Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Forever Tweaker

Okay. So in reading agents' blogs, I started freaking out about word count again. Many genres have norms and you can't really go outside that box. Since my book will probably go upper-YA with all my teen MCs, my word count is way off, by 20,000 words at least. I did have 106,000 words, and then started paring it down, gunning for 97,000 or so.

However, when I did my final edit in the spring, I made sure things were worded a specific way to provide good rhythm and meter, to create a zingy voice and to secretly reinforce my themes with subliminal messages. And the over-pruning I did this week gave the narrative a choppy feel and stripped a lot of that out. I was almost at 101,000, only nine chapters in, but returned some needed lines or phrases to alleviate the stilted feel and to reclaim my voice. A strong voice is just as important as a solid plot, good pacing and well-developed characters. It's one of the key things agents look for in the first few pages. So I can't lose that.

Now I'm closer 102,000 again. I'm still tweaking to get my word count under 100,000 at least. Some darlings will have to be cut. I still have many more chapters to prune and maybe I can reach my hope of 97,000 words, but if I don't, I'm not going to fret. I'm just going to pass around the best story I can.

Now, my word count being out of the norm may mean an automatic rejection. But I'd rather have my work in good condition then to have a stick-figure effort that will get to go on shelves because--yippee--it fits in the typical box but is sub-par at best.

The complexity of my novel can't be streamlined into 80,000 words. It can't. My book doesn't snag or drag in spots. Everything affects the main plot and the MC's reaction to it.

Stephenie Meyer allowed Bella to repeat the same things over and over about a beautiful, sparkling vampire, beyond 118,000 words, and that passed by the conference table. I can only hope my word count doesn't doom my work, but trashing and slashing it to fit the norm would do it just the same.

Above all, you must have a good story. And I know I have that.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Guest Blogger: K.M. Weiland

Please welcome my guest blogger, K.M. Weiland, on her blog tour as she celebrates the release of her novel, Behold the Dawn.

About the Author: K.M. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She is the author of A Man Called Outlaw and the recently released Behold the Dawn.
She blogs at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors and AuthorCulture.

Synopsis: Marcus Annan, a tourneyer famed for his prowess on the battlefield, thought he could keep the secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him find justice for the transgressions of sixteen years ago, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade.

Wounded in battle and hunted by enemies on every side, he rescues an English noblewoman from an infidel prison camp and flees to Constantinople. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.

The sins of a bishop.
The vengeance of a monk.
The secrets of a knight.

Top 10 Lessons From a Completed Novel

Behold the Dawn, my second historical novel (this one set in during
the Third Crusade in the Middle Ages) was released earlier this month. As I catch my breath from all my happy dancing and sighs of relief, I’m able to look back at some of the lessons I’ve learned over the course of two published novels and share them with you:

1. Finishing is the single most important factor in writing anything. If you have any intention of succeeding in this writing game, you have to be prepared to apply plenty of bum glue. A novel that’s never finished will never be read by anyone.

2. Don’t skimp on the planning/researching stages. Recording ideas, charting outlines (however lightweight or in-depth), and researching in the early phases of writing saves so much work in the long run. This is a lesson I learned the hard way.

3. Messy first drafts are okay; that’s what revision is for. Don’t fuss too much over plot holes and sloppy writing in the first draft. You can always go back and fix mistakes later, once you have a completed draft under your belt.

4. The story needs to dictate the word count, not the word count the story. While you’re writing, let the story flow as organically as possible. Most stories have a way of finding their own perfect rhythm and length. You can work on trimming or padding the word count later.

5. Don’t worry if the story becomes something unexpected. Few stories end up looking like we think they will. They all have a way of evolving as we write them—and that’s almost always a good thing.

6. Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings. When it comes time to revise, be merciless. Look extra hard at your favorite scenes, characters, and lines; if any one of them is less than perfect, they’ll have to go, no matter how much you love them.

7. Objective beta readers are vital. Writers will never obtain complete objectivity about their work. It’s important to find two or three trusted, experienced readers who can go over your early drafts and point out your blind spots.

8. Let the novel sit for a while after completion. I find that I can never really see a completed project clearly unless I throw it into the back of the closet and ignore it for at least a couple months. Start work on a new project and forget all about the first one, until you’ve had time to gain some objective distance.

9. Don’t hoard your work. When we pour our heart and soul into a story, it’s often a bit difficult to hand it over to the judgment of strangers. But a book that is never read isn’t much better than a book that is never finished.

10. A completed novel is always a triumph. Every completed novel, no matter its intrinsic value, is a success. It doesn’t have to be published; it doesn’t have to garner a huge advance; it doesn’t have to sell a million copies. The very fact that you had the guts and the skill to finish a book is huge accomplishment in itself. Don’t forget to bask in that for a while, before moving on.

Thanks for the great post, Katie. Good luck on your tour.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

My Autumn Status

Let's see. Where am I when I'm not running or eating pumpkin pie? I am about 80% done with my novel, Sapphire Reign. I really need to be working faster and get it done. It doesn't help that I'm an edit-as-I-go kind of writer. Having my book finished by the end of the year is my goal.

I don't think I'll have time for Nano this year, even though it was so much fun last year. Although, I don't think I paid enough attention to my husband last November. All my characters in my Nano project ended up super horny. I didn't even realize it until I went back to reread it. Good luck to all those entering.

I am using Twitter more now, not a lot, but more than once a month heehee, because SO many agents are using it AND communicating with one another, so I want to be kinda-sorta likewise savvy. If you haven't already and don't mind being bored to tears, you can find me here:

I am now seeking representation. I've been sending out queries all summer, slowly, about 4-6 agents a month. I don't like just going by what genres they represent and zipping off queries. I like to get a feel for personality, to see if it's worth my time. So, reading blogs and Twitter pages to see if there's potential compatibility takes time. If an agent is not online, I don't disregard them entirely, but it makes me wonder about their connections, so I put them at the bottom of my list. Plus, I think it's really wonderful when agents reach out and take time out of their busy schedules to post articles to help writers do their best.

Another reason why I'm going slowly is because I don't want to get overwhelmed if I get several requests at once. [Please let that happen to me!!! Come on.] Doing mass submissions by the 50's or more is just not my style. I do need to pick up the pace I think, but I will still keep it under 12 a month. That's reasonable and doable.

I am also working on a collaborative blog, which will be launching in a couple of weeks, with writers who are at various stages in their writing careers. Be sure to look for my announcement on that. This blog with all the zany regular writers and guest bloggers should be a lot of fun.

And that's about it. What have you been up to?

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Passionate Writers Wanted: No Posers Allowed

Yesterday, I read a first chapter on a critique forum I belong to where a male character—position not given—gave a just-hired guidance counselor a tour at his new employ. The whole chapter was empty. The dialogue was stilted, the characters non-existent, the narrative completely absent of voice, tone, texture, description and pertinent action. Plus, it brimmed with dialogue tags. Obviously, this word-waster’s a beginner, but even worse than that, a poser…not just someone who wants to write and has no clue where to start or how to bring words to life…this is someone who’s writing without passion. Clearly.

When people are passionate about something, no matter what it is, there’s an undeniable spark you can see, a hint of potential and desire underneath the rubble, and you know, aha, a diamond in the rough...which ultimately leads to dedication, persistence and a stretch for success. But, no matter how hard you try to write fantastic prose, if you don’t have passion for what you’re doing and believe in your ability to tell the story, it’s going to show.

Not that my work is perfect. I’m still in bloom. I’m an unpublished newbie and have so much to learn, but, I need to write, be it short story, poem, flash, novel, doesn't matter. Writing is my dream revealer, my stress release, my thought organizer, my creative breath. I’m driven to put paper to pen and sharpen my knowledge by learning from others and reading books on craft so I can write well. In fact, reading books on technique is what kick-started me to write my first novel.

I love elements about my baby, but I’ve laid it to rest, at least for now. I poured so much emotion into it while writing it. I cried when I killed off my MC, Jenna’s best friend, steamed in fury during heated conflicts, trembled when Jenna was fending off the knife-wielding rapist who killed her BF, and reached for tissues again when she was reading a kiss-off note from her love interest even though I knew it was a practical joke being flipped into a marriage proposal.

As crazy as this emotional rollercoaster seems to you, that’s what passion is, being parked in the shoulder, searching high and low in your car for another crayon because your frantic writing is illegible on Dunkin Donuts napkins in that stupid light green. If you’re writing without experiencing the thrill and emotion of the work and not pouring everything into it, then you’re merely attempting to string words together that you only hope make some sort of sense and entertain.

Check out reviews on Amazon. With experienced, well-known authors, from Dean Koontz to James Patterson, readers can easily spot the difference between novels that were rushed to meet deadline and those birthed out of passion. Plots are weaker, characters are flatter, endings are messy or unsatisfying. Everything’s different and all the worse for the lesser effort. Those writers make big bucks for publishing houses and themselves, so they’re allowed to fudge every now-and-then and hand in something under the gun.

But don’t let that be you—except for raking in the money part of course. ;) No matter where you are or end up in life, or how many awards you win, never lose your soul's fire or consider something finished and great if it didn't stem from it.

You should always strive to add greater depth and make your work better, to hone your skill and find your true voice, to develop characters so rich and full that even you forget they’re not real and care what happens to them during the journey and after THE END. Discover and use your most hidden, ugly, lovely, horrible emotions. Write the best pieces you can, losing sweat, tears and sleep in the process. Because if you don’t, readers will see the shallowness in what you’ve written. They’ll know. Don’t be a poser: a sub-par, mediocre, commonplace wannabe. Be exceptional, a true writer, an author, rushing onward in your drive and love for the craft. Grow and learn and work harder. For personal use, write whatever you want, but for the masses, always write with passion. Always give your best effort. Never less.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Your MC Did What????

In Quincy, MA two patrons at a Mc'Donald's chucked coins and safety cones at three cashiers after receiving small fries instead of the large size they ordered. This isn't supposed to be a funny story but I laughed reading the whole article, which you can read here.

It's just such an extreme and INSANE reaction for such a small infraction, one where a simple, "Um, you gave me the wrong size fries," should fix the problem.
This misalignment makes a moment of rage comical.
What's even funnier is it was the second fast food altercation in the area within a four-day span. What is wrong with people though?! Seriously.

An important aspect for believablitity in fiction is stimulus and response. In order for your characters to be believable, you must provide appropriate stimuli and catalysts for story directions and the decisions and choices characters make. Keeping stimulus and response in mind, you can get your character to do anything you desire. You just need to brainstorm and come up with an appropriate stimulus.

In the movie Falling Down, Michael Douglas's character, Bill Foster, gets pushed over the edge after a hellacious morning where everything possible has gone wrong. He pulls a gun on a cashier at a fast food restaurant because they stopped serving breakfast. Such a small infraction again, but now we have a reason for the postal moment. Because the tension/stilumus was built up beforehand, it still looks as crazy as the Quincy nuts, but we can understand what made Bill snap. He's a believable and identifiable anti-hero and we follow along.

Make sure you provide the nudges your story needs to make sense and not be laughable.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sound of Music Surprise

Haha. This is so funny and cool. Just thought I'd share it.

More than 200 dancers performed their version of "Do Re Mi", in the Central Station of Antwerp. With just 2 rehearsals they created this amazing stunt! It was a promotion stunt for a Belgian television program, where they are looking for someone to play the leading role, in the musical of "The Sound of Music".

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.