Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Funnies

First lines of bad novels

Winners of this year's Bulwer Lytton contest (run by the English Dept. of San Jose State University), wherein one writes only the first line of a bad novel.

10) "As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber he would never hear the end of it."

9) "Just beyond the Narrows the river widens."

8) "With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description."

7) "Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the East wall: "Andre creep... Andre creep... Andre creep."

6) "Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back alley sex change surgeon to become the woman he loved."

5) "Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eking out a living at a local pet store."

4) "Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do."

3) "Like an overripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor."

2) "Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn't know the meaning of the word "fear," a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death -- in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies."


1) "The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog's deception, screaming madly, "You lied!"

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cross Inspiration

Quote of the Day:
You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.
~ Jack London

So, I was working on my non-fiction over the weekend, writing a sestina (for the chapter on sestinas, naturally) and the poem I was working on gave me what I think could be a cool idea for an Urban Fantasy. On the one hand, I'm thinking "Ooo, cool, another idea!" And on the other hand, I'm thinking "Oh crap, another idea." Hehe...I love it when the ideas get backlogged.

In any case, it got me thinking how many times this cross inspiration thing has happened. And I realized that it happens a lot. In fact, most of my ideas come from cross inspiration.

A lot of my ideas come from when I am researching details for something else. For instance, while researching goddesses for my current YA, I came across an obscure goddess that would be really fun to write about = new entry in the idea file.

Then there have been a few like the one I just had...when something I am writing sparks an idea for something else. A couple times, it has been an idea for a spin off book on some of the secondary characters. Or like this would be awesome expanded into a short story or novel.

How about everyone else? Do you ever experience cross inspiration? What kinds of things have you come across that spark ideas for something else?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

WIP Wednesday

Another great week! The poetry section of my NF book is now complete and with my agent. The book is now 63% finished - I have nine chapters left until it is done. I'm very excited. Partly because I am a little burned out on it and just want it done already :)

Edits on the YA are going slow, but getting there I think. I'm having a problem with pacing and too much telling (as I always do...I am really hoping I get the hang of that the first time around one of these days) :D

And I have an interesting new idea that I'm not sure I can pull off....but I'm eager to try. Another incentive to get the NF done because I've kind of put myself on restriction in regards to new projects until it is complete :)

How is everyone else doing?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to Balance Confidence and Doubt

Quote of the Day:
Writing a novel is a very hard thing to do because it covers so long a space of time, and if you get discouraged it is not a bad sign, but a good one. If you think you are not doing it well, you are thinking the way real novelists do. I never knew one who did not feel greatly discouraged at times, and some get desperate, and I have always found that to be a good symptom.

~Maxwell Perkins in a letter to Nancy Hale

You know, until I started writing, I had just assumed that all these best selling authors just sat at their computers and typed out a masterpiece, having full confidence that what they had written was golden. And then I met a few writers. I read their work, marveled at how genius they were, how wonderful their story was, how smoothly it flowed, how real the characters were, how supremely awesome and talented these people were. I told them how I felt. And listened in amazement as they melted in a puddle of relief, telling me how they thought their work was crap, how it would never make it, how afraid they were that no one would like it. And I thought, how, how could these incredibly talented people doubt themselves so?

Until I started down the road to being “a writer,” I was very confident. I knew I could write. I was good at it. Everyone had always told me so. I won awards when I was young. I have a Masters degree in English, (so you can imagine how many papers I have had to write in my educational career), and I received As on every single paper (with the exception of four - 3 Bs, and one (I shudder to say it) C – and yes, I remember each and every one, and each teacher who gave me those marks (and I am certain the C was because the teacher did not agree with my point of view, and yes, I will argue that to the death!)) :D

I was very good at non-fiction, academic type papers. And my first three publications were Chicken Soup for the Soul essays that I turned out in under twenty minutes each and only edited once for typos. I wrote them, sent them, and they got published. My confidence soared.

Then I started querying my first novel. I just knew that I would get an agent right away. I got a rejection letter or two. I was surprised, but brushed it off. I got a request for a partial from one agent and then a full from another agent. Vindication! (By the way, if you had seen the first version of my query letter, you would know what a miracle this really was – I won’t even go into how bad that first version of my novel was). Then the rejections came. Confidence shaken. But, one of the agents did say I was a “competent writer” (and yes, I still have that email saved in my files). So, my ego was a little bruised but not irrevocably damaged.

I got smart…I searched the web and found writers groups and critique groups and query help. And the critiques started coming in. I think I actually cried when I first saw all the red on my manuscript. And then I got angry and thought “These people don’t know what they are talking about!” And then I calmed down, took a close look at what they were saying, and realized…they were right. My storyline was good. But my execution sucked.

And here is what I learned…it is good to have confidence in yourself. It is necessary. You’ll never make it in this subjective, brutal, torturous industry unless you have at least some confidence in your work. But don’t get cocky. There is always room for improvement, always.

I have moments where I sit back, look at what I’ve written, and think, “Damn, that’s good stuff.” But I still sweat bullets whenever I post a chapter for critiques or send some pages off to beta readers. I always (well, almost always) have confidence in my storylines, in the backbone of my story. But I am usually fairly sure that the way I’ve written it is total crap. So I’m pleasantly surprised when I get a comment (as I did recently from a crit buddy) that says “Holy crap! I loved it!” And it doesn’t phase me so bad anymore when that exclamation is followed by “I do have a few suggestions though.” And I’ve learned that those few suggestions are not comments on my talent or me personally; they are what they are…suggestions to help make the way I’ve executed something even better.

It’s a very fine balance…you have to be confident enough in yourself and your work to continue churning out words, day after day…to send that work off to people who will shred it and send it back (within reason – savage critiques are of no use to anyone)…to believe in yourself enough to know that you can take those shreddings and turn them into something amazing. And at the same time, make sure you are not so overly confident in your greatness that you are not open to those suggestions.

So, how do I keep that fine balance between too much or too little confidence in my work? I surround myself with like-minded peers who are sheer awesomeness. They stoke my confidence when it needs stoking and knock me down a peg or two when it is called for. I generally have confidence in my work until the moment I have to send it off to someone. That is when I call or IM a writer buddy to hold my hand as I hit Send. My confidence will soar when I get requests – and I get to have a virtual party with friends who are just as excited for me as they would be for themselves. And my confidence plummets when the rejections roll in – which would be when said friends talk me down from the proverbial ledge and keep me from deleting every file I have ever written.

The stories clamoring in my head keep me writing, and my support group helps me maintain the exact level of confidence I need to keep going on the elusive path to publication.

Without them, I would be a raging ego-maniac until the moment of submission – when I would then turn into a blubbering mess of self-doubt. My advice to any writer suffering from confidence problems….get a good writer friend.

Monday, July 27, 2009

There I am Again

Quote of the Day:
Remember that you should be able to identify each character by what he or she says. Each one must sound different from the others. And they should not all sound like you.
~Ann Lamott

I had a little laugh when I read this quote, because this is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. Mostly because I am now in the edit stage of my YA book and a few of the comments I've gotten from my critters have been things like "teenagers don't act like this" or "why is she doing this?"

Almost across the board, my answer has been "well, I acted like that as a teenager" or "because that is what I would do."

I've started to realize that there may be just a little too much of me in my characters. Now, I'm not saying it's bad to have pieces of yourself in your characters. No matter what I do, I'll never be able to stop doing that entirely. But, I need to be more true to the actual CHARACTER and let them feel and act and speak as they, as individuals, would do. (Because our characters are "real" people right?) ;-D

I need to start asking, "what would my character do in this situation" and stop asking "how would I react to this situation." And it's been really hard for me to do. In my non-fiction, speeches, and just every day interactions with friends, family, and complete strangers, equating situations to myself and my personal experiences is sort of how I connect with people.

But in my writing, having every character react the way I would doesn't leave room for a lot of diversity. Now, I'm not saying I do this with every single character or every single situation. It's mostly when I get a little stuck, when I'm not sure how I want my character to respond to something, that my personal preferences start creeping in there.

How about everyone else? Do you ever find too much of yourself in your characters?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Short Story Contest

Awesome short story contest going on over at Suzanne's blog Tales of Extraordinary Ordinariness - fun stuff and cool prizes!!! Check it out!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Funnies

Here are a few funnies and silly kitty pictures to help you get your weekend groove on! Happy Friday!!
In some parts of the city curiosity didn't just kill the cat, it threw it in the river with lead weights tied to it's feet.
~Terry Pratchett~

Its skin is rare and highly valued, especially by the vermin itself; the selfish little bastard will do anything rather than let go of it.
~Terry Pratchett~

I've regretted many things in my life, I doubt that one more will make all that much difference.
~David Eddings~

Definitions of words by gender...

THINGY (thing-ee) n.
Female: Any part under a car's hood.
Male: The strap fastener on a woman's bra.

VULNERABLE (vul-ne-ra-bel) adj.
Female: Fully opening up one's self emotionally to another.
Male: Playing football without a helmet.

COMMUNICATION (ko-myoo-ni-kay-shon) n.
Female: The open sharing of thoughts and feelings with one's partner.
Male: Scratching out a note before suddenly taking off for a weekend with the boys.

BUTT (but) n
Female: The body part that every item of clothing manufactured makes "look bigger."
Male: What you slap when someone's scored a touchdown, homerun, or goal. Also good for mooning.

COMMITMENT (ko-mit-ment) n.
Female: A desire to get married and raise a family.
Male: Not trying to pick up other women while out with one's girlfriend.

ENTERTAINMENT (en-ter-tayn-ment) n.
Female: A good movie, concert, play or book.
Male: Anything that can be done while drinking.

FLATULENCE (flach-u-lens) n.
Female: An embarrassing by-product of digestion.
Male: An endless source of entertainment, self-expression and male bonding.

MAKING LOVE (may-king luv) n.
Female: The greatest expression of intimacy a couple can achieve.
Male: Call it whatever you want just as long as we end up in bed.

REMOTE CONTROL (ri-moht kon-trohl) n.
Female: A device for changing from one TV channel to another.
Male: A device for scanning through all 75 channels every 2&1/2 min.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

WIP Thursday

As yesterday was my turn on our Blog Chain, WIP Wednesday got bumped a day :D Well, I actually made a bit of progress this week. I finished two more chapters in my non-fiction book and started two more. I now have 10 chapters finished so I am 40% done. Still a long ways to go but I feel like I am making some headway.

Also, I was able to add two more books to my reading list for the year. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, and City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I enjoyed both books and look forward to the sequels, though it took me about 100 pages to get into each of them.

My critters have been going through my YA Urban Fantasy and as usual, my beginning chapters need to be mulched and revised....I am putting that on hold until I get a little farther along in the NF. For now, I'll let the shreddage commence and worry about piecing it back together later :) Seriously though, I am so grateful for incredible critique buddies that let me know exactly what needs work. I don't know what I'd do without them :)

How is everyone else doing on their projects?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blog Chain - Inspiration or Plagiarism

Quote of the Day:
There are only two things to write about: life and death.
~Edward Albee

Time again for the Blog Chain. The fabulous Christine answered before me, and our wonderful Cole Gibsen, who is returning to us after a long absence, will be up next.

Annie chose our topic this round. She wanted to know...

Do you ever get inspired by a real-life event or news story and fear you're ripping off the story too much? Do you ever get inspired by a song or poem or line from a book and worry you're stealing that original person's idea?

My answer – yes, and no. I love the quote above, because it is so simple, but so utterly true. Everything you could possibly think of to write about, no matter what genre, deals with something involving life or death. So yes, of course, I am often inspired by real-life events, songs, poems, lines from or titles of books. In fact, as a sometime historical writer, I very often look to real-life events for inspiration.

But no, I don’t ever worry that I am ripping off the story too much. As several others before me have said, once you start to create your story, your own creativity takes over. It becomes your own. To be honest, I think you’d have to try really hard to actually rip something off.

For the most part, when I am inspired by something, it is more about how my object of inspiration made me feel then the actual, literal words in a song or story. I’ll listen to a song and a dozen images will pop into my head…like possible scenes in a movie that would work well with that song for background music. I’ll see a tragic news story and think of how a fictional character might react in the same situation. But I don’t ever feel like I want to tape the newsreel and write it down word for word.

As others have said…you can’t copyright an idea. And everyone is going to have their own take; you have ten writers with the same idea, you’ll end up with ten very different stories with similar elements. Look at all the “Cinderella” type stories out there.

Now, when you go too far, like John David California did with his “sequel” to Catcher in the Rye…that is another matter. But even this situation had to go to court in order to prove wrong doing.

Annie also asked...What if your research is overtaking your originality?

Really, I don’t think this is possible, for all the same reasons I listed above. I could research the same thing as ten other people, and we’d all come away inspired by different elements.

If this does happen to you, stop researching. If you are researching to the point that your own creativity and originality is getting lost, you are bordering on plagiarism. Research to that degree shouldn’t be necessary in any case. Research is necessary to get certain facts straight, to get the setting or mannerisms or clothing of a certain era or event correct. To add the little details that help bring your story to life. Your research should support your original idea, help to make it realistic…it shouldn’t overpower your own work.

Be inspired by real-life events, news stories, songs, poems, other written works…take whatever elements that touch you about those things and use them in your own way. If you are researching those things to the point that you have no original thoughts about them, you are going too far. Stop researching or find something else to write about.

In other words, take the idea, the situation, or the emotions a situation or work of art has inspired, and run with it. But don’t copy and paste. Don’t research so much you might as well be copying and pasting because all that’s left in your mind is someone else’s thoughts. Where’s the fun in that anyway? :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How to Write a Non-Fiction Proposal

Ha ha!! It's not really that bad, I promise ;-D

Quote of the Day:
A book proposal is to publishing what the resume is to the job search...At its best, the proposal can function as a sophisticated sales brochure...The more impressive it is...the higher your advance is likely to be. That alone should be incentive enough for you to create the very best proposal you can...The proposal process must be taken seriously; it's the price of admission to being a published author.
~Jeff Herman, in the introduction to Write the Perfect Proposal: 10 Proposals that Sold and Why

I have had non-fiction book ideas for years, but one of the things that always stopped me from pursuing those ideas was the fact that I had to write a proposal in order to sell my idea. The non-fiction proposal scared me, intimidated me, had me cowering in the corner with my hands over my eyes.

I’d seen a few…they were huge! Like sixty-some pages long (with the sample chapters). They include sections on markets and platforms and competition and a bunch of other stuff that I had no clue how to even begin to write. I Googled a lot, but all the posts I had seen on writing these monstrosities confused me to no end. Even the ones that had clearly defined lists of the information I needed to include. I knew what I needed to do, theoretically, but actually putting that into action threw me into a vortex of confusion, despair, and terror.

So, I convinced myself I’d never be able to write a decent proposal. I occasionally worked on material for a non-fiction book that I knew would never see the light of day, but I let the idea of the proposal keep me from going after something I am really pretty good at doing.

And then a friend of mine, Carolyn, and I were talking one day. She is a soon-to-be published non-fiction author (who also writes fiction), and she encouraged me to quit letting the proposal beat me down and go for it. She recommended an awesome book, Jeff Herman’s Write the Perfect Proposal: 10 Proposals That Sold and Why, and sent me her own proposal as an example.

I was still scared to death and fairly sure I’d never make it out alive, but I looked over her proposal, read through the book many times, taking notes along the way, and finally sat down to draft my own proposal. It wasn’t easy; it is a ton of work…hard work. But, once I got into it, I realized that it wasn’t as scary as I had thought. It was doable. You just have to take it slowly, one section at a time.

While the Overview should be first, the rest of these sections can be moved around a bit. If you have an awesome platform, you could put the About the Author section first, etc. I've just listed them in the order I had them in my proposal.

Section One: Overview

This is your hook. In this section, you briefly describe what your book is about. Make it good, interesting, catchy. It shouldn’t be too long (the overviews I have seen were mostly less than two pages, in some cases only a couple paragraphs. Mine was about two and a half pages, double-spaced).

Ask yourself these questions:

What is my book about?
What makes it different from the other books out there? (be brief, you can go into more detail on this in the section on competition)
Why does the world need my book?
Who will read it? (you don’t need to go into detail here, save that for the market section – but in general, who will the audience be).

In my case, my book is a handbook for writing essays, papers, and poetry. Well, there are a lot of books out there that do this. So, I was sure to mention why my book was different.

My first paragraph introduced the issue at hand…writing assignments such as these can be difficult. If I could have found them, I probably would have listed a statistic or two on how many students fail their Language Arts classes. Good, solid facts and statistics are a nice addition, but not totally necessary.

This also depends on your book, though. Carolyn’s upcoming book is a guide to help writers include realistic information on psychology in their work. She had several sources that cited good percentages, statistics, and quotations describing how often this type of information is used in books, film, and television and how often it is inaccurate. In her proposal, the statistics worked well. In mine, everyone knows that there are a lot of students in our country and a lot of them need help in English class…statistics aren’t really necessary to help prove that.

My second paragraph went into further detail…I mentioned that in my experience, people who are already confused become more so when confronted with guidebooks that are so technically written they do nothing more than make a bad situation worse.

My third paragraph described why my book solved this problem by describing what my book is about and going into a little detail about the tone and format of my book. And then I added in a bulleted list illustrating exactly why my book is the perfect writing guide and what a reader will get out of it. Remember, be confident! An agent or editor won’t have confidence in your work if you don’t! And remember, keep it brief. You can expound on most of this stuff in later sections.

One of the reasons my overview was a bit longer than normal was because I also included a few quotations from educators and school psychologists who had read my sample chapters and gave me their endorsement. These could have been included in another section in the proposal (in fact, my agent is having me include an entire endorsement section in my proposal for when we submit it to publishers), but for the initial querying to agents, I included them right up front in the overview.

Section Two: Market

Here is where you go into detail about your audience. This is one of the sections that intimidated me the most, but ended up being one of the easiest to write. Maybe it is the title…MARKET…it just sounds scary :D But really, all you are doing here is listing who would be interested in reading your book. And you already know this because you probably had an audience in mind when you wrote the book. Brainstorm every possible market for your book, then list them in order of importance or size.

For my book, my main, or primary, market is educational. The largest audience for my book will be students, from junior high through college. I added some statistics here about how many learning disabled students there are in the United States because this is not common knowledge and my book will be very helpful for the learning disabled.

My secondary market is another division of educational – homeschooling parents. There are a lot of parents who homeschool their children (I added a statistic here to show exactly how many), and these parents need books to educate their children.

I also listed a possible third market – it’s more of a long shot, but it is a possibility, so I put it in there. This would be writers. Freelance bloggers, writers, etc could find my book useful if they wanted to make sure the articles they were writing were technically sound, or beginning poets could use it to get all the rules right.

I added statistics here to show how many freelance writers there are in the United States, how that job group has grown in the last few years and mentioned the projected growth.

Section Three: Competition

There will almost always be competition for your book and there is no point trying to pretend otherwise. Editors and agents are fully aware there are other books out there that will be competing with yours, so you might as well do your homework.

This section is where you can help illustrate why your book is different from those already on the shelves. I started my section by saying, “Though there are many handbooks and textbooks available that teach essay, paper, and poetry writing skills, many prove inadequate to the task.” I briefly described why and listed a few books in the same category as my book and pointed out why mine was better.

For example, you could say, “This title by so and so is good in that it does this or that. However, it does not do this, this, and this. My book does.”

I did this for a couple titles and then just made a list of several titles (there are a lot in my category, so I just picked a few). List the title, the author, the publisher, the year published, and the current selling price for each competitive title.

Section Four: About the Author

This is where you talk yourself up, toot your own horn, list everything and anything that illustrates how wonderful you are and why you are the best person to write your book. This is where you talk about your platform, how you can help sell your book. Do you have degrees, personal experience, professional experience? Do you give workshops, speeches, or classes on your subject? Have you been previously published? If so, list your books, their publication date, and your publisher, along with any other pertinent information like if your books were bestsellers or won any awards. Do you have access to radio shows, blogs, websites, conferences, etc, where you can promote your book? Are you related to the President of the United States, sister of Bill Gates, best friends with Brad Pitt or someone else that will be able to help you get this book out in the world?

This was another section that intimidated me, because my platform is pretty weak. I have the degrees and the personal experience necessary to make me an expert on my subject. But I don’t have the professional experience. I am not a teacher, I don’t speak at conferences or conventions, I have not been previously published (well, in a few Chicken Soup for the Soul books, but not in anything that would help me out in this arena).

But that is okay. Yes, it helps tremendously if you have a strong platform. To give you the honest truth, a lot of agents or editors may reject you if your platform isn’t strong enough. They like to publish books when the author has a guaranteed way of making a lot of sales. That is why celebrities can publish whatever kind of crap they want – because they have a built-in audience guaranteed to buy the book.

Definitely do what you can to build your platform before and after you write your book – but if you don’t have a large platform, don’t let it stop you. There are things you can do to help with that. And if you have an awesome book, it will sell itself.

Despite my weak platform, I knew I had a great book idea, I knew I could pull it off, and I knew if someone would just read what I had written, they’d love it. And I was right, they did. But, because my platform is so weak, I am finishing my manuscript before submitting to publishers and am including that endorsement section in my proposal (quotes from people who DO have the right background who are willing to stand behind my book), where with someone with a solid platform might be able to submit their book right away.

In any case, this is the section to say whatever wonderful things about yourself that you can – most importantly, things that will help illustrate why you are the right person to be writing your book.

Section Five: Promotion

This is where you list everything that you can do to help promote your book. Don’t list anything here unless you are sure you can do it. You can list things like:

Websites or blogs (yours or others) that will promote your book
Other avenues where you can promote it yourself such as radio shows, television shows, conferences you often speak at…if you are teacher who can pick your own textbooks and you can use your book in your class, you can mention that here
If you can create media kits, flyers, newsletters, etc or have other ways of advertising your book, list them here
If you are independently wealthy or have a grant or some other type of funding to help advertise your book, list it

Basically, this section is where you want to illustrate everything and anything you can do to advertise and promote your book.

Section Six: Chapter Outline and Synopsis

Now, I’ve seen this done a few different ways. Some people will list their Table of Contents in the Overview, or include a highly annotated Table of Contents in lieu of an outline or synopsis. Many I saw (and this is what I did) listed the Table of Contents (marking which chapters were included in the proposal as sample chapters) and then went through the chapters of the book, giving a brief overview or synopsis of each chapter.

My book has twenty-five chapters, so I was a bit hesitant to do this, but it didn’t end up being a huge production. You don’t have to go into great detail. Just briefly describe what each chapter will include. Each of my chapters includes a How To section and examples, so I stated that at the beginning of the section, and then in the chapter abstracts, I just wrote a paragraph or two on my chapters.

For example, as my book is a handbook for writing assignments, the chapters are broken down by the different types of essays and poetic forms that are out there. Chapter Four is on Critical Essays, Chapter Sixteen on Ballads, and so on. So for each chapter, I wrote a paragraph or two describing what Critical essays or ballads are (basically what I put for my intro of each chapter in the actual book), and left it at that, since I had already pointed out that each chapter would have its own How To section and specific examples.

For your own proposals, just briefly describe the content of your chapters.

Section Seven: Sample Chapters

Here is where you will include two or three of the actual chapters of your book. Now, you do not have to have the book finished in order to get signed by an agent or sell your book to a publisher. That is the fun with non-fiction books. You can sell them based on an idea.

However, you do have to have at least a couple chapters (two is the norm) so the agent or editor can get an idea of what your book will look like when it is finished.

When you are finished with your proposal, I highly suggest having at least one person look it over for basic proofreading and to see if it hooks them. A proposal is like a huge, blown-up query…you still need to hook that agent or editor into wanting your book. Even more so, because there usually isn’t a finished manuscript for them to request. They sign you or buy your book based solely (most of the time) on your proposal. But don’t let that scare you! Present your book (and yourself) in the best way you can, polish up those sample chapters, and send it out :)

And that’s it! Yes, it’s a LOT of work, and there is a lot of research involved, especially if you choose to include statistics or quotations in addition to your competition titles. And I highly recommend looking at Jeff Herman's book (or any other book you can find on writing proposals, but I like his especially because he includes annotated proposals as examples). Several agent's websites and blogs have posts on this topic and if you can get a hold of some example proposals to look at, that is always a good idea. I'm a very visual person, so looking at a finished product helps me understand how to get there myself :)

If you take it slowly, one section at a time, it really isn’t nearly as intimidating. Most of these sections are no more than a page long, some less than that. I think my largest section was two pages long…until you get to the Outline, Chapter Abstracts, and Sample Chapters of course :)

So just focus on the small chunks, complete it with a title page and Proposal Table of Contents, and before you know it, you’ll have a finished proposal ready to ship out to agents and editors :D Good luck!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hook Me...or Else!

Quotes of the Day:
My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter.
~Thomas Helm

You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.
~Paul Sweeney

How long do you give a book to hook you before you give up on it?

This is something I've been thinking about recently, as I delve into editing my first few chapters. I know as aspiring authors, we are sort of conditioned to try and hook our readers (i.e. agents/editors) within the first three chapters...or better yet, the first chapter...or better still, the first page. Because we know when we query, we only have a few minutes of a very busy agent's time to hook them into asking for more of our book.

But when you are reading on your own, just for long will you read before laying the book aside? 1 chapter? 3 chapters?

I just started reading A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray...for the third time. I've picked it up twice before, and despite the facts that the passages were wonderful, there were exciting, strange, and mysterious things happening, and it is right up my alley as a historical...I just couldn't get into it.

This time around, I am finally hooked - I'm reading and thinking about it when I can't read, and wondering what happens next. And I'm 80 pages in. It took that long for me to get well and truly into the book.

There are several books that I've done this with, that I didn't really get hooked by until around page 80-100 (Twilight being one of them - bored me to tears for the first few chapters), and sometimes these books go on to be favorites of mine. Twilight, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon (probably my all time favorite series, but the first chapter bored me a bit). Anne Rice's books are notorious for this, with me at least. The first several chapters are beyond boring, and then I get really hooked.

Most of the time, I stick with these books as long as I do because I've had so many people tell me how much they love them. So I continue slogging through either hoping I'll eventually see in them what others have, or wondering what it is that others love so much and assume if I keep reading I'll figure it out. With Anne Rice, I stick with them because I know if I can just make it to chapter 3, I'll be loving it (except for one of hers....I gave it about 100 pages and then just gave up).

Without that word-of-mouth incentive, or a prior good experience with the author, I doubt I would have given any of those books a second look...I would have gotten bored and put them down, never to touch them again. But I still try to give books 100 pages to catch my attention - mostly because that seems to be my magic mark, the point at which you've either got me or you don't.

So how about you? How long will you give a book to hook you?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Funnies

Quote of the Day:
A story can be wrecked by a faulty rhythm in a sentence - especially if it occurs toward the end - or a mistake in paragraphing, even punctuation. ~Truman Capote

Punctuation Parable

Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.
You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy - will you let me be yours?


Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior.
You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?



Ode to the Spell Check

Eye halve a spelling chequer

It cam with my pea sea

It plainly marques four my revue

Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word

And weight four it two say

Weather eye am wrong oar write

It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid

It nose bee fore two long

And eye can put the error rite

Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it

I am shore your pleased two no

Its letter perfect awl the weigh

My chequer tolled me sew!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's Me or Them...Or Maybe Both

Quote of the Day:
Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow - whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen: Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don't show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward.
~Kurt Vonnegut

I know I've probably done posts on this's something my friends and I discuss frequently - especially when those rejections are rolling in and we start questioning why, oh why, do we torture ourselves in this hard and sometimes cruel industry.

We've all said that we write because we love it, because we have to, to calm the voices in our heads. All of my friends have said that they'll never give up writing (despite moments of weakness), even if they should never be published, because it's something they love too much, something they just have to do, and no amount of rejection is going to change that.

And I feel the same way. I was lucky enough to get an agent for my non-fiction. And I'm thrilled. But I am fully aware the same thing may not happen for my fiction. And while I enjoy writing non-fiction, it is the fiction I truly love. It's those fantasy worlds and situations that my head swims in all day, those make-believe stories that I can't get out of my head....that multiply so quickly that for every one story I get out, ten more ideas replace it.

I am very well aware of the odds stacked against me...I queried my first novel for two years before shelving it....getting so close so many times....but never once (again, aside from my few moments of sheer despairing insanity) did I consider giving up writing. I've been doing it in some form or another my whole life. And, whether my work ever ends up on a store's bookshelf or not, I'll continue to do it until my fingers can no longer type and my voice can no longer dictate. I'm seriously holding out hope that some incredible genius will invent a device that I can hook up to my head that will just record everything going on in there and spit out a fully written novel in a matter of minutes :D Oooo good story idea ;-D

Which is why, when I came across the above quote I thought, "YES!! EXACTLY!!" Who cares if there is a market for my work? There is nothing like the feeling of getting totally sucked into a story...of seeing the images in my head recreated on paper...of getting the emails and phone calls from my "fans" (thanks mom and sis!) begging me for more chapters...of seeing something that was once only a dream (often literally) sitting in front of me in a big, beautiful stack on my desk...that rush you feel when you type The's incredible - even if no one will ever see it but me...the things I can create when I pick up that pen or lay my fingers on the keyboard are reward enough. They can put a smile on my face years after I write them, even if I'm the only one who has ever laid eyes on them.

And then I thought, well, wait a minute. I do kind of care about markets and possible audiences, and the agents and publishers to whom I will try to sell my book. I mean, if I didn’t care about them, if I was only "creating" for myself and myself alone I wouldn’t bother querying, right? I would just write anything that came into my head instead of trying to pick the story that has the best chance of commercial success.

It’s a fine line, I think. I think you do have to write for yourself. Because if your heart and soul aren’t in your work, it’s lifeless, flat. And, something I discovered while revising my first book, if you focus too much on who will be reading your work, you may start editing yourself and edit the life right out of your story. My first book was a romance, and I kept thinking “My mom is going to read this! I can’t have them kissing like that!!” Yeah…that book was in constant need of help until I stopped worrying so much about what people might think about the book and just WROTE.

But, I think it is wise to be conscious of markets and trends and potential audiences – though not to the point that you start second-guessing yourself and your work. Write for yourself, create something just to create it, write like no one but yourself will ever see it, and if that’s good enough for you or for that project, then great. It really is a truly awesome reward to hold your creation in your hands, whether anyone else will ever lay eyes on it or not.

However, when it comes time to edit…if you decide you do want to aim for that publishing dream…I think it is wise to turn your thoughts a little more outward. Stay true to yourself, to your story, to your voice…but be open to suggestions, to the “rules,” and be willing to make the necessary changes.

I have poems and stories that no one else will ever see. I wrote them for me and me alone. But the books I want to get published…as much as it hurts to “murder my darlings,” I am all for it if it will get me that one step closer. Axing entire chapters and characters may hurt like I’m loping off an appendage, but by golly I’ll do it! :D

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

WIP Wednesday

All right, so I don't have awesome progress to report. I do have half of another chapter done....okay, maybe it's just a few paragraphs, but it will be done soon!!!

So, instead of talking about my dismal writing progress, I think I will just gloat about another awesome day in my is my daughter's birthday. She was born on this day, four years ago.....and two months early. I wasn't even allowed to hold her for several days - and aside from a quick kiss when she was first delivered, I didn't see her at all for 24 hours (as I was in bad shape myself).

So each and every birthday we reach is another cause for rejoicing. She made it, she's thriving, she's beautiful, extremely intelligent, independent, strong, opinionated, fearless, wonderful, incredible.....and, along with her brother Connor, is the pride and joy of my life.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Holy Cow...Got an Award!

I am touched and very honored to have received the Superior Scribbler award from my awesome writing and crit buddy (who I was recently lucky enough to meet in Real Life) Christine Fonseca.

Christine has been such a great friend - she's there to support me when I'm inching toward that ledge, she's always willing to slog through my work and has been an especially huge help and support with my non-fiction endeavors. And I was lucky enough to recently become a part of her YA fiction crit group. Her awesomeness is beyond words :D

So, here is the rundown on this cool award:

1. Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award. (That would be the wonderful Christine)

3. Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.

4. Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

5. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

And now, on to my five choices....which were unbelievably hard! I read so many wonderful blogs and I come across new ones every day. But, since I couldn't pick everyone, here are the five I chose...

1. B.J. Anderson at Hope Springs Eternal
2. Kate Karyus Quinn at The Lovers, the Dreamers, and Me
3. Tess at Tess Hilmo
4. Scott at A Writer's Blog and Rants from the Soapbox
5. Sandra at Dual Citizenship in SpecFic and Mundania

How to Find the Time

I seem to be having the hardest time getting back into my routine. I think I need a vacation to recuperate from my vacation :D Or maybe just a really good nap...or three :D In any case, I will get back on the ball tomorrow, but for today, I'll rerun a post from back when I first started my blog.

I have lost track of how many people have asked me how I find the time to write. The answer is easy….I just do. It’s a struggle. It’s not easy. There are some things I have to sacrifice. But it is doable. So here are a few things I attempt to do in order to maximize my writing time.

1. Carry a notebook and pen, a recorder, laptop, etc.
One thing I noticed about myself is that even when I’m not writing, I’m writing. Story ideas, conversations between characters, ideas for scenes…these are always running through my head. I tend to get epiphanies when I’m in the shower or doing the dishes. I may not have time in the middle of a load of dishes to rush to my computer and write a scene the moment it occurs to me, but if take a second to jot down a few notes, then I have something to work on when I can sit down at my computer. This both saves me the frustration of trying to remember something I really wanted to include in my book and saves me precious minutes of think time when I am in front of my screen.

2. Get chores and errands done in a timely manner.
This is something I struggle with, but if I can get my household chores and errands completed early in the day, then whatever spare moments present themselves can be used to write. I can concentrate on my story instead of feeling guilty that I should be doing dishes or laundry instead.

3. Treat it like a job.
Author Rosellen Brown spelled it out perfectly. She said:

It’s a job. It’s not a hobby. You don’t write the way you build a model airplane. You have to sit down and work, to schedule you time and stick to it. Even it it’s just for an hour or so each day, you have to get a babysitter and find the time. If you’re going to make writing succeed you have to approach it as a job.

Just like a “real” job, writing is not always fun. It’s work. It’s HARD work. Editing, critiquing, rewriting, researching, replotting…this stuff all takes time and can sometimes get downright tedious. This is why treating writing like a job can really be helpful. You don’t always like your job, but you still have to do it. Approach your writing like you’d approach your job. Just Do It! Agatha Christie said:

Write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.

It is not always important WHAT you write – that is what editing is for. What is important is that you sit down and DO IT. Butt to chair, fingers to keyboard (or pen to paper). When you least feel like writing is when you need to do it the most.

In an effort to do this, I do two things.

• Make a writing schedule.
My children are in preschool from 8:30 to 11:00 on Mondays and Wednesdays, and my son is gone those hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My daughter entertains herself well for and hour or so if my son isn’t there to fight with, so those four days are my writing days. I will squeeze in writing any other time I can, but I schedule my set writing hours while my kids are out of the house or asleep. Fridays through Sundays I try to write for an hour after everyone has gone to bed.

• Set goals.
In addition to having my scheduled writing time, I set a word count goal for each day. My goal is to write 1000 words a day. Sometimes I am on a roll and can get that done in half an hour, and sometimes I will write for two hours and only get 500 words out. Sometimes I meet my goal, sometimes not, and sometimes I exceed it. I can almost always get 1000 words written in about an hour – which means an hour and 1000 words a day, five to seven days a week, and I’ve got a finished novel (first draft) in three months. Regardless, it gives me something to shoot for. You can set your goal higher or lower, depending on the time you have available, but give yourself some sort of objective to aim for.

4. Prioritize your activities

We all have spare moments in the day. What we do with those moments is what is important. If you truly want to find the time to write, you have to be willing to sacrifice. I have a lot of television shows that I love. I love to read. I play the piano and cross-stitch. I have children that want to play with their mommy (although I would like to note that time with my children is NOT something I sacrifice in order to write).

This is where having a writing schedule really helps. My writing time is scheduled in the mornings. That means when my kids come home, I can play with them, do some chores, spend some time in the afternoons reading a good book (if I am lucky enough to have the time), and watch my favorite shows in the evening. And I can spend my time doing this because I know I have already met my writing goal for the day.

If you work full time, you can try and squeeze in some writing time on your lunch break, or wake up a little early or go to bed a little later in order to get your writing time in. It IS possible to find moments to write, no matter what your schedule is….but sometimes it requires a bit of sacrifice.

During the summer, my kids are not in school, so I tend to tape whatever shows I want to watch and write in the evenings after they’ve gone to bed. Or I’ll write in the afternoons instead of reading or playing piano, or choosing some other activity. And very often (because Real Life has a funny way of intervening and throwing all my well-made plans out the window) I sacrifice sleep in order to write. Last year when I was finishing my novel, Treasured Lies, I was waking up at 4:30 in the morning and going to bed at midnight because the only time I could sit down and write, uninterrupted, was when my family was asleep. That is not something I could keep up indefinitely, but in a pinch, I am willing to sacrifice a little sleep in order to write.

Now, let’s face it, Real Life is going to get in the way sometimes. It’s going to throw your carefully crafted schedule right out the window, probably on a daily basis. But it shouldn’t matter. If you want to write, write. Find the time. Eat dinner a little faster and use the three minutes you saved scarfing your meal to write a few lines. Carry a recorder around and dictate your book while you vacuum. Scribble on Kleenexes while you wait at the doctor’s with your sick child (just be careful not to use said Kleenex for said sick child’s nose). The time is there…you just have to find it and use it.

Author Kenneth Atchity said:

Every human being has exactly the same amount of time, and yet consider the output of Robert Louis Stevenson, John Peabody Harrington, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury,William Goldman, Neil Simon, Joyce Caorl Oates, Agatha Christie and John Gardner. How did they accomplish what they have? They weren’t deflected from their priorities by activities of lesser importance. The work continues, even though everything else may have to give. They know that their greatest resource is themselves. Wasting time is wasting themselves. When people ask them, “Where do you find the time?” they wonder, “Where do you lose it?”

Monday, July 13, 2009

Creative Writing Short - Music Inspiration

A few months ago, some friends and I decided to do a monthly creative writing short - someone would pick a theme and we'd all write on it. The first theme was flowers, started by Elana. June's theme was waves, started by Christine. And this month, Kate chose our theme. She wanted us to write something inspired by a piece of music. So.....the song I chose was Decode by Paramore - and my short piece is written below. You can listen to the song as you read or before or after or whatever suits you :) I couldn't get it to embed anything but a 30 second preview, but if you click the link that says "play full song here" it will take you to the site so you can hear the song.

Decode (Twilight Soundtrack Version) - Hayley Williams

I was going to lose him. I knew it, could feel it with every breath I took. He was slipping away from me. No. That wasn’t strictly true. Because you couldn’t lose what you never had. And he had never been mine, not really. Every word that oozed from his lie-ridden mouth had been false, meant to keep me around for as long as he needed me. Keep me coming back for more while he was off finding the “true” love of his life.

But then, he still needed me around, right? Of course. He needed me because he couldn’t very well go around mauling HER, the future mother of his children. He would never think of blowing into a room, grabbing her hand and half dragging her back to his bedroom with barely a glance at her. He would never paw her and kiss her and treat her like a little toy, to be used and tossed aside as soon as his lust had been slacked. Oh no. Whoever she was would be his wife someday. She deserved respect. But me, now I could be treated that way. Why not. I was nothing to him……….

I reread his letters dozens of times. No, I hadn’t just been deluding myself. Over and over in the letters he had told me how much he loved me, how he longed for me, ached to hold me. But he was home now. Surrounded by familiar friends and faces. He didn’t need me anymore. And suddenly his all consuming passion for me dissipated, leaving him with a problem he needed to get rid of. And why did I care anyways? Did I really want to spend the rest of my life with a man who freaked out because his dog was watching him eat?! Who stressed over the tiniest aspects of normal every day life? NO!!! But still.............

It hurt so badly. I couldn’t figure out why. Logically, I wanted nothing to do with him, had already moved on. But my heart still cried out for him. Even now, when he had hurt me so cruelly. While I stood staring at my wedding dress, hanging unused in my closet, holding his wedding invitation in my hand. Perhaps the worst pain of all came, not because I still loved him, but because I realized that he no longer loved me, perhaps never did. That…that was more than I could bear.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Funnies

Okay, this letter is from a wife to her husband, but it could soooo work as a letter to me! :D Or any writer I know for that matter ;-D

To My Darling Husband

I'm sending you this letter in a bogus software company envelope so you'll be sure to read it. Please forgive the deception, but I thought you should know what's been going on since your computer entered our lives two years ago.

The children are doing well. Tommy is 7 now and is a bright, handsome boy. He has developed quite an interest in the arts. He drew a family portrait for a school project. All the figures were good but yours was excellent! The chair and back of your head are very realistic. You would be proud of him.

Little Jennifer turned 3 in September. She looks a lot like you did at that age. She is an attractive child and quite smart. She still remembers that you spent the whole afternoon with us on her birthday. What a grand day for Jen, despite the fact that it was stormy and the electricity was out.

I discovered that the household chores are much easier since I realized that you didn't mind being vacuumed and that the feather duster made you sneeze.

The house is in good shape. I had the living room painted last spring. I'm not sure if you noticed it. I asked the painters to cut air holes in the drop cloths so you wouldn't be disturbed.

Well dear, I must be going. The family is leaving on a ski trip and there is much packing to do. I've hired a housekeeper to take care of things while we are away. She'll keep things in order, fill your coffee cup, and
bring your meals to the computer room just the way you like it.

I hope you and the computer have a lovely time while we are gone. Tommy, Jen, and I think of you often. Try to remember us while your disks are booting.

Love, Jane

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mr. Sandman is on Vacation

Quote of the Day:
If I'm trying to sleep, the ideas won't stop. If I'm trying to write, there appears a barren nothingness.
~Carrie Latet

How many of you get your ideas from dreams? Does your brain go on overdrive the second you lay down to sleep?

I’m curious because I’ve noticed that when I am up in the middle of the night, plugging away on one of my WIPs, there is almost always at least one writer buddy of mine doing the exact same thing. In fact, the middle of the night is the time it seems to be the easiest to get a hold of my friends, the time when we chat and email the most. Also, most writers I’ve asked rely on some sort of sleep aid to get to sleep at night. Because, like me, they suffer from that irritating habit the mind has of saving up every worthy thought and replaying it over and over as they try to sleep.

Like Ms. Latet said in the quote above, sometimes I will sit, staring at my computer or open notebook, and get nothing. But the second I lay down and close my eyes, a million thoughts start dancing through my head. Some persistant enough that I have to get up and write them down. Taking a shower or doing the dishes often loosens the mind muscles as well. But trying to get to sleep is the worst.

In fact, it’s so bad that I will often stay up until I can barely keep my eyes open, just so I will fall asleep as soon as I hit the pillow (doesn’t usually work, but it does help). I assume this happens because when I try to sleep, my body is still, the house is quiet, I have nothing else to focus on. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t married…it took my husband a while to get used to my tossing and turning. On a good night I can fall asleep within an hour. A bad night it could take 3 or 4.

I also got in the habit of waking up constantly during the night (courtesy of my children) and have never really gotten over that. So I have very vivid dreams as well. Now, this is kind of cool. I’ve gotten a lot of really good ideas this way. But the preliminaries of falling asleep are a bit irritating.

So I was wondering how many other writers are insomniacs…or at least night owls, like me. Do you fall right to sleep or toss and turn for hours? If you have learned how to shut your brain off…share your secret! :D

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

WIP Wednesday

Well, I am actually on vacation this week and these posts have been coming to you courtesy of the wonderful world of pre-scheduled posts :D

So, I have nothing new to report right now - I am probably dozing on the beach in California right now...hoping the natives don't call animal control because they've spotted a big white whale ;-D

No worries though! I have posts scheduled for the rest of the week as well and I'll be back next week with hopefully astonishing progress to report!

(haha! this is probably what my brother is thinking about now!) :D

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How to Walk The Fine Line of Editing

Quote of the Day:
Listen, then make up your own mind.
~Gay Talese

As I am once again embarking on that long road of editing and revising, my mind has been much occupied of late by what my crit buddies will do to my poor little fledgling manuscript. Make no mistake, I want them to shred it to pieces. I want to see it covered in so much red that I think it’s bleeding. Yet, there is always the small hope that they will read it, love every word, and send it back with the caption “It’s perfect! Don’t change a thing!!”

Hey, we’ve all got our fantasies ;-D

While I’ve been writing (rewriting, revising, editing) steadily for the last three years or so, this is only the second novel I’ve ever finished. I’ve got several files containing partially written manuscripts. Most never made it past chapter 3. So, now that I have completed another entire novel, I’ve been thinking back to when I finished my first book.

I was so excited. What a rush! To sit and look at the words THE END and realize you have written AN ENTIRE BOOK. Seriously, very few things in my life can compare to the sense of accomplishment I felt when I looked over what I had done.

Little did I know that the journey was just beginning.

Now at the time, I had no writer friends, I didn’t belong to any critique groups, I had no beta readers, and I was only just beginning to find online writer forums. (The first one I belonged to was so harsh and horrible I almost hung up my pen for good.) I did do some research on query letters, wrote the best draft that I could, and I sent some out.

And the rejections started pouring in. Although, I did get a full request from Roberta Brown, one of the queens of romance writing. I could not even tell you how thrilled I was! Yet, when I think of the manuscript I sent her, I want to hide under my bed, change my name, and flee the country.

I finally found and became friends with an incredible group of people. I became a part of QT when it was just starting out…had I followed my instincts when I first found them, I might have been the very first person to sign up. But halfway through the register process, my paranoia took over and I decided that it was just too good to be true. A few months later, I got smart and joined up. I also found a critique group, a few good betas, and started the long process of whipping my manuscript into shape.

The point of this long ramble is that when I first started, I was under the impression that everyone else knew better than I did what should and shouldn’t be in my book. I would accept every single suggestion, sometimes even though I didn’t agree with it. I didn’t stop doing this until one day, someone made a suggestion that I really REALLY didn’t want to incorporate.

I looked at the sentence after I had changed it, and it didn’t even sound like I had written it. It did, however, sound like the woman who had suggested the change. And I finally realized that while I was going to get some really good revision ideas, some things just needed to be left alone. I was letting everyone edit the voice out of my book…I was removing what made me the book MINE.

I still have a hard time, sometimes, leaving suggestions alone. I tend to think that if someone had a problem with what I wrote, there must be something wrong with it. But this isn’t always, or even often, the case. This business is one of the most subjective I’ve ever seen. Everyone is going to have an opinion on what they read, and those opinions will rarely mesh.

So my rule of thumb now is to wait on my revisions until all my critique buddies have weighed in (unless what was pointed out is something I whole-heartedly agree with or it’s a glaringly obvious mistake). If more than one person points it out, then I know I probably need to change it. And if it’s something that I still don’t want to change, I wait and see how many people think it should be worked on. If only 2 out of 7 readers think the change needs to be made, I’ll probably leave it alone. If the majority agree on it, then I know I have a problem that needs work.

But deciding what stays and what goes can be a tricky and fine line to walk. How do you handle it?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dare to Dream

Quote of the Day:
There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, 'Yes, I've got dreams, of course I've got dreams.' Then they put the box away and bring it out once in awhile to look in it, and yep, they're still there. These are great dreams, but they never even get out of the box. It takes an uncommon amount of guts to put your dreams on the line, to hold them up and say, 'How good or how bad am I' That's where courage comes in. ~Erma Bombeck

My husband has often asked me, as I sob over some rejection or drag my weary butt around the house after 3 hours of sleep because I’ve stayed up all night writing, why I bother doing this. And my answer…because it’s my dream. I do it for the same reason that gymnasts compete with broken bones, why actors go on stage even though they have the flu, why teachers teach even if the kids aren’t listening.

It’s my dream to see my name on my very own book on that shelf in the bookstore. I’ll always write, whether I get published or not, but the dream of being published…that is why I work my fingers to the bone, take rejection after rejection and continue to keep on sending queries, and writing blog posts and novels and non-fiction books and essays.

What are your dreams? Are you in this to be published? Or is that just a pleasant side effect of the writing?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sonetti: Modern Sonnets

I was recently asked to contribute to an ebook showcase on modern sonnets. The book was just released. You can view it below or view it at

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Funnies

Quote of the Day:
Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.
~Graycie Harmon

I've regretted many things in my life, I doubt that one more will make all that much difference.
~David Eddings

Chocolate Rules (found on the site Ancient Home of the Dragon)

1. If you've got melted chocolate all over your hands, you're eating it too slowly.

2. Chocolate covered raisins, cherries, orange slices & strawberries all count as fruit, so eat as many as you want.

3. The problem: How to get 2 pounds of chocolate home from the store in a hot car. The solution: Eat it in the parking lot.

4. Diet tip: Eat a chocolate bar before each meal. It'll take the edge off your appetite and you'll eat less.

5. If calories are an issue, store your chocolate on top of the fridge. Calories are afraid of heights, and they will jump out of the chocolate to protect themselves.

6. If I eat equal amounts of dark chocolate and white chocolate, is that a balanced diet? Don't they actually counteract each other?

7. Money talks. Chocolate sings.

8. Chocolate has many preservatives. Preservatives make you look younger.

9. Q. Why is there no such organization as Chocoholics Anonymous?
A. Because no one wants to quit.

10. Put "eat chocolate" at the top of your list of things to do today. That way, at least you'll get one thing done.

11. A nice box of chocolates can provide your total daily intake of calories in one place. Isn't that handy?

12. If you can't eat all your chocolate, it will keep in the freezer. But if you can't eat all your chocolate, what's wrong with you?