Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I write erotica for three publishers. Though I've taken a foray into male/male romance, I've also written male/female works. I've yet to settle on a specific area but favor the paranormal. Fear and sex work well in tandem, I find. Recently, I've committed to several new projects which may have me bald by year's end. Shall we see if the pace drives me mad? Should be most entertaining.
Monday, June 29, 2009
For research homework tonight, my hubby and I watched a couple of episodes of a Brit TV series called MI-5 on Netflix. Matthew Mmmmmm Macfayden stars in the series. The first episode was flat. There was no emotional connection between the characters and me, the audience. The second episode was definitely better. Poor Matthew was forced to watch his female coworker tortured and killed. Yes, indeedy, he was put through the proverbial meat grinder. Don't make it easy on your characters is way more interesting to read/watch than no internal/external conflict. Everytime I sit to work on one of my scenes, I repeat to myself: Where's the conflict? Where's the conflict? Where's the conflict?.... No conflict? No point in including the scene.
My favorite part of watching movies with my hubby is predicting what is going to happen. We were watching another Brit series last week, The State Within. Very well acted. So well acted in fact, that when two of the male characters argued they were standing so close in each other's space that I yelled out, "They're going to kiss!" My hubby said, "Nah!" just as their lips met. HA! I laughed so hard. Sometimes I scare myself.
So how have movies influenced me? I study their conflicts and character developments.
Then I fantasize about seeing my stories acted out by my favorite actors. Can't wait to see Richard Armitage play my character, Ian Drayburn on the big screen. *Sigh*.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Essential Elements in my books are definitely not the normal essential elements like fire and water because books don't like those things.
Me: DUDE! SHUT UP.
SWX: I'm pontificating on essential elements and books.
Me: IN your book, Doorknob.
SWX: Oooooohhhh. *blink* *blink* (I get that from Bronwyn. She has the blinking thing down.)
Me: What do you have to have in your books.
SWX: Words. Paragraphs, usually with whole bunches of words.
Me: Totally pegged you for a picture book kind of person.
SWX: Yeah, I get that a lot.
Me: So these words are strung together and sometimes even make sense, I'm guessing.
SWX: Editors and publishers prefer that they do. Clearly that's not how my brain works.
SWX: BUT--Ms. Rudeness--I have to have the happy ending, romance, and apparently I like sex.
Me: *snort* Who doesn't?
SWX: Trust me, there are many. *grumble* Strong heroes (I'm being PC here and making that heroines in the whole "heroes" word there. And this took longer to explain than to just have typed the word in. sigh) who fight for what they believe and sometimes fight each other or themselves.
Me: Dude. You fight me all the time.
SWX: You're my hero.
Friday, June 26, 2009
1. Your book must have conflict, both personal and external. Reading about the perfect characters in the perfect life doesn’t fly with children and it doesn’t fly with adults. Shake things up. Be mean. Perfect can come at the end of the book.
2. Your book must have believable twists, turns and resolution. Look, if I’d never read the Lord of the Rings, the last movie in the trilogy would have ticked me off. Where did the freaking eagles come from? Seriously, deus ex machina doesn’t work well in popular fiction and should be avoided.
3. Piggybacking on the last point, you are writing about ‘real people’. Actions should be well thought out. Would real people, mature adults, act this way? Would they make this decision? Yes, sometimes people make choices that are out of the ordinary, but they need to be set up as that kind of a character and/or we need to see what motivates them to do this odd thing.
4. I look for engaging and necessary dialogue.
5. A books should have motivated characters who drive the action of the book rather than waiting for the story to happen to them.
6. And in the romance industry: A happy ending, please.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Happily Ever After. Yeah, I know. I write romance, it’s kind of a necessity. But seriously, if I wanted to write Women’s Fiction, I’d do it. I want to know that when I say goodbye to these characters, they’ll go on together, happily in love.
Emotional Baggage. Not entire monogrammed sets, but enough to make the struggle to find their HEA satisfying and worthwhile. I don’t believe anyone gets out of this life unscathed, so why should our characters? It’s the overcoming of these obstacles that’s important in real life and in the fictional lives of characters. I don’t want to read about a character whose worst problem is that the store was out of her favourite conditioner and the coffee shop made her latte wrong – and I sure don’t want to write about her.
Personality/Character Flaws. Everybody’s got them. I bet you can name several within yourself and everyone you know – that’s just the way life is. Perfect = Boring. Perfect = Unrealistic. Perfect = Characters I Hate.
Conflict. Without it, the story is stagnant and pointless to read. I want to know what’s drawing these people together, but more importantly, I want to know what’s keeping them apart. What’s threatening their HEA?
Hot Sex. What can I say? I like hot sex.
My necessity list for writing is a little simpler. As long as I have a vat of iced tea, chapstick, music, pretty pictures and no one pestering me to make supper or wash underwear, I’m good.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
My books must have good sentence structure. A viable plot. Believable characters. Original ideas. Accurate punctuation. An ISBN number.
All right, all right, I'm being a smart ass. But honestly, I don't have very many requirements for my books. Beyond the story having a beginning, a middle, and a happy ending there isn't a whole lot to me that is essential.
I like to write about vampires, but I don't always. I like to write about gay men, but I don't always. I like to make my characters fight with each other, but I don't always.
We are writers and our books go where the character (or muse) leads them. I can't say for sure that I require a certain thing to occur in every book because I'm sure there are one or two of my books out there that it doesn't happen in.
So I will say this. The only thing that is essential for my books, stories, poems whatever is that I like them. But then again, I don't always do that either.
Monday, June 22, 2009
2. Chocolate - That's actually for me, not for the book.
3. Pushing my hero beyond his personal edge - Knowing my hero's personal vulnerabilities and putting him into a conflict or situation that will force him to face his vulnerabilities. (This one I learned from reading Suzanne Brockmann's books and her website, and I am working to achieve it in my own stories.)
In Suzanne's own words,
I believe that in order to create truly wonderful, compelling romantic heroes, I have to set up a situation in which that character will really suffer. In fact, the question I ask myself as I’m doing my preliminary sketching of my characters and the story is "How can I make my hero suffer the most?"
You think I’m kidding, but I’m not!
As I sat there thinking about my potential Navy SEAL trilogy, I thought to myself, "What would be the three most difficult things for a SEAL to deal with?" Here's what I came up with:
Number One: Being forced to be passive. To act as a target or bait. And that’s exactly how I tormented my hero in PRINCE JOE, in which commanding officer Lt. Joe Catalanotto is forced to take on the persona of a visiting European prince who’s being targeted for assassination by terrorists. Joe has to rely on FInCOM agents to protect him. He’s supposed to stand around with a big target on his forehead and duck and run for cover if any danger pops up. I figured this ought to provide a great deal of misery for a man who’s used to running toward danger!
Number Two: Separate the SEAL from his team. In FOREVER BLUE, Alpha Squad’s executive officer, Lt. Blue McCoy goes home to South Carolina for his step-brother’s wedding to his own former high school sweetheart. While there, he finds himself framed for that very same step-brother’s murder. And when he tries to call Joe and the rest of Alpha Squad for help, he finds that the team’s out of the country on a training op. Blue is completely on his own. (And he’s forced to accept the help of a woman, to boot!)
Number three: Injure the SEAL and make it impossible for him to remain on active duty. I did this in FRISCO’S KID, one of my favorite TDD books. Alan "Frisco" Francisco's entire identity comes from his status as a US Navy SEAL. In his eyes, if he's not a SEAL, he's a failure, and just a few steps away from following his alcoholic father's footsteps to complete worthlessness. After a terrible knee injury, he can barely even walk, let alone do the physical kinds of activities a SEAL needs to be able to do. He's lucky he didn't lose his leg, and he'll never be an active-duty SEAL again. As you can imagine, this situation was quite a challenge for Frisco, who at first didn’t believe that his injury was permanent. Talk about suffering!
So there they were. My first three story ideas for this miniseries.
PS Do yourself a favor and read a Brockmann today!
Saturday, June 20, 2009
The longwinded explanation and don't bother with Cliff notes because you can't make up my kind of crazy.
Oooooookay, I began writing in middle school. I moved a lot as a kid and writing was the one consistent location and set of friends I could take with me. I once wrote this AMAZINGLY lame story about this highschool girl whose friend's family was foreign diplomats. Then these reeeeaaaaallly stupid arms dealers took over their house and were holding them for ransom. So the highschool girl who was calling her best friend to chat starts using other languages to figure out what's going on and why the diplomat kid was being uber cryptic and somehow the heroine picked just the right language of like twenty she knew and the bad guys didn't. But then I decided the diplomat kid had more cool options and she seduced the guard bad guy by giving him a blow job and he passed out from the awesomeness of her virginal talents.
I hid that one from my parents. Heh.
And at the time I had not yet seen an erect penis nor knew what to do with one so let's just say the story wasn't completely accurate. I'm fairly positive that it's impossible to make a penile knot with your tongue like you would a cocktail cherry. ~oh geez. cocktail. cherry. that was bad even for me.
So then I kept a journal for a while and made up CRAZY stories about the boys I had crushes on (sorry Doug, Thomas, Eric, John, David, Micah, Jeronimo, Matias, Juan, Jerome, and Jared) and wrote exactly how hard I wanted to do them. Still a virgin. Yup. I think I may have been twisted.
Anyway, that journal was stolen by a guy who worked for us and all the juicy pages were ripped out and never found. But he told me once that he had dreamed about kissing me all the time (I was 13) and it completely creeped me out and Dad fired him and that's when we discovered the missing notebook. And pictures of me. And individually wrapped kotex he had stolen from my bathroom -- Daaaaang. I never put all those things together into a cohesive, ohmygoshthat'sfuckinginsane picture. I swear though. I totally could have taken his skinny ass.
I quit keeping a journal.
I didn't write again until I got married and had two kids. Then Dorchester sat on my manuscript for two years until I gave it to Ellora's Cave who bought that one a month later and two others my crit partners begged me to write. Then EC dumped me and I was picked up immediately at another house. Since then, I'm all over the map with submissions. I have an agent and several genres and three publishing houses and it looks like a print pub is about to pick up one of my titles too. Which is awesome but also kind of not. And somewhere in that span of two years I put out thirteen titles plus others that haven't seen the light of publishing day.
But! My first book? My baby book that was my "let's learn how to write book"? Yeah, that one has been out for a year now and is now available in print.
Oh. And, no. I don't write like I write on this blog because I'd never get published and my editors would have purple conjoined cows and acid dripping words if I tried it. So far that I know, only one person has figured me out on their own. Nice goin' Molly. Shhhh.
Friday, June 19, 2009
In college, I decided I wanted to teach preschool, so I worked at the university preschool while taking classes. After two years of that, I changed my major. Theatre. I’d loved it in high school and college was a blast, too. I worked in the costume shop doing sewing and makeup. I still loved it but it was stressful and I knew that the theatre wasn’t what I wanted for a permanent career.
The one thing that remained constant was that I always wrote – mostly poetry (really wangsty stuff in high school) and short stories. Whether I was finger painting with the preschoolers or sewing Elizabethan period clothing in the theatre, I wrote. I ended up graduating with a degree in English and I finally knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a writer.
Over the next few years, I wrote, but somewhere along the line, I lost my nerve. I made excuses for myself and my writing sessions became fewer and fewer. It wasn’t that I didn’t have encouragement – my husband always encouraged me and so did my friends. But it wasn’t until I reconnected with a friend from high school (while making a bridesmaid dress for her– this may sound familiar if you read Brynn’s post yesterday) that I finally figured out what I wanted to write and had the motivation to write again.
We wrote, we critiqued. I discovered that stories without conflict are painfully boring and that POV should stay put and not bounce all over the page. Over the course of several years (1998-2001, I think), I entered some contests, got good feedback and brutally honest feedback and kept writing.
I submitted to Harlequin and was asked for revisions which I happily did. The editor who asked for revisions left and her replacement asked for more revisions...which I did. She left. Her replacement asked for yet one more round of revisions...which I did. Then the story was rejected by the head of the line – I did this from 2001-2004. Why, yes...I am a slow learner.
I had another story that was requested by another publishing house – over the course of two years, this editor lost my submission three separate times. Yeah, still had that whole slow learner thing going on. I finally gave up on that one. I suspect the original copy is holding up the corner of his desk and the other two copies have been made into elaborate origami animals that decorate his office.
Finally, in July of 2006, I decided to try e-publishing and I submitted a story to Ellora’s Cave. In October, I got a request for a full, a week later on the day before Halloween, I had a contract offer for Overlord’s Vessel. It was published March 30th, 2007. That story that I wrote and rewrote for Harlequin? Sold that a week later to Cerridwen Press.
I’ve had a few mishaps along the way to being published, but honestly, I really wouldn’t change anything. Good or bad, I’ve learned from all of them. More than that I’ve learned from my awesome writer friends and editors – I’ve had fantastic company on this journey, and I wouldn’t change that either.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
This is a long story, but trust me, it has a happy ending.
My path is long and winding. I started writing books when I was in high school. At the time it was just a game, something to do and entertain my friends. I let it fall mostly to the wayside as I got into college and was caught up with work and boys and other things, like, oh yeah, school. At the time, I didn’t think I’d be a writer when I was all grown up. I was going to be a doctor. A pediatrician. Chemistry deep sixed that notion. I’m great at science, but chemistry. The math part kills me. So I took everything I learned on that path and moved on to something else. Theater/Communications. I was a great big theater geek. I learned a lot there about timing and drama and ad lib and thinking on my feet. I also learned I can’t sew after the costume shop mistress insisted anyone could hem this dress she assigned me to and I broke the machine. I’m just that good.
About that time, I started reading Romeo and Juliet for the first time. I actually managed to miss it in high school and read it on my own later. And I was in love. Not so much with Shakespeare, but with English and History and telling stories. I was twenty-one and I started writing this story that was fit for Harlequin—at least I thought it was. I wrote and I outlined and I amused myself. The heroine’s name was Brynn. No I wasn’t writing about myself. I just claimed that as my pen name later. She was my first grown up heroine, my first grown up love story. The book was called Walk Away.
I never tried to submit that book anywhere. I knew that first books were rarely purchased and that was my training book. I moved on. About then my love of medieval history kicked in and I wrote a sprawling medieval story for years. Okay, no I didn’t. I rewrote the beginning of that story a bazillion times. That’s one of the big pitfalls of writers. The never ending circle of rewriting. And I did. Over and over and over. I learned a lot about my craft while I wrote. I learned a lot more about the middle ages because I’m a research junky.
Something else was happening during this time. I reconnected with a friend from high school who became my post high school best friend, thanks to a wedding we will forever call the Precious Moments wedding. I was in it and ill-fated to wear a dress made of shower curtain material. Pretty on the outside but hot as hell on the inside. She was making the dresses—well you knew it wasn’t me. I can’t sew.
The two of us had one thing we found in common (though we’ve found a ton more since). Writing. And we started to get together and critique each others writing on a regular basis. We were going to get published. We were!!! Little did we know how long it would take. There were myriad stories for me but I kept coming back to the medieval story. Reworking, getting a little further. Reworking. I never finished any of them. It seemed my early stories were a fluke. I would never finish a book again.
It was a game. A sometime it will happen sort of thing. Something to do when I wanted to play at being a writer.
Then in 1998, I decided to enter a contest. The Molly contest. Guess what book I sent. The medieval book. They didn’t have great things to say. I had one judge who ripped it apart so thoroughly it’s amazing that I continued to write. Apparently everything I did in the book was WRONG!!! The other two judges were much nicer. One in particular said something that kept me from chucking it all. “You are a true story teller. This is a good start. Keep going.”
Okay, maybe she was just saying that. Maybe she needed something encouraging to say and decided on that. Maybe it was true. I decided it was and I kept going.
Several things were now happening. I kept entering contests and I did better and better. I wasn’t a contest queen by any stretch, but my confidence was growing. I finaled in the Mountain Laurel contest. That’s when I knew I’d make it. I didn’t doubt it. I had the determination to actually make it to that elusive place. Publication. Along with this, I was actually making true progress on that medieval. I finished it!!! And another story! And another! And I was writing hotter and hotter and hotter. I didn’t realize where I was headed with that.
In 2002, I started writing a special forces series. It was this book, my sixth completed ‘grown up’ romance that I started submitting. And waiting and waiting and waiting. It go rejected. A lot. I’d fix. And get rejected. I started ponying around another story too with similar results. This beat me down for a while, but I was on a mission. I was going to get published. I had stories to tell. I was not quitting.
In September of 2005, I quit my job. I wouldn’t exactly recommend that but there were a lot of factors playing into that. I kept writing and coping with the things that were going on.
In September of 2006, I wrote my first short story. I submitted it to True Story to see what would happen. In mid-January 2007, I heard about a quickie series Ellora’s Cave was planning. Naughty Nuptials. By now I knew I wrote HOT and I knew I was headed for erotic romance. I had pulled the stops out of the last few stories. I submitted the story just under the deadline of January 31. The week before that True Story had purchased the short story I’d sent them. It was my first big sale.
On February 8, Ellora’s Cave bought my Naughty Nuptial, Wedding Jitters. Just that fast. All those years and they picked it up in 8 days. I adopted the pen name Brynn Paulin and the rest as they say is history. Only there are a few post notes. You know that first story, the one with the heroine Brynn. I just sold it. The much changed version will be out in 2010. The heroine has a new name. And that special forces book… Also out in 2010. And that medieval? I’m rewriting it. For the last time.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Anyway, I've always written. And as long as I can remember I've written about vampires. Not just the blood sucking kind either. I wrote a story once in 7th grade about an emotional vampire that I didn't even realize was a vamp story until years later.
I studied the writers market guides, subbed to agents and publishers, magazines and journals. But rejection always waited around all of those corners. There was a learning process along the way of course. My writing got better, my plots tightend, my vocabulary increased. All of these things were markers on the road I took.
One day I picked up an Alison Tyler anthology and read a story by Sommer Marsden. These two women deserve a lot of credit. Not just for being AMAZING women. But they turned me on to a genre I didn't even realize existed. I just knew that this was what I was meant to do. I wanted to be like these women. Smart, funny, sexy and amazing. And they both write that way too.
So it began. I started writing Sweet Dreams. I started a blog. I got a few followers, using humor to keep them interested in me until I finished my book. When Sweet Dreams was finally finished I found a publisher that I liked the look of and sent off my baby.
Imagine my shock and amazement when my fantastic editor emailed me to offer me a contract for it. Sure, it needed work. It was my first novel in years. I was rusty and new to the professional ways of writing. But she liked the story and saw potential in me.
10 books later she still sees potential in me. And so do a few other publishers. As a writer, a published writer, I am WELL aware that I will always be a work in progress. Me. Not just my books. Writers learn from everything. Our eyes and ears are always open. Our minds always spinning.
Remember this so you won't be discouraged later. There is not ONE SINGLE AUTHOR IN THE WORLD who can write a book and send it to the printer perfect. That is not to say there are not authors who are so famous that the house they write for doesn't edit as they should. There are tons of books out there that have gone to print with mistakes because the author has gotten so big for his/her britches they think they don't need an editor. Trust me, I don't care who you are. You need an editor.
I know of editors who write books. Guess what. They have editors for their books. Yup. Even people who edit for a living still need a calm eye to look at their work. We all make mistakes. It's what makes us human. It's okay and it's to be expected.
What was my point? I don't remember. I know that I told you how I got published. Then I finished a book by a woman too big for her britches and now I'm on a tangent about editors again. Sigh.
I love my editors. Can you tell yet? I'm a lucky, lucky girl to have been chosen for publication AND be blessed with some of the most talented editor friends in the world.
Off her rocker AGAIN
Monday, June 15, 2009
Along the way I've met obstacles like the Scary Lion, who tried to block my path. But I found out he wasn't actually so scary as long as I fed him regularly with time at my computer. Then I met the Brainless Scarecrow, who recommended all these great books and internet resources to help me navigate my way down the path. You know, he's really not as dumb as he thinks he is. Then I met the Man of Metal. Oooooo, baby! Who doesn't like meeting a hunk of man like that?!? He thought he didn't have a heart, but he showed me his tender side on more than one occasion.
So here I am still making my way down the road to the grand publishing house on the hill. There have been other obstacles along the way, too. Like the flying monkeys (strangely named Andrew, Matthew, and Simon) who try to pull me off the path and keep me from my pursuit, but I always manage to tame them so I can continue on my journey.
The Wicked Witch, you ask? She's around sometimes, too. She likes to stick her nasty head out when those rejection letters from agents come via email. She whispers in my ear that my story isn't interesting, and no one will ever want to see it published. I've found a bucket of water and a chocolate bar are my best defenses against her. The water I throw on her, the chocolate bar is for me.
So this is what my path to publication looks like. Kind of reminds me of a movie I once saw.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
SWX who is the queen of learning stuff without actually learning stuff and then passing it on like gems in a gold rush... with mixed metaphors
Since I seem to be something of a comedic relief, heh, I thought I'd do this post in typical SWXy fashion. I'll pick my own brain. If you find jewels GREAT! If you don't, GREAT! I claim no secret to professional brilliance, especially following the talented minds who have gone before me this week. Pretend you're gardening, except PLEASE keep your spades and picks away from my actual head because, ouch, that would hurt.
And brains don't do well with rusty implements and dirt.
Me: Dude, SWX, that's a huge disclaimer up there.
SWX: I take no responsibility for what people will or will not learn.
Me: But what if you actually say something, like, valid.
SWX: If it strikes them as valid, they should use it. If it doesn't, there's a reason.
Me: Totally Zen of you, man.
SWX: *effecting a regal nod* I try.
Me: So we're gonna sit here and banter without actual content?
SWX: How is that different than usual?
Me: Wull, I dunno. Just seems you outta address the subject of like writerly things and shit.
SWX: Fine. What do you want to know?
Me: DUDE! The subject... like new writer advice, man.
SWX: Write. Write often. Write what you love. Then when you get edits back, beat the shit out of it as directed by The Scary Editor Person.
Me: Why beat it? If you love it don't you want to protect it?
SWX: There is a pivotal thing I learned which gradually came to me but is possibly the most true thing I can say. Your editor is just as invested in the work as you are. She wants you to look good because it makes her look good too.
Me: But she's The Scary-assed Editor Person!!! They brutalize work.
SWX: They clean your work. Every word, every sentence is touched by them. So when that book comes out and they barely have an acknowledgement that such and such was edited by so and so on page two beneath the copyright information and your name is on the front cover of the book in huge letters, remember to thank her.
SWX: Yeah. HOURS. DAYS they spend on your little masterpiece of less than perfect shit until your shit glows and sparkles, like you ate a jar of glitter and perfume. Even clean manuscripts require a pooh-polish.
SWX: Yeah. *nodding* I know. Amazing, isn't it?
Me: You skipped Zen for Freud.
Me: You're totally in the anal stage of self-awareness with all the pooh talk.
SWX: Hmm. It does seem as though I've reverted.
SWX: Should work on that, huh?
SWX: Thank you, Editor Me.
Friday, June 12, 2009
1. Check the ego at the door. If your critique group loves you, and/or you’ve won contests, you’re not ‘IT’. If you have one book out, you’re not ‘IT’. If you have twenty books out, you’re still not ‘IT’. You can give your editor, readers and other writers attitude when you’re Nora Roberts. Until then, a little humility will take you far.
2. Follow the rules when submitting books. Tell about yourself—but only that which is pertinent to the book or your publishing career. Tell about the book. Read the publisher’s guidelines and FOLLOW THEM. Read the books put out by the publisher so you know what sort of books they take. These is some of the most important things for getting your foot in the door.
3. Find your voice. This is one of the most difficult things to do as a writer, but it’s the difference between invigorating and stale writing. Don’t focus so much on perfection that you’re writing is flawless yet lifeless. Your voice can only be found through lots and lots of writing. Do it. I find that writing exercises are great for this because there’s no pressure and you can write whatever you want. The more you do them, the more you’ll find a particular voice coming through. That, dear newbie, is your voice.
4. Bone up on grammar so that it becomes second nature. Remember what I just said about focusing on perfection? You still need to get the words right. If they’re second nature to you, you can write them with your voice coming through. I know this doesn’t make sense. Um…it’s like doing stunts on a bike. If the rider was still learning the mechanics, he wouldn’t be able to do the brilliant. Learn the mechanics so you can shine.
5. Remember that the internet is forever, and be careful what you say and what you do out there on the big world wide web. The world isn’t big enough or wide enough to hide bad behaviour. We all do stupid things, it’s part of being human, but we can limit that by watching our mouths/fingers.
And that's my advice. Like I said, please go back and read what the other bloggers have said on this topic over the course of the week. We all hope we've helped, and that these tips help to propel you from newbie to professional. Keep writing and we'll see you in print soon!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
1.) Don’t overextend yourself. I can hear those of you who know me laughing...and pointing at me. Signing on to do several anthology stories all at once sounds like a great idea when you’re signing contracts, but when they’re all hanging over your head at once, it’s daunting...and overwhelming. On a good day, I can barely handle being whelmed...but on a bad day full of deadlines, family craziness and day job insanity, I’m the freak of the week and completely overwhelmed by them.
2.) When you get your edits, look them over and give your editor an idea of when you’ll have them back to her—then stick to it. Don’t sit on edits that will only take a couple of hours to do. Your novel is not the only one your editor is juggling. At any given time, editors have multiple novels in various stages of completion. By sitting on edits you keep them waiting and throw them farther behind schedule than they likely already are.
3.) No matter how hard it is, and no matter how obtuse they are, get your family and friends to understand that writing is a job. It’s a job that requires hard work, practice and respectfulness of the time you spend doing it. You wouldn’t call your friend while she’s at work and ask her to leave work in the middle of the workday and run a pile of errands for you – so she shouldn’t expect you to do it for her. You wouldn’t call your significant other and ramble incessantly at him/her while s/he’s in a meeting, so s/he shouldn’t expect you to stop in the middle of your work session unless it’s a dire emergency.
4.) Conversely, don’t spend so much time with your head up your book’s butt that you miss out on time with your family and friends. Yes, the work we do is important and necessary to our mental health, but so is spending time with the people we love. I don’t want to wake up one morning and realize that I’ve missed important parts of my kids’ lives because I was too busy with the people in my head.
Like I said, it’s a short list, but remember – you’ve got one of the best, most fantastically frustrating, boundlessly joyful jobs in the world. Revel in it.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
1 - Sit down and write - Sounds simple huh? I'm a writer, of COURSE I write. Duh. Uh-huh. Well, as mid-level girl I can tell you, this is the hardest part of being a writer. Even when the idea is there, when the book is fully formed and your characters are patiently waiting for you to start typing...well, actually doing it is not easy. I have been one scene away from finishing a book for almost two weeks now. ONE SCENE. Really. I even know how the scene is going to go. But I have yet to sit and bang it out. Why? Well, I don't know really. I've been busy I guess.
2. Practice your excuses - You'll need to work hard to make them believable. When your friends ask why they haven't gotten your new pages to look over you can't just say that your dog ate them. (Unless he really did, in which case that excuse is perfectly acceptable.) It is best if the excuse is true. Lying is never a good thing to do to a friend. For me, I have decided to have a big ol' fancy wedding in under six months. So I have a great excuse for not getting anything done. I don't know if this will fly with my publisher, but I'm hoping for some leeway if I don't get that last scene done this week.
3. Keep paper on you at all times. And a PEN! - I cannot stress the importance of having a pen and paper at the ready. I have been to many, many gatherings of authors and there has not been a pen among us. No, really. It's amazing. We all know better. We all say "Of course I have a pen." And yet, after frantic rummaging in the bottoms of purses we come up empty and have to flag down a waiter to use his. And he hovers because he knows that we needed one so badly it might end up stolen if he lets it out of his sight.
Ideas come at all times of the day and night. And the best ones could be lost if you cannot find something to scribble it down. Short of using your own blood on a table cloths, (and I would not condemn a single author if they were to do this...well, maybe if they did it on MY table cloth. But then again, maybe not.) you will be screwed if you do not have something with you at all times to record your brain flashes.
4. Spend time with other authors - My best ideas have come while hanging out with my friends. And I am not even counting the actual brainstorming sessions that can be had in a group of writers. I mean things like, browsing around a scrapbook store and coming up with an idea for an entire series of books. I mean talking with a friend about Buffy and finding the closing scene of a story (that has nothing to do with Buffy.)
Being around creativity sparks it in yourself. Even when you do not think you are doing something creative, in your subconscious you know you are surrounded by greatness and your muse opens up to it. I cannot express the love that I have for my writer friends and the gifts they don't even know they have given me. Mwah! But the friend post was last week.
5. Edit, edit, edit - DO NOT EVER send your manuscript off the second you type "The End." (Also, DO NOT type "The End." If you do, erase it before sending it.) Read it. Re-read it. Print it out and read it again. Make an objective person (not your mom unless she will really tell you where you've screwed up. In fact, maybe your mom is the BEST person to read it.) read it for you. Make sure this is the best possible thing you could possibly show to an editor.
6. Research - After #5, read submission guidelines like you used to read the Sunday Ads. Pay close, CLOSE attention to what the editor/publisher is looking for. Make sure the publisher takes your genre. Make sure the editor wants it in 12pt Arial font. Maybe the editor prefers 24pt Comic Sans. If she opens the file and sees your small type, well it doesn't matter if you've written the best thing since Gone with the Wind. She won't know, and she won't care.
7. NEVER TRASH AN EDITOR OR A PUBLISHER - Now, this should be obvious. But it is not. People do it. And it is career suicide. I have talked about this extensively and if you don't know my rules about this by now then I will never get it through your head. If the editor doesn't like your work, move on. Do not whine, cry and bitch about it (or her) in your blog. Guess what, editors read blogs. And if the editor who upset you doesn't read it, one of her friends/writers/associates will and she will find out. And everyone else will know that you are not someone that anyone should work with because you suck. So there. Done now.
8. Read Contracts - Please, for the love of all that matters, read your freakin' contract. Do not be so blinded with excitement that someone wants your book that you blindly sign away both kidneys and your first born to fly-by-night publishers.com. Yes it is exciting. Yes their books are on the shelves in bookstores. This does not mean they are a good publisher and it does not mean that they have fair contracts. You do not have to sign away your rights to anything. If the publisher likes your work, but you can't live with their terms, it's okay to walk away. No, really, it is. Because if they liked it so will someone else. Someone who will treat you the way you deserve to be treated. To pay you the way you deserve to be paid.
I have been VERY fortunate with my publishers. But I have friends who were not that lucky. I am begging you to be careful with your work and your career. You worked too damn hard to get to this point only to throw it all away.
9. Have fun - If you're not having fun then you're not doing it right. This life is HARD. It is stressful, it is frustrating, and it can be painful. If you are not a masochist, if you don't love the struggle and the tears and the heartache, then this is not the business for you. You should love what you do no matter how hard it is to do it. It's not always easy to stick to something difficult, you have to want it to make it worth the struggle.
I love being a writer. No matter how many 'day jobs' I have had, or will have, I will always consider myself a writer. Even when I don't do it regularly. Even when files sit on the computer one scene away from completion for weeks at a time, I am a writer. And I love my job.
I hope you were able to get something out of all of that. If only to think that I am full of myself and spout off at the mouth in non-coherent ways. Which I do. Especially since I wrote this in stages I don't even know if I stuck to the original topic. But it's more fun when I'm scattered so I'll just leave it and wish you all a good day.
I said good day.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
That’s mostly due to a flare up of an ongoing medical condition. But when I started thinking about how to sign off on my last post for this blog, I started looking at it from a different perspective.
A quote came to mind - Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. (Albert Einstein)
When any writer starts out, they need to try to figure out what methods of writing, editing and a whole host of other related activities, work best for them.
I don’t know of any writer who got it all right first time. I certainly didn’t. But the more I think about that, the more okay with it I am. As a writer I’m still very much a work in progress. I’m still working out what works for me.
In some ways I feel as if I’ve made a lot of progress in the last year.
I sent my first submission to Total-e-bound on June 14th last year. In the twelve months since then, I’ve contracted seventeen titles. I’d be lying if I said that was part of some big master plan. It just sort of happened – and I’m very grateful that it did. And now that it has happened, it’s taught me a lot about what to aim for in the future – not a replication of the last year, but a tweaked version.
I’ve also been lucky enough to work with a great editor (Christine who posts every other Friday on this blog) and I’ve learnt a lot through working with her. I’d like to think my writing has improved as a result.
And then, there are some other ways in which I feel as if I’ve screwed up a lot too.
I’ve always loved writing, and I still do. I love coming up with story ideas. I love putting them to paper (or computer screen as the case may be). I’ve even grown to love editing stories and polishing them into something that’s as good as I can make it.
But at some point over the last year, I’ve let other things take over. I have a list of stories I want to work on – but I’ve let myself fall into the trap of treating it like a to do list – something I need to get through as quickly as I can.
I like to write quick – I like the momentum of working that way. But I also like to enjoy writing without feeling as if there is a ticking clock right behind me telling me that I should have finished this one and started the next three by now.
And that clock is all my doing, no one else has pushed me to write fast. It’s all my own fault.
I’ve also realised that it’s hard to enjoy writing as much as I could when I’m as persistently knackered as I am at the moment. I don’t have the energy to enjoy anything very much. If I want to really enjoy my writing, I need to cut down on other things.
I've known all this for quite a while, but took the insane route for a little while. I pretended that somehow all I had to do was keep going and I would feel better in both body and mind. Guess what? It didn't work. And even I can only ignore the obvious for so long.
So I’m going to use this necessary step down to take a proper look at what I’m doing – to look at what’s working for me and what’s not. I’m going to aim for a little less insanity in my life and a little more enjoyment of the journey. I'd encourage new writers to do the same.
On Thursday I’ll also be stepping down for the Oh, Get a Grip blog that I had been contributing to every week. But I’ll still be keeping my own blog ticking over. So you can find me there if you want to see what happens next for me.
Take care all. It’s been fun :)
Kink, love and a happy ending. Do you Dare?
Monday, June 8, 2009
Advice to New Writer:
1. Read - Yeah, I know that's an easy one, but it is truly my best advice. So much of what I have learned in the past two years has come from books about the craft of writing, the business of writing and reading what others have written in the genres I'm studying.
2. Write - Everyday. Not that I accomplish this, but it's still a really important goal to strive for. If I don't write everyday, I try at least to think about my story everyday. Preferably the next scene that I will be working on. A lot of my writing prep is mental. If I run through the scene in my head before I sit at the computer, then my writing is much less forced. And learning to write well can only be achieved by practice. The more I write, the better I write.
3. Find other writers to support you - No one understands this crazy business about writing like another writer. The friends I have met who write are incredible. I've been blessed to find women who are 100% supportive without of shred of competition. I never would have imagined other authors would be so willing to help a newbie learn the ropes. I'm sure there are a few nasty, competitive authors out there somewhere, but I've been lucky to find wonderful, helpful, supportive authors.
4. Stick with it - Some days I wonder why I've started down this arduous path towards publication. Putting myself out there to be rejected, repeatedly. Sitting for hours alone (ha! not with 3 boys at home) in front of my computer. Stretching my brain to tell a good story. But I can't give it up. I've found more joy in writing stories and sharing them with friends, than in anything else I've ever done before. I love to challenge myself, and struggling to be a good writer is the ultimate self-challenge.
5. Everything else I forgot to mention that the brilliant writers of Writer's Evo will tell you in the next few days.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
They're the air I breathe and the sky above,
the ground under foot and surround me with love.
They laugh when I laugh.
They pull me up high.
They lift me and carry me and help me to cry.
They're the urve in my lurve
and they help me to swerve
when life puts up roadblocks
and throws me a curve.
They're my strength and my weakness,
they might keep their silence but never will think less.
They hug in my sorrow
They hug in my joy
They cheer when I buy a computer-y toy.
They're the ope in my hope
and the words to help cope
and, when crap all goes crazy,
tie a knot in my rope.
(switching gears now, hang on Shakespeare)
But this is turning sappy
and I hate sappy crappy.
So bear with me sister as I throw on a nappy.
I celebrate friends who all give a damn.
Who make me sit down and write (what rhymes with damn?)
With encouragement true and covered in shiny
I pick up my 'puter and sit on my hiney.
I tip and I tap and put this shit down (no, not literal shit please)
and sometimes I ponder while scratching my crown.
But words flow much better with friends in my coup
'cause sometimes my brain is like alphabet soup (no, seriously folks).
Without "yay you"s and whooping "hurrah"s
I'd be in my room...(er)... counting my bras (? shut up)
So here's my sparkler and it's all full of win
for lovely dear friends like BronwynDakota,Andrea,Kim,Michele,Chris,andBrynn (whew)~!
Fighting crime against friends,
Friday, June 5, 2009
I have friends who are editors, writers, social workers, nurses, teachers and teacher’s aides, but they all have one thing in common – the love of the written word. All of these people love to lose themselves in a good story. In fact, when I think of the defining moments of connection in the beginning of these relationships, it all comes down to books – books we bonded over.
In high school, a dear friend introduced me to the book On a Pale Horse and I was hooked on that series for a long time – and hooked on her too. She’s still one of my best friends to this day and we still recommend books to each other.
Another friend and I bonded in college over The Mists of Avalon. Yeah, okay, a lot of people bonded over that book, but we’ve been friends since we were juniors in college and we’ll always share a great love of fantasy and YA fiction.
Another long time friend shared my love of romance and we’ve spent years and years bonding over stories. She introduced me to Suzanne Brockmann’s books and I’ve been eternally grateful ever since. In fact, I can’t read one of Suz’s books without thinking of this particular friend.
Another friend introduced me to Neil Gaiman’s books. Frankly, it’s a wonder we even became friends. We met when I was nine months pregnant and so very bitter about it. I was a miserable bitch, but apparently I amused her, and our friendship developed, as did my love of Neil.
I have friends that I only see a few times a year and those that I’ve never met face to face. Friends in different states and even different countries – brought together by books we love. I love that the internet has opened up a new world of friends that I’d likely never have without it. These friends are just as special to me as my local friends.
Like I said, I’m insanely lucky to have these women in my life – all of them. I would do anything for my friends – near and far—and I think they feel the same way about me. While books may have initially brought us together, that’s not what keeps us together. I think it’s a genuine love and respect for one another, the love of laughter and yeah, the love of the written word. Treasure your friends - they're one of the greatest gifts in the world.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Sure, I have acquaintances outside this business. I’m friendly with people from church and my kids’ school, but I wouldn’t count them as friends. So that’s the crazy thing. I always heard this industry was a back-biting, scrabbling to the top business. I guess that’s how it is for some people. They do whatever they have to do to get on top. For the most part, however, writers are good people, and as I said on my personal blog earlier this week, my friends, my writer friends, are the only ones who “get me”. I would give my left kidney to most of them if they needed it. They are just that special and close to me.
How could they be so close? Some of my writer friends I’ve never met. Many, I have met yet I only see every few years or once a year or every few months. A lot of people don’t get it, but this electronic age has made it completely possible to have close connections with people far away. Three of my best friends live in other states. One lives hours away. We all started with this common bond…this writer thing, but we each know we could turn to the others for just about anything.
Who else would completely understand any of these:
“I’m late to pick up my kids from school, I haven’t showered or eaten yet today, and I’m wondering do you think Max should use a flogger or his hand.”
“I’ve written so much today that I’m calling you on the phone rather than instant messaging you, because my fingers are too tired to type any more…”
“I told my characters no more music until they start talking.”
“If my husband says I’m playing on the computer one more time…!”
“My muse says…”
“So…I’m thinking, is it feasible that a vampire would choose to take the train to Kansas when he has the ability to fly and could be there in ten minutes?”
“I think I’m in the wrong POV and I don’t have enough GMC and I have to add ECIF or the mmf doesn’t work. I’m just afraid I’m not going to get to the HEA. I’m repping all over the place, and my heroine just turned TSTL.”
My friends understand that if they haven’t heard from me for days, I’m not avoiding them. I’m usually being held captive by fictional people and since some of them have whips or breathe fire, I really need to listen to them. Escape is sometimes difficult. My friends don’t sigh at me like other people, i.e. family members. They just gently tell me that I might want to get some sleep, that two hours isn’t enough.
They’re good people. They keep me going and they make me smile. I’m there for them and they’re there for me. Always. And forever. HEA.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Sorry about last week. I don't know where my head was. Well, that's not entirely true. My head is firmly jammed up my wedding's behind and probably will be until I get back from my honeymoon. So, be prepared for that.
Onto the topic at hand though:
I have several groups of friends. I have my writer friends. I have my friends I've known and loved since I was in 3rd grade. I have my friends that I love now. I have 'our' friends with my fiancee. Then I have friends of friends who I talk to at parties and stuff but don't hang around with on my own. I have a lot of friends.
All of my friends are wonderful. I have managed to surround myself with loving, supportive people who will be on my side no matter what. I have the friends who can be blunt and the friends I turn to when I need someone to tell me that OF COURSE my ass doesn't look fat in those pants. I look fabulous. You know, the friends who lie when I need to hear it.
When I first became published all of my various groups of friends were happy for me. They supported me and congratulated me and wished me well. But as time has gone on, I find myself relating better to my 'writer' friends than any other group. THEY are the ones I email/call/visit first. They are the ones whose opinions I want more and more. And to be honest, I feel a little guilty.
I wonder if we all go through these stages where one certain group of people become closer to you than another. Then we spin on our axis and find ourselves leaning toward a different group of people later.
I don't know how it works. I just know that I am lucky to have so many friends that don't get jealous or angry when one group takes up more of my attention than another.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Maybe I should have put that down as one of my weaknesses a couple of weeks ago. Because it is a weakness for a writer in a lot of ways. For example, it really sucks from a promo and networking point of view.
I've come to the conclusion that the type of person who really rocks out the promo is one of those cheerfully bubbly person who is enthusiastic about everything. The type of person who can breeze into a chat room or a yahoo group and instantly know everyone, love everyone, and be friends with everyone. The person who somehow isn't the least bit squeamish about telling the whole world that their latest book is fantastic, because everyone in the world is their friend and you're allowed to say that sort of things to your friends.
I'm just not like that. It's not that I'm particularly shy. But I suppose I am reserved - even by British standards. I not even sure what that would make me by American standards!
In the real world I like my personal space. The whole thing about hugging people you barely know and kissing a perfect stranger on the cheek has always confused the hell out of me. Cwtching up to someone I don't know holds no appeal to me, although once I get to know someone that does change.
Likewise, I have no inclination to share my life story with the person who sits next to me on a bus. My life is none of their business. On the other hand, hearing their life story is actually far more to my taste - I'm pretty much always happy to do that. I'm guess I'm just a listener rather than a talker at heart. Or maybe I'm so used to characters turning up inside my head and telling me their life stories that real people doing the same seems perfectly logical.
What does all this mean for this weeks topic?
Growing up, I was the only one of my friends who wrote, so not a lot to say there.
Of the writers I know now, there's one in particular, who I met when my first story was accepted, who is turning into a great friend. But I wouldn't say I know that many other writers well enough that I would call a lot of them friends yet. Maybe that just comes back to the whole being reserved thing - it takes me a long time to think of someone a friend rather than just as someone I know.
On a message board a while ago, I saw a somewhat related topic raised. It was all about how writing is very isolating and very lonely and solitary and all that. I suppose it is. But reading that message board was the first time it occurred to me that some people saw that as a problem.
I've always been happy with my own company. Sometimes I think that's simply because so many characters live inside my head, I've never felt entirely alone even when there aren't any real people around.
Lol. That makes it sound like I have a whole population of imaginary friends living inside my head, doesn't it?
*Thinks about that for a while*
If I'd had the sense to call my characters that from the start, this blog post would have been so much easier to write!
It's a bit late, but I'm going to go with it anyway.
I have a population of imaginary friends who live inside my head. They are a great help with my writing. They are the characters in my books.
Kink, love and a happy ending. Do you Dare?
Monday, June 1, 2009
Three of my friends and I have recently started a "Cooking Club" to learn to cook healthier food. Shhh, don't tell the hubby, but I could care less what we eat. I just need the six hours on a Saturday once per month to drink wine and laugh with my girls. We do get a little exercise by walking to the beach along the shores of Lake Michigan. Then we go back home for dessert. It's all good.
On Thursday mornings during the school year, I am a member of a local Mom's group. Lots of estrogen, progesterone, and oxytocin in that room. And babies, too! I always grab the girl ones. Okay, sometimes I'll hold the ones with penises, too. But I always look for the pink ones first.
On Wednesday mornings during the school year, I connect deeper with my female friends and God at my women's Bible study group. These ladies have helped me through some tough days. Couldn't live without them.
Then there's my writers group, who keep me in stitches on the second Saturday of the month. Lunch, girlfriend time, guest speaker and lots of laughs. Wouldn't want to live without them.
Lots of groups of friends and each fulfills a different need. The best is when some of my friends attend more than one group with me. I love cross-pollination.
Then there are the friends that I call when my mother is in the ER, and I need someone to take my five-year-old to school at a moments notice. But these kind of friends don't just happen. I've had to learn how to cultivate these friendships, and that means making time for them. Getting my head out of my butt and picking up the phone and calling them sometimes, just because. Just because I want them to know how important they are to me, and I love them. They are the sisters of my heart.
I am blessed by my friendships, and they balance the solitariness of my writing life.
Geez, that got a little sappy at the end, huh?