Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holidays and Me

I was sitting and thinking about writing and all of the holiday frenzy. How am I going to squeeze it all in? Then it occurred to me that maybe my focus was a little off. Instead of concentrating on what there is to do I need to put my efforts and energy into who I'm doing it with and  why I'm doing it. I'm doing this because of the relationships that surround me.

These people keep me going. When it feels like I'll never reach my goal, whatever it happens to be, they are the ones who cheer me on. Without them, all of them, I would very likely give up because at times it feels too hard, out of my reach.

They are also the ones that keep me honest, espceially with myself. When I come up against the wall, they are the ones that ask me if the task is too hard, is it that I don't want it that much, or am I just being a bit lazy. I could not be who I am without them.

I have a never-ending love for my family and friends and a consuming love for the One I call God. They keep me going, help me to grow, and it is because of them I strive to be a better person, that includes becoming a better writer. They are the true gift to me, not just for this season, but for my life.

As this year comes to a close, I look behind and see what a blessing each has been to me. I look forward to a better year. A year that includes enjoying my time with all of them, and maybe a little more with my wonderful grandchildren. It has been agreat year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Critique Genies

Last time I told you about the amazing people who help me in my quest to become a better writer. Here they are.

This is our most junior member, Lola. She looks like she's sleeping, but don't let that fool you. Lola lets me know when something isn't working. That lady next to her is her mom, Sarah. She

keeps me on target with age appropriate voice.

This is our senior member, Marian. She makes sure my timelines are accurate. Without her, who knows where I'd place the important things.

And here are all the others in between. My wonderful genies of truth.
I can count on these two, Carol (left) and Lynn, for help with grammar and humor. Carol reminds me when I've put in too many eating scenes.She also shares my love for science fiction.

This is Steve, our lonely male. We have another male member, but he wasn't there the day I took pictures. Steve makes sure I trim the fat in my writing. He's another one that's into sci-fi like me.

These two are Maria (left) and Leah. Maria put our group together and for that I will always be grateful. She keeps my writing smoothe. Leah keeps my humor spot-on. She's also the G-Mama to our junior memeber.

And these are Kathy (left) and Julie. Kathy helps me with fluidity and action. Julie keeps me on target with age of audience, checks my action, and straightens out the strange way I like to phrase things.

These are my wonderful Writing Genies. Without their help my writing would well and truly suck. They are all wonderful writers. Maybe not Lola, yet. But stay on the lookout for her. Anyone who starts this young is going to be awesome. By the way, Kathy, Maria, and Lynn, have just released their newest middle grade book, Monster Moon: Curse at Zala Manor. Be sure and get a copy. It's great.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Blessngs of a Great Critique Group

Being a part of a critique group is a wonderful thing. Without them my writing would flounder, but with them it has grown. I have been a part of a group that is specific to children's literature. I can't even begin to tell you how helpful it has been.

Do they always say what I want to hear? Absolutely not. If they did, how would I grow? They say things that are very helpful. For example, when I think I have written a scene that I think is clear. They tell me when it isn't. And not only that it isn't clear, they tell me why. Often I think the scene is all in place because it's so clear in my ehad. The problem is that the reader doesn't have the benefit of my mind to look into. They can only see what's on the page. Imagine that.

Most surprising is when something I've done is spot-on. They laugh in the right places, gasp when the main character is in danger, or cry when a favorite lesser character dies. That puts me into orbit.

The best thing is that they are people who will tell me the truth. As a writer I can fall into the trap of believing that my work does what I want it to do. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. I can always count on this group of writers to tell me what really is. That is worth more than I could ever say. And it is because of that truth that my writing grows.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christmas. Really?

How on earth did Christmas sneak up on me? I can't believe the year has slipped by. I drive through the neighborhood and see everyone's lights and decorations. So I guess it's official. We're in the Christmas season.

Last year I thought about writing a piece with the holiday specifically in mind. I guess that won't be happening this year. There's no way I'm going to add another project right now. Once I get the others finished I'll work on that one. I have this crazy idea about writing a series of whacky short stories aimed at the holidays. I think it would be fun.

How many holidays are there? Do I include presidents' days? How about the ones that we don't really celebrate, like May Day? I'll bet I can come up with a lot of different days.

Let's see, there are the usual ones like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Then there are the one that don't get a lot of attention like Grandparents Day or the first day of spring.

How many 'minor' holidays can you name?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Writing and Blogging

Wow! I'm having one heck of a time keeping this blog current. It's definitely not that I don't enjoy it. It's that I am working on three projects at a time. I get sucked into whichever project I'm working on. Now, I'm doing that times three.

Sometimes I think maybe I should put a couple of them on hold until I get one finished. But I can't decide which ones to put away. I really love them all. Since I'm not under a deadline for any of them, I guess it doesn't matter. I just need to figure out where to get this blog into my schedule.

I've thought about working ahead and scheduling them to post at regular intervals, but that feels a little impersonal. I wonder why that it? Do any of you use this feature?

Well, that's that, then. I've fought it as long as I could. I need to commit to a particular schedule to get it all done. No more free floating.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Back to the Beginning

Lately I've been thinking about my writing, particularly its growth or lack of. I pulled out a couple of my early manuscripts...oh, my. It's funny how when I started writing I thought I was really good. NOT! I can't believe all of the 'writing crimes' I committed.

I started with picture books. I wrotes stories that really were only interesting to adults. They had an adult voice. And the worst was that they went on and on and on. The word counts were rediculous. It didn't take too long before I realized that picture books were not my forte.

Then I wrote a chapter book. It was better than the PB but not by much. I had animal characters that talked like wooden statues and the storyline left something to be desired. So I moved on to Middle Grade.

I had greater success there. By now I was actually reading books on writing and read through some MG. The storyline was age appropriate and could possibly interest my target group. But...and there really is a but, the execution was horrendous. Then I made a wonderful move, I joined a critique group.

I can't tell you the improvement in my work, though it didn't happen overnight. What I learned was that I have a decent voice for MG, but when I tried my had at Young Adult, I found myself.

Here are the things that I learned I am pretty good at and still perfecting. My voice for YA works. My imagination is perfect for science fiction. No surprise there since that's what I love to read. The surprise was that I found that I'm really good at writing action sequences!

I shouldn't have been surprised about that since I love books and movies that are fairly fast-paced. I prefer a lifestyle with exciting things happening in it. And I married a man who plays football and is a firefighter by profession. That right there should have told me something.

Then I discovered conferences and workshops. What a find! There is so much to learn and it's all right there waiting for me. I even found the courage to submit to the critiques. The feedback is invaluable! I've even had a few of the top editors enjoy my writing.

Now I'm closer than ever to reaching my goal. And what is that? My goal is beyond publication. What I am striving for is to become such a good writer that when one of my readers sets my book down, they are  shocked at being some place other than the scene they just read. That is my goal and I plan to get there!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

To Web or Not to Web

I've been thinking and wondering about creating a website. My author friends say that it is a must even though I'm not published yet.

Okay, so lets say I put one up. Now what the heck do I put on it? Some say I should put up excerpts from any of my WIPs. Others tell me to create new stories just for the website. How on earth do I figure out what to do? Shoot I'm still trying to figure out the whole blog thing.

So today I go to one of my critique groups. After going through everyones' work we sat around chatting. About what? You know it was the website issue. We went on line and looked at each of theirs. They were beautiful and full of things they have published, fiction and non-fiction. One of the members has over sixty books out there and working on more.

Me? I'm chugging along, writing and querying, looking for my first contract. The only thing that I have published is my doctoral thesis. I don't think there are that many people out there interested in the statistics of child sexual abuse. While there might be a few, it doesn't make for happy reading. And since I write YA, the number of interested people decreases exponentially.

Which brings me back to my original question, should I have a website and if I did, what would I put on it? I'm not even sure how to begin thinking about the process and deciding what it should be or how it should look.

I would love to hear about someone's process. How they decided to create a website or what made them decide not to do it.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

No NaNo

This is the month that billions of writers (it could happen) are busily banging out those new manuscripts for the National Novel Writing Month. Just not me. I've tried it before and it's more than a can do. Not that I can't write that many words, or that I can't sit at the computer that long, it's that my brain doesn't work like that. In my process I have to day-dream each scene and write it out several times until it fits. Then there's that O/C side of me that needs to perfect each paragraph before I can let it stand. I go through this process for each draft. Completing NaNo does not allow time for this, at least not for me.

So, this month, I'll just be chugging along at my usual rate. Writing through my WIP until that draft is done and then work on another. I take my hat off to those who complete NaNo. It's definitely an interesting challenge with some side benefits.

This morning I'm chugging in contemporary America, but tonight I'll be in another galaxy. I do get around.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Okay, here's the truth. I've been busy working on a short story. It's been a bear keeping the story tight, concise, and flowing. I've been so buried in that and rewriting other works that I haven't taken the time to blog. I know, I know...bad blogger, bad blogger. I considered putting myself in time out, but that would just keep me away longer.

Several people I know are gearing up for Nano. How can I write fifty thousand words when I'm trying to get these five thousand words to work and flow? Who would have thought it would be this hard. Well, actally I did. I went into this thinking that it would make  my writing tighter, and it is. But figuring out changing scenes with a smooth transition and very few words has got me stumped.

So if anyone has an idea or suggestion, I would gladly hear it.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Okay, So I'm a Little Slow

Yep, it took me this long to think about writing something other than novel length pieces. Today I've been online finding a list of publications that work exclusively with flash fiction. I have a new inspiration!

Imagine, writing something that could get published that doesn't have the length of commitment of a novel. But there's a caveat, there's always a caveat. Writing shorter pieces means that my writing has to be tighter than tight and come up with a beginning, middle, and end in a very few pages.

Actually, come to think of it, doing this will, more than likely, improve my writing. What an idea. Doing something that will make me a better writer! Okay, I'm being sarastic, but I'm really jazzed. Now I have all kinds of ideas buzzing around in my head. I can't wait to get started.

Have you ever thought about writing short stories, short-shorts, or flash fiction?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

We Know What We Want

How often have we been told by editors and agents in conferences,  workshops, and seminars "We know what we're looking for but it's not something we can easily tell you. We can only say that we will know it when we see it"? Too often, but I get it.

No one knows what will sell or what will take off and be the next big hit. How do you gauge what the market will do? There are ways to estimate, extrapolate, or guess what people are looking for, but it's all a crapshoot. In addition to that, the unpredictability of adolescence blows it all out of the water. So I get it when they give the non-answer. It just makes things a little more difficult.

So what started this whole rant of mine? I was playing with my grandson. We were listening to one of his CD's and a song by the Backyardigans struck me as the perfect description of this process. The song comes form The Legend of the Volcano Sisters. The first lines are: We know what we want. We know what we don't want, so give us what we want. Then the Luau Brothers ask the Volcano Sisters what they want, to which they respond, We Won't tell. The song continues with the same questions and the same response.

I had to laugh, it was the perfect depiction of the process. I don't know how many of you have small children or are familiar with this program, but I suggest that you  give it a listen. Great fun!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Yesterday I mailed two manuscripts to two of the invitations I got this summer. I have no idea how they will be received, but they are out there. There are times that I procrastinate sending out my work because I don't always know if it is the right person to send it to.

I do the research before hand or like in this case someone asks for that piece. You would think that that might give me an edge. Not. By the time the work gets read, the company could have decided that they already have enough of this type. Or, their focus has changed and they are no longer looking for that kind of story. It is such a crap-shoot.

Well it really doesn't matter because I'm bitten by the writing bug and I will never stop. One day I will land the right piece with the right person. I hope the day that happens I'm in a well carpeted area because I'm sure I'll faint and fall flat on my face. But it's worth the risk.

So now I work on the next thing. Gotta keep that writing fix going.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Learning and Opportnity

OMG! I just got back from a fantastic weekend, one of learning and opportunity. I'll start with the learning. This weekend was the SCBWI-LA Writer's Retreat. It was great. There were two editors present, Martha Mahalik, Associate Editor of Greenwillow, an imprint of HarperCollins and Arthur A. Levine, Vice President at Scholastic Inc. and the Pulisher of Arthur A. Levine Books, a literary, hardcover imprint of Scholastic. Both were kind enough to facilitate critique groups. Does it get any better than that? I don't think so.

Both gave me incredible feedback on the pieces I read. I can't imagine anything better than learning from these two. They were kind, imformative, and helpful. The things they pointed out became immediately apparent the moment the words left their mouths. I can't wait to get started on the revisions! With their help, my work can't do anything but get better.

Now for the opportunity. That loud, earpiercing scream you head yesterday was my reaction to Arthur Levine telling me that I am a good writer AND giving me an invitation to submit the piece he critiqued to him.

Okay, that was me screaming again. But can you blame me? The opportunities keep getting better and better. Then at the end of the weekend an agent offered me her card and expressed an interest in seeing my work.

Yeah, I did it again. In my place you would be screaming too. OMG!

Well, I have a lot of work to do so I'll have to write more later.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Doing Better

Today I am making the final corrections on the pieces I'm presenting at the Working Writer's Retreat. I'm having a blast working on three different stories at a time. The common thread between them is that they are science fiction; two far future and one comtenporary.

It reminds me why I do this. I love writing. I love having the characters talk in my head. Everything the characters say and the things they do gives me massive thrills. Not like a roller coaster or watching an action movie, but pretty darn close. It must be tapping into the same endorphens.

New stories are the best. I have to come up with a story line, characters, climax. It's just so good. I enjoy creating main characters, getting to know them, understanding their weaknesses and strengths. Super cool. But even better than that is creating a character that people will love to hate. For some reason that takes me over the top.

I'll  have to stop and sort that one out. Maybe there's some vicarious need being fulfilled. Or possibly some chathartic discharge when I foil their desires, even kill them off. Did I mention that I love it?

When I stay away from the computer too long it's like I'm jonesing for that endorphen rush and I go running back into the story. How about you? What gets you going?

Monday, August 31, 2009

In the Mirror of My Grandson

This morning while I was checking email, catching up on blogs, and playing solitaire, my grandson was working at the task of writing a page of ones. You would think his mother had sentenced him to a life of hard labor. My daughter has tried everything to motivate him and keep him on task. You name it, she's tried it. He works for a while then disappears into the land of imagination.

Watching him, I have on several occasions had to ask myself if the child has a attentional problem. Not. As a psychologist and a child specialist I observed and screened for the disorder. My concern was not so much that the disoder might be present, but more if it is a factor, then what we are asking him to do is beyond his control and he needs our help.

He doesn't have an attentional problem but an intentional one. He says, Nana, I don't want to write my ones. I want to go outside and play. Boy do I understand that one. I don't want to write. I want to call my friends, play solitaire, read books, watch television. Neither of these things is necessarily a problem except when I find myself doing either one of them for huge chunks of time and not writing even one sentence.

My grandson and I have so much in common when it comes to Intensional Deficit Disorder. So I have to work hard to battle IDD and get my work done, him too. It won't be easy for either of us but we'll try.

Anybody else out there with IDD?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Revision, Revision

I've been working on a near final revision. It's complete and on it's way. I sent it to a reader and am anxiously awaiting her comments. I'm dying to see what she thinks works and doesn't work.

I remember when I first started writing. All I wanted a reader to do was to tell me how wonderful they thought the ms was and that somehow they were going to make sure I got it published. Geesh. Today it's all about telling an unforgettable story, carrying the reader on a journey that they never want to end. I'm working on getting there one line at a time and I'm getting closer.

I've been reading Savvy by Ingrid Law. It is wonderfully captivating. I can see how she earned the Newberry Honor. My end goal is to be able to transport my readers to that book's world. I want them to become so engrossed that when they look up from the page they're shocked to find themselves someplace else. Reading Savvy I experienced that level of writing and I won't quit until I get there.

I'm curious, what's your goal as a writer?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back in the Saddle

I've been away for a while. Not really gone anywhere, but working on another revision of an historical novel. It consumed just about every waking moment. It's now finished. I handed over to someone that is well read and very discerning. She has never read any part of it and knows nothing about the story. So it's a cold read. I'm really nervous about what she thinks and what needs to improve (some more).

I read on blogs about beta readers and never thought to do it myself. Why? Who knows? Sometimes I can be a bit thick about these things. But today I am aiming for the stars, and the only way to get there is to revise and rewrite.

I'm shocked at how tired I am having just finished that last revision. I feel like there are no words left in me. It better not last too long, I have other projects to get going on. I'm looking forward to getting my teeth into them. I just wish I had a little more energy. I'm giving myself to the end of the week to rest, then energy or no I'm going back at it.

I absolutely love writing. I love the creation of story in my mind. I love how it churns and grows until I have an idea of  what the story is, where it's is going, who the main character is, and their particular strengths and weaknesses. Then there's the part when the characters begin speaking in my head. These are the things that keep me at it.

What are your favorite things about writing?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Almost Home

I've been at the SCBWI Summer Conference. Actually, I'm still here. The conference is over, but I don't leave until tomorrow. I thought I would be able to blog about what was happening and what I was doing, but I was exhausted at the end of each day. So much to hear and do.

This year's presenters were AWESOME. Sherman Alexe, Kathleen Deuy, Ingrid Law, Dan Yaccarino, Richard Peck and many more presented. Each one was more mesmerizing and inspiring than the last. Then there were the editors and agents presenting and inviting submissions. I can't wait to get home and get to work. Man am I stoked.

I had a sample critiqued by Elizabeth Law of Egmont USA and she likes my writing! That is the second senior editor from a significant house that likes my writing. Now all I have to do is find one of them that likes the stories I create. A bit of a challenge, but I'm up for it.

I love coming to this conference, I get so much out of it. I highly recommend attending to anyone that writes or illustrates for children, from picture books to young adult. It is completely worth the money and time. I can't think of anything that could add more to your writing career, except maybe a contract and high book sales.

There is so much more I can tell you. Unfortunately, I am running out of steam. My brain is completely worn out. So I'll post again when I get home.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Off to the Conference

I'm off to the SCBWI conference. I'm so jazzed I can't wait. This will be my second year attending the full weekend.

Last year I had a manuscript critiqued by none other than David Gale of Simon and Schuster. That was awesome. In that short session I learned so much and got a wonderful shot in the arm about my writing. He liked it. Now I have to write the novel that's going to do more than get noticed. I want it to get picked up. Not sure how to do that, but I will keep working on in until I succeed.

Last week I did the unthinkable. I retired. After a twenty year career in psychology, I was ready for a change. Writing. To be honest, I'm not sure if I can do it, but I'm determined to give it my best shot. Things like attending conferences and worksops keep me going.

I wonder who I'll meet this year. Last year I met really interesting people from all over the globe. I am really excited and hoping to meet and build relationships with wonderful writers. I will try to keep you posted on what I encounter. Post to you soon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Missing in Action

I confess. I've been derelict in keeping up with my posting. I have a really good reason not an excuse. A few days ago I heard from an editor that had been quiet about the sample chapter I submitted. It's been about two years. The only thing I could surmise from the silence was that she was not interested. It turns out that wasn't the case at all. I guess the chapters got buried beneath everything else she was doing.

So when I got the email apologizing for the length of response time I was floored. On top of that, she's still interested! Life is full of wonderful surprises.

The email came at a time when I was procrastinating a revision of the manuscript in question. I don't have to tell you the kind of fire that lit under my nether region. So I will keep this post short and get back to it. But I just had to share a bit of sunshine in the writer days of gloom.

Just because you don't hear right away doesn't always mean that they are not interested or that your writing sucks (a personal fear of mine). Sometimes it's just a matter of time management of priorities for the submitee and they will get back to you as soon as they can.

In other words...DON'T GIVE UP.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Discouraged and Rising

Today I'm walking through the throws of being the discouraged writer. I'm sure it won't last for long, but in this moment it feels like my writing feet are stuck in the morass of doubt and fear. Why am I here again? Not really sure. I think what's pulling me down is the worry that I'll never get it 'right'. Whatever 'right' is.

There has to be a 'right' otherwise there would be no need for rejection letters. Or are things so subjective (this possibility terrifies me and is probably more accurate) that there's no 'right' way, just a group of industry professionals who are looking for something specific that they haven't defined for themselves. When asked at conferences or events what they are looking for, their response is always: I don't know, but I'll know it when I see it. AUGH! That's worse than no answer.

So I struggle through the next revision wondering if I'm correcting the problem or just adding to it. I've thought about utilizing a developmental editor, but who has that kind of money? Certainly not me.

That leaves me with the vagaries of critique groups. I'm not doubting their value. I believe critique groups are an essential part of the writing process, especially for the developing writer. It's that the groups I'm involved with have no published writers. That leaves me questioning some of what they say.

It would be awesome if there were a mentoring opportunity for me. Someone I could ask who has first-hand knowledge of the publishing industry. There may be someone like that out there, but I haven't a clue where or how to begin the search. Do mentors even exist anymore?

What's your take on this?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Retirement and Writing

Yesterday evening I was blessed by my co-workers celebrating my retirement. What a wonderful time, although I must admit it was a litte bittersweet. I was smacked in the face with emotions I thought I had processed, but apparently that will take longer than I anticipated.

I've been a psychologist for about twenty years. There were times that I thought nothing was better than this and there were times I tought I couldn't get away fast enough. My specialty in psychosis and children made it a very stressful career. If I summed it up this is what my clients taught me.
    1) Enjoy your life in the moment. Don't wait for it to get better.
    2) Accept life as it comes, fighting it doesn't change anything.
    3) Living with yourself can be a real adventure.
    4) There is always room for grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

So what does this have to do with writing? Everything! I have learned to enjoy every manuscript I work on, whether writing my own or critiquing someone else's. Life is what it is, and rejections letters are really an opportunity to make what I have written better or to point out what I have yet to learn about the craft. My life has been an adventure and I don't plan on changing any of that. Watching the way a plot unfolds or a character grows is more than awesome. Allowing myself the space to grow, fumble, and miss the mark as a writer are opportunities to extend to myself the grace and mercy I readily extend to others. And forgiveness is for those professionals who haven't yet realized my genius...just kidding.

As I begin this journey of total commitment to the learning and execution of the craft, I am filled with excitment and anxiety. I guess I'm approaching writing like everything else I've done...wade in until I'm waist deep then dive in and head for the deep end.

So here I go. Let's see what happens

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Processing the Process

It occurred to me this morning that I have put time constraints and pressure on my writing. I had these ideas that if I finished a particular piece by a certain time that I would get published sooner.

This push caused me to falter in my growth of the craft. Today I am rethinking everything. What does it take to make a good revision? How do I see what constitutes a good change in the manuscript? How do I make sure what is in my head is actually put in the story?

For me it boils down to taking the time, however much I need, away from the ms so that when I come back to it my mind is not filling in the blanks. I need to take the time to completely think about what I have written compared to the authors whose writing I love.

What kept me from doing this before? So many things that I can't name them all, but the biggest one is impatience. I am so used to learning easily and understanding things right away that I expected this to happen for me in the writing process. Surprise...it didn't.

It really was a surprise for me. I thought that if I put the story on paper it would automatically read like I see it in my head. Of course it doesn't. I am learning that it will take many attempts before what I see with my minds-eye is present in the story for the reader to pick up.

How did I come to this conclusion? It took an agent pointing out the problem. He had complimented many things about the story and my writing. But, and there definitely was a but, in his own words "the story was light in characterization."

It took me aback. I knew my main character inside and out. If anyone asked anything about her I could tell them without hesitation. The problem was no one else would know any of that from reading the story and I couldn't see what was missing.

It took me taking the time to think about all of my favorite books and what made me love them. Then I had to think, really think, about my main character. Can you guess what I found? The agent was absolutely right! (Duh...like that is some kind of surprise.) But it took him saying this before I could see it. So now I have to completely rethink how I think about my writing. Metacognition at work. Sorry, the psychologist slipped through.

While this is a great 'aha' moment for me, has anyone else experienced this great epiphany in their writing?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Procrastination is the great monster that sits in my lap and keeps me away from the computer. I poke him. I prod him. But he will not get up! I bet if I light a fire underneath his hinder-parts it will get him moving. But if I do that won't that ignite me, too? Isn't that the point?

Okay, Stephanie, you're up. It's back to the grindstone. Write those words. Polish those sentences. Make that manuscript sing!

I just read a blog about creating a platform. There were questions that were intended to help determine the what and how of it. They were great. Not only did it help in terms of the platform, it energized me around my ms. So it's back to the revisions!

I am determined to make it the best it can be. I believe 100 percent in the concept and the story. I just need to think it through, see the character in 3-D. That should work out most of the kinks. I know it can and will work once I put it all together.

I will do what helped me in grad school, set a schedule and stick to it. And as a bonus, I retire at the end of this month and will be able to devote even more time to the project. I will get it done!

In case you're wondering, I'm not all that old. In fact, I'm more than two light years this side of ancient. I needed a break and it was more than time to try something else.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Man am I feeling discouraged today. I'm starting to wonder if I can do this writing thing. There seems to be so much I have yet to learn and so much I haven't figured out how to do. I can't believe that something that I want so very badly would stump me like this.

I wish there was a way to enter a discussion with someone who could give me real feedback on what I am doing. I belong to two critique groups. It's not that I don't value their feedback, but the majority of the attendees are in the same boat with me.

It would be awesome if I could enter a mentor relationship with a writing professional. Someone who could point out my errors. Not the obvious ones like typos, grammar, telling instead of showing, but the more subtle things like style, presentation, character depth. Or tell me when I'm getting closer.

I received feedback from professionals that say they like my voice, enjoy the story, I write well, but none of it has told me why it wasn't accepted. Then I got someone to tell me more specifically why they were not going to take the ms. That was extremely helpful, but here's the problem. As I make the revisions and corrections how do I know if I'm correcting it or doing more of the same things that hurt my chances? It's not like that person said, "send it back when you've made the corrections."

So I'm doing what I think is right and can only hope that it is. Once I've finished then it's off to the next professional. Who knows what they will think? I can only hope I get it right or they are willing to invest enough time to help me get it there.**GROAN**

Monday, June 22, 2009

My brain is foggy and I'm more than tired, but I just had to write about this. I had sent a manuscript to be reviewed (at the agent's request) by an agent. Needless to say that he didn't take. Otherwise I'd be floating too high to write.

Anyway, it was really worth the frustration and disappointment. He did something that no other professional has ever done. He actually commented on the ms. He started out by telling me what was right about the story. The list was pretty long. He finished by telling me what was wrong with it. Never before have I had such interest in my work that a professional would invest their time and energy to say something helpful. I have a clear idea on what I need to do to fix it.

Following this comment I enrolled in a extension course on fiction writing at the local university to make sure what I thought I had learned was really the 'stuff.' I was approaching the class with excitement and trepidation, but I knew that it would be helpful no matter what was taught.

Wouldn't you know it, the class was cancelled the night before it was to begin. Now I' really bummed. Oh well, I'll keep an eye out for another class like this and see what comes of it. But for now, I'll keep working on the manuscript with what I think is needed.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Here we go again. I heard from the agent reviewing my manuscript this morning. He said that he enjoyed it but he needed to pass. He encouraged me to continue querying it. I'm really bummed. There were things that he said he would like to have seen. So now I have to figure out what he means and then learn to do it.

I guess I need to stop writing for now and see if I can learn what it is that I'm not doing. The problem is I'm not sure where to learn it. I found a UCR extension course that I will be signing up for, hopefully I will get some information there.

I'm not ready to give up, but it's really hard to keep going. That's only in this minute. By tomorrow or Sunday I'll be back feeling that the task I have set myself is doable if I am willing to learn and find someone to learn it from. But today I am really bummed.

I guess I have to realize that only through this crazy process of being turned down and then improving my craft will I succeed. But I have to tell you that it is really hard. It is probably the single most difficult thing I have ever done. And I have a doctorate, for crying out loud.

That was much easier compared to this. In pursuit of the advanced degree, there were expectations and guidelines laid out. If you didn't understand what was being asked there was always someone to check with. You could even go the the prof and ask them to elaborate on their requirement. But this writing gig is something else again.

I feel like I'm shooting in the dark all the time. I am told by professionals that I write well, that my work is very readable, exciting, and has great tension. I need to figure out what is wanted in what he is looking for. When I'm not feeling so down, I will email the agent and ask if he wouldn't mind elaborating a little bit on his comments.

Maybe he will tell me and maybe he won't. All I can do is ask and he can't shoot me for that. He's not allowed to shoot me for anything. All he can do is decline to answer and if he does decline I haven't lost anything. So I'll give it a shot.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Okay, I'm back in the saddle again. I just dropped my manuscript in the mail to an interested agent. So now I wait with fingers, eyes, and toes crossed. I haven't been idle since my last post. I've been writing and making changes to the layout of this page.

In going through the manuscript again to make sure everything was as right as I can make it, I noticed that I had dialogue tags that really don't work. Instead of 'she said', I had things like 'she chided' or 'she answered'. I finally figured out what all of the books on writing mean. By adding these unnecessary tags, I am treating the reader with disrespect. If the statement preceding the tag is well written, then the reader will understand my intent which makes these type of tags not only redundant, but insulting.

The other thing I picked up while walking through the story is that sometimes what seems understandable and complete in my mind, may not be so in the written form.

Going over everything again before mailing gave me an opportunity to not only change these things, but is was also an opportunity to learn, concretize what I had read about writing. If you haven't picked up The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman and Story by Robert Mckee, run out and do so immediately. These two texts are the clearest I have ever read on writing. Lukeman's book is elegant in its simplicity and McKee's is complete in its explanation and depiction of story. Both are must haves for the writer's library.

It's time for me to get back to writing. I'll be talking to you again soon.


Monday, May 04, 2009

It's been four days since my last 'no thank you' and I'm still feeling discouraged. I know I have to get back to writing, but it seems too hard. Melodramatically I could say, "What's the point?" And the answer to that is, to keep at it so I will grow as a writer.

I know that's really the point, but sometimes it's hard to remember. Every time I send out another query or someone requests a manuscript, I get my hopes up. I try to keep it all in perspective, but the hopes rise anyway.

It's really good to have hope because that's what keeps me going. But the hope wanes when a decline comes. It causes me to question my abilities.

Having had a big name editor from a large house say that my writing is "very good" helps. But the frustrating thing is that if I write so well why hasn't anyone picked up anything.

I know the answer to that is "it's not what we are looking for right now." And my response is "Can you just hold onto it until later when you are looking for that?"One can hope and dream.

So here is what I think really happens. Each house has a list of what they are looking for and they swap the lists between them. They don't tell you who has what list and they don't tell you when the exchange will happen. And because of this list swapping, your manuscript is always one step behind, chasing the elusive list. With agents it's even harder to catch up because there are more of them.

One day my manuscript will catch up to that list, whether it's with an agent or a publishing house. The odds are in my favor if I keep writing and keep querying.

Now that this is off my chest, I think I feel better, so it's back to writing for me.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

It seems that this writing/publishing process is something that can only be endures. I just received another decline to a query. Well not exactly the query. I sent the query and he requested the manuscript. Then he declined, saying that it wasn't that it wasn't right for his agency.

What does that mean? I did the research and it looked to me that what I sent was within the bounds of what he has represented. So, my question is, what is right for an agency and how do you know? I have come to the conclusion that research isn't necessarily helpful.
Well, not really. It's just that things are so subjective.

So it all boils down to chance. Chance that they will be looking for what they said wanted before. Chance that they will like what you have written. And chance that they believe the project will sell at this time.

Hooly-Looly! That's a lot of 'chance'. This whole process seems to be one big crap shoot. And don't forget the economy. If it hadn't been for the down turn, I really believe I was on my way to a contract. At least that's what I was led to believe. Thank you economics.

Well, it's back to the keyboard for me. Working on a new project that may hit at the elusive 'right time'. The other one, I'll see who to send that to next week.

Happy writing.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

I've been sitting in front of my computer for at least two hours. I've checked my email twice, checked my facebook page, and even went to jacketflap to see if there was anyone I recognized. All of this in avoidance of writing.

After this weekend it's kind of scary opening the file of the novel I'm working on. I'm warring with huge discouragement and the knowledge that no matter what I write it can always be improved upon.

I finally got myself to open the file and just write two sentences. That was the deal I made with myself. Write two sentences. They didn't have to be perfect. They didn't even have to be good. I only had to write them.

Well, I did it. And not only did I write the two sentences, I wrote whole paragraph before I realized that my confidence was returning and story ideas came flooding into my mind.

It's amazing the amount of power we give to others, people we think we can or should trust with our vulnerability. What a mistake! It isn't that these people are so untrustworthy. It is simply that they are human and suffer the from the same bouts of insecurity as the rest of us. We lay on their shoulders a weight that is too heavy for anyone to carry. We ask them to give us value and worth; something they are struggle with obtaining for themselves.

I am learning so many things along this journey of becoming a professional writer. The most resent lesson is that only God can give me value and worth. These people can only tell me if they like what I wrote, nothing more.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Wow, it's been over a year since I've written anything. Since then I have been to the mountain top and back down in the valley. I've come so close to getting published and now I'm wondering if it will ever happen.

What I'm struggling with today is whether I can write or not. The truth is I have proof that I can write and that at least one of my stories is very good, per David Gale of Simon & Schuster. Then I attend a workshop and my writing is ripped to shreds, and I must say that those doing the ripping were not very professional in the manner in which they went about it.

So, here I sit today fighting the two-ton weight of discouragement. Will I stop writing? I doubt it. Do I trust what I write? Not so much. What I need is to do is keep at it. I must find that which will keep me motivated and encouraged. This whole journey is killer, but I can't stop now. I'm hooked. I've got this writing Jones bad.

That means I'll just keep doing it until I get where I want to be.

Thanks for listening, I'm starting to feel better. I guess what I needed was to vent.