Monday, August 27, 2007

We’re All a Bunch of Rejects

Writers are a strange breed—seriously, what other group of people do you know out there who celebrate rejection like we do? My online writer's group has a rejection contest running right now, in fact. I can't remember who started it, but whomever gets the most rejections before the end of the year gets free ice cream, and the rest of us are invited to go along with them.

Now, this may just have been an excuse to get everyone possible together, we love sitting around talking about, well, whatever, but of course, our writing experience often takes a front seat in the conversation. Writing is, by nature, a very solitary pursuit, but it's hard to learn in a vacuum, and we all need support from time to time. Of course, we don't only share our rejections, but all of our successes as well. In a world where the average writer collects more than 100 rejections (one woman in my group is well past that now—but then, she's sold a large number of articles and short stories as well) it's important to remember that others who are striving for the same thing we are also get rejected. But sometimes a publisher loves what we wrote—it’s all about persistence.

Just because eight publishers/agents didn't think the story or article fit what they were looking for doesn't mean the next one won’t think it's perfect for his or her needs. Most all of us has received a personalized rejection at some time or other—a very rare thing in this industry. Comments range along the line of 'I liked dialogue but you need to work on exposition' to 'It's not what I'm looking for right now, but another agent will snap it up.'

Personally, I'm hoping to find someone to snap up my book, rather than pass it on. But as even my amazing paid editor—who is also a published writer—told me how amazing it was that I got a personal note back from a publisher, I'm hoping it will be sometime before the year 2020. Or better yet, early next year.

I'm afraid I'm not even in the running for the contest, but I'm going to try and join them all for ice cream anyway, even if it is the dead of winter. If nothing else, it might motivate me to keep sending those manuscripts in—after all, one of them has to hit eventually.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A deep, white layer of it

It’s snowing at my house.

No, we’re not experiencing unseasonably cold weather, and other than the occasional bird feather around my coop the ground isn’t turning white. I’ve been using the snowflake method of plot planning this week.

I can hear you, “The snowflake method? And you make detailed plot plans in advance? Doesn’t that stifle your creativity?”

The Snowflake Method, as set out by Randy Ingermanson on his web site is a step-by-step guide to learning who your characters are and where your story is going.

This past spring I worked on a bit of fiction where I really knew the characters and how they would react, and I knew my major plot points from beginning to end. Amazingly, I was writing three to six thousand words most days without breaking a sweat and my rough draft ended up being pretty clean and organized.

That got me to thinking, if I had an advanced plan for my other writing, would I be able to write an entire novel in six weeks or less every time. And could I do that without having to go back and rewrite the whole thing because I dropped story lines half-way through and my characters changed over time? And to be honest, I usually lose steam about three-quarters of the way through because I’ve used the conflicts I originally planned, and haven’t developed anything for that last bit.

So I decided to give this a try. As Randy points out, it’s a fluid, living document, so even if I thoroughly work through step eight: writing a sentence for every planned scene, I can always change and shift the story as I go. Which is good, because you never know when your character is going to hijack the story and take it in a slightly different direction than you had planned.

Anyway, Now I’ve brainstormed ideas for that dangerous empty zone of the story, and I’ve begun detailing what I want to happen in each section, I’m working on more detailed character analysis than I’ve ever done. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll be ready to tackle the serious editing my mess of a 270-page manuscript has become as I’ve worked on different plot ideas in different versions and haven’t finished integrating the old with the new.

I’m choosing to see this as creating a new direction in my story instead of editing, since I’ve already established that I hate editing. Maybe that kind of outlook shift will work for motivating me to clean the kitchen. Hmmmm.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Even rule breakers get tagged

OK, so Connie Hall over at LDSwriterblogck tagged me a few weeks back and I’ve been way to distracted with other things to follow through, so I decided it was time I got around to it.

What were you doing ten years ago? Taking summer classes at Southern Utah University, working in the deli of a gas station and having a ton of fun with my roommates and neighbors.

What were you doing one year ago? Working part-time at the library, part-time for my parents in their store, part-time in our computer business and reading a heck of a lot.

Five snacks you enjoy: 1) Anything chocolate 2) Popcorn-even just plain from the air popper 3) A slice of homemade bread slathered in butter and strawberry jam 4) ice cream 5) cookies.

Five songs you know all the lyrics to: I have to pick just five? 1) Most of the songs in Handel’s Messiah, 2) Anything off of my VoiceMale CDs 3) The entire Newsies soundtrack 4) most of the play list from the Manti radio station (I was raised on easy listening) 5) The modern LDS Pride and Prejudice soundtrack—which is easily among my favorites for writing to

Things you would do if you were a millionaire: Take a trip to Europe, pay off my bills, those of my family members and finish my landscaping this year instead of sometime before 2020.

Five bad habits 1) I often leave my clean laundry piled in the other room for several days before getting round to folding/hanging it 2) procrastinating my writing because I found this fascinating book I can’t put down 3) eating too many sweets 4) leaving the sliding glass door unlocked after I let the dog back in—I can’t wait until we put the new door in 5) Letting the duck/goose “pond” go more than three days between changes

Five things you like to do: 1) read 2) work in my yard –but not when it’s 90 degrees out 3) play with my birds or four-legged fur babies 4) goof off with my sisters 5) Just sit on the porch at night in the dark and smell my flowers

Things you will never wear again: 1) Bangs sprayed to stay two inches above the top of my head 2) Pants pegged until they are tight on my calves 3) size 6 jeans 4) half a gallon of soft ice cream mix 5) Blue eye shadow

Five favorite toys: 1) laptop, 2) cell phone 3) digital camera 4) mini photo printer 5) ipod

Where will you be in ten years: Hopefully still in this house, writing for profit, and still playing with my animals.

I’m actually not going to tag anyone else, even though it is a gross violation of the rules because everyone I know has already been tagged, and I just like flouting tradition.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Either way it's cleaning out the muck

Can I just say that I hate editing?

Don’t get me wrong, I love the way my story looks after the edit is done. There’s a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from knowing you took your work—that you once thought was wonderful—and made it even better. I’m not talking about shifting around a sentence, correcting spelling or adding half a dozen semi-colons. I’m talking about major scene changes, cutting the fat and rerouting plots gone awry.

I’m talking about staring at that three-hundred double-spaced pages of manuscript that is bleeding ink from a critique and facing down the fact that my baby has some serious problems. Even worse is doing it after facing that same situation on this book through four critiques and an editor, and now I’m doing it again.

There are times when I’d rather be mucking out my chicken coop or scrubbing down the duck pond (Eeewww!) than face two thousand places where someone (even me) found problems with my story.

It’s a good thing I love the story so much more when it’s done.

And that I can look at the pile of pages I’ve finished as I go along and remind myself that I’m making progress.

Still, there are times I would much rather just start a new story and shelf the old one—if only the first one would stop nudging my mind that I’ve been procrastinating the edit. Besides, if the story is as good as everyone keeps telling me it is (despite the copious amounts of red ink they’ve left on the manuscript) then don’t I owe it to myself to get the editing done?

I suppose the coop will survive one more day. Back to editing for me.