Friday, August 27, 2010

Word Paint Blogfest

I haven't participated in a blogfest in a long time, but I was really drawn to Dawn Ember's Word Paint blogfest. The following is an excerpt from my current serial-in-progress "Continental Drift," a story where a recently-widowed woman drives across country to reconnect with a group of friends from college.

I stopped the car at a small sign announcing the continental divide and learned I was standing on the line that marked where the rainfall would drain – to the west it drained to the Pacific, to the east, the Atlantic. So now if I cried, my tears would be going to a different ocean. I decided right then and there that Pacific was salty enough without my contribution, so I would permit no more to fall.

When I got back into the car, I found myself refreshed, able to keep driving despite how many miles I’d done. The setting sun painted the sky with a wash of reds, purples and golds. Watching it through the massive windscreen, I felt as though I was sitting in a movie theatre seeing it on the big screen, though I doubted film could ever capture those colours.

I drove until chips of stars blazed across the indigo sky. And though it felt like a betrayal of the beautiful state to sleep in some generic hotel chain, it was the only thing I could find. The commonness of the hotel was excused, however, when I enjoyed my morning coffee while looking at the blushing mesas.

Several more hours driving brought me to Arizona, where beautiful painted cliffs rose just inside the state line. I prepared myself for more beauty but I soon passed beyond the painted cliffs into the desert proper. The Arizona desert was not what I expected. At first, the stark beauty was breathtaking, all sharp silhouettes and shades of earth that designers covet. But after an hour, my senses rebelled. I was raised among the green trees and gentle slopes of the northeast. The desert landscape was too alien. Hard white skies stretched above, shimmers rose from the endless grey road, and heat transmitted through the roof, the windows and up from the ground through the car until I felt like I was in an oven. All those things went supernova in my head until a razor-sharp headache pierced the centre of my brain.

The drive went on for hours until I could stand it no more. I finally pulled into the car park of a motor lodge, a throwback to the Fifties when Americans thought of road travel as fun and wanted to take their time getting somewhere. When I stepped out of my mobile living room, the heat was so fierce that the inside of my nose burned, my mouth went dry, and my sandals sank half an inch into the molten blacktop. I was clearly a fool to enter Arizona in August.

Drifting in a heat-induced haze, I soon found myself in a room that reeked of dusty potpourri but was as cold as a refrigerator. After downing three glasses of lukewarm water, I pulled the roadmap from my bag and spread it on the bed. The country was bisected by a grid of folds so worn that the paper was cobweb thin. I uncapped a black fibre pen and methodically started colouring in Arizona, making it black from edge to edge. I decided right then and there that if I ever do the cross-country drive again, I would find some route that did not include this state. When I ventured out to dinner at the diner across the car park, my breath came short and my shirt was instantly damp where it touched my skin. But the sky was lit up with a sunset of mythical proportions and I forgave Arizona briefly for its evil summer.

If you haven't seen this blogest yet, go check out Dawn's blog and follow the links to the other entries. And if you are participating in the blogfest, my plan is to visit you all over the weekend. I can't wait to read your Word Paintings!

Friday, August 13, 2010

But you knew that

I'm in the process of working on my latest serial for Woman's Weekly. In "Continental Drift" a young woman who lost her husband a year ago drives from New York to Los Angeles to reconnect with a group of friends from college. I found writing Part 1 easy - the words just seemed to flow as she drove through the southern US and worried about starting her life over. Part 2 was trickier as I found it difficult to introduce the old relationships in enough detail to stay within the word count (I've got 3800 words per part).

When I finished part 2, I did something I've never done -- I sent the first draft of parts 1 and 2 to the fiction editor for her feedback. Usually, I finish all the parts and do a final polish (I wouldn't call them final drafts because I know there may be revisions). But this time, I felt I needed to hear from the editor that things were working.

While I was waiting for her feedback, I tried to work on part 3. And it just wasn't happening. The words wouldn't come easily and the words that did come were the wrong ones. I told myself it was because I was hot and tired (our A/C packed it in on Monday and for two days and nights it was 91 degrees in my house), because the kids were hot and tired and cranky, because I was too busy following WriteOnCon (great experience!).

I got the feedback this morning. The editor wrote that the writing was "exquisite" (I tell you, that wonderful woman is what keeps me writing some days!) but that the plot was "unfocused." This is not what I wanted to hear, of course, but it wasn't surprising. In fact, it was obvious.

Part 3 wasn't working because I hadn't established a clear plot through 1 and 2. And I knew it. I didn't want to admit it, but I knew it. Otherwise, I wouldn't have felt the need to send it in early. I wouldn't have had trouble finishing it. I had a hunch and, if you read what Jen at Unedited said about hunches today, you know what that means.

So has this happened to you? Have you suspected something and then your betas/critiquers/readers called you out on it?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What do I do with this?

Seriously. This is not a rhetorical question... What do I do with this information?

My new four-part serial short story "La Luna" began in Woman's Weekly (a UK magazine) this week. As I posted last Friday, the editor wrote about it in her Editor's Letter, which I didn't see until yesterday when I received my contributor's copies. Here's what she wrote:

So... OMG! (and I don't use that expression lightly, because, honestly, I just can't pull it off.) Seriously, this magazine has a circulation of 350,000 every week and a readership of 570,000. So even if only half the readers take a look at the contents page, that means almost a quarter of a million people just read my name and really nice comments about my story.

Now aside from the fact that this gives my ego a boost it could really use after all the rejections that come from querying a novel, there has got to be some way this can work in my favor, right?

I've posted this on my web site (if you haven't already checked it, go ahead and look -- I've got a stat counter and it makes my day when I get visitors). But I'd love to hear from you marketing experts if there is something else I should do to with this development. Should I mention it in my query letter? Include a hardcopy of this page when I send out paper copies? Hire a skywriter to reproduce it in vapor? Get over myself because it's not that big of a deal?

I'd love to get any suggestions people have. Remember, there's no such thing as a bad idea! Thank you in advance for your help.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What are you waiting for?

We all know that writing is all about waiting: waiting for feedback, waiting for agents to respond, waiting for editors to respond. I'm used to waiting, but I'm not very good at it. I seethe and suffer inside. And though I know it is counterproductive, I lose sleep, I lose concentration, I lose my mind.

And these days, it seems all I am doing -- in every aspect of my life -- is waiting. So I'm going to vent a little into the ether.

Things I'm Waiting For:
  • Response from agent with full manuscript.
  • Response from agents with partials.
  • Response from agent queried with a referral.
  • Responses to THREE job applications.
  • Mortgage refinancing paperwork.
  • Go-ahead from hubby (who manages our finances) to attend Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference
  • The school year to start so I can get some real work done.
  • Cooler weather
  • Apology from hotel after disastrous spa weekend
  • Shoes I ordered from Ebay
  • Return call from body shop about the huge dent made by non-note-leaving driver in Old Navy parking lot
Yeah, feels like a lot.

So how about you? Anything you are waiting for that's driving you nuts? Come, join me!