Blog of a Writer on the Go and Barely Here.
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Friday, December 30, 2011

A New Year Looms

Hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule or whatever you happen to celebrate.  Now most of the craziness of the holidays are over, we can turn our attention to the New Year.  The question now becomes, how will this year be different from the one we're leaving behind?

Like many, I made New Year's resolutions at this time last year.  I was determined to be at the very least agented by the end of the year.  Sad to say, with only a day and a half left it doesn't look like my resolution will be fulfilled.  But, it doesn't mean I didn't try or make any headway in my pursuits.

2011 saw me more active in my writing than I have been since my school days.  Two novels completed and out on submission, a third going through edits and revisions and several others in beginning draft phase.  Attention to my own writing wasn't the only thing.  On-line writing critique groups and sites have been joined, Facebook author page set-up, signed up for Twitter & Google + and started this blog.

Most important part of my journey this year are all the connections and friendships I've formed by finally getting out there and doing what I love.  Friendships have been formed through Amazon Breakthrough Novel discussion boards or Authonomy forums and have trickled over to Facebook and Twitter.  So while I may not have reached my goal, I'd say my journey towards it have been productive and well worth it.

With 2012 looming so close, I'm left to make my resolutions once again for the new year.  So, here it goes.  This year my resolutions are to get at least agented and hopefully sell at least one MS.  I will enter my work into as many contests as possible and try to grow my readership.  Lastly, I won't stop doing what I love, writing and sharing my work with friends old and new.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tools for Writers

In case you haven't already checked out my Tools for Writers tab, you should.  This is especially true if you're in the query process since two of the links deal with helping you out on this vital step in getting published.

If you already have checked out the tab, check it out again.  New today is a website for the writing part of the process.  How many of you complain about being stuck on a scene?  About lack of inspiration?  The dreadful term of Writer's Block?  Stress about it no more!

Muses Land is a website designed specifically for those of us who run into those writing road blocks.  Full of tips, tricks and writing inspiration, it's there to keep us writers doing what we do best - write.  So the next time you're stuck and don't know which way to turn, take a peek.  You never know what idea might spark your creativity.  

Monday, November 28, 2011

The End is Near

November is nearly over and with it the end of NaNoWriMo.  How many of you were able to reach the necessary 50,000 words?  How many of you now have a completed novel?

Personally, I have hit the 50,000 word mark and 'won' NaNo.  The end of the novel, however, is still very far away.

To everyone still going, you still have three days!  Go get writing!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Contest for YA novelists

Wanted to share this with any of you working on or finished writing a YA novel.  I think it's worth a look.  ;-)


Monday, November 14, 2011

Game Time!

We're getting close to the halfway point of NaNo.  I'm sure some of you are starting to get tired and some of you probably don't want to hear 'NaNo' ever again.  So, instead of me cheering you all on, I thought we'd play a game.  (Me being sick for the last week has nothing to do with this choice.  Ok, maybe it does.)

Word association time!  I'll give you a word, you all leave the first word that comes to mind in the comments.  Feel free to do more than one and respond to other people's words as you see fit.  And yes, this is partially to get everyone's creative juices flowing.  Ready?  Here we go:


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Tell me a Story..."

The first week of NaNo is officially over and I am all caught up with my word count.  This statement could very easily change by tonight, as my family is in the midst of unpacking in our new residence.  It's taking some time for us all to adjust to this new change, but the commute to work is infinitely better.  Seven minutes versus an hour and fifteen minutes?  I'll take it!

My address isn't the only thing that's changed this November.  As I slog away on my NaNo project, I've realized my storytelling technique has also undergone some renovations.  12,000 words or so into this new venture and I noticed most of the novel was being told through character dialogue.  Most of my work before has been told mainly through narration.  Long passages of descriptions and back story sprinkled generously throughout the actions and speech of my characters.  This time, everything the reader needs to know about what is going on is told to them by the characters.

This revelation about my own writing makes me wonder which way most readers prefer to learn about the world they're being immersed into.  Do you want to be told in the narration what is going on, or do you like it when the characters hold intelligent conversations to share the information with you?

Friday, October 28, 2011

This is Mork from Ork saying, "Nanu, NaNo?"

November is almost here and many of you know what that means: It's National Novel Writing Month!

Anyone who's a writer, married to a writer, friends with a writer or knows someone whose second cousin twice removed's best friend's girlfriend is a writer, has heard of this strange phenomena.  A whole month of writers staring at their keyboards, willing at least 1667 words to appear each day.  Praying for the 50,000 word to manifest itself before the clock strikes midnight on November 30th.  Ignoring family members' pleas for them to eat, or at the very least, take a shower.  And if you hadn't already, well now you have

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short (or NaNo for those of us too lazy to spell out the entire abbreviation) allows writers of all ages, skill levels and from all over the world to share the stress of writing a novel (or at least the first 50,000 words of a novel) in only 30 days.  The deadline tends to loom large even months before it hits and the closer the start of NaNo gets, the more frantic the participants get.

Writers tend to be split on their feelings for this event meant to bind us all in unity and suffering.  Some look down on it and its participants as only being 'hobby' writers and not serious writers.  They poke fun at it and its overtired, worn out writers, thinking nothing good can come from anyone churning out words at such a breakneck speed.

The other camp of writers love NaNo, despite the sleep they lose and meals they miss.  The deadline is seen as a challenge to overcome and force them to focus on their writing.  With certain quotas to fill each day, the time for procrastinating is done.  At least until December.  They know their work will be rewarded when they have a first draft in their hands to be edited and reshaped to perfection.  They also have the inspiration of Sara Gruen' WATER FOR ELEPHANTS and Erin Morgenstern's NIGHT CIRCUS.  Both found their start as part of NaNo.

Personally, I started out in the first camp, thinking it was all a bit silly.  What kind of work could possibly be written in such a short time frame?  Last year, under peer pressure, the peers of which shall remain nameless, I caved and gave it a shot.  Guess what?  I became hooked.  In those 30 days I wrote the first draft to DOWN THE WOODED PATH.  There was a need for me to meet those deadlines.  When I checked in with my numbers, it made me a little giddy to see the bar slowly filling up and watch my stats.  Most importantly, it made me write.

This year I'm back and, call me crazy, attempting two projects at the same time.  During the day I'm hoping to crank out another YA novel tentatively titled MOTHER OF MONSTERS, set in ancient Greece and filled with loads of mythology.  At night, it'll be collaboration time with hubby as we attempt to get the first season (sans the first episode) of TINMAN drafted and ready for editing.  Wish me luck and feel free to send me lots of coffee.  I prefer French Vanilla, but really any kind will do.

I hope to see more of my writer friends joining us as we embark on this insane mission.  I know there are a lot of people already in stress mode, but all joking aside, don't stress over it.  Enjoy the craziness as your characters take off in directions you never intended.  Love the little unintentional quips they throw into your dialog.  If it doesn't work, you can always take it out later.  In December, when we all change into National Novel Editing Month.

Who's joining me?  Are you planning ahead or flying by the seat of your pants?  Keep me up-to-date on your stats by adding me (Emily Rebecca) to your buddy list on NaNoWriMo's website.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Will you rep me now? How about now? Now?

Yesterday on Twitter, an agent asked what they thought was a simple question: " Agents, what's your position on writers contacting you after they've received an  w/chance to read when they've only queried you?" A flurry of responses and opinions followed, giving birth to a new hashtag.  It was also the most tweeting I've done since I've opened my twitter account.

After the discussion I thought about what everyone had to say on the subject and came to realize one very important thing - there are no hard and fast rules for querying.  Sure there are 'experts' who will tell you how to do it and say if you don't follow their guidelines you'll never make it.  You can add agents and publishers to your Google+ circles, subscribe to their blogs, follow them on Twitter, hide in their bushes and stalk them until the restraining order goes through, but it doesn't mean you'll end up with a better understanding of the industry as a whole.

I'm not suggesting we, as writers, should ignore everything agents tell us to do.  Ignoring all protocol would end up with us alienating ourselves even further and missing out on any chance we might have.  Instead, we need to be mindful of each agent's policies.  Do they respond to every query?  What is their normal response time?  If you follow them on social media, have they mentioned they're behind?  Do they expect the courtesy of being told if you've been give an offer of representation from another agent, regardless of what stage of the game you're at with them?

Figuring out all these things for each and every agent can become time consuming.  If you don't have the time or patience to keep tabs on everyone, check out their policies before you query them.  Query only the agents who you either really want to represent you, regardless of their response policies, or the ones whose policies are what you expect from an agent.

Now, get out there and query.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Want a good Halloween Read?

The members of Authonomy decided to collaborate and managed to put together a book of Flash Fiction for Halloween.  Don't have a lot of time for reading?  No problem.  Each story is exactly 416 words.  Perfect for sneaking in between work.  Check it out and make sure to leave them a comment!


Friday, October 14, 2011

I've seen the good side of bad. And the down side of up. And everything between ...

Today's post was meant to be about the upcoming NaNoWriMo, but I went to bed thinking about something and woke up with it still on my mind, so the NaNo post will have to wait.  Instead, this is going to be one of those 'life thoughts' posts I warned you all about.

My Facebook feed, Twitter feed, Google + and every media source has been clogged with the coverage of Occupy Wall Street.  No matter where I turn, it's there, which is probably why I've been thinking about it so much.  On top of all the news stories, I've seen posts from friends and family concerning the '99%' and '53%' and whatever other % they've come up with.  The accusations and comments going back and forth between all these groups makes me sad and angry.

Personally, I agree with a lot of with a lot of what they're all saying.  I've seen the pictures of people holding up signs proclaiming what camp they're in and why.  I started thinking about which camp I would be in and realized I'd be in neither --- and both.

Here's the thing about it.  I'm all for personal responsibility.  Yes, I paid to put myself through school.  Yes, I work to make ends meet and try my best not to live outside our family's means.  No, I don't have credit cards and try to pay everything upfront with cash.  But, if I held up a sign proclaiming all this, I would be a hypocrite, as I'm sure most people would be.

See, taking responsibility for yourself is a wonderful thing, but there are these things called 'circumstances' that tend to be out of our control.  For those who know me personally, you know the financial crisis caused a domino effect that is shaking up things for us now.  Nothing we did to cause it, but we still feel it.

In my town we've witnessed the closing of countless businesses.  At least two of these closings were without warning.  As sad as we were by them no longer being there for us, I can only image what the employees went through when they showed up for work to find they no longer had a job.  Their own personal responsibility had nothing to do with this, but they end up paying for it.

It's not only Wall Street, although they are a major contributor to events taking place now.  I've seen sudden illness wipe out years of savings, even with healthcare in place.  I've seen the unexpected death of someone younger than me leave widows and widowers as single parents facing hardships they could never have foreseen.  This isn't just caused by the war, before anyone suggests I'm being anti-war.  Accidents and illness occur everyday.

At the end of the day, we're all human beings trying to eke out a living.  We all make mistakes and are all trying to do the right thing as we see fit.  For us to accuse other individuals of not pulling their weight or foisting all our problems on Wall Street isn't going to get us anywhere.  I'm by no means defending the corporations and what they've done to contribute to our current mess.  What I am saying is while we should take responsibility for our own actions, before we go attacking friends and family who don't feel the same way we do, we have to remember there are other forces at work.

If you feel like joining a side and writing a sign to post on a website, stop and think if it's possible for you to write a sign for the other side, too.

*Title song lyrics from WHAT IT'S LIKE - Everlast

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Heads up on this writing contest for childrens' authors.  The deadline is November 1st.  What are you all waiting for?  Go!  Enter!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Have the Most Fabulous Novel in the World! Now What?

Today's post is going to be more of a list than an actual post.  I've had several requests for help with various pieces, from short stories to novels, from poetry to children's books.  While I'm always happy to take a look at a fellow writer's work, my opinion is only my opinion.  Often something I like someone else doesn't and vis versa.  My suggestion?  Get widely read.

  • Join a writer's group in your area.  Check your library as many host such groups.  If all else fails, start one of your own.
  • Take a creative writing course through a local college.  Not only will your work get read and critiqued, but you'll be able to learn more about writing and have a chance to hone your skills.
  • Online critique groups are popping up all over the place.  The biggest ones are run by publishers.  The publishers use them as a slush pile to search for publishable work.  Meanwhile, authors can get feed back and improve on their novels.  Check them out as you'll find some helpful information there:
          - Authonomy: Run by HarperCollins UK.  Must be over 18 to use this site.
          - BookCountry: This is Penguin's critique site.  They want writers to invest                         more time helping each other out.  Before someone is eligible to put                      their work up, they have to critique other writer's work.
          - Inkpop: Another HarperCollins site.  This one is aimed at teenage writers                          and writers of YA.  (Although users are teenagers.)
          - Agent Query Connect: This site is run by writers and mainly used for                              polishing a query before submitting, but they do have forums                                 where you can swap reads.
         - #amwriting: Another writer run website.  This is a spin-off from a Twitter                           hashtag.
         - Alliance of Worldbuilders: Spin-off site from Authonomy.  Group is                                focused on helping each other make their worlds more believable.
         - Sirra Girl: Editor extraordinaire.  Her blog is full of great tips.
         - Novel Publicity: Is a great resource for writers.  From promoting writers to                       Karmic Liking Fridays, this site is well worth the look

  • Enter writing contests.  They'll give you practice for submitting your work and some will give you feedback on what was good and what could be improved.

What I don't suggest?  Giving it only to family/friends who gush about how fabulous your writing is and never have any constructive criticism.  No agent wants to hear how much your mom/dad/sister/BFF/spouse LOVED your work and thinks it should be published.  If you plan to grow as a writer, you have to learn to take the good with the bad.

Have something to add?  Another writer's site or a different way to get readers?  Let me know!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Which Publishing Path to Choose

Since embarking on my quest to become a published author, I've been getting a lot of questions from friends and family about the process. Keeping in mind that I still haven't quite captured the allusive contract (although I'm very close) I decided to put together a few posts with advice and tips I've collected along the way.

First up is Traditional versus Self-Publishing.

Once you have a manuscript (MS) that you have edited and revised to the point you don't want to look at it anymore, and then edit and revised a couple more times, it's time to start thinking about publishing it.

There are two basic ways of getting published. Both have pros and cons to them and a lot depends on which way you feel the most comfortable.

You can self-publish through a service like CreateSpace or Lulu. This way means you take on all the costs of publishing the book and marketing it yourself, but is becoming more and more popular.

The traditional route means querying (sending letters) to agents & publishers and trying to get a contract. This method should cost you nothing, but it's much harder since agents and publishers are very selective.

I'm going the traditional route right now. It can be very time consuming, but I decided to go that route for several reasons:

  • Editing - my work will be looked at by another set of eyes and catch things I miss. If you self-pub, you can hire an editor to do this for you, but it can cost a bit. A lot of self-pubbers (but not all) skip doing this to save $ and end up with typos & plot issues. 
  • Contract - if I want to end up selling internationally or get a movie deal, an agent is the best way. Personally, I don't want to figure out all the negotiations necessary.
  • Marketing - even doing a traditional publishing I'll be expected to do some marketing for my work - signings, book talks, etc. Self-pubbing means I would have to do ALL the marketing work - setting up all the signings and book talks as well as getting my book into bookstores.
  • Validation - I admit, this is a bit of a shallow reason. Especially since there are a lot of self-pubbers who are really good. Part of me wants to make sure my work is good enough to sell and I'm not just fooling myself.
There are a lot of self-pubbers who can give you lists of reasons why they did it the other way. At this point, there is no right or wrong way to go about publishing. It all depends on you, what you're comfortable doing and where you want to spend your time/energy.
Self-pubbers - chime in and let us know why you chose to do it on your own!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Make me Feel Something! Or - The Importance of Characterization

I just had the chance to finish reading The Hunger Games trilogy.  My husband loved the first two but, like so many others, wasn't thrilled with the third.  He insisted that I read them as well.

*Disclaimer - I am not a pop culture junkie.  I will, however, give things a chance.  Like Twilight.  I read the first book and realized I didn't want to waste anymore of my time reading the rest of the series.  Harry Potter, on the other hand, was the opposite, and I read the entire series.

With my disclaimer in mind, I finished Mockingjay, but didn't feel the same excitement everyone else seems to have for the books.  I was a little bit excited for the movie when my hubby told me Donald Sutherland was playing President Snow --- until I realized I was thinking of Donald Pleasance.  (Seriously, how perfect a casting choice would he have been?  Too bad this didn't come out 15 years ago.)

After much discussion with my husband, I realized why I wasn't as taken with the books.  Sure they had a lot of action, but the characterizations never felt real.  I never was concerned about Katniss, Peeta or Gale.  Here they are, supposedly starving and fighting for their lives, but there's never that urgency about their situations.

Katniss is quick to pull her bow on Peeta (twice, in fact) but just as quick to lower it when she deems he's not a threat.  There's no thought behind either action, she simply does it.  I don't know about you, but if my life were at stake, I wouldn't be making inconsistent decisions so quickly and accepting things at face value.

There were only two points in the entire series that caused me to cry/tear up.  The first was Rue's death.  This, to me, was one of the few moments when Katniss seemed human.  The other was when Buttercup mourned Prim's death.  That's right -- I didn't care that Prim had burned in a horrible death until the cat made me care.

There's more, but I'm interested in hear what everyone else has to say.  I know a lot of people will disagree, but I want to hear why you care about the characters.  If reading this series has taught me one thing about my own writing it's that people need to feel connected to the characters themselves, not only to the circumstance surrounding them.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Losing the Art of Communication

Finally got around to putting my blog all together and my first post is concerning something I witnessed online yesterday.

It started out innocent enough.  An online writer's forum discussing the events taking place in England and the sudden visible increase in perceived racism.  One writer was struck with inspiration and wrote out a quick poem:

                        Racist, never, no.
                           Not even to,
                       A fat Black Paki
                             Like you 

What followed next was an outpouring of other writers' outrage.  They demanded an explanation and apology.  He was accused of being racist and ignorant.

Another writer finally stepped up to give his interpretation of the poem, which was the same as mine.  It had been written as a satirical social commentary.  Unfortunately, when the author of the troublesome poem returned to the board, he felt obliged to take it down and offer an apology.

The thing that struck me most about the whole episode was the inability of so many to read past the words written and see the author's intent.  One of his fellow writers and attackers even admitted to not understanding poetry and preferred 'plain speak.'

If other writers are so quick to come to such a misunderstanding, what hope do we have of our readers not doing the same thing?  In this age of having everything spelled out for us, have words and phrases lost their nuances?  Do readers now have a 'what you see is what you get' mentality that we, as writers, now must be conscious of when we put pen to paper?  
As a reader, I hope notAs a writer, I dread it.