Writing Articles

The Baby is Polished and Ready (Written several years ago) 

The long weekend is over and it’s back to the day job. Not that I mind the day job, in fact, I’m one of the lucky ones who enjoys what I do for the most part. But this past weekend was spent on doing the job I can’t wait to become the day/night/all the time job.

My query letter is now complete, the synopsis is complete, and the manuscript is…well, I’m not sure we ever feel it’s complete. Now it’s time to send the baby out into the world.

Scary, really when I think about it. However, it’s the next leg in the journey. The fork in this part of the road is a little darker and less traveled than the first leg of the journey. The trees are dense and you can’t see the end of the road from here. You know it’s there and you know there is still yet another fork or two coming. There aren’t as many people on this part since each of the people you’ve been on the first leg of the journey have their own forks in the road to take.

But still, as your fingers tremble ever so slightly or perhaps in an all out shake, you grab hold of the mouse and slowly edge it towards the send the button, hovering for a moment. Questions flood your mind at rapid gun fire rate. Did I remember to change the date on the query letter? I know I’ve checked the synopsis a thousand times, but should I read it one more time? Will he/she like it enough to request? Will my baby come back giggling and happy, or sad and alone?

All of these questions run through my mind at least. Funny thing, is this is not the first manuscript I’ve written or completed. It is the first one that has begged to be sent out into the world of agents/editors. Kinda like a child who grows up wanting to stay close his/her parents. For the moms out there you know what I’m taking about. The kids tell you at a young age, their going to always live with you. Even when they get married, they’ll still be with you. You find it cute, endearing, and you smile. Then they become young adults and their ready to soar on their own. You let them go because that’s what you supposed to do. You’ve raised them to be the best they can be and you send them on with a smile of satisfaction as they begin the next journey in their life. The darker road, the one less traveled, the one with more forks you cannot see or know until you reach them.

Yep, my baby is ready to be sent on and it makes me happy and scared at the same time.

Why Do We Write?

Through some talk on the TARA loop, my local chapter, I started seriously thinking about this question.  Only the question was actually Why do I write?  The more I thought about the question, I realized some of you may wonder the same thing.  Although I can’t answer that question for you here’s a bit about me and why I write.

I first started writing because I had to get the words out.  I’d read Trixie Bleden or Nancy Drew and wanted to be just like them.  One day I decided I could do that and so I wrote my own stories where I solved mysteries, sometimes being a part of a club and other times not.  I guess I sort of blended the two together. 

Just a small side note here, even at that early age I never once copied anything from any of their books.  At that time no one had told me what plagiarism was yet still deep down I knew words were/are a precious thing and once someone wrote them in a book I could not use them the same exact way.  Besides, I wanted to tell my stories not anyone else’s.
Flash forward:  I’d written a couple of manuscripts, which now reside eternally with the dust bunnies, but never pursued it further.  I joined my local chapter, TARAand  RWAseveral years ago because I wanted to be among other writers.  I didn’t know at the time I needed to learn more of the craft.  I mean, I could write a story.  Right?  I knew all about the H/H meeting and falling in love and the conflicts that must arise until they could have the HEA.

The business side of writing?  Not so much.  I thought okay, write the book, send it off, and much like  Emeril,  Bam…in no time at all I’d see it sitting there on the shelf.  In all it’s glory.  You know, with the heavenly lights shinning down on it.  Of course, it’s sell well.  Of course, it’d would need to be reprinted.  And yes, in many languages.  After all everyone who knew me and loved me had read my work and they said the same thing.  So it must be true.  Right? 
Okay, so the first thing I learned was I knew nothing about the business.  Who knew that once the book was contracted it could take up to year to hit the shelves?  Oh yeah, and that eternal heavenly light?  Nothing more than a spotlight that only on rare occasions comes out to shine upon an author.  The thing is I still wanted to write even after I learned the difference. I love to do this.  Just ask my CP, she’ll tell you.
Which brings me to rules.  Ugh!  There are rules in this business of writing?  But it’s my book.  Why must I learn the rules?  Answer:  It makes you/me a better writer.  Can the rules be broken?  Oh yeah.  You can’t break them though until you learn them well.  Until they become second nature to you.  Then and only then, when you know them can you learn how to break them correctly to work in your story.  

It’s hard.  No one ever said this would be an easy job.  There is no magical wand to sprinkle the words onto the computer screen.  We have to sit in the chair, put our hands on the keyboard, and type.  And yes, even thought it’s our passion it’s also our job.  We must take it serious in order for that to be the case.  I know that life gets in the way.  Okay, so take a PTO day from your writing when you have too. 

There are days when all of us think “Can we really do this?” or “Why did we decide we could write?” Then I read on blogs of well-known, published many times over, authors who say the same thing.  They say this now, not back in the day before they were published. 

What I do know is yes, I can do this, and you can do this, if we’re willing to give it what it deserves. 

Writing the Book of Your Heart – With Writing Deadlines for the Unpublished Author

Julie Leto has an incredible article on Writing the book of your heart – Ditching the book of your heart for your voice. Check it out when you’re finished here. Or check it out now and come back.

This is actually for the unpublished or not published in a while author. Yes, I do call us authors because that’s what we are. We’re writers who author our books.

Okay, you’re writing your first book, or maybe it’s your fifth. You’ve not yet been published or it’s been a while, a long while since your last book sold.

Since you’re not yet published, you’re taking your time, writing as you can fit it in. Rewriting chapter one, oh no less than 10 – 12 times. It’s okay. Lift your chin back up, we’ve all been there and many of us are there right now.

My question to you is this. Have you given yourself deadlines? Deadlines, you asked. Why would I do that? I’m not contracted yet. I don’t have deadlines.

Well you’re right, you don’t. But you will. You’ll finish that book, shine it to perfection, and ship it off to the editor (or to the agent who will then ship to editor).

Guess what? They love it. Not only do they love it, they want to contract you to a two book deal. Those secondary characters that you loved so much? So does the editor. He/She can so see them in their own book.

Now can you guess where this is going? In said contract you’re going to have a deadline for that book. You haven’t even started on Sally and Harry’s book. Heck, you’ve been working on that Historical that you thought you’d never write, instead.

That’s okay; you’re snoopy dancing around the kitchen with a glass of wine in one hand and chocolate in the other. You’ve got a contract and they want a second book. Squeeeee!!! All right, if you are like me, you’re probably dancing all through the house and there are lots of Squeee’s going on. :)

Time to sit down and begin S & H’s book. You’re so excited your fingers fly across the keyboard. This is great! You’re going to have this done in no time at all. Chapter four…you’ve stared at those words for 2 weeks now. Where or where is this going? What happened? Then you decide, heck its fine. I’ve got 4 months to get this done. No worries.

Trust me on this. It is just the beginning of your worries, very few people can spew out a book in less than 3 months, revise and get said book to the editor.

Now is the time to make deadlines and stick to them. Start with somethingyou know you can do and work your way up. But by all means make them. Be accountable to someone (here on Monday’s or to your CP, just someone) for the deadlines. If you don’t make one, that’s okay. Even seasoned writers have to ask their editors for an extension once in a while.

If you can get yourself used to deadlines now when you actually don’t have them, they will be much easier to work with once you do. It’s a lot like exercise. At first you can only go a mile on the treadmill and your leg muscles are dying. Before you know it you’re doing five miles and it’s easier. In fact, if you don’t make your daily five-mile treadmill walk you become sort of grouchy. It’s now become your part of you.

For me, yes, I do want to be published.  I do want to see my baby-sitting on the shelf.  This is the job that I want with all my heart and soul.  I work everyday on my current wip.  I want to see my dream come to fruition and writing it is the only way to make that happen.  But, there is one thing that I know.  I have to write regardless of how long or how short the journey is, I must write.  That is foremost in this passage.  My characters want their story told.  My muse wants me in the chair.  

Therefore, I’m willing to give up time in the evenings when I’d like to watch TV.  I’ll tape it and watch it later when I’ve reached a goal.  I’ll take the time to do what my hearts desire is, not make the time.  Take the time. 

So what about you?  Why do you write?  Is it only to see your name on the shelf?  Would you write regardless of publication?  Does it burn in your soul?  Do you wake up everyday with your wip in your mind and what’s coming next? 

Plotter or Pantser  - Which are you? 

It’s what all of us do. We do this is in so many parts of our everyday lives. From going to the grocery store, shopping, picking out what we’ll wear to work, and even the library. Either you have a plan, a plot, for what you intend to buy, (the list), which is another blog all together) or you just head out and go. You’ll buy or not buy as the mood strikes you. Maybe you decide the night before what you’ll wear to work the next day. If you’re like me you gave that thought up along time ago. If I pick it the night before I change my mind the next morning. So, now I just wait till I get up and decide. Still it’s one type of plotting.

Writing is no different. Before I can write the story I have to plot it out. But what kind of plotter am I? Do I plot the entire book from beginning to end? Or do I just sit down and go to it. Writing whatever comes to mind.

The first way is called (you guessed it) “The Plotter” and the second is called “The Pantser”.

Before I go any further I want to tell you where you can find some great information and help on this. One of the best is
Julie Leto who is doing a blog on this at Plotmonkeys
. She is doing this in a series on Saturdays. This past Saturday was part 3 but you can go back and read them all. I highly recommend this regardless of which type of plotter you are or think you are.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that it really depends on the book I’m writing as to which type of plotter I am. However, with that said I also have learned that plotting helps me to keep my story line going in the right direction. To keep the conflicts both with my H/H and my secondary characters weaved together.

The storyboard that you will see on
is an amazing thing. You can step back and see where you have to much of something or not enough of something.

I found the easiest way for me is to start labeling scenes that I want to be in my book. They can be as simple as “The First Kiss” all the way down to my “Black Moment”. I place them on the board with sticky notes that I can move around with ease.

Of course that doesn’t mean that your muse will change your storyboard. More often than not she will. Now you have a roadmap. Somewhere to direct you when you are staring at the computer screen and your fingers are moving. Yep, you know what I’m talking about, the dreaded writer’s block. For me I’ve found that with the sticky notes I can start writing a different scene. It doesn’t have to be the one that goes next, in sequence order.

What I’ve found is that I am both a “Plotter and a Pantser”. I need the roadmap but I need to be able to sit down and write whatever. This new-found way has helped me to do both.

Pitch That Story
Creating the perfect pitch. Sounds easy right? Wrong. I’ve been working on the pitch for my current wip for days now. Every time I think I might be close I realize that it really doesn’t tell enough about the book. The hooks that I want are not there.

To create the pitch you need to condense your book down to several sentences. How do you do that? Great question.
Kathy Carmichael
has an awesome pitch generator. It’s a starting off point though. You then have to do the same as you would with you wip. You have to flesh it out.

Now you can’t add to many words or it’s no longer a pitch. No one wants to pitch their work to an agent or editor only to see said agent/editors eyes glaze over when your in the middle of it.

I do not have an appointment this year at Nationals but I am doing the Agent/Editor appointments as a volunteer. Side note here: It’s a good thing to volunteer at Nationals. People learn who you are and you are giving back your time to our “Mother Chapter”.

Back to the non-appointment but still need that pitch concern. I’ve been told by several that while I may not have the actual appointment since I’ll be there for quite a few hours directing appointment traffic that more often than not the volunteers are asked what they write and what it’s about.

Again, several friends who did this the past several years were asked for partials just by volunteering and talking with the agents and editors.

Of course I realize that this may not happen to me. But if it does I don’t want to stand there fumbling over my words. Looking like I have no idea what I write how long it will be and what the conflict and hook is.

And then there’s the sitting in the bar, riding the elevator, and just general conversation that could lead to someone asking: Tell me about your book question.

So, here I sit working on the all important pitch. Trying to make it a back cover blurb in fewer words yet still giving what the book is about all the while making the person asking feel like “I’ve just got to read this.”

You’ve Written The End and it’s Time to Begin the next WIP

So you’ve written ‘The End’. Your baby’s polished and out the door to face the world of agents and/or editors all alone.

There you sit, staring at the blank screen or pad of paper before you, knowing full well its time to begin the next wip.

Oh you’ve got plenty of ideas brewing. You may even have a short outline. But now you’ve got to interview the next set of characters. Get to know them. Their likes, dislikes, and omg their conflicts. Maybe you’re on deadline. You’re fingers sit on the keys waiting and still you stare, no longer at the blank screen / paper but now off into space wondering…

Speculating how is Sam (insert your hero’s name here)? Or asking yourself, what is Abby shopping for now? (you know the drill by now, insert heroine’s name)

You see, you’ve been with them for months and for some of us years. Going through every happy and sad moment right along with them. You wanted to kill Sam when he forgot Abby’s birthday and then had tears when he made it up to her with a surprise trip including rose petals lining the pathway. (One of mine really did do something like that only it wasn’t a forgotten b-day).

The thing is you miss them. They were you’re comfort. If you had to you could write scenes out of order during this book. Some that wouldn’t happen for several chapters since you knew them so well. And now their gone.

Should you write a sequel? They could visit in. That would be lovely. No, their book really didn’t leave room for another. Besides, it’s time to let go. But how do you do that?

Take a couple of days to read, paint, watch a movie, or clean house and do laundry. All the things you’re characters didn’t let you do while writing their story. Refresh your mind. Then begin that new wip. Allow yourself to write POS (forever grateful to
Nora Robert’s
for that one). You can fix it later. The important thing is to write.

Look through magazines find out what/who your hero and heroine look like. Maybe go to the mall have lunch and people watch. What are they doing? Take notes as you watch their quirks; perhaps hear a snippet of conversations, and anything else that make you smile.

In other words do whatever it takes to get you into that new work. You’re muse may have stubbornly stepped out when Sam and Abby’s story was completed, but not for long. In all actuality she is just as curious as you are about the new couple. Oh, she won’t tell you that at first. No, she likes to be in charge of what words hit the paper.

In no time you’ll be back in the swing and a new story has emerged. Lives are taking shape; conflicts are getting in their way, danger, sexual attraction, odd things happening, and love / hate begins to blossom.
You sit back and smile. Once again you’ve got a new world building and new lives to get to know.

Shaking out your fingers, cracking your knuckles, and stretching your neck from side to side you back you begin typing as words pouring out. Your muse is back. She didn’t go far and she’s ready to work. You grin as the screen / page is no longer blank.

The race to the end of the book is back on with a new set of friends and family. A new baby is born.

Goals or Wants - 2008

I’ve been thinking about goals and what mine are for the coming year (2008). When does it become a goal or when is it really a want? Are the two the same thing? I don’t think so.

A goal is something you write down and purpose to work hard to achieve. A want is just that, something you want. Oh you might work for it a little, but if it becomes hard to get will you continue because you want it, or will you stop, saying, didn’t really want it all that bad anyway?

For me, the one of the biggest differences is the wants are usually the things that are not so easily obtainable. Not only do I want to have my book published, I want it to go to auction, and I want it to make the NYT best sellers list. Whew…I don’t know about you, but that made me tired just writing it.

It is not that any of those, or for that matter all of those things above could happen. Will they all happen first time out the gate? Probably not, but they could. The bigger thing here is; what am I willing to do to make them happen.

Okay, I can not make editors go to auction over the book and I can not make the book hit the NYT list (unless I want to fly all across America and spend lots of money). So, those are wants, not goals.

What I can do is this. Write everyday or at least almost everyday. Work on the edits of the current book, like I have a deadline with an editor. Send it out to the requested agent and editor (from back in July at conference). Then start on the next book. Again, write everyday until it’s finished and then edit and do it again.

Learn something new about the craft or business each month this year. And read more books than I did last year.

Those are goals, those are things that I can do and not fail at. OMG, did I just say that. My goal needs to be something I can’t fail at? Yes, it does. Does it need to stretch me? Oh yeah, you bet they should, but if they are so hard that I quit, then what was the point of making it.

Now, that I’ve said all of that, here is the other thing. Write them down. Type them, it doesn’t matter, just get them down and in front of you. Speak them out loud, at least once a week. And don’t just speak them. See yourself making them happen.

No, this isn’t some crazy mumbo jumbo, for those of you who think it is. This is believing in yourself. The words said out loud have power in them. More than you think. If you can believe it…you can do it. Yeah, I know, there is a song sort of like that, but it’s true.

Here’s the thing. My mom always told me to reach for the moon, because if I didn’t make the moon, I would make the stars.

So, my 2008 wish for all of you is that you will stretch yourself, writing, editing, and sending it out. That you will read your goals and believe you can do them. But you will also, realize that to make the wants a possible reality in your life you will have to work to do the goals. That and lots of moon and star landings!!

How about you?

Writing Wishes and Plotting Dreams,

Goals, Time to Step It Up A Notch  
2009 is almost here and with the New Year brings new goals as well as reflections of last years goals. Time to think about what’s accomplished or what fork split the road when you least expected it to.

Last year I talked about what a goal is, you can click
here if you’d like to read it. This year I’m thinking differently about goals. What do they do and how can making them affect the year ahead.

For me, goals are my roadmap, the direction I want to take with my writing career. Yes, I want an agent and to receive ‘The Call’ this year and I’m doing everything in my power to achieve that. But those aren’t really goals, since I can’t make them actually happen.

This year my goal is to finish two books. Plain and simple, right? Okay, not so much. In order to do that I need a plan. Write everyday, yes, every single day. Four months to write the first book and edit it, take a couple weeks break and then write the second book (same timeframe). Yep, stepping it up to two books, completed and edited. See, I'm figuring it's better to work like I'm already published with deadlines. Look out cp's, we're going to be busy. I have the best cp's in the world and they work just as hard.

We did this really cool thing at my
TARA meeting this past year. We wrote on a post card three things we’d like to do and gave them to the wonderful June. Three months later those who participated, received the postcard in the mail. I was in a meeting and didn’t get to do it, but those that did raved or how cool it was to see what they’d done and how close they were to completing all three things.

So, if you’d like, email me three things you’d like to accomplish in the next three months, along with your address and I’ll send out the postcard to you.

Changing venues here:

More than likely you’ve listened to
Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture. If not, then trust me its well worth the hour.

Here’s a small recap from his lecture.

When you’re doing poorly and no one is telling you, that’s a bad place to be. – Wow, if no one ever told us when something didn’t work in our writing, where would we be?

Experience is what you get, when you didn’t get what you wanted. – Think about this one. Maybe you didn’t final in ‘that’ contest, but you did gain experience whether it was thicker skin or learning how to make your work better.

Don’t bail: the best gold is at the bottom of the barrel of crap. – So how does, this relate? Never give up.

And two of my favorites:

Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want something. They’re not there to keep people who want it out, but to stop those don’t.

Be prepared: “Luck” is where preparation meets opportunity.

So what about you? Are you making goals for 09? Did your goals last year help you or did you forget to look back at them from time to time?