Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Different Paths

Fork In the Road
A Fork in the Road
By Bs0u10e0
From what I can tell there are a million plus paths to becoming a published author.

A critique partner friend of mine just got herself an internship at a good literary agency, and I had a moment of: Am I doing this wrong?

A former critique partner got herself an agent through a contest she'd entered, and I had a moment of: Am I doing this wrong?

A cousin of mine is a very engaged and successful You-Tuber. She got the phone number of a dream literary agent of mine through a conference panel, and, well, you know what I asked myself.

foggy forest path
A Mist-hidden Path
By Indy Kethdy
Don't get me wrong, there are amazing opportunities out there, and the people who take advantage of them are sure to get themselves, well, an advantage. For example, my friend working with the literary agent will be reading a ton of query letters and manuscripts and learning a lot about what works and what doesn't. So through her hard work, she'll be making some serious progress on the writing front (that I might get to benefit from too - because she's still critiquing my stuff  & she's awesome.)

But I can't enter every contest. I would be irritated if I spent all my time engaged on Twitter, and I don't have the time or patience (or possibly capability) to get myself an internship. So far I've shuddered at the thought of all those people at a conference, but I might need to bring myself around on that one.

So here I sit, working away at my books and slowly but surely improving at this writing thing and tippity tapping away at my blog, and I'm hoping that'll get me somewhere too.

old luggage
And what might these contain?
Photo by THOR
Hey, at least I'm not counting on someone important finding my lost manuscript in a bag I abandon on the subway. Although .... that would be awesome.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

My Flaming Phoenix

phoenix, flying
My Phoenix

I sent my book off to my Critique Partners (CPs) and have had a little too much time on my hands to worry and wonder what they're thinking of my book (you know, when I wasn't out digging holes and conversing with plumbers and well experts).

So this week I decided to paint myself a flaming phoenix. Mostly I wanted to paint a pretty bird, but then I got out the reds and yellows, and it turned into a phoenix.

I asked my husband what a good landscape for a phoenix would be, and he said, "A volcano!" Which seemed like a good idea to me.

phoenix close up, volcano
A Close-up!

I was going to offer this delightful phoenix to my sister. She's having her second baby this year, and I suggested a Mythical Beasts theme for the room (Child #1 got a jungle theme). My sister said she thinks that Child #2 will get the jungle themed room and Child #1 will get his very own train-themed room.

I informed her that mythical beasts are waaaayyyyy cooler than trains. She said that Child #1 loves Thomas The Tank Engine (a fact I did know) and is not really willing to love mythical beasts just because I think they're way cooler. I told her that her child's tastes are lame.

She informed me that two-year-olds are not known for being flexible (in a very sarcastic manner, I might add). And she'll get right on making him love Mythical Beasts instead of trains, but she's not so sure how well that's going to pan out for me.

I take solace in the fact that I'm right.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

And Then I Dug A Hole

This photo really doesn't do justice to the depth of this hole.

Well, our well ran dry. It wasn't my metaphorical well of ideas and good thoughts either. It was our water well. I gotta tell you, sometimes you don't realize that taking a hot shower is a luxury, but it is.

Also: it is very hard to go to the bathroom without water, and having clean hands is awfully nice.

I could stand waist deep in this sucker.

So rather than writing, I spent a good chunk of this weekend digging an enormous hole.

Got my butt muddy and gross.
(Yes - that is mud I tell you.)

Turns out we'd sprung a leak, and they had to get down to the pipey bits of the well to fix them. To save a little cash (and get a very good workout), I dug me a hole.

I cut open a big contractor bag and made it a tent.
Because I wanted to do it up right.

I'm oddly proud of this - probably because everybody kept expecting my husband to dig it, but I accomplished it all on my own. My husband was at work, or I'm sure he would have helped a little.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

To The End of A Revsion! (a.k.a. How To Revise)

poppy field
I went metaphorical with these photos in a series I like to call: The Poppy Blooms.
Photo by Marcus Rahm

My Revision Process


I spent the last two weeks revising my book, currently titled Eric Ortega and the Demon Wind, and I finished on Monday! Twas a very exciting time. I cut the book down from 72k to 66k words.

Now I am going to tell you how I did it.

poppy bud
Photo by Eira Monstad

Step 1: The Big Picture

  1. Speedy read through - to pick out the slow chapters and identify parts that need clarification
    1. Outline the chapters - take notes on characters, location, time passing
    2. Read outline to see if even in note form the story feels active and tense
  2. Full chapter re-writes - sometimes you just gotta take out the parts that aren't working.

unfurling poppy
Photo by Steve Bailey

Step 2: The Nitty Gritty

Once I've mercilessly chopped at the chapters that need overhauling, I start over from the beginning with a fine tooth comb.

On this go through, here are some of the things I look for (Note: My examples are for fun, they're not actually from my book.):

  • Fixing grammar and spelling mistakes (The Obvious)
  • Eliminating passive tense
    • Ex., before revision: I was swinging on a vine, yodelling at the top of my voice. 
    • Ex., after revision: I swung from vine to vine and yodelled so the whole jungle could hear. (Okay, so I took a few other revision liberties, but that's the sort of thing I'd do too.)
  • Cutting the word "start".  This is a weird personal thing. Apparently I love to use the word "start." I cut it at least fifty different places.
    • Ex., before revision: "I started to put on my purple polka dotted pants"
    • Ex., after revision: "I pulled on my purple polka dotted pants."
  • Cutting conjunctions. I do love my compound sentences. I use "and" and "but" far too often. I even like to start sentences with "And." I have less of an "or" addiction.
  • Eliminating the word "said" when I can indicate the speaker through action. I've read a lot of recommendations to use the word "said" rather than getting fancy with words like "interjected", "screeched", "demanded", etc. But still, it's nice not to have to use it on every other line.
    • Ex., before revision: Little Billy picked his nose with his tiny pointer finger.
      "What do you think you're doing?" Sheanna said.
    • Ex., after revision: Little Billy picked his nose with his tiny pointer finger.
      "What do you think you're doing?" Sheanna pulled Billy's hand away from his nose as Billy strained to keep picking.
  • Envisioning the action. It's so easy to write an impossible action scene. You throw in a smattering of awesome verbs and actions and sometimes you forget that Little Billy was just across the room because now you need him next to the door. When revising these scene, I try to picture them in my head and make sure none of my characters are accidentally doing the impossible.
  • Adding Description. Another personal foible. I'm not big on description in the books I read, and I'm not big on writing it into my books, so making sure I've adequately described my world is important.

pretty poppy
Photo by Peter G W Jones

Step 3: Send Awesome Draft To Others

Time to send it off to my critique partners so they can find  the problems I can't see on my own.

This is where I am in my editing process. A great big thank you to my awesome critiquers (present and past)!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

My Flattened Brain

flat coke can
This is my brain on editing.
Photo by J J

I've been busy with work and family stuff, so I feel like my writing time's suffered (or I've been ignoring it.) Slowly but surely, I have been revising the problem areas of my book, but it feels like that's taking forever, and I already fixed the worst parts.

exhausted cat
This is how I felt after hours of editing.
Photo by Xerones

This weekend I got sick and tired of not having my book out with my critique partners (let alone out on the query circuit), so I got serious and started one last pass on the book. Trimming back as much as I can, adding clarity, and editing anything that needs editing.

My brain is shot. Every now and then I sort of stare off into space, blink, realize I'm staring off into space, and start typing again. I'm pretty sure this is what my brain thinks I just did to it:
dramatic child
Photo by peasap
In case you are concerned, "peasap" assures all Flickr/Creative Commons users that this is a statue.

I got about a third of the way through my book, so I'm feeling pretty good about it. Too bad I can't just change my brain out, and start afresh, right?
changing a flat
Photo by AHLN