Sunday, May 31, 2009
Want to see your name on the acknowledgment page of Emily Bryan's next
book? Here's your chance! Emily is giving her readers a chance to name
an important secondary character in her upcoming STROKE OF GENIUS. The
winner will receive signed copies of Emily Bryan's entire backlist
(including A CHRISTMAS BALL anthology, due out Sept 29th). PLUS you'll
be mentioned on the acknowledgment page of STROKE OF GENIUS. The contest
begins June 1st and entries close July 1st. For more information, visit
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The first one, the classmate, had misspellings, bad punctuation, multiple repetitions, no concept of tenses, and even mis-used words. The second one not only had a sense of character, plot, and grammar and spelling, but she captured me with her words and her writing. Of the two, I am sure the second will eventually be published. The first may be, but not without a lot of work.
I felt a little sorry for the instructor in the class as she was forced to make comments that pointed out the problems while not discouraging the new writer. And that's the hardest thing to do sometimes. How do you encourage while still showing problems? Having been in that position more than a few times, I do not envy the teacher.
And yet, this position also gives me a new respect for often overworked and overwhelmed editors and agents. Their jobs require them to read hundreds of submissions, some of which are in desperate need of help. Though I don't like them, I can almost understand those dreaded "form" rejections that many writers receive. Not only does one save the agent or editor valuable time, but in sending such an impersonal missive, they are sidestepping having to make specific comments on the manuscript. As a writer, I hate these forms, but as a reader, I can understand them.
So my suggestion to all writers out there is this: no matter where you are in your career, never stop learning, never stop improving, never stop working on the craft of writing. And should you ever be in the position of having to comment on someone's work, never forget you were once new at this too.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I work at a small, independent new/used bookstore in my hometown. We get a lot of people bringing in books, hoping we'll take them off their hands. Many times, the boss has to turn a lot of them away because he knows he won't be able to sell what they have and there simply isn't the room to hold unsaleable books. I can understand the donor's frustration, though. They can't just throw a book away. That would be wrong. But what do you do when the library won't take them? Or the used bookstore?
I sit here and look at my shelves of books. I've started paring them down, but somehow, I keep accumulating more than I purge. Several years ago, I started a system with the books I read. If I love the book and it's one I want to keep, it gets a gold star. If it's a blah book, but there's a reason I want to keep it (I know the author, etc.), it gets a silver one. If it's something I don't ever want to read again and really don't want cluttering up my shelves, it gets a red star. Thus, I can see instantly what books I want to keep or get rid of. And there's been a lot of that of late.
So what makes a book a keeper? For me, it's both characters and the story. I call it the "put-downable" factor. If I lose myself in the story and don't want to put it down and can't stop reading it, that's a keeper. If I'd rather clean, do dishes, or some other chore than pick up the book again, that's an instant red star and I will probably not even finish the story. I simply don't have the time to waste on a book that doesn't draw me in right away.So what is your reason for keeping a book? What puts it on your shelves instead of at the used book store?
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
A few months ago, I was asked to try out a new solitaire game - and I fell immediately in love. Though I don't have as much time as I'd like to play it, I can honestly recommend it. It's called "Heartwild Solitaire" from Orchid Games.
If you get a chance, take a look. The graphics are beautiful, the music goes well with the pictures and it's just plain fun to play.
And yes, this is a blatant commercial. :)
Monday, May 18, 2009
For four days, we did nothing but work on our writing. Well, nothing that is except eat, play, go for walks, haunt the local cemetery, have dance parties, etc. Hey, everyone needs a break now and then, right? :)
Most of us arrived at the grounds on Thursday. We found our rooms, unpacked, looked around, then got to work. Though it was a low production day for me, I did get some editing done. It was mostly my set up and plan day.
Friday, after a wonderful breakfast that was great for my soul, but definitely not for the waistline or cholesterol count, we got down to serious work. The remaining retreaters straggled in throughout the morning. We broke for lunch and dinner (again, great food, if not exactly healthy) at specified times, but other than that, it was mostly steady work. I managed to finish the edits on my current WIP - over 200 pages done. Friday evening was break time. While some went out for "refreshment" and to see the Star Trek movie, others of us stayed in and spent the evening chatting or continuing our work. I enjoyed getting to know a couple of my fellow members a little better as we talked about our lives, our work, our writing.
Saturday was similar to Friday - great food, great conversation when together, hard work. I mapped out my next two stories and got to work writing one of them. I managed 15 pages of solid writing after all the plotting details were done, so a really good day for me. After dinner, several of us wanted to go exploring the grounds, but the weather didn't cooperate, so Megan Hart, one of our members, set up her online camera and did interviews with several of us for her upcoming blog. I'll let you know when it's up and running. After a couple of those, the rain stopped and we went out for a walk. Across a narrow, two-lane country road from the retreat center is an ancient cemetery which we visited. Most of the stones there date from the early 1800's. Since most of us are huge Harry Potter fans, we got a laugh from one stone for "James Potter". After that, we wandered back to the grounds. By then, the sky had darkened and thunder rumbled in the distance. Since I am the ultimate coward when it comes to storms, I headed back to the hotel while the others continued their playing.
Later Saturday evening was our annual retreat party where we all get together and play silly games that have us laughing so hard, tears run and our cheeks hurt. It's loud, raucous, completely inane - and so much fun. It's the highlight of the weekend. Afterwards, we drifted back to our rooms, not necessarily to work, though. I know some tried, but others set up iPods in the hallway and we had an impromptu dance party. The revelry lasted well into the night - or dare I say morning?
Sunday morning, we straggle into breakfast, most of us grasping our caffeinated beverages like lifelines. Though some do stay until later in the day, breakfast is the last meal the center serves us. My travel mate and I packed up and hit the road shortly after breakfast for our two hour drive home. I was tired beyond thinking, sporting a pounding headache from lack of sleep, and my tummy was rumbling unhappily (good food, but definitely not what I'm accustomed to).
But I'm already marking my calendar for next year. I can't wait. :)
Friday, May 15, 2009
From the time we arrived yesterday morning, you could feel the energy surrounding you. There are fifteen of us here, all of us writers, all at different stages in our careers. We have best-selling multi-published authors and newbies who have yet to make that first sale. Most of us fall somewhere in between. But we are all enthusiastic about our work.
Our retreat venue is like a hotel, but without television or phones. Though we do have the internet. We'd all be going through withdraw without that. Our meals are served buffet style on the lowest level of the complex. We are surrounded by woods and streams and yet are close enough to a town for those who need "civilization" to make a run for it.
We hole up in our rooms typing away with occasional breaks to chat, go for walks to clear the brain, eat, and chat some more.
So far for me, I've done almost two hundred pages of edits. Forty to go to finish my work-in-progress. Then I get to start fleshing out my next project.
For anyone who has a chance to do something like this, I highly recommend it. You don't even need to go with a group - though that has a certain energetic dynamic all its own. It gives you a chance to focus strictly on the writing. Something many of don't have time to do in lives already too busy.
I am definitely glad I came this year and am already looking forward to next year.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
The writing profession is a solitary one. Yes, there are writing jobs where you sit in an office with other writers - but novelists tend to be on the extreme edge of being alone. We sit at our computers or with other writing implement in hand and live in our own little worlds. We may not necessarily be alone - after all, our characters keep us company - but we are not out there either. Not when we're writing. Yes, many writers have day jobs that keep them in the mainstream. But I'm talking about the writers who plot away day and night with no other contact beyond what they get through the internet. And that's not necessarily a good thing.
Don't get me wrong. I adore my computers and the internet and all it has to offer, but the touch of a keyboard can't replace the touch of a good friend. "LOL" doesn't convey the same intensity of emotion as a hearty in-person laugh from someone who "gets" you.
I spent Thursday with several writer friends and in a few weeks, I'll be going to a writer's retreat where a whole group of us will spend four days writing, laughing, writing, eating, writing, chatting with each other, and writing. We do this on a yearly basis and always come away exhausted but also empowered. We have recharged our writing batteries. It works so well because we understand each other.
When someone complains about their hero not behaving the way he should, we can commiserate because we've all been there. When someone runs into the hall yelling "I need a word", a dozen helpers pop out of rooms to offer suggestions. When a plot point doesn't work, we're there to help brainstorm.
I'm not saying you need to do something as drastic as go away for a long weekend to a retreat, but do try to get together in person with other writers on a regular basis. I believe you'll find yourself a much better writer for it. If nothing else, it may recharge your muse and garner some new ideas.