Monday, September 28, 2009

Shameless Self-Congratulatory Notes

I honestly intend to turn this into a legitimate blog someday, and someday soon, Gods of Time willing. It will have a purpose other than me babbling on about how I write and what goes on in my little writer's brain.

But not today. Today I'm going to do my little happy dance, wordstyle.

Today I found out my WIP was commended in the Yeovil Literary Prize competition, judged by wonderful best-selling author Katie Fforde (if you like British chick lit, you'll LOVE Katie Fforde, so definitely check her out). It's not a huge competition, but I think fairly respectable (like all things British). Out of 299 entries, I came out in the top 20 (list was alphabetical, dammit, so I don't know exactly where, except that I'm between six and twenty). Hooray!

AND this week, one of my short stories will be published in Woman's Weekly, a UK mag with circulation of 350,000. This is the same magazine that published another of my short stories (back in 2006 -- I am not a prolific short story writer).

Will either of these things get me a book deal? Of course not. But I'm just hoping these credits might help lift me to the top, if not out, of the slush pile. And if nothing else, it was some validation for my WIP that I was sorely needing.

So this is a good week!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Impatience is not a virtue

I must admit that I have a little problem. When I am expecting to receive some news or response to an important message, I check my email over and over. and over. and over and over and over and over and over. I do it even though I know it is a Saturday and said email is coming a business that is closed on weekends. I do it first thing in the morning and late at night, even though said email is coming from a different time zone where everyone is sleeping. I do it even though I checked it ten minutes ago. It's an illness, really.

This is going on now. I entered the beginning of my WIP in a writing competition (which I will name in a later post) and their website states 'Results will be posted here in September.' The trick is that they didn't say WHEN in September, which means I am checking the website several times a day. This instance is particularly trying for me as the website where you can check on the status of your entry originally listed my WIP as 'Not Shortlisted.' (This prompted my very first post on this blog.) But when I checked back last week out of curiousity, my entry now is listed as 'Work Commended.' What's up with that? As they have not announced the winner yet, I am not making any assumptions, good or bad. But it is killing me. I am trying to control myself but it is very VERY difficult.

This OCD checking for the results does not bode well for my querying experience. I may have to resort to restraints and intravenous margaritas to stop myself from refreshing my inbox every three minutes.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On to the next stage

State of Mind? Resigned. Every word I look at, I think 'This is terrible! This is total dross!' But I'm thinking it is as good as it is going to get.

Where's my WIP? At the printer, having three copies made. One for me, one for a new reader, and one for my mother (who I can always count on to give me her honest opinion, whether it hurts or not).

Today I'll send out the third draft to two readers (see above). My new reader is an editor (of textbooks) and a real book lover. I'm hoping she can give me a fresh new opinion, particularly as I've done some heavy rewriting. My mother will also read it. Next week will see me sitting on my bed reading each and every page of my third draft out loud. I heard chapter 1 read out loud a week ago at a critique group and found it very helpful for picking up echo words, bad rhthyms, and the like.

I will also be polishing my synopsis. No joke -- I have no fewer than 17 different versions of the synopsis on my computer. I have conducted an obscene amount of research on writing the perfect synopsis and just last week, saw the best post I've ever seen on how to write one here. If you are looking for guidance, go check it out.

I will also start getting my query letters ready. I've researched agents (of course, hours, HOURS of research) and I've compiled a list of my top targets. I'll send out to the first 10 and wait to see what kind of response I get. That way, if they have feedback (please please please) I can make a change before sending to the next round.

I'm hoping that by then I'll have feedback from my readers and can make changes to the final (again, please please please) draft.

Goal: First 10 query letters out by October 12.
Truth: I am going to struggle with not sending the queries out before I make my revisions. I KNOW that is a bad idea. MUST BE STRONG! I may compromise and send the queries that don't require the first five pages. We'll see.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How much do you know about a book before you read it?

Last night, my first chapter was read in a writers' critique group. The result was not pretty. At the risk sounding like one of those writers who blames the reader's lack of understanding on the reader rather than the writer, I do think that this was less a problem with the chapter itself and more because I didn't give the readers ANY framework before we began. I said 'This is the first chapter of my novel, which is commercial fiction' and then the reading began. At the end, the first comment was "I didn't know where you were going with this." Consensus ensued. At the end of all comments, I gave a quick blurb of the book (like what I would put on jacket copy). Suddenly, there were smiles and nods. They could picture it, they liked it. The foreshadowing made sense, what I was building up made sense.

This made me realize that as a reader, I NEVER read a book without knowing something about it. I either look at a review, or at the very least, the inside flap or cover copy. If it is a recommendation, there is always a brief description. Does anyone just pick up a book, open it and start reading?

A reader needs some sense of where the journey is going to take them. One reader last night said "I didn't know whether this was horror or romance." Big difference. Imagine you are traveling: how disoriented would you be if you didn't know whether your plane was heading to Africa or Amsterdam (both very nice places, but requiring very different mindsets).

The trick, of course, is how much information to put out there. Enough to get the cerebral juices flowing but not enough to spoil the story. I once read in a great post (have to try to find it so I can link to it here) that when you write a novel, you need three synopses. You should have a synopsis that is 1-2 pages (for queries -- think of it as a detailed map), 1-2 paragraphs (also for queries and where a bit more info is needed -- sort of like driving directions from the internet), and 1-2 sentences (for telling someone -- like pointing a tourist in the right direction). Great advice.

So now I'm off to fix some things from last night (see, I know my writing is not perfect and that I will always learn something from a critique, whether or not I agree with it). And then I'll get started with my maps.

Have a great writing day!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Digitizing is not all bad...

There has been a great deal of press about Google's plan to digitize every book. (Read something about it here). Obviously, there are some seriously ticked-off copyright holders who don't want their hard work given away for free online (and rightly so) but I have to applaud part of the plan, whether that makes me popular or not.

In the course of researching my novel, I have been looking for some obscure information, the kind you don't find in the average history books. So I turned to the Internet (natch) and found some of my best sources courtesy of Google digitized books.

Most notably, I came upon an amazing gem of a book published (in its third edition) in 1828. The copyright has long since expired on Domestic Duties: Or, Instructions to Young Married Ladies on the Management of their Households and the Regulation of their Conduct in the Various Relations and Duties of Married Life by Mrs. William Parkes and no doubt there are only a handful of original copies still in existence in the world. I guess there isn't much call for it anymore and will likely only be accessed by writers of historical novels and thick dissertations about the subjugation of woman in early 19th century England. But still, what a shame it would be if this book just crumbled away to nothing, unloved and unneeded on a shelf of the NY Public Library.

How could we lose a book that includes such nuggets of wisdom as:

"The mistress of a family has the power of being the spring of its movements and the regulator of its habits. Exerting this properly, she sees around her everyone obedient to the laws of order and regularity"

(Subjugated, my eye!)

Thanks to Google's efforts, we have it for all times and I for one am grateful.