Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Querying and interesting findings

Hi all,

I haven't really given many query updates. My journey is so similar to other writers that I assume details are just redundant. But before I began querying I loved reading query-type info, so here you go.

The most interesting thing I have found is that the agents I felt were PERFECT for my story in every way gave me a form rejection. The agents I decided to test out just-t0-see requested the full. Isn't that crazy. Two agents that have my full rarely request YA (even though they both have sold YA). I am a premium member over at QueryTracker. I think anyone querying should pay that $25 bucks because it is soooo worth it. I am able to see the raw data of all queriers to any agent. The actual querier's name is hidden, but the stats are there. This has been the absolute best info I have found.

So my advice:
  1. Query very, very, very widely. I no longer believe in the "super/dream agent" thing. My "super agent" will be the one that loves my work enough to take me on.
  2. Query agents that represent your subject matter, not only your genre. This landed me a full request.
  3. Use QT religously. I'm serious, I am on that site so often that Patrick probably thinks I'm obsessed. (Secretly, I am.) :)
  4. Rejections sting. Two in a row will make you feel like giving up. Make sure you have queries out at all times so the rejections become "oh well" instead of "I suck."

Now my stats so far:

  • Requests: 5
  • Rejections: 23 (of those 5 were semi-personal)
  • Request rate: 21.7%

I must say that my subject matter is difficult. You may have MUCH higher results. I hope you do!

M.B.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Anniversary Day!

Hello fellow bloggers! Today is my 7 year wedding anniversary, and so I thought I would offer a list of what I have learned about marriage over the last 7 years.

  1. The first year is the hardest, hang in there.
  2. Regardless of how right you are, fight the urge to say it.
  3. 99% of all arguments are a waste of energy.
  4. Relating to the above, TRY to bite your tongue. When someone screws up, they know it.
    You really don't have to reiterate.
  5. Finances can complicate things. Discuss how to handle them PRIOR to marrying. It will
    save you loads of grief.
  6. Decide how many children you want and when PRIOR to marrying.
  7. Decide if both spouses will work during child rearing years PRIOR to marrying.
  8. Know now that you will love your children more than you ever thought of loving anyone
    else, but please do not let your spouse know that fact. :)
  9. Children can CAUSE and FIX arguments. You will argue about things you never
    considered once kids are into the equation, but one smile from your child(ren) will make
    you forget how angry you are at your spouse. (See #4)
  10. You will experience more with this person than you have ever experienced with any other
    person -- including your parents/siblings. Respect him or her. Love him or her. Be patient
    with him or her. And when all else fails, laugh at each other. Laughter makes everything
    better.

    After 10 total years with my husband, I am still deeply in love with him. I wish the same for all of you. :)

    M.B.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What do you want for Christmas?

Me? Well, besides an agent, I want this:






The problem is that I've been feeling like a bit of traitor wanting a Kindle. What's your take on the Kindle? Am I shooting my future writing dreams in the foot or is it fine? For me, I will still buy traditional books. I work in printing, and therefore, I feel that traditional printing will never die. I enjoy holding a traditional book, the satifaction of closing it after a fantastic read, and then picking it up months later. As a graphics person, I adore cover art. These are things that will not go away if I purchase a Kindle.

So, free my worrisome soul, it's fine, right? :)

Now onto you, what would you like for Christmas? What would make that day super special for you and remind you of childhood days? I believe we all have those childhood memories of the one toy you ALWAYS wanted and the thrill (or disappointment) on Christmas morning. So, share. I'd love to know and then follow-up to tell me if you got it. I'll be hoping for you. Now can someone email my husband and tell him I want a Kindle? ;)

M.B.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Outlining -- a.k.a pulling your hair out


Outlining...yes, that organizational craziness that forces you to look like the poor cat above. Yep, that's what I'm talking about today. After reading a fellow blogger’s post regarding plotters vs. pansters, I began to research various outlining methods. The snowflake method is a very common approach that involves starting with a summary sentence (a.k.a pitch) then expanding out.

Some claim this hinders creativity, while supporters feel it keeps them on track. I've decided to use elements of the approach (click here). I like the pitch sentence to begin with. This took me quite awhile, but in developing my pitch sentence for Twisted Root I found that it helps to think in broad terms. A+B=C But the more interesting element of this model is the disaster moments in the story. You know, those moments where you become the evilest writer on the planet and your characters are tortured.

The Snowflake method suggests that you have 3 disasters (more with sub-plots) and an ending, each occupying 1/4 of your MS. Well what I found interesting is that this method suggests that the best disasters are those caused by the protagonist attempting to "fix" things and instead makes things worse.

I have never considered the protag causing the disasters. In my first book most of the disasters were external elements thrown at my protag. In developing Twisted Root I've decided to give this approach a shot and interestingly enough I feel it makes the reader even more sympathetic to the protag.

So this is what I'm looking at:
Beginning of book: Inciting Incident (Ch. 1 in TR)
By chapter 10: 1st major disaster
By chapter 20: 2nd major disaster (Climax of the story, things are boiling up)
By chapter 30: 3rd major disaster (Absolute hopelessness)
Ending of book

I've written out each disaster, and so far I am really loving this method. I am not using it to its fullest—I'm still a pantster at heart. But I do feel that my story arc is already set, each character arc is already set, and I'm guaranteed to have a solid plot by following this method, albeit loosely.

I'll let you know how things go! Now, how about you? Do you outline? Do you use the Snowflake method or another method? And by all means, if you've got a genius method spill it! I can use all the help I can get. :)
M.B.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Do you use photos to assist with setting?

I've been attempting to find a photo that conveyed the beauty of the underworld in TWISTE ROOT (my WIP). With SECOND SOUL, I used various Thomas Kinkade paintings to create Heaven. It's tricky when you have absolutely nothing in mind, and I am a very visual person. I need the other worlds in my book to be described to the point that the reader feels he/she is walking through the story. Well I found the photo--finally! What do you think? Nice, huh?





Do you use photos, visuals, etc. to help you write? If not, what helps you visualize? TWISTED ROOT is so deeply imaginative that I've had to pool lots of photos (and create some of my own) in order to correctly set the book. It is a journey for sure. So share, what helps you create setting?

M.B.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Recipes for sweetness

It dawned on me yesterday that I have a "recipe" for writing success. And by success I'm referring to the ability to write more than one line without my mind going totally blank. First, I am a night owl so I do my best writing at night. Last night I was up until around 2 am working on Twisted Root--my current WIP, a YA dystopian. In addition to the night thing, I've found that I need a few theme songs for my WIP. The music must jive with the mood of the relationship between my central characters--in this case, Ari and Jackson. When my brain shuts down and coffee doesn't help, I turn to my theme song, and suddenly the words flow out of me again.

My theme song for Twisted Root is Secrets by OneRepublic. Listen/watch here.

This song conveys the tension between my two main characters, but also the name is perfect. See, Jackson is the most popular boy in school and Ari (not so popular at all) finds out he is secretly a spy for the Republic (an alien group that lives below the Earth's surface). She should report him, should hate him for being one of the others, but as she dives deeper into his world she finds herself drawn to him in ways she never imagined.

Here is a little taste (please note it is still in the rough/drafting stage):
_________________________________________

A single drop of liquid hits my lip, and reflexively I lick it away. My taste buds explode with flavor. A perfect mixture of sweet and sour, warm and cold. I want more, need more. Where had it come from? Him? Another drop and another.

My eyes fly open.


He hovers above me as light as air. A bright glow encircles him. His eyes are closed. A sweet smile rests on his perfect face. Another drop hits my cheek, and I glance up to see his hair shiny—wet—with beads of water gliding down his blond strands as though they are leaves after an April rain.

I can't look away. My heart beats, beats, beats inside my chest. I want to reach out to him. Touch his face. Because I have only seen him from a distance—on the field or passing me in the hall. We never speak. I’m not sure he even knows my name. But I know his.

Jackson Locke.

_________________________________________
And for fun here's my favorite pumpkin pie recipe for your holiday fun!

1 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 c. plus 1 tsp. half & half milk
1 1/2 c. thawed Cool Whip topping
6 oz. Graham cracker crust
1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin
2 (4 serving) pkg. Jello vanilla instant pudding and pie filling
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Mix cream cheese, 1 tablespoons half & half at slow speed. Stir in whipped topping. Spread over crust. Pour 1 cup half & half into mixing bowl. Add pudding mix. Beat until well blended. Let stand 3 minutes. Stir in pumpkin and spices; mix well. Spread over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Makes 8 servings.

M.B..

Monday, December 6, 2010

New pet, new MS, and querying fun

I have been sooooo slammed that my blog has taken a very backseat, but I've decided to dive back into it on a regular M,W,F basis. So here goes.

Some of you may remember that my Cocker Spaniel, Bella, passed away in October. See picture below:




We were very sad, but my 2 year old just couldn't process that she was no longer with us. She would stand at my deck door and call for her or ask when she would return from the doctor. It was heart-breaking to say the least. My DH and I knew that we needed another pet to offset the loss and so this weekend we adopted a precious 4.5 month old kitten. Rylie, my daughter, has always called all cats "Kiki" so that is what we named our new baby.

She is absolutely adorable, but what I never anticipated was her immediate attachment to my daughter. Typically kittens and toddlers can be an issue (we were very leery to bring home a kitten on the younger side). My daughter is a VERY mellow toddler so we opted to adopt an equally mellow kitten. Kiki follows Rylie around everywhere and cries if she cannot find her. It is so adorable! We do not allow Rylie to pick her up on her own, but Kiki will often climb into Rylie's lap and fall fast asleep. And b/c it is the Christmas season, we brought her home and placed her in a box with a bow on the outside, saying that Santa had brought Rylie an early present. :) See her reaction below:



(Excuse crazy-just-woke-up-from-nap hair!)
Okay, I promise not to dedicate blog time to the life of our cat! On to writing news, I am pushing through my draft of TWISTED ROOT and will leave a little taste of it on Wednesday. For SECOND SOUL, I am batting about a 25% request rate to see material (if I include the no responses. My oldest query is just over a month old.), but so far no offer of rep. Honestly, I love SECOND SOUL, it is my first complete novel, but I feel that TWISTED ROOT has a stronger high-concept premise. I plan to query 100 agents for SS and if I receive no offers then I will shelf it and go on to TR. Right now I am no where near 100 agents. I've tried to take the process slowly, but I think it's time I try querying in larger waves. I'll let you know how that goes. Wish me luck!
And just for your reading pleasure, here is the query for SS:
____________________________________
Every human has a soul deep within them, directing their inner most thoughts. Sixteen-year-old John Fallon has two.

John isn’t the kind of guy to seek out danger, unless you consider fastballs or his sassy ex-girlfriend, Ann, dangerous. But that is before his father dies, revealing John as the new Gatekeeper to Heaven. Now three Trainers infiltrate his life, a power stirs within him that causes violent seizures, dark spirits rampage his small town, an evil family has a mark on his head—and none of his family or friends can know about any of it.

But that’s the least of his troubles.

Because just as he and Ann become close again, the Trainers reveal his mission: destroy the leader of the dark spirits. Easy, right? There is just one problem—the only way to destroy a dark spirit is to kill the person it possesses. Now John must make the impossible choice: loyalty to Heaven or the life of someone he loves.
____________________________________
M.B.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Emotionally-charged writing

Yesterday I received an email from a friend of mine. She's kind of going through a tough time and so I asked her to type out exactly how she felt and send it to me. I will not, for privacy reasons, discuss the contents of the email but when I read it I literally felt her pain. There were few periods, less commas, and absolutely no structure to the email, but the writer in me found the intensity of the words absolutely beautiful. I think this would be a great exercise for any writer. When you feel lost or sad or overjoyed with happiness, write it down or type it out. Do not worry about structure, punctuation, or any of those silly things we writers live by. Instead, just write exactly what you feel and send it to yourself. I bet you will be amazed when you read it later.

On a separate note a few funny details, and I am interested to know if you do this, too. I have a few words that my mind misspells continuously. A crit partner will point it out and I can feel my face flush over in embarrassment. I then wonder if I am a complete and total moron. :) Here is my list, what's yours?

Peaked -- should be peeked
Shutter -- should be shudder

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!

M.B.

* P.S. I received a full request this week! So yeah, I'm kind of on cloud nine right now. <- Cliché alert! :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

How our experiences shape us...

I read a thread today on the blueboards (Verla Kay) that was so horrifying I couldn't process it. See there is/was a book for sale on Amazon for pedophiles. I should start this post by saying that I do not watch the news. At all. I used to, but the constant focus on the negative aspects of our world quickly turned me off. Instead, I generally rummage through Yahoo or MSNBC (but only on occasion) and then go about my day. Getting back to the point, so yes, some sicko came up with a sicko book and Amazon decided to allow it to sell on their site.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2010/11/amazoncom-pulls-pedophile-advice-book-after-controversy-over-its-sale.html

I will not delve into my opinion on this as I am a VERY opinionated person and this pisses me off to no end. But I will tell you this, prior to becoming a parent I was very much against the death penalty. I felt that God, and God alone, reserved the right to determine the life and death of human beings.

Then I had my daughter, Rylie.

I can now think of lots of reasons someone should die, and all of them revolve around my daughter. I find such changes in people when they become parents interesting. Strict nutritionists at the McDonalds drive-thru. Anti-TV folks singing the chorus for Dora. Changes like this are so common in the parenting world that we all just shrug and move on.

But the same seems to be true for becoming a writer. When I wrote my first book I became privy to some sort of understanding in what actually makes for an entertaining book. I still had the rosy glasses on, and so I was able to read books that were not quite perfectly written (or interesting). But now that I am knee deep into my second book, my entire outlook has become jaded. I see writing very differently now. I look for rhythm and beats, poetic language and sentence variations. These are all things that were blind to me prior to becoming a writer.

It's kind of like the bell in THE POLAR EXPRESS. Only those who know, who believe, can hear it jingle. The same goes for writing. I will never read a book the same way again. I suppose that's a good thing, but man, I used to be such a fast reader.

M.B.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Buzz (aka Word of Mouth)

NaNo update: words off (I'm bright red right now typing this) roughly 4,000
Goal: To catch up :)
_______________________________

What makes something high concept? And is that the same as something that facilitates word of mouth success?

I'm reading a few books right now (which, yes, likely hinders my Nano progress). One of them is THE SHACK, which is very much a religious based novel. I don't typically read Christian lit (excluding C.S. Lewis and arguably Tolkien and L-Engle), but noticed this book when perusing the aisles of Target the other day. It has a gripping cover, wouldn't you say?


So I picked it up. First, let me say that this is not a new book. It was self-published in 2007. THE SHACK went on to become a USA Today Bestseller, a NYT #1 Bestseller, and has remained on the NYT Paperback bestseller list through 2010. So yeah, this book is for sure a breakout novel. It is a perfect example of the success of the "buzz." A book that makes people talk is so much more powerful than thousands of dollars on advertising. I am far more likely to by a book a friend of mine suggests than one advertised on the CW. But when I began reading THE SHACK my internal editor started shouting inside my head: "Hey wait, that's six similes in a row! Hey, this is so much backstory how am I ever going to get through it!" And etc.

I've discussed before how important it is to tell a story vs. following the rules but THE SHACK (and there are others, aka TWILIGHT) that go beyond breaking rules. In reading a few of these sort of books, I've discovered something. Each major breakout novel that is poorly written does something that may other well written books never come close to doing. They either A: speak to something missing in our lives or B: deeply touch our emotions. TWLIGHT definitely does this. What girl or women doesn't wish that a boy or man loved her so deeply that he continually puts himself in agony to be with her. It is indeed a very emotionally-charged book. Is there plot? Yeah, I'm not so sure. Story arc? I guess you could say so. :) But do you get chill bumps in the beginning of the book when Edward is mentioned? I bet you do.

The same goes for THE SHACK. It is a very interesting novel that has brought many to faith and pissed off just as many. (Don't you love when that happens?) I always feel that when a book inspires and angers it has done its job. This book is rich in detail and any parent can relate to the struggles of poor Mack. I enjoyed it and will likely read it again, but not due to the beautiful prose. I will read it again because it evoked emotion within me, and what else can we ask for in a great book.

M.B.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Nano and a completed novel?

I read a fair amount about Nano and various writers' experiences prior to committing to write this month. A common thing mentioned is that the novel is in such poor shape that the writer has to do one of the following:

A: rewrite the entire thing
B: revise forever to get it into shape
C: shelf the project.


If you have participated in Nano, what was your experience?

I am not comfortable with any one of the above outcomes because I LOVE the project I am working on. Consequently, I am editing as I go (more than I should) and thinking through plot (more than I should). I am quite behind in the word count but am thrilled with what I have so far. Sooo…I am setting my own *goal* for Nano and beyond.

I plan to write and revise the complete novel by January 1st. Then send it to my crit partners that very day and will, of course, revise again based upon their comments. And guess what? This change in goal has helped me to become more productive. My plan is to double up on daily word counts this week to write at least 2,000 words per day (hopefully more like 3,000).

So tell me, do goals help your writing or hurt it? Most of us write on the side. We have families, jobs, homes, etc. that require attention. Writing definitely takes a backseat. For me, a goal helps to bring it forward (a bit) so that I am able to finish the project. Otherwise, writing gets lost in the cloud of craziness that is life.
M.B.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

When editing, over critting, and nerves take over your story.

I've made it a personal mission of mine to read at least a few books a month. As a writer, it keeps the creative juices flowing. But this month I realized that each book that I read broke one or many of the rules. This is a common thing for sure as part of learning the rules is knowing when to break them. I read one book where the author used the verb "was" twenty times on one page. Yikes! I thought, at first, but then I realized that I didn't even notice it in the first pass. Want to know why? Because the story flowed so incredibly well that I didn't care. It was quite the epiphany for me and in turn I have created a few rules for myself.

1. Story trumps rules, always. If it works, it works. Throwing in a bunch of strong verbs can read as very unnatural.

2. Voice trumps rules, sometimes. You have to stay true to your character. If that word or phrase is voice specific, I say keep it.

I find that over editing, over critting, and nerves in general can really detract from the story-telling aspect of a story. Do you agree?What are your rules or rather, rules-that-break rules?

Friday, October 29, 2010

NaNo -- How are you prepping?

Good morning all! Today is the last business day (aka real day in my book as I get super lazy on the w/e) prior to NaNo. This is my first and I am super pumped, though my husband already said that 50,000 words is impossible in one month. I assured him that it is not and that I will hit 52,000. See I am going to work on TWISTED ROOT of which I already have chapter 1 -- 2,000 words complete. So to be honest and all I need to hit 52,000 words. But I must admit, I am going to likely start from scratch so as to keep the creative juices flowing.

So in researching about NaNo I found a few tips and thought I would pass them along:

1. Do a rough outline of your story and character sketches before.
2. Set a time every day to write -- 9 pm, 5 am, whatever but make it the same every day.
3. Write everyday no matter what.
4. Binge on the weekend -- write for an hour, take a break, then another hour, break, etc.
5. Have fun with it and don't focus on quality. Just get the words on the page.

How about you? Have you been researching? How are you preparing? And most importantly, GOOD LUCK!

M.B.

p.s. I am going to plan to blog more during NaNo with struggles, how I overcame them, etc.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Snappy, wordy, funky sentences...

Okay so I've been revising for what feels like FOREVER. I am ready to stop, seriously, but I know you have to carve away the absolute crap that is first drafts in order to have a beautiful MS. But in this journey I have discovered that there is a very fine line between snappy and wordy. Shall I give a few examples of what I mean?

These sentences are taken randomly from SECOND SOUL -- feel free to lash me if anything is crazy. Here goes:

________________________________________________

Snappy:
  • Not even close.
  • He knew.
  • The door quaked.
Wordy:

  • It crashed shut with a loud bang, and I stumbled back, lost my footing, and fell to the floor.
  • The path itself was concrete, lacking all the grandeur and particularity of the other two paths, and I found myself searching for a way out of this lost land.

Basic (but could be tightened):

  • They rested there like birds in a nest, delicate and peaceful.
  • The final bolt hit in the center of the table.

________________________________________________

I find that all too often long sentences lose me about 2/3rds through, yet when well done they are so beautiful to read. Snappy sentences increase the tension, but they can also slow the flow. It is suchy a tricky thing. And I often notice that writers switch between the two without having basic sentences mixed in to keep the pace going. (You can't see me, but I'm raising my hand right now. )

So tell me, do you struggle with one or the other, both? Feel free to chime in or give advice on how to correct the SW syndrome.

M.B.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fireworks or sparklers?

Again, sorry for the absence. This writing business can be quite time consuming when you need to *ehem* actually write. :)

What have I been doing you ask? Querying, a bit. And getting rejected, a bit. And getting requests, a bit. Some fun, some not so fun, but all in all I'm enjoying this new phase of the game. I think my writing is a bit different and my style is a bit different, which I'm afraid means my querying=agent journey could take awhile. I'm okay with that fact. I am a fairly driven person so I'm not planning on giving up, BUT I do plan to eat a lot of chocolate along the way.

This querying business has made me wonder: do you prefer a fireworks, explosive-type opening or a mini sparkler, get-to-know-my world sort of opener?

I jump right in. Is this the correct way to go about it? I'm not sure, but originally I started with the 2nd option and my lovely critters said that sucked. I thanked them for the compliment and then revised...and revised again...and then again. My 1st chapter has been revised twenty or more times. How about you? Do you open with a bang or start slow? And what do you prefer when reading? Enlighten me. :)

M.B.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bad words...

First, so sorry I missed Monday's post. I promise there was good reason, which I hope to not jinx by posting about it, but let's just say it was a very pleasant surprise. :)

Now onto today's post. Today I want to talk about bad words, and I'm not talking about curse words. Curse words can actually be good words (when it comes to writing) if used selectively, and if they are appropriate for the story/MC.

For me, bad words are the words that drag down or weaken my prose. I have a list of words that I search out and destroy during revisions. Of course, some stay. My rule is that if the word is necessary to maintain voice then it stays, if it does not add to voice or the story then it's axed.

MY LIST:
_______________________________________________________________

----------------------------------------------
Verbs
----------------------------------------------
Was
Were
Could
Should
Would
Felt
Looked (issue when overused)
Walked (issue when overused)
Past perfect combos: had + past participle
Passive tense: verb + -ed verb (though there are other examples)
----------------------------------------------
Random Adverbs / Adjectives / Words
----------------------------------------------
Just
That
Very
Quite
Too
Not
Rather
Somewhat
Almost
Kind of
So
Which
The fact that
To be honest
____________________________________________________________
What's your list of bad words? Do you allow them occasionally or cut out altogether? Share your writing profanity. :)
M.B.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Confession time!

Watch out! I'm posting back-to-back. Crazy, I know. :)

I was working on my umpteenth revision of SECOND SOUL and realized that I have a few confessions to make.

___________________________________________________________

  1. I write overly wordy prose on my first draft. OKAY, Fine. I write overly wordy prose on drafts 1-3. And let me tell you, it is like slicing my arm off to delete some of it. I always know that if I am super proud of a certain bit of prose, it's cutting time.
  2. I'm not a fan of literary fiction. Yikes! A writer that doesn't prefer literary fiction! What has the world come to! The problem with most literary fiction is in the descriptions. I really do not need two or three paragraphs on the beauty of a tree. I get that it is lovely. I really do. But I do not need to read about it at length. At that point, I'm skimming. I prefer just enough details to convey the message/scene/setting without haulting the pacing. I find it interesting that so many experts slam physical descriptions (i.e. color of eyes, hair, etc), yet they have no issue at all with paragraphs on the green of trees. :) I digress...
  3. I am SOOOO afraid of ghosts and aliens and all that stuff, yet I LOVE writing about them. SECOND SOUL is filled with ghosts and possession and all sorts of freaky stuff. My current WIP (which is on hold), TWISTED ROOT, is about aliens that coexist on Earth with humans. I will not even get into the creepy stuff I have going on in that MS. Let's just say I will have nightmares for weeks after I finish it. :)
  4. I love adjectives and adverbs and the verb "was." Okay, I'm glad I got that off my chest. So you wanna know what I have to do? I love them so much that I cut most of them from my writing. I always find the pacing to improve when I do this, but boy am I sad when I hit delete. Check your loveliest descriptions. How many adjective weeds are in them? How many commas do you have b/c you just have to convey every single detail? Yep, I've been there and am there, daily.
  5. (Hoping and praying I don't piss anyone off with this one!) Do you ever have people read your work that confuse you, the writer, for the MC? I so want to say: It's fiction. :) But I don't. Instead, it makes me smile. See, I *try* to come at things/issues from different angles. I'm not sure I accomplish this, but I try. I know what my MC does not know. What fun would it be having a MC (esp. a teen) that already has all the answers? So, yeah, in SS I build Heaven as a true world, but it is nothing like what most would view it to be. And, honesty here, there's some cussing in my book and general hardness towards faith. The reason? B/C most teens don't get religion and they rarely find it interesting. Faith is not a part of SS, in the traditional sense, but I want the reader to finish my book and think "Hmm, maybe we are created for a greater purpose."

___________________________________________________________

Okay, it's slumber party time: confess something. I'll grab the popcorn.


M.B.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Are you afraid?

Yesterday was a crazy day. I have a Cocker Spaniel, Bella. She started getting sick two nights ago and refused to come inside. So, yesterday I noticed she wasn't able to walk so well. I called her Vet and had an appt set for 1:20. By noon she had crawled under our storage shed in the backyard and refused to come out.

I am petrified of snakes and pretty much anything that creeps and crawls, but I knew I needed to get her out of there. I stood by the shed for thirty minutes, gaining the courage. The shed sits about a foot above the ground and she was at least six feet in so, yeah, for me to get her I would have to crawl on my stomach and pull her out. At this point I'm crying because she has vomited a few times and is screaming in pain. My daughter, Rylie, is outside with me, begging me to help Beya (that's what she calls her). So I'm looking at my crying daughter and looking at my crying dog and decided to toughen up. I crawled under the shed, pushed aside the thick, disgusting leaves, and pulled her out. She didn’t move, barely breathed. I carried her to my car and raced to the Vet.

She passed through the night due to kidney failure. I am sad, but I am also very proud of myself. She was in tremendous pain and thanks to the Vet visit she was able to die in peace.

But this experience made me think about writing and how often we avoid delving into tough matters or subjects that personally bother us. Why? Why do we avoid hyper emotional topics? Instead we often write about OTHER people's troubles. For example, my parents are divorced. When I read a YA where the parents are divorced, I can instantly tell whether the author has actually experienced divorce. The writing will feel raw with emotion. And there are a zillion examples like this.

So here is our test: Think of something life changing in your life and the emotions you felt. Have your MC go through the same or similar experience and read the scene. I bet it takes you back. I bet the writing is pure and deep and beautiful. Because that's what true emotion does, it makes our characters relatable.

Our readers should feel our writing, not just read it.

M.B.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Opinions on Agents

So a few days ago I was rummaging through Twitter updates and stumbled across this:

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=2039

Have any of you read it? What are your opinions?

If you have not read it, let me recap. The poster (Mr. Smith) discusses, quite intensely I might add, the story of an author (Mr. Buchman) acquiring a 4 book deal with Sourcebooks, yet he was unable to get an agent to rep him. Mr. Smith goes on to ask if Agents have lost their minds.

Maybe, I can't be sure. I am not an agent, not in the least, but I can relate to one element of the job. I receive a LOT of emails a day. Going back and forth, today alone, I went through over a hundred emails. I can tell you that I lose my mind all the time. So, yeah, I imagine they lose their minds just like all business professionals do. Is this one of those times? Again, maybe, I can't be sure. But Mr. Smith's post brings up an interesting topic: What value do YOU feel agents bring to the table?

For me, there are several. First, it is a level of expertise. Anyone who is a business professional understands the importance of dealing with someone who knows the business. Second, I want someone in my corner. Can I do an agents job on my own? Sure. As well as them? Not likely. Third, I feel agents relate to the creative side of writing more than editors. This is not a hard-fast comment, but more my take from reading countless blogs/interviews on both sides.

I personally aim to have an agent some day. How about you? Are you pro Agent? And if so, why? Do you have an agent and love him/her? Brag about them. Tell us why Agents rock. Either way, let's discuss.

M.B.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What annoys you the most?

What annoys you the most about writing? Is it a struggle or confusion? What element confounds you the most?

For me it is the comma. I have always detested the comma and feel that comma splice is among the most offensive forms of writing. I would rather see no commas at all than one thrown in for the heck of it. So, yeah, my crit group loves to decorate my MS with commas. I have always felt that commas (at least in some uses) are subjective. BUT they are necessary, and so, I will list the most common reasons to use a comma as a way of clearing my conscience.

1. Series of 3 or more with a single conjunction
EXAMPLE: Amy bought toothpaste, lotion, and lip gloss at the store.

2. Parenthetic expressions or nonessential clause/phrase
EXAMPLE: Cassey, on the other hand, wanted to go to the mall.
EXAMPLE: My rose garden, when in full bloom, is beautiful.

UMMM...let's see

3. Introductory phrases/clauses before main clause
EXAMPLE: While I was sleeping, Mom cleaned my room.

4. Separating two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction
EXAMPLE: The town shut down at noon, but I continued to window-shop.

UGH this is painful!

5. Two or more coordinating adjectives (Though, why have so many adjectives in the first place?)
EXAMPLE: The sweet, gentle child fell fast asleep.

There are loads more, but as I hate them I will stop at 5. Now what about you? What element of writing confounds you? What drives you crazy?

Monday, September 27, 2010

CONTEST MONDAY!

There are lots of great contests going on in the blogosphere, but two caught my attention today that deserve mentioning.

1. Angela at The Bookshelf Muse is offering a 3 month mentorship. This contest is open through Wednesday, September 29th so hurry over. I have not entered the contest, yet, but definitely plan to!

http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/2010/09/1000-followers-contest-mentorship.html

2. Roni at Fiction Groupie has a great contest running through Sunday. It's her birthday so pop over and say Happy Birthday, then enter your email address as a comment and presto! You are entered into the contest to receive a 5 page crit from her. She will select two winners. One will get the option of either the crit or a new copy of Wicked Becomes You by Meredith Duran. The second winner will receive whichever is left.

http://fictiongroupie.blogspot.com/2010/09/birthday-contest.html

Good luck to everyone!!!

M.B. :)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Absence makes the heart grow fonder...

I have had a bad week. Scratch that -- two weeks. I am a fairly private person, but as the last few weeks have been so horrible I hope you will find it okay that I share it with you.

Two weeks ago my husband lost his job. We are fortunate, in many ways, as while I am part-time my salary covers most of our bills. But bills were not my concern. Our insurance was with my husband and Cobra was more than my mortgage so it wasn't an option. We decided to wait to see if he found a job quickly and if not would search out private insurance options. Thankfully God took care of us and my DH begins his new job on Monday...but it wasn't quick enough.

Last Saturday my daughter, Rylie, began to run a high 103 fever. We gave her Motrin and she fell asleep in my arms. By 5 am on Sunday the fever was over 104 and climbing. We rushed her to the ER. After well over an hour we were taken back and the first words out of the doctors mouth were "Oh, you're paying for this." He assured us this wasn't a charity case but he felt the fever was viral and that any additional testing would only be a waste of our money. We were sent away after paying a couple of hundred out of pocket, knowing nothing more than what we knew going in.

That day her fever held tight at 104 dropping to 102.5 with Motrin, but again going back up after 2 hours. We were instructed to give her Tylenol and Motrin alternating every 3 hours until the virus ran its course. The meds didn't take well to her system so by Monday on top of the fever, exhaustion, etc, she now had a severe upset tummy. We take her to her Pediatrician and I suggest dehydration. They shake it off, but request a urine sample. Seven hours later we were able to supply them with a urine sample. SEVEN HOURS TO GET ONE SAMPLE! They agreed it must be a virus and sent us home with the same Tylenol/Motrin spill, not even touching on the fact that it took so long for her to provide the sample.

Finally, Wednesday night the fever breaks. We take her off the meds and she stays at around 100 through the night and by Thursday morning she has no fever at all. But by noon she's pale, more lethargic, etc -- absolutely pitiful. I ask my husband to go get her some Pedialite, my instinct is too strong now. I know she is dehydrated. Within an hour she has downed two cups. A few hours pass, more liquid, and she is a totally different child. The color has returned to her cheeks. She's playing -- not a lot, but more active.

Today, she is 100% better, but this experience taught me a very valuable lesson.
There is no amount of training, degree, specialization, etc that can trump a mother's instinct towards her child.

My gut told me that Rylie was dehydrated. I mentioned it countless times, but was assured that it wasn't the case. I should have bought Pedialite the moment I noticed her upset stomach. I should have argued with the doctors and bitched beyond measure when the doctor mentioned our lack of insurance. I replay over and over, even now, what I should have done. The guilt is overwhelming to be honest, but I am convinced that God ingrained all mothers with a special chemical known as Mommy Guilt. It runs rich through us and threatens to pollute our minds at any given turn. There is no cure.

So that's my story. This is why I haven't blogged or tweeted or written this week. Monday I'll resume regularly scheduled programming, but I hope that if nothing else this post has let you know that you are not alone in whatever trials you are struggling with. The more I learn about people and the world, the more I learn that problems are universal and smiles are contagious. Cut those around you some slack; cut yourself some slack, and smile -- often.

M.B.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hooks?

Hooks are maybe one of the most frustrating elements of writing. We need to hook on the first page, first paragraph, etc. We have to hook in our query. There seems to be endless requests for strong hooks. Which brings me to my post/question for today -- what hooks you?

I've read through the first few pages of my favorite books lately just analyzing the hooks. Want to know what they all have in common? They present a question. Not a true question with a question mark, but a question in the reader's mind and that question has to be answered. So, as a reader, I read on in hopes of getting my answer. I also think one similarity is that the initial question presented is always answered by the end of that first chapter. And many times the first chapter presents one or more questions that push the story forward.

Let's take Hunger Games as an example. The last line of the first paragraph reads: This is the day of the reaping.
Immediately we want to know what's a reaping? Why does it scare Prim? By the end of Chapter 1 we know and find that Prim has been chosen. What does that mean? What will happen to her? There are lots of questions presented by the end of Ch. 1.

More examples:

Savvy -- When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he'd caused it.
This is the first sentence!! The very first line of that book presents a question. How in the word could her brother cause a hurricane? By the end of Ch. 1 we know and now want to know what Mibs' savvy will be.

A Great and Terrible Beauty -- I am staring into the hissing face of a cobra.
This is the second line of the book. What? Why is she staring into a cobra's face? By the end of Ch. 1 we know and also know that Gemma hates it in India.

Grab your favorite books. What questions are presented in the opening paragraph/pages. Is that what pulled you into the story?

I just cut the first 2 pages of my first chapter after learning this lesson about hooks.

Previous first line:

I stepped up to bat as the sky burst open, blinding me to the incoming pitch.

No questions presented at all.

New first line:

"You don’t have to go in,” Mom said for tenth time since I arrived.

Now, this is rough and I may reword Mom's tag a bit, but with this one line I've presented two questions. Go in where? Arrived where? My hope is that this hooks the reader to want to know where they are and why my MC doesn't want to go inside, especially considering the next line involves my MC thinking to himself that he doesn't want to go in.

Check your first paragraph/page. Are you presenting questions? Are you hooking the reader?

M.B.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Let's talk about sex -- Writing Topics Wednesday!

Today is Writing Topic Wednesday and while most of the time I will focus on issues that surround most writers -- hooks, passive voice, etc. -- today I want to talk about sex, specifically in YA.

There seem to be two groups of thought on this topic. Some claim it is irresponsible to delve into sex scenes, especially gratuitous sex scenes, in YAs. Others feel sex is part of the teenage world so why not? There are many examples of YA books with sexual content, from discreet scenes in Shiver to more detailed encounters reported in The Duff (of which I have only read the first few chapters on B&N so I cannot claim to have an opinion on that one). And let's not forget Twilight and while the book contained no hint of actual sex, the implication of heated desire was more than there. A hot guy wants to suck a girls blood because she smells so damn good he can't stand it. Uh, yeah.

Now as writers we often suggest that the story "tells itself" and therefore whatever is fine as long as it is true to the story. I have one thing to say to this: HOLY COP OUT. Claiming that thinking too much of the audience will hinder your craft to me is absolute BS. Write your story, write it well, but you better dang remember that a 12 year old will be reading it. People claim that there is a such thing as "upper YA." Again, I say BS. You want to know why? Because middle school girls long for nothing more than to act/feel older. Consequently, these same girls are reading YA, and the juicier the better.

My niece is a fantastic girl. Smart, beta club, honor student, all that jazz. Well she is also tall with blond hair and the most beautiful skin on the planet. She gets attention at school, so much so that the other week she asked me why guys only care about "nice butts and big boobs." So please, do not even suggest that "upper YA" exists. I'm the "cool aunt" which means my niece and her friends have no issue talking to me about everything that I do not want to hear. You wanna know what I have learned? My 2 year old is going to be on house arrest when she hits 10. Just kidding...sort of.

The point is that as writers for YA we have an obligation to consider the full range of readers, which let's face it, is likely 12-30. In my opinion, gratuitous sex in YA is irresponsible, so much so that it pisses me off. Why go there? Is it really necessary? 90% of the time the answer is no. You are fooling yourself if you don't realize now that young girls romanticize sex. Even the slutty girls, you know the ones, are probably only seeking attention and finding it any way they can.

Now, if you choose to hint at these details, delve into the heated hormonal world of teenage lust, then go right ahead. I personally feel that is fine, and even expected. But if you are writing about the dirty elements of sex, look at your children, or nieces/nephews. Do you want them reading that crap? If the answer is no you better get to revising. And if the answer is yes, well then, that's another topic all together.

M.B.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Contest Monday!

As per my new schedule today is CONTEST MONDAY!

********************************************************
September Secret Agent contest on Miss Snark's First Victim
Basic Info:
Priliminary info only, actual contest begins September 20th but note that the contest WILL be full within minutes of opening which is why I am posting about it today. Get yourself ready! I participated in the July contest and the feedback was amazing!
Details:
Submit first 250 words for critique. If the Secret Agent loves it he/she will request pages.
Genres:
SF/F
Historical and paranormal romance
MG and YA (including all subgenres)
********************************************************

Friday, September 10, 2010

Putting others down...

I missed my Wednesday writing post so I'll do a double post next week to catch up...well, I'll try. ;)

A strange thing happened to me last week. I'm not going to get into the crazy/petty details but I am learning there is a particular breed of person (can be male or female) that enjoys making statements that bring others down. I have had this happen to me twice in the last week. Now, don't get too sad for me, I'm a pretty tough cookie and take this sort of thing in stride, but others do not. I found myself listening and wondering why people choose to behave this way? Is it a self-esteem thing? That's what all the psych majors would say, but I think it runs deeper than that. And the reason I chose to blog about it today is that there seems to be an overload of this type of person in the writing world.

Have you met one? Either in person or online? It's the kind of writer that likes to tell you what you are doing wrong and what you can do to make it to THEIR level. Hmmm...okay, so you are not published, is that correct? Yes, says the person. And you have no training, right? Yes, the person repeats. So, why am I to listen to you? Uhhhhh...

Yeah, that's what I thought.

See, I am a tough critter. My crit partners can probably attest to this fact, but I am also extremely supportive. I think critiquing should be tough. It is useless if it doesn't force the writer to stop and think. If you are simply critiquing niceties, stop. You are wasting the person's time. But on the same front, if you read something and think it is absolute crap take a step back. Is it in the same genre as what you write? Same style? It is one thing to point out issues, it is another one entirely to call something "bad." Don't do that, please for the love of strawberries stop yourself! We are all learning here. We are all striving for the same or similar goals. Why not support one another? And this goes for all elements of life, not just writing.

I am from the South, that is of the U.S, and all Southern women are given the same gift at birth. We can insult you, like slap you in the face insult, with a wide smile on our faces and so much sugar in our voices you're liable to get a tooth ache. It is an unfortunate gift. I have a family member that has practiced her sugar slap to the point that you have to do a double take to be sure you heard her right. She'll compliment your makeup, smile wide, and then say something like "Don't you just hate it when ladies with full lips wear lipgloss." And you start to nod and realize, wait -- I have full lips and I'm wearing lip gloss!

Congratulations, you just received the sugar slap.

Moral of this super long post? Please, please, please follow Lincoln's wise words - "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

Trust me, if you are prepared to smack someone down to size realize now in actuality you are only making yourself look like a fool...I'm actually thinking of another word, but I'll keep my blog relatively clean. ;)

:) M.B.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Blog Awards!

***********************************************************************************

Well I am thrilled to death to have received the below blog awards from two fantastic bloggers - Amanda at Madameduck and Catherine at The Writing Room.







Thanks so much to both of you! Blogging is a newer thing for me and I am glad you've enjoyed my posts so far. :)

The rules:

1. Thank and link back to the blogger who gave the award.
2. Share seven things about yourself.
3. Pass the award on to fifteen bloggers, newly discovered or those you've been following
4. Contact the bloggers that you selected for awards.

My favorites:

1. Anna Staniszewski

2. Jennifer Bertman

3. Rose Cooper

4. Karen Strong

5. Liz Straw

... More to come. :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Contests, opportunities, etc.

New post schedule. I will be aiming to post every M, W, F.

Mondays - Contest information
Wednesday - Writing problems and suggestions (including links) of ways to overcome them
Friday - Confetti (Anything goes, but I will try to concentrate on book reviews)

Now on to the fun!

CONTEST INFORMATION
__________________________________________________________________________
C.A. Marshall - freelance editor, agent intern, super woman

Okay, this is crazy stuff, just crazy! Ms. Marshall is offering a chance to win a full MS edit on her blog! All you have to do is enter, but if you follow her blog, tweet about it, and blog about it, you'll increase your chances to win. Then enter all that jazz into the form on her blog and presto! You've just entered a contest with a chance to win a full critique. Now go, hurry up!

http://www.camarshall.com/

__________________________________________________________________________
This contest inspired me to start a continuous post. So, every Monday be on the look out for contests. I will do my best to include as many as possible and little tid-bit about the person(s) hosting the contest. If you hear of any between now and next Monday definitely let me know! I'll post them.

Now back to writing... :)

M.B.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Writing that evokes emotion

So as I mentioned in a previous post I just finished reading Stein's On Writing. Great book, if you have not read it yet you need to. It is so fantastic!

Well in the book he touches on our role as writers. Most writers say they write to express themselves or to tell a story. He says that's wrong. You should be writing to evoke emotion in your reader. What does that mean exactly? The long and short of it is that we, as people, experience everyday life. Don't write about everyday life. Write with feeling. Develop characters with feeling. Show drama and intensity and tension throughout your book so your story, even if it's a quiet story, leaves that reader feeling something.

I thought for a bit about how to do this exactly when suddenly it occurred to me that anything BIG that has ever happened in our lives inflicted emotion in us. Death does not only make us sad. It causes our bodies to ache. Our brains to feel like mush. Death changes our bodies and minds in ways the word "sad" could never convey. So why would a writer ever use the word sad? The answer is simple - we shouldn't. It does our story a disservice to describe emotions. And what about a happy time? Let's say you're on the track team and to be honest, you're not that good. You get by. You never embarrass yourself, but you never make your team shine. Then one day, one meet, you do it. Something inside you comes to life and you race around the track with more drive than your dad's old Chevy. Now all the sudden you feel some self-worth. Your mind is all over the place, excitement and exhaustion move through you in equal measure, but you can't give up, won't give up. You cross the finish line and set a new record for your team. Does happy describe how you feel? Heck no! Happy doesn't even come close! So why ever use that word or any other word similar to happy?

What's the point of this post? When big things happen in your story go big. Your character's body should feel different, things should smell different, taste different, even look different? Why? Because we are talking about fiction and if in our real life the words sad and happy do not work then in our writing the words don’t even come close.

Monet painted beautiful landscapes, but none of them ever looked like a true landscape. He dramatized art. You should too. I would love to see/read samples of how you have showed an emotion in your writing. We're all learning write? If you're willing and brave post a reply with a sample of "showing" emotion.

M.B.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Writing Books...

I've read many writing books and can say that the vast majority of them would produce nothing more than a cookie-cutter book with little to no life. I have found only 3 that I feel are at all inspiring - Bird by Bird, On writing - both King's and Stein's. I loved all three of these books. I do like Self-editing for Fiction Writers as well, but for different reasons. I realized today that while many writing books are by agents or editors or publishing pro's. These three are actually by writers. Of all the experts to seek out in writing wouldn't you think we would turn to writers first? Oddly enough, I think we often turn to agents or editors and while their information is gold. It doesn't often speak to me in the manner that a writer can. I have read countless mentions of "show don't tell" but only after reading Sol Stein's description did the light bulb turn on. I've read editors speak about the value of tight writing. Okay, what in the heck does that really even mean? And then you open Stephen King's On Writing and suddenly it is all so clear. I'm sure I will read other books on writing and take bits and pieces from each, but for now I'm just going to write, revise, and write again until I feel I've learned as much as possible about the crazy craft known as writing.

M.B.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Besides writing...

What are your other hobbies/passions/addictions? Are they inline with writing or on a totally different planet?

Me?

I have a LOT of premium denim - Seven for all Mankind, True Religion, Citizens of Humanity, etc. I used to be very addicted to denim b/c at heart I am very much a jeans and T gal. At one time I owned around 40 but now I have maybe 15 or so pairs. And don't get me started on shoes...though now that I’m a mom these things have taken a backseat. I buy for my daughter instead. :)

I am addicted to skincare/make-up. I worked as a make-up artist at a spa in college as well as for Clinique and loved it. I can recommend a full skincare and make-up routine for practically anyone once I know a little about her skin.

I love to cook, which has resulted in my daughter having a fairly advanced palate. She will only eat foods with lots of flavor and depth. I LOVE Top Chef!

I'm into yoga, but I've been really bad since editing began. I take at a yoga studio that is amazing! This and ping-pong are the only two remotely athletic things that I can do, and both I do fairly well.

How about you? Brag a little! Writing can make us feel both talented and horribly untalented, sometimes on the same day. What are your other hobbies that require less…backbone/patience/coffee? :)

M.B.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mockingjay! Mockingjay! Mockingjay!

I feel like some raging fan screaming at a rock concert. I am so over-the-top excited to read this book. I haven't felt this excited since the release of HP 7, which, yes, I waited in line at midnight to get. I read that book the very night I bought it. And then again two days later b/c I thought I might've missed some important detail. I should be embarrassed, I guess, but I'm not. It is EXTREMELY rare for me to read a book more than once. And even more rare for me to read a book more than twice. I have read all HP's at least 4 times. I've read Hunger Games and Catching Fire both twice, and no doubt will re-read them again. I'm not sure what about books conjures this sort of excitement. I will likely have the book read in a few days and will post my opinion. I would love to know yours. I read often, but will rarely post my opinions. Mainly because I am a tough critic and authors have enough of those out there. As writers, I feel if it isn't positive, then follow mom's trusty rule.

My list of re-reads is short, but I thought in celebration of Mockingjay - which I will no doubt read several times - it would be good to discuss the books that have impacted us or resonated with us enough to re-read over and over and over.

(I'm starting from when I was young)

1. A Wrinkle in Time
2. The Bridge to Terabithia
3. Charlotte's Web
4. Pride and Prejudice (really most Austen)
5. The Da Vinci Code - don't blast me, you know it's a good book!
6. All Harry Potters - numerous times
7. The Lord of the Rings
8. A Christmas Carol
9. Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy
10. The Shining

There are others, of course, but these are the ones that come to mind. What about you? Have you read the HG's books more than once?

M.B.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What's the deal with -ing?

So, (have you noticed I start nearly all posts with "so" :)) there are two types of -ing phrasing that can be an issue in writing. It is important to note that BOTH are grammatically correct. What's the problem then? The problem is that writing is about storytelling and good storytelling should be tight.

Have you ever heard a story told by a long-winded friend or family member? They go on and on and before long you begin to wonder A - what's the point to this story again and B - when will the story end!

This is the issue with -ing phrasing. Again, storytelling should be tight and PPP’s, at least, can lend themselves to very long sentences that make no sense at all. Some are good, but too much can be as bad as over salting french fries - you're ruining them! :) But, I digress.

There are two types – gerund (or gerundive if you like to be fancy) phrases and present participial phrases (PPP).

What's the difference, you may ask? They are VERY often confused. I read a tweet today from a very public person in the writing world, that comments constantly on "gerundive phrases" when I would bet, yet again, my favorite pair of 7's the tweeter (Ha! I almost typed twit, on accident...maybe.) is talking about PPP's at least half the time.

Let's delve into them, shall we? Simply put, a gerund phrase functions as a noun, whereas a PPP functions as an adjective.

First, let's go over a few easy ways to tell the difference then I'll list a few examples:

1. PPP cheat - If the -ing phrase starts the sentence and ends with a comma followed by a stand alone sentence, then often not, it's a PPP. This type of sentence is commonly used, but rarely makes for easy reading. Check out the example below:
EXAMPLE: Washing the car, Jason hurt his back.

2. GP cheat - The -ing begins the sentence and is immediately followed by a verb. So you have – GP, verb, infinitive
EXAMPLE: Running a mile is great exercise.

3. PPP's can require commas for various reasons. If you can remove it from the sentence, wherever the placement, then commas are necessary. If you cannot and it is a vital part of the sentence then no commas. A GP will practically never require commas.

Now it gets complicated:

PPP - The bartender even saw Jason falling off the stage.

GP - Jason hates falling off the stage.

Okay - my brain is fried now. I hope this helps and that you can see why too many of the above can be an issue!

And now, links to give you more details and examples:

Purdue's GP explanation - http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/627/01/
Purdue's PPP explanation - http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/627/02/

M.B. :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How and what do you line edit?

I am working on a final line edit and was curious -- how do most writers line edit?

I re-read each chapter and do the following:

1. Smooth out the writing adding anything necessary to make sure it flows correctly.

2. Check for typos.

3. Double check punctuation - though this one is a toughie for me. I'm a firm believer that most writers should go to a comma AA group. My crit group adds comma's to my sub's that I would never dare put there. This is again the drag of my day job. My undergrad was in Communication but specific to business. So, press releases, memos, public speaking, etc. And one of my lit professors despised comma's and I guess it stuck! :) I have to force myself to add them in.

4. Double check for repetitive words.

5. Double check for my overused words - "could" is really my verb of choice, not "was." Then there's the weed "that" and the worm "just." And let's not forget the over use of gestures! Some I allow to fly b/c they support the voice of my MC, but when able I trim.

I work for a printer, so typically I print a hard copy and place it in a binder with tabs for my chapter starts. I then take a red pen to the MS. Once I've line edited 10 chapters, I add the changes to the Word doc. I aim at at least 5 chapters a day.

How about you? What do you line edit out and how do you go about it? Give me some tips to speed up the process.

M.B.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Finally, finally, finally done!

Yes, I am super excited to say that I have completed the final revision of my current MS. I am exhausted, mentally and physically but it is done!

This was very much a rewrite as opposed to revision. In total, I would say I applied four revisions and this complete rewrite to the book, and oddly enough the word count didn't really move that much. Maybe 2,000 words.

So now, it is out with readers and hopefully soon I can begin the grueling query process. Wish me luck! :)

M.B.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What's your greatest writing vice?

Mine? This and sites in general. A book (other than my own). There are many, many, many reasons that I can come up with to not write/revise/polish/repeat. So what got me thinking about this topic?

I am a busy writing person. I have a critique group that requires 2 chapter reads a week. I have a critique partner (Hi!) that I critique a couple of chapters a week. And also, I have a few people that request that I read/edit for them. This weekend, alone, I critiqued around 60,000 words--all while my parents were in town! So, explain to me exactly why I am unable to edit MY work in that quick of an amount of time?

Laziness? Probably.

Fear? Definitely.

But ya wanna know the real issue here? (And I am betting my favorite pair of 7's that you are the same way. ) The issue is that I am unable to see my work objectively. And I do not mean, that I think my work is fantastic and therefore cannot see the weeds. Oh no, I see lots and lots of weeds. So many so that I spray killer on my work to death and then have to back away carefully to keep from inhaling the fumes! My current MS took twice as long to revise/edit as it did to write. Perhaps this is normal, even expected, but I do not do well with "normal." :) I prefer efficiency and productivity.

This is my place to reveal that I want to finish my current revision by Friday of this week. If I am able to post success then you will know that I have not been active on any sites, checked out any online sales, and definitely (scouts honor or whatever they do) haven't watched my Tivo'd Top Chef from last week. I am setting a goal.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Not writing = productive writing?

I just returned from a 10 day roadtrip up the eastern side of the U.S. I live in a sub of Atlanta, GA. We first drove to SC to drop off my Cocker Spaniel with my mom (thanks Mom!), then on to Charlotte, NC, Washington D.C., Philly, then finally landed in Shelter Island, NY (where my husband has family).

I had every intention of finishing up my current revision on my WIP (just a couple of chapters left to double check), but it didn't happen. I was just too slammed and I had no internet in NY. As fate would have it, I ended up not writing at all for 10 days. I did a little line editing on a hardcopy I printed before hand, but otherwise I re-read Hunger Games and enjoyed the chaos that is vacation. But an amazing thing happened. I was more motivated than before the vacation. I line edited 2/3rds of my book, reworked a few chapters. I have been home for 3 hours and have accomplished more than I did the entire week before my vacation. So, does not writing = productivity? Do we need breaks in order to inspire? Or was it more to do with re-reading a book that constantly challenges me?

I'm not entirely sure, but it was a total blast. 17 hours total, with my 2 year old, my husband, and in-laws. Yes, I am crazy. :) I'll post pics in a bit. I'm a fab photographer! (yes, I just typed fab - so what?) :)

Happy Saturday,

M.B.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Helpful query sites...

As promised, I am submitting a list of helpful query sites. I should preface this by saying that I cheated. I took a query workshop b/c the dang thing freaked me out, and I am so glad I did. So the first on my list is the workshop, which I adored! A few things that I have found interesting on querying. Regardless of what others will tell you, it is a big deal. You wanna know why? Because it is your resume. It is your opportunity to say - "I am fantastic, and this will prove it." And by "fantastic" I mean you are prepared and professional, not that you SAY how fantastic you are in the query. If you do that I will block you from my blog! :) So, while there is no need to go crazy about it, do take the time to sell yourself. I have always told applicants and newbie's in the job world that resumes and interviews are like cold calling and warm calling. You know, the sales terminology. A resume is cold calling. That HR rep or hiring manager doesn't know you from a hole in the wall. Then you go on the interview. This is warm calling because at least you aren't annoying the HR/hiring manager. He/she wants to meet with you.

Your query is a cold call (well most of the time unless you are special and have a referral). A partial or full is the interview. You wouldn't send a resume with typos, would you? You wouldn't botch an interview by calling the manager by the wrong name or wearing shorts and a tee instead of a business suit/professional attire. So why in the world would you call an agent/editor by the wrong name in the query or send a manuscript that is not properly formatted/polished?

But you can take my comments with a grain of salt. I haven't even queried yet for goodness sake! But, I can tell you, I am right and I know that I am right. I will be posting my query stats as they happen, embarrassing or not. So, we shall see how right or wrong I am.

Now on to why you are reading this post. The list:

1. C.J. Redwine's query workshop.
http://queryworksho p.blogspot. com
My comment(s): LOVE this. I took this class and I must say that my query is wonderful. I am proud and thrilled about the final product. C.J.'s prices are very reasonable so definitely check this out if you have been querying without much luck.

2. Query Shark
http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
My comment(s): This site is so informative that Janet Reid should get some sort of basket of goodies for her effort. She is "in your face" honest and if you are brave enough to submit you will definitely learn a great deal. But even if you are not, you will see what works and doesn't from a true expert.

3. Agent Query and Writers Digest
http://www.agentquery.com/writer_hq.aspx
http://www.writersdigest.com/article/basics-of-a-solid-3-paragraph-query/
My comment(s): If you are serious about getting published you should've already been to these sites, so much so, that the site is considering blocking you. Both have lots of info. The above two links are just two of many.

4. Nathan Bransford's and Kristin Nelson's blogs
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/search/label/Anatomy%20of%20a%20Good%20Query%20Letter
http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2009/04/janice-hardys-query-pitch-blurb.html
My comment(s): Both of these sites are useful in many ways, but my favorites are the posts that include query letters that worked! Amazing information for sure from the source.

5. Writing Word
http://www.writing-world.com/basics/query.shtml
My comment(s): The above 4 should get you where you need to be, but if you are still shaking then check out this site. The info is clean-cut and should stop the twitch in your eye. :)

I hope this is helpful. Again, most writers know of all of these options, but newer writers may not so let me know if this helped. I research a ton so if there is something (relating to writing or the industry) that you would like an answer to, email me, and I will try to track it down.

M.B.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Are you afraid of the next step? I am.

I recently threw all caution to the wind and entered the July Secret Agent contest. And though winning would be awesome, I didn't enter to win. I entered to test the water. I will be querying in a month--as I mentioned a few posts ago. I just finished a stellar query workshop with C.J. Redwine (yes I recommend it!) and have dived into the synopsis stage head first. I am nervous! So I decided to test the water and enter the very popular Secret Agent contest.

Now I am a tough cookie. I can take heavy criticism and smile back in thanks. Yes, that is the sort of critique partner that I am. I crit heavy and expect it in return. So why exactly did I cringe at the first sub-par comment on my submission? I have learned that I am a perfectionist. I would rather get horrible reviews than "so-so" reviews. Ya know? Go big or go home is definitely my motto. My writing cannot be simply okay. It has to be great and the hook has to slice through as it takes you to the next page. For this reason, I feel that I have already won. I have lots of comments - some great, others okay, some not so thrilled - but now I know what didn't work. Even though this has been revised to death, been through my crit partner and group, it still needed a bit more. So, to all those offering comments over at Miss Snark's First Victim, here's a big THANKS!!!

Lesson 1 for the day: Never, ever, feel content with "okay." Okay is not good enough. Not ever.
Lesson 2 for the day: If you are afraid, nervous, shaking to death? Good. Then you know you care enough to make it great.

M.B.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Helpful synopsis writing posts/sites

So I am working on a synopsis for my current MS and if querying is scary these things are downright ghostly.

What to do? I have found 8 sites that I found helpful. Each link details the specifics of a synopsis and thought for those of you in my shoes it may be nice to have a few sources in one place. So here goes:

1. Nathan Bransford's post on writing a synopsis:
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/08/how-to-write-synopsis.html

2. Query Tracker:
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2009/02/in-short-writing-novel-synopsis-that.html

3. Guide to Literary Agents:
www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/How+To+Write+A+Novel+Synopsis.aspx

4. FM Writers:
http://www.fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue%2015/workshop.htm

5. Helene Boudreau: Author and regular on Verla Kay (I LOVE how easy this one makes it!)
http://www.heleneboudreau.com/?p=863

6. Fiction Writer's Connection:
http://www.fictionwriters.com/tips-synopsis.html

7. Diana Peterfreund's blog post: I found this very helpful!
http://www.dianapeterfreund.com/how-i-write-a-fiction-synopsis/

8. Absolute Write: I loved this one as well. So clean-cut and great explanations.
http://absolutewrite.com/novels/writing_a_synopsis.htm


Anyone else have sites that have helped or general advice/comments? As I understand it the query is a tease, the synopsis is the summary. I'll post back when I am done with mine so this post is as much to force me to do/finish it as anything else! :)

M.B.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Inspiration and kid stories

I am re-reading A Wrinkle in Time and began to think over how this book inspired me as a child. I was an avid reader even as a very young child, but this is the book that truly inspired me to want more out of reading and eventually lead to my love of writing.

I still remember checking it out from the library and being so enthralled with the story that I begged my mom to buy it for me at the next book fair - remember those? I am convinced, now MANY years later, that the detailed descriptions in this book helped shape my creative mind. If Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace could move out of this world to save Dr. Murray then surely I could do anything I wanted, right? Amazing thought really, but books do inspire children. They cause them to think, to push the envelope of this world, and to reach out for the impossible.

For me, publishing in the children's market should always be about inspiring growth and thought in your readers. If you are doing it for the money, what's the point? You'd make a heck of a lot more in a sales job or desk job with any major corporation. In one month I will begin querying for the first time. I am excited and nervous and scared all at the same time. I have finally completed a story that I want to release on the world. I have polished and edited and hesitated long enough. I give myself one more month to finish up any last minute things and then I will put all fear aside (just like Meg did) and go for the gusto. Go big or go home right? And I am not querying because I hope for a large advance, or for the excitement of seeing my name in print - though all are good things. No, I am querying because my dream of all dreams is for children to read my story and for it to make them think the way A Wrinkle in Time made me think.

So, if like me, you have been putting querying off. If you have been holding on to that manuscript for fear, but deep down you are proud of it, know that it is polished, and know that it is the best you can offer. Then Go BIG! Good luck querying and may God grant you a request for a partial or a full!

Now, tell me, what stories inspired you?

M.B. :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

A little about printing...

Every printer that exists has a prepress department. Every printer that exists has a proofing/editing department (which all too often falls on the CSRs for that printer). So how is a publisher different from a printer?

I have worked with both. At my previous job I worked for a magazine publisher. My job was to train staff across the country on book formatting so when that regional office sold ad space they kept in mind the layout necessary to work for their regional magazine. We are talking spreads here and signatures. I had a lot of fun with that job, but realized quickly that I needed to know more about the printing side of the business. I can tell you that nothing drives a printer crazier than a graphic artist that does not understand printing. They will send over beautiful designs for marketing collateral just to have us turn around and say - this is set for RGB, you didn't add a bleed, your dimensions are off, your fonts are not embedded, and etc, etc, etc.

So I left the magazine publisher and have now worked with a printer for almost 5 years. I love my job. Most of my clients that need things printed - training manuals, marketing pieces, signage, business cards, and so on. For these clients we are the publisher and the printer. My job is the help the client develop his or her ideas and then work with prepress to get a design going. In many ways, most printers correct the issues that publishers/graphic artists/ad agencies took forgranted.

Book publishers are very different from magazine publishers. Their job is to scout out talent, pretty up the material (manuscript), and format it for the printer. You should know, though, that the majority of the time the printer still has a lot to do to work out the kinks for your book before it goes to press. Font issues are always a problem, which is no doubt why agents typically prefer Times or Courier - they are fail-safe fonts to them - but once the job goes to the printer there is no such thing as a fail-safe font. There are a zillion versions of Times and if the printer does not have that font then the font defaults - typically to Courier or Arial. The flow of the entire piece alters and the printer is left looking at a completely different layout than what the editor/publisher intended.

The next issue would be the jacket cover. Okay, I imagine that most printers cringe when they receive these files. Pull a book off your shelf and examine it. Every single object, line of text, photo, etc is a separate item in the design document used to create the cover. Type must be made in Indesign or similar program. Photos set in Photoshop. Vector objects in Illustrator. Then everything must be placed into the main layout program - we primarily use Indesign. If any one of the aforementioned items is not linked properly then the document with error out when saved. The non-linked item then looks like a low res image - blocky/fuzzy and just a plain out mess.

Finally the book has to be perfect bound and here we have a new dilema. The binding of the book has to be shaved inorder to create a clean surface for the glue. If the original designer did not layout the book properly then the text/words are too close to the spine - ever read a book like this? I have. Isn't it frustrating when you have to flatten the book out more to make it easier to read? This is a design flaw, not a printing flaw. Then the cover gets glued onto the text and again, we have potential problems. The remaining 3 exposed sides have to be trimmed off so you have A. the cover bleeds off the page properly and B. the edges are smooth and to size. If the cover design was not dimensionally correct text/images/etc are off center. The entire book would have to be reran.

So next time you take a book in your hand take a hard look at all the elements necessary to make that perfect piece of art in your hands. :)

M.B.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Are we too advanced?

Ugh - it has been a bad day. I turn 30 on Tuesday and my body has decided to fight the turn (which I blame on my ditching Yoga class for the last few months). I have a disk in my spine freaking out so I go to a specialist who, as I am walking in the door, tells me that my appointment has to be cancelled because their "system is down." I stare at the attendant like she is speaking some language that I am not privy to understanding and say "So you are telling me that you are hinging your entire business on a computer system and if that system goes down you are unable to treat your patients?" The admin looked down and then tried to explain how advanced the system indeed is and that without it they are simply unable to pull any of their patients' information.

I work in a customer service type role so I never try to go off on the person giving the information. That admin has no say whatsoever in the problem or the solution. But boy was it tough.

But this did make me think. I am an Account Manager for a printer. My job involves working with my clients to develop their printing needs - working out ideas, discusssing the best way to handle the job, coorinating printing, copy-editing all materials, and ensuring the job delivers to it's destination - which can be anywhere from inside the city limits to China. I enjoy my job. It is very very techie, in terms of the day to day function. But if our "system" went down, I assure you, I would still do my job. You want to know why? Because there is this thing called paper and this other thing called a pen. Therefore, I can fully take down all specifics of my clients job without my "system" to ensure that my job is done whether or not my computer works. Now, to be honest, the rest of the job could not happen without computer technology. I send the specs to our prepress department who format and pretty up the job and then network that on our to production. So yes, in theory, my job hinges on a computer as well.

How about your job? Is it similar? Can the full scope of your job happen without a "system?" I imagine not. This is a problem. We have advanced ourselves to the point that without a system we cannot function, and it goes well beyond our day-to-day jobs. How about at home? No phone, no internet, no TV? Oh no! What will you do! No microwave, no toaster, no oven! Oh no! What will you eat? And let's not even get on dishwashers and washing machines. I would shoot myself this very second if I had to hand wash and hang clothes out to dry - wouldn't you? So interesting how dependant we are on all the little "extras" that make our life easier.

But, all the same, I'm still pissed off at the doctor's office. :)

M.B.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Writers that do not read?

The other day or month or so (I have no clue but this did happen) I ran across someone studying creative writing with the career goal of becoming a writer. The person had no idea that I enjoy writing and I didn't offer up the info as that can sometimes shut a person up if he/she doesn't feel as "in the know." So instead I asked about this person's writing interests, which logically lead to this person's reading interests. With that I received the reply "Oh, I don't read."

Yeah...

Ok...

Hmm...

It stopped me short. I have never met a writer that didn't enjoy reading. Have you? It really stunned me. Why would you want to do something for a living that you yourself do not enjoy? Ya know? So after a minute of picking my jaw off the floor and pushing my bulging eyes back into their sockets, I asked. The response ran something like "It's boring." And mind you, I am not talking about some high school kid. This is an adult, going back to school, to persue a writing dream. I suggested sampling lots of different genres to find one that the person would enjoy. I suggested books that I thought the person would enjoy. I suggested talking to friends about what books they enjoy. And finally after being stared at like I was a complete moron I said - "Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it takes a reader to become a writer."

I gotta say, I have always loved to read and always loved to write. To me the two go hand in hand like a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich and, just like that sandwich, I tend to think(depending upon who you are and your tastes) you will need a little bit more of one than the other to find a good mix that tastes just right. For me, I lean more towards the jelly. :)

M.B.