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?