Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NaNoWriMo

Rowar!
(Photo credit to Fergus Ray Murray)

For those of you on the writing scene, I’m sure you’ve heard of NaNoWriMo. For those of you who aren’t a part of the writing scene, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. There’s a website and everything. You sign up and then strive valiantly to write an entire novel in a month. In order to “win” NaNo, you’ve got to write 50,000 words by the end of the month. That averages out 1,667 words per day in case you were curious.

Well, I’ve signed up for it this year. I’ve never tried to do NaNo before. To be quite honest, I’m not sure I’m capable of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ve got things to do, you know? But I thought it might be fun to try, and I’ve had an idea that I’ve been working on outlining for a little while, so I’ve got things set up pretty well.

I considered just trying to do it without signing up or anything, just because I’m mostly curious if I can do it or not. But I know that signing up will help keep me honest, and I also know that having this goal that other people can see will truly help motivate me to keep going. And maybe I’ll actually participate in the forums to see everybody encouraging everybody else. I hear it’s a great environment.

I never considered NaNo before because I never had a project ready to go right around this time, and I’d always felt that rushing to try to achieve the NaNo goal might result in worse writing. But that was before I started outlining beforehand. And your first draft is never supposed to be perfect anyway. So I am wading into the murky waters of NaNo, and we shall see whether I come out shiny and victorious on the other side. Here I am: (NaNo link)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Getting It All Together

(I've gotten bored with photos of me, so I'm thinking I'm going to use Creative Commons photos of Dragons for a little while. Starting with this one:)

(Photo by Devra)
I picked this dragon because he looks just a little bit panicked. Like me.

I've chosen five agents for my first round of query submissions. I hear that's a pretty good number to make certain you aren't shooting yourself in the foot with a bad query.

I spent this weekend working on a synopsis, re-reading my first ten pages (again and again), and re-revising my query letter. And, of course, making all of my friends and family weigh in on my query letter and revised pages. (Sorry, dear people who like me. I'm glad you tolerate me so well.) I'm still waiting on some feedback, which is partially why I have not actually sent the query letters out (nerves might factor into the other part; plus, you can always keep revising. Knowing when to stop is one of the hardest parts.)

I am nervous as hell to get this first round out there. Yes, I do have a spreadsheet full of agents, and I know rejections are common (and often subjective). It's a competitive marketplace, and not everybody likes the same books. And yet rejections always feel pretty darn personal for the first few minutes/hours/days (depending on mood and level of hope). There's always that niggling voice that says, "If this was any good, somebody would have wanted to look at it." So the experience is a bit terrifying, and I might have been hiding from it, just a little bit.

I've been through this process before. I know there is always something you can do to improve your submission. And a set of rejections might just mean I'm not sending my book to the right people. Still, rejections are depressing as hell.

But no matter my level of trepidation, some time in the near future, once I've gotten my query letter and pages back from my last friend and polished my last sentence, I will be sending my book out into the world.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Editing Black Hole

Pic is from two yrs ago in the Badlands.

Because you're writing a blog sitting alone at home, sometimes a blog entry feels quite a bit like a diary entry.

And so, dear diary, I shall confide what I've been thinking about the last few days (sorry, no dramatic revelations to follow; I'm not actually all that exciting).

As I've been holed up in my little cave, editing my heart out, I've realized that I am not a big fan of my current job. No, this isn't a surprise. I am currently a federal worker. That's right, you know that government that shut down for no apparent reason? I work for them.

I was called back to work this past week, despite the fact that we aren't actually positive we'll be paid, and what with the debt ceiling looming, we have the feeling we might be getting another "vacation" soon. Not so surprisingly, morale is low.

So for the past week, I've had my nose to the grindstone, taking every spare minute that I could to edit my book. Because I'm dreaming of a way out of all this tomfoolery (that's right, I used the word "tomfoolery" - that's me being exceptionally polite. If I were Bridget Jones, I believe I would have chosen the word "fuckwittery" or something like that.)

And, so, I shall edit and edit and then query, query, query. And at the end of it, I still won't be able to quit my job, but hopefully I'll have an agent and be just a little bit closer to a new profession.

Blech.

And that is all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Critique Partners Are Awesome

This is Canada again.

I'm working on my editing my WIP, and I have two documents open:
1) My draft
2) My notes from my CPs, Beta readers, and myself

Beta readers and critique partners (CPs) are pretty much the most awesome thing ever (if you have fairly thick skin).

Why Bother To Find a CP?

It's hard to be objective with your own writing. You can fall in love with a character or scene or a turn of phrase or just overlook the obvious. Getting fresh eyes on your work can be essential in turning a decent manuscript into a good manuscript.

My writing partners have pointed out things it might have taken me forever to realize on my own. Plus, they're fun to talk to. They get it. They've been there. And sometimes you just really want to talk to someone who gets it.

Where to Find Them

Oh, man, there are options galore. This is not, by any means, the full list:
  • Local Writing Groups (You're on your own for this research)
  • CP Facilitations sites
  • Online Writing Groups (Just google this & look around; there are a ton)
  • Forums with more piecemeal critiques for queries and  writing samples:
    • Reddit, for example: here (Reddit has a ton of subreddits - just go looking if you want something more specific.)
    • Nathan Bransford's writing forums
    • I believe Absolute Write Water Cooler has critiquing forum
    • Query Specific: AgentQuery Connect (I didn't actually find their advice to be as helpful as other sites, but that's entirely subjective.)
There are also more unconventional methods. If you follow blogs, sometimes you'll get to know some of the frequent commenters. And sometimes they have their contact info available. Or on Twitter you might be able to find others at a similar stage in their writing.

Whenever you're contacting someone out of the blue, you're more likely to get rejected (which always hurts; sorry), but sometimes its worth it if you really love their writing style or think that they'd make a great friend.

Even if they turn you down flat, at least you got to practice selling yourself and being gracious in rejection.

What to Do When You Find Them

Don't get me wrong, despite all these opportunities, finding a CP who meshes with you and improves your writing can be hell. You can read excerpt after excerpt from potential partners. Sometimes the feedback will be useless compliments or comments from someone who obviously doesn't get your genre. But sometimes, there will be useful criticism in there.

So, when interacting with potential CPs:
1) Be honest with yourself
2) Be critical

You've got to be able to step back and recognize when a CP has a valid criticism (Of course, sometimes CPs will come back with conflicting advice. This stuff's crazy subjective). Because that is how you improve your writing.

Good luck

I've tried out a ton of potential CPs, but only a few have stuck. Even the ones who didn't work out were all pretty nice people, just not right for my writing. So don't be afraid to dip in the waters.

Oddly enough, I've had the worst time getting helpful feedback on query letters. Tons of contradicting advice and some bad advice from otherwise good writers, so always read critiques with a critical eye.

And have fun. CPs can become some of the best friends you never meet (or eventually go out of your way to meet).

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Oh, Canada

Remember how I said I was on vacation last week? Well, I was out in the Canadian Rockies, and I've got the gorgeous pictures to prove it. I figured I'd tell a short story with my pictures. This is a writing blog, after all.

(Many thanks to my husband for letting me use photos where he looks just a tiny bit silly.)

Oh, Canada, aren't you pretty?
Lake Louise, Alberta

And pretty freaking cold.
My chilly husband up above Bourgeau Lake, Banff

But, Canada, I like you.
Me! At Johnston Canyon, Banff

Even though you snow on me.

I can still see pretty sights while my heated carseat keeps my butt warm.
Icefields Parkway

And while I'm stuck behind slow RVs.
Icefields Parkway/Banff

But, please, Canada, keep the bears away from me!
 

Okay, Canada, you're still pretty and majestic and all that.

But I gotta go home.
Toodles!