Wednesday, December 22, 2010

HELP! What Genre?

I can pick up any number of books from my bookshelf and instantly categorize the genre, but there are some that span several. I get to wondering, how did these authors pitch their work to agents? Under which genre did they categorize their work?

How the heck do I categorize MY work?

Can a novel be YA, Romance, Paranormal and Urban Fantasy at the same time? Sure. But you wouldn't want to turn off a potential agent by simply listing all. When you have to pick ONE genre, how do you pick?

I took this little quiz here (link to Timothy fish . net)

Uh. Unhelpful.

The Genre Wizard said my novel is 'Middle Grade Fantasy'.

My novel is standing at 100K words (but currently being edited ruthlessly). My protag is a twenty year old college student. There are issues of mental illness. Narcotics are discussed, there are (non-steamy) emotional love scenes... While perhaps a tween would enjoy, my guess is not.

So, back to the start. Can you help me?

Here is my (ever changing) extended logline slash synopsis:

Plagued by a lifetime of Déjà vu, hallucinations and fantastic dreams, twenty year old Lilly Young is determined to prove she’s not mentally ill. Eager to unlock the secrets in her mind and the identity of Lewis Hunter whose hauntingly familiar voice lives only inside her head and her heart, Lilly insists on undergoing hypnotherapy and discovers she does indeed have a mysterious past – several, in fact. Lilly learns she has been reincarnated – over and over – and in every instance, she dies on her twenty-first birthday.

Lilly has two choices: she must either come to terms with the endless cycle or find a way to break it – a feat that seems impossible, given the history and the fact that Lewis has been trying endlessly to do just that. But now Lilly faces another immortal – a vampire – whose specific mission could finally end the cycle for Lilly, but at what cost?

As her birthday is upon her once again, Lilly must decide if she will die and be reborn again, or if she will draw on the power of her past, her will to keep living and her desperate yearning for long lost love to overcome another ‘Reset’ and risk losing Lewis forever.

What the heck genre is my novel?
If you can help me, let me know!

Some links that may help: The Genre Hurdle and the Genre Table by Linda Rohrbough

Monday, December 13, 2010

'Showing' the Way to Reduce Word Count

Show Don't Tell all the instruction books on writing tell us. But how to weave the all important character development or that 'the-entire-book-depends-on-this' backstory into action?

Naive beginner writer that I am, I thought I WAS showing, mostly. Especially in my first scene. I thought I had nailed it! Landed the reader right into the important stuff. It wasn't until I got my first, honest critique that I saw how far off I was.

So here I am, revising again...And enjoying it! I need to cut 10-15K words (at least), and now I am really seeing how easy this will be!

Excerpt from previous RESET draft (a mid-story excerpt, so as not to give anything away!):

I wasn’t sure why it was taking me so long to make a decision, but I stood for what seemed a ridiculously long time staring down into the top drawer of my dresser. Archie would arrive, hungry at the river anItalicy minute and since it was my turn to bring snacks, I should hurry up and choose what I was going to wear already.

Archie was always starving. I was never quite sure where he put it all and wondered if his voracious appetite would slow down once he finished growing up and all the puberty stuff was over and done with. Maybe, as his high speed metabolism slowed down, he would get fat when he was older. I hoped the sad little tuna sandwiches I had made would fill the hole in his stomach somewhat, because there was no hope of pilfering anything better from the kitchen; I didn’t want to have to explain to my mother or tell her where I was going. She didn’t approve ...

BLAH BLAH BLAH for 1000 more words or so...

YAWN. *Puts book down never to pick it up again*

So, obviously this needed to be cut ruthlessly.

Here's what it became:

"Nice swimsuit." Archie smirked at the frilly pink thing I had, for some reason, chosen over my regular swim attire of cutoffs and a boy's undershirt. "Did you bring the sandwiches?"

I thought about the tired looking tuna fish sandwiches I'd packed. "I didn't have time to get much," I lied. "I had to finish my homework." The truth was, I didn't want any questions from my mother. If I had taken anything else, she would have noticed, asked where was I going, with whom and that sort of thing.

Archie grabbed my bag, peering in. "That's it? If I had known you were going to be so stingy, I would have had my mom pack the lunch,” he complained.

Guilt heated my face as I remembered what Mrs. Baldwin had packed last time - thick ham sandwiches and giant oatmeal cookies. I was ashamed at my own lack of effort. I was the rich girl, after all. That last lunch Archie brought probably emptied the Baldwin’s pantry.

There's still some telling, but I think these paragraphs are better balanced now. It still may be cut completely...Nothing is safe! *laughs evilly* But this is the idea behind my current editing craze!

Happy writing (and editing)!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Does This Dress Make Me Look Fat? (Or, Will You Critique My Story?)


Riding the roller coaster of emotions: the OMG, my story is awesome! and the Another rejection? My story sucks! does something to one's objectivity towards their own work.

So, employ the objectivity of someone else.

A Beta reader could be a friend or family member. But remember, they love you.

"Does this dress make me look fat?" Even if you seek an honest answer to the question, would they tell you? Remember, they won't want to hurt your feelings. Best find someone else, perhaps a member of one of the writer's forums you are a member of? Maybe someone with a cool screen name and avatar...

And since critiquing will only help you grow as a writer, how about swapping stories?

Okay, you've got the first 50 pages of your new crit partner's manuscript in your inbox. Eager to dive in and hopefully enjoy a good story whilst making suggestions for an awkward sentence here and there, you expect to be finished and have it sent back within the hour.

Uh oh. The dress really DOES make that person look fat. Do you say so? Or do you add a silk scarf, some bling, to draw the eye upwards?

What if the manuscript you are critiquing reads so much like a first draft from NaNo that you are on comment number 245 and it's only page 31?

"Sorry. The dress is really not right."

I opted to tell the writer where I, as a reader, was left feeling frustrated, confused and bored. I broke the critiquing golden rule of sandwiching a criticism in between two compliments (although I did comment positively in the parts I did enjoy), and although I tried to make my criticism constructive, I'm pretty sure I fell short. I do feel bad about that.

But should I feel guilty? Depends. If the writer was only looking for compliments on her dress, then I might. If she is truly looking to be published someday (aren't we all?) then I hope she'll accept my critique for what it is.


I don't pretend to know all about writing, but everyone who reads knows when a story doesn't "work".

I wished I'd got back an honest "Yes, the dress does make you look fat" from my partner. I hope she wasn't just being nice when she said how much she enjoyed the story and wanted to keep reading. How will I know?

Crit Links:

How to Critique a Bad Manuscript

How to Take a Critiquing and Keep on Ticking

Where to find Beta Reader:

Forward Motion Writers Community Forums (free membership required) Forums (Free membership required)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to Keep Your Writing Dream Alive (or Giving Up is easy, but Not Giving Up isn't that hard either)

I am getting responses on my first queries, and none of them have been good.

I thought I dove into the querying process with my eyes wide open, understanding that it wasn't going to be easy; but I have to admit, those form rejections are hard to take - especially since they all seem to arrive in my inbox in the early morning, just as I sit down eagerly to tap out another scene in the sequel to said manuscript.

And poof, there goes my writing drive, my creativity, my belief that I can be published someday - cut down by one sentence that begins with "I'm sorry, but..."

And suddenly it would all be too easy. Just pack it in and admit it. I suck!

Giving up is easy. Slogging away to improve both my finished manuscript and to improve my craft so that my second novel is even better is hard. Way hard.

I read over and over how even the best, most popular and successful authors feel like this sometimes - or at least, they did at some point in their careers. Even J.K. Rowling must have felt the writer's angst each time she saw another blow to her confidence in the form of an agent's rejection. Until one day. There it was.

The golden ONE.

If a series about a boy wizard can fly, and a story centered around a selfish girl who falls for a sparkling vampire can make the hearts of teenage girls (and their moms) go all a-flutter, then my story has a shot, doesn't it? I mean, there's a girl, there's a boy and they are both searching for a way to be together even though their history hints that it's impossible. Okay, so there's a vampire too, but his race is more important in the next book. And besides, vampires are still very much in.

Or at least I hope that Agency The Gatekeeper is right!

Okay, talked myself back into this writing thing! See, that wasn't so painful, was it?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Timing of Queries

Getting Past the Gatekeeper: The Middle Way: A new method of timing your queries

Because I am currently picking my way through agent listings on Query Tracker (and it seems that many of them are earning that little red heart sign) it was nice to come across this blog post. Whew. Take a deep breath. Cool my heels and all that.

Because of my Wannabe status, I do not want to query my top picks until I'm certain that my query package is great. I have received feedback in several critique forums telling me that it is essentially 'good to go', but no agent has yet seen it...Well, that's not true. After reading that one of my top picks was taking a Query hiatus beginning today until after the New Year, I sent my query off on Friday. I expect she was already on hiatus as of 3 pm on a Friday afternoon, and my query will not be read, but of course I can still hope that it made it under the wire...

Hope. That's what it's all about. I wish on a star every night and if its rainy I imagine a star to wish upon).

To be published...To be published....

The whole process makes me feel like I'm in the first round of auditions on American Idol, about to get up on stage in front of the scary judges hoping my song and dance will get me to round two.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Don't Look Directly at the Stars

Yesterday's planned beginning for my new novel was an epic fail. Or so I thought...

As I opened my shiny new (and blank) project in YWriter, I realized that there was still a huge promise left unanswered in my finished manuscript. I mean, HUGE. So huge that it threatened the credibility of the story (okay, so what's credible about a paranormal fantasy?).

So huge that I couldn't bear to address it.

Instead of at least attempting to solve the HUGE problem in the finished manuscript, I nitpicked through my outline for the first scene of the new one. I mean, how much time can you spend on a one liner description? ALL DAY, apparently. And I got stuck on a name for a new character. Really! As if that's important at this stage! Like puppies, characters often name themselves once you take the time to get to know them.

As I was disgustedly wrapping up my day's worth of (non) work, the epiphany came....

And suddenly there was the answer to the HUGE problem! I found three scenes in my finished manuscript where I could address it, and reworked the ending to include its fulfillment. Voila. In ten minutes (okay, thirty) the HUGE problem is solved.

Don't look directly at the stars. Sometimes, you need to focus on the surrounding black sky to see their splendor!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

FInished Type In !

The cutting room floor

Well, it sure took me a long time. It's so easy to become distracted from the task of revision, when there are other stories developing in my head, just itching to be written. However, if I want to keep the dream alive - the dream of becoming published (hopefully? someday?), I need to learn better discipline!

I am so excited about the finished product; it IS a book I would want to read, and that, apparently, is half the battle...Getting that awesome story that lives in your head to resemble the same story once it's on paper. It truly is a skill!

Next up, a final check on Promises and Timelines, Theme and the like. And then (gulp) to research possible agents to query. So exciting, yet so daunting! With such a small percentage of manuscripts ever making it to print, it is so easy to become discouraged.

I'll also start posting some of the scenes that were cut. They weren't necessarily cut because they 'sucked' (although some do so thoroughly I think I must have been sick with fever when I wrote them) but mostly because they didn't keep up with the pace of the story. They might give you a taste of the characters. Hopefully, you'll fall in love with them as I have.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Trip to visit my setting...In person!

At the end of September, 2010, nearly 2 years after I wrote my first scene in Reset, I made the drive to Martinsburg, West Virginia, where the story is set. My main concern was that, once I had actually visited the town, I would feel it didn't actually work for my story. I was relieved to find that it did. Very well, in fact.

So why did I choose this town? History.

I needed a town that had a lot of it, preferably interesting and violent (like war) and with a lot of old architecture and restored mansions. An initial Google search pointed me to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, where a heap of Civil War battles took place. Now while the town has no legends of _ a _ _ _ _ _ _ per say - not that Reset is about _a_ _ _ _ _ _, not entirely - it would be easy to imagine them living quietly in such a place, where beautiful public buildings are flanked by mysterious blank offices, tattoo shops fancy 'Chocolatiers' and buildings rich in Civil War intrigue. I took a lot of photos, so I could remember the feeling of the town.

Tuscarora graveyard in person! Love the falling down wall beyond this old headstone....Lots of potential to work that into the story!

Tuscarora again.

The Martinsburg Historical Society HQs, right beside Belle Boyd House and across the street from the historic B&O Roundhouse.

The real "Across the tracks".

King Street, I think.

Martinsburg High School.

The Young Residence. Actually have no idea who lives here, but the neighborhood, aptly labeled "Boomtown" was dotted with mansions like this. Plus, it was close enough to the highway that it would make sense for a busy City Hospital doctor to live here. Also very close to downtown and historic Main Street. All in all, it works very well!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Finished my cut!

And what a MESS! I have 300+ pages of chopped up manuscript, taped to blank pages with scrawl up and down the margins and spilling onto the backs....What a daunting thing Type-In will be!

Apparently, the next phase of the course is to go through the manuscript for cosmetic improvement. However, I cannot think where I would make any more changes! I have decided to waiver a bit from the HTRYN course and read (out loud to my dogs - they are great listeners, and I am not ready for hard critique yet!) about 25 pages per day, making my cosmetic changes, checking against my themes and promises and laundry list of "important things to remember" etc. as I go along. Then the next day, I will do the type in for those 25 pages. That way, I just might be able to read the darn thing when I'm through! Also, I can type "cool" without reading (and second guessing) the work I did during read-through.

Tuscarora Presbyterian Church, Martinsburg, WV - the graveyard where the hero is NOT buried...Oops, no spoilers yet!

It is getting exciting, being this close to finishing. I wonder what it will feel like when I send my first agent query? I know, I know...Only about 30% of what is received by agents' gatekeepers even make it to the agent's desk...But I am doing my research and will write a kick-a_ _ query!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Getting There!

So long since my last post!

I have been plugging away at my revision - it is no easy task, requiring equal parts inspiration and ruthlessness. I have added a lot...I have cut a LOT! I am still cutting....(Lesson 17 of HTRYN). I wish I could have sat down and completed the cut in a week; it's so hard to keep track of the latest and greatest cool things that I am adding or cutting. I have added post it notes to the cut pages to tie in with the "Laundry List" (List of 'How Stuff Works' in the world of Reset, the world of Lewis and Lilly...Oops! Just gave something away!) When I do my type in, I will (hopefully) be able to keep everything straight!

The old haunted 'Hunter House' (Reset)

Meanwhile, I am reading every issue of Writer's Digest cover to cover in an attempt to learn more about the industry. I really don't want to sound like the Newbie I am when I write my first Query letter (my heart flutters at the thought).

Today beginning scene 57 (out of 88) and hopefully will have my cut completed in another couple of weeks.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Crawling Along....

It's hard...Juggling a full time job, another "full time" hobby (farm and animals) and writing. I guess I need to get my priorities straight. If writing is something I'd really like to pursue (and yes, it is) then I need to make time. Just as fitness trainers will harp on the fact: "You'll never find the time to exercise, so you have to MAKE the time."

Strange Antique chest found in ruins of the old Hunter House (Reset)

I will be aided now by the fact that I no longer have a full time job. Yes, the recession has hit me. This is both good (now I will use office hours to continue to edit Reset and to get my outline done for the prequel that's been floating in my head for about a year) and not good (no income).

At least my HTRYN course is paid for and writing is pretty much "free".

I've read a good many articles on writing with titles such as: "When you can quit your day job?"

Well, I would have really liked to finish this revision first, but maybe this is the fire I needed to get me motivated to make time for my writing.

This week I am finishing Lesson 7 in the HTRYN course. This is about worlds, sets and stages and how I have (not) made use of important things...It has been the most difficult lesson so far, which is probably why it has taken me so long to really plunge into it.

8 Lessons to go.....Onwards!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I've Finished My First Draft...Now What?

Oh. My. Goodness.
I did it!
I finished my first draft and have printed out all 350 pages (120,000 words).
Better go out and buy a LOT more ink and a LOT more paper!
Okay, one trip to Staples and that's done...
Now what?

This manuscript is a result of a mid-life crisis I had last October. Throughout writing the first draft, I was consumed with the story, but wrote it down in such a disjointed and non-linear manner (index cards? Plotting? Timelines? Nope), its' going to be hard to decipher and turn into something that others might want to read...Others beyond my own family, who will nod and smile and say, "that's a good story" simply because they are my family.

Above: "Across the Tracks" - Reset

The first major problem that has made itself blaringly obvious is the flow of the plot.

Lack of flow of the plot.

To say I am unqualified for attempting to write such a difficult story with intersecting timelines and complex characters would be nothing but the truth. The only credential I have for writing fiction is my background in bid-writing for the medical equipment industry. While much of that can be classed as fiction as well, I generally didn't have to think past a paragraph or two on one particular item.

"What value added services does your company provide that sets you apart from the competition?" Well, that's easy. Our company will basically write anything in this space to get your to buy our product. Our product will give you wings....No, wait, that's Bulldog.

Funny how that popular energy drink gave me nothing but gut rot.

Anyway...How to fix the story?

Remember, I am an unqualified newbie that has no training in creative writing; I don't know the rules the methods or the madness (although I am learning a lot, just by writing). The thought of line-editing my 350 pages made me want to stick pins in my eyes....What purpose would fixing grammar and spelling have when possibly the entire scene needed to be rewritten?

I began reading about revision.

I read about the "10 steps to a turning your manuscript into best selling novel", I read how at the revision stage is where many aspiring authors throw in the towel and take up bungee jumping, cliff diving, swimming with the sharks or some other less insane pastime. "Revision will make you nuts", everybody says.

Well darn it! I am not letting one year of work sit in my shiny new 3 ring binder. Maybe it won't ever be saleable, maybe nobody will ever want to read it, outside my own family...But I will at least strive to make it something that will earn me first dibs on the Christmas turkey (large family - lots of teenage nephews). So, I am going to pursue this whole revision business.

I looked into online classes and mentorships. Too expensive. If I'm going to self publish (those Office Max spiral bound workbooks can be darn pricey!) I'd better save my money.

I bought books from the Writer's Digest bookstore....A couple of hundred dollars later and I still have not begun an actual revision. All containing good information that I will put to great use if I ever do this again...But I still have NO idea how to begin sorting out the mess that I created in my one year of madness.

Enter Holly Lisle and her HTRYN Course.

For less than $50 per month - I gain access to her madly popular (the first sign up in November filled before I could even click the link!) How To Revise Your Novel course and worksheets. In addition, I gain access to a workgroup and forums where I can cry on a shoulder, get helpful advice and gain inspiration and motivation to keep slogging along.

So, I'm giving this a try. Let's see if my novel will hit the shelves someday - beyond my own bookcase!