Monthly Archives: September 2011

NaNoWriMo: To Wait or Not to Wait?

Dilemma: Start writing the rough draft of my 3rd novel, or wait until the start of NaNoWriMo in November?

If I wait until November, I can participate in my first National Novel Writing Month. It’s a lofty goal of 50,000 words in 1 month. That’s 12,500 words/week. I normally average less than 5K words/week when I’m in the middle of a manuscript. So this endeavor is intimidating. A Himalayan peak when I’m used to sand castle mounds. There’s no official prize at the end of the month, other than the incredible accomplishment of an almost-complete manuscript. Assuming I reach the summit at K2.

But waiting means I’m stagnant for another month. I’m not sure my brain can handle that. I need to keep writing to keep the ideas flowing. To keep my creativity pumping and not lose on what I’ve researched. I’m reading like crazy, even bouncing between genres, and getting advice from other writers/authors/editors. I know I could write other things until then, like short stories, articles, more blog posts. But for some reason I’m having a hard time coming up with those ideas. My fingers are itching to get into the 3rd novel and the characters I’ve created. They don’t seem to want to write anything else.

I’ve continuously pulled out the character sketches, tweaked, added, adjusted anything I could for these MC’s, including their back stories, GMC’s, likes/dislikes, and how they take their coffee’s (and why they switched from beer to coffee).  I guess I’m using those as a substitute for actually starting on the manuscript while I wait for NaNoWriMo.

Actually, now that I think about it (and write out my thoughts), 50,000 words will only be about 2/3rds of the book. Leaving me a good 25,000 words to start.

Thanks so much for being my sounding board! Virtual-land solves another dilemma, once again!

Guess what I’ll be doing? *wink

New Voices Contest from Mills & Boon

I entered my 1st chapter of my work-in-progress into the Mills & Boon New Voices contest.

Check it out if you have a free 3min to read it. http://www.romanceisnotdead.com/Entries/31-Rip-It

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 Steps for Writers Anonymous

Hi, my name is Susie, and I’m a writer.

It’s been 3 hours since I’ve written anything. And a good 3 weeks since I’ve written fiction. I know I’m breaking the rules by writing this very post.

I admit I will always be addicted to writing and feel a pull inside my soul to put a pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. But I need to be constructive, productive, relative, and any other ‘–ive’ that’s necessary to make my life- and writing- manageable.

I trust in a higher power, greater than myself, to restore my sanity after moments of writing and the lunacy that it sometimes ensues. I willingly turn my will, life, and pen over to the care of that higher power. The all-knowing muse that has my fingers continue to race over the keyboard.

I need to bring closure to my writing life by apologizing to any critiquers, editors, and agents, whom I may have snapped at for rejections or poor reviews. It came from an ignorant and bad place inside me, that I’m constantly striving to improve. And I’m sorry they were the targets of my negative energies.

I need to thank those who’ve supported me and believed I could be better, improve, and build upon my skills with a positive focus. Encouragement is essential, and I’m grateful for them.

I’m grateful for the sun, the moon, the air, light, food, chocolate, and a working charge in my laptop. But more importantly I’m grateful for my husband, my son, my parents, my brothers, my friends, my peers, my neighbors, and anyone else that has put up with my crazy antics and habits as a writer. Including writing snaps at midnight and the light that keeps others up, putting lunch or dinner on the table an hour late, or emotional breakdowns when scenes aren’t going right and I have to backtrack. I know I look like a toddler throwing a tantrum during those times, and I’m grateful they haven’t shoved me in a corner for a time-out. I’m grateful my time-outs involve a Diet Coke and a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup.

Sorry, Caden.

I apologize for the days I haven’t bothered to change out of my PJ’s and forget I’m not wearing a bra under my t-shirt and haven’t bothered to comb my hair for my trek to the mailbox, and thereby scare the neighborhood children playing in the street.

I’ve always been ready for the higher power to remove the bad habits I employ as a writer. I’m ready for Him to remove all adverbs from my vocabulary, instill an enduring sense of ‘show, don’t tell’ in my imagination, and remove a constant need for coffee in my nervous system. I ask the higher power to remove these short comings, and just allow my first sale to happen with the next ring of my iPhone. And let that sale be a six-digit paycheck, so I no longer have to suffer through the pains of my shortcomings.

I will continue to identify when I’m wrong, when my writing isn’t sufficient or entertaining enough, and believe that those I’ve hurt will carry on believing in me, and read my work. More importantly, I will continue to acknowledge when an editor or agent just doesn’t get my work, and the loss of a sale is on their shoulders, not mine. I will continue to try and reach the same level as James Patterson, Stephanie Meyer, and even JK Rowling, even though I know my writing has the potential to be better. And I’ll continue to pray for the higher power’s will and knowledge to teleport into my fingers and write the international bestseller that will put my addiction in a place where it is no longer insanity, but ingenious.

For the world will be a better place when I acknowledge my weakness, and force others to read it.

Chomping at the Bit for Critiques

Critiques are probably the most terrifying part of a writer’s life. They can be brutal and heart ripping, like someone saying your baby is ugly and should never have been born. Defensive natures kick in and you feel like lashing off someone’s head with a butter knife.

But I’m weird. I already have a beautiful son that no one would dare say is ugly. And even if they did, I wouldn’t care. I know my son is beautiful. But as far as my manuscript goes, I’m chomping at the bit for critiques. Because I’m sure it’s a bit ugly. Parts of it are probably downright Medusa-like.

I finished the first draft of my manuscript several weeks ago and sent it out to my critique partners, writing groups, and even submitted the first chapter to a few contests. I’ve heard back from a few, but I’m really waiting for responses from others that I know I want to hear. In a way, I want them to be brutal. I need them to be brutal. If I’m doing something wrong, I need to know about it. How else am I going to learn and get better at my craft?

My biggest weakness is waiting. Patience. I don’t have much of it. Apparently to be a writer in this new and evolving industry, you need at least some of it. I probably look like a bull-dog with a smashed face gnawing on the leftover dog bone from last year as I struggle with the last remaining ounces of patience I have left.

Sure, I have others things to do while I wait. I’ve already plotted the next book, written a few blogs, worked on the newsletter for my writers group, and not to mention throw in there take care of my son, house, family, and organize his birthday party. But I really want to start completing the revisions on my manuscript. Because I want to send out query letters by January. I know the revisions will take time- they always do. But they need to be done! And how can I do them without my precious critiques?

Well, I’ve done my ranting for the day. I’m off to go wait some more.

Incomplete Characters and Bad License Photo

I recently had to renew my driver’s license, and even worse had to do it in person. Despite my attempts to renew online, Texas DPS system screwed up and I had to come in and fight the long line and seedy waiting area. Over two hours later, I had my new license paperwork, along with a horrible new photo to grace the plastic card.

It’s probably one of the worst photos I’ve ever taken. Not quite as bad as the photo of my eyebrow bashed in with a baseball bat, swollen and stitched to the nines. But pretty close. Clearly in the middle of a blink, the lovely/overworked/cynical/ humorous woman at the DPS counter wouldn’t let me take another one. So now for the next ten years, I must live with a mutant zombie grimacing on the front of my license.

I feel that way about incomplete characters in my manuscripts. Or at least, if I can’t see my characters in my head, they come off as incomplete and merely two-dimensional. So it’s like writing the rest of your manuscript (driving down the road) with a hideous license. Good Lord, let’s hope writers don’t have to apply for licenses just to be writers.  Talk about a country that loves regulations!

That’s why character sketches are so important to me now. Before, I didn’t really give them more than a page or two of thought. But then my wonderful critique partner showed me what she uses, and I searched for several others, and realized I was hardly scratching the surface. I wasn’t even scratching the polish coat.

Here is a list of several sites I found with great tools to help build characters:

http://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting/character/creating-characters/23-character-questionnaire

http://www.writingclasses.com/InformationPages/index.php/PageID/106

http://www.fictionfactor.com/characters.html

You can also find several other helpful tools if you become a member of Greater Ft Worth Writers, where we have a whole bunch of downloads for our members on our website.

All of these have helped me get to know my next characters better, and amazingly found plotting even easier now that I could see them so clearly.

If only Texas DPS would let me retake my stupid drivers license photo. I’d feel even better about carrying around something that’s supposed to represent me, instead of a two-dimensional half-creature. Or maybe I can get them to have me look like Katherine Heigl or Reese Witherspoon.

We Always Remember

We Always Remember, We Always Honor, We Always Strive for a Better World

9/11/01 Tenth Anniversary

Twin Towers, Pentagon, Flight 93 Victims & First Responders

Reading Blitz

All writers (and aspiring authors) need to read. How else are they supposed to know their market? Of course, how else did most writers figure out that’s what they love to do? By reading. Duh. (I know, not a writer-ly word, but it fits).

I’m a big romance reader, if you haven’t visited the other pages on my blog, and also trying to improve my skills as a writer. Since I finished the rough draft and first round of revisions of my manuscript, I’m twiddling my thumbs as I wait for my critique partners to get back to me on what they think. But I’m not twiddling air between my thumbs; I’m twiddling pages. A whole new meaning to twitter! Maybe I should start a new website called Twiddle, and its all about the books!

Anyway, I’ve raced through 3 books in about a month (yes, that’s racing for me. Back off- I have an almost-3-year-old who is faster than most Olympic sprinters). In between books, I also finished plotting my third book and can’t wait to get started on it. I’m saving that storyline for NaNoWriMo in November. It’ll be the first time I participate and I’m seriously excited! (And nervous how in the heck am I going to write 10K words/week with my toddler running around!)

I’ve been on a great streak recently, not just with writing but with the great quality books I’ve picked up this month. I’ve expanded outside of my normal genres and included a few paranormal romances, historical war story, and even a horror/thriller from a critique partner during a beta-read.

The only negative thing I have to say about my reading blitz is that now I think my lasik eye surgery from 2005 needs to be retouched. Or I need reading glasses. (Maybe I’ll choose the less expensive option). My eyes are cross-eyed!

But it’s been a blast! I like to think of it as research, if only the stories weren’t so fascinating that I lose track of the art of writing and instead lose myself in the characters! There are so many good authors out there, that it makes it worth wading through the crummy ones until you find the real jewels!

It’s Labor Day- Rest Up

Happy Labor Day! Take the day off, enjoy the weather (if its good), and relish the much needed rest!

 

 

Beta Reading Challenge

My writers group just started a new program called Beta Readers Round Table

Five of our members submitted their completed manuscripts to be reviewed by Beta Readers (myself included). Each Beta Reader critiques 2 manuscripts based on content (not line editing). Searching for plot holes, characterization errors, point of view switching, change of tenses, the bigger stuff (not grammar, punctuation, etc). And it’s a challenge.

This is what critique groups are for, in my opinion. Our meeting sessions normally focus on 10 pages at a time. The online critique sessions can be anywhere from a chapter to 5-6 chapters long. This is the first time we’re doing entire manuscripts in one swoop. And two manuscripts at that. This seems like a great opportunity to capture big plot holes and voice, flow, all the big stuff all writers want to know about their unfinished babies. A great opportunity, and a big responsibility.

When all of the beta readers are finished critiquing their ‘assignments,’ we’ll get together in a round table forum and go over everyone’s work. I’m sure this session will take well more than an hour, but it should be with gold-level content. Writers are supposed to walk away from the session feeling good about themselves and their stories. And feel like they’ve carried away a massive ruby or emerald in their pocket of exceptional critiques.

How many opportunities do these manuscripts get before a writer submits them to an agent or editor?

I’ve just finished the first of two, and I’m really impressed with the stories our members create. Truly original and completely new perspectives. But at the same time I’m also hesitant to be too critical. I’m not published, yet. I don’t have an agent, and no experience in what editors look for in submissions. But I’m an avid reader. I know what I like to see. I know the difference between ‘telling’ and ‘showing’ and I’m much more entertained by ‘showing.’ I love the emotion in stories. So those are the kinds of things I look for in manuscripts. When I give critiques, I try to give ideas on how to make something better (not just, ‘I don’t like this scene. Not realistic.”) I give a suggestion on how to make it more realistic, or better for the reader.

Don’t close a door for someone without giving a them a window they can open.

I hope the other Beta Readers do the same for my manuscript.

It’s challenging. Seeing a potentially brilliant story with vibrant and genuine characters in its most raw form- I want to help the writer make it better. I don’t want to ruin it with my suggestions that may not be the best ideas. Its challenging trying to help someone. But if it’s the right idea, I’m proud to say I helped make their story better.