Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What I've Been Up To (Mostly Related to Writing)

So I'm totally slacking on this post, but I've been busy. Fo reals. (Okay, pretend like I didn't just say that. I sound like an idiot.)

But I do want to get my post out this Wednesday because I've made a Commitment, and I want to stick to it.

I'm stopped short at the climax of my book because it scares me stiff that I'm going to screw it up. However, I do have something I'm working on that's been taking up all my time for the past two weeks. That's right, I'm going to pull out The Excuse (and it's a good one!)

My grandmother has been loosing her vision, and her birthday's coming up soon. We're going to visit, and I decided, all of a sudden, that I would create an audiobook of my polished MG Fantasy for her to listen to. She was an editor, and she'd read one of my other books (being my grandma, of course she said it showed promise), and this was the best thing I could think of to give her. So I've been sitting in my room talking to myself (and my computer) creating this recording for her.

And when my throat (and brain - reading out loud is oddly exhausting, especially when you really don't want to screw up) get too worn out, I've been watching action movies on Netflix for inspiration with that climactic scene that I really need to freaking write.

So that's what I've been up to these days.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Villain - Mwah ha ha!

So I'm into the last quarter of my "first" draft of my WIP, Dragon Bait. (The first is in quotes because I've re-written the beginning about three times, but I still haven't made it to the end - I'm finally getting there.)

Now that I'm closing in on the end my villain really needs to pick up his game. I need action and conniving and all sorts of scheming craftiness (for both the villain and the main character). The villain's overbearing presence needs to be felt on pretty much every page, ratcheting up the tension.

Quite frankly, I always have difficulty with this part.

I mean my main character is pretty darn awesome. And why would anyone want to hurt her?

So now I'm struggling with the end where the action has to be non-stop, horrible things have to happen to my beloved main character, and I have to keep my villain evil and yet also believable.

So I'm plotting and planning and struggling my way through, always trying to bring each page back to the threat that hangs over my main character's head.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Contest I Didn't Enter

Hello, All!

The Cool Contest

So today's post is about something I decided not to do (writing related, of course). And my reasons for it.

Very recently there was this very awesome contest posted called Pitchmas. (It's semi-annual, BTW, so it'll roll back around for those interested.) Pitchmas is all about creating a 140 character Twitter pitch and a 35 word (or less) blog pitch for your completed, polished manuscript. It's free, and there were/are some very awesome agents and editors involved in the judging.

I'd queried my MG fantasy a bit, but I did do a pretty big overhaul recently. I'd queried it a few times after that, but then (b/c, overall, I'd queried a fair amount) I shelved it. But it's in good shape so I thought it'd be reasonable to enter it, and I worked quite hard on my pitches.

Initial Doubts

But then I read this very informative article about contests by Dalia on Cupid's Literary Connection (both great people to follow, of course.) And she makes some great points, but one really stuck out to me: Other writers deserve a shot too. (And, of course, the manuscript must be in great shape to even bother to enter.)

Now I'd only entered one other contest with my MG Fantasy, and I had revised since then, but I'd also felt as though there had to be a reason I'd gotten the last few rejections on my newly polished and re-revised work.


So I sent my first few pages to a new CP, and she was very helpful (and very honest). She was a little confused by the setting, and at least one transition seemed a bit abrupt. It's so hard to look at your work and, knowing what you already know, see it as a newcomer would.

My conclusion: I think my beginning, not my pitch (or query as the case may be) is my problem with this book. I love the book. I know I have good ideas. I know I have likable characters. I think I have a pretty interesting plot. But I'm having a hell of a time with the beginning, and I think that's why I haven't gotten any offers.

It's not a quick fix either. I don't have any great ideas that'll clear everything up. I'm in the middle of a new WIP that I'm very attached to. So I don't want to spend ages fixing up my MG (and I'm not even sure how I'd go about doing it anyway).

My Decision

So I was thinking: Is it really fair to the other great entrants for me to enter a contest when I'm not sure my beginning deserves the attention?

No, I decided, it's not. It's not fair to the other potential contestants and its not fair to the agents/editors reading the entries.

And so I decided not to enter. I feel oddly proud of that decision.

(The Unentered Pitches)

But since I worked so hard on them, I am going to share the pitches with you:

35 word blog pitch:

Eric Ortega’s memory’s half-gone, ripped out with the demon who possessed him. His mother – nothing but fuzz. All memory of his possession – gone. He’s determined to find his mom. The demon’s determined to find him.
Twitter Pitch:

With his spotty memory, Eric doesn’t know a demon’s after him. But he knows his mom needs him. Can he find her first? #PitchMAS 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pets Make Great Characters

If my husband's childhood pet were still alive, I am really not certain which of us he'd love more. Fortunately, I am secure in our relationship, and his dog was pretty cool.

For his birthday, I made him this pastel drawing of Brot (pronounced burr - ott).

My Husband's Pet

Apparently this dog would fetch anything, and I mean anything, you threw. From golf balls punted (hit? batted? yeah, so I don't play golf, so sue me) off the front porch to small downed trees that you managed to move two inches. (Brot couldn't do much better, but he'd be damned if he didn't get that tree those two inches back to you.)

Then there is the story of how Brot became the Chosen Puppy. There was a whole litter of puppies. Food was poured, and all the puppies gathered round. But one fat little puppy was not content to crowd around the edges. This baby dog knew how to get things done. He waded through his brothers and sisters and plopped his pudgy little butt down right in the middle of the food bowl.
And my husband's father said, "I want that one!"

This dog had character in spades.

Animal Characters: Laughter or Crying Will Ensue

Some animals have more personality than most of the people you'll talk to today. (This is not meant to be an insult to your cohorts, merely an admiration of the furred people in your life.) That is why pets (or just animals in general) can definitely make great characters.

One of my all-time favorite characters is Mogget from Sabriel. Now, admittedly, Mogget turned out to be a little more than a cat, and he could talk and all, but we are talking All Time Favorites. I'm not even sure who else would make that list at the moment. Mogget was so freaking cool!
Of course, my husband had to go and be difficult and like the Disreputable Dog (of Lirael fame) better.

And just this weekend, I was talking to a friend about how teachers read us Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows in elementary school. Yeah. Everyone pretended not to cry, but we were bawling our eyes out. Probably two of the most heart-breaking books I've ever read (or had read to me).

So when you're plotting and you need a BFF for your character, don't rule out the family pet. Just make certain you give that pet a personality. And, please, if you have any consideration for my tear ducts, do try not to sacrifice the doggy at the end of the tale.

This was another attempt at drawing Brot, but we didn't like it quite as much. It wasn't as Brot-ty:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Kids Are Wondrous Creatures

Hello, All,

I'm on vacation this week! So I'll keep this short and sweet.

Nathan Bransford pointed me toward this recent BBC Article about kids' writings. The BBC analyzed the 90,000 entries they had into their kids' short story contest, and they basically confirmed what I already knew: kids (especially kids who write) are pretty darn awesome.

Things become especially sad for the adults in the audience when the BBC starts making comparisons between analyses of adults' writings as versus these kids' compositions. For example:
Among the top five two-noun words for kids were "time machine", "space ship", and "tree house".
By the time people reach adulthood, these words have been replaced by the more mundane, functional terms like "car park" and "kitchen sink". . .

They go on to say that adults' work tends to be more "humdrum." Yah think?

For some reason (although I love cats), I was happy to see that the kids' work contained more references to dogs, monsters, and dragons than cats. Go dragons!

But at least adults aren't entirely lame:
[I]f we're looking for the missing link that unites generations, it appears to be "ice cream", which reaches the top five for both kids and adults.
Ice cream isn't nearly as awesome as dragons and time travel, but it is pretty darn delicious. Especially if it contains chocolate.