Monday, February 28, 2011

You Gotta Have Soul

Agent Rachelle Gardner wrote a post on her blog comparing the competition for publishing contracts to American Idol. "The talent here is ridiculous," she quotes one contestant as saying (also the title of the post). Then she goes on to make the analogy about how you don't just need to be talented, you need to be better than everyone else to break into the biz. All that stuff that just makes my confidence fall to zero every time I hear it, especially from an agent.

Then someone who chose to post anonymously (but gave me permission to use his comment) said this:

I am a 50 year old man whose first book is about to arrive in the shops. On the face of it my path to publication has been embarrassingly easy. Was taken on by the agent of my choice overnight on the strength of one chapter, and this was followed by an auction between every publisher my work was sent to (5 of them.)

BUT (and it's a big but) as a young man I dreamed of being a writer. I wrote daily, relentlessly ...and got absolutely nowhere. Finally I put down my pen, and got on with my life. I lived a little, and then I lived a lot. Finally I decided the time was right. I walked out on my job and started writing again.

Which brings me back to the singing competition. Almost anyone can learn to sing - you can go to vocal coaches, you can learn the techniques. But out of that pool of talent, there will be one or two who stand out, because they've got soul. Their voice somehow projects the weight of a human life in a way that goes beyond technique. It's that and only that which will make you stand out from the competition.

I don't know who this person is, but I would like very much to buy him a drink. Because I felt like he was telling me my own story. At least, the "putting down my pen and getting on with life until I felt it was time to start up again" part. The "embarrassingly easy path to publication" remains to be seen.

I stopped writing in my twenties because I realized that I didn't have anything to say. It wasn't until I'd really put myself out there in the world and suffered a while (I know this is a cliche' but it's the truth, dammit!) that I felt I had something to write about.

Now I've got so much going on in my story that it overwhelms me, and I'm afraid it may overwhelm the readers. Good God, my characters suffer! And it seemed like so much sweetness and light at first. But isn't that the way life always is?

This story is emotionally powerful. And that is why I feel it needs to be told. I may or may not get published. It may or may not be easy. But thank you, Anonymous, from the bottom of my heart for reminding me why it's worth writing.

Image courtesy of PD

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

Okay, it's time again for a Sunday Snapshot. Post one paragraph (or up to 5 lines of dialogue) that represents the very last thing you wrote.

Seriously. Just cut and paste it.

It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be YOURS!

Here's mine:

She was covered with dirt from head to toe, dressed in a grey garment of what looked like goat’s hair, and seemed strangely thinner for having been gone less than a fortnight. Deep smudges of fatigue shadowed her eyes. But her eyes themselves burned with an intensity he had never seen before. Even here, in the half-light, s

Yeah, that's where I stopped last night.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Writing is Like Sesame Street

I feel exactly like Don Music today. "I'll never finish it. Never!"

How about you?

Let's just hope that, at least, it's a sunny day.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Almost 100K!

I just looked at my word count.  97, 815! I had no idea I was so close to my target.  This is incredible news!

I am planning to write a total of at least 110K because I know I'm going to end up going back and cutting stuff.  But for those of you who know how many times I've gone back to the beginning and started over, well,... you understand how HUGE this is for me!

Nothing like a deadline to light a fire under my butt.

I know some people are shocked that I've taken so long to write this book.  Personally, I'm a little surprised too.  But it all made sense last Friday when our human resources director took the seven of us in my department through our personality profiles.  She said that I am a "dominant introvert who is very high on structure and precision."  This means that "I have very high standards and am very, very hard on myself. I get my confidence from knowledge and have to become an expert at whatever I do."

Well, DUH!!!!  That totally makes sense.  It's perfect for my job... guess what?  Almost all of us have the same profile.  That's what analysts need to be.  But it kinda stinks on the creative side.  I feel like I can't let it go until it's absolutely perfect, but at least I know it's not a flaw... it's a personality type.

How do you think your personality affects your writing style?

Oh, and don't forget to take my Writer's Satisfaction Survey.

I want to know how you feel about your progress as a writer, your ability to juggle tasks, and your outlook for the future.  It's your chance to speak!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Writer's Satisfaction Survey

I really want to know what you think about being a writer. Here's your chance to tell me.

Please take my Writer's Satisfaction survey by clicking on the link below, and I'll share the results next month. Thanks! And, have a cookie.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bernard Pivot Blogfest

Today is the Bernard Pivot blogfest hosted by Nicole Ducleroir.  Each participant has to answer the same ten questions (originally crafted by  interviewer Bernard Pivot) that James Lipton asks of his guests on "Inside the Actor's Studio." I love that show and am thrilled to participate and get to know other bloggers better.
For a complete list of participants, look here.
  1. What is your favorite word? Onomotopoeia.  Only, I can't figure out what it sounds like.
  2. What is your least favorite word? Morning.
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? A long walk in the woods.
  4. What turns you off? People who do nothing but complain. It's not about you.  Really. It's not.  That's life so suck it up and move  on.
  5. What is your favorite curse word?  Crap.  That's as close to cursing as I get.
  6. What sound or noise do you love?  The wind rising in the trees before a rainstorm.
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?  Heavy traffic.
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?  Wildlife photographer
  9. What profession would you not like to do?  Sales of any kind.
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? "I just want you to know, I love your books. Fantastic job!  Really.  So I have this castle all set up for you to live in, and I want you to keep on writing novels for eternity, for My pleasure. With plenty of divine inspiration, of course.  Not that I'm saying you need it.  As much or as little as you want, I just want you to know I'm here for you.  Now come on in and start picking out furniture."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Authors are Cruel Gods

We authors really are cruel gods in our fictional worlds, aren't we?

I just did something truly horrible to my heroine.  She's going have post-traumatic stress for a long time.  No, seriously, she will. I'm going to have to deal with the aftereffects into the sequels.

(Before I go any further, let me just say that there's nothing sexual involved. I don't do sex, good or bad, in my stories. There's enough of that elsewhere. Sexual tension, yes, but not the act itself. Just so we're clear.)

So why did I do that?  Because I could? Well, yeah. But also because the story needed it.  She needed it.  She needed to mature, as well as to fully realize the danger that the hero has been trying to protect her from all along.

There is a matter of building tension in a story, which eventually has to be brought to fruition.  I had been hinting all along about bad things that could happen and the characters and I had gone to great lengths to prevent those things, but I realized I needed to let a few of them actually occur.  For one thing, it brings in a lot of intense emotion.  For another, it raises their motivation to never, ever let anything like that happen again.

And, lastly, it makes her vulnerable.  I've done such a good job of shutting Faldur out of Marenya's life that I had to find a way of letting him back in.  Though I'm at the point again where I'm not exactly sure how this romantic triangle is going to work out.  I've always been somewhat ambivalent about the ending.  Who lives, who dies, and who gets the girl? I could easily go either way.

How do you feel about doing bad things to your characters?  Are you ever shocked by the vicarious deeds you commit?  

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day! I am a firm believer in this holiday.  Even if you don't have anyone to cuddle today, go eat some CHOCOLATE!!!! 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

I saw this on J C Martin's blog and think it's a great idea.  You have to post six sentences of your writing for critique.  This is what I was trying to get at with the Sunday Snapshots here at the Writer's Hole - something very short, just to share.

But it's hard to get people to limit their sharing to something really short.  I feel that we are in a very quick-paced social media universe; people don't have time to read pages and pages and comment on it.  (Well, at least I don't.)  But I love sharing stuff I'm working on, 'cuz writing is a lonely profession.  ("One is such a lonely number...")

So, here are my six sentences.  I know there are a lot of "ands" but I don't know how to describe this kind of action without them.

With a great effort she whispered,  “Raynor, please don’t.”
 “You may not speak to me!”  He lunged at her as if to tear her apart with his hands.  She screamed and Nighfala leapt up, caught his arm in her teeth and pulled him down.  He hit his head on the floor and grunted.  The spell died. Nighfala let him go and began licking his face. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Afraid of the Words

Do you ever feel afraid of the words on the page?  I do.

I write something and then think, "I can't leave that.  It's too [mushy][crude][lame][stupid]."

We are trained to be lean, mean writing machines.  It's all about story arc, tension, and micro-tension.  You've gotta have voice and style and tone.  You've gotta be polished.  Perfect. Publishable.

Yet sometimes I feel like I'm editing the guts out of my work.  There is such a thing as too much revision. I recall reading something by an editor who lamented that new authors are like over-eager English students, who when you ask them to change something, change it so completely that they lose the spirit of the original work.

"When we speak we are afraid
Our words will not be heard nor welcomed.
But when we are silent, we are still afraid.
So it is better to speak.” - Audre Lorde

"Today we are afraid of simple words like goodness and mercy and kindness. We don't believe in the good old words because we don't believe in good old values anymore. And that's why the world is sick." - Lin Yu-tang

"Studying craft... can create timid writers. Ones who are afraid to make giant awkward splashes and instead write safe, neat sentences that may conform to guidelines but are often uninspired. There is a time for rules in writing, but one should only cage the beast after it has been let free to run and wrestle and tumble in the mud until it is exhausted and ready to collapse, willingly, inside the cage." - Rebecca Hargreaves

Have you ever been afraid of words? How did you overcome it? Or are you still working to find the right balance?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Poll: What's your favorite chocolate?

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, all hearts turn to... Chocolate!

Next to coffee and beer, chocolate is (to borrow the words of Benjamin Franklin) "proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."  There are so many kinds and forms it can take.  White, dark, milk, super-dark.  Truffle, bar, with almonds, with fillings.

So, what is your favorite kind of chocolate?  Do tell.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

We Have Winners!!!

Wow, this is so cool.  I have the winners.  The three people who have been chosen (totally randomly by RANDOM.ORG) are three very special friends who have been truly encouraging and inspiring to me.

But what has also been hugely encouraging and inspiring is all of the entries. I love blogfests because I love reading snippets of others' work.  We in the blogosphere talk a lot about writing, but in the end it all comes down to the writing itself, doesn't it?  And no matter how much we might know about our craft, the key is getting those words on the page. Nothing else really matters.

I truly appreciate everyone who entered and commented.  And I do have a warm, fuzzy feeling about my own work now.  I hope you all weren't just being nice.  Seriously - I want honest feedback from anything I post.  So if you really thought it was awful shoot me an email or post a comment, okay?

Oh, yeah, the winners! Who are they?

Well, Olivia Herrell has won the signed copy of Eldala.  It was fate, Olivia.

The author of Eldala, Michelle Gregory, has won the butterfly calendar.  May it help you count the days until your flight to your new home in Montana, Michelle.

And Tessa Conte has won the mug and chocolates.  I am sorry to say that I was unable to find another mug with the same design as the one in the photo, but I will substitute something comparable for you.

I will be emailing you for your contact information.
Have a great weekend everyone!!! Thanks again!!! It was a fabulous anniversary celebration for sure.

And, check out Tessa's Blurb for "Sort Yourself Out Month" in February.  A fabulous way to get oneself organized and stay accountable with each other.  Something I, personally, need quite badly.  "Kind of like Nano.. for your life."

Friday, February 4, 2011

You've Come a Long Way, Baby Blogfest/Contest

It's time to dust off some of our old writing and take an unflinching look at how far we've come.  It's not too late to sign up to win prizes or to join the Blogfest. 

When I started writing "The Golden Gryphon" I was basically daring myself to write something.  Anything. Just write!

So I started with a place.  I made up a castle on a hill in a UK-ish setting, then I put some people in it and moved them around like paper dolls in my head.  Pretty soon they started moving around by themselves.  And talking. And feeling. Before I knew it, my first draft was in full, riotous gallop through my imagination.

This is that first paragraph.

Glenholm Castle stood in the rolling foothills of the Dagger Mountains. It was a squat stone fortress that had housed the Eorl’s ancestors for ten generations. Behind it, the hills sloped gently upwards until they finally crested with bare rock and then climbed sharply to join the mountains. The land below the castle spread out in a vast patchwork of farms and woodlands, with a village along the central road. On far side of the village, the Glenholm Road led down to the bank of the Silverbark river, which formed the eastern boundary of the Eorl’s lands. Crossing the river, it then merged with the Forest Road, which led through the Great Forest to the capital at Cairwyn, the western reaches of the kingdom and eventually the sea.
Now for the revision:

(chirping crickets)
There is none.  All that opening exposition got cut.  But it was a crucial first step in the writing process.

Actually, I did incorporate some of it into the description of the family's departure for the capital.

In the bottom of the valley the new crops grew in bright green rows, and sheep and cattle grazed on the lush grass.  Before them the Silverbark River flowed in a winding ribbon spanned by a stone bridge. On the far side, silver birches stretched along its banks, their smooth, grey trunks gleaming in the sunlight as if to live up to their name. Beyond them loomed the dark mass of the forest.

The party crossed the bridge, hooves clattering on the stone, and turned to look one last time at the slope behind them. There was the village, looking very small now, and the castle raising its towers in the sunshine, with the orchard in blossom tumbling about its feet. Behind it rose the hills in purple and grey succession, capped by the dazzling white of the morning peaks. It seemed impossible to Marenya, as she gazed upon its stalwart beauty, that any harm could ever come to Glenhym.

 What did I learn?  That setting needs to be tied to emotion. It has to mean something to the characters before it will mean anything to the reader.  

I also learned something that has become my writing mantra: It is always better to have something horrible to edit, than to have written nothing at all.

Enjoy the entries and the contest!  But don't forget to "Write first, blog later."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Did I Miss a Blogfest???

I have this horrible feeling that I signed up to participate in a blogfest this week (other than my own) but I can't for the life of me remember which one.

So, if you are popping by expecting to see something that isn't here, please leave a comment, would you?

Meanwhile, grab a cookie and sign up for my contest on Saturday if you haven't already.  There are a book, a gorgeous calendar, and chocolate to be won.

Darth Cookies
That is all.  Good night!

Postscript, 6:08 a.m. Friday morning.

I broke 85,000 words.  I'm writing a totally new scene. I don't get to do that much anymore.  I've been revising for so long that I forget sometimes how hard it is to write from scratch. 

I have about seven weeks to finish, edit and polish my masterpiece before I attend The Write Stuff conference and pitch it to a real, live agent! 

This is going to take a lot of cookies.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"The good writer seems to be writing about himself, but has his eye always on that thread of the Universe which runs through himself and all things."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson~