Never Done

Seven years ago I decided that I had a story burning up inside me that I needed to get out. So I wrote over 100 pages and went to get feedback.

It wasn’t pretty.

So I decided to take a writing course. That helped shape me up. I rewrote the story, got stuck, so write an entirely different novel, applying all the good notes I received from my course. I used said without fear, made sure the character’s scenes were conflict motivated, beefed up my setting description but not over doing it.

This time when I handed my manuscript to beta readers, I got more line-by-line tweaks since I had improved my basic building blocks of writing a compelling story. Now that I am starting to feel good again about my abilities as a writer I read a blog and now I question my sentence structure. Am I varying them enough? Am I boring the readers?

Even though I’m submitting my work to agents to get this book published, should I stop and rework the entire thing, for the 12th time? I know that each time I work on the manuscript it is getting better but when can I just let it go? When will I stop working over the same material but from different angles?

My guess is once this is goes to print. *sigh* That seems like that is so far away. At least, I don’t feel sick of working on it but I sure wish I could stop feeling self conscious of it and just feel done with it. Well, that could be my motivation to get this done and printed. So I can truly be complete with this manuscript.

Back to the little red pen.
The Dutiful Writer

I Confess . . .

That there are many classic must-read books that I just have never read:
Emma,
Catcher in the Rye,
Don Quixote,
and so on.

Old book open, laying flat on a wooden table.(Image courtesy of koratmember FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)
(Image courtesy of koratmember FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

To become a better writer one must always read. And I’m an avid reader, so why haven’t I read this classics that people always talk about? For one, everyone always talks about them so it’s not like I don’t know what’s going to happen in it and two, some of the truly older classics are so long-winded and boring that it’s hard to get through the book to harvest the great story. I really don’t want to have a whole chapter were all the author is don’t is explaining the setting. If the characters aren’t around to help break up the expository, why read it?

Yet I have read/scene most of Shakespeare’s work, loved some of the ancient philosophical texts, and an always interested in great pieces of writing no matter when it was written. Someone recently recommended a book by Georgette Heyer Frederica. The style was definitely different and the pace slower but it was a delight to read something that wasn’t the same old books that seem to follow out into the market today. Georgette Heyer though new to me started writing in 1921 and ended up writing over 50 novels and her first one has yet to go out of print.

So it’s not as though I’m against older books but the modern audience don’t want huge over loaded passages without paragraphs and over the top length descriptions of places (well, I don’t know about you but I don’t).

Is there any “classic” books that you absolutely loved but no one else has read?

To hunt of a new author (well new to me at least),
Melissa

On Safari

Our ammunition is the query, synopsis (of various lengths), and  first pages or chapters of our book. Our bullets are stuffed into either an envelope or email and our hopes ride on them finding the target and bagging an agent.

Picture of unseen person wearing a safari hat and binoculars peeking through grass

Yet how does one make their bullets powerfully enough to hook that agent’s overwhelmed eye? Well, isn’t that the book-contract-question? If I knew the magic recipe I’d have done it already. So it’s back to the basics.

The two most important things to snag an agent:

  • R.I.F
  • content.

R.I.F. (Reading Is Fundamental): Search for agents and only submit to the ones who want your type work. Did you write a killer spy novel but blindly submitted it to a romance agent? Boo on you. Be respectful of the agent’s time and yours. Read what they want, how they want to be submitted to and then follow their wishes.

Simple, yes but don’t get your material thrown off the to-do list because you didn’t feel like cutting your synopsis down from the ten-page monster you are in love with down to the requested two-page one.

Content: Again a no-brainer yet you can’t over state the obvious. Clean up your work. Get feedback from people who are actually submitting and doing the work. Befriend someone who is a grammar stickler. Ask for help. Always look for ways to be a better writer.

So while it’s tough being on safari and polishing your guns for that big hunt over and over again (and you feel like everything you write is rubbish), have faith. And if you don’t have faith in your work, keep writing, learn how do better, and find support around you to keep going when the brushes seems to snare you.

Remember one of the best author out on an agent hunt story I’d hear was Kathryn Stockett. You know her little book called The Help. She had over 60 rejections letters from agents and it took her over 5 years to finally down a live one. But she decided that her book and her work were worth it. So don’t get too discouraged just keep reloading and putting yourself out there, in the hunt.

Shh, did you hear that twig snap? They must be close; look alive and release the hounds.

Tallyho,

Melissa

No Wrong Way

I recently had a friend ask me how I structure my novel and how I keep the details of my characters in order.

Sharpen Pencil

So here’s a bit of my writing process:

When I first started to write novels it was a hard thing to figure out just how to structure my story, should I write with a fill in the blank structure or fly by the seat of my pants. Well, I’ve done it both ways. First, I didn’t want to be constrained by outlines (AKA a pantser) so I just wrote; no plan on what was going to pop up all I wanted was the words onto the page. I didn’t want to impede my ‘natural creative brain.’

After over 100 pages I realized that I need to have structure so went to the opposite extreme, where I scripted the entire thing. I build a meticulous outline detailing all the major scenes and the conflicts within it. Yet that was too much restraint on my creative

process. So now I have a calendar of how long my book is going to take in character time (days/weeks/months) and I write down major scenes that I have mapped out with no idea how to move the character from one event to the other so I allow that to flow out of my actually writing style.

Well what about characters, how much must I know about their background before I start? When I first get an idea for a novel, I normally see the beginning scene in my head and see a few of the character’s personality traits but for me they grow and evolve as I ‘meet’ the character. As I write I normally know my destination but never exactly how I shall get there. I have a software called Snowflake written my a writer who is also a scientist that I fill in about the characters & their background as I go along so I can keep all the details like their physical descriptions straight but that’s normally after I’ve made it a good hunk of the way through my first draft. While writing the draft now I’ll leave myself a comment about quirks, nicknames they call each other, or hair color so later I don’t have to hunt as hard.

So I guess I kind of write with a rough cage of what I want but allowing me the most amount of freedom to let the story develop in fun and surprising ways. The only thing I know for sure is that for me how I write is in flux and I have to find fight a delicate balance between too much structure, where I stifle myself, & too lax, where my story falls apart because I don’t know exactly where I’m headed.

So I guess the only conclusion about how to write and structure it, is that nothing is wrong as long as you keep getting words on the page because at the end of the day that’s what really matters.

Adrenaline Shot to the Heart

Since September I’ve been sending out my manuscript, query, and synopsis to literary agents. It’s been a bit disheartening and hard to keep my own personal moral up. I don’t mind the thank-you-no-thank-you letters/emails, it’s the no word ones that kind of tie me up.

By them not even sending a note, I have to wait the entire 2-8 weeks before I feel comfortable sending my paperwork out to the next set of agents. I know I don’t need to but it feels unprofessional to do otherwise. So I send out to agents in batches and then wait and wait to hear nothing except my calendar inform me that I can begin the process again.

Yet this time, I got a little tug on my line. An agent actually requested to see the first five pages of my manuscript. I know it’s not much, it’s not even 2% of my book, but it makes me feel great. Which is exactly what I needed to keep my edits and writing humming back on track. Even if this isn’t the agent for me, I appreciate that her asking for more, it lifts my spirits and juices my drive to hit the pages harder.

To the work!

Please let me channel the Energizer bunny behind the keyboard,

~The Writer

Big Game Hunter

I’ve been hunting for the elusive literary agent. They seem overwhelmed by the changes in the publishing world and overworked from everyone and their mother seeming wanting to be represented. So what can one lone safari tracking writer do?

Write the best story they can.

That’s it. Our job is to write because it is in our heart and soul to do so. Getting a literary agent or publisher to find your work is just due diligence & a mountain of patience. I know people have tip lists and rules of thumbs to find the right one but it all comes down to what you can control and that is what you write. So be fearless; continue to write even in the face of thank-you-no-thank-you canned email responses.

My advice may not be rock science but good old grit and determination. Believe in why you started down this path. For me, it was because if I didn’t write the story, they would be stuck in my mind with the characters screaming to get out until I slowly stopped believing in them and then they would start to die of neglect. Now is that anyway to treat my imaginary friends?

So I continue to write and take the time to continue to search for a way to share my character’s antics with the world by submitting to literary agents.

Which by the way I should be doing right now.

Onward to the hunt,

The Writer

Tiny Pushes

It’s funny when your tank and creativity is dry and you feel like the most unoriginal writer in the world, when you receive a kind word from a random person. That one drop is like water to parched land; I feel better and it gives me the fortitude to continue the work.

Without these tiny nudges to remind me that I doing what I’m meant to do, I doubt I could go on. So I thank all of those who read my early work, read by blog, or just random people who I meet and when I tell them, “I’m a writer,” they aren’t dismissive but instead are¬†genuinely excited that they know someone who is blazing a path to capture their dreams. I don’t know where I’d be without all of your love and support; I’m more grateful than mere words could express, which is a great concession to someone who adores words, but my hope is that I am able to support you to in return.

All My Love & Gratitude,

~The Blessed Writer