Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sometimes People Suck

Writing is hard. Very, very hard. Anyone who has ever written more than a school paper can attest to that. We spend hours toiling over plots--is it interesting, pertinent, or full of holes? Then there's character development--are the characters believable, can you relate, and are they interesting? Add sub-plots, pacing, content, and the rest, and you have a recipe for the yummiest literary cupcake in the world... or perhaps a toxic combination of disaster and failure that will sicken anyone who comes in contact with it. Either way, you've given birth, and like most book-parents, you love it even if it's ugly or not all there.

You finally work with your baby enough to get her where you think she might have potential. You take the harrowing step of sharing her with someone you trust and you know loves you in spite of your over-achieving ways. They glow with pride at the result of your countless hours chained to a desk that bears the imprint of your forehead. Their gushing incites a new wave of security for your little creation. In a moment of euphoric, endorphin-tainted excitement, you throw it out to a few beta readers. The betas, while very nice and understanding, see more problems with your baby than your loved one. Huh. Stings a little even though they're super nice and supportive. Go figure that. Your betas are awesome, but maybe the haven't honed the finer skills of punctuation and grammar. Someone suggests you hire a freelance editor to help you with the technical side of things. Oh! What a brilliant idea!

...or is it?

After wasting precious time you could've spent writing, you find a name amidst the posers. Scrolling the through their qualifications, a delighted smile crosses your face. Look how awesome they are! And YOU have an opportunity to enlist their services! Wow, aren't you fortunate? The smile wavers a bit as you eye the rates. Sheesh. They're getting to read your world-changing story. Shouldn't they pay you? After some deep breathing, you deduce that by hiring this "professional" you'll have a much stronger story. The end results justify the means.

A couple months go by--no, really--and you finally see the New Mail alert you've been waiting so long to receive. You suck in that breath of anticipation. "They're going to love me!" you tell yourself, and even sadder, really believe. You click the attachment, expectation strong and promising, and open the comments. There's a lot of red and things crossed out. Is that right? In a desperate attempt at warding off crushing depression, you think maybe those are all compliments...until you read the words beside your text. You see things like: unbelievable, omit, irrelevant...or worse. Now the joy of the past year you've spent on this incredible story--the hours you sacrificed with your friends and family, the lack of sleep, and the pure elation of finishing it--are all washed down the drain. This one person, whom you paid to top it off, has stolen your joy.

"Yes, but that's the price you pay for writing," some might state. "You have to develop thick skin to be in this business!"

To that I say, "This is true." Writers are under constant criticism. We are blessed to have a wonderful support team in each other. When I beta or critique someone's MS, I'm honest as I can possibly be. No one gets any better by another sugar-coating their crap. We all understand this, and it's something we struggle with daily.

"So why are you complaining?" that voice argues.

Why? Because the literary world has the most bloated and pretentious people I have ever seen. You hire someone to "help" you grow. You love writing and want to be successful by your own standards. Because you've paid this someone to help you, they suddenly feel entitled to turn into an utter d-bag. They label their noxious, self-importance as "honest criticism." Your work is not critiqued; it's run into the ground. Instead of hearing, "This doesn't fit with the story," you get, "This is utter BS. Do you even know what you're doing?"

Do you see the difference there? One says, "Hey, I'm a professional and I encourage you to do better." The other cries, "Hey moron, I have an overinflated sense of worth. Since you're stupid enough to pay me, I'm going to shoot down your dream."

I understand that some MSs need work. That's a given. None of us, despite out initial reactions, are writing wonders. It's a learning process. When I see ANYONE talking down to a writer, though, it makes me sick. People act like they're superior because they have a background in industry or are fortunate enough to be published. You are no better than anyone else. Stop raining on everyone's parade.

Say what you will about the writing industry, but there is never a reason to be malicious! Even the kindest of corrections is hard on someone who has poured their heart and soul into a project. Being a d-bag about it is never okay.

So that's MY rant. Don't let anyone tell you your work isn't worth it. Never feel less or like you've wasted your time. Writing is something we do because we love it. Never allow someone to steal your joy--especially when that someone doesn't have an opinion worth acknowledging.

PS--This hasn't happened to me personally, but I've seen it more times than I care to admit. You shouldn't call yourself a professional and use your paid services as a platform. If you can't be unbiased in your critique, maybe you're in the wrong line of work. Your uncouth attitude and lack of social etiquette should serve as further confirmation.

**I highly respect the individuals who know how to behave professionally. This post isn't directed at a group in the lit world. Writer, author, agent, editor...we all have a responsibility to be civil, even amidst correction.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What's up Buttercup?

Alrighty, it has been *months* since I last posted anything. I know, it's unforgivable, and regrettably a trend with me. Yet even as I type this now, I have no idea what I'm going to say. I could do a book review, but really, what does that have to do with my journey to publication? Unless my favorite author decides to look me up at random and offer to show her agent my writing, probably not much. I have other ideas which involve things that take time to research. While I'd love to blog about these, the lack of time is what has my posts two months apart. Yikes. Maybe this should be a "catch up" post. All in favor? I'll take your silence as confirmation.

So, turns out writing a novel single-handed is tough. You guys, if you've followed me at all, know where I stand on writing groups and having support. If you don't know, I whole-heartedly recommend it and encourage you to your various social media sites. Having said that, I am now proud to announce (for the time being) that my MS is COMPLETE! I've edited and added, taken away and revised the living daylights out of the thing, and now I'm finished.

That sound you just heard was my supersonic squeee from KY.

I have to say though, the things I struggled with in the past, while not totally resolved, are much more easier to recognize. Thanks to Chi (AKA Elizabeth Isaacs), I can spot a passive sentence a mile away. I still write them, but they're more apparent in *your* work, so heads up ;)Dizz (AKA Megan Curd), you're the comma police and you have a knack for not making me feel DUH! when you leave your funny comments about the huge mistake I just made. Rennie (AKA Italia Trent), you have an amazing eye for making things fit together. Your ideas and the way you bring stuff together are enviable! Jenn (AKA Jenn_BookCrazy), you are a flipping genius! When it comes to knowing your stuff, you are so on top of it! Ray (AKA Regan Coomer), your knowledge of the English language is fabulous. I appreciate you keeping me consistent. Feel free to correct this post. We're all here to learn ;)Thanks for not changing your cell numbers or blocking me when I pester you with endless questions and rants. I owe each of you more than I can ever pay you back. You're patience and vast knowledge are the main reason I'm finished!

So, where does that leave me now? Well, pretty much back where I should've been a long time ago had I taken the advice of the countless others in my position. Querying! ::insert massive groan here::<< Yeah, I feel ya. I'm in a holding pattern until I hear something back from an individual who has more power over my future than any one person should. Whew! I can guarantee, however, that good things are just around the corner. How do I know this? It isn't because I'm psychic and definitely not because I'm cocky. The reason I know good things are coming is because I refuse to quit or get discouraged. Yeah, rejections suck, but they don't have to. Learn from them. This is easy to say right now because I haven't received any yet. You guys be sure and remind me of my positive attitude right now when the time comes ;)

Keep writing!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Social networking: Marketing your mad skills

All right, so mad skills might be pushing it in my case. Perhaps I should say mediocre talent yet rapacious ambition. Less catchy though more fitting.

I mentioned in a previous post ( ) that I wasn't part of a writing group because I'm a loner. While I still consider myself an introvert, I have come to discover that a writing group (when comprised of a few, knowledgeable members) is indispensable! Man, I wish I'd met these ladies a year ago. I could have been finished much sooner. Not to mention the fact that they have become wonderful friends! I admire and appreciate these amazing women more than they'll ever know.

Though it pains me to admit, it was through Twitter that I met my cohorts. I will forever be grateful to my new social networking addiction. Together Italia and Beth (or as I like to call them, Rennie and Chi) have filled in the missing pieces to make me a better writer. They are my yin and yang, so to speak, generously allowing me to serve as the curvy line in the middle, as Chi likes to say. I can only hope that one day I will be as helpful and supportive as they are.

So where does this leave Marketing your mad skills? Do it. Put yourself out there. Get on Twitter (as adverse to the idea as you might be) and search the tags for writers, readers, bloggers, and editors. Throw yourself into every conversation you can find. Stalk the boards! Befriend people as often as possible. You never know when your Chi or Rennie might show up and change your life! Not to mention, a lot of high powered and much needed individuals are on there. Those connections are very helpful when it comes time to start querying. It helps to have ties well before you actually need them, believe me.

I have met such an amazing and *talented* group of people on Twitter and Facebook. People I will never forget and will forever appreciate. People who have supported me and my efforts to become a better writer. People who have never met me yet go out of their way to help. The writing community is a tight-knit group and always open and welcoming to those who share a similar ambition. You will always be able to find someone in the same place you are--struggling to learn--as well as those who have been in your shoes and want to encourage you through the process. Don't worry about your awkwardness. I'm about as socially inept as they come. I think you will find that any writer worth knowing has their own little eccentricities. It's what drives our creative minds. :D

So keep writing. Find a few friends that share your interest and passion for growth. Listen to what others have to say, but think with your own head.

I hope you all find some writerly type group of friends. You're always welcome to be part of mine. Look for us on Twitter. Beth is @kailmeyra She is one of those most brilliant and emotional authors you will ever come across. I love her dearly and I'm so grateful for her favorite words--chuck, restructure, and write with your senses. She has an outstanding eye for voice and structure. You can also catch Beth on her blog.

You can find Italia on Twitter as @ItaliaTrent Her character and storyline development is insane! More than once, she's solved my dilemmas with her ingenious insight. She's also a fountain of useful information. Listen to her! She knows what she's talking about.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How My Editor Became My Home Inspector

I mentioned in the last post that I was going to address the issue of hiring a freelance editor.

Now is that time.

I recently had the pleasure of working with the lovely, and rather brilliant, Cassandra Marshall. I met Cassandra by way of an agent's general recommendation. I now owe them both some sort of mutant fruit basket that encompasses many thank-you's! Working with Cassandra has been one of the most positive and enriching experiences in my writing adventure thus far. So having said that, let's go back to the beginning.

I first considered entreating the help of an editor after an agent requested my full. Said agent pointed out my tendency to overwrite and told me to work on that. While you can't take every person's advice on everything, this was spot on.

A few weeks later, this same agent blogged about Cassandra and her services as a freelance editor. I did my research (I'm very thorough with this stuff), checked out Cassandra and her blog and emailed her my information. (Cassandra does it ALL by the way. Right down to query help!) Her response was prompt and professional. She sent over a sample contract detailing her services, fees--which are VERY reasonable--and a non-disclosure agreement. I looked it over and decided she'd probably do a good job.

She more than exceeded my expectations.

Within ten days, Cassandra had my MS back to me--all slashed in red no less. My first instinct was to ball up in the fetal position and never so much as look a keyboard for the rest of my life. But I got over that and eventually read her notes. (Do this slowly, by the way. Rushing through them to see how it goes, never ends well. At one point, I thought she said, "Do you even know what you're doing?" She totally did not say that! She asked if I realized I was doing it. There's a HUGE difference there. I almost went into the fetal coma again.) But I thought about what she pointed out. I considered why she said what she did about the correction and what impact it had on the story overall.

*Side note-I ramble and repeat in my writing. This is very irritating to a reader, in case you were wondering. Don't say something that is better left unsaid. If it doesn't move the plot forward or contribute to the story, leave it alone.

So in my tendency to overwrite, the version of my MS she received was around 95K. This was for *half* of a story. Yikes, I know! Cassandra cut around 40% of that out. I was floored when she said this. Before I actually read the revised MS, I couldn't see how it was possible. *When I say revised, I mean she nixed a lot of stuff. She didn't rewrite it.

The following weeks have been spent in a harried state of revision. I've questioned every line cut or scene reconstructed. I was stuck at not knowing how to proceed with combining the story or trying the alternate route of splitting. (See previous post) Long story short, if that's possible, I combined them to form one, hideous story consisting of 176K words. Every agent's dream come true! This is sarcasm in case you missed it.

I'm still in the process of revising--in case you were wondering the point of all my seemingly senseless rambling when this is supposed to be a post about Cassandra's awesomeness. I said ALL of that, to say this. Reading through her notes and concentrating on the things she singled out, I learned some important things that I had never thought about before. I don't have an English degree or a master's in creative writing. Until last year, I had never considered writing as a serious life choice. I enjoyed reading but as a reader, you don't think about structure. You look at the outside with your questions. Is it interesting? Did it end well? How hot is the love interest in the story? ;) While those things matter, a fancy house isn't going to stand if it isn't structurally sound. My writing foundation was a bit crumbly. Cassandra swept through with her metaphorical mortar and patched things up for me. But not only did she patch them, she showed me what to look for and how to remedy them myself. What she did for me in one MS edit, she did for all my future writing endeavors.

So, my verdict on a freelance editor? Resounding yes! You can't count on an editor to build you novel but you can count on one to help you learn how to construct. They aren't carpenters--they're home inspectors.

In the best way I can, I want to send a thousand thank you's to Cassandra. You have been such a huge encouragement and inspiration to me during this process. No matter where I go in my writing career, you have made all the difference. You taught me how to build.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

TMI for one post

So it's been WAY too long since I last posted anything. There are several reasons for this, the main ones being spotty internet service and lack of time. So now I'm going to attempt a partial catch-up post. This is basically a synopsis of posts to come.

Since April, I have enlisted the help of the wonderfully talented and much appreciated help of free-lance editor Cassandra Marshall. (The how's and why's of going the route of an editor will be another post. That's a really long story.) Cassandra spent a harrowing week and a half looking over my MS and came back with some much needed information. In essence, here are the issues you're going to have with "Plot A" or "Character B" type stuff, work on them. So work I have... A LOT. I have torn apart, reassembled, rearranged and rethought every possible aspect of my story. Why all trouble, you ask?

It is NEVER a good idea to split a story into two!

Again, why is this? Because then you end up with half of a story. Even if you wrap it up nicely, it still isn't finished. There's junk just hanging out there, left unfinished. In my case, there wasn't enough excitement because the big BANG! of the story would've ended up in the beginning pages of Book 2. Not much encouragement for finishing Book 1 there. Really, who wants to experience a day in the life of... ? No one. That's boring. So lesson learned from my POV. I hope, hope, hope none of you try this because it never works and is a huge pain in the rump!

What does all of this mean for me? Back to the drawing board to see what fits the best. Perhaps after cutting out the fluff of Book 1, I can combine them into one story again. More than likely however, I'm going to end up filling in some scenes with enough excitement that the BANG! of Book 2 will be it's own surprise and not related to Book 1 in any way. I guess we'll see :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Looking forward

So it's been way too long since I updated. Things are still moving forward. I'm revising and polishing and buffing and moving...all the things that continue until you receive an actual book in hand.

I did want to share something that is very important however. After all, what's the point of blogging if I don't have anything to contribute. I don't think that highly of myself :) I've been readjusting the age of my MC. When I began the story, I didn't have a target age range in mind...mistake by the way. Always know your audience. In all fairness though, I never thought of trying to get anything published when I began the story. I just wanted to explore a dream I had and it turned into a whole, big lotta pages! Anyway, my MC's age was twenty when I finished writing. Not a problem except I thought my MS was more geared toward the YA group. Twenty is way too old for YA! I personally don't see the problem but that's a whole different topic. So per the advice of those who matter, I've been editing my MS since I knocked a couple of years off her age.

Changing my MC's age isn't a huge deal in my case. It doesn't alter the plot in any way. It simply means that I need to change a few side items to cause everything to align. Time consuming when you have two little ones underfoot, a household to manage and everyone's sanity to maintain. Still, what little time I have to invest in my project is worth it. The more I write, the better I get. I can look back and see such progress, even if I'm not where I want to be yet! So, writers, keep working. Every line you add, every paragraph you edit brings you closer to that dream!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Just because it has been a while

It's been a couple of weeks now. Nothing of any real interest worth writing about from my perspective. I did hear from the agent I've been really excited about. She suggested I go through my MS and do some, "ruthless cutting." A fair judgment since I have a very bad habit of being an adverb junky. And in the words of the famous Stephen King: The road to hell is paved with adverbs. So the past couple of weeks have been spent, cutting, smoothing and retying my MS. After I'm finished, I'll resubmit it to the the agent who is so graciously giving me a chance to right my wrongs! I have to say, she is the shiz!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Killing time...

So I've been sitting here for *way* too long, agent stalkering. (If they don't want to be stalked, they shouldn't post information on so many sites ;) The world of query waiting is much, much more difficult than I originally thought. Typically things are slow moving. It's a cramped environment when it comes to querying writers. The agent who has my MS right now has had over 600 this year and that's only because she's just beginning her career as an agent! Imagine what it's like for the folks are well established because they've been around umpteen years! Yikes! So seeing as it's only been a few, harrowing days, I really can't complain. It is a competitive market! That's one thing all in the literary world can agree on!

It's an interesting process, querying. Writing really isn't like any "normal" profession where you have acceptable, unacceptable or just plain messed up. It's subjective. From agent to agent and writer to writer. Even in the exact same genre, people see things differently. I don't know how many times I've heard, "ABC is the way to go! You can't go wrong with ABC!" Only to check another source to hear the complete opposite! "A little flattery doesn't hurt. It shows you've done some research..." "Oh no! Never use flattery! It's absolutely unprofessional!" Really? Can't we come to a consensus? Can't there be even a little bit of "this is the right way...?"

So where does this leave the very green, very anxious writer? ...I don't have an answer to that. I was really just asking myself. Just one of a million questions I have about a career I want more than anything.

I keep seeing suggestions for joining this writing group or that literary club. But to be honest, I'm not really the gregarious type. I'm more the socially awkward, turd in the punchbowl type. I write. I can always go back and edit. Conversation, even typing, is instant communication. I tend to babble uncontrollably, driveling on about stuff that's irrelevant, uninteresting, nerdy, or just plain inappropriate. Don't get me wrong. I'm not being rude or crude, but I'd venture a guess that 95% of people don't know or don't care what I'm actually saying. I'm not complaining about my introverted status. I rather like it in fact. I like not having to go to this and that and make conversation. I'm typically the wallflower. And that works for me. No worries. Needless to say however, I don't fall in under wanting to have a group to discuss my ideas with. I much prefer one or two close friends that will be honest and tell me if what I'm writing is droll or confusing. It would be nice to have someone that I could really pester who really knows the "business" of writing. Someone who could tell me, "Hey, back of the adjective; you're being redundant" or "That's too choppy in the middle. Try whittling the chapter down." There's blind panic in wondering what an agent thinks of your work. Constant, mental nagging and rethinking on my part.

Since this has already run too long, I'll bid you adieu!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Waiting is the hardest

Well, I received an email from Ms. Agent requesting that I send her my MS as a .doc instead of a .docx. Oops! Seeing as I had no idea what that meant, I was panicked. I called my sister who is a computer whiz. Her suggestion: Google it! So yeah, God bless search engines. (For future reference, a .docx is an MS Word format that versions 2007 use. If you aren't using a windows based program to read the document, it comes out as squiggles and senseless lettering.) So I went back and re-saved my MS as a Word 97-03 edition (which is readable by other programs) and sent it off. That was a couple of days ago and yet it feels like an eternity!

The waiting is tough. It was different when I first sent the MS several days ago. I had no idea when she would get to it or if she was reading it at any given moment. When she sent the request for me to resend my MS, it meant she was trying to read it! That's crazy intimidating! It's like watching your professor grade your test, all the while, he determines whether or not you graduate! I haven't heard anything one way or another, so I'm assuming no news is good news. She obviously hasn't put it down thinking, "This is terrible." Otherwise I would think she'd send me an email saying so.

That leaves me here...swimming in my thoughts with a squishy stomach and an accelerated heart rate. In the plus column though, my hero Aprilynne Pike has been in touch. She is just the best!!! I can't say enough wonderful things about her. She doesn't know me from Eve, but she's been there answering my silly questions, critiquing (with amazing talent for it) my query letter, and offering me endless support and encouragement! She's just a Godsend! Hopefully I can one day do something, anything, to show her my appreciation. She is the person who has lead the way in my writing, giving me direction and awesome suggestions. She is the woman responsible for my querying the wonderful agent who is perusing my MS right now! If it weren't for Aprilynne, I don't know that I could've made the progress that I have. So THANK YOU, MS. PIKE!!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

WoW, heck of a start!

Couldn't sleep but it's all worth it!

Okay, so I decided that this should be an open and honest blog detailing my adventures of my pursuit to publication. Today (well, technically yesterday I suppose) was day one of query letters. I sent out three through email requests. Within 5 minutes I had a rejection. Not so devastating. It's all part of the finding-an-agent game. Plus, it wasn't a huge surprise. I really like this guy, he has a great and very useful/insightful blog. He's been a tremendous help to me personally. However, I never really got the feeling that he rep-ed my kind of stuff. I still think the world of him. Hopefully I'll figure out how to get a link up on my page :/

Next, I queried two other agents. One I have yet to hear anything from...the other has put in a request to read my full MS! I won't lie, I'm absolutely thrilled! This particular agent had me concerned because she places such an emphasis (and well placed, it is) on the age of the protagonist. My genre is YA but my protag doesn't fall in the age range she should. This has raised some concern for me. I feel her issues aren't "adult" and her being "college age" doesn't really come into play because nothing is set in school--it's summer. She isn't a grown-up by any stretch of the imagination, so her age is a bit more flexible. Should a potential agent feel that needs to change, I can definitely accommodate that, but I feel like she's fine the way she is now. I said all that to say this...this particular agent is fabulous and I really, really, really hope she's into my stuff. I follow her blog, her facebook and all the other stalker-like venues and I feel like I kind of have a read on her. From my perspective, I think we would be a good match. So here's to waiting. *sigh*

Keeping my fingers crossed and still swimming... :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Talk about being blind

Agents are tough...a fact that I am slowly coming to grips with. Perhaps it isn't that they're so tough as much as they're tough to read. There are very few definitive lines of right and wrong when searching for an agent. Do they represent the genre you're so vociferous about? Yes or No, fairly simple. After that, it's like swimming in the ocean after nightfall. There's no north or south, east or west. You have no idea what's above or beneath you. All you have is whether or not your head is submerged.

That leaves a lot in the way of knowing how to proceed.

Sometimes agents want a query that is detailed and follows a precise formula. Others simply want a letter that is entertaining (I prefer them, personally) and shows that you are a captivating author who can spell and use proper grammar. So, how does one navigate such a task? Lots of research for every, individual agent, tons of patience and tolerance, and--as I'm in the throes of literary battle myself--a thick hide.

So in the words of Dori the fish (Finding Nemo): Just keep swimming.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In the beginning was the word (not God's but mine)

Okay, so here I go with blogging--a pastime that I, not so long ago, swore was an obsessive desire to be noticed and considered it slightly narcissistic. My apologies where offense occurs. I understand blogging from a POV of being helpful, insightful, or in general, some way useful. Often as not, it's an excuse to think that your own opinion is somehow valid and necessary to the rest of humanity, or at least those with internet capability. Hopefully I won't forever fall under that category.

So my blog, however insignificant for the time being, will basically consist of my thoughts, feelings, and the such in the glorious though trying journey of gaining publication so that I can actually make a living doing what I love...writing.

Considering this is the very first time I have ever blogged about anything, this will no doubt be a learning process. Stick with me. I assume a little background might help...

March 1997--I wake up having had this fabulous dream--this happens often--and I decided that I want to explore the beings in my dream a little further. (Keep in mind here that I'm not a published writer and I haven't queried the first agent thus far. This means what's in my head and on paper is mine, for the time being.) So I get out a notebook and jot down 40 pages longhand. For whatever reason, I lay it down and don't pick it back up until April 2009. I went to my parent's house, dug the folder out of an old drawer and sat down at my laptop...I've been here ever since. That's the short version of what happened but it's all the basics.

So, here I am almost a year later and I've actually written two books. After I completed my first novel (at over 700 pages) I gave it to a few of my close friends, hoping they could offer valuable insight and critique. One friend in particular thought it would be better suited to split the book into two. Taking her thought into serious consideration--this is a feat that required some revamping--I divided the story and came out with double the books but double the work. That's okay though, it meant I could dedicate more effort and allot more time to developing my characters and the story line. Even in 700+ pages, I felt rushed in a lot of places and condensed things down in areas that didn't need condensing.

Here I am now. One novel completed at 99,000 words and working on writing my query letter. But hey, query letters are another issue altogether. This is just the beginning!