Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Love-Hate Relationship with And

Two weeks ago, I began a final edit of my first manuscript. About the third paragraph in, I felt like I was reading it for the very first time--I’ve read it about seven times. Turns out I have a real problem with the word AND. I must have used it every third heartbeat while I was writing. I used it where I should simply have put a comma, period, or nothing at all.

After editing my way through the rest of it, taking out about sixty or so dozen ANDs, I am amazed how much smoother it reads. That I read it so many times without ever noticing that glaring problem was disturbing. But, it’s fixed now! As I’m working on this new book, I’ve been hyper vigilant not to let the same thing happen. I’ve learned my lesson. While I think AND is an important word, obviously needed, there are definite advantages to finding a way to write around it.

Now, I’m curious if anyone else has a problem word?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Write on Wednesday: Songbird

This is my first time doing Write on Wednesdays. I'm excited to get started!

"The Write On Wednesday Rules: Get creative with the writing exercises - there isn't a right or wrong. Please do try to visit the other members of Write On Wednesdays and leave a comment.

Write On Wednesdays Exercise 16:
Hadge says: Take a favorite (or even random play) song and write the story behind the lyrics, not something inspired by the lyric, but the flesh on the bones of the story. It gives lots of scope for interpretative writing. Use the lyrics or theme of a song for a piece of flash fiction (50 to 200 words). To clarify, write your version of the story behind the lyrics in a song"

Be sure to check out the other writers:

I chose to write about my favorite song of the moment: Grace Potter's "Medicine." Listen here:

He stopped talking when she walked in the door. He sat up straighter, forgot I was sitting across from him, and sat down his beer. As she sashayed through the crowd, men everywhere seemed to zero in on the silky hair, shapely hips and crimson lips. They stared, drooled, panted. She was a walking illusion. Sex in heels.

I knew the moment it happened. Her eyes met my husband’s as she glided her way past the other hungry men, focused only on him. Whispering silky words she took his hand, seducing him to the dance floor. Without a backward glance in my direction, he went willingly after his new drug of choice.

She may be what he thinks he wants, but I am not a woman to sit back watching what I love taken from me. Head held high, I sauntered over to where they danced. She saw me coming, eyes locking with mine in challenge. But, I had the one thing she didn’t: His heart. Reaching them I focused on my husband, took his chin, forcing my stupid man to look me in the eye. All it took was one look to remind him that she was fleeting, but I was forever.

I took back what was mine, threw her out of the bar, and put on those heels myself.

Friday, September 23, 2011

No Sycophants Allowed!

When I began the process of finding an agent I purchased a book called Putting Your Passion into Print, by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to be published. It is as entertaining as it is educational.

One of my favorite entries in the book is about getting feedback on your manuscript. Should you let other people read it? Who should you let read it? What do you expect from them? They sum it up by saying, “stay away from obsequious sycophants! The last thing you want is people telling you your proposal/manuscript is good when it’s not. Be sure to let people know you want the you’ve-got-a-wart truth.”

I was reminded of the American Idol hopefuls who faithfully line up for hours each year only to be turned down. I always wonder why their support system failed them? Where were the friends and family to say, “we love you, but maybe this isn't your thing. Let's find what you are amazing at. Or, let's get you some lessons.” If any of my brother’s ever set their sights on going on national TV and singing, I would have to dash their dreams firmly. Musical talent is a gene that was left out of my family’s make-up, sadly. However, that doesn’t stop us from singing! We just restrict it to the shower, car, or one drink too many karaoke night.

With this in mind, I have only let three people read my entire manuscript. I was careful to choose people I felt would be honest, even if it hurt. Because, this is my dream, and I’d never want to put my name on tone deaf writing. While I would always recommend listening with an open mind to anyone’s suggestions or concerns about your writing, it’s also important not to lose your voice trying to follow everyone’s advice. Take the critiques, learn from them, use them, but stay true to yourself at the same time. At least, that’s what I’m trying to do.

So, who do you get feeback from?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What's in a Name?

I spend a lot of time thinking about what to name my characters. Sometimes certain names stick out for different reasons. It can be that a name conjures up images of a sweet, caring person or a not so sweet, caring person. If a character changes as I write, perhaps turns evil, when at the start they were meant to be a neutral character, I change their name.

Researching names, what they mean, what time period they were most popular is fun to me. I really enjoy that part of my research when writing. But, I’ve often wondered if all the time spent on names is time well spent. When I read books the names are important to me, too. If I don’t like the name, sometimes I will change it in my head. If the name is difficult to say, I will shorten it.

I’m curious if other readers or writers have these name issues? Do you ever read books where the name just doesn’t fit for you? Or, do you ever change the names of characters while reading a book?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cliff Jumping

I’ve often heard it said that great writing comes from sadness and heartache. Numerous authors, producing what became great works of fiction, were thought of as tormented artists. Through their works they expressed the grief or madness so present in their everyday lives. Edgar Allen Poe is one of the most prominent examples of this phenomenon. Another is Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Her well known short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is one of my all time favorites. It is a journey through a woman’s battle with mental illness, and the way her husband’s ignorance contributes to her spiral into madness. If you’ve never read it check it out:

While I fully buy into this theory, and the proven results of literary genius, I believe happiness and joy lend to great writing equally. Although, perhaps in different ways. The journey to becoming a published writer is difficult, and at times downright depressing. But, when I become impatient with the process or doubtful of my abilities I am renewed by the people around me. As with most things, a solid support system is invaluable. I have this support system through close family and friends. When I have a day where I feel like shredding my manuscript and recycling my computer, I only have to call one of them to be reminded that all good things come through hard work.

If you are trying to climb that seemingly impossible publishing mountain, I encourage you to find your motivator. Following a dream can feel like jumping off a cliff, but like most adrenaline sports, the fun can’t begin until you jump.

Thank you to all of my motivators!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Character Driven

I often wonder where in the world authors get their ideas. Some of my favorite novels are simple stories of tragedy, love and triumph. Others are outrageous tales of suspense and impossible adventures. But, in all of these the defining quality that pulls me in, and keeps me going back for more, are the characters. While I spend hours and hours and hours pouring over the intricacies of plot, I truly feel it would be all an exercise in futility without relatable and endearing characters that the reader can champion.

Most of the time when movies or books become timeless it’s because of the stand-out characters. Characters like Huck Finn, Jay Gatsby, Scarlett O’Hara, and even Harry Potter. Each of these characters are different, with their own triumphs and troubles, but the thing that ties them are the ways they impact our lives and our thinking.

At times I will say I just feel like finding a book that’s an ‘easy read.’ Meaning I don’t want to have to think too much. I just want to get lost in a fun story. Often these so-called ‘easy reads’ are the most entertaining. But, just as in Great American Novels these stories are held up by outstanding characters that I want to spend time with, getting to know, cry with, and laughing with.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say here is that, to me, character development is one of the most important aspects of creating a novel with staying power.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Persistent Characters

Today I sat down to work on my new novel, but was quickly distracted by thoughts of the characters in my completed novel. I kept thinking about Ella and Riley, and new conversations or adventures they could have. They were running through my mind, until I had to give them my full attention. I put away the new work and went back to the old, supposed to be completed, novel.

So, for three hours this morning I worked on it, adding over two thousand new words before I was done. I truly am happy with the result from each addition. I’m glad I listened to them, but it left me wondering what will happen once the book is published. Will I ever feel it’s complete, needing no changes or additions? I suppose like most art forms, the artist can always find a flaw or a way to enhance the final product. Maybe it’s that Ella and Riley are the first characters I created that ended in a completed manuscript, that I have such a difficult time letting them go.

It made me think that these two characters might need a sequel. Maybe they have another story that needs to be told. How exciting!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What I Write

When it comes to reading, I am a fan of just about everything. I have dozens of favorite authors. Some of my favorites are F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dean Koontz, Sandra Brown and Heather Graham. But, I have been influenced in my own writing by so many others. When I read now it’s part entertainment, part education. As I read through books I jot down things that interest me, new words, new ways to structure sentences or chapters. By the end of the book I’ve thought of half a dozen ways the query letter for the book would have been written.

While my reading tastes vary, I am most comfortable writing Romantic Suspense. A true sucker for romance, I wouldn’t know how to write an entire book without it. I enjoy the process of building the relationship and the way love can make a strong character even stronger. But, the suspense is just as important to me. Each time I come up with a new idea for a novel, the first focus and thought is about the antagonist. What kind of villain will they be? What will their motivation be? And, most importantly, how will they change my main characters? How will they make them stronger, and how will they be overcome?

Currently, I’m working on a novel set on Amelia Island, FL. The romance comes from a broken, seemingly irreparable, relationship. Their biggest hurdle is a life changing secret. However, like in most romantic suspense novels, the chaos surrounding them eventually paves the road to rebuilding the broken relationship. What’s fun about writing is that even when the very base of the novel seems ordinary, it’s your characters and how they get where they’re going that make it extraordinary. I am drawn to funky characters and characters who are a little bit unusual. Who have issues and quirks, but strong moral compasses and goals.

At the end of it all I want my novel to be one that a reader can get lost in. The characters should become a reader's friends and enemies. I love when I finish reading a book and miss the characters. That’s my hope for anyone who reads my writing.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Query Letter Top Five

Writing a query letter, a great query letter, has been a trial and error experience for me. But, along the way I found some amazing blogs and websites filled with must have information.

My top five Do’s in a query letter:
1. Do sleep on it. Take a day and revisit a query letter before sending it out.
2. Do have someone read it. Always have a trusted friend give feedback on your query letter.
3. Do pay close attention. Never send out a query letter before giving it a thorough spelling and grammar check.
4. Do get to the heart. Queries are not a place to leave the agent asking questions. They want to know how you tie up the story at the end.
5. Do put your genre and word count in the letter.

My top five Blogs/Websites for researching how to write query letters:


Monday, September 5, 2011

Hope in Rejection

Today I received my first official rejection from an agent. It will certainly be the first of many; Just part of the process. I’ve had many rejections in response to query letters, but this is the first from an agent who requested additional material. The agent’s website advised to allow up to twelve weeks for a response. It took almost nine weeks to the day. So, for nine weeks I had hope. Now, I just have this letter.

There was encouragement embedded in the ‘no thanks,’ though! The agent said, “[my] writing is good, and the imagination behind it is great, but [she] just was not passionate enough about this project to ask to see more. [She] found that [my] dialogue, characters, and plot were fine and well-crafted.” I was grateful she added the positives she saw in my work. It definitely helped to soften the blow!

I am energized by this rejection for a few reasons: I feel legitimate now that I’ve officially been rejected. It’s fantastic to know that someone who is completely immersed in the field found some merit to my work. And finally, most importantly, even though it stung a little, this did not at all make me doubt myself as a writer. It did not make me want to slow down at all, rather it made me all the more determined to go out and get rejected again and again until I find that one agent who is equally as passionate about my story as I am. Because, that’s what’s important. This agent rejected me for the right reasons! She could love my writing, but if she’s not ‘feeling’ my work then she’s not the best person to represent it. It’s important to remember agents have to be true to their own passions just as writers do.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

When is it enough?

For years when I had a thought I would jot down a sentence or two in my blue and pink “novel” notebook. I wrote about who my characters were, their favorite things, things that made them cringe and the things their hearts yearned for most. Even before I had written the first chapter the novel was a part of me. When I finally had the opportunity to sit down and write and write and write it was amazing. Most of the time the words flowed easily and chapter after chapter piled up neatly because I knew these people very well; I knew their story as well as my own and I was excited to share their lives.

About ten months after I wrote the opening sentence I had a complete manuscript. But, it was my first and, being a novice, I had many doubts and insecurities about my writing. Was it enough? Enough words, enough description, enough to hold a reader’s interest? So, for the next few months I revised and rewrote. I even changed one of the character’s names. Some days this novel was all I could think about. I wanted everyone I know to read it and give me feedback.

It took a long time for me to decide it was truly finished. At least finished for me. I know the revising process will start again when an agent, editor or publisher gets their hands on it, but that is something I’m very much looking forward to being involved with. Right now, it feels like I started a new job and worked for 18 months without my boss telling me how I am doing, where I need improvement and where my strengths lie. I still think about those characters and that novel, but now my focus is on my second story. I am only five chapters in and I already know this novel is stronger than the first. More than anything I hope to have each novel I write published, but in the end if my first novel, Ella and Riley’s story, becomes the best lesson in novel writing I ever had I will consider my time spent on that manuscript an overwhelming success.