Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm a professional! least by some definitions.

I received my very first writing paycheck yesterday! Hooray! It was for this play review. I'm going to frame a copy of the check and hang it in my office.

I needed a boost yesterday, too. :)


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Late-term pregnancy really kills the drive to write...

Just as my first trimester was marked by complete exhaustion and no writing, these last weeks have also been characterized by me sleeping as much as possible and writing very little. Given my druthers, I would take a nap at 10 am and another at 2 pm. That rarely happens, but this means that I am walking in a fog most of the time.

This isn't to say that I haven't written at all: I banged out a 600 word flash fiction story based on the prompt from the NPR "3-minute story" contest, and I wrote a play review for a local paper. However, I've done nothing toward the BIAM 2010 book, nor have I re-revised or submitted the other two books.

The good news is that the editor of the Salem Weekly like the above play review so much that he's asked me to write more often for them. Heck, yeah. I'll take some freelance work to keep my mind in "drive." I did tell him that my second child is due any minute (literally, though the due date is Nov. 9), but that I definitely wanted to write for him.

So, sleeping has replaced writing and will soon be replaced by infant care. Perhaps by Christmas I'll be in a position to begin writing regularly again. I'm not expecting more than that any time soon, though.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BIAM 50K in 30 days SUCCESS!

Hello Everyone!

I finished the Book In a Month (BIAM) challenge/NANOWRIMO in August quest on Saturday, Sept 11, 2010, with a total of 50,021 words, a completed "A" plot, and lots of "B" plot sketches! The book is not "finished," but it has a good shape, and I'm pleased with it. The log line reads something like "Pride and Prejudice (or Bridget Jone's Diary) meets a rural Oregon alpaca Farm."

I wasn't sure I was going to make it because there were several days when I didn't write a word because my schedule was derailed or because I was just too damned tired to write. That might have to do with me being 7 months pregnant during the month, and chasing a toddler. You know, life.

Anyway, if your goal is to write 1,667 words a day every day, and you find yourself facing three days of big, fat, goose eggs (that's 5,001 words, btw), it can feel like you'll never catch up. However, I have an amazingly supportive husband who took the toddler for a couple mornings, which allowed me to dig myself out of this hole. I also have to give thanks for double decaf soy mochas. Decaf may not have caffeine, but it is very stimulating, anyway.

Besides life and the toddler, one thing that got in my way this time was a bit of a slow-down in the second act of the book. This is where the books Book in a Month and Save the Cat really, really helped. Save the Cat is actually a screenplay book, but I have been told (and experienced) that the beats in a screenplay correspond rather nicely with those in a novel. Also proving this point, the BIAM book was written by Victoria Schmidt, a woman with a film background. Many of the "beats" she describes in her book closely correspond to the ones in Snyder's book.

What this means is that when I was stuck in the second act of the book, I could look at Snyder's beat sheet or Schmidt's equivalent and think to myself, "Oh, yes. This is the 'fun and games section.' What can I do here that would be fun?" or "Oh, yes. My villain needs to be more evil. What can I do to make her truly awful?" This would prompt me to go on to write my quota for the day (or several days if I were catching up).

I ended up really liking BIAM. The book is spiral-bound and set up so that you can fill in a bunch of worksheets to keep track of things like character traits, book themes, and setting details. This is basically all the stuff you organized novelists keep in your story bibles. The book suggests that you buy a new copy of the book for each novel you write, so you have all the useful information for each project in one spot. I thought this was a very clever marketing ploy, and promptly re-created the forms either with pen and paper in my story bible notebook or in my word processor.

Now, I am a very lazy person, and I did not fill in each and every form that Ms. Schmidt laid out for us, at least at first. There were several that I later went back and filled in because, indeed, I couldn't remember if my heroine had green eyes or gray, or which of her lovers had a freckle on his bum. A little due diligence on my part would have made it so I didn't have to go pawing through the earlier parts of the book looking for that information. The next time I teach the NANOWRIMO or BIAM class, I'm going to require Schmidt's book and strongly recommend Snyder's.

I think due to new rules, I'm supposed to disclose whether or not I was given a free sample of the books I review, so here you go: I wasn't. However, just in case any publishers are out there looking for reviewers, I will gladly accept and review free copies of books, especially books on writing--composition, exposition, fiction or otherwise. Just drop me an email, and I'll send you my physical address.

So, now my projects include finishing this alpaca romance and getting ready for school to start in the next couple weeks. Baby is due in early November, which is the reason that I cannot participate in the normal NANOWRIMO this year. I don't expect to be writing much at all once babykins arrives for at least three months, but we'll see. If you keep a habit long enough, it becomes tough to break. That is, if writing 1,000 words a day is as natural as brushing my teeth, maybe I'll be able to do that while a child is occupying the other 98% of my brain.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

BIAM Day #2

I am happy to report that so far in my 50K Book in a Month (BIAM) challenge, I am slightly ahead. I wrote about 1700 words yesterday and 1800 today, which puts me ahead of my 1667/day benchmarks. I'm going to gloat a little now, knowing that it will come back to bite me in the ass.

I have managed to sketch out an alpaca-centered idea for this novel. As far as I can tell from my haphazard research on, there aren't any alpaca-centered novels out there. Given how often alpacas are referred to in pop culture (thank you Jon Stewart and Stanley Steemer), I think I really need to fill that hole. :)

that's all for now. Keep writing.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Willamette Writers' Conference Wrap-up

I had a blast at the 2010 Willamette Writers' Conference. Actually, it is going on today, too, but for a first timer, I decided to only spend one night away from my family.

I was thinking back, and I don't think I have ever gone to a writers' conference before. Don't know why. I suppose that the reason was that before I didn't think of myself as a working writer. Spending $300 on a conference is a whole different thing than spending that on a job-related conference. I may even see if WOU will reimburse me for the conference fee as faculty development. We'll see.

It's a shame that I didn't go to a writing conference before, because I learned so much and met so many great people at this one. I went to six classes or so, and had four pitch sessions. The surprising news is that, based on my pitches, three of the four agents/editors actually asked to see my work! BOTH books (Liz and Something)! I am honestly flabbergasted. Their asking to see the work is no guarantee that they will actually buy it or agree to represent me, but no one I've mailed or emailed queries to have asked to see more.

One of the classes has convinced me that I need to tweak the beginning of Liz Stratton Closes the Store before I send it to anyone, but I plan to do that today while the baby's asleep. I think in general, I need to work on openings, especially since I am the kind of reader who reads the first page of anything I pick up at the bookstore. If I'm not grabbed by the first page, I put the book down. I should apply that to my own work, no?

The next thing on my writing agenda this summer is to start my novel in a month writing challenge. I just picked up a book at the wwc called Book in a Month: The Fool-Proof System for Writing a Novel in 30 Days. I'm liking it better than the Nano book I've used before.

I have three friends who want to do the BIAM/Nano challenge with me. Any more takers? I'm thinking we'll pop the starting gun on August 13 (Friday) and cross the finish line on September 12 (Sunday), which gives us 30 days. I'll start a Yahoo group for the challenge so we can all cheer each other on.

So, now I should be working on some query letters and writing a prologue for Liz.

Happy writing!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Countdown to WWC

The Willamette Writers' Conference begins tomorrow!

I am dotting some "i's" and crossing some "t's" at the moment including writing/practicing my pitches, making "writing" business cards, and generally organizing myself. (Shouldn't forget to pack clothing. That's important, too.)

I have four pitch sessions scheduled for Friday and Saturday, and I am only nervous about them if I think about all. Today was good for me, though, because I had lunch with my friends who are all at least avid readers; one of them is coming to the writing conference with me. They wanted to hear my pitches, so, amid our 2 year-olds running around the house screaming (mine wet her pants in the middle of my pitch), I told my friends my stories.

Good things about practicing in stressful environments: 1. it really, really forces you to focus, 2. it prepares you for the worst. I can almost guarantee that NO ONE will bust into my pitch sessions to demand that I change her wet underpants. Or, if someone does, I maybe will take up gourmet cooking instead.

On top of that, my friends are really savvy and had some really great suggestions for tightening up my pitches. One suggestion was to begin each pitch with the two-sentence "elevator pitch," instead of giving background to set up the story. That's a big "duh" on my part. It seems so obvious to hook pitch listeners with the pithy one-liner rather than drag them into the boring back story first. They are so right.

Just as a treat for my loyal readers, here are the elevator pitches for the two books I'm trying to sell:

Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store.

The question of which sex would run the world better is an ancient one. But, what if a woman ran for President to end an unpopular war? And accidentally called a sex-strike in the process?


Something is killing livestock and dogs in rural Oregon and leaving a trail of poisonous scales in its wake. When a Fish and Wildlife officer ends up in the hospital after cutting her hand on a scale, a race to find the creature and a cure for its toxin begins.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Nano Classmo" in August 2010

Just in case you missed my other announcements, here is a link to the NaNoWriMo class I'm teaching this August/September (2010). I am pregnant and due to have a baby in November, so I sincerely doubt I'll be able to write 50K at that time.

Instead, I'm teaching the class in August and September. Just think of this as a opportunity to write TWO novels this year: one now and one in November for regular NaNo. :) This just re-enforces the point that you could write 50K of a novel during ANY span of 30 days. :)

Even if you can't physically make the class, keep following me, and we'll all write 50K next month!


Novel "finished!"

I did it! I wrote "The End" on the novel I started November 2009 for NaNoWriMo! This is great news because I have an appointment in 2 1/2 weeks to pitch it to an editor from Tor at the Willamette Writers' Conference. That gives me time to clean up the manuscript and write a pitch and a one-sheet for it.

Oh, and this whole "pitching" process scares the pee-diddle out of me. It took me 36 years to get over the pain of rejection via snail mail and email, but now I've signed up for a crash-course in face-to-face rejection. This may sound overly pessimistic, but I'm not getting my hopes up. I'm considering these pitch sessions as practice, and as another writer friend put it, a chance to write "I met you at the 2010 WWC. Here's some new writing of mine" in a future query letter.

I am going to pitch my 2009 novel Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store at this conference, too. It's much more "done" than Something, but the pitching is going to be no less scary for me.

But none of this takes away from the good news that I have now finished two entire novels! Something weighs in at 95K, which makes it my longest work yet, and I think it's a fun read. It's a complete departure from LSCTS. Something is a story about a dragon that shows up in rural Oregon (in fact, the county I live in). I think I'm going to pitch it as a cross between the movie Outbreak and the Pern books by Anne McCaffrey. The story includes a medical mystery, a veterinary mystery, a May/December romance and, of course, a dragon.

Now I get to edit the book, which I find fun. Not as fun as crafting the story, but fun in a different way. It's a different hat, which I like well enough, especially when I'm not wearing it to correct student papers.

That's it for now. ta

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Back in the saddle in July!

Summer is finally here! I am finally feeling good! It's time for the summer super-productivity fest!

In case you didn't know, I am 5 months pregnant. I am blaming the first three months of this pregnancy and its associated morning sickness and exhaustion for my appalling lack of productivity this winter and spring. But I am now in the bliss of the second trimester when the hormones have settled and I am not yet so big and uncomfortable that I don't want to work. Hooray months 5, 6, and 7!

June was mostly a bust for me because not only did we have final exams (and pregnancy exhaustion), but the next weekend I was running an alpaca show. Then I slept for a week. But I am back in the saddle for the summer with these ambitious goals:

  1. Finish the novel I started in November by August 6...I think it has about 10-20K left in the story
  2. The August 6 deadline is because I am going to the Willamette Writers' conference that weekend in PDX
  3. Polish the set of scripts I have written for a planned online video series for the college is clandestine-ly educational, but really, it's a Scooby Doo farce. It will be filmed in August.
  4. I am going to teach the "Nanowrimo" class again, this time in Aug/Sept. I want to do the 50K in 30 day challenge again, but since I'll have a newborn in November, I don't think I'll make 50K that month. I'm not sure I'll write a word that month, actually. Anyone want to join me in my August Nano challenge?
  5. Catch up with short story re-submissions
Does anyone have any advice for the writers' conference? I've never been to one before. I should have two finished novels, plus a finished screenplay or two to market, but I didn't sign up for any one-on-one meetings with editors or agents (though I think there may be an opportunity to do so later). I'd be happy to just waddle around and go to seminars, but I'd be happier if someone were introduced to my writing and took an interest in it. I'll be there on Friday and Saturday.

I have no news on the submission front. The novel is either languishing in slush piles or someone is eagerly trying to get it sold to their marketing team; either way, no news is good news. I haven't caught up with the short story submissions yet...that's another to do for July.

I wrote almost 2,000 words on the novel and 20 pages of script in June, most of that in the last week. I'm taking any little victory at this point.

That's all for now.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Almost ready to start again...

It's been a helluva couple months, but I am almost ready to get back into the saddle again. One more plane trip with a toddler, and I think I'll be in good shape to tackle the book again.

More later.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Three more queries sent

I have finally found an hour to myself to assemble three more queries for Liz. I am loving this email query delio. It is so much less effort on my part, and, presumably, less effort on the part of those who receive the queries, too. Plus, I am thrilled with the shortened response time I've seen with the email queries.

In addition, I love, love, love Publisher's Marketplace. If you are an author with a book to sell, do yourself a favor and sign up for their $20/month service so you can access their databases. They tell you who buys what and for approximately how much. You can really get a sense of what particular editors and agents actually purchase or sell. That means you can target your queries very accurately.

On the subject of agents, for the first time, I have sent a query to an agent as well as to editors. I have a friend who sold his first book through an agent, and even though this seems to be the conventional way of submitting works, I have so far only been sending queries directly to editors. This agent, however, has not only sold romances and other women's literature, but she also works with shorter books. LSCTS is under 70,000 words, and though it could be expanded, the book likes being that size. That size is a little shy of the 80-90K wordcount most editors say they are looking for. Perhaps this agent knows someone who wants a fun little book.

Anyway, all of this, including this blogpost, is eating into the one morning a week I have for writing, so I'm going to sign off.

Good luck, writers!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Monthly update

January new word total: 9,105
January goal: 25,000
Rejections: 2 personal rejections (really good in a way)

This has been a bit of a rough month for me (whine, excuses, whine). The whole family has been sick for the last couple weeks, which chewed away at my writing energy level. Plus, it is the middle of the term which means that there is lots of stuff to grade.

So, I still wrote 9K even in the throes of a new term. I found a new direction for the book I am writing (titled Something...I know. Illuminating.) and I am excited about it, even though (especially because) I don't know where the book will end up. I received personal rejections that were written by kind editors who saw enough in LSCTS that they felt the need to encourage/direct me.

I've also discovered that I am doing too much to maintain a good writing life. Aside from the 2 year old and my farm, I am teaching four classes. I can control how much I teach, not so much the 2 y.o. or the farm work. Unfortunately, I have committed to teach 4 classes through June, which is five long months away. I plan on refusing to teach more than 3 classes then now on, though.

In the short term, I may have to consider putting the child into another morning/afternoon of daycare. I don't like that option. I want to raise my child. That's why I had her. But writing keeps me sane and happy, and our little Agent of Entropy deserves a sane, happy mother, right? Right?

That's what this guy says:

What Happy Women Know: How New Findings in Positive Psychology Can Change Women's Lives for the Better

Until then, I really need to learn to say "no." It's the hardest word for me to say, because I've always been super girl who can do anything and everything. Heavy on the everything. You would think I would have learned my lesson by now.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Robert Olen Butler

Pen on Fire is the blog associated with the podcast/radio show Writers on Writing, which I've been listing to on my iPod for two or three years. This interview is one of the best I've heard recently about how to get not only the words on the page, but the meaning in the words. I don't think Mr. Butler would put it that way, but he's a creative writing teacher and has lots to say about what makes a literary fiction writer.

Plus, he's the author of one of my all-time favorite stories, "JEALOUS HUSBAND RETURNS IN FORM OF PARROT."


Weekly update #3

New words: 2,067 (last week0+ 1079 (so far this week)
Rejections: 2, both personal

I'm fighting a cold, so I probably won't be particularly eloquent (though perhaps a teensy bit bitter) today. Sorry.

A word or two on rejections. There is a hierarchy of rejections. At the bottom, there's the slip of paper that says something generic about how the magazine/publisher didn't want/need your work (or waste a whole 4 cents on a full sheet of paper on you). Some Ed. Assistants soften the blow by writing "Thanks!" in loopy letters and signing them with purple pen.

Next up is a rejection printed on letterhead with your name and address and the title of your work included in the text. Somebody had to put those things there (though I suspect that there are computer programs that may do this). Bonus if someone signed a name in blue pen (not purple). At least you warranted five minutes of someone's time to fill in a form letter. And it's on a full sheet of paper.

Finally, as rejections go, the two I got this week were wonderful. Both of them were on the aforementioned full sheets of paper with my name spelled correctly, etc. The bonus is that each of them gave a brief critique of the work by way of explaining why they passed on it! One actually complimented my "voice" and hinted that another publisher might very well be interested (though she didn't mention any names...damn). The other suggested that I was hunting in the wrong genre (she didn't really like anything but the concept of the book). Still, good advice.

This is truly useful information!

The thing about editors/agents/publishers is that "it only takes one." That is, it only takes one person to fall in love with the book and push it through the publishing process. The editor who complimented me on my voice is getting more of my work in the future because she likes the way I write, even if she didn't like that particular book.

For more on "It only takes one," read this post by Dean Wesley Smith (search the text for "It only takes one."). Yes, I posted a link to this post a week or two ago, but it's worth reposting.

So, those are my thoughts on rejections. I'll take any win I can get, especially on a day when I don't feel well.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Games Writers Play

This is a link to a writer buddy's blog. Every Tuesday he's aiming to post a writing game that is meant to help writers write more. I'm spreading the word! Halleluia!

He's part of the more words = more success school of thought, which I subscribe to, also. Any way I can get more words on the page, the better, as more words are at least practice, and at most, money. :)

Be sure to check back on his blog for more games. I'll send links about the ones I love the most.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Killing Sacred Cows: Agents

Dean Wesley Smith is a very successful writer who is trying to kill the sacred cows--as he calls the harmful myths--of writing. The article below is about agents. Be SURE to read the comments, especially those by Laura Resnick.



Saturday, January 16, 2010

Week 2 update

Words this week: 5,092 all of them for the new novel.
No contact from publishers this week.

I had a bit of an epiphany this week, too, thanks to reading Dick Francis. In the novel "10 lbs. Penalty," Francis condenses three years in a span of a a couple chapters and a light went on in my head. When I "finished" the novel on Nov. 30, I thought I had a book I needed to fill in plus three or four ideas for a sequel. Francis showed me that a story can have a lull of months or years, after which the writer can pick up the threads and continue the story.

In my case, I don't have ideas for a sequel, I have ideas for the next 30-40K of the book. Yippee! This means that I have abandoned the idea of revising the first part of the book until I'm done with this second part. I'm pretty excited by this.

So, I met my goal! Hooray!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Weekly update #1

(1) Story finished, mailed to market
(1) rejection for LSCTS received.

School started this week, so I've felt slammed, so not much writing has occurred. However, the story mentioned above was completed and mailed this week, so I'm counting it, even though it was actually written in December.

I am nearly done with whatever it is I'm doing with Something. Mapping out the chapters is somewhat useful, but now I need to get them in order and fill in the blanks. I do want to finish the book by the end of the month (which, if you look in this blog's archives, is what I wanted to do with LSCTS, last year...not very successfully).

I have a friend who says he wants to trade a chapter for a poem. He likes the way I edit/critique/revise his poems, and I value his opinion on writing, so it might work out. He's not much of a genre fiction fan, though, so I have to remember that when I read his responses. :)

So, not bad for the first seven days of the month. whoopee.