Monday, October 20, 2014

Crit Partners are the Best!

Hello, writer friends! I haven't posted in quite some time. I've been editing and being pretty low key on the social media front. I figured if I didn't have anything super exciting to blog about, I'd keep my mouth shut :)

But! I have been wanting to share about recently getting official crit partners (CPs) for the first time. It's pretty much common knowledge that you should work with other writers to edit your work. But it's really hard to find a good fit, and for years I avoided anything other than a small trade-off of pages with a trusted fellow writer here and there. However, when fellow writer and blogger Don Hammons posted about starting a group, I figured I'd give it a shot. I had known Don for a while through blogging, and his awesome annual Write Club contests, and it seemed like the right time. And I've loved it!

We have a small group of eight writers, and we each post 10 pages for critique in a DropBox account every couple of weeks. We also have meetings via Facebook chat every couple weeks. It's been really great, and it's invaluable to get those extra pairs of eyes! It really is amazing to see what others discover that you didn't see because you wrote it and it makes sense in your head - but not to everybody else! Or just the little things, like how one of my characters apparently shrugs all the damn time, LOL. Anyways, it's been awesome and I've polished up my latest WIP so I can start querying. I feel SO much more confident about that knowing that my CPs think it's ready, too. We all know there are no guarantees with agents and publishers, but I feel a whole lot better having vetted it through my group.

So, do you have CPs? What have been your experiences with them? And as always, I hope everyone is doing great!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thriving in the Darkest Hour

I read an awesome blog post by Robin LaFevers the other day on Writer Unboxed. It's about how a writer can not only survive but thrive in that "almost there" phase before they get an agent and a pub deal. It spoke so deeply to me, because I've been in that "almost there" phase, or the "Dark Night of the Soul" as Robin put it, for well over a year now. I was a semi-finalist in one online writing contest, and won my age category in another popular online pitch contest, but the agents that requested ended up passing. I got very complimentary feedback from an agent that loved my writing but had something too similar, and requests to submit my future work from a couple others. In essence, it's been an extremely frustrating period of near misses. A period of good, but not good enough.

Reading Robin's post was like a beacon in my dark night, and inspired me to keep at it with gusto. Not that I was thinking of quitting, but it enabled me to smell the roses again. In her post she talks about using this phase in your pre-career to really amp up the excellence in your craft. So, being the list freak that I am, I decided to list out what I felt were the main elements of a story, with the sub-elements that make a novel delicious. My goal with this is to take an honest look at how I stack up in these various areas, both overall and for each book I've written, since each book is of course a unique creature. Here's the list of elements I came up with:

  • Character
    • Depth, details, uniqueness
    • Motivations
    • Emotions
    • Relationships
    • Dialogue
    • POV
    • Character voice
    • Arc
    • Antagonists
  • Plot
    • Concept – new or archetypal?
    • Scenes
    • Pacing
    • Tension
    • Hooks and Cliffhangers
    • Turning points – inner and outer
    • Twists/surprises
  • Voice/Style/Skill
    • Writer’s voice/style
    • Skill with words, mastery of craft
    • Structure
    • “Feel” of the story
    • Ability to immerse reader
    • Subtext
  • Worldbuilding
    • Description – range from lush to minimal
    • Visual and full-sensory experience of reader
    • Details – whether real or fantasy world
    • Setting as character 

So, writer friends: have you experienced a dark time in your writing career? What do you think of the list above - what did I miss? How do you self-evaluate?

I'll let you know how my self-evaluation process goes. I've been reading writing craft books and I have some other exercises to experiment with. Whatever you're up to, I hope the summer is unfolding beautifully!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Balance and A Happiness Project

Brave new world. That phrase pops into my head a lot lately. As some of you know, I recently underwent a huge change in my life. And in addition to getting adjusted to my new life, working at least 40 hours a week, raising my son, and attending to my writing schedule, I've been trying to get serious about exercising and train my horse. Along with having a social life again. Yes, I'm totally Type-A :)

So that's the first part of this post: balance. Ignoring exercise and my horse for the most part, in the past I could usually get 1,000 words written a day. Which pumps out a first draft in about three months. And that's nice, but it's not a race. My horse is almost five and not yet under saddle, and of course my health is important. Over the last couple months it's been two steps forward, one step back trying to get a consistent schedule going to balance this all out. I'd exercise five times a week but only visit my horse once and write too little. Or I'd write more but exercise less - you get the point. I've been trying to find that sweet spot where I get a respectable amount of forward progress in all three without stressing out too much.

What I've come up with that I think will work is: M/W/F = exercise days, and T/Th = horse days in the evenings after work. I'll also write 500 words a day, including the weekends. That's a small amount, but it adds up pretty quickly. Weekends I can always add more in any of the areas as inspired, plus social time. And the good thing is that my son is twelve now, so he likes to exercise with me, and he can do homework while I write, and he likes to come to the barn with me, too. So, we get to spend time together while I'm working towards my goals.

As if all of that isn't enough, I've really been feeling a need to focus internally as well. I'm a very external goal-oriented person, and for the past many years I've let go of most focus inwardly. I'm not a religious person, but I am spiritual, and to me that simply means working towards peace and happiness so you can spread that as you go through life. So, I've been doing some simple things to work on inner me: a few positive affirmations, contemplating areas where I need to grow and learn, being more grateful for what I have.

Then today one of my coworkers mentioned that she's doing this 100-day happiness thing where you do at least one thing every day to make you happy - meditate, eat a pastry, whatever. You can post a picture every day of what you did for your happiness on Twitter, FB, Instagram and a couple other places. This really resonated with me, so I decided on my own little twist to the project: I'm going to tweet for 100 days the special things that I feel gratitude for that day. I'll leave out the standard things: being alive and healthy, my son being alive and healthy, roof over head, etc. Just extra fun stuff. It may be one thing. It could be several. I'm going to use the hashtag #dailygratitude, so hop over to Twitter if you want to join me! I'm starting tonight. I also found a cool website about a different happiness project here.

So, lots going on! Life is overflowing with opportunities to evolve. What kinds of things have you been working on lately? Here's a final fun link to a great song, and you can check out the 24-hour dance marathon that went along with it here. TTFN!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Body Institute

Today I'm so excited to help writer friend Carol Riggs share about her pub deal for her debut novel The Body Institute! Her agent Kelly Sonnack navigated multiple bids for her light sci-fi novel, and Strange Chemistry ended up making the winning offer!

Read about her deal here. Carol is an amazing writer with crazy good editing skills (she's helped me more than once!), so I'm so stoked about this awesome news. Go say congrats!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Woman, Interrupted

It's been a while since I posted anything because I went through a pretty major life change. I got a divorce in early February, and moved to a new apartment with my son at the beginning of March. I had to pause on anything writing related and focus on regular life stuff. Getting utility accounts changed. Finding affordable internet and cell service. Buying new furniture and household stuff. Settling into my new life.

My new place is awesome, and two minutes from my son's school. At my old house I was way out in the country, so I'm back amongst society again, enjoying the luxuries of little things like running down to the CVS at the corner, and not having to stress about forgetting something at the grocery store since it's three blocks away. There are sad things, too. Not getting to see my stepdaughter on a regular basis. Not being able to look out my bedroom window and see my horse in the pasture (I moved him to a new farm and that's a whole other story). The loss of some peace and quiet (I can hear my neighbors talking downstairs and next to me sometimes). All in all there are vastly more pros than cons, but it's been a big change and I miss my old house, and I felt very out of place the first few days.

What has been especially odd is not writing every day for about six weeks. Usually I write or edit something almost every day. But I had so much to do I just had to let that go for a bit. In just the last two days I've jumped back into edits on my latest book. It's in the final edit stages before querying, just trying to polish, polish, polish. Taking so much time away actually gave me a nice, fresh perspective on it. It's just about there, and I may even send my first couple of queries next week. I was super close to querying in January, but definitely didn't want to jump into the query trenches with a divorce and the move right around the corner! I'm not that much of a masochist, even as a writer :)

Anyways, it feels great to get back to work on what I truly love, and I have next week off for my son's spring break, so plenty of time to rejuvenate and get back on track. I've got to get back to exercising too, which I've been pretty good about the last week. As the last of winter fades, the new me is blooming with the spring flowers. It'll still be a while until everything feels normal, but I'm on my way.

How about you guys? What have I missed during my hiatus?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Love List!

Recently while on Jaye Robin Brown's blog, she featured Love Lists, a list of things you love about your book to hone your focus during the ups and downs of the writing experience. Love Lists were originally created by Natalie Whipple (read more on her blog). I had heard about Love Lists a long time ago, and Jaye refreshed my memory, and I fell back in love with the concept. Anyways, I thought it'd be fun to share mine for my latest WiP. Share some of yours in the comments below, or do your own post and let me know! Hope everyone's having a kick-ass weekend so far!

  • White stag
  • Time travel
  • Golden bows
  • A kiss beneath a fall of stars
  • Computer hacker/finder of lost children
  • Astral hounds
  • Masquerade ball
  • Countless dimensions
  • Airships and flying cities
  • A dead tree and the daughters of Death
  • Horses with purple eyes
  • Lunar base
  • Dragon fire bond
  • Unexpected betrayals
  • Ever-changing sky
  • Harp music
  • Forest through the eyes of a silver fox
  • Clocks
  • The horned Ferryman
  • The Seeker and the Huntress

P.S. - If you love my love list, I'd love for someone(s) to read my first couple chapters and provide honest feedback. I'll swap crits with ya. So much love :)