Friday, December 31, 2010

A Hopeful New Year!

I have to say, this particular New Year's, I have a wee bit more hope than I have in the past years (regarding literary endeavors). I just submitted my final changes to my agent last night, and his plan is to send the novel out next week, to five NY publishers! Umm, wow. Pinch me, please!

Of course, none of this is a guarantee that I'll get published - I have to keep reminding myself of that. Still, I'm one important step toward that possibility, so I'll try and keep a positive attitude.

Here's a wonderful quote to start us all off this year: We will open the book -- its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day. ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

*raises cyber-glass high* My hope for all of you is that, this New Year, you will each get one step closer to achieving your dream, whatever it may be!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Where on earth did Christmas go?? After all the wrapping, baking, cleaning, and shopping, my family arrived, we celebrated the season and Jesus' birth, played some games, watched some Christmas shows, gorged ourselves on too much food, and the holiday was over!

On a literary front, I sent my agent the revised copy of my novel (the plan is for him to send the book out to publishers, starting in January!). I'm eager to see if he likes the revisions!

Also, I've started editing/revising Book 2 in the series again (this is probably Revision #4 or so...). I'm assuming that my agent will want to take a peek at it, especially if we get any "bites" with Book 1!

So, here's to a peaceful New Year! I can't believe 2011 is upon us already. May you all have a safe and happy holiday, filled with peace and God's love.

And, as always, HAPPY WRITING!! ;-)

Monday, December 20, 2010

What is Writing Like?

My grandfather alerted me to this wonderful Charlie Rose interview with author Nicole Krauss. And in it, she describes the writing process in two ways that I'd never thought of, but completely agree with (paraphrasing, here). Ultimately, that writing is an act of discovery:

1) Writing is like a house. As an author, she visualizes a doorknob, and realizes it's attached to something, a door. Then that door becomes a room she must visualize/describe/explore. Then another room, and another, until she finishes the entire novel, steps back, and is able to see the house/novel structure as a whole. Very similar to the "bird by bird" concept (Anne Lamott) of seeing a novel in small pieces, tackling it sentence-by-sentence, "bird by bird." Focusing more on the individual pieces to create the larger whole.

2) Writing is like paleontology. I loved this example - she described how an archaeologist will get a "sense" that there are fossils below a certain surface, and will pace and pace above it (a writer's brainstorming process, I believe), going on instinct. Then, he/she will start to dig, and will find a small bone, and will know it's the right spot! He/she will start digging further, digging deeper, until the entire piece is finally exposed. Again, it's that "piece by piece" concept, of concentrating on smaller parts to get to the whole.

You can find Ms. Krauss's full interview here (just click on her picture).

Thanks to my grandfather for showing this to me! I'm so appreciative of how supportive my grandparents (and parents) are of my love of writing. I'm a lucky girl!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Make it Rich, and Sculptor-Ready

I was thinking about my book this morning, the one I'm preparing for the agent (he'd asked for minor revisions so we can send it out again to publishers in January). Looking back, I know this book has gone through SEVERAL renovations, some small, some drastic. Most of them, at the kind suggestion of agents who saw some promise, but knew it wasn't "ready" yet.

This revised version looks significantly different than the rough draft I wrote three years ago. And I was wondering this morning, what made the difference? What makes this version so different from (and, hopefully, so much better than) the original rough draft? I mean, the main characters are pretty much the same. The setting is totally the same (charming English village). The primary plot/theme (unrequited love, childhood friendships) is the same.

And the main difference I could pinpoint is one thing: richness. There's a depth and richness to this final version that wasn't present in the original. Every word, every scene is meaningful--it belongs right where it is. Through the months, I've added a couple of stronger sub-plots, fleshed out ALL the characters to some degree, trimmed a lot of unnecessary fat, (caught a few major inconsistencies - ack!!), and added a "history" to the characters--all of which, I think, adds up to a fuller, richer story. It feels weighty now, where it didn't before.

The lesson learned? That I need to recognize when a novel isn't ready to submit. That there are times it's not "weighty" enough for publication. That it takes TIME and energy to make a novel better, richer. To keep chipping away, much like a sculptor would do, until it's ready. Until it looks like something that's ready.

In fact, I think that's a good analogy - a sculptor doesn't stop when the work is half-finished - when it's "pretty good," but not good enough. When parts of the sculpture are still "blob-like," without detail fleshed out. No, he/she keeps chipping away, piece by piece, until it's finished. Until it's ready. Until it's rich with detail, and free of any "blobs."

And, I can tell you, as HARD as it is, getting a novel that ready, it's worth every drop of sweat and every single frustrating sigh. Because I can feel proud of it now. In a way I never could before. I've earned those characters, that story. They were the result of countless hours of thought, of brainstorming, of willingness to make changes.

The good news is that, through this grueling process, I think I've learned some tips and pointers, to the extent that the next book I write will be a wee bit easier. Because now, I'm more prone to recognize weak sub-plots, extraneous detail, not-ready-drafts. Not to say the editing process will go smoother or will be any shorter--but I guess I'll be better prepared for it. And, yes, maybe I'll save myself a little bit of time, by recognizing those weak spots right away and knowing how to fix them!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Facebook - Pitfalls and Benefits

I've been on Facebook for about two years. In the beginning, I had no idea what to do with it, what the benefits were. But once old friends started finding me, I realized I loved it! For me, right now, Facebook is just about connecting with old friends and keeping in touch with family who don't live nearby.

Here's a sort of Beginner's Guide to Facebook that's helpful, talking about the basics. The only thing I personally disagree with is making the profile THAT public. Mine's quite private - and very selective. I only accept friends/relatives I actually know.

In terms of promoting our writing, I think Facebook can also become a useful tool. I have a few author friends on Facebook, and it's interesting to see their writing-related posts. But -- I would caution -- if you use Facebook solely as a marketing tool on your personal Facebook page, your friends/family will quickly grow tired of all those book-related statuses. After awhile, it can seem like you're using Facebook solely to promote a novel, and friends/family can see right through that. It can start to seem like you're a salesman/woman, peddling your wares, and soon, friends will ignore your posts altogether. So, I suggest a nice mix - keep things personal, and sprinkle news about your book hither and yon.

I joined Facebook for personal reasons - connecting with old friends. But, sure, I do post occasionally about my writing, getting an agent (and hopefully, if I get published, I'll post about that too). Writing is a part of my life, so why be timid about sharing it? But - I work hard at not boring my friends with too many writing posts. I save those for this blog. ;-)

If I ever decide to get serious about "promoting" my work on Facebook (again, assuming I might one day be published), I think I'll create a separate page, like an "author" page, that's more public, with the sole purpose of promoting the work. I don't ever want to "use" my personal Facebook page to drive my friends/family crazy with pushing my novel (not that I won't give them occasional updates and such -- I've found that when I do post about my writing, they're incredibly supportive, which is lovely).

So, as with any new toy/tool, use it wisely, use it carefully, and always ask yourself how others will perceive you. I think that's a great barometer for figuring out how to present yourself in this age of Social Media.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Especially in an age where our major bookstores are in financial straits, I thought this link was pretty interesting: 10 Cool Converted Bookstores

Well, not sure if the manure tank counts as "cool" (rather, "ick!"), but generally, yes, these are cool/creative bookstores I'd love to take a peek inside someday...


10 Works of Literature That Were Really Hard to Write

A great list of fascinating back stories behind some famous (and some, not-so-famous) works of literature.

I would add John Milton to that list, dictating his masterpiece, Paradise Lost, entirely orally, because of his blindness (well, and every work of his thereafter - Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes, etc). Even by themselves, without the knowledge of how they were written, those Milton works are incredible -- packed full of allusions and references to mythology, the Bible, etc. I can't even begin to imagine dictating my own novels to someone out loud, much less works injected with those sorts of references.

Any other works you can think of?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Don't "Shrug" So Much!

You know how, in life, we're all guilty of little repetitions? Little phrases we tend to say over and over, in conversation, that we're not even aware of? "You know." "Like." "The point being."

Well, I've found we can be guilty of the same thing in our writing. Not to pick on her (because I've actually read/halfway-enjoyed two of her books) but I noticed something in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight books. The characters "shrug" in and out of their jackets. Like, multiple times. I lost count after awhile. Describing a character as "shrugging into or out of" his/her jacket became a Meyer cliche after awhile. Once is fine, but more than that? Nope. It stands out too much in the text.

The point is, if you tend to describe something a certain way over and over again, recognize it - and put a stop to it. Change it up. Think of a different way to describe that action: she peeled off her jacket. She wriggled out of her jacket. She abandoned her jacket with gusto. (<--Okay, that one's ridiculous, lol). Or, just stop having her remove jackets quite so often. Maybe that little detail isn't even necessary. Because your readers will catch the unnecessarily-repetitive description. And it will start to annoy them.

I catch my own little repetitions while editing my books -- ways I describe something that I tend to rely upon much too heavily. The trick is catching it, then changing it. Thinking of a different way to describe that action. This will make your writing fresh and more original.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Missing It!

Today, I submitted 150-something grades (whew!) and tonight, I attended graduation (mandatory). I'm spent.

But my semester is OVER, and I'm glad. It's been a rough one, both on the professional front (just super-busy) and on the personal front (both parents in the hospital last week! They're, thankfully, fine now, but things got scary there, for a minute).

Mostly, I'm THRILLED to have some time to get back to my novels. I need some "me" time -- me with my novels: revising, brainstorming, writing. I've missed it!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

So Creative!

Yesterday (through GalleyCat), I saw a website called Poster Text, which sells these literary posters. They're clever enough by themselves, but here's something immensely more clever -- the text of the ENTIRE BOOK has been imbedded inside the poster.


They've got all the great classics: The Great Gatsby, Dracula, Jane Eyre. But probably my favorite-looking one is the Alice in Wonderland poster. There's something creepy-cool about having the Cheshire Cat smiling out from underneath all that text.

Personally, I'm waiting on the Little Women poster, coming out any day now. Might just have to buy that one!

What's you're favorite?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Checking in...

So, essay grading and family health emergencies (all thankfully turned out well!) have prevented me from blogging (or doing much else) lately. Sometimes, many times, life gets in the way...

Next week is finals week, so again, there will be little time for blogging.

Luckily, I had a window of time last week where I worked on my rewrites for my agent (we're sending out my book to publishers again, starting in early January). In fact, I'm about 90% finished with them, yay! It'll be good to let the rewrites "breathe," and then return to them after this week of finals. Then, I can enjoy the holidays.

So, here's to a productive, restful, HEALTHY holiday season! *lifts cyber glass and clinks it with anyone reading this*