New Year, New Book

Happy January!  This is the first year I have been happy to see Christmas go!  Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas.  But I also love order, cleanliness, and my alone time and that comes with my children back in school.  So, here I am, alone in my warm, clean house and finally my brain has clicked back on again.  It took long enough.

So, with a new year it’s time to set goals.  Here are my goals for 2016:  query Dark Visions until I find an agent, finish Dark Princess, outline Dark Waters, keep up with my blog, and network.   I was fortunate enough to be included in a podcast by literary agents for writer’s.  It’s call PubTalkTv and you can find it free on ITunes.  Through twitter, I was asked to talk a little about how my family reacts to my writing.  I talked about the difficulty involved in convincing family that writing is important and how writing has helped my depression.  I also talked about my daughter looks up to me as a writer and how important that is to me.  It was a wonderful networking opportunity and the podcast is brilliant.  You should check it out!

I start a new adventure tomorrow that is also related to writing.  I am teaching a Writing Workshop to my daughter’s fourth grade class.  Planning for this workshop helped pull me back into my writing world.  My ten year old is so proud of mommy’s writing and wants to be a writer herself.  On days when I receive rejections or feel down on myself, it fills my heart with joy and encouragement to hear my daughter and her friends call me a writer.  It helps me to identify as a writer.

Networking opportunities appear everyday and you just have to reach out and grab them.  In today’s market, networking is part of the game.  Sitting down and writing a book is the central point, but if you are looking to be published, you have to network and you must have a Writer’s Platform.  Reaching out and connecting with other writers is so gratifying and can help you to become a better writer.

Happy New Year to you all and as always, I love to hear from everyone.

 

Twitter and Other Such Things

Wow, it’s been awhile!  We’ve been swept up by October and all of it’s activities.  But even if I haven’t been blogging, I have been writing.  Editing actually.  And I’m proud to say that my third book is complete!

Dark Visions is an epic fantasy based on Slavic Mythology and I will begin querying it in November.  I moved up my timeline, hoping to finish it by December for the next Pitch Madness on Twitter. Luckily, I finished it even earlier.  What is Pitch Madness, you ask?  It’s a wonderful contest on twitter.  Using the hashtag pitmad, you pitch your book in 140 characters or less.  Various literary agents (hundreds participate) read tweets all day and “like” the ones they are interested in.  If you get a like, you send a query.  It’s fun, fast, and messy and it’s a different way to garner interest in your novel.  The next date is December 4th, so keep your eyes peeled and finish your manuscripts.

If you are a writer and you aren’t on twitter, well my friends it’s time to take that step.  It’s so much easier than facebook and probably ninety percent of the agents you are looking at are on twitter.  Following these agents and their publishing houses is a smart way to find out what they are looking for, their manuscript wishlists, and contests that are constantly going on.  It’s also a quick way to meet other writers and represent yourself as a writer.  For those of you already on twitter, good job!

Well, I’m wrapping this up for now because I still have a sequel to write.  What are your favorite twitter contests?  How do you use social media as a writer?  Please comment and let me know.  As always, thanks for reading!

 

Down in the Dumps

I started to write this post yesterday, but I was so down on myself that it sounded like a pity party.  Today I’m in a much better place.  Why do I get so down on myself?  Depression is a hard thing to come out of.  It seems like when I most need companionship and support, I shut down and shut people out of my life.  If you are dealing with depression or having thoughts of harming yourself, please seek help.  It’s so difficult to reach out when you feel like the world is collapsing on you or you’re drowning in self loathing.  But medication and therapy do work.  You just have to give them time.

Writing helps with depression, but yesterday no words would come.  Writing can be cathartic, but it can also be lonely.  There’s not much reward or feedback and the constant rejection hurts.  I know that rejections are not personal and I should take it as a chance to grow and learn.  But knowing and doing are two different things.  Not much else to add today.  Just a reminder to add balance to your life.  Write, but also go out in the sunshine and interact with the real people.  The ones in your head don’t always make for the best company.

Back in the Saddle

Sorry for the hiatus, it’s been a bad few weeks.  My Crohn’s is acting up again, but I think that I’ve about got it under control.  When I’m able, I’ve done a lot of editing.  I’ve sent out about 20 or 30 query letters on WITHIN and have yet to hear anything except form rejections.  I’ve grown a tougher skin for rejections these days, but it gets very discouraging to not  ever get any feedback.

I believe the problem stems from my query letter.  That is the first thing agents look at and if it is not well written, concise, and does not summarize your story and make it sound interesting, you’re going straight into the slush pile.  This past February I was able to attend a Writing Conference in Seattle.  Chuck Sambuchino was the speaker and I felt like I got a lot out of it.  I often read his blogs on Writer’s Digest, and recently noticed that he was editing query letters.  I contacted him and sent him my letter.  I was very pleased with his edits.  Now my letter is tighter and less vague.

There are so many wonderful resources for writers these days.  Writer’s Digest has answers to almost any question about writing that you might have.  They list new agents looking for queries.  There are also quite a few apps and programs that help you to research, outline, and write your work.  Hemingway is an editing app that helps make your writing more concise.  Spice is a wonderful thesaurus app that gives you access not only different words, but tells shows literary quotes using the word you are looking up.  Werdsmith sets alarms to remind you to write and is nice for notes when you are out and about and have an idea.   There are so many more, but these are my favorite.

What apps or technology do you use in your writing?  I’d love to hear!

 

How to Write a Book

School is starting – hurray!  Back to writing every day.  Time to research, time to query, time to blog – can you tell I’m excited?  I got a few things done this summer, but not much real writing.  This year both kids will be in school, so I have five days a week to devote to writing.  And I will.  At least four hours a day, because I have decided that this is what I want to do with my life.  If I want to be a writer, to publish a book, then the most important thing I can do is write.  Everyday and all the time.

How much do you write?  Do you wait until inspiration strikes?  Do you wait until you have a free day?  Or are you one of those who says, “I should write a book.  If I only had time, I could do that.”  I used to be all three.  But the further I have gone on this journey, the more I have realized that the time is now and that you have to fight for time to write.  I spent my youth thinking, “I’ll write a book one day.”  Well, a few months before my 30th birthday, I lost a friend in a car accident.  It made me think.  I always say one day, but how many days do we really get?  Dealing with a chronic illness, I have definitely had times in my life where I thought I wouldn’t make it to my next birthday.

Seeing a friend die so young, with so much unfinished, made me realize that some day is now.  We shouldn’t put off the things that are important to us.  If you want to be a writer, write!  That’s the only way to write a book, one word at a time.  Writing a book isn’t nearly as hard as deciding to write a book.  So pick up a computer, or a pen, or even a crayon.  Start writing and let your someday be today.

An apology and some ramblings . . .

Sorry for the lack of updates, our internet has been down all week!  Along with our cable, phones, and ac.  I think we finally have everything fixed, but man am I frazzled! Having two kids home for the summer with no TV, internet, or air is painful.

The most frustrating thing about the lack of internet is that my plan this week was to research.  That’s been a recurring problem for me this summer.  A few weeks ago, I hired a sitter and drove to a coffee shop to get in a few hours of writing.  Thirty minutes in, the juices were flowing and my computer shuts down.  Configuring.  Well, it configured for another thirty minutes and by the time I rebooted and pulled my work back up, it was time to get back home.  I wonder why when I’m most motivated and inspired, the world seems to conspire to keep me from writing?  Maybe it’s to remind me not to wait until I’m inspired to write.  Well, when the only time I have to write is when I have a sitter, it’s very frustrating to lose that time do to electronic failures.

Well, enough of my whining.  I’ll be back next week with a real blog post, I hope.

First Draft Done!

Celebration time!  The first draft of my third novel is finished!  I’ve been busy writing The Darkness while querying for an agent for Within.  Now it’s time for edits and rewrites, not to mention writing the sequel to The Darkness, Dark Princess.  I like having several projects at once; that way if I don’t feel like writing, I can edit or research.

Editing is not my favorite part of the writing process.  Nor is it something I feel like I’m very good at (which is why I have my fabulous editor, Natalie Haraway, who is amazing at editing).  But the more I write, the more I’m learning about rewriting and layering.  For me it goes like this:  first draft is telling the story, second draft is showing the story through the character’s thoughts and actions, and third draft and on are deepening the tension and emotional connection.  I find it helps to have other eyes on it to help me with flow and with details I tend to accidentally change within the story (age, names, dates, etc).  It also helps me to take a break between drafts and let the story rest for a week or two.  Then I can hit it with fresh eyes.

I’d be interested to hear how other people approach editing.  It’s not a cut and dried process, and I’m certainly no expert.  How do you edit?  Thank again for reading.  Don’t be shy, register and comment.  I like friends 🙂

In the Mood . . . To Wri

So, it’s been a lovely rainy day here in Arkansas and the kids were at grandma’s house all afternoon.  And I got over 2,000 words written.  Not a big surprise, given that I had the house to myself. But I have the house to myself nearly every Tuesday and I don’t always have the word count that I managed today.  Some Tuesdays I don’t even write (shh, don’t tell anyone).  What was different about today?

Rain.  That was what was different.  I always write more and write better during a thunderstorm.  Is it in my head?  Probably.  Could I write just as well and for just as long had the sun been shining.  Technically, I guess I could.  But something about a good ole thunderstorm gets me in the mood to write.  Turn on my current novel playlist, light a few candles and the hours pass like minutes.

Is it important to write when you’re not in the mood?  Of course, otherwise you’d almost never write.  But man, when those creative days hit, it’s almost like a high.  I wish I could replicate it tomorrow.  But the kids will be home and if I don’t do some laundry soon we’ll all be running around naked.  So, I’ll probably get a few pages in.  But man, come next rainy day with no kids, I’ll kill it!

What gets your creative juices flowing?  When it is hardest for you to write? For me, it’s when my family’s home.

 

Sometimes Writing Sucks

It’s June 1st.  The kids are home, the house is a mess, and I’m not writing at all.  It’s really hard to get in the zone when someone’s asking for a snack or the potty every five minutes.  Not that I’m not happy to spend time with them, but I’m really looking forward to a few hours off tomorrow!

I’m deep in the midst of my least favorite part of writing right now – querying.  Most writers with aspirations towards publishing is familiar with that loathsome word.  Querying, otherwise known as constant, soul-crushing rejection.  For those not familiar with the process, a query is a letter sent to literary agents explaining your project and why you think they should represent your work.  Think the inside of a book jacket plus a resume.  There are probably people out there who are fantastic at summarizing their novel in two short paragraphs, complete with a catchy “hook” to entice potential agents.  I am not one of them.  While I believe I am a good writer and that my novel is interesting and well written, I am apparently incapable of showing that in a snappy letter.

I have written many versions of query letters.  I read Chuck Sambuchinos’s and Janet Reid aka Query Shark’s blog regularly (two excellent sources for examples of well written queries).  Still, though, the perfect query letter eludes me.  But like every other part of the writing process, you can only improve by continuing to write. So, I’m off to rewrite WITHIN query number 37.

Good luck to all the other writers stuck in the hell that is querying!

Building Worlds

I’m back after an unfortunate bout of pneumonia!  But back on track this week.  I’ve been hard at work on my newest novel, The Darkness.  I’ve finished the first draft of it, which basically means that it’s an absolute mess!  But it is complete, at least until I begin tearing it apart.

The Darkness is a high fantasy book loosely based on Slavic mythology.  I’ve been doing a lot of my favorite thing (next to writing) – researching! As a history buff, I tend to research my books to death, adding historical detail to every piece.  The Darkness has been especially fun because for the first time, I’m creating a completely new world.  My first two books, while they contained a fantasy element, were set in a specific time in history.  That requires careful study and a creative merging of events to make certain nothing is grossly out of place.  I was constantly concerned about following the language, dress, and customs of the time.  High fantasy is a whole new ballgame.

Creating a new world is fun, but also challenging.  Rules, customs, language, religion, and on and on. It all has to be defined.  Even if a detail doesn’t make it into the book, the author still must know it.  It takes planning and constant revision to build a fantasy world and if your premise is shaky, then the whole world will collapse.  But include too much information and you’ll put your readers to sleep.

While we have hundreds of fantastic examples of fantasy worlds such as Westoros, Hogworts, the Shire and Rivendell, we don’t have as many guides to forming a fantasy world. Some knowledge comes with writing, inventing characters and stories.  I recently found a good guide to help build fantasy worlds, featured on Dan Koboldt’s Blog: Author and Scientist.  He hosted sociologist, Hannah Emery who pinned the article, “On Dothraki and House Elves:  Developing Fantasy Cults.” Emery has a blog called the Socialist Novelist.  All contain great advice on building a fantasy world and writing in general.

As a sociologist, Emery has a different perspective on the subject of different cultures and how they grow and change. It brings home the point that as writers we can only improve our work by researching our subject and by taking advantage of the many writing blogs full of information.  Check out some of these blogs and if you have any favorite blogs about books or writing, feel free to share in the comments.

Thanks as always for reading.  Till next week!