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.
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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."
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.