Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pick Your Poison: A Blank Page or A Page of Crap?

So, how's the writing coming along? Have you been putting your butt in the chair and writing?

No??!!! Why not? Staring at a blank screen? Scared that what you type on the virginal white screen will be suckish? Crap? Boring? Total B.S.?

I feel your pain...

And, yes, a portion of it will be suckish, crap, boring and total B.S. - if you are me, a rather large portion. But think about this:

"It's a lot easier to edit a page of crap, than a blank page."

Do you know who said that? Nora Roberts...THE Nora Roberts. Now, whether you like her novels or not, it is difficult to deny that she is an incredibly successful author. In fact, she is one of the most prolific authors out there...and her books sell!

So, plop on down in that writing chair and take a hint from Nora...write your crap and then edit it.

The point is to just get it down. Especially for those of us who are pantsers, getting it down gives our characters a breath of life. They become multi-dimensional and lead us in directions we might never find on our own. Just getting it down gives us the framework, the big picture. As in "Aahh, that is where this is going!". That is why it is called a rough draft. It can be fine-tuned and tweaked later. Just get it down! Did I already say that? Just write!

Give yourself permission to write suckish prose, boring descriptions and unending internal monologue. Do you know where that will take you? The promised land, baby! The land of "I wrote a novel". No one has to know it sucks, because just getting it down is one of the hardest parts. Then you can take a break and return to your manuscript (how cool does it feel to say that?!) with a fresh mind, fresh typing fingers and a delete button that operates at the speed of light. But that is a lesson for another day! Until then...

Yeah, you guessed it: Just get it down!

Don't get it right, get it written!
Ally Carter
Author of: I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You

Stop thinking. Start writing!
Sara Gruen
Water for Elephants

Any writer who knows what he's doing isn't doing very much.
Author Nelson Algren

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wordplay and Witticisms: PERSPICACITY - adj. (1640): of acute mental vision or discernment; keen; shrewd

"I understand," I said. "The fact is that you have the money." His face brightened. He seemed pleased at my perspicacity.

The Sea Wolf by Jack London

My current writing soundtrack: Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack

I stayed up late last night finishing Bacherlorette #1 by Jennifer O’Connell and found some uncomfortable parallels between the hens (bachelorettes) and writers.

Sarah Holmes, a freelance magazine writer, leaves her husband and eighteen month old daughter to infiltrate the world of “The Stag” (think “The Bachelor”) and write a scathing exposé. If she does well and makes it through the candle ceremonies, she could be looking at five weeks in the world of TV, twenty-somethings and blatant flirting.

This was a great story, exploring some serious issues in a poignant yet humorous, light-hearted way.

But what made me shift uncomfortably in my seat was the way I easily identified with the hens. These women are good-looking (though not perfect) and intelligent (albeit looking for love on a TV show) with successful careers and promising futures. Yet they all came onto the show hoping to be the coveted chosen one. I feel like that as a writer (not necessarily the good-looking, intelligent, successful career…well you get the picture). I hope to be the lucky winner. When I query agents and editors, I feel a little desperate, hoping, pleading, begging that they will choose me.

But what Sarah realizes as the show goes on is that all of these women made the choice to be on the show – each for their own reasons. And I was hit with a startling revelation: I am not desperate – although I may beg, hope and pray. I have chosen to reach for published status…at any point I have the choice to walk away and either leave writing behind or forget about getting published and just write for pure pleasure (at this point, I am not necessarily writing to make a living – I have a day job for that). The “I get it” bulb in my brain magically lit and the resonating “ding” that echoed through my head reinforced the message: choice, choosing, to choose. That knowledge makes me feel powerful instead of desperate, in control instead of blowing in the winds of chance…and it makes me feel excited about writing once again. I chose to join this world and I love it. Even though I know it will be a road paved with rejection and disappointment, this is where I want to be. The world I want to inhabit: the sphere of the writer. And should it ever become too much or no fun or just a pain in the ass, I have the choice to walk away and pursue other interests…and that is an empowering, heady thought indeed!

Knowledge is power – especially the knowledge of choice.

Keep writing…as long as you choose to do so!

Also, check out this article from PR-Inside for an optimistic kick in the pants!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Rejection...ticket to the writer's world

I have been absent for a few days...I have officially entered the world of writers. I received my first rejection letter from an agent!

I took a few days to wallow and fight the "what-the-hell-do-I-think-I-am-doing-trying-to-be-a-writer" demon and now I am refreshed and renewed, ready to solicit that next rejection or (saints preserve us) the one that might just possibly be a "yes".

Actually, my rejection experience was quite pleasant as those tend to go. I pitched to this particular agent at a conference and she requested a partial. After reading my partial she emailed to say that my manuscript was well done (YEEEEE-hah!) but not a good fit for her office ($#!*&.....). She took the time to include a personal note rather than just sending a form rejection letter. It made the rejection less painful and crushing (yeah, yeah, I know I am going to have to get tougher skin...I am new at this, give me some time). Of course, it also made me want to work with her all the more. (Giant sigh)

Since joining the writing world a short time ago, I have been pleasantly surprised by the handfuls of "nice" people and mountains of helpful advice and support I have received. I had always heard that the world of publishing was brutal, cut-throat and positively spirit-crushing. Although, I am sure those experiences are out there, that has not been my experience so far.

So, if you are an aspiring author, find the nice people...they are out there. The best place to start is a conference or writer's group. For romance writers, look no further than Romance Writers of America. There are local chapters in almost every state - frequently more than one. These groups are full of supportive aspiring and published authors willing to offer any help they can to newbies. When you do find this amazing network, be sure to be grateful and respectful! Also check my blogroll and keep reading "No Rest...", support and encouragement are just a click away!

If you are in the Northern Colorado area, my thoughts are with you, fair weather may you see! If you need some distraction and a helping of fun, be sure to stop at the Barnes and Noble at Centerra to visit with local authors Melissa Mayhue, Lynda Hilburn, and Robin D. Owens. They will be signing from 2 - 5 pm. If you can't make it, don't despair. I am hoping to cajole them into signing a plethora of books that I can give away on this blog! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why do we love romance novels?

Wordplay and Witticisms: In 15th and 16th century England, people found guilty of being religious heretics were sentenced to death by burning...this term evolved from those judgments. What is it?

As writers it is important to know our target audience…my guess is that most of us are also members of our target audience…The only thing I like more than writing a romance is reading one!

Supposedly, a large percentage of women who read romance are happily married or in otherwise committed, monogamous relationships. Is that true? I happen to be, but I would be interested to know where that theory came from and if there is any truth to it…

If you fit into that group, why do you love romance novels? Is it because it gives you an escape from your own life for a time? Or do you read romance to become re-energized? Grateful (as in “Thank the stars my life isn’t as complicated as …. – insert name of current heroine here)? Or is it something else? Author Alicia Blade has this to say in her blog, Ali’s Blog, last week:

“…I wonder now if women who are in happy, satisfying relationships don't read the novels not because they're missing something, but rather as a means of reliving those first few weeks or months of passionate excitement that almost inevitably fades. Women often say that they feel more intimate with their mates after reading a romance, and I think that this is possibly because the romance reminds them of those feelings once-experienced—not necessarily lost, but harder to recapture now that the relationship has settled into comfort and security.”

Falling into the category of happily married-romance novel lover, I have to agree with Ali’s musings. I find a stengthened connection physically and emotionally to my husband after reading a good romance. I am reminded of what it was like when I first fell (hard and fast, I might add) for him. We were completely absorbed in each other, constantly thinking about the other and putting the majority of our energy into our blooming romance. Now, ten years, three kids, several houses and numerous jobs later, we can’t do that; but the blossoming relationship between a hero and heroine takes me back to those crazy, giddy times. I think it is more than just fond remembrances, though. It is actually recapturing the feelings that were so strong when our love was new. I felt a graciousness and gratitude toward the whole world as a giddy, love-sick twenty-five year old. My faith in goodness and love was renewed. I get those same feelings from reading a great romance. My love with my husband is renewed but so is my faith in the world…

Sappy? Yeah… Cheesy? Maybe…Do I keep going back for more…and more…and more? You bet I do! And my sincerest hope is that the novels I write leave my readers with the same feel-good fuzzies.

That leaves me with a whole handful of questions…Are you in a relationship? Does that influence whether you read romance or not? Why do you read romance?

W & W Answer: Rake over the coals
Check out the game Orijinz for more fun

Friday, May 16, 2008

Permission to Indulge

Wordplay and Witticisms: OBSEQUIOUS - adjective: fawning, servile (adv. obsequiously)
" a manner that oozed obsequious courtesy." page 158, The Eyes of the Virgin by Tom Monteleone

My current writing soundtrack: Spy Kids movie...I am writing at the kitchen table and my kindergartner is watching.

I encourage all of you aspring authors to don your romance reader cap and join Harlequin for their 2008 – 100,000 Book Challenge. Read, read, read (individually or on a team) and Harlequin will donate an equivalent number of books to the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL).

The “NCFL fuels life improvement for the nation’s most disadvantaged children and parents. More than 1 million families throughout the country have made positive educational and economic gains as a result of NCFL’s work, which includes training more than 150,000 teachers and thousands of volunteers.”

“Family literacy is proven to break down other barriers to success—poverty, unemployment, poor health and inadequate housing. When parents struggle with literacy and life skills, their children have fewer chances for success. Family literacy reverses that cycle by teaching the families of today in order to impact the generations of tomorrow.”

Harlequin asks that fifty percent of your books come from their publishing house. That shouldn’t be difficult as they have over fifteen different lines – from historical romance to westerns to intrigue to medical romance, there is something for every romance novel lover. You have until December 31st to read to your heart’s content. Join Harlequin and make your reading count!

Want to do more? Check out Romance Writers of America website. They are involved in Literacy projects also….

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Flush that excuse...

Wordplay and Witticisms: Pigs were put in bags and sold in medieval markets. Unscrupulous sellers would dupe their buyers by replacing the pigs with large cats. A buyer figuring out the ploy inspired this phrase...from the game: Orijinz (answer at the bottom)

My current writing soundtrack: Elevator music...I am babysitting a friend's eight week old baby. He's asleep and I am desperate to keep it that way!

Have you started writing yet? Did you set a time or word count goal, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem? Did you carve out a stretch of time to sit down, ala pantalones flambé, and type furiously?

No time, you say? Think again…

In his book No Plot? No Problem, National Novel Writing Month organizer Chris Baty says “being busy is good for your writing”. Yes, you read correctly – being busy is good for your writing! Here’s why:

Grab an apple and don a Newtonian thinking cap…an object in motion tends to stay in motion. So if you are all ready busy, adding another thing isn’t that big of a deal. You are all ready going at mach 5 - 1,001 to-dos are not that different from 1,002, right?

Yes, I know you would like to slap me right about now, but bear with me...

Baty believes that having to carve writing time out of your myriad of other obligations makes it a “treat”, something exciting and special to do for yourself. Whereas, if you have loads of time to write (at a writer’s retreat for example), suddenly writing is an obligation. Now, don’t get me wrong, writer’s retreats and long stretches of time to work on your novel have their place, but it is not when you are composing your first draft. During first draft craziness, you need to just light your pants and fingers on fire and go like mad, something more easily done when you know you are working on finite writing time, snatching moments here and there.

So, sorry, one excuse decidedly flushed down the toilet…Crazy busy? Running like mad? Going in twelve different directions? Good for you – now get to writing!

Wordplay and Witticisms answer: The cat's out of the bag

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pantalones Flambé!

When it comes to writing, I have found the "pantalones flambé" approach to work best. I am no expert, hence the term "aspiring" author, but I like to just sit down and write, pounding the keyboard with abandon, tying strings of words and phrases together...I like to write as if my pants are on fire. "Pantalones flambé!" is my war whoop.

Other people prefer to plan: character sketches, plots, sub-plots, etc. I am a perfectionist and a neurotic planner - not a good combination. I become paralyzed with research and planning. When I am writing, brackets are my best friends. If I am missing information or need to do research, I throw in a set of brackets and keep right on typing. That way, I can obsess and lose absurdly long stretches of time researching AFTER my first draft is complete.

Find what works for you and don't be afraid to think outside the established "rules". The most important thing is to just get that first draft down...whether you do that by following an outline, a rough sketch or by the seat of your pantalones flambé, just do it!

Monday, May 12, 2008

To be or not to be...was never the question.

How did I decide to be a writer?

I never really sat down with a plan to be an author…it was more of a stumble, followed by a headfirst plunge into a crazy, wild, vibrant, new subculture.

Last fall, when my "baby" started kindergarten, I found myself with a serious case of PMS, acne and angst…I suddenly felt like I was back in high school, pondering the age old question, “What am I going to do with my life?". And like the proverbial seeker who can’t see the forest for the trees, I was in a quandary.

I panicked. I cried. I got depressed. I threw myself into projects that didn't feel quite right. I journaled, did my fair share of soul searching, then decided to do as my recent read, Life Organizing, by Jennifer Louden, suggested: hop on the inner tube of life and float…to go where the current would take me.

Yeah, easy for her to say...I am what you might call a die-hard, goal-writing, objective-making planner. To sit and go with the flow was, needless to say, not only completely foreign to me but frightening: nail-biting, sick-to-my-stomach, can't-sleep-at-night scared the royal you-know-what out of me…

But, I digress.

So, there I was in a premature, pseudo-midlife crisis when I stumbled upon the NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) challenge. I can’t remember now how I found it. I wish I could. I decided to give writing a novel in thirty days a go. I wrote, read articles from the website and faithfully digested the "pump up" emails. By day 27, I had a sloppy, painfully rough 56,00 word first draft. Hmm, I thought, interesting experience. I promptly put it away, and resumed my primary duties: cleaning house, doing laundry and chauffeuring our three children here, there and everywhere… then something strange and wonderful happened. I woke in the middle of the night longing for the companionship of my characters. I missed my heroine’s sassy repartee and romantic yearnings. I pined for my hero’s charming, debonair, arrogant presence. So I went back to my novel and read it for the first time. Groaning an "ugh" of disgust in various places, then raising my brows in a, "Holy s@&* did that really come out of my brain? It isn’t half bad!" in others, I started editing and adding. I now have a new baby: a 95,000 word historical romance!

If you are floating along but think you might like to give writing a whirl or if yours is a deep-seated, heart-tugging longing, my advice is to just plant your keister and write. Bring your inner tube if you like…

Nike had it right when they said, “Just do it!”.