Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When to Quit

When it quit is a question I've been pondering for a while. Not that I'm thinking of quitting writing but revisions. When I first finished my draft of Evolution I thought it was nearly perfect. HA! Well, after a few rejections I ended up taking a serious look at my 'completed' draft and realized it still needed serious work.

The results of six months of revisions was an almost completely different novel. I changed setting, defined and removed characters, and altered the core conflict of the plot. I'm so happy I made those revisions. I definitely feel that the result was a stronger piece. Since I finished that new 'completed' draft, I've continued to make smaller revisions, adjusting minor issues and clarifying plot and characters. Each time I feel better about what I've written. About three months ago I decided to start querying again. I've had a bit of interest, with two partials and a full. Considering I've only sent out about 20 queries this round I think the two versions of my query are working alright. 

Last week, I had a beta reader who graciously read through the entire manuscript in one sitting. Overall, she had a lot of great things to say - the stuff I wanted to hear. In addition to the positives she pointed out the problems she noticed as reading - the stuff I needed to hear. Redundancies aren't a big issue. I can give it a read through again and remove some of them. But the main problem she pointed to was my pacing. And she's right. I know she is. Pacing was what I was trying to fix, and I did. Well, I did a bit, just not enough.

There was a moment a few weeks back that I thought I was done with major work. Now I know I still need to do more. Maybe I don't know when to quit. I just don't see the purpose of having a completed novel still on the shelf (or in my hard drive)that no one wants to publish because I'm too tired or lazy or stubborn to make the necessary revisions to make to sellable.

I have multiple projects on the go; Reconstruction of Janie, Liar, Witness, The Pass, and Today I die. I have other things I could focus on, but part of me won't let go of Evolution. It was the first book I finished. The first novel I ever put any of my effort and heart into. It'll sell one day. It may not be my first to make it into print, but it'll make it.

When to quit? Not now. Not until it's published.

On my iPod:

New Orleans is Sinking by The Tragically Hip

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Power of Description

The blood-red moon hung heavy in the pitch black sky. It's beauty was broken only by the piercing wind that threw dried golden leaves across its palette.

Umm...Yeah. Not quiet the best I could do, but I think, in a way, it gets the point across. Some description is good, too much is well...not good. For me I always thought my issue was not enough description, but as I continue reading Jack Bickham's The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, I wonder if my problem is really not recognizing description when I write it.

When I think of description the example I gave above is what comes to mind, describing the setting, setting the mood. Yet in Bickham's book he discusses that description is really just a pause in the action to tell the reader what things look like, what the characters are thinking and feeling. I've had a lot of reviews that tell me to describe more - but they are suggesting more details to the surrounding, something I readily admit I sometimes skip. My real issue comes with character thoughts and feelings. I have no difficulty doing this, in fact looking back at reviews from the first version of The Evolution of Janie, I was called out on it a number of times.

For myself, I find it hard to take out character thoughts and feelings since I'm writing in first person. How do you not include thoughts and feelings when you're supposed to be the character? It was a question I've asked myself a lot after reading Chapter 6: Don't Describe Sunsets. But I think I may have figured it out by referring back to his previous chapter about warming up your engine. Instead of worrying about thoughts and feelings I need to focus on what those thoughts and feelings address. In my original draft I used Janie's thoughts to give back story, a lot of back story which in addition to taking the reader out of the action it took them backwards instead of forwards. Overall, I think I've fixed this in my opening chapters, but I'm not done. I need to go back and reread, searching for little bits that repeat, that just don't move us forward.

Just one more thing to add to my editing/revision to do list!!

On my iPod:

Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Prepping for NaNo!!

Okay, I know it's 46 days away, but...it's only 46 days away! I've been thinking about how to approach NANO this year. For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo - it stands for National Novel Writing Month and the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

Last year I wasn't sure what I was even going to do it until I sat down at the computer and started typing. 30 days later I had almost the complete draft of Songbird. But it happened just like that. Every day I sat down unsure of where the story was going to take me, what I was going to write. The only goal I had for the story was to get my daily word count. And even though I loved writing Songbird I hated not knowing where to go each day, and the pull of words that sometimes took me hours to get to since I was waiting for inspiration.

I've been contemplating what to do for my novel this year. I have an idea that I'm playing with (this is Maddie's story) but I'm just not sure if I want to devote that much time to it yet. I'm about a third of the way through Liar and really want to get moving on Witness and Heal Me. But more important than picking which novel I want to do is decided how I'll write it. I really think that if I can work out an outline I'd enjoy NaNo so much more. It would keep me on track and reduce my freaking out about making my word count. Now, if only I could commit!!

On my iPod:

Teenage Dream by Katy Perry

Saturday, September 11, 2010


So, I've had a new character, Maddie, in my head lately and I haven't yet decided what to do with her. I now where she first introduces herself and a bit about her personality. The part that's got me stuck at the end of my first chapter with her is where exactly is she going? It's really starting to frustrate me because I have a picture of her passing through a portal. She's standing right in front of it and until I know where she's going I can't move forward with the story. I know, I know, I should plan this kind of stuff out so that this exact thing doesn't happen but frankly I'm resigned to being a "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants" writer. Once she gets where ever she's going I'll have the rest of the story since I have scenarios for each possible setting. I just can't decide where Maddie's portal leads, too.

Want to help? Please vote!!

[polldaddy poll=3750820]

Monday, September 6, 2010

Temporary Hold

I woke up this morning feeling crappy. Yes, it is a holiday Monday, but still, I felt horrible. Then I sat down at my computer to find a response to a query letter. Rejection. My crappy day just got crappier and it wasn't even 10am, yet. So, I read through the rejection, knowing it came from an agent who often personalizes query rejections and my stomach sank. She liked my concept, and title - gee, didn't she say that to some other people on QueryTracker? But after what I assume is her form ego-boost she says she reads the first few paragraphs (Should I take it to mean that she didn't bother with the rest of the chapter?) And found it wordy in the wrong places and too descriptive.

So, should I take it to mean that it's crap? It would certainly match my mood. I don't think I've ever had a reviewer say that before. It's not that I want to discount her words, because I know that there are always ways to grow as a writer, and maybe she's seeing something I'm not. That my reviewers aren't. But at the same time, do I place one agent's three sentence rejection above the twenty or so reviewers who've read that opening? Do I take the chance of changing the opening because one person says so?

The answer is I just don't know.

The longer I query the harder each rejection is because it's one less agent I can query in the future. It's one less door to open. I don't want to do it anymore, and that's scary because I haven't felt that way before. Even when I stopped querying on Songbird I did so because I knew I needed to do more work on it and on the query.

After stewing over it for an hour, I decided that I wasn't going to send out anymore queries until October. I'll use this month to give Janie a complete read over and maybe try to find a beta reader to help me see anything I'm missing. Hopefully, I won't be reworking that entire novel again. We'll see.

On my iPod:

You're Beautiful by James Blunt