Monthly Archives: February 2012
I was riding a high last night when I finally went to bed.
I had been struggling with a chapter of the book I’m writing now. I am not sure why I was struggling exactly, but I was. My novel features two main characters, a young woman and a young man. In the stage of the book I on right now they have not yet met. I am writing the book in first-person, alternating the narrators, her/him/her/him, you get the idea. I had HER firmly in my mind, but not HIM. Maybe that’s why I was struggling. I had to get into HIM.
Which is what I finally did yesterday.
I wrote what I truly felt was a rocking chapter for him, two chapters actually, since I decided today to split it up.
I read it out loud to my YA beta-reader (my daughter) while she looked over my shoulder – okay, the laptop was balanced on my bent legs while we snuggled together at bedtime – and she really liked it. She was engaged. I knew she would be. I kept looking over at her reactions, and they were just what I wanted, shocked little outcries, a few “that’s sorta disgusting, mom,” and “ooh.” Actually, I would have been crushed if she hadn’t liked it. I really, really felt this chapter, and since she did too, I consider it a rousing success.
So now I have to keep pushing forward. Move to the next step of the story. The morning has brought the fog back to my mind and I’ve written a couple of pages but haven’t hit the zone yet.
I’ve got to get back to it now. Got to, got to, got to!
My brain is so darned foggy today. I can’t figure it out. I can’t concentrate. I know the story that wants to be told, but I can’t seem to coax it out. So I came over here to blog. It is at times like these that I think I should be writing non-fiction. (That’s a joke; I do realize that n-f wouldn’t be any easier if I actually tried to write that. Blogging, however, comes too easily.)
What do you writers do when your creativity gets muddled and your brain sluggish and the juices stop flowing?
I’m at the coffee shop, so I’ve got plenty of caffeine in me. I probably should go take a walk; that would be good for my health as well as my brain. But taking a walk would require me to pack everything up and leave the coffee shop, and it isn’t quite time for that yet. I have to leave soon enough to go get the girls. I need to squeeze at least another 30-45 minutes of writing in first.
So I’m gonna head back over to my Word pages and give it another try . . . maybe go to the little girls’ room . . . splash some cold water on my face. Do you think that will help?
Left-over Chinese from yesterday’s dinner; left-over Japanese from today’s lunch
Daughters’ homework not quite done, guitar not quite practiced, iCarly on, though
Husband in man-cave, I at laptop in kitchen, sniffing the fusion of moo shu and hibachi while I blog
Reflecting on busy day at church: youth group full of middle school zaniness, pigs ‘n’ blankets . . . yep, even during Lent (sorry, Jesus)
I need to write tonight; there are characters yearning for words
Praying for energy after kids are abed
Better go now and proceed with the night
Just got back from a brisk walk through the woods with my husband, two daughters, and two dogs. It was fun. Note to self: make sure you take your turn of holding the dog leash on the uphill and not the downhill portion of the walk – because the dog pulls either way, and it’s far better to be pulled up than down!
I love the woods. I grew up on 165 acres of pure natural beauty in rural Ohio.
It was an ideal childhood. I spent many happy hours dancing around the field playing dress-up and princess and magician and . . . well, you get the idea. It was the backdrop to my creativity. A walk through the woods, along the stream bed, around the pond with the red-winged blackbirds and azure blue dragonflies, climbing tall trees and hay bales – it became the fantasy land of my imagination. I could play with friends, but usually I was on my own, or at least with only the companionship of my dogs. I became a writer there and a reader too. The quiet was conducive to both pursuits. Books were always my go-to for companionship if I didn’t have a flesh-and-blood friend over, and sometimes even when I did!
I can’t walk through leaves, over logs, and look up through gray branches or verdant leaves and not see in my mind’s eye the stories in my head, my stories and others’ stories. After all, the woods here in NC look a lot like Lothlorien, don’t they . . . or Terabithia . . . or Sherwood Forest?
I enjoy visiting big cities from time to time for their many social and cultural offerings, but I get frustrated there too easily. They’re too loud, too crowded, too difficult to drive in, park in, etc. etc. I prefer my rural areas. And now that the world has gone online, it’s so much easier than it used to be to strike out on your own in many business ventures even in the “backwoods” – provided you have an internet connection!
So, if you can this weekend, get out and breathe in some fresh air. It might help you get your muse on!
I just submitted a short story to four different fiction competitions, and now I’m tired. Hitting that “submit” or “enter” button might not take much physical strength, but boy does it require emotional fortitude.
So, wish me luck. Or else!
I noticed there were some deadlines coming up and that a fair number of new novelists have gotten recognition and publication because they won a competition, so, I thought, why the heck not!? My stuff is good! I already had a short story that just needed some sprucing up, AND, it features secondary characters in the novel I’m trying to pitch, so it seemed worth the investment of time and entrance fees. The prize money is okay for these competitions, but do you know what’s better? Publication! AND, in most of the cases, a promotional blurb from a successful published novelist. That would rock my world, I tell you!
I know that writers today are expected to self-promote – shamelessly. I know this, and I have been developing a web presence for that purpose.
That said, I didn’t think I could really talk about my books online, since they are unpublished and unrepresented, and I do want to make a living as a writer with these novels. However, I discovered that since you can copyright your books even if they are unpublished, and claim them as your own intellectual property, it is okay to promote them in a web format like this blog! So, for those of you who are interested in what I have written and am writing, I have added pages to this blog – pages with synopses and working book covers of two of my books: The Kingdoms of Blood and Magic (which is in-progress) and The Time Minders (which is a completed work). (Thank you royalty-free clipart!)
Please forgive me for the scary-sounding legalese after each synopsis; but I do want to protect myself and my intellectual property. I’m sure you all understand. (I’m hoping, anyway.)
For any of you agents and/or publishers who are visiting my blog, I hope they intrigue you and that you want to see and invest in my completed manuscripts!
For my potential readers, I thank you for your interest and support. You won’t be disappointed, I assure you!
Thank God for my young adult fiction beta-tester! (Read: my eleven year old daughter.) She is being so helpful by assisting me with strategies as to what to write action-wise, and where to try to situate it. This is my biggest writing challenge right now, so I’m thankful.
As I was working on my novel just now, she has been sitting in front of me, listening as I read her bits of it – working on a writing assignment of her own for school – a series of poems about Dred Scott. Her assignment is interesting in and of itself. I really, really like it when my daughters’ teachers give them assignments that force them to use the critical thinking as well as the creative parts of their brain. Writing poetry about an important historical figure has a way of solidifying him/her in your mind that just reading or taking a test about him/her does not.
My older daughter and I don’t get along on many points of our lives these days, but we share an interest in certain types of literature, and those types are pretty popular right now. (YA fantasy!!!) We have shared the same reading list for the past couple of years: J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, Suzanne Collins, and Carson Ellis. So if my writing makes her as happy as theirs does, then I feel confident that it is bound to be successful to other YA readers. (At least, that’s my plan.) So, I’ve revised certain things in my introductory chapter, which did draw on a bit and have asked her feedback on other parts, as well, making sure that she’s being helpful and not just nice because I’m her mom.
But at this time of the evening my creativity and writing juices start to thin. I’m tired, so I went here to blog. It’s easier to blog (for me) than to write my fiction. I’ll get back to the fiction when my brain is more awake – like tomorrow morning with some latte/extra-espresso. (Or, possibly when I’m about to go to sleep tonight, which is when killer ideas have been coming to me lately – inconveniently, I might add.)
I highly recommend for any of you writing young adult or middle grade fiction, save yourself a lot of grief later and get a beta-reader now! Mine is helping me fix these very important things before I get too far along in the wrong direction, letting me know what she doesn’t understand, what works, what’s funny, what’s exciting and what she can “see” in her head. This is the best feedback a novelist can get, and she lives with me! And I only have to take her sass the other 98% of the time.
An agent acts as the go-between between the author and the publishing industry. Most current authors say that you need one. So that’s been a big part of my job of late: sending off queries. Each agent or agency has its own requirements for what goes in a query letter. It’s an art form. It’s also painful. Compressing the synopsis of your novel down into a paragraph or two, along with an “about you” section – all into one page? Yikes! It’s harder than writing a resume, let me tell you. Some agents want writing samples from your book; some don’t. But what the agent seems to be looking for is the “flavor” of you and your work.
Now, I got an interesting little letter from an agent today. It was a rejection, yes, but one of the nicer ones. Here’s what he said: “I think the book sounds great, but it sounds more appropriate for an agent who does more SF [sci-fi] than I do; while I represent the occasional SF project, those books tend to cross over into the world of literary fiction; this one sounds like it’s right in the sweet spot for publishers like Tor or Ace or Eos.” So, his comments made me wonder – if my book is in the “sweet spot” for those publishers, I wonder if I should submit to those publishers directly? Or just advertise it as such to potential agents?
I looked up Tor’s submissions policies. (Tor – the publication company) They don’t want a query at all. They don’t want a short synopsis. They want 3-10 pages of synopsis, telling about character development AND plot, AND the conclusion of the novel. They also want the first three chapters, which is more than most agents want up front. It kind of makes you want to skip the whole agent thing entirely. It’s easier to write more than to write less, let me tell you.
But I wonder if “writing more” and submitting directly to the publisher is worth my time at all? According to what I hear in the industry buzz, publishing companies like Tor accept less than 10 manuscripts a year out of their “slush pile” – meaning unsolicited, unrepresented author’s submissions – of which they get about 10,000 a month! I think I have better odds in the slots machines in Vegas. But then again, I wonder how many new authors most agents accept each year by comparison? And once you get an agent, how far up do you chances of getting published go?
Hmm. All I really want to do is write my next novel, and the one after that, and the one after that, and steadily improve my craft. But, if I want to make anything of this career, I, like all the other writers out there, have to figure out these great publishing industry mysteries, and navigate these uncertain and perilous waters.
I welcome all comments and commiserations.
Okay, writing at a friend’s house, combining my two children with her three and other random neighborhood kids, videogames and television-viewing, laser guns, whining dogs, jumping cats, creeping snakes, gurgling fish, and general mayhem, is not working out well. So I decided to blog. It seems easier to write a blog update than to write my fiction in this environment, mainly because this household is so full of fun randomness.
The kids are watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince right now, and a piece of dialogue just pierced through my consciousness. [Ginny: "He's covered in blood again (referring to Harry, of course). Why is it he's always covered in blood?"]
Good question. I decided I need a good bit of bloodshed in the YA fantasy novel I’m currently writing. I’m five chapters in and have already had one death, one wooden sword fight, one kidnapping and blood-letting, and one poor fellow who’s been beaten off-page.
But I just don’t think it’s enough. I still have too much narrative. I need more action. So, I’m going back into those five chapters and writing in at least one more action scene. Hmm. But where to put it? And I don’t want to write action for action’s sake. It needs to serve a purpose. So maybe not. I’m pondering.
I wonder, will all this action create a precedent? Will my readers come to expect too much action? Am I up for that? Because I find that action is the hardest stuff to write. I’ve got a handle on dialogue and narrative and description, but action is tough for me.
So perhaps this friend’s house is EXACTLY where I need to be to write. Maybe I should come here more often, because this place is chock-full of action – way more so than my own house! Perhaps what I should do is videotape the craziness and transcribe it into my book. Quite a few of these kids are in the YA age-group, after all. Some of their dialogue, silliness, violence, sass and energy could find its way into my fiction.
So thanks, Rorie family, for giving me a few ideas today. I’ll be back!