Friday, December 31, 2010

The changing of the calendar

Well, I'm certainly ready to say good bye to 2010. It's been less than a stellar year, to be sure. I'm hoping that 2011 will see me making a connection with a new co-author that doesn't insist on everything being in their voice, and getting invigorated enough to get one of the books done. The last two months have seen my motivation disappear entirely and my muses leave for some unknown location with no forwarding address. I need a trip to Boyd's Mills to get me straightened out, but it would appear that there is no chance of that happening any more and that realization, if not acceptance, is a lot of what took me down. The combination of the expense and my deteriorating physical condition took that out of the realm of possibility.
2010 saw the loss of one of my sisters, who suffered through years of Alzheimer's. One day soon, they will find a treatment, and hopefully a cure, for this terrible disease that cruelly takes our loved ones from us slowly and painfully. It is such a destructive disease that just tears families apart and all we can do is to put them in a nursing home and watch as they slowly lose all of their senses. Visiting an Alzheimer's patient is incredibly painful but something that more people should do. Unfortunately, too many just can't or won't do it and I'm just as guilty as anyone. In the three years of her stay there, I only visited a dozen times or so. At least she is at rest now but I will miss her smile.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday happiness

I had hoped to be back on here regularly but life got in the way so I'll try to do regular postings after the Christmas weekend. I hope everyone that reads this has a safe and happy Holiday and is ready to rock and roll on Monday. There is some hope that I can get back to some re-write activity by that time. It will depend on the situation with my sister who is on the last part of life's journey thanks to a long bout with Altzheimer's. I can only pray that she does not suffer and that God realizes that he's getting one of his best angels. See you next week.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My dilemma

Has anyone seen my muses lately? I have a feeling they gave up on me and went elsewhere and that is why I can't write. Maybe if I leave a bottle of booze under the tree for them, they'll come back. they are a bit fond of the stuff. I received a letter from Highlights foundation about the new conference center being built at Boyd's Mills and am really impressed. It will be interesting to see what they use it for but of course, I'll probably never get back there again. Oh well.
Is everyone ready for the Holidays? For me, it's all about family and sharing. Now, if the weather man will just cooperate. It would be really crappy if we couldn't get together at least once.
I miss my critique partners but that was an impossible situation and totally unfair to them. The on-line group fell apart before it ever got off the ground and I haven't tried any others yet. Not much point in it if the force is not with me. Well, it's off to make the kiefles again so stay warm,take care and God bless you all.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

He's back

Well, after a long absence, I'm back . The format will change a bit as writing has not been my focus for a while and won't be until I can focus again. Just can't get into character on these meds. I can tell already that this winter is going to be harder to handle and it would be nice to be able to get away from it but that's out of the question so I'll just hunker down and do the best I can. I at least managed to get some editing done today and I'll do some more tomorrow while the wife is making
kiefles with the daughter. I'm only good for taste testing but damn, I'm good at that. So far the new car is performing well. I"m averaging 23.8 in the city, which is where we do most of our driving these days. That's about 7 mpg better than I was getting on the van we traded in. I still have not been able to make my scanner work with Windows 7, even with the new driver I downloaded. I guess I'll have to prevail on our tech minded son to figure it out and maybe at the same time he can find out why the printer doesn't work on the network, even though the status says it does. Our days are made better by the love of the newest grand daughter, who I am trying not to spoil...yeah right. Only a few more weeks before the new one is due and I'll be forced to spoil her too. Oh the stress and strain of being a grand father. We won't see her as much though, due to the distance and both parents working. That will make a total of 21 grand kids between the two of us, some of whom are step kids but who cares, and 9 great grand kids. There aren't very many of them local any more and the grand kids, for the most part are grown and living wherever. One in Washington state, some in Oklahoma, some in Ohio, some in Grand Rapids. We'll never have them all together at one time, unfortunately. So anyway, I'll be posting again and we'll take it one day at a time. God bless everyone and keep you safe and healthy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The man is back

I've been gone for far too long due to illness and other factors. I may have lost all my followers but it couldn't be helped. Life hands us these challenges at times and it's what we do with them that defines our character. While the writing has suffered the most, everything has been affected in one way or another so it's a transitional period and to tell the truth, still don't know what direction I'm going in at this time. Loss of the ability to focus has been the biggest disappointment and it would change things a lot if I could get that back. In the meantime, I will try to stay connected and hopefully return to whatever passes as normal in the near future.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


If you ever want to know if you' ve progressed in your writing skills, go back to old manuscripts but be prepared to be amazed. In seeking out old files for "Crystal Magic", I came across some from about five years ago. They are terrible. I mean really bad. But that's okay, and in fact, it's a good thing because it encourages me and motivates me in my rewrite of the book. There's nothing like some cold water in the face to get you going again. The story is still as good as it ever was and possibly even better, so now it's up to me to take it back to the core and start layering on new images, new dialogue, and definitely new abilities. The characters are just as strong and the plot line will change very little, only the telling will change. It will take some time and some help from my friends but it can be done. My goal is to have it ready for submission by the end of the year so it has a chance of being available for the next season for Christmas books. It's a reasonable goal, I think but we'll see.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

So That's All For Now

As of today,the Mystery is 'hystory.'. After struggling for years with the story, the solution to the problem came to me during the night...too many characters. Simple as that, but it will require a complete re-write so it went back into the drawer this morning and Crystal Magic came out. This was not an easy decision to make and it came after I don't know how many critique group reviews and discussions with a dozen others. It's hard to believe none of us saw the problem but it just goes to prove that no mattter how many times you critique a book or story, the answer can be right in front of your nose. I'm actually glad to get back to Neufie and Elizabeth's story anyway. It won't be a 201o release but perhaps 2011 and there are still those that think it should be a made-for TV movie. I don't see any of them coming forward with the cash it takes to get the process started though so we'll see what happens. I still have hopes of getting to at least one more conference this year but the likelihood of that happening gets smaller every day. It is just so expensive that a person on a fixed income doesn't have much of an opportunity. Even if I were to drive every day the cost for gas would be prohibitive. Stay tuned. I haven't given up hope yet.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Critique Talk

I've been agonizing over my critique group situation and I realize that the one I'm in probably isn't the best fit. Not because of theother members,k because they have helped me a lot, but I'm not helping them. It's primarily due to genre differences since they all have young children so they write for picture books and early readers. I suck at writing picture books (although I'm taking a class on it,) so I can't give them really solid critigues. I know what I like and why I like it but when it comes to the technical aspect of the genre, I'm a dunce. We don't have many critique groups here and the ones we have tend to be large and therefore don't give the writer a good platform for periodic critique. I know of one group that a member can only get read about once every six or eight weeks and that's just not enough. The other problem, and it's a big one, is that most groups are general interest groups that tend to favor romance and adult thriller type works. So I'm going to try addding an online group or forming my own on line group. I have contacted other members of SCBWI and I'll see what happens. Remember when selecting a group, try to get an idea of their focus before you join because it's not fair to either party if the mix is wrong. You might even ask for samples of their work so you can see if style and/or focus is wrong for you. There's probably no such thing as a bad group, but it has to fit your style and genre or it won't work as well. I'll let you know how I make out.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Up and Running

Well, it would appear the new computer is humming along nicely now so it's time to get back to work. l want to repeat something though. You can't put a price on automatic backup. I lost everything because I neglected to do it. Nuff said. I took the ladies' advice to heart and went back to the start of Chapter 1 and I have to say it works better this way. I'm not saying it's perfect but enough with the editing already. Time to move on so lets see what happens. It's off to the library today. I finally got around to reading Jerry Spinelli's "Smiles to Go," and I love it. I don't think he could write a bad book if he tried. I want to read the new Amy Carter book next if they have it. In reviewing the new and upcoming books for teens and young adults, I have to say that I am disappointed that vampires and the paranormal seem to be the hot genre. It really makes me wonder about our society when teens fixate on these subjects. I'm not saying they are bad books at all, only that it appears to reflect a disturbing mentality among our youth. If you read the lists of recommended reading, there are many in the top 10 that go back to 2002 or before. Perhaps our resident child psychologist can enlighten me. Time to get back to work now. I am way behind.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Back To Work

For those of you that don't know, my computer committed suicide a while back which caused me to lose everything. Note to self. How many times do you have to be told to back everything up? So anyway, the new computer arrived yesterday and I spent most of the day getting things loaded again. I can't say enough good things about Tiger Direct. Computer was shipped on the 19th, which was a Saturday, and it was delivered via UPS on the 21st, which was a Monday. Awesome. Getting back to business, the partners basically liked the direction I'm going with the re-write of the mystery and were kind enough to make some awesome suggestions, so I'll see what I can do before the next meeting on the 8th. The computer I bought is loaded with Windows 7 which meant downloading drivers for all my peripherals since they didn't work. So far I don't see a lot of differences other than being quite a bit faster in response time and some changes in the way Word works. All positive so far. One of the ways the partners have helped me is in defining my characters better. Ironically, the things they suggested were, for the most part deleted in the last version which they never saw. Of course, that version was lost so I start over. Oh well, life goes on.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Missing Muses

I was just wondering. Is there a test of some kind to identify fried writer brain? I'm just curious. I was thinking that if my brain is fried, it might explain why the must sisters have totally abandoned me. It's been ove two weeks since I've heard from them at all and the last few days they were here, it seemed they were in a hurry to go somewhere. Is there a bureau of missing muses?
I suppose I'm just going to have to make do and actually use those creative cells I claim to have. I mean, I have a deadline in abouyt ten days and I haven't written so much as a page number. Now , that is just plain frightening. So I go back to the old standby system. Start reading right from the beginning and hopefully by the time I get to the point where I left off, it will come to me.
I'd like to share something the ladies said to me last week. They complained that i hadn't sufficiently defined my secondar charcters and they were right. I'd focused on the plot and the emotions of my protaganist and left the secondary characters to fend for themselves. They were there in a previus versio, but at some point in the revisio process, I had abandoned them. So my point for today is to be sure you flesh out all of your primary characters, not just one or two of them, and don't assume that your reader will do it for you because they won't. Actually, they can't, and as a presenter once said at a conference, "If it's hard to read, they won't."
So I'm off to introduce the other boys in cabin five and explai why they are where they are at te start of the story. Don't give up on me though. The journey goes on and you haven't seen the interesting part yet.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Staying On The Path

Well, I've reached the goal for this week, that being to get the submittal ready for the critique group. It's not what I was looking for but I'll see what they have to say next week.
I don't know, but it seems like my path has been through thick brush and deep grass lately and the vision of where I'm going has occasionally gotten quite foggy so I've decided to stop moving forward. I need to sit on my proverbial toadstool and have a long talk with Musetta and Musella, my twin muse sisters. Of course that means I have to shut out the outside world and take those magical steps into the world of wonder where no one else dare venture. Closed doors, silent ambiance other than the soft sound of a muted Mozart piece playing in the next room. Of course there is always the danger of my mind going into lock-down, in which case the eyelids seem to grow quite heavy but it's a riskI must take. I don't know how you women do it. How can you maintain focus with all the demands of being the parent of a small child? You're amazing. I mean we've all heard the answer to that. Organization. discipline, commitment, blah, blah,blah. Words, just words. I guess a man just doesn't get it and never will.
Before I go for today, I hope all of my followers take advantage of the ridiculous prices on books from BetterWorld books. They do such an amazing job of recycling books, new and used, and all the money goes to literacy programs. If you have a pile of books you'll never read agan, they'll even buy them if they happen to be on their acquisition list. Check them out at Tell them I sent you.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pausing to Regroup

Okay, so admittedly I am quite tardy with this post but I was writing. No, really I was. I actually got the chapter done that I was having a problem with and in doing so, I did something that a writer should never, never do. In my frustrations, I spent far too much time editing. If you don't see the harm in that, it is simply this. Write, write, write. Get it down on paper from start to finish and then, take a break to edit. In fact, a great number of writing pros will tell you that you shouldn't even look at what you've done until it is complete. In my defense, I actually have completed the novel in draft form but that version is ancient history thanks to some very good advice from very intelligent people. In that first version, there are so many holes and impossible scenarios, that nothing worked. In addition, all of the rewriting on the prologue and chapter one completely changed the middle chapters. I mean completely. After stripping out the trash, I am left with characters and an overall plot line to work with. That's all right though. It just means it's going to be all that more difficult to achieve my goals for the next five months. For now, I have to focus on getting my submittal done and posted before Friday. That's doable for sure.

I really wanted to attend the "Focus on the Novel" workshop this last weekend but had be in Detroit all weekend. I hear it was a great workshop and congratulate the regional staff that put it on, although I'm not a big fan of one day conferences. I have attended some that were very infomative and educational, including one just this month but there are so many things you can accomplish in the three day conference that you simply can not in a one day, and as I have said several times, you have to evaluate the workshhops and conferences as to presenters, agents, editors and focus to get the most bang for your buck. I don't care what your financial situation is. You can't afford to waste your available funds on a social event that doesn't significantly advance your efforts. That's why I no longer attend my favorite workshop in Missouri. The focus simply does not advance my efforts. Great people and awesome social hours but that's not worth several hundred dollars to me. Let's face it. Conferences and workshops require a huge investment of time and money. Get all you can for your hard earned dollars.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Creative Energies

I'm often asked where my stories come from and there is no single answer. Most of my stories are from very vivid dreams but the mystery is a major exception. Listening to Jay Asher, "Thrteen Reasons Why," at the SCBWI conference in Michigan, and I don't remember his exact words, he said the solution to a problem with his story came to him like a bolt of lightning, and I had to smile because literally, that's where the "High Point" story came from. It was during a thunderstorm at the Chautauqua workshops in New York and it literally came to me in less than ten minutes. I'm talking about plot, characters, and ending, all handed to me on a platter. Now, almost seven years later I'm still sruggling with it, although I haven't worked on it all the time. For the last few months, I've been working on the book from two different angles. The group has been so helpful with the first chapters I can't say thank you loud enough or often enough, but lurking in the background has been an ongoing problem with the middle chapters. Now, you can't have an arc without both ends and the middle and my arc has been looking more like a deflated souffle. Early this morning, it came to me that I was trying to make my protaganist and another key character, (sorry, he has to remain a secret,) too perfect. Wake up Warren, teens are not perfect. Hello! By allowing a character flaw to show, several chapters fall into place. Well almost anyway. I feel like one of the actors on the Windows 7 commercials. So for the time being, I have to do some plot line changes. For right now, I have to go get some more coffee. It's going to be a long day.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Critical Critique

Is there any other kind? I mean, isn't that the purpose of the whole thing? If the group is not critical it's not honest and if it isn't honest, it's not helpful and if it's not helpful, why bother? If you just want to socialize, join a coffee klatch or something. Actually, after last night's critique, I feel somewhat justified in a decision that I totally agree with. The prologue absolutely has to stay. Now, I'm sure some editor is going to cringe or something but "my gals" agree so there. In another bit of irony, although they don't know about it, I had already made a major change they sugggested, that of more thoroughly introducing characters and setting, but in my exasperating attempt at deleting the prologue, I left it out. I'll put it back girls, I promise. I'd also like to give kudos to Barnes and Noble for the way they support both reader and writer. Awesome job, B&N. Thank you.
Now on to another point of contention between us, that of the rhyming picture book vs. non-rhyming. Isn't it ironic that we are told again and again that rhyming picture books are on their way out? And yet, guess what's getting the most shelf space. I have no problem with rhyming books at all. That being said, however, not all picture books have to rhyme and the biggest problem I see in the ones that we critique is that sometimes the writer is TOO focused on the rhyme and not on the story. Personallly, I'd like to see a better balance between rhyming and not rhyming and I think that some stories were never meant to rhyme in the first place. If we aren't careful, kids will start school speaking in rhyme. Now, give me a second to climb down from my soap box. I'm getting too old to get up there anyway. Do they make soap boxes with steps? Just wondering.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hiding Out in the back office

Oh hi, glad you could join me today. I love it whenI get the chance to slip away from that big oppulent office and my office staff to drop into this comfy old chair with a cup of coffee and a donut. I'd put my feet up but I can't handle the keyboard that way. Oops, forgot to turn the stereo down. There, that's better. Now where was I? Well, those of you that know me are aware that there is no oppulent office or office staff. The point is though, that I am there because I can be. It's my world, and i can be here whenever I choose because as a writer, I am the creator of the world I choose to be in at the moment. Isn't that cool? I can be, and frequently am, a young girl or an old woman or a seventeen year old boy named Snake. When I'm done with the mystery, I'll probably go back to be an elf, clad in blue, walking the halls of the North Pole workshops. Escapism? I suppose, but think of all the people in this world that would welcome the magical journey we take when we write. We are the luckiest people ever. The next time you're stressed, remember that the "other" world is yours to control. Close the imaginary door, step into your time machine or teleporter and slip away. Oh, but be sure someone is taking care of the kids you left behind. After all, without those kids, we have no one to read our writing and noone to take the journey with us. Well, I have to go now. I left those boys at High Point in a terrible situation. I've got to put that fire out and give them some clues to work with. Thank you for visiting today. Oh and if anyone sees the members of my critique group, be sure you tell them how hard I'm working.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Why the bookmarks so soon?

I was asked today why I created the bookmarks when the book isn't complete, It was a legitimate question but one that I'm glad to answer. As I've stated on a previous post or two, whether you are published or not., you have to look at writing as a business. Have you ever considered the investment have already made in time and money? Self promotion is more essential in this day and age than ever before. Ask the published authors how much they would lose if they didn't get out there and sell not only the product, but the creation, which is where you come in. How many times have you seen billboards proclaiming, "Opening Soon," "Site of the new what ever. " I saw a billboard in March announcing that the local "Dairy Queen will offer Orange Julius in June. " Here is how I look at it. By proclaiming that my book will be available soon at a local bookstore near you, I am putting myself out there. I'm making a commitment not only to the reader but to myself. It's a great motivational tool. Do I want my friends and relatives to be disappointed in me? Of course not, so I've given myself until this fall to produce. Is it possible that I might fail? ABSOLUTELY NOT! ..I may not achieve my goals by a specific date, but that does not mean I have failed IF I have used the time productively and made significant headway. There are too many factors that can affect or delay my success but I will NOT fail. Don't ever believe that failure to achieve a specific step in your journey makes you a failure. I'm sure that Musetta and Musella, my twin muse sisters are twisting n their proverbial chairs right now but they've always been there for me and they won't fail me now. Besides, they have the ladies in my critique group to kick me where its needed most. So set realistic goals, chart a realistic path and tell the world to pay attention. Are you listening Sally?
Who is Sally? Ah that's another post at another time.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

And so it begns...Again

Well, the Michigan SCBWI conference is behind us but I'm still kicking myself for not getting my manuscript in for critigue on time. What a dumb thing to do. Anyway I learned some things, got some answers, and added some motivation. The answer to the question "to prologue or not to prologue" wasn't a clear answer at all. There was just as much disagreement there as everywhere else. I thought Beth Fleisher's reply said it the best. "It's your story. Write it the way you see it." What is apparent now is that there is no hard and fast rule to follow. Ruta Rimas,Lisa Yoskowitz and Beth, all agreed that the reason they accept less manuscripts with a prognosis is the same reason I heard earlier. They are missused and poorly written. So if you use a prologue, be sure it is crisp and well written and approproiate for that story. I'll write the story both ways, (why not, I already have the first two chapters done both ways) and let the strong version win.
I have a lot of work to do but my goal is still to have the manuscript complete and ready to submit before the fall conferences, whether I can afford to go to one or not.
Speaking of which, I want to remind you that if and when you are thinking of going to a conference, study the presenters and the program. Look at what they buy and what they represent. If you write YA, don't expect an editor or agent that specializes in picture books and early readers to give you a critique that will guide you in the right direction. We'll discuss this more in future posts. for right now, why are you reading this when you should be writing?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cheers Or Tears.

Well the car is ready, I'm ready(I think.)and the chapters and prologue are in the case. Now let's see how much I can get from the presenters and other attendees. What I'm really looking forward to is a massive dose of motivation. Anything else will be a bonus. I'll tell you all about it next week.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Time is Near

I think I have my ducks in a row for the conference. It's been over a year since the last one so I hope I'm not forgetting anything. It really is true that you won't need half of the stuff you take but how would you feel if you missed an opportunity with an agent or editor because you didn't have a synopsis or business card or something to get your name in front of them. Do you really thnk they will remember everyone they talked to? Really?? I'd rather take a bunch of stuff with me, including the first few chapters of the High Point mystery. You just never know. Oh and yes, I will take a copy of the prologue. Just in case. I made up some bookmarks and cards to to along with my business cards. Very colorful and eye catching...I hope. It's the first time I've made my own and I have to say they came out pretty good. I did realize that one thing has changed since my last conference. I'm now supposed to wear compression hose but I can't get them on by myself without the eighty dollar gadget that I refuse to buy. I have my own gadget at home. It's called a wife and she is sooo much better than some stainless steel monstrosity. I'll just have to get along without them for one day. I'm hoping they have some early details as to the October conference but it's early. Well, I hope to see some of you up there Saturday. I know that most of my critique group is going to be there and unlike yours truly, they got their manuscripts in on time. I'll learn some day. ..maybe.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Conference Time Approaches

Yes, it's true, it's almost conference time. Four days from now I'll be heading for Lansing. I made the decision to spend Friday night there since the activities start so early in the morning and I don't want to miss a thing. One if my favorite authors will be there, Jay Asher, who's debut novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, left such an indelible memory. If you haven't read it, be sure you do but be prepared for a totally new style. I'm also hoping to get a better idea of what's capturing the interest of the YA editors, Beth Fleisher, Ruta Rimas, and Lisa Yoskowitz. It's going to be a busy day and I can only hope that my wrinkled up old brain, (and my notebook and recorder) are able to retain half of what I learn. I'd like to go to our conference on the 14th too but I'm not sure I can work that into my budget so soon after this one. Right now the weather forecast sucks for the whole weekend but there's not much I can do about that. I'm going to be posting bits and pieces of "Mystery at High Point" in a day or two. I'm excited about it but at the same time, I am aware that there is a ton of work to be done if I'm going to submt it by the end of August and hoepfully sooner. It will wind up to be around 62,000 words by the looks of it, although I may lose some of those during the editing process.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Little Steps

I' ve bored you long enough about that first chapter vs. prologue problem and it's time to move on to other subjects. I will however, report that I accomplished what had to be done.

There are two conferences next month and I'll go to at least one of them, the one in Lansing, MI., and that brings me to the subject of today's post. I don't think you can understate the importance of attending conferences and workshops, especially to the unpublished or struggling writer. They provide information and motivation but even more important is the value of networking, getting your name out there with agents, editors and more successful authors. It's like getting together at the club house to swap stories and experiences.

The one essential tool to take with you is a good notebook and a couple of pens. (Someone may want your autograph.) You just can't take too many notes or get too many new contacts. I also use a small digital recorder because my handwriting is so bad. No sense taking notes you can't read. If you have some business cards or similar, spread them around, even if they wind up in the garbage at someone's house. They are inexpensive but invaluable. Make sure you have copies of your work, at least a chapter or an outline. I take a query letter with me just in case, if you know what I mean. Arrive as early as possible since the coffee and snack table is a good place to mingle. Most of all, have a good time, meet lots of people, but remember, writing is a business and conferences are as close to business meetings as we get.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

So anyway, I re-wrote chapter one to delete the prologue and it's not bad. That being said, not bad is not good enough. The problem isn't in identifying my protaganist. It's not in demonstrating the first crisis, (which has to be there or the primary crisis doesn't make sense.)
Did you figure it out yet? The first crisis sets up the second crisis which is the primary focus of the novel. I tried to work both into the first chapter but it makes it a very long chapter and doesn't carry the reader's interest. I'll be running tomorrow but Friday I'll try to find a way to work both of them into a single scene , like that's likely to happen, or greatly reduce the word counts without afffecting the drama or excitement. I have less than a week to go before I have to submit it to the group so I have to have the answer by this weekend. pressure, pressure, pressure.

for those of you that are writing YA, I highly recommend that you buy, beg, borrow or steal
a copy of the May/June Writer's Digest. It is a gold mine of information for us this issue. Check out the piece on page 21 and make a special point of reading "YA today which starts on page 26. It's also the 2010 version of 101 best websites for writers. This is a keeper to be sure.

If anyone is going to be at the SCBWI Michigan conference in Lansing on May 1, look me up. I'll be the one wandering around mumbling something like "Prologue, porologue, prologue, anyone know what to do witha prologue?"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

First Chapter Frustration.

Re-writng the first chapter to bypass the prologue has taken up my whole day and I'm not pleased with any of the possibilities so far. The prologue is so powerful and so dramatic that the without it, the beginning is about as exciting as a public service announcement about bedbugs. It just lacks the punch. I may just forget it and take a chance with the prologue but I'm not giving up yet. Of course, changing the first chapter means that at least chapter two and possibly more will have to be changed too. Good lord, what have I started?

The first thing to consider is that there is not one but two crisis in the very first chapter. I also have to show the strengths in my protaganist's character in that chapter while at the same time, whistling Yankee Doodle Dandy while juggling seven oranges. Oh, all right,. that's a slight exaggeration but not all that much.

What really surprises me is that I found a way to do it, almost at least. The biggest problem I have is that it makes the chapter seem hurried, almost frenetic. Too much, too soon, too fast.
So, tomorrow, I start again. I intend to have my submittal ready for the critique meeting by Monday at the latest. I hope they are in a kind frame of mind but after all, the one thing you absolutely must have from your critique partners is honesty. Brutal if necessary, but above all, honesty. Let's see what I can get done tomorrow.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The prololgue. To be or not to be

I'll spend today trying to implement the changes to chapter one that were suggested ove the weekiend by a literary agent on line. She suggested that I try writing it without the prologue but warned that it wouldn't be easy. How right she is. I thought I had it ready to submit to the group but after reading it aloud I'm back to square one. Oh well I want it to be perfect or as close to it as I can get so I'll try again. I'll start be revising the opening scene and see where it leads me. My characters wlll lead me if I listen.

Omitting the prologue is like tearing out a piece of myself when it's as strong as this one is so I'm making no promises, at least not yet, but I only have nine days to get it ready for next months meeting.

When you've been writing for as long as I have, the standards by whch the editors judge a submittal change remarkably. When I compare what is expected and what is allowed today to ten years ago, it is amazing. Just consider the change in vocabulary, especially among teens. Ten years ago profanity was grudgingly accepted in certain situations. Today, it's almost required in teen lit. Otherwise, your characters won't be believable. The other change, and this is the most noticeable, is the acceptance of sexual content. It has become more and more prevalent and in many cases, more graphic than ever. In all honesty though, it's as common in conversation as cars and sports were "back in the day."

One subject I'd be glad to see a lot less of now would be anythng to do with vampires and such. Enough already. In the opinion of this lowly writer, it is a major contribution to the increased incidence of teen depression and suicide although I'm sure that my psychologist friend would disagree.I don't know which is worse, the vampires or the obsession with violence. Fortunately there are a lot ot teens out there that are well grounded and focused on their futures.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Decisions, decisiions, decisions

Well, I've set the prologue problem aside until after the conference and moved on. My protagonist and his friends have just learned the fate of the missing boys and now must sort out the sparse clues available so far. Oh that's right, you don't know about the missing boys do you? Ah well, that's why you will have to buy the book when it comes out.

I'll be fair though and tell you this much. Three boys are mssing after a forest fire breaks out. Is that enough to pique your interest? I hope so because that's just about all you get for the time being. I can be so mean.

I struggled with their fate, having re-written the chapter at least a dozen times and consulting with several learned colleagues. I should have just asked my critique partners but they weren't around at the time it was written. It would seem a simple matter to document life or the end of life but in teen lit, it is not only important to determine the character's future or lack of, but in the way it is portrayed. I hope I chose the best way. I won't tell you much more about it because I'm still working on the chapter, but I promise to add bits and pieces as we travel down this road together.

The original draaft was 142 pages long, about 28,000 words. The inspiration came during a mystery writing session at the Highlights Chautauqua workshops in 2004. Now that is one experience that every writer of children's literature needs to have at least once in their life. My goal is to complete the novel and have it ready for submission by the end of summer so I can move on to the rewrite of my self published nightmare.

If I have learned anything at all that might be passed on to those of you just starting out, it is this. Never ever give up on your dream. Write for yourself and your family. Publication is not guarenteed by any means but satisfaction is if you remain true to yourself.

Many years ago, my grand-daughter, about seven at the time, gave me some advice that holds true to this date. When I couldn't think of a story to tell them at bedtime, she said, and I quote, "Just open your mouth Grandpa, it's in there. " After a slight revision, the poster on my wall now reminds me. "Just open your mind. It's in there."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New Beginnings

Do you have any idea how much pressure you feel when you're the only man in a critique group and the only one without a blog? So this is where we start our journey together.

I greatly admire those of you who write picture books because I can't. Oh, I've tried, but failed miserably so I'll stick to what I do best. There may be some differing opinions on that but oh well. My shtick is Young Adult novels. YA for those of you in the biz. At the present time, I have two in progress at varying stages, a mystery for boys and a novel involving a teen girl's experience with spirits and an ancient aunt.

Like most writers, most of my time is spent in editing and re-writing to maximize the potential for publishing success. The basic draft copy of both novels is complete ndoit's interesting to go back to versions done in previous years to compare them to what I'm doing today.

Hopefully. documenting my journey may inspire someone that is standing at the threshold of putting their thoughts and experiences to paper or provide encouragement and justification for frustrated writers whose muse has seemingly abandoned them.