All Posts Tagged With: "craft"

That Depends A Good Deal On Where You Want To Get To

cats can be real douche canoes sometimes, even if they're right

I do this every year.  I make a list of things that I want to achieve and I feel like I hit some, ignore others, and feel a bit adrift by the time December 31 passes.

I find myself unmotivated at times.  I have a few reasons for this, that I think I have used as excuses in the past but I need to deal with them, work with them, and move past them if I want to be successful moving forward.

I tend to write very quickly.  I can write 1000 words in 20 minutes, for example, if I sit down and actually write.  Because of this, I have a tendency to put writing off, knowing that I can pound out some words quickly later.

The problem with this is that I can WRITE the words but that’s not the end of it.  They need edited and polished and the first draft is never (well, not usually) the BEST draft for me.  My words need more work, and I tend to ignore that fact so that I can sit on the couch with Bear, reading fic or books or whatever while I watch TV.  (Yes, I can multitask but only with things that don’t get me anywhere, as opposed to stuff that could move my writing career forward.  *sigh*)

I also struggle with… not depression, I don’t think, but melancholy.  Maybe it is a mild form of depression, but I allow it, from time to time, to convince me that I should stay on the couch or in bed or wherever, reading and not creating.  I don’t know what I’m melancholy about.  I think I allow myself to be intimidated by other authors I’ve read, in the sense that their writing is so good or well-constructed that I don’t think I could ever match their skill, etc. so why bother trying.

Which is a bunch of crap.  I like my writing when I read it, and I know that others enjoy it as well.  I have a voice that is recognizable, according to some of my more regular readers, which means that I have reached a certain level in my career, where I have a voice, I just need to use it and polish it.  And I’m not doing that as often as I need to.

Continued

Doctor Livingstone, I presume?

Oh, MAN.  It has been a long time since I’ve posted.  I don’t even know, you guys.  It feels like I’ve been lost in the jungle and I’ve just been “discovered” in the jungle by Mr. Stanley

First and foremost, I have relocated.  I was in Los Angeles, and now I am back in the Midwest, in the Detroit Metro region.

It was quite an adventure.  My company was bought out and the new owners decided they didn’t want or need an office in LA.  They let us all go but gave us all nice severance, which was nice.  Bear and I decided that it was time to move back home, to Michigan.

I ended up getting hired by a pretty awesome company in Detroit but they wanted me to start ASAP.  I put together a move in very little time- I was technically hired on August 14th and I start on September 4th.  I planned and executed a cross country move in two weeks.

TWO WEEKS.

This was AFTER our trip to the Outer Banks to help celebrate my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary.  60 YEARS, y’all.  That is quite an achievement and I was so happy and honored that I could join them in their celebration.

It was also a reminder of how long I’ve been with Bear, myself.  My grandparents took us all on a family cruise for their 50th anniversary 10 years ago and I was dating Bear at the time.  He wasn’t able to go with us, as we weren’t married yet.  I do distinctly recall being told that if he “put a ring on it” he could come a long.  Funny thing, it was pre-Single Ladies and it was from my super conservative, not particularly pop culture savvy aunt, which makes the comment even funnier to me.

ANYWHO.

I’ve been trying to get back into the groove of a Midwest winter and a new job, which has been fun.  I say that with only a LITTLE bit of sarcasm.  I’ve also had to get used to not attending my regular RWA meetings- EVA, LARA, and OCC!  I miss all you guys!!!

I did find a great chapter here in the area and have been attending somewhat regularly- Greater Detroit RWA.  At the Christmas dinner, I won a full manuscript read from an e-publisher that I am SUPER excited about, mostly because they sell m/m romances, which is the book I am working on right now and I think that I could have a real shot at publication once I submit to this editor. 

I’m trying to set my timeline for this- when do I want to have it completed by and then when do I want it submitted by.  Based on my production over the past month, I’m not sure what the best time frame is for me.

I wanted to do a 2012 year-end run down before I jump on what I want to accomplish in 2013, so here we go!

1) Final Word Count for 2012:  135,483

This is a pretty great word count.

Except.

I had signed up for the Get Your Words Out challenge AGAIN this year and had pledged 350,000 words again, in an attempt to hit that bar at least once.

Didn’t happen.  It should have, which is upsetting.  I could whine and complain that I was losing my job, moving cross country, blah blah blah, but those would be excuses.  Lots of people do a lot more under a lot worse conditions, so I have to stop giving myself outs for stuff like this.

Anyway, on the one hand, I am pleased with what I was able to accomplish.  On the other, I am disappointed with myself that I didn’t even break the 200,000 mark.

2) National Novel Writing Month final word count:  50,075

I made my NaNo word count just after midnight on the 30th.  It felt GOOD.

Especially because I was teaching a class on NaNoWriMo at the time.  I had offered to teach the class for OCC back in 2011 and they got me on the schedule for 2012.  I had a small but amazing class of ladies that pushed each other (and me) to meet that 50K goal and to keep writing every day.  It was an amazing experience and I am hoping to teach the same class this year, although I think that OCC already has something scheduled for the month.

If you are an RWA chapter that is interested in a NaNo class/group for your chapter, let me know!  I’d love to work with you!

Anyway, I met my 50K goal and I think I got a lot out of the experience.

I was working on my “Farmer and the Medic” m/m romance story (so I was breaking the rules by working on a project I had already started- so sue me) and managed to figure out a lot of things about my plot and about my characters.

I think I have a better feel for Xander than I did before, and Jake (as always) comes right off the page.  I think I need to work on Xander some more to make him really pop and feel just as real and fully realized as Jake does, but I’m happier than I was.  I also think that I have the voices down a little better for most of my characters, which feels great, too.

I have roughly 175 pages written in total, which I am working on editing into individual chapters.  I think I can get this pounded out over the next few months and should be able to submit my manuscript to the e-publisher that I won the full read from, and we’ll see what kind of feedback I get from her.

 

So, that’s my end of the year wrap up.  How did the rest of you do?

Put it on the pile with the Furby and the pet rock.

I’ve tried to read Hunger Games at least five times. I have never made it past page four. I’ve tried to figure out what it is that is keeping me out from the biggest book phenomenon since Twilight.

Here are the three things that I can come up with:

1) It’s in first person.

And it’s not very good first person. I have been very upfront about how much I don’t care for first person, generally. It has to be done incredibly well for me to actually feel comfortable reading that close of a POV.

I thought that the first few pages of Hunger Games read very rough, that the author hadn’t quite found her first person feet and it really felt like it needed a second, or third polish. At least to my sensitive first person palate.

2) She wanted to kill the cat.

Look, kill as many people as you want but leave the cat alone. I’m not kidding, As an author, you can kill the entire planet all in one swoop or one by one, Punisher style, but if you want me to like your character, the pets need to be left alone.

I get what she’s trying to do with the whole “I wanted to kill the cat” bit. It’s supposed to be a sign that the world is really tough, that times are awful, and that food is so scarce that the main character would be worried about feeding this additional mouth.

I don’t care. She wanted to kill the cat, game over. No, really. That was enough for me, I was done.

3) I’m just contrary.

I will admit it. I will, occasionally, NOT like something because everyone else likes it. I’ve been accused of that regarding Twilight, but I can honestly say that I’ve read the first book and thought it was shit. I hate Twilight.

Hunger Games, I haven’t really decided yet. I did not like the first few pages that I read and thus, I stopped. I have based my opinion on those pages from that point forward. I have been told by other readers that the first few pages are a bit rough, and that I just need to get past them.

I have also been told this regarding Doctor Who and David Tennant. I shouldn’t have to watch more than a season to get to like the new Doctor, that’s just stupid (I did love me some Christopher Eccleston, good lord did I love him). However, for a book that actually makes sense. It does take a few pages to set up the world and the characters, and to get the plot rolling.

However, it is a problem if the first page has rough writing and contains an element that makes certain readers (re: me) instantly dislike your main character. Maybe not the best way to get that ball rolling.

 

I will admit that I am more interested in reading the book now that the movie trailer has come out. I love Jennifer Lawrence. She was amazing in Winter’s Bone and X-Men First Class. She has this bad ass nature about her, an amazing figure, and this husky, sexy voice that just really works for me. When I saw her in the trailer, she looked hard core and I did find myself wanting to know more about her character and the world that she finds herself in.

I normally get all upset with people over stuff like that. You know, the only wanting to read something because it’s a movie kind of thing.  I did that when P.S. I Love You came out and I discovered that while I liked the movie just fine (and cried my way through it) I really, really disliked the book. That one also has a horrible first person POV, unbelievable character set up, and a contrived plot that made no sense.

I can see why Hunger Games was sold- the whole post-apocalyptic story line, which is hot now, and the kick ass female lead, which we’re always looking for as both readers/consumers of stories and as producers. I’m just not sure it’s the story for me.

I will confess that I did buy a kindle copy of the book with my annual Christmas amazon.com gift card. It was less than $5, so I thought it would be okay even if I made it to page ten and still hated the damn thing.

I still have not read the book.

I will report back if I ever make to chapter 2.

(To be continued…)

 

And now, because I called people out, I’ll find a billion mistakes in here. Figures.

I had an interesting conversation with a writer friend of mine last night, focusing on the things that we both dislike in writing, and things that would get us to stop reading a story, should we run into them.

It’s not just about themes or settings or even setups. I am not a fan of adultery in stories and so I avoid stories where that is a major element. That’s pretty easy and most people have those things, which in circles I run in are referred to as bullets. For example, adultery is my bullet that will kill any interest I have in reading a story or watching a movie/TV show.

What we were talking about is more about the little choices that a writer or production team makes. To make this even easier, I’m going to focus on writing. One of the major things that will a story for me is poor grammar and word usage. This usually only matters with fannish type stuff or self-published work. This applies to people who use the wrong “to/too/two” or “their/there/they’re”- that kind of thing.

This is the kind of mistake that a good editor or a good beta reader should be able to catch. When I see this stuff, it screams “unprofessional” to me. Even if the work is a known unprofessional piece, say like fanfic or something of that nature, running into these issues just tells me that you, as the writer, were too impatient to find a beta reader and just wanted to post and get comments, so you put something up that isn’t as quality as it could be or should be.

Moral of this story? Get a beta reader and/or get an editor (esp. if you intend to get this work professional published or you want to self-pub) and get rid of all these little, stupid mistakes. It’s worth the time and the money. You want people to remember you for you great plot and fun characters, not because you consistently used the wrong “its/it’s.”

The second thing that will get me to stop reading occurs in the character description. I hate, hate, HATE it when two characters are described in the following way: “The older man turned to look at the younger man.” Or, “The blond looked over at the brunette and smiled.” That’s not WRONG, per se, but it screams inexperience. It tells me that you don’t really know how to deal with multiple characters in a scene that might require the same pronouns.
Let’s say that you are writing a romance novel, featuring a man and a woman. You can use “she” and “he” throughout the book, especially in the scenes that they are in together, and that makes it very easy to differentiate between the characters when you aren’t using their names.

Now let’s say that you are writing a story that has multiple characters of the same sex that end up together in various scenes. Using “she” and “she” or “he” and “he” can get confusing to the reader. I can understand why someone would want to find different elements to use as differentiating characteristics. That’s how you get “the blond and the brunette” or “The taller woman and the shorter woman.”

But that isn’t very fun to read. It reads rough, if that makes any sense, and comes across as unprofessional and unseasoned. There are a variety of ways to differentiate between characters in these scenes, as much of the published m/m romances will attest to.

An example: “James turned to look at Sean and frowned. He was wearing a short sleeved shirt and shorts, despite the below freezing temperature and James wanted nothing more than to throw a sweater at the guy and cover his clearly cold frame with something warm. But he knew that Sean would get weird about it, so he kept his opinions, and his sweater, to himself.”

Now, that isn’t the greatest paragraph in the history of the writing world, but I hope it works as a way to show how you can still use pronouns with two characters of the same sex, without resorting to using their eye color, height, or hair color to define them.

On a more serious note, how you treat sex in your work will determine if I keep reading or not.

I like reading stories where there might be some roughness, but all in fun. Or it might get a bit more serious, like bondage, dominance, BDSM, etc. That’s FINE, especially if I go into the story, knowing that’s what I’m getting. What I DO NOT like is walking into a story and suddenly it’s a rape fantasy.

I recently finished reading a book where the heroine had been attacked (raped, beaten, left for dead) and had lost her memory. She was discovered by her family three years later and comes back to them, not remembering any of them, including her husband. Instead of understanding that she had undergone great trauma and didn’t remember who they were, the husband decided that he was ENTITLED to her body because they were married and despite the fact that she repeatedly said no, he was going to continue to attempt (and actually achieve) having sex with her.

It was not sexy, it was not fun or cute, and it was not an enjoyable read. I DESPISED this “hero” character and was incredibly upset when the heroine finally gave in to his advances and suddenly, all of her rape induced trauma was suddenly cured.

I felt like this story was disrespectful of anyone who had actually been raped and it failed to understand the kind of mindset that would happen to a person if they had actually undergone that experience. Plus, the story was buying into and promoting rape culture, which is just disgusting and disturbing. That’s the kind of thing that will make me stop reading your stuff.

How do you translate that into something that you can use as a writer?

Be mindful.

What the hell does that mean?

Have someone else read your stuff. Find someone you know who is really good at the grammar/spelling/punctuation to read through with a red pen and fix any mistakes that you have. No one is perfect and no one catches all their own mistakes. Our brains will correct things for us, making us see what should be there, as opposed to what actually is there, which means that if you don’t get a second set of eyes to look at your work, you could be posting or publishing with easily correctable mistakes and you’ll look like a giant toolbox.

Read a lot of books and stories. Read stories by other people, in different styles and voices, to find out how other people have tackled the same problems that you are facing. I’m not even talking about plots, but in the way that they craft a sentence, the way that they use words to describe places, people, and things.

There are a lot of great ways to do things and you may not have run across them all yet in your writing life. Explore and experience so you can better your own work.

Do research. If you are writing about a subject or situation that might be triggering to someone, like rape or murder or cancer, don’t wing it. There is a lot of research about the effects of rape on the body and on the mind. Same is true for victims of violent crimes, survivors of murder attempts or the remaining families of murder victims. Ditto for cancer. Honor those who have truly gone through these events and get it right. It doesn’t take that much more effort and those who read your work will appreciate what you’ve done to create the most accurate portrayal of those events.

That goes hand in hand with respect. Respect the situation and get it right. There are many people who participate in the BDSM lifestyle. That does not mean that they eroticize rape or torture. If you think that, you have NOT done your research and you need to stop right now and read some books. Hell, you are clearly on the internet- find some message boards, read some blogs and LEARN.

What this all boils down to is DO NOT BE IGNORANT. It will show and you will look like an idiot. You don’t want to look stupid and no one wants to read works that come off as stupid.

Be careful, do the leg work, and reap the rewards. Trust me, the time is worth it.

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“If you wait for inspiration to write; you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” – Dan Poynter

I’ve discussed this before, I think, but I know that I have a real problem finishing projects. Over the past few weeks, I’ve read a number of blog posts from other people talking about why that might be the case.

One of the things that I think might apply to me is that I try to write stories before they’re ready.

What does that mean?

For me, it means that I get an idea that I think is pretty great. I get all excited about it and I want to start writing right away. But some story ideas need to percolate for a while. They need to simmer and stew and get all the flavors flowing before they should be eaten, er, I mean written. And I think that I jump the gun. So instead of flavorful, tasty stew, I get kind of runny meat water with undercooked veggies.

Not good.

So, one of my writing resolutions for the new year is to try and let the ideas sit for a bit. Especially the new ideas that I get in the shower, or in the car, or while riding in the elevator at work.

One of the other issues that I think I have is that I get bored. Why? It’s my story- can’t I skip the boring parts?

The problem here is that I think I need the boring parts. I’ve convinced myself that I need certain scenes to tell my story and when I try to write them, I get bogged down in the minutia of the scene. I get stuck with all the little details that just don’t get me excited and I stop wanting to write them.

Which should tell me, if I were willing to listen, that those scenes are boring. If I don’t want to write them, who in the hell wants to read them? I convinced myself a long time ago that I was a plotter and that I needed to plot out every story, get all my scenes lined up, and stick to the plan. But I think I forget to give myself room for change. I don’t have a contingency plan, in essence, which is a problem, because I need to learn to not be so fenced in by what I think I need so that I keep myself from doing what I really need.

Which leads me to another problem. I think I have unreasonable expectations for myself. I have unreasonable expectations about how quickly I should be writing, how quickly the pages should be flowing, and how easy it all should be coming to me, especially if I have outlined the thing out.

The problem with that expectation is that writing doesn’t work that way. I’ve had long discussions recently with a good writing buddy of mine about how writing works and we’ve both debunked the myth of the muse. No one is whispering the story into your ear. There isn’t a separate entity speaking to you, telling you what to write. All those little bursts of genius that blast out onto the page as you write come from you, even if you don’t realize it at the time.

Your brain has been pondering this story that you’re telling and it’s been knocking things around for you while you wash dishes, watch the latest episode of Castle, or even sleep. Your brain is trying to work out the problems that are keeping you from getting the words on the page, like a background program running on a computer, and when your brain thinks it has it figured out, it will push the solution to the forefront of your mind.

It’s not an external force, it’s an internal force. I think it’s a bit of a crutch to blame writer’s block on something like “the muse taking a break” or “the ladies in the basement stepping out for a smoke.” I think that’s cheating and it’s not taking agency of your own work and your own writing.

However, once you do take ownership of your brain and accept that the words coming through your fingers to the page are your own, then you have to accept both the failures and the successes. Sometimes they are both hard to deal with.

Back to my expectations, I tend to write very quickly once I sit down and actually do it. I can pound out 1000 works in less than 30 minutes and have done so many, many times. My brain, then, expects that from me and I allow myself to take breaks when I shouldn’t because I tell myself that when I do sit down to write, I’ll hammer out 4-5k in one sitting and be done with it.

How often do you think that’s happened for me recently?

In the past three months, it has happened ONCE. That’s right, ONCE.

I signed up for the Get Your Words Out challenge, pledging 350k for the year. I have yet to hit 100k. For all my talk about being able to pound out the words, clearly I haven’t done it.

Yet again, I don’t have a submission to the Golden Heart. I don’t have a finished submission for the editor who asked for one, and the only writing that I’ve come close to completing is fan fiction.

Clearly, I am my own worst enemy here.

I think I’ve done a lot of talking about what I’m going to do. How I’m going to fix myself. And I’ve tried things for a few days but I have to be honest. I am just as much EPIC FAIL as a writer today as I was a year ago. Possibly even more so.

Which leads me to my next problem. I have too many ideas and too many projects started. When one gets hard and the writing becomes real work, my brain wants to jump tracks and start working on something different. Maybe that’s what I should be doing. Maybe, if the words are flowing, I should just let them and get it all out on the page.

Maybe my fighting to stick to one thing is part of what’s hurting me. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe my writing ADD is keeping me from completing a project by not allowing me to maintain focus.

All I know is that I want to be a professional, published author, and to do that I need to get something done. That something needs to be a project that I can sell to someone, anyone, and it needs to be well written, the correct word count, and in my own voice.

I need to stop biting off more than I can chew and be more realistic about what I will do, not just what I am capable of actually accomplishing.

As we wind down 2011 and get into resolution season, I need to be honest and fair to myself and set some goals that I will actually achieve this year so I can start to re-build my confidence, as well as start to get myself to the point where I can consider myself a professional. That may be harder than I’d like to believe it is.

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. – Ray Bradbury

A few things:

 1) I was in Beverly Hills a while back, to see the doctor, I had to park in one of the public parking structures.  As I was pulling out in The Falcon (my Jeep), I passed Michael T. Weiss in his car.  He was making a turn, and he slowed down to do so, so I got a great view of his face.  He still looks good, which was awesome.  I LOVED him on The Pretender and it makes me sad that he’s been playing bad guys recently.

And not too long after I saw the guy, he shows up on Burn Notice!  It was great to see Michael T. Weiss and Jeffrey Donovan together again.  I was inspired to look up the show and see just how many episodes Donovan was in, as Kyle, Jared’s messed up brother.  I was shocked to see that it was only three TOTAL episodes!  He must have been mentioned more than that, for him to have been as pervasive in my memory as he is.  Or he was just that awesome.

 

2) A friend forwarded me an e-mail about this writing program called Skyword.  Skyword hooks writers up with different websites that are looking for content and they pay you based on hit counts for each article that you write.

I applied to write for gather.com and I was chosen to write for the news and political channels of the site.  I’m really enjoying it- I pick my own topics, do my own research and then submit my articles to be published on the site.  They have editors that read for content and they do edit articles as needed, which is a great service. 

I’ve already started to make money, although it’s a very small amount at this point.  But cash is cash, and it spends.  This is the first time I have ever been paid for my work.  Woo!

If you are interested in writing for the same program, check it out here.

Some of my currently posted articles are here:

a) Black Valedictorian Forced to Share Honor with White Student

b) Married Lesbian Couple Save 40 Teens from Norway Killing Spree

c) Murder of Gay Student Ends in Mistrial

d) After 66 Years, Nazi Secretary Reveals All

e) New Jersey Bullying Legislation Hits Hard

f) West Memphis 3 Released After 18 Years

 

3) Keep Calm and Finish Your Damn Book

Beth and Deb linked me to this post, via twitter, and it hit so many buttons for me, it isn’t even funny.

First, I love the art.  It reminds me of Hyperbole and a Half, which is awesome, and the actual content just really speaks to me. 

I mean, I am that person.  I freak out about all the people that are better/wittier/funnier/darker than I am and that have great books out there, getting read and possibly sold by a major publisher.

In fandom, I always get sad when my stories don’t get the kinds of comments that other stories do, some that aren’t as good as mine but get a billionty more comments.  And I wonder if people just don’t like me, like you do.  Or if I’m that uncool kid that people just put up with because it’s the internets and you can’t really kick people out until they become REALLY creepy or crazy or dangerous.  Am I that girl that you went to school with that had the terrible hair and smelled like peas? 

And then I wonder if it IS, in fact, the content of my work that just isn’t getting the response that I want.  If my stories are okay but not good, even if they aren’t BAD.

As an aside, I had a story that was due for a fannish challenge and I knew that I had to get it done, as it was for someone else and I would be gifted with a story of my own.  You never want to be that asshat that DOESN’T meet the deadline, okay?  And I thought I had a good story but I asked an amazing friend to beta read the thing for me.  She’s totally awesome and totally honest and she didn’t like it.  Like, at all.  So I had to break it down and really try to find what the story was I was actually trying to tell.  In the end, I had a much better story that I actually really loved.  I still did not get the kinds of comments that I was expected, based on the fandom and the characters involved.  My ego is ridiculous, okay?  I get that.  But man, I just wish I could write a story that not only connected with ME but connected with everyone else.

And that’s what I think this post is really about.  I question my worth as a writer based on the feedback from other people (or the distinct lack thereof).  I also question my worth based on my own comparison of my work/blog/twitter/facebook to that of other people, just like the blog talks about.  I psych myself out, creating all this doubt that doesn’t need to be there. 

What is the answer here?  The answer is just write the damn book.  Just tell the story the way I want to tell it, the way that I see it in my head, and just get it on the page.  Don’t worry about what other people will think about that paragraph or that character turn.  Don’t get caught up in all the peripheral stuff, like blogs and twitter and stuff.  Just focus on the work.  Because in the end, that’s all you have to stand on and it will have to be enough.  Make sure that the focus is on the work and just get it done.

That’s what I’m taking away from the post.

 

4) Speaking of Keep Calm and Finish Your Damn Book…

I’m trying to get my edits done on The Drake submission so I can send it out.  I’m struggling with too much information.  I’ve been thinking about the problems with the story and how to fix them for months and now that I need to actually sit down and pound out the fixes, I’ve got almost too much information pouring into my brain.

I need to rework the synopsis- crap, I have one, that I can just edit.  Maybe.  Or maybe it would be better to just start from scratch.  Ack!

Add to that, I need to update my first three chapters to incorporate the changes that I am making in the synopsis.  Let’s be clear- the changes are important, if only because they will help make the story not suck.

I feel both empowered, mostly because when I do have ideas hit me, they are pretty good and I am making a lot of fixes, but also like my hands and feet are tied.  When I sit down to actually type out the new words, I freeze up and I don’t know why.

Am I intimated by the amount of work this will require?  Am I afraid of getting it wrong?  I have no idea, I just know that I need to get my act together and get these pages out so that I don’t miss out on this opportunity.

 

5) My Kindle.

I love my Kindle.  I take it with me almost everywhere and I can read anything I want without anyone commenting on the cover, because I don’t have a cover.  I also am saving myself a ton of paper and ink costs by putting fanfic on my Kindle instead of printing it out to read away from the computer.

In fact, fanfic is what I use the Kindle for more than anything else.

Since my husband has been out of work for 1 year and 9 months (aside:  he was recently hired to work for a great place here in LA and starts on 9/15.  Another post to follow regarding this!) one of the things we’ve cut out is the book buying.  Granted, I do get amazon.com gift cards and can use those but I am pretty picky about what I pick up, because I know that my budget is so limited.  So, I’ve been very slow to add actual published novels to my device.  I have a lot of free stuff and a lot of samples of what amazon.com has available, but not a lot of purchases.  To be very clear, I do not pirate e-books.  It never does, as they say, to shit where you eat.

But the fanfic?  Oh, HELL yeah.  Lots of it.  And I’ve been collecting some of my favorite stories for re-reads and getting all the long Big Bang stories downloaded so I can read them at lunch, at work.  It’s the perfect little device for the avid reader of all types.

If you think you are interested in a Kindle but are concerned about the various format issues, be sure to download the program Calibre. 

Calibre is a FREE program that will help you manage your various e-books, files, etc.  Calibre can also convert files to other formats for better reading.  For example, I have a number of pdf files that I have converted to Kindle format (modi).  I have also purchased e-books from non-amazon.com sites that only offer pdf or epub formats and have converted those to Kindle as well, using Calibre.  I love it.  

And for all you fanfic readers out there, if you get your fix from An Archive of Our Own (AO3), you can download works in all e-book formats, including Kindle, so you won’t need to convert, just click and save.  Just another reason that the site is so amazing.

 

6) My short story.

I had submitted a story to an anthology and it was not accepted by that anthology.  Which is okay.  Not everything is for everyone.

But I submitted the piece to my crit group and it didn’t get that great of a response from them, either.

So, that is a sign that the stupid thing needs a lot of work.  On the plus side, now that I’m not writing it to fit into specific parameters, I can increase the word count and make positive changes without worrying if I am working outside the theme of the anthology.

The downside is that my husband really liked the story.  He was my beta reader and he was the one that suggested the current ending.  Apparently, my crit partners felt like it wasn’t a complete story, instead of an ending the implied additional action after the story was technically over.  That is not good.

I’m wondering if their reaction to it is based on reading preference.  They prefer the romance genre, that demands a HEA, and the husband prefers to read sci-fi and fantasy stories, that can be ambiguous and possibly sad or tragic.  That’s a different audience and one story would create very different reactions from both types of readers.

I am not discounting any feedback on this one- I am taking everything into account, including that it’s currently in present tense but it might work better in past tense.  This is something worth exploring.  I do have some experience in changing the tense, as I did with First Lady and the Dead Presidents.

I need to make the ending really pop, so that even if I don’t write in all the action that I thought I was implying before, than at least the reader would have a better understanding of what actions was supposed to be happening, as opposed to thinking that the story wasn’t even complete.  *sigh*

A lot of work, but worth it.  I love the characters, I love the world, and I want to see this in print somewhere other than my computer screen.  My plan, after I take it apart and rebuild her, is to send it to one of the guys that rejected the story from the anthology and see what they think about it after the overhaul.  If he’s willing. 

I will report back as things happen!

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean

I signed up for the Get Your Words Out challenge on LiveJournal again this year.  I talked about that here, earlier this year.

I made the choice to go with the INSANE goal (that’s what they call it there, just FYI) of 350,000 words in one year.  I did the same thing last year and missed it by a mile but it was fun giving it a try.

I think this year, I planned more rolling in to the year but I have been less effective and less productive in my writing.  I think there are a number of reasons for this but the reality of the situation is that I have not put in the writing time to be on track to meet my goal.

On the left side of this page, you can see my progress meters.  I set goals for each month and for the year, and I have yet to meet a monthly goal even ONCE.  Which is a bit disheartening.

This month, I set the goal as the number of words I would need to write to catch up to where I should be, had I been on track for the previous 7 months.  This may seem self-defeating but what I wanted to do was to see how big of a chunk I could take out of that massive number if I just kept at it.  I may not get to the top of the mountain, but how far did I climb before I had to stop?

I am currently only at 13% of my annual goal, so I need to get moving.  I would love to hit 50% of that goal by the end of September, if not before, so I’m trying to figure out what kind of plan I would need to enact to hit that bar.

Next month, EVA is running their annual “Beat Janet” contest.  The goal is to write more words than published author (and EVA member) Janet Tronstad.  The person who beats her by the most words wins a prize.  I think I will set a more reasonable word count goal for my sidebar in September, with the hope that the drive to both beat Janet and that stupid bar will get me really revved up and writing.

This past week has been great.  I met up with one of my FAVORITE fanfic writers ever, in person, and was inspired to write just by sheer proximity to her brilliance.  I attended both the monthly OCC meeting and the annual EVA retreat at Monrovia Canyon Park.  Both events got my writing brain really working hard (my husband swears he can smell the smoke!).

On top of all that, I am working hard to finish my edits for my submission to an editor and my Apocalyptothon story was due on 08/13, with any and all final edits due by 08/20.  I’ve been pounding out the words on so many different things.

And you might be saying, but Alison?  Can you really be effective if you are bouncing from project to project?

Continued

The Promise of the Premise

I’ve been reading reaction posts and review of the season finale of AMC’s The Killing all morning and I’ve noticed one thing- none of the people complaining about the season finale seem to be X-Files fans.

There is all this shock, disappointment and complaining about the end of the episode “Orpheus Descending”, about how nothing was answered and only more questions were asked.

(There are vague spoilers below for The Killing.  Here be dragons, enter at your own risk.)

Continued

The results are in and I… didn’t win. Damn it.

I entered First Lady and the Dead Presidents in OCC’s Orange Rose contest.  The results were returned on July 9th.

I was on vacation at the time, so it’s taken me longer to get to my own score sheets and to my responses to the judges comments.

I was not a finalist, sadly.  The bar was incredibly high this year.  The highest possible score a person could get was 165 and to be a finalist, you needed an average score of over 156.

Yeah, you read the correctly.  Over 156.

My average score was a 125.  Boo.

The contest is pretty cool.  The first round judges are all published.  FIRST ROUND.  ALL PUBLISHED.  So the feedback is pretty great, even if you don’t get to the next level.  It also allows for a lot more pages than other contests- a total of 55 pages, including a synopsis of no more than 6 pages- which means the judges get a much stronger feel for your world, your characters and your story.

My scores were pretty interesting. 

As a refresher, First Lady and the Dead Presidents is technically women’s fiction.  It has romantic elements but it is not a romance, per se.  My heroine, McKinley, is forced to return home toOhio from her TV writing job in LA to deal with the death of her estranged father.  She thinks that she can just fly in, bury him, and get out.  But some insane sisters, a booby trapped will and a hunky bartender/electrician with dreamy eyes make an easy escape not an option.  Can she get back to her life and, more to the point, does she even want to?

The story is not a strict romance.  I want the focus to be more on the family story, as opposed to the romance, so I would classify this as women’s fiction as opposed to romance.  The story is in first person and is a present tense novel.  (I would like to point out that while one judge did not like the first person, not a single one mentioned the present tense.)

So, here we go:

Continued

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If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again. – Groucho Marx

Australian Aborigines say that the big stories—the stories worth telling and retelling, the ones in which you may find the meaning of your life—are forever stalking the right teller, sniffing and tracking like predators hunting their prey in the bush. —Robert Moss, Dreamgates

I had an editor request pages from me this weekend, after a pitch.  I am very excited at the prospect of submitting and getting a response, good or bad, from a professional.

I started off pitching my current WIP, First Lady and the Dead Presidents, but that project is not in the traditional mold of romance.  It’s more chick lit/women’s fiction, which wasn’t what the editor was looking for right now.  FLatDP is a first person story, which I don’t usually even like to read, much less write myself, but I’ve got a story that my brain is convinced that I need to write so I am.  And it isn’t this editor’s thing, at least right now, but it could be LATER.

So I threw out The Drake, a wild pitch that I hoped would connect and it totally did!  She was interested in the world, the fact that Jack is a shape shifter, and that it’s written as a traditional romance (third person, balance POV with hero and heroine, etc.).

The only problem here is that I haven’t looked at The Drake in over a year.  When I left the story, it had a beginning, a middle, and an end but there were a number of story points that I wasn’t thrilled with.  I’m hoping that I can figure out how to fix those bits so that I can get out a revised synopsis and the first three chapters that were requested, in a timely manner. 

She asked to have them in July, so I think I have a good stretch of time in which to polish and correct.  And all I really need is for her to want to read the whole thing, right? 

After the OCC meeting this weekend, I am under the impression that every book that gets purchased has editing done.  Nothing goes out on the shelf without at least a little nipping and tucking (or implants) here or there.  What they’re looking for is a solid voice and a story that shines, even if it needs a little buff and polish.

That’s not to say that I’m not planning to make this the best synopsis and three pages she’s ever seen.  No, I understand that.  What I really need to remind myself of here is that there is room to maneuver and that I shouldn’t worry myself sick over the whole thing.

My plan for the next week is to re-read the entire manuscript and try to spot the weakest points.  There is a “highlight and flag” method that my girl Christy Finn has used in the past that I need to get more info on, so I can determine where I’m strong, where I’m weak and where I need to shore up the walls to survive the hurricane.

Once I’ve got that done, I’m going to pull out Carol Hughes’ “Deep Story” class notes and really dive in there.  I think that could really help me re-lay the foundation of The Drake and make sure that I have a strong enough world and characters to support the kind of story that I’m telling.

I’ve really been thinking about my plot and I think some of the problems that I was having when I left the story before have been worked out in my head.  I was playing around with the idea of my hero and heroine as soul mates tied together through time, which is something that has come out in my fan fiction in the past as well.  I think its part of my story, so I’m not surprised to see it come up here.

When I say “my story”, I’m referring to the basic story that every storyteller tells.  Steven Spielberg’s stories are about fathers and sons.  JAWS, E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, the Indiana Jones series, Schindler’s List, even Jurassic Park- they’re all about the relationships (or lack thereof) between fathers and their sons. 

Tom Cruise, if you break down his roles to their simplest form, tells the same story from movie to movie as well.  He plays the talented man who has to prove that he deserves his place in the world.  Top Gun, Far and Away, The Firm, even Magnolia has him fighting to prove to someone other than himself that he deserves what he has.  And maybe that’s a part of it- outwardly he’s trying to prove to others that he has earned his place but really, it’s all about him proving it to himself. 

It’s something about us, as individual people that comes out in the tales that we spin and weaves its way through everything we put down on the page.  We all have something that has shaped us as people and we try to work that out in our art/craft. 

I think the idea of soul mates, of being destined to be with someone, is something that comes out in my work.  I might be wrong- I’m a notoriously bad judge of my own work- but I think that’s at least part of my story.  The rest of my story, I think that’s better saved for a different post but I can already tell that The Drake has the potential to really get all of my stories out and on the page in one text.

I’m excited to see what this editor has to say and the prospect of selling to her and her publishing house is just an amazing opportunity.  Here’s to not screwing it up.