Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Celebration Time!

Okay, so it's not quite what you might think.  I'm celebrating because I finished my rewrites, and I can start querying again!  So I'm going to do that today.

It's the little victories that make this worth my time and effort.  Big victories are great, and I'm looking forward to a few of those, but if I only found joy in the big victories, I would've given up long ago.

So what are you celebrating today?  Any small victories?  How about big victories?  The should ALL be celebrated on this gloriously beautiful Wednesday!  (It's bright and sunny out here.  I want to get out into the weather.  So I may do that in a few minutes.)

Update: I sent out a query!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Choices

Choices are a huge part of our lives.  That must be true for characters in novels, too.  Each and every character you write will be faced with choices, and some of them are going to be the wrong choices.  As someone who hates making mistakes, I cringe when my characters do something they shouldn't.  Or don't do something that they should.

But I still make them do it.  Why?  Because that leads to conflict!  And conflict is what leads to a great story.  Consequences are another fact of life, and in a novel, the consequences your protagonist suffers should be extreme.  And they should CHANGE that character so that they don't do it again.

That is key!  Human beings fail to learn from their mistakes over and over again, but when a character in a book fails to learn anything from their mistakes, we grow weary with them.  And sometimes they even make us mad.

Just because mistakes make us cringe, though, it doesn't mean that we should avoid them.  And we CERTAINLY shouldn't avoid making choices.   So go find a situation where your protagonist, antagonist, or even a secondary character can make a big choice that makes the "situation" worse!  Then make those characters work to solve it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lost for Words

I spent my entire lunch break trying to think of a topic to discuss.  Can't think of a thing.  I keep spending my energy on my short stories and novels.

So have a great weekend.  I'll see you all on Monday.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss is the first Romance novel I've ever read.  The closest thing before this book would be the Sookie Stackhouse novels, and those have waaaayyyy too much going on to be considered straight-up Romance.

So what did I think?  It was great!  A young woman (Anna) get shipped off to boarding school for her senior year of high school.  And it's in Paris.  But the school is for American kids.  This is upsetting because all of her friends are back home, including the guy she has a crush on.

But then she meets THE BOY.  And drama ensues.

I recently read a twitter post from an agent (can't remember who) that basically said, "YA should NOT be filled with whiny, angsty teens.  If this is how you see YA, then you don't know teenagers very well."  I have to be honest: based on some of my experiences with (bad) YA and with some teenagers (it wasn't that long ago that I WAS a teenager, and I worked in a mall, so I saw some of the worst and best of the age-group), I expected there to be some whiny angst.  But there isn't any!

There IS humor!  And well-written dialogue.  And the setting descriptions are gorgeous!  I've never been to Paris, but the way Perkins described the city made feel like I was actually there.  AND it made me want to visit.

Perkins' characters are well-rounded, three-dimensional people.  They have problems that I had in high school.  They have feelings that I FELT in high school.  In fact, I felt myself flashing back to those days so often that I want to reread this book before I send it back to the library.  And then I want to go out and BUY all of her books and read them over and over again!

Now I'm gonna get "girly" on you.  I am a hopeless romantic.  At least, I WAS hopeless until I got up the nerve to ask my wife to marry me.  I enjoy romantic movies that aren't about dumb people who have misunderstandings over stupid things like... I don't know... the man is working late, the secretary has a crush on him, but he's TOTALLY faithful to his wife, but when the wife brings him a late dinner, she catches the secretary trying to clean spilled coffee off of his shirt in a manner that suggests something ELSE is going on, so the wife gets mad at him and he spends the next two hours of movie time trying to fix a relationship that's only broken because the wife is too stupid to find out what ACTUALLY happened and the man is too proud to make her listen.

This story is nothing like that.  There are misunderstandings, but the characters GROW as human beings as a result!

But more importantly: they get experience romance!  And while some of the feelings are shallow (who doesn't have shallow feelings for someone now and then?) there's more to it than that.  Because, like I said, the characters are GREAT!

I see that I'm rambling, now, so I'm going to end this review here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Feeling Hot!

I have an idea!  And I'm not talking about that romance I hinted at a few weeks ago.  Yes, I was excited to start that book, but I started thinking about the direction I want my career to go.  I have NOTHING against romances, especially after this AWESOME book that I just read (and I know I promised a review last Friday.  Sorry, life got in the way.  And I don't have time to write it today.  I will MAKE time to write it today and tomorrow).

But remember that first book I finished?  The very first book I tried to query?  Yeah, I found a way to turn those characters into and INTERESTING book.  One that makes me more excited than I was about the romance.  Seriously, I'm bouncing in my chair (almost).  And while I can't really "salvage" any of the scenes from the previous manuscript, I think this will be an easy book to write.  By easy, I mean I will be able to put together a real plot, the scenes will be enjoyable, and while it may take time and concentration, the story will move forward in a manner that won't make me feel like I'm banging my head against the wall.

I still have a few side-projects to finish, but as soon as I'm done with that, I'm writing a book that makes me feel like I'm on fire!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Forward Momentum

I'm done with revisions (for now).  My plan is to move FORWARD with my writing.  That means, as soon as I get my notes back from my critique group, I'll do edits, and then I'm querying again!  Well, once I get my synopsis sorted out.  I do know a few agents who are opposed to synopses, and I'll query them first, but I do want a finished package (whatever that may mean) when I send out my work.

Then it's on to my next project!  I haven't decided if I'm going to return to the Nic Benson story or if I'm going to try my hand at YA Romance, but I'm excited about either option!

I have some critique work to do, and a lunch to eat, so have a great weekend, stay SAFE this St. Patrick's Day, and I'll see you on Monday!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How to Stay Positive

I read an awesome book.  So awesome that I stayed up late last night to finish it.  A review will be forthcoming on Friday.

As for today's topic, I've found that remaining positive is as simple as focusing on the good things that are going on in your writing career.  It gets hard, sometimes you WANT to scream, throw your computer at the wall, and give up.  But as Bobby McFerrin and Dennis Prager say, "Don't worry.  Be happy."

When you feel like giving up, CHOOSE to be happy.  You may ask, "It can't be THAT easy, can it?"

My answer is, "Yes."  I've tried it.  Many times.  And it works!  Choosing to have a positive attitude, whether I FEEL like it or not, does make it easier to move forward with my writing.  But this translates to the rest of my life, too.

On the other hand, sometimes it's VERY difficult.  You're going to want to give up, and you're going to want to pour out your heart on your blog, on Facebook, and to random writers you run into at conferences.  But make sure that all of those negative thoughts are reserved for your close support group.

And I AM advocating that you get it out.  As I've said before, you have to have other writers to share with.  We have to help each other with our burdens.  But if we stay positive with those folks outside of our inner-circle, it WILL translate to a genuine positive attitude that will make you FEEL happy more often.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Myth of Standards

Someone may say that there's a "standard" mode of operations in any given industry.  That's not only a myth, in some cases it's an out and out lie.  Shoe's, for example, CLAIM that they are sized (for men) based on the length of the foot.  You have a foot that's 10 inches long, then you're a size 10.  9 inches long? You get a size 9.  But that's really one of those big lies.  And evil, evil lie.  I just bought a pair of boots for work.  Normally I wear a 9 1/2.  Nike runs a bit small, and I typically wear Nikes, which means I SHOULD wear a 9 in ALL other brands (this is the way I've purchased shoes for FIFTEEN YEARS!!!).  But the boots I'm wearing now?  They're a size 8 1/2.  And while I have unusually tiny feet for someone my height (I'm 6' 1"), I know they're not THAT small.

So what does this have to do with writing?  Not much.  Except that, when you read one advice site that tells you how to write a query, a synopsis, or even how to format your book, you'll be able to find at least one (but probably five or more) sites that will tell you that those methods aren't preferred, or even that they're the absolute WRONG way to do it.

Why does this matter?  Well, I'll tell you.  On Wednesday.  So stay tuned.

Just kidding.

It matters because as writers, it's OUR job to do research.  Some agents want queries formatted one way, other want them formatted another way.  Some want you to tell them why they're receiving a query from you before you jump into the pitch, and other agents will tell you that your BOOK should ALWAYS come first.

I've read some blogs that insist that a synopsis should be EXACTLY three pages long, left-hand justified without paragraph indents, single-spaced with an extra space between paragraphs.  Other blogs say admit that some agents and publishers want one thing from a synopsis, while others will look for an entirely different set of "standards."

So try on your shoes before you assume they fit, and research an agent's preference before querying.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Revising

No blog updates today.  I have serious momentum, and I'm going to focus that on my rewrites.  Should be able to query next week some time :D

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Excited for Rewrites

I got awesome notes on the first three chapters of my book!  I'd like to thank Aaron M. Ritchey for taking the time to help me out.  He has a book coming out at the end of the month, so go familiarize yourself with his work!

I also want to thank Hanna C. Howard for her notes.  She has a great eye for quality writing, and all of you should go say hi.  If you're new to my blog, I've talked about her a few times while I was beta-reading her book.  She's going to be big someday.  At least, I think she SHOULD be.  Her writing is awesome!

I'm excited to make these rewrites!  They're going to be pretty easy to do, I think, and I can really see how they'll improve the story.  The great part about this round is that there's not much that I need to do, and I don't have to sift through the ENTIRE manuscript for more revisions.

I know a book is only finished when it's printed and in stores, and I'm prepared to do more work if/when an agent/editor tells me to.  But I'm taking the time, now, to make this the best book it can be!  That's important.  And that's something every pre-published author should strive for.  Continue revising, if you can, while you query.  Especially if you've gotten nothing but rejection after rejection.  It's never fun to think that something might be wrong with your book, but sometimes there IS something wrong with it.  That's not bad, it's just something that needs to be worked on.

And that's why I'm working on my rewrites.  And why I'm excited!

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Secret to Getting Your Book Finished

Everyone has their little tips on what works and what doesn't when it comes to finishing a book.  What do most of them agree on, though?  Write!  Sit down, put in the time, and pound away at the keyboard until you reach the end.

What else?  Edit!  You must, must, MUST! edit the living crap out of your book.  Especially if you're a pre-published author.  Go beyond spell check, too.  Print it up or at least view it as an un-editable PDF.  Why?  I found that when I can't actually fix something, my subconscious is paying better attention to what's on the page than when I'm reading it in a .doc (or OSX pages) file.  This may not work for you, but it works for me.  But find out what DOES work for you, and make sure a red pen has marked up at least one in three pages.

Then give it to a friend.  Didn't find anything after you got it back from your friend?  Did they find anything?  No?  Then they're lying to you.  And/or you're lying to yourself.  Find any published book on the bookshelf in your room.  I guarantee you there's at least three typos in any one of those books.  I found one on the second page of the THIRTEENTH book in a bestselling series!  If an entire team of professional editors can miss at least one typo, all of us are doomed to do the same.  Myself included!

So writing, editing, what else?  Support group!  You're going to feel like giving up.  It will happen eventually.  And if you're really lucky and that never happens, then I take credit for inspiring you, and I'd like that favor repaid, please.  (Just kidding.  I don't take credit for anyone's success but my own.)  It could happen.  Some people go into writing blindly, unaware of how difficult it is, and they reap substantial success out of shear talent!  And if you're NOT one of those people, then hearing those stories (and struggling to become one of the successful writers) WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO QUIT!

So get friends who understand where you're coming from.  Don't vent (too often), but support each other.  Edit each others' work, celebrate when one of you "makes it," and find a way to enjoy the process when you're REALLY DEPRESSED!

The secret?  There is no secret.  It's well-known.  Sit down, finish that book.  NEVER give up no matter how many people tell you to.  Edit it until your eyes bleed, then edit it some more.  All the while, surround yourself with people who are going through the same thing because otherwise you'll face this journey alone.  And that's no fun.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Charity of the Month: Safe Passage

I heard a disturbing statistic last weekend: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18.  To me, the very idea that anyone could bring that kind of physical and emotional harm to a child makes me physically ill.  That statistic bothered me so much that I got a hold of a friend of mine who is championing this cause.  She's in the process of building a charity that will help sex-slaves around the world.  Next month, I hope to focus on a charity of that nature, but this month we're looking closer to home.

Safe Passage helps to provide counseling and shelter to children and non-offending guardians in two counties in southern Colorado.  This is more local than the other charities I've featured, so if you feel more comfortable giving to a charity in your area, I recommend a quick Google search, and applaud you :).

I don't have any experience with this issue, but I love kids!  I never want a child to come to harm.  For those who do come to harm, I want the best help available for them.  And I want this abuse to stop!

So please consider donating to this charity or one like it in your community so we can end the cycle.  And have a great month and a great weekend!