Thursday, April 30, 2009

Where to Begin...courtesy of Elana

Okay, I really hope Elana doesn't mind that I am totally stealing her topic here - but as I was responding to her blog post this morning, I realized my short little answer was turning into a post of my own. So, here we are.

Elana asked the question, "How do you start writing your story?"

This question made me stop and think for a second because, up until now, I have always started at the beginning. Occasionally, I would write a scene that went somewhere else, but for the most part I tried to start as close to the beginning as possible and keep things in order.

And it just didn't work for me. I'd get stuck somewhere and just stew over it forever instead of moving on to something else. I suck at beginnings, really. I will spend as much time editing the first 3 chapters as I will on the entire rest of the book, I kid you not. And I was always, ALWAYS stressing over coming up with that perfect first line. And the consequence was four books that never made it past chapter three.

I have started and abandoned those 4 books in the last year, trying to write from start to finish. My new book was different though. Now, I just don't worry about it. I start with whatever wants to come out at the moment, and then I work backwards and forwards and I start filling in the gaps. (and knowing how OC I am with schedules and being organized, the fact that this crazy method of writing is working really well for me cracks me up to no end, but hey, if it works, I'm not going to poke at it too much) :D

For this one, I actually wrote what I thought would be the first five pages first, not because they were the beginning, but because it was the scene in my head at the time. When I was done, I thought, "hmm, sounds like a good beginning"...turns out they are really right smack dab in the middle. But I wasn't sure where to go from there. So I wrote another scene that was in my head. I figured it would be in the middle somewhere. Turns out it will probably be my ending scene. So, I had some end stuff, a bunch of middle stuff, and hardly anything for the beginning.

This should have freaked me out. But it didn't. It worked for me. I took that middle stuff and worked backwards, filling out the stuff I knew needed to come before it, the stuff that I needed to build up to what happens in the middle.

I can't tell you how exciting it has been writing this book. I am always working on something, there is always something going on in my head. And when a scene pops up, I grab my notebook and write it down instead of leaving myself notes for later (which never worked - it was frustrating in the extreme to look at these notes, knowing there was a good scene there, but not being able to remember exactly what it was).

Once I have a scene down, I figure out what I need to do to get to that scene and what needs to happen afterwards to link up to the other stuff - and IT'S WORKING! It is working better than I would have ever thought possible.

I will write a bunch of scenes in order for a while, but I don't ever feel like I am stuck because if I can't figure out what goes next, there is always another scene lurking that I can work on in the meantime. So, while I still experience the inevitable highs and lows and pauses that Real Life throws at me, I have continuously worked on this book since the day I started it. And the best part...I think I might actually finish it! :D

Right now, I have most of my beginning done. I have actually got my beginning up until the middle and a few scenes that will go at the very end. I'm starting to work on the second half of the middle stuff while still stewing over that perfect opening scene (which I haven't figured out yet).

So, my advice for those struggling with that perfect opening (or at least what works for me) - don't stress over the opening so much. It will come eventually. Just write what's in your head - stew about what comes first later (or while you are working on the rest of it). I like stewage time, don't get me wrong, but it has a tendency to derail me if I let it take over. So I just don't anymore :) And I am loving every minute of it :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

I actually have progress to report this week! Yahoo! :) I was in such a slump after my grandfather's funeral a couple weeks ago. With the travel and then the recoup time when we got home, I just didn't get much writing done at all.

And then this last Saturday, a bunch of writer buddies and I got together in one of the chat rooms at RallyStorm and had a write-a-thon. Basically, we write for 15 mins and then chat for 5 (or 10) :D then write for 15 more, etc. It really helps get the creative flow going and is fun to boot. And it got my momentum back in swing!!! I have done so well this week, even wrote about 4000 words on Monday alone.

Life is good :)

Though, when the time comes to type this thing up...well, let's just say it will be interesting. Here is a snapshot of one of the pages....

It's not a great can hardly see all the arrows flying all over :D Luckily, not every page looks like this...some look worse :D

In any case, I am now 4 pages from filling this notebook (pen count 4...just started with #5) - which means I've got roughly 30,000 words and about 100 typed pages. So, I am very happy this week. And I'm going to finish those 4 pages no matter how late I have to stay up tonight!

Think my daughter's teacher will understand if I write my way through our Parent/Teacher conference today? :D

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How To Tackle the Show vs. Tell Problem

Ack! My internet has been down all day. I have been in the corner twitching with withdrawals. So sorry this is so late.

One of the “rules” I hear all the time is to show not tell. The first time I heard that I thought, “What does that mean, anyways?

Well, TELLING means you are just, umm, telling the reader what is going on. SHOWING means you show them :D Seems easy, huh? Not always. It is ridiculously easy to fall into the habit of telling.

As this is something I used to do….A LOT…it is something I have become fairly good at spotting. When you are writing, you want to draw the reader in as much as possible. Action and dialogue are two elements that really help to keep the story moving, that draw the reader in, make the story exciting, and all that other fun stuff.

So, if you have a scene where your main character is angry, just telling the reader, “Eric was mad,” is okay…but probably won’t be nearly as good as, “Eric’s eyes flashed and the big vein in his forehead throbbed like it was about to burst from his skin.” Don’t tell the reader he’s mad…show him.

In my first book, Treasured Lies, my main character, Min, was irritated that she had fallen in a puddle and made a fool of herself. I had her storming up the stairs to her room with the description, “Min was freezing in her wet clothes and annoyed that she had yet again made a fool of herself.” (Or something to that affect…it’s been a while) :D

One of my fabulous critique buddies pointed out that this was “telling.” She said that I should show my readers that Min was irritated, instead of just telling them. So, the passage was changed to: “Shivers ran through her chilled body as she climbed the stairs. She huffed and kicked at the muddy skirts that tangled around her legs, irritated that she had managed to disgrace herself once again.”

I do tell you WHY she was irritated, but I also show that she is freezing, and show her annoyance with her actions (huffing and kicking skirts). Yes, it takes longer, uses more words, but the result is much more effective.

Now, are there occasions when you should tell rather than show? Definitely. Physical descriptions are pretty difficult to “show.” If someone has blue eyes, it is perfectly acceptable to just say they have blue eyes. And instances like in the above sentence, when you need to explain why someone is acting as they are.

Show the emotion, tell the reason. Show me that your main character is sad by describing her face, her tears, her sobs. Don’t tell me she’s crying…show me: “Laura sat on her bed, her arms wrapped around her legs. Her tears fell unheeded down her face as her shoulders shook.” (as this is just an example, I won’t stress over the fact that I used the word ‘her’ six times in two sentences – but you get the point of the showing over telling). :D

Then you can tell me why she is crying. “Laura sat on her bed, her arms wrapped around her legs. Her tears fell unheeded down her face as her shoulders shook. She just couldn’t believe her mother had forgotten her birthday again.”

As you can see, the sentences “Eric was mad,” “Min was freezing and annoyed,” “Laura cried,” tell us what is going on, but there is no action, they aren’t exciting, they don’t connect you to what is going on.

The new sentences:

“Eric’s eyes flashed and the big vein in his forehead throbbed like it was about to burst from his skin.”

“Shivers ran through her chilled body as she climbed the stairs. She huffed and kicked at the muddy skirts that tangled around her legs, irritated that she had managed to disgrace herself once again.”


“Laura sat on her bed, her arms wrapped around her legs. Her tears fell unheeded down her face as her shoulders shook.”

These make me care, they are exciting to read, there is something going on. I don’t care if someone cries…I do care if they are curled around themselves with uncontrollably shaking shoulders.

Dialogue is another great way to change a telling passage into a showing extravaganza.

For example:

(telling) David and Tony argued back and forth about who was right. = blah

(showing) “You did too!” David shouted, his face growing redder by the minute.
“Oh whatever. I did not and I have witnesses,” Tony said, rolling his eyes.
“Yeah, well I have witnesses too.”
“You’re the liar! Just admit you’re wrong and get it over with.”
“No way.”
“Yes way!”

= oooo, action, dialogue, something’s going on!! :D

So, bottom line – if it is possible to show something rather than tell it, do so :) But don’t stress over the occasions when telling is necessary, because they will come up. For the most part though, try adding some action or dialogue to really help show the reader what is going on instead of just telling them.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How to Have Fun with the Crickets in Your Inbox

Querying is a tough process. The hardest part, by far, is the inevitable rejection. However, the WAITING is a close second. How many obsessive email checkers are out there? Come on, raise your know who you are *she says as her own hand waves proudly* My writers buddies call that sad emptiness inside their inboxes Crickets...cause that's all you hear when you open the box ;-)

Now, I've been querying for a long time. Not intentionally. But, every time I decide to shelve my book, another request will come in, and then some nice rejections with a few revision suggestions will squeak I revise, send out a few more queries, get a few requests, get a few rejections, decide to shelve again, get some more suggestions.....well, you can see how this goes.

I've been doing it long enough that I've gotten pretty good at just ignoring the fact that I even have queries or submissions out. The crickets can still get pretty irritating though. So I came up with a few ways to distract myself from them.

1. Spam Your Friends

Now this one is fun :D Especially if they are waiting on agent responses too. Cause you know every time they get a message saying they have email, their heart jumps a little (wicked, ain't I?) ;-)

I dig up funny stories, pictures, etc to put a smile on their faces, so it's not a total evil past time :D I mean, it's fun to get mail, even if it's not from an agent.

Oh, and this ONLY works on very good friends. Never, NEVER spam an agent. They will not appreciate your message full of funnies. They have enough mail to read. If you send them more, it will just take that much longer to get to whatever query or submission you are waiting on, and that wouldn't be good.

2. LOLcats

Ah, what a wonderful distraction. I am pretty heavily addicted to LOLcats (as you could probably tell seeing as how I post one with almost all of my posts!). The dogs, celebrities, political jokes, graphs, and FAILs are pretty hilarious as well. Not only can you spend hours reading (and emailing) these, you can also make your own. Tons of fun!

3. Research a New Project

Okay, this might only be fun for me. And maybe a few select others. So...moving on...

4. Blogs

Read them, write them, search them, comment on them, follow get the picture ;-)

And, while there are many, many, MANY other things you could do to distract yourself from the pesky crickets, the single best way is...


Pull out a new project and write. Focus on something besides the book you are querying. Work on that sequel because you know the first one is going to sell and sell big! Lose yourself in the world of a new character. There is nothing like get swept away in a new story. Get excited about it, swim in it, devote all your available brain space and some that is not so available to it. Pretty soon you'll find that you don't even hear the crickets anymore :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Blog Chain: Must Love Books

Okay, Kate started this round and has picked a topic I could seriously go on for DAAAAAAYS about. Unfortunately, I'm on a time crunch as I'm getting ready to head out of town. So please forgive me, because I am not going to do this topic the justice it deserves.

Kate posted:

This time...I'd like to focus on the flip side of the writing coin - reading. Specifically, what books have influenced you? This can be books that influenced you as a writer, or simply books that touched you as a human being. If you want to talk about one book, a top three, ten, or even twenty go right ahead.

Oh. My. Goodness. I can't think where to begin and I'm telling you now, there is no end to this for me (don't worry, I'll cut it off at some point) ;-)

I could read almost before I could talk. At the age of two, I was sitting on my mother's lap while she read me Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She skipped a line. And I corrected her. Word for word, I told her what she should have said.

Fairy tales were my first love. Still are. I adore them. I buy the big expensive fairy tale books with the gorgeous pictures and pretend I'm getting them for my daughter :D

I also remember the Amelia Bedelia and Miss Pigglesworth books. Hilarious. I highly recommend.

My mother had most of Victoria Holt's books. Le sigh. Gothic romantic suspense at it's finest. I have every book she wrote under her own name, and I'm working on the books she wrote under Phillipa Carr and Jean Plaidy. Jean Plaidy was the pen name she used for her historical fictions. And I was hooked again. I LOVE historical fiction. One of my current favorite authors is Philippa Gregory. Jean Auel was another one whose books I just devoured. And Celeste de Blasis' Wild Swan series. Just wonderful.

I don't know if Diana Gabaldon is considered historical fiction, general fiction, time travel fiction...but whatever genre she falls under - she is beyond awesome. I read her books and weep into my Cheerios that I will never, ever be able to write like she does. She is made of sheer awesome.

Anne McCaffery's Dragons of Pern books were my first introduction to the fantasy world. I didn't think I'd like them at all. Up until then, I had only read historicals and romances. But I think I had gone through my mother's entire library and needed new material and she had one of these stuck away somewhere. I quickly read the whole series.

And then I found Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon. Holy wow! The King Arthur story from the women's point of view. And they were powerful, mystical, magical women! I quickly went through every book of hers I could find as well.

Anne Rice's vampire series had me hooked. I'm not into ghosts much, just because my overactive imagination has too easy of a time freaking me out with those shady little creatures (although there are exceptions to that rule)...but vampires? Oh yeah. I love 'em! Once I found Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books and Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books, life was good.

There have been many, many, MANY other books over the years. But those are the ones that really stand out for me. Lately I have been very much into YA, and have poured through Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series, the Cast's House of Night series, and Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series as fast as I can get my hands on them. The Twilight series, of course, I have read multiple times, and, though I fought it for so long (not sure why), I finally broke down and read Harry Potter last year. And read the entire series again a few months ago.

I also read biographies...but usually historical stuff - people like Marie Antoinette, Cleopatra, Lucretia Borgia, Queen Emma (early English queen), Henry VIII and all his various wives and sisters, Queen Elizabeth, Catherine the Great (hmm, do you see a pattern here? :D ) Philippa Gregory and Antonia Fraser are two of my favorite biographers.

I think I am a little influenced by all of these writers. I want to build world's that my readers get so sucked into they can't escape. I want them to fall in love with my characters. I want them to think and dream about the stories I create long after they've read them. And I want them to love my books so much they have to have them on their shelves so they can reread them over and over. Each and every one of these books had that effect on me. And so many more that I can't even begin to name them all.

I am excited to see what kinds of books my fellow writers love. Carolyn is up after me, so be sure to head her way!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reading List 2009 Update

Finally got another book read!! I tell ya, all this writing is crimping into my reading time ;-)

#18 - Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr - very much enjoyed it :) And I'm looking forward to Fragile Eternity coming out in a few days!!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WIP Wednesday

Well, I've slowed down a little in the last couple of days. My grandfather passed away early Monday morning, so I've been busy helping get his funeral together. However, since last Wednesday, I've still made some great progress - thanks mostly to Elana's Writer's Throwdown challenge.

So, for this week, I've gone through another 2 pens, not sure how many pages, but have written approximately 8,860 words this week. And I passed the 20,000 word mark!!! I am so excited about that!

And I should get a lot done this weekend as I have an almost 8 hour round trip car trek to make. I'll let the hubby drive so I can write :D

How is everyone else doing?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How to Find a Critique Group

With our recent Blog Chain post being on critique groups, I’ve have them on the brain lately. So I thought I’d share some tips on how I found my critique groups and partners.
As with everything, there are many, many ways of going about this. But, this is what worked for me.

1. Google
You really can find just about everything on Google :) When I first set out to look for a group, I had no idea where to begin and lived in a remote area where finding another writer was going to be difficult, if not impossible. So I hit the internet. I googled for “online critique groups” and started scrolling.

Going about it this way is going to turn up a lot of results. So choose carefully. In my case, I found a group with an extensive screening process. I had to submit an application of sorts, with a bio and writing samples. I was reassured that this group was legitimate because they were obviously very careful about who they let in.

I very much enjoyed my time with my group, and learned A LOT. I was a very green writer when I started with them; they showed me the ropes, the rules, helped me get my writing under control. Finding a good group is invaluable.

2. Writers Websites and Forums
When I first starting seriously writing, I joined as many writer websites as I could find. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the whole publishing world. I did okay at writing, but I wanted to be better. I found a ton of sites; only a handful were really good, valuable places. Through these sites, a met a few good writing friends. We exchanged some material, and I had my first few critique buddies.

Again, practice caution. Not all sites are there to help writers. Some just want to take advantage. But you can find some really excellent sites. I usually enjoy AbsoluteWrite. They have some excellent information available to writers and I met some really great people there.

But my all time favorite site is I know I posted a lot about them last week, but I just can’t say enough good things. I joined the site and forum when QT was just getting started, and I was lucky enough to become very close with the members of the site. These people have not only become my critique partners, but are close friends as well.

3. Local Writing Groups
This isn’t something I’ve tried myself as I live in a very small community (and have such a great online support group). But in larger communities, you should be able to find writer’s groups. Your local library is a great place to start looking. Check the newspapers as well. Being able to meet with your crit partners in person can really be a great experience.

4. National Writers Groups
Organizations like Romance Writers of America, and the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators have many different chapters you can join. I know with RWA, there are chapters specialized in the different sub-genres of romance as well as chapters by location. These types of organizations are a great place to find critique groups or partners. Check out the forums…there is usually a thread devoted to people looking for crit buddies.

I truly believe no writer should be without at least one critique buddy. A fresh set of eyes is always a good idea :) Happy Critting!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

To Mr. McLean

Here's to the first time I heard your voice, the first time we said "I love you," the first time I saw your face, the first time you held my hand, the first time you called me your wife. Here's to our first kiss, our first dance, our first home, our first son, our first daughter....Here's to eight years of firsts...may there never be a last.

Happy Anniversary, to my first and only Mr.

Love, Your Mrs.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Exciting Happenings!


First of all, I want to announce that I have been invited to join the awesome ladies over at the Querytracker Blog. My first post will be up next week, so be sure to come check it out!!

Second, the Querytracker Blog will be doing its first agent judged contest. Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary will be judging one line hooks. The contest will be open for submissions on Monday, April 13 when the blog post formally announcing the contest goes up (9:00 am Eastern time). The submission window will be open for 24 hours and will expire at 9:00 Eastern time, Tuesday, April 14th.

Check out the blog for more details!

And third, one of my original crit buddies, Jeannie Ruesch, had her first book, Something About Her, come out yesterday! It is awesome, people, just awesome. Go and buy a copy!! You can check out her website here.

Have a great Easter everyone!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

WIP Thursday

Okay, we are doing a WIP Thursday since I missed it yesterday (and because once again I have no updates for my reading list). Why is that you ask? Because I have been writing up a storm again!!!

Notebook count - half way through #1
Pen Count - 2...that's right! 2 pens, totally drained dry.

I now have 12,000 words on my WIP and I'm still going strong. I cannot tell you how excited I am by this. I generally get about 5,000 words into a new WIP and lose interest or get stuck or let it slip away for some other reason. I have four books with about three chapters to them. So to get this far and still be going....I have high hopes I might actually finish this one :D AND I have outlines for the next two books in the series. Hot dog, life is good!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How To Find an Agent

As with most subjects, there is more than one way to accomplish this. People could (and have) written entire books on how to find an agent...but I'll just give you a couple tips for how I'm going about this daunting task.

Let me just warn you now, if you don't like research...then finding an agent is going to be tedious for you. Because it requires a LOT of research. So! Here we go....

I use four main sources in my agent searches.


This site not only allows you to search for an agent by genre, but on it you can create a query list and keep track of all your querying activities. I cannot stress how important it is to keep track of the queries you send and the responses you get. When I started I did this by hand or spreadsheet. That can work...but seriously, if you are going to query, set up an account on this site. It takes all the hassle out of it for you. And it's FREE! You can upgrade to the premium membership if you'd like (something I'd highly recommend you doing - it's not expensive at all and is well worth the money).

This site also provides specifics on agent genres, links to other sites the agent is listed on, and, my all time favorite feature of this site, it has data lists of agent response times and allows comments from members so aspiring authors can share their experiences with agents. This site is seriously incredible, an absolute MUST VISIT if you are in the market for an agent.

There is also a QT forum that has the nicest, most helpful bunch of members I have ever come across...and I've been on a LOT of forums. You can get help on crafting your query or synopsis, member reviews of the first few pages of your manuscript, find information on just about everything query related, and just hang out and chat with other writers. I met all of my critique buddies and closest writer friends on this forum. You do not want to miss out on this treasure.


This is another excellent source for finding agents. You can search by genre and it will pull up hundreds of agents for you. Each profile lists what the agent is interested in seeing and gives specifics on how that agent prefers to be queried. This is definitely a source you want to check out.

3. Preditors and Editors

With so many scam artists out there ready to take advantage of your quest for publication, you need to be careful who you deal with. This site lists agents, editors and publishers and lets you know who is legit, who has made sales, and who you should steer clear from. I know Patrick, the owner of, is very diligent in making sure only legitimate agents are listed on his site. Any agent you find on his site, you can query without hesitation. I believe Agentquery is the same way. But it never hurts to be too careful, and if you find an agent from another source, I'd highly recommend you check out P&E just to be on the safe side.

4. Publishers Marketplace

This is another great source for finding agents. You can search for specific agents and see whatever sales they have listed (if you have a membership. And keep in mind that not all agents list their sales, so don't discount an agent just because no sales are listed for them).

So, now that you have a few sources to check out, what do you do next? Well, everyone is different, but here is how I go about it.

1. Get on Querytracker and do a genre search
this will pull up a LOT of agents. You can narrow the search by subgenre if you wish

2. Narrow down the list of agents
this will take a lot of time, so be prepared. This is where it can become a bit tedious if you aren't in to the research thing ;-)

To narrow down my list, I go into each agent's profile and check out the specific genres they represent. You want to find the agent that will best fit your book. So, say I have a YA historical romance that I want to query. When I am looking at the genres the agents represent, I will put the agents that are interested in YA, historical fiction, and romantic fiction on the top of my list. Those that rep just YA and either (but not both) historical or romantic fiction go next. And those that rep just YA, but neither of the other genres, go last.

This is just how I do things, but I figure if I have a book with all those elements, I might have a better shot with an agent that is interested in all the elements.

This is where comes in handy...again. You can add agents to your query list...and you can give them a priority number. So I automatically know, just by opening my query list, which agents I want to query first, second and third, without having to go back into each profile and searching again.

3. Double, triple, and quadruple check information

Once I have my query list, I am ready to query. But BEFORE I send out anything, I check all the information on my agents. Agents have different preferences when it comes to how they want you to query. Some prefer only emails or only snail mails, some just want a query and others want sample pages. And while all the websites on my list update their information frequently, sometimes one will be updated faster than another. It never, ever hurts to double check some information.

So, once my query list is in place, I go to the agents on that list and use the handy links provides. Most of the time, I check only two other sites. I check and I always, ALWAYS check the agent's personal website.

4. Send the query.

Once I have my agent list and all the specifics on how they would like to be queried (mail method and pages they want to see), I am ready to send my query (which has been checked and double checked by my critique partners to make sure it is as polished as I can get it).

I lick that stamp or hit send on my email, and off it goes! I then enter my information on my Querytracker query list and sit and wait for the responses to roll in.

So, while this isn't as hard as one might think, it will take some time, so be prepared to do your homework!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday Musings

I have come across hundreds of wonderful quotes, poems, stories, and anecdotes while on searches for other things. I have books and files full of them. So, I thought I might share a few every now and then.

One thing I recently came across was an excerpt from a love letter that Beethoven wrote to a mysterious love (and yes, this is part of the letter that Carrie reads in the Sex and the City movie). He wrote:

Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved…I can live only wholly with you or not at all…No one else can ever possess my heart - never - never - Oh God, why must one be parted from one whom one so loves…Be calm - love me - today - yesterday - what tearful longings for you - you - you - my life - my all - farewell. Oh continue to love me - never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.
ever thine
ever mine
ever ours

Do men still write like this anymore? Ahhh, just brought a tear to my eye :) I would love to write like this, create something so beautiful that people are still reading it hundreds of years later. Being written to like this wouldn't be so bad either :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Blog Chain: Heaven Bless My Critters

This week Mary brings us back to some writing basics. Carolyn shared her experiences before me and Sandra will tackle the question next. Mary would like to know:

Are you in a critique group? If so, at what point do you send chapters to the members of your group? How detailed are the critiques you receive and give? Do all members in you group write the same genre?

I am in a critique group, although I haven’t been very active lately. I didn’t have anything to post for the longest time (major writing slump) and in the meantime, several of the people in my group and I started sending each other stuff privately. So instead of a formal group, I ended up with several incredible critique partners. And seriously, I would be completely lost without them.

I used to post (or send) chapters as I wrote them (after a few rounds of my own proofreading - I only rarely send out first draft stuff and only in small chunks, never for line edits, just for general "do you like where this is going?" type comments. I have found that brainstorming certain scenes and plotlines this way can be really helpful if I'm stuck on a problem. It is fun and amazingly helpful to be able to send a page or two to a crit buddy and see what they think and then to hash out ideas until you get that scene. Brainstorming help is just another perk of having a great group of crit partners).

Wow, that was a long "aside." Anyhow, I figured if I had chapters critiqued as I wrote them, by the time I was done with the book, I’d already have edits waiting and everything would go much quicker. What I discovered though, is that I started revising those chapters as soon as I got critiques…so I wasn’t writing any new chapters. I ended up with three fairly clean chapters (for two different books) and was already so burned out on those books I didn’t want to write any new chapters. So now, I save it up until my book is completely done. Then I usually send a chapter at a time, though I will combine smaller chapters.

And of course, this all goes out the window if I happen to query and get requests before things are totally finalized or if I have done revisions that need looking over. Then I send out the full novel with profuse amounts of bribes, begging, and flattery so my crit mates will take pity and crit my whole novel so I can send it out to the agent. But I try not to do this too often :)

How detailed are my crits? Well, most of the time I don’t think my crits help all that much, but I do try to point out everything that confuses me, makes me stumble, anything at all I think might need work. I nitpick as much as possible and point out every teeny, tiny thing that might need fixin'. I tend to be better with the technical stuff; grammar, punctuation, awkward sentence wording, that kind of thing. Which is why it is a very good idea to have more than one crit mate. Because everyone will catch different things…and the things everyone catches are things you know for sure need work.

As for the crits I receive…I am extremely, ridiculously lucky with the people I send my stuff to. I get really detailed crits – again, usually different stuff from different people. One person might catch all my dumb technical errors, another will give great suggestions for improving plot flow, another will find all those plot holes I thought no one would notice :D I really get excellent crits from my partners.

And no, my crit partners do not all write the same genre. Which makes it really fun to crit. I get to read so many wonderful books. Most of us do use similar elements though. I think we all write with at least some elements of romance, and many of us write YA. But the books are all so diverse, from romantic fantasy, to YA urban fantasy, to middle grade novels, to women's fiction, to straight YA fantasy, to historical romances…so many really incredible books to read. And I have one fabulous friend (the always incredible Carolyn) who also writes non-fiction. I am very much looking forward to reading her book (I've read a little already) and hope she will return the favor should I ever finish my non-fiction :)

The genre thing is tricky. It is a very good idea to have at least one person who is familiar with your genre critting your book…because all genres have little quirks that are unique to that genre and it helps if your partners know what to look for, what needs to be added, and what needs to be left alone.

At the same time, I’ve found it helpful and encouraging to have people who are not familiar with my genre read for me. Because it feels wonderful to have someone say, “I never read historical romances, I usually don’t like them, but I couldn’t put yours down!” If you can keep the interest of someone who doesn’t usually go for what you write, then your chances of keeping the attention of someone who IS interested in that genre are so much greater.

My crit partners have been an absolute Godsend for me…I wouldn’t be where I am without them, and I certainly won’t get where I want to go without their help. I love each and every one of them, love to celebrate their successes with them and comfort them when things don’t go just right…and knowing that they are there for me as well, for all my ups and downs, is a gift I will never be able to thank them enough for.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

I had an AWESOME WIP week! I have been writing in my notebook with my beautiful blue gel pen, and I finally, FINALLY got sucked into my story. I LOVE it when that happens. I sat down one day and got out around 5000 words, and have written an additional 3000 or so since then. So my YA urban fantasy is well on it's way and I am very happy with my progress.

Submissions are still pending for my completed novel, and the non-fiction is about to writing stage when I get some stall time from the fiction WIP :)

All in all, a wonderful writing week!!!