Monday, August 30, 2010

What If It Was Just That Easy?

What if I could wake up one day and just sit down and write out the perfect story?  If I could do that, then I probably would never have to worry about facing rejection. 

What if I never had to face rejection?  Then, I probably wouldn't ever improve on my skills. 

What if blogging was enough?  I like to write.  I like to blog.  I like to write in my blog.  But, blogging isn't enough for me.  I want to write a binding-worthy-story.

Maybe then, I could just break the story writing process down into tiny little understandable bits.  Then maybe it could be just that easy, to write the story at least. 

In my writing group we are all getting ready for NaNoWriMo.  I've written a book and the others are just beginning their journey.  I'm not sure if I'm capable of helping them but somehow I am finding ways to make the upcoming book writing a lot easier than when I wrote my first two books.

This time, I sat down and wrote one sentence to describe my whole book.  This sentence might prove useful when I need a one-line pitch in the future of marketing this story, or if I find myself 20,000 words into the story and can't remember what the original idea of my story was supposed to be about.

Then, I wrote the query.  Last time, I didn't really know what a query was so it came last and proved to be difficult.  Writing the query first was actually great because now it's done, and it gives me another reference for when I start writing my book.

After the query (a micro version of the essence of the book) I decided to break down about how many chapters my book is going to be (2,000 word chapters divided by 50,000 word NaNo requirement = 25 chapters) and then I set out to write an outline.

Everyone outlines differently.  I decided to write one sentence to describe each of my 25 chapters.  This was not as bad as I thought it would be (admittedly, some of those one sentences are run-on but hey, I have an idea of what each chapter is supposed to be about).  Now, I have an opportunity to see where I need to shrink or build on different sections of my book.  Also, I can use this outline later as a synopsis (of course it will have to be tweaked a little depending on how the story actually goes once written).

After I wrote my outline, now I can pick through it and make a research page.  This research page will consist of anything I still need to figure out.  For example, this book is going to be paranormal and will deal with parallel universes, so I need to figure out how my MC is going to get through these universes and exactly how those universes affect each other.

Once I've gone through my research page and figured out how to build my new world, I then have to do some character building.  By this I mean, who is my MC, my protagonist, and all the other main characters that help my MC?  What are their motivations?  What do they look like?  What are their special skills or talents?  And so on. 

By the time November 1st rolls around, I will have:
  • One-line pitch.
  • Query
  • Synopsis
  • Outline
  • Detailed Research pages
  • Character sheets
That's probably as prepared as any writer can get for writing a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days.  Hopefully, it will be just that easy. 

How do you prepare for NaNo?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Not a Bad Monday

Life gets overwhelming and the days all blur together sometimes. Lately, I wake up on a Monday and it might as well be next Sunday; that's how jam packed my days are.

In a nutshell: I have 3 days a week where I drive 80 miles in a day back and forth to my youngest son's preschool. There is 1 day of volunteering in the kindergarten for my middle child, 1 day of piano lessons 25 miles away for the oldest child, 2 days a week of karate for both of the boys, 1 minimum school day every week, 2 days where my youngest is home all day with me and sad because his brother is in kindergarten and he isn't, and with half-day kindergarten I have 3 days a week of 2 drop offs and 3 pick ups.

Time flies.

So, when this Monday rolled around and I opened my email and saw that I won the Polka-Dot jersey for Heather's Edited to Within an Inch of My LIfe, Tour de Writing contest, I was ecstatic!  That means soon I will be the proud owner of a designer Mad Bag.  Thank you Heather!

Then I got onto my blogger dashboard and saw that Ronni over at Fiction Groupie just signed with an agent!  And Donna Hole just got a story accepted for publication. Yay!  Congratulations!  I love to see other writers getting agents and publishing stories; it's proof that there is hope for all of us.

That makes me feel like giving an update on my progess thus far.  I actually haven't been on my journey for very long so I still feel fresh with hope and ambition. 

Before I found the Query Shark I submitted 6 queries, all of which were rejected.  After Query Shark I sent another 6 queries of which I've been asked for my partial twice, one of which has been rejected.  The other partial manuscript is still out to an agent. 

I stopped querying because the agent that has my manuscript gave me feedback that prompted a complete revision of my story.  At the time of request, I only had time to revise the requested amount of manuscript to send it in quickly.  When I hadn't heard back from this agent in 6 weeks, I emailed her to check the status of my partial and to ask if I could resubmit the partial with a new synopsis because the changes affected the ending.  Resubmitting was not a problem for this agent, so off it went for the second time.  This partial might be out for awhile.  But, thanks to this agent (regardless if she rejects me), I've been able to revise my whole story and make it better.  For that, waiting has been worth it.  But now, the goal is to get back to querying.

In the meantime, I found myself a writing group that I'm very excited about.  We lovingly refer to it as Write-A-Tat-Tat.  I happen to be friends and neighbors with each of these ladies and we all came together for one goal, to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.  Four of the five of us have never written a novel before so I'm really excited to be working with them and them with me.

Despite my chaotic schedule, I still manage to fit in my writing (if I didn't, I would feel lost and afraid).  I might be down to only one day a week of blogging right now, but I take moments for writing everywhere, i.e. in the car waiting for my daughter after school, at night while husband bathes the kids, after everyone is asleep, one or two hours while all kids are in school and here and there on the weekends.  Do you find yourself having to cram writing into your schedule?

Monday, August 16, 2010

What I Wish I Knew Before I Wrote My Novel

Whew! Thank the lord for WriteOnCon. I learned a great deal about the bizz and about my own writing.

So, today I want to talk about what I wish I knew before I wrote my novel.

I'm kind of a self-starter type of person. I once built a desk from OfficeMax and did all kinds of things wrong before I finally opened the instructions. So, it doesn't surprise me that I went ahead with writing my first novel before I really considered what goes into creating one.

However, I did take creative writing classes, spent time writing short stories and journeling my whole life, I just never really read books about writing books.

What's done is done. Now for my second novel here's what I plan on doing:

1. I'm going to read about how to plot a novel. I started with an article on eHow, How to Plot a Novel and then I bought No Plot, No Problem! by Chris Baty.

You're probably wondering how I managed to get through one novel without properly plotting. I wonder the same least now I do. I actually just envisioned my story and wrote. I had an idea of who my characters were and how I wanted the book to go. I learned however, that if the story isn't plotted very well then you'll know about it in the revisions. Yep! I am trudging through revisions on my first novel where I've had to cover up big plot holes, and ambiguity that might not have been a problem if I plotted first. Why oh why did I choose to write a suspense novel first?

2. I'm going to make and keep a style sheet or reference guide. Nathan Bransford and Anna Katherine both talk about the benefits of doing this on their sites.

You should check out both articles because the purpose for each article is different. Nathan suggests keeping details about each of your characters so you don't have to flip back through a couple hundred pages to find out if your MC's girlfriend's name has an E on the end or not, or whether your MC's new love interest has blonde hair and blue eyes or blonde hair and green eyes. Anna Katherine talks about why you should put together a reference guide for a copy editor and then they give an example of what theirs looked like. Examples from their article include, "I want "gray" to always be spelled "grey" and "we wanted "sulfur" to always be spelled "sulphur"". Not to mention they have a good reason to keep timelines handy for your characters, such as the school schedule (don't show your MC showing up in Science class in the morning in one chapter and then at the end of the day in the next).

3. I wish I had written my query letter and synopsis before I wrote my book.

Elana Johnson just wrote a great article about writing a synopsis and what book she read for such great advice, check it out. Why write the query and synopsis before I've even written the first five pages? It might just be me but I found that when I wrote the synopsis I found some of my plot problems and that's when my first inkling to rewrite my book started. I was adding fluff to my synopsis that might not have been in my book. That's no good. Can writing the query and synopsis first really help? I don't know. But when I get done with the second book I'll tell you. It doesn't hurt to try. At least you'll know for sure if you have a solid plot and a great beginning, middle and end. Same goes for the query. Why wait until you've put blood sweat and tears into a book to feel daunted by the query? Just write the query first and then see how far off the target you are when you get done with the book, you can revise it then.

4. Write First, Edit Second

I sort of did this one the first time. I actually thought if I edited along the way I was going to lose my momentum so I pounded out the first 64,000 words in 6 weeks and then added on 10,000 more words during the edit process. This time, I am going to participate in NaNoWriMo. This is a lofty goal, but I'm up for the challenge...I think. Why not write a book in 30 days? The writing shouldn't take a really long time (shouldn't being the operative word here), but it can. Sometimes writing a book can take years, because we are perfectionists, writers and editors all in one. We want perfect first drafts. Maybe because we still have a touch of insecurity and know a beta reader is going to have to read our book at some point and being that as it may, the book better be perfect. Nah! Don't think like that. Get your story out of your head and then go back and edit and revise as needed. I stop 10,000 words short of my goal just for revising and editing purposes. You'll find areas you can tighten, but you'll also find areas where you need to add more, leave a cushion in your desired word count for this. Don't arrive at a lofty word goal and then have to add more making your word count too big for your desired audience, i.e. seriously 100,000 words for an MG book is too much, especially for first time authors (even J.K. Rowling's first couple books are relatively short in comparison to the others in the series.)

5. Ease up on myself. There's no gun to my head.

With the first novel, I felt like I had something to prove to myself, my husband, neighbors, friends, and family. I took myself way too seriously and skipped out on some of the fun. I didn't have a blog, I was afraid to Facebook my progress, had no idea about writing conferences and all the fun writing groups and blogs are out there. I was lonely. Nobody really understood what I was going through. I was definitely missing out on all of the fun that goes on in the blogging world of writers. WriteOnCon was fun! And I'm betting NaNoWriMo is going to be just as fun. Are you enjoying your process? I hope so.

I'm sure there are plenty more things I could have done before I wrote my first novel, but it's never too late to start anew.

Anybody else participating in NaNoWriMo? It would be nice to be familiar with a couple of writers during this upcoming event.

What kinds of things do you wish you knew before you started writing your first novel? Can you think of anything I could add to my list?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Last Day of My Contest

All good things must come to an end, it's true.

But when one thing ends the WriteOnCon begins!

Tonight will be the last time I check for points for my contest the Writing Triathlon. I had an opportunity to meet some great writers who not only participated in my contest but supported my husband through his Ironman with their comments. Thank you for that!

The WriteOnCon is already turning out to be a great way for me to meet other writers through the introductions and the forums. If you haven't signed up for this event, go do it now! It starts tomorrow.

In the meantime, I've tallied the scores from the contest and the top three winners are so close that today's points could really make a difference in who gets first place.

Tina Lee leads with 32 points
Heather is coming in second with 28 points
Kelly is third with 27 points

Ladies, you can up your point status before the end of the day by heading over to Elana Johnson's blog to let her know which picture to choose for her book cover, then go over to Heather's blog to post your total written and revised words, stop in at Tina's Practice Room, or make a comment here for additional points. Good Luck everyone!

So, the last two weeks have been so crazy with the completion of James' Ironman and then my daughter's 8th birthday party, that I haven't even posted the prizes. Now that I'm getting it together, here are the prizes:

1st Place: A $20 Gift Card to Barnes & Noble

2nd & 3rd Place: The choice of one of three books lovingly blogged about on Elana Johnson's Blog : (hopefully when you click on the books they will take you to the bn website description of each).

I feel like chanting and pounding my fists now...WRITEONCON!!! WRITEONCON!!! WRITEONCON!!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

All Said and Done

May we all have the courage and support to set and accomplish our goals.

How did you all fair in my Writing Triathlon while I was away? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for following this journey. Now back to the writing (eeks! I'm so excited for WriteOnCon).