Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rachel? Who the Heck is Rachel??

So, I wrote a novel three years ago. Since that time I've probably read it through -- all 400 pages of it -- oh, give or take, a good twenty times. Or more. And about five of those times, I read it ALOUD, slowly, checking for inconsistencies. And I thought I'd caught them all. At least, the big ones...

Well, I thought wrong.

Here's the crazy part -- the main character's name is "Brooke." My mom (my biggest helper/editor, who's also read this book at least six times, carefully, for me) caught something in her sixth reading -- the name "Rachel." It was in a piece of dialogue between the main character and another character (not named Rachel): "Yadda yadda yadda," said Rachel.

My mom stopped, showed it to me, and said, "Umm, who's Rachel?"


As often as both of us had read the manuscript, we'd never caught that MAJOR mistake until that read-through. Rachel must've been my original name for the Brooke character three years ago (or, I had just watched an episode of "Friends" before I wrote that scene). My eagle-eyed agent also caught the mistake, before we had caught it. Oops. I hope he chuckled instead of winced, lol.

Anyway, it all goes to show that, even as many times as a manuscript is read, it still needs to be RE-read. Slowly. Carefully. Painstakingly. Many, many times over. And, by different pairs of eyes.

Because, somewhere along the way, you might just have a "Rachel" embedded in there. Sneaky wench. :-P

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Research the What-If's!

One of the coping mechanisms I had this past summer, when facing agent rejections (lots of them!) was to look ahead, and to dream about the "What If's" -- what if it actually happened? What if I actually got an agent?

I knew it might not ever happen, and knew I was potentially getting my hopes too high, thinking this far ahead. But I began to research the specific "what if's" -- what if I got that elusive agent phone call, or got a contract? Or what if I got an offer, but still had other full manuscripts out? What's the protocol? I even went further, starting a file with "what if I get published" info - like creating an author website, managing finances/taxes, figuring out the etiquette along the way, marketing the book, etc. (By the way, agent-run blogs are the BEST resources, here - they'll tell you what happens on their end of things, and the information is invaluable. Kristin Nelson's blog is my personal favorite --it's called "Pub Rants" on the left-hand menu).

Well, for me, the agent stuff came true (wow), and guess what? It happened FAST. Faster than I'd ever, ever imagined (in fact, less than 2 weeks from when I first queried my agent). From one moment to the next, I was a dejected, rejected writer, and then suddenly, wham - I had an offer! So, in hindsight, I was glad I had researched the "what if's" - because when the moment came and I had to contact other agents to say I had an offer, I didn't have to scramble, worried about what to say or how to say it. I was already prepared. Same for "the call." I had already made a list of things to say and questions to ask, just in case. It might sound silly, preparing for things that might not happen, but it really made the whole process smoother. Calmer. I felt like I had knowledge in my hand that made me more confident.

So, today, if you're looking for an agent and are discouraged by rejection - I've been there, for sure! - I'd suggest researching your own "what if's." Give yourself permission to prepare ahead, in detail, for that day - even if you think it'll never come. Because guess what? It just might. And it might happen so quickly it'll make your head spin. So, be prepared!! It's never too early to consider the "what if's."

And Away We Go!

Up until this weekend, I've been so busy with revisions that I haven't looked up from them, or looked ahead. I haven't really allowed myself to think about WHY I'm doing them, or about the next step. Just too busy...

Well, yesterday, I submitted the final changes to my agent, and his response today was that he would look them over, and then --- he'd send them to a publisher! This week! Maybe even in the next couple of days!! He even called her by name (someone he's already contacted and told about my series - she sounded very interested!).

I mean, duh, I realize this is the next logical stage in the process, the one I've been waiting for, hoping for. But it wasn't until I saw that email that I really got it. That my work will be seen by a publisher. An actual publisher. Very, very soon. Umm, wow!

Away we go!

P.S. - though I'll try not to center every single blog entry around this new agent/publisher situation, I plan to keep y'all posted on stuff - even the rejections! Who knows what lies ahead - more waiting and heartache and frustration? Probably. But it's all part of this writing journey I'm on, and I welcome every single bit of it! ;-)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dashes, Ellipses, and Numbers -- Oh, My!!

Often, writers are so protective of their work - of every word, every comma, every detail - that they're unwilling to try something new, to open their minds to the fact that there might be a BETTER way to do something. Thankfully, I'm not one of those writers. I'm not saying it doesn't sting a bit to know I'm doing something wrong, or that I need to make some changes. But, in the end, it's about the work, making the work better, the best it can be. So, yes, I'm more than willing to learn. To entertain the idea that someone else knows better than I do.

Well, all during this editing process (particularly in the past 10 days or so), I've been enlightened by my new agent, learning new ways to do things, to make the work better. On the surface, these seem so minute, so insignificant, but I think they've made a real difference in my writing.

So, here's what I've learned:

1) I've been doing dashes ALL sorts of wrong. I love, love, love dashes - as you can tell from my blog. Well, here's what I'd been doing in the past - <--just a hyphen and two spaces. But, my agent pointed out that here's how it should actually look--like this. Who knew?? Not me, apparently. lol Can you even imagine how many dashes I had to correct in 400 pages? Umm, a lot. Like, easily over 1,000. Yikes. Lesson learned. (Well, except for writing this blog. Out of sheer habit, I'll probably continue - writing - like - this. Just sayin').

2) I use wayyyyyyyyy too many ellipses, both in my dialogue and in the narrative. I had NO CLUE I was doing this. None. Until it was pointed out to me by my agent. When I realized what I'd done, I changed them, and really liked the improvement it brought. Subtle, yes. But here's what I learned - that when I put ellipses (. . .) so constantly in character dialogue, it makes the characters feel...well...hesitant. Not...confident. Even...wishy-washy. And something neat happened when I turned most of those ellipses into periods -- the writing became a bit more assertive. A bit more sure of itself, more confident. And that includes the way the characters seemed. Again, who knew??

3) Numbers should be spelled out. Now, this one I did know. But, there are really two schools of thought on it (in fact, I just taught from my 1301 textbook about this). Some feel that all numbers below 10 should be spelled out, while others feel that all numbers up to 100 should be spelled out. I was of the former school of thought, and my agent was of the latter. I trust his guidance and made the changes, and liked them even better.

This has been such a learning process for me. And I look forward to learning more in the future! Edits are tedious and challenging, but they're necessary. Anything that makes the work better is......necessary. lol

It's Real Now!!

I just signed/mailed the agent's contract (what a surreal moment -- I made myself slow down and "experience" it, rather than just rush through, as I was tempted to do).

Now, it's back to work - making the final changes to the manuscript (his notes arrived, by mail, this morning (he'd put his notes in the margins)). Then, tonight, after I send him the final final final copy, I'm finished!! Well, for now, anyway. I know this isn't the last set of changes/edits I'll ever make, but at least I'll get a wee break.

Time to put my feet up tomorrow and REST <--what does that feel like? I've forgotten, lol.

Just wanted to share my news! It feels more official, more real, signing that contract. Yay!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I was thinking today about all the different hobbies/activities people are passionate about. For instance, I love watching food shows on the Cooking Channel. I don't cook, myself (well, not often, anyway), but it's fun to watch these people, these chefs and experts get so excited about food! About tomatoes or steak or pasta. Part of me keeps thinking -- "Umm, it's just FOOD. Why get so excited?" lol But I love their contagious enthusiasm. I love watching people find their passion.

Or, when I grade a student's paper about his favorite activity in the Really? Fishing? Just sitting there, sometimes for hours, waiting for a bite? But, again, it's his passion, something he loves to do.

Here's the funny thing -- so many people who aren't writers would look at MY passion, writing, and be confused, too. "Sitting for hours in front of a computer? Making up characters? People who aren't even real? Why??" And here's my explanation - because it's an amazing experience. It removes me from my own life for awhile, and sets me up in a universe of my own creation. I feel alive when I write - energized and excited about something that's beyond myself.

And, really, isn't that one of the top criteria of ANY passion - whether fishing or cooking or knitting or writing? To move our attention to something other than the routine doldrums of or day, or a tedious/stressful job, or even a traumatic life experience? A passion is an escape of sorts. A portal we can step through, if only for a few minutes or hours a day, and do something other than live the lives we've been given. Now, that's not as gloom-and-doom as it sounds. I do love my life. I have a good job, wonderful friends, supportive family. But yes, sometimes, it feels wonderful to step outside that, to leave it behind for awhile, and just write.

So, today, be thankful if you've found a passion in your life. And if you don't have one, seek it out. Look for it diligently until you find something that rises you above this life for a little while. And, something that makes you enter your life again afterward with an even stronger sense of purpose. And once you've found that passion, don't ever let it go.

*edited to add: talking about passion, I love watching people do incredible things I know I could never do -- not only do they have raw talent, but they also have spent endless amounts of time on their craft/hobby/passion, perfecting it. Much like this young woman, and her classical guitar - link. Amazing to watch. WOW.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Can I Get an "Amen?"

Found this great quote -- perfect for all the rewrites I've been working on the past week, lol:

Writing is the hard manual labor of the imagination. ~Ishmael Reed

Is that a perfect description of heavy-duty writing/editing, or what?! It's so true -- just because we don't feel the physical pain of our labor doesn't mean it isn't labor. Our work is labor of the MIND.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Telling People

If you're anything like me, there are people you've told about your writing, and people you haven't. I learned early on that certain people didn't respect my desire to write. They would look at me sideways, or their eyes might glaze over when I tried to talk about my new book idea. Or worse, they would actually talk about me behind my back, whispering that I was "wasting my time" with my efforts, which they didn't understand in the first place.

So, I started keeping my writing private (with the exception of some very close friends and a few cherished family members who were nothing but supportive and wonderful).

Thus, it's been FASCINATING, now telling people I have an agent. Those who supported me all along are amazing -- they smile and cheer for me and get all excited. Genuinely excited. But those who did not support me all along are....baffled. LOL They're actually stumped by it. Shocked that I actually "did it." That I actually legitimized myself in their eyes.

But here's the part that frustrates me the most, and even before I got an agent, I struggled with this -- why should getting an agent/publisher "suddenly" make you legitimate? Why should it suddenly validate the work you've been doing FOR YEARS, all this time? It's the same work, isn't it? And you're still a writer, just like you've been all that time. Part of me doesn't understand that mentality. A writer is a writer is a writer. Published or not.

Anyway, it just cracks me up, seeing the various responses I'm getting. For the most part, people have been nothing but kind and genuine and happy for me. But I can't help but roll my eyes at those who are finally "catching up," whose shock has turned to ACTING like they care, who now feel that, suddenly all these years, I haven't been wasting my time. Oh, brother....

For two seconds, I hesitated being this honest in my blog -- even though these people aren't mentioned by name -- thinking maybe I'll hurt someone's feelings. But here's the irony: those "stunned-by-my-agent-news" people aren't reading my blog in the first place, lol! Sure, they have the link, but they don't ever visit. Because they just don't care. (Oh--until I get published, that is.... ;-)

P.S. - it goes without saying that you guys have been amazing - so sweet with your comments and support. That's what I love most about this blog format, about this particular circle of writers who understand each other - and are genuinely happy for each other!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Call!

So, I wanted to share "the call" with y'all (hey, that rhymed!). The one in which the agent called after offering representation by email last week.

I've read all about this before - the all-important "call." I'd done my homework, researching it on writer's boards, on blogs, on writer websites. I've read what could happen, and what might not happen. I've read about the etiquette, and the details. In fact, here's a GREAT site I referred to the most, pre-call: When Agents Offer Representation. It gives wonderful detail and advice.

My experience happened quickly: the agent offered a contract by email, after reading the full manuscript in 2 days (<--unbelievable!). We spoke on the phone, and I brought up the weather (yes, I know, I can see you rolling your eyes). I was nervous, and wanted to break the ice a little. And, it thankfully worked. He talked about the NY weather, and I mentioned my region, and it flowed into other conversation. That first call, because I was still in contact with other agents, was pretty much only to chat. To hear each other's tone, to see if we could speak on the phone easily, to get our feet wet. It was nice, that I didn't feel I was "selling" myself. He already wanted my book at this point, and made it clear, so I didn't feel pressured to "win him over" on the phone, as I'd imagined it might be.

5 days later, when I'd made my decision to go with his agency, I phoned him at an agreed-upon time, and we hammered out all the details in about 30 minutes -- he talked about an editor who was already interested in my book (yay!!!), and about revisions that would need to be made (thankfully, minor, but when you're talking about a 400-page manuscript, nothing is that minor). We agreed on a general time period for the revisions, and emailed each other with minor questions that same day, back and forth.

In the end, the call wasn't as frightening as I'd feared (well, at least not after that initial two minutes, lol). Mostly, I just reminded myself to breathe, to speak slowly, to let him do much of the talking at first. And yes, I had notes. Questions I wanted to ask, or things I wanted to remember to say. I highly recommend a cheat sheet for that first call, because trust me, your mind could go totally blank and you want to be prepared.

Honestly, I prefer email to phone ('cause I'm a writer, I guess), but that first phone call is CRUCIAL - to hear tone of voice, to see if you "gel" with the agent, to see if your personalities can work together.

To me, looking back, yes, the call was critical/important/necessary. But, in the end, I think it's the combination of things that's even more important to the agent - professionalism from the start (the writer's query letter), quality of the work/novel (which, truly, is what the agent will base his decision on, not the phone call itself), and the willingness of the writer to be flexible and easy to work with.

Oh - one more thing - don't forget that you're also selecting the agent. In other words, this isn't just a one-sided situation. If the agent isn't right for YOU, then listen to your gut and be brave enough to say "no thanks." There's nothing wrong with that. Here's my own example -- there were a couple of agents I'd spoken with about the book who had different "visions" of my book. (In fact, one was willing to offer me representation "if" I'd consider their changes, which were completely drastic). They wanted to change core parts of the book, which would've made it a different book, entirely. I'm not talking about minor plot revisions. I'm really talking more about genre, or even character. It's okay if there are some things you, as the creator of the work, are not willing to change. So, when you're looking for an agent, make sure you have similar visions of the book - that he/she "gets" it. If not, maybe they're not "the one" for you...

Best of luck to those about to receive "the call!" I'd love to hear about your own "call" experiences in the comments, btw...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Write the Book You Want to Read

If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison

This is something I've always told my students - that even beyond writing for pleasure, or writing because it's something you "need" to do, it's also good to write a book that you, yourself, would want to pick up at a bookstore, purchase, and read. Something you haven't quite found already, from a book you've read. Something you need to write. For yourself.

In fact, that's partly the reason, I think, that I started writing my own series. I wanted to be transported to the Cotswolds in a book, and I hadn't yet found "that" book to read. So, I wrote one. I also wanted to write a story about a first love, an unrequited love, in a way I hadn't quite seen, either. Not that my plot is terribly unique, but I wanted to write a story like that from my own point of view. To see what I might do with a plot like that.

Also, I think that's the BEST mentality to have, regarding getting published. There's a fine line between writing something in order to get published (never a good idea), and writing something because we'd love to read it, ourselves, on our own pretend bookstore shelf. Then, if it ever gets published, wonderful! We wrote for ourselves first, and then someone else happened to read and enjoy it, too.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Revising, Revising, Revising

I think I just figured out why this "I have an agent" thing still hasn't sunk in, even days later -- it's partly because things feel the same as they did before. I find myself in the position of working. Hard. Of taking (very helpful) notes from an agent and incorporating them to the best of my ability into the manuscript -- to make them smooth and natural. Not an easy task. In fact, quite tedious. Oh, and I also have to manage to go to faculty meetings, grade papers, and hold down a full-time teaching job at the same time, lol.

In other words, I'm working. Not sitting back and drinking champagne (well, I don't drink champagne, anyway), or out celebrating with friends or kicking back and relaxing. In fact, my work has ramped up so much in the past few days that I have very little free time, if any.

And before you shake your head at me and accuse me of complaining, or maybe feeling sorry for myself -- just know that I'm not, and that I don't. Firstly, because I know how fortunate I am to be in this position (and I know how many years it took!). And secondly, because this is work I do gladly. It's work I ADORE. I'd rather edit/write than just about anything else. It's hard, hard mental labor, but it's also (to put it into a nauseating cliche) a labor of love.

So, back to my main point -- I haven't really had time to digest the fact that I have an agent. And yes, I still catch myself thinking that he'll email me and say he's changed his mind - that he doesn't want to represent me anymore. I know that won't happen (he's so enthusiastic about my book!), but having experience Rejected Writer's Syndrome for years, it's difficult to make myself believe it's real.

Maybe one of these days, when I actually look up from my keyboard for a few seconds, I'll start to believe

Monday, October 18, 2010

He's Just Not That Into You...

So, here's a bit of news: I've gotten a formal offer of representation AND contract from a literary agent. SQUEEEE!! It happened fast, and I'll give details soon, I promise. But first, I'm waiting on 4 other agents (who have the full manuscript) to respond, before formally making my decision/announcement. Which leads me to this...

When I contacted those 4 agents (to tell them I had an offer, and to give them a few days to respond - a professional courtesy), two of those agents replied immediately, saying they would read the material quickly and respond by the deadline. But the other two?? Ehh...not so much. Nothing. Nada. Crickets. Now, granted, perhaps they ARE reading the material right now and PLAN to respond in some way, but simply forgot to tell me (lol). Or, the greater possibility is this:

They're just not that into me.

You know that book, right? With that same title? It was even turned into a movie. Well, I admit that I gave that book a skim a couple of years ago, and it had some really sound advice about relationships. The premise is this: IF a guy is interested in you, he'll let you know. He'll make it very, very clear. And if he's not, he'll make it clear, too.

Well, the same can probably be said about agents. For most of them, upon reading a manuscript, it's a fairly-clear "yes" or "no." They're either "into" your book, or they're not.

And sometimes, it takes a LOT of months or years of various agents being "not" into your book to finally find the one who is. That agent who GETS your book, who loves it, who understands it - who wants to represent it! You'll know. Trust me, you'll know.

A flaky agent, a wishy-washy "I'm not really sure about this" agent is not the one for you. Because the one who is into your book will TELL YOU. They'll be excited about your book and will talk about its possibilities. They'll feel an urgency about representation. They'll make it clear how they feel, no games, no serious doubts.

*Note - I do believe that some agents will have great faith in a novel that's "not quite there yet" and will request rewrites, without offering representation. That's not being wishy-washy; that's being realistic. But - when the rewrites are completed and resubmitted, there should soon be a moment where that agent experiences that urgency, that excitement about the book which tells you he/she is "into" the book. If not, then you should probably move along...

*Another note to clarify: Re-reading my own entry just now, it seems ridiculous of me to "complain" about agents being "not into me" when I'm lucky enough to have a formal offer on the table. But that's really not what I meant at all - I'm utterly flattered and humbled by ANY offer that comes my way. I only thought that this was a unique opportunity to discuss an agent - any agent - being "into" our work....or not...and seeing the difference so clearly.

So, more tomorrow on the agent situation! Stay tuned for the details......

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's Official: I HAVE AN AGENT!!!

Okay, so here's how it happened:

About two weeks ago, I queried an agent (one of a billion I had already queried since May of this year, lol). A few days later, he requested 50 pages. Great! I was excited, but I'd been through this before. Many times, in fact. So, I submitted them (by snail mail). The evening after he received them, he emailed me again. He enjoyed the chapters, and requested the full manuscript. Even better! More excited, but still realistic, I printed off the entire manuscript and sent it. Of course, a Sunday and holiday (Columbus Day) prevented it from arriving at his doorstep until 6 days later.

But 2 days after he received the manuscript, there it was - an email in my mailbox. I saw his name and KNEW it was a rejection. What else could it be? He'd read another 50 pages, gotten bored, and decided it was a "no." Right? Wrong!!

I opened the email and skimmed through the first (very flattering) paragraph, searching for the "but." You know the one -- "I really enjoyed the story, the characters, the plot - BUT - it's just not the right fit for me..."

But the "but" never came. The second paragraph held words like "contract" "offer of representation" and "let's chat by phone." SQUEEEEEE! I literally hyperventilated, started breathing fast. I called my mom and read her the email. She was ecstatic, as I knew she would be (my biggest fan).

The next few hours were a blur of emails (responding to the agent, then informing the other 4 holding full manuscripts that I had an offer), and of course, real life called, and I had to go to work and grade actual papers and teach actual classes (blech).

It's taken me the past 5 days to realize it's REAL. That I have a full-fledged contract from a full-fledged agent. I can't even tell you how surreal it feels. Truly. I keep expecting him to send an email that says, "Just joking. Ha!" or maybe "I've changed my mind. I was mistaken and want my contract back." It's just so unbelievable...

As for the other 4 agents (see previous post), 2 of them never returned my email (for shame!!), and the other 2 graciously sent a rejection. Which is fine. MORE than fine. Because it only confirms what I knew the minute I hung up the phone with the offering agent - he was "the one" for me. Plus, and I know this is easy for me to say after the fact, lol - but I had already made up my mind to reject one of them if she were to offer representation. So, it all worked out very well in the end, and I'm at total peace with it.

In fact - and remember that "He's Just Not That Into You" book reference I made in yesterday's blog entry? Well, one of the rejecting agents (the one I'd planned to say "no" to) actually used the word "lukewarm" in her email. She wasn't being rude, just honest. And I was glad for her candor. She's right - in the months during our contact (she'd asked me to re-write and re-submit twice), she never showed that "spark" I was hoping for. Yes - she liked the book a LOT - or else, she would've let it go months ago. But she didn't love it. Not enough to fight for it. And I'm glad. Because just as she wouldn't want to feel lukewarm about a project, I certainly would not want a lukewarm agent.

And I don't have one! I have one who read the book in a day and a half, who didn't dilly-dally around and waffle about my book - no, he sent a contract right away! It's always how I imagined, hoped it would be.

In the next week or so, I'll be posting other little details of my experience (like the agent call, or how I researched that agent in the first place to query him, or the various reactions I've received from friends and family), just to continue documenting this writer's journey that I'm on.

And what a roller coaster it's been so far! *straps in for the rest of the ride*

Friday, October 15, 2010


Yesterday, on the board, I wrote down this quote for my Creative Writers:

‎Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Then today, by email (ironically), I found this terrific article in Chuck's Blog - 5 Articles on Perseverance

I can't say much right now (sorry to be so cryptic), but some good things are happening, with regard to my book and certain agents. Finally! (I can tell you more specifics next week...).

So, today, I want to encourage everyone reading to KEEP GOING. Never give up. If you want to get published, then do what it takes to get there. Learn, read, write, re-write, submit, accept rejection, KEEP GOING. Sure, it's no guarantee that if you do these things, even for years, that you will finally get published. But I can tell you this guarantee for sure - if you don't do these things, you have no chance of getting published.

On this Awesome Friday, I offer the Rocky Theme Song. Look at those billion steps in front of you, the ones that seem impossible to climb. Stare them down. Conquer them. And then, when you reach the top, do a glorious, gleeful, victorious dance!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Music of Words

Here's a great quote I just received from a former student:

To me the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the music the words make. ~Truman Capote

I so agree. I'm constantly telling my students to read their work (whether a formal essay, poem, or short story) ALOUD, not only to catch awkward wording or choppiness, but also so they can hear the language, the music inside the language -- the rhythm, the beat, the "melody."

I admit it -- sometimes, I just love language for language's sake. Have you ever read a sentence or passage from a book and read it over again, just because that particular combination of words sounded almost melodious?

May we never forget to enjoy the music in our language!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Importance of a First Chapter

My students' next assignment is to submit a first chapter. What great timing -- I've just found this article on Nathan Bransford's blog, all about that all-important first chapter. I couldn't agree more with everything in this article.

I actually can't think of a (first-draft) first chapter I've ever written that stuck around in the final edits. Usually, my problem is that I start my first chapter too soon. I give unimportant information - or, offer it in a way that doesn't draw the reader in like it should. I find that if I ditch the first couple of pages, that is where the action is. Page 2 or 3. That's where my story should really begin.

It's also a good idea to take a stack of 10 novels (whether from your own bookshelves or the library or a bookstore) and read their first chapters. See how other authors are doing it. Do they start with dialogue? Description? Action? And what, in your opinion, is most effective? Study the masters; see what works.

And, no matter what, remember to start en medias ras -- Latin, for "in the middle of things." It doesn't have to be as dramatic as a car chase or bomb going off. But it does need to be intriguing - to compel and coax the reader to want to read more. That's really the sole purpose of the first chapter (aside from offering key information). Because if you can't "hook" the reader in that first chapter, you likely won't hook them for the rest of the novel, either.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Don't Push It

So, here I sit, on a rare non-working, non-grading Saturday. I had decided to devote much of this day to writing. Well, editing is more accurate - there's a novel in the series I'm trying to polish and tighten at the moment.

I've sat down about three times, opened the document, stared at it awhile, tried to brainstorm -- but nothing's happening. I think my brain's a little fried from the hundreds of essays I've been having to grade lately, and I feel too fatigued to be creative. Or even to make sense, for that matter.

So, I've decided something. I won't push it. As eager as I am to get something accomplished today, I will go forth and relax, spend time online, take a walk - anything other than editing/writing. At least for this afternoon. Perhaps tonight, when I feel less antsy, better-rested, I can feel those creative juices flow once more.

Sometimes, I think writers do more harm than good (to their own writing) when they try too hard to push it. Sometimes, the better choice might be to walk away. At least, for a bit...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Upping the Stakes

Passing along a link today:

I came across this great article from Writer's Digest - How to Up the Stakes for Your Characters. Some strong tips/advice for heightening conflict and tension in your prose.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Author Website

I love browsing websites of authors I enjoy reading. Well, today, I searched for Kate Morton's website (author of The House at Riverton, the book I'm currently reading).

It's one of the most creative sites I've seen - the layout is sort of haunting and mysterious and nostalgic-feeling (much like her books). I also love the "sneak preview" for her new book, The Distant Hours. Can't wait to read it!

And sure, I admit it - one day, if I'm ever fortunate enough to be published, myself, I'd love to have a great website. I'd have different blog entries for my characters, or maybe include a map of the Cotswold village where my series is located. It's fun, getting ideas from other author websites. Hey, I can dream, can't I? ;-)

Do you have any favorite author sites to recommend? I'd love to see them!