it was hard to find who represents what genre. One I found offers a lot more services than agent, which again raised my suspicious flag. Maybe they're legit, maybe not.

I found an agent I like, but she didn't specifically say "fantasy" in her reading list. I sent an e-mail and am waiting to see what I get back.

My first contest

I did my homework to make sure it was legit, had several people do a once-over on my piece, used a secure method of payment, and submitted to my first contest. Well, my first PAYING contest. High-school and college literary journals don't really pay. If I don't get anything, I have my next two contests with this piece lined up. I could simultaneously submit, but then I would have to notify all the contests that I've done so, and to me that would reduce my chances of winning. The submission guidelines don't say so, but if I were running a contest, that might be the difference between publishing one good piece over another.

So the waiting begins again. Two months.

That doesn't mean I can't write/submit OTHER pieces other places. In fact, that's a strategy I learned at the conference. Have several finished pieces of several genres/types and rotate them around so you can send each to only one contest at a time but still enter several contests.

I've made a calendar in a folder to keep track of all my contest/agent queries. This way I'll know when to look for results/re-query when the deadline passes.

Friday, May 6, 2011

News on the Agent Front (dun, dun, DUN...)

Yes, folks, it is official. I have been rejected again. The agent I met at the April writers' guild meeting sent me a polite note that my piece wasn't right for their agency, and that it was nice to meet me.

The funny thing is, I'm not at all upset about it. I wasn't even shocked. Disappointed, yes, definitely. I really like the no-nonsense attitude of this woman. But the more I looked at what this agent represents (romance fantasy/science fiction), the more I realized my adventure fantasy with a TINY bit of romance wouldn't be a good fit.

So, onward and upward. I've picked out several other agents to research this weekend, plus I'm submitting at least one flash fiction piece to a few contests.

Plus, I've discovered I DO have more than one novel idea in me, and that is something I've worried about for some time. I'm currently working on an urban fantasy with a heavy romance element (well, as heavy as I get with romance. Fade to black is my go-to scene). If I can't get an agent for my first book/series, maybe I can with my second.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cool writer's tool

Wordle is a really cool tool to create a word cloud of your work. Why is this important for a writer? Well, when you copy and paste your document into Wordle, you see a visual expression of your focus. For example, if you use the word "got" more than anything else, it will be bigger than all the other words. Who wants a piece focused on such a do-nothing verb?

You can also see if your focus/hero is really the focus. If there are other characters whose names appear more often, therefore bigger font in Wordle, then your hero might not be the focus of the story. That could be good or bad depending on how you want to portray your hero.

Besides, as a visual person, I like to see my work condensed down into its most frequently used words. Gives me perspective. And changing colors and fonts is a great mind distraction when you're trying to come up with the next great plot twist.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Yet another writing book

This evening I ordered yet another "how to write" book. Part of me feels guilty at the expense because most of what I read on how to write these days are things I already know. However, from my training as a teacher, I realize that sometimes what we know in our heads and what we do are two different things. So maybe if I continue to read good books on how to write, that will improve my writing.

I'm making my summer reading list, too. Since I'm going to be working on my urban fantasy story/novel, I'm going to go back and read several of the urban fantasies out there that I really like. I'm also going to read some high fantasy books so I can continue to polish my first book. I've figured out how to end it in the middle of its 140,000 morass, thereby making two (approximately) 80,000 novels which tend to be a bit more palatable to most people's first/second book choice. My third bit of reading will be a bit more technical, as learning more about governmental agencies and psychology are current obsessions of mine.

A writer's work is never done. Now if we could just get PAID for never taking vacation...;-)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Presentation for the local Writer's Guild

I gave my presentation on organizing your writing with software this morning. We had very few people in attendance, which was disappointing, but many people had other obligations come up (family issues, flooding issues, etc.) so that's understandable.

It went well, but I talked too fast. I have a couple strategies to use next time to slow myself down, but that teacher attitude of "gotta get the material in before the bell" gets to me sometimes. ;-)

Now I'm going to present the idea to the state writer's guild and see if they'd accept that as a presentation for next year's convention. They didn't have anything like my presentation this year, and I think people would be interested in learning/sharing ideas of how to get better organized.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Patience is a terrible thing to waste

As I sit here with my knee elevated, enduring the discomfort of the switch out between icepack and heat wrap, I wonder when (if) I will ever learn to be patient. There's a fine line between busting your butt to achieve more and working so hard you hurt yourself, and I've crossed it physically. Now comes the waiting for my knee to heal. I hate waiting. But if I ever want to run again (or even walk without a limp), I need to be patient and give my knee a rest.

I'm also waiting on possible new job interviews, a call from an agent (hopefully telling me my novel is the best thing to hit fantasy since Industrial Light and Magic) and for my husband to get home out of the stormy night. I hate waiting. But if I want to be a successful employee/writer/wife, I have to learn to wait with grace.

So in the meantime I'll write. I'll read. I'll work while I'm waiting. But that doesn't mean I like it any more.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Brain dead

I'm so tired and overwhelmed I almost can't put words together. It feels like mentally wading through quicksand or breathing shaving cream.

There are so many things I need to do for work, for writing, for my social groups, for myself, for my family, etc. etc. And it's raining again (still) and I'm worried about all the people in danger of losing stuff and lives to the flooding. There's just too much to deal with at the moment.

(deep breath) It's days like this I have to remember to take one step at a time. Physically and mentally I'm done for the day. Best call it a night and start fresh in the morning.  I can't solve every problem and I can't win every war all at once. So tomorrow I'll do one more thing, then one more, then one more. Eventually it'll all get done or it wasn't really that important in the first place.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Write every day...right!

It's like eating broccoli. You need to do it. It's good for you. Some of us even like broccoli on occasion. But writing something every day? What if I don't have anything to say? What if I'm too busy? What if it's raining so hard outside that I can't think past is my basement flooded yet?

Yes, I contend that writers must write everyday, that we always have something to say, that if we're too busy to write then we need to look at our priorities, and that when distractions occur we need to have a plan ahead of time.

Is that to say that people who don't write every day aren't writers? Of course not. It's where your focus is. If you have kids, have an intense/stressful job, family drama, water in your basement, etc., that's probably where your focus is. No sin in that. But for those of us who can and are willing to give up daily TV watching, social events, and do laundry in all-day marathons, etc., we can put our focus into writing. There are those amazing individuals who can do the career/family and writing all at once (amazing, stressed-out, crazy people), but I'm not one of them.

And who's to say you can't change your focus? Once the kids are gone, once the basement is dry again, go back to writing. It'll be there waiting, just like the trusty dog that loves you no matter what.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


While at work do you ever think, "I'd really love to be home writing," but when you get home you're too tired/distracted to write? You'd rather watch TV or sleep or some other mindless drivel? Yeah, I have this problem, too. Often. Usually Monday through Friday and sometimes on the weekends when I really get lazy. However, I learned something today to beat that attitude and it came from my running lesson.

I'm a new runner. Nearly 39 years old and never wanted to run, never could run when I tried. But a couple friends encouraged me to enroll in a runner's training program, so I did. (Sad thing is, both of them had to drop out due to health issues. ;-( So for the past 7 weeks, I've been working up to longer distances and faster times. It hurts. It's hard. I LOVE IT!

Today, for the first time, I ran 3 1/2 miles non-stop in 38 minutes. Nothing record-breaking, but decent. What did I learn from this?

The first mile is the hardest. I feel like my knees are going to shatter every time I step. My lungs keep threatening to burst, my eyes sting from the sweat, and sometimes my feet or legs try to cramp up. But I keep going. The second mile my body quits hurting and I can feel the tension rolling off of me (or is that sweat?) Either way, I feel strong, confident, and able to continue. So I try three. At three, I'm starting to tire so I really have to work on picking up my toes and heading forward, not leaning back. It's a contest between my mind and my body...which will give out first? When the muscles in my legs start tightening like a rattler around a rabbit, that's when I pick a spot and quit. I'm done.

In relation to writing, I have to start to get anywhere. Simple concept, hard to do sometimes. It's that first paragraph or first page or first chapter that's daunting, but once I'm past that, I can feel the flow of the writing pouring through my fingers. There is a point, though, when my concentration wanes and I have to make a decision: am I being lazy or am I really tired enough that I need to quit? So at that point I need to make a goal, write to that point, summarize what comes next, then go to bed. Start again in the morning.

(yawn) So I guess if I'm continuing the writing metaphor, this blog entry was my warm up. Here's to the first mile tonight! ;-)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Conference Notes-"Reading from the Slush Pile" with Kristin Nelson

This session was by far one of my favorite and the one I learned the most from. The idea was, the agent (Kristin Nelson) read silently while a volunteer reader read aloud the beginning of people's stories. Kristin stopped the reader when something in the manuscript threw up a "red flag" i.e. when she would stop reading as an agent and send a rejection letter. Then she explained why.

This is a painful experience for many because when your work is read aloud and critiqued, sometimes it hurts. Kristin was very tactful about her issues with the pieces, but she was also honest.

She began by assuring everyone that "where you are today isn't where you'll be in six months or 10 years." She wanted to make sure everyone continued to write and didn't quit because of something she said in the workshop.

Only one of the dozen or so stores she read got past the first page. She didn't read mine. (Rats!) Below are some of the issues that came up:

     -setup feels like a short story rather than a novel (when you write in the wrong style for the media you choose, it's gonna feel "off")
     -loose on setting details (when the reader can't picture where/when the characters exist, it's hard to get caught up in the story)
     -panic doesn't stab or prickle, people don't shimmy through doors, people don't growl when they speak, sadness doesn't drag (when using metaphoric language, be careful to make your meaning clear and not just use words/images because they sound cool)
     -if writing from a child's point of view, make sure you use their language and how they perceive the world. Make sure to match the language of the characters to their characters rather than generic phrases.
     -don't be general
     -SHOW. Even worse, don't show it then tell what you just showed (I'm bad about this. School teacher training kicking in.)
     -don't use extra/flowery words and dilute the plot. Get in, make your point, get out.
     -keep the mood, don't switch mid chapter. Choose words that fit your mood.
     -watch metaphors. Sometimes it makes understanding MORE difficult rather than easier.
     -start the story in the right place. This is a hard one, and a topic of many writing books. Basically, for modern audiences, you need to be placed right on top of the action, not 1000 years ago with the history before your story.
     -cut what you don't need. This, too, is a hard one. You may love a word/phrase/paragraph/chapter, but if it doesn't forward the plot or characters, you may need to cut it.
     -prologue is not back story. Back story is world building which should be learned in context. Often the prologue is in a different voice or POV than the story, seems to have nothing to do with the story, and confuses the reader.
     -don't use passive sentences in tense situations.
     -if you create a new metaphor, you need to explain it (in context, obviously, so the reader doesn't get pulled out of the story)
     -you must describe your characters in context. A list pulls the reader away from/out of the story.
     -to sell your characters, you have to instantly place the reader into the context. Don't put a lot of world building in at the beginning otherwise the characters get lost.
     -setting must make physical sense. Is the bedroom going to open up onto the porch? (maybe...) Is the kitchen in the basement? (possibly, but why?)
     -watch the length of description on your action scenes. Action is great, but too much description can be confusing
     -in general, keep the same POV in a section/chapter.
     -explanations in text that are SOLELY FOR THE PURPOSE OF INFORMING THE READER are sloppy writing. You must work explanations into the story so it's normal for the characters to talk/act this way.

I took these hints and combed through the first three chapters of my novel. Pulled out a few hairballs, a fingernail clipping, and a bunch of lint. Eww! Hopefully, with that last bit of spring cleaning, I've found myself representation. We'll see!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Title...Negative, Much!

Several people have commented about the negativity of my title. I can understand if you see it that way, but my perspective is the reality of publishing requirements, not negativity. The reality is, anyone can write words on a page. To take those words and re-arrange, cut, paste, and re-imagine them into a better form takes persistence, intelligence, and sometimes a hack-and-burn attitude about anything superfluous to the plot/characters/setting/marketability of your piece. THAT's why revision is cold, because sometimes your "best" stuff ends up on the virtual cutting room floor.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Conference Notes-"Jump Starting Your Short Story" part ii

Now that I don't have to worry about making the deadline to submit my 3 chapters (simply worry about the rejection I'll receive in a month or so), I can go back to my conference notes and see if I can glean any more wisdom.

The second half of Elaine Viets' presentation was mostly how to get mystery or thriller stories/books published, but her ideas apply to most genres. Just because I prefer to write sci/fi and fantasy doesn't mean I won't occasionally step out of my comfort zone and try something else for a change, either.

Her suggestions for getting short fiction published:
     -e-zines (their submission guidelines are different but just as stringent as print media, so be careful)
     -small print press (usually genre specific)
     -Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock magazines (mystery/thriller specific)
     -Crime Wave (again, mystery/thriller non-fiction)
     -start at the top (choose the most prestigious magazines/publishers first, get rejected a lot, then go to the smaller presses. Who knows, you might get published nationally, but you won't know if you don't submit!)

Elaine suggested if you ever get so angry at someone you want to kill them, do so in a novel. Apparently, she has done that quite a few times. She says it's a great way to save on therapy! ;-)

Most agents/publishers for short stories are looking for:
     -an opening that grabs you
     -a twist at the end

What kills your submission?
     -old ideas
     -being unprofessional
     -not reading the publication
     -not following the guidelines

Enter contests!

One of the best suggestions for me was the idea of using short stories to explore characters in your novels. I've done that a bit in my head and with notes in a notebook, but not formally on the computer. I need to do this to flesh out some of my characters.

Good even'

Submission Away!

I just sent the first three chapters of my novel to the agent I met at the Missouri Writers' Guild conference. Upon further study of the books she's represented, I really don't think she'll choose mine. Her clients all have romance as a significant part in their plots, whereas mine as a tiny bit. Who knows. Maybe she'll be so impressed with the writing she'll take me anyway. ;-)

Now for the waiting...check phone. No, she hasn't called yet. Check e-mail. Nope, no e-mail. Facebook? No? How long does it take to read 24 pages? (*vbg!*) It seems my life is a lot of waiting lately.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

If my head weren't attached...

I left my notebook (with all my conference notes) and the current story I'm revising (to submit for query by Saturday) at work. I was so anxious to leave and go running, I didn't think to check the other bag. Oh, well. It'll be there tomorrow. I can still do revisions with the copies I have at home. I'm too tired from running 3 miles in the heat (okay, hot for ME, but not really hot yet. I'm working on it!)

Currently I'm using several of Kristin Nelson's ideas to polish my first three chapters of my novel. The biggest problem I see is I often give information for the sake of the readers rather than in context. This is a HARD change for me to make, since writing fantasy necessitates world building which requires the writer to explain to the reader what is going on and why things are different. But as I've said, revision isn't easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Conference Notes-Jump Starting Your Short Story part I

Elaine Viets is an hysterical speaker! If you have an opportunity to hear her, please try to make it. She has a very dry sense of humor and an awesome sense of timing.

The first part of her breakout session was on how to diagnose problems with your short stories that don't seem to be going anywhere and how to fix those problems.

     -Think small and twisted. That gives the reader something unexpected to look forward to.
     -Consider that you may be trying to put too much information in (it's a short story, not a novel).
     -Usually, for a short story, you want no more than 4 main characters. If you have too many, you can combine roles or often just cut out one or two.
     -Read your story aloud.
     -Read good short stories.
     -Write a one sentence plot summary then try to keep your story on that line of thinking.
     -Start quick, finish quick
     -Finish with a twist (personal preference here. Some people don't like twists at the end)
     -Think about something you KNOW well and write about that or include that in your story.

The second part of her session was on how to get published. I'm mentally burnt out right now, so I'll post the rest tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Conference Notes-Periodicals Panel

This panel was composed of various editors of on-line, children's, and traditional periodical media. Although this isn't my first interest, I'm considering trying some free-lance opportunities to make a little money and get some experience under my belt. The following are some of my notes from the session:

Good qualities of freelance writers?
     -passionate about their topic
     -has an eye for detail
     -can spin a good tale (fiction)
     -stay within the word count
     -**make deadlines**
     -accurate query letter (query honestly reflects the focus of the work)
     -good communication/polite/thoughtful
     -solid, concise query
     -ability to write to fit the periodical (have read the media and are familiar with what is usually published, what has been published, etc.)
     -someone who doesn't argue with the editor/agent when turned down

The difference between print and on-line media?
     -print is somewhat slower in production
     -print can have more white space/margins
     -on-line is faster and more up-to-date

Don't query, "I have 3 ideas, pick one!" This means you are indecisive. Query the one you think is best, and if that doesn't work, do the other two one at a time.

Query look-fors:
     -CHECK THE GUIDELINES, because every media/company has different requirements
     -should be 3 basic paragraphs-hook, what it's about, & bio/credits
     -know what type(s) of articles each media publishes
     -include part of the lead (non-fiction)
     -explain where you see yourself/your article fitting in to their media
     -NOT TOO LONG, a short page is enough.

Platform/presence: how important is that in periodical publishing?
     -If you want to build a following, use your periodical publications to advertise your e-presence (Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.)

Enter contests. They make you a better writer, keeps you writing, and makes you write for a purpose.

Look for grants to help keep you afloat until you make your "big break", but don't quit your day job. ;-)

Tomorrow I'll review my notes on the session: Signing with a Literary Agent: Facts and Myths by Sandra Carrington-Smith

Monday, April 11, 2011

Conference notes-Agents/Editor's Panel

Although some people thought this session was a little harsh, I enjoyed it. It was realistic, which is what I like to hear. I don't pay people to lie to me and say everything I write is going to get published. So here are some tidbits I thought were interesting/helpful:

-Make sure to do the research and put the agent's name (spelled correctly) on your query letter. Not doing so is a sure way to get your manuscript rejected.

-A writer has to realize that a work has to serve two distinct (and sometimes conflicting) purposes. One, it has to be good, two it has to be marketable. Agents help you with both, but its really your job to take care of 99% of the good writing part, plus listen to the advice of the agent who knows the marketing side.

-To pitch a novel to an agent, summarize the story arc, main characters, main relationships, and how it ends. Leave time for the agent to ask questions. This is harder than it sounds!

-Social networks (Facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc.) are the lifeblood of current authors. Use them but don't let them become time wasters.

-Read the blogs of agents you want to sell to. That will give you insight not only into if their personality is a match for yours, but if your writing style fits with what they're looking for.

-Don't use passive words (got, have, went, etc.)

-Yes, you may send queries to more than one agent at a time, but make them unique (don't carbon copy to several different people). Also, make sure to look at the guidelines for each. They may be slightly different.

-A query for fiction needs to be regarding a finished work, and one that has been edited by people other than you. Non-fiction you usually query an idea rather than a finished product.

-The first 30-40 pages of your manuscript should introduce your characters, your world, and include the inciting incident (that happening that causes everything else to occur). Query letters should be built around this scene/part of the book.

-Books that go over the "standard" word count are harder to publish, especially for 1st timers. Often there's a lot of fluff that can be cut.

-Less than 1% of authors that submit queries to agencies get represented by that agency. Even less than that are published. Eek!

It's a tough publishing world out there, especially since the digital age is upon us. As Colin Powell says, "There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

But Writing Doesn't Keep you Warm and Cozy, Either ;-)

I just came back from the Missouri Writer's Guild conference in St. Louis, Missouri, and boy am I stoked! I've been writing for years, going to school for years, hanging out with writers for years, but have never felt so positive and full of ideas. That's not to say that there won't be hurdles to building my career as a writer, but I'm finally ready to do the work necessary to get there.

So what did I learn?

Revision often isn't pleasant, and therefore the title of my blog. You may have a passage or character or chapter you love but it doesn't fit into the grand scheme of things. Therefore, with a cold heart, you must "kill your babies." However, if you have good peer editors, good agents, and good editors, they can help you make the process as easy as possible. Think ripping the band aid off the elbow. Ouch, but must be done!

And, of course, I've always known writing isn't going to be my multi-million dollar cash cow. If I do end up being successful, I'll only make a few extra bucks here and there. Perhaps, after 20 years of plugging away I'll have enough of a following to live off the royalties, but I'm not going to live in the future.

Toward that end of being successful, I've taken the first steps to acquiring an agent. At the conference I presented a successful pitch, she asked me to send the first 30 pages, and I'll do that later this week. I doubt I'll get an agent first try, but who knows. She may be looking for what I have to offer!

My plan for this blog is to use it to remind myself of what I learned at the conference, what I'm learning as I write, and to post updates on my progress in the career.

Akan guide you all.