What’s Up Wednesday: Sep 5

Oh hi blog world!

So I’m a bit out of practice when it comes to this whole blogging thing. But here’s what I’ve been up to since we last spoke:

1. Still not dead. Yep, alive and kicking

2. I finished a major rewrite of a YA Thriller that takes place in Tokyo. My writer’s group’s frequent feedback was it wasn’t following enough of a thriller track and after some hard looks I had to agree with them. So I pondered and pondered for months. Part of my process is basic outlining, because then I know where the paths lead and if that’s the path I want to take or not. I feel like it’s a combo between plotting and pantsing.

It didn’t turn out exactly the way I had thought, which was fun. And I ended up creating a new character because of it, but I think it made sense. Plus I seem to have a habit of creating characters and then not really using them, but in this draft I brought an underutilized character to the forefront. I understand the appeal in imagining you can get it right the first time, but when you realize that writing is a journey and rewrites are going to happen if you want a good story, you sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Well, okay, most of it. There are those moments where you want to pull your hair out because the rewrite still needs some tweaks. But overall, worthwhile.

3. Finished a short article for a magazine. Another writer friend of mine said she thought it was the best thing I’d ever written. I’m going to submit it to the magazine this week and see what happens. Fingers crossed. And of course I’ll keep you updated.

4. The hubs and I are trying something called My Miracle Tea which is supposed to be like a major detoxifier. What does that mean? You get to poop, a lot. But it’s supposed to help with your liver and kidneys which, if too junked up, may contribute to stomach weight gain. We both feel like our stomachs could use a little extra help. I’ll let you know more about that as we go along. Why did I even get on this tea in the first place?

5. Foot zoning! It sounds like witch doctoring, but I feel like it’s legit. What is it? Someone gives you what is likely the most painful foot massage of your life and is able to tell you what’s going on in your body. I might still be skeptical of that much, except she knew stuff I hadn’t even mentioned. But to add to that, I also went to see a hormone specialist and they pointed out and recommended the same things.

Now granted, I’ve only been one time, so I can’t attest to the validity of all of it. But the friend who recommended me has personal stories of migraines going away after drinking teas this lady recommended, as well as discovering the lactose intolerance of a kid that doctors hadn’t pointed to. You can still skeptic away if you want, but I’m keeping an open mind after hearing and experiencing all of that. Besides, I’m more of the homeopathic mind when it comes to health these days.

That is NOT to say I think all pharma is bad. Some people really do need the medications they are on. Are we overprescribed in general? I think so. But does that mean all pharma is bad. Nope.

And that about covers it. I’m letting the rewrite of item 2 get cold before editing it. So in the meantime I’m kicking around another idea. I don’t know if you’d call it urban fantasy. Or steampunk futuristic, but it’s more of a middle grade story. And it’s weird. But I’m really liking it.

Okay, that’s what’s up with me? What’s up with you?

Say Whaaaaaaat??!!

We interrupt this regularly schedule blog day for an important announcement. How many of you like that movie, the Dark Crystal?

Okay, I thought there would be a few of you. Now, how many of you would like to write a Dark Crystal novel and make your writing debut?

That’s what the Jim Henson crew is offering. Whether published or not, you now have a chance to compete to write a Dark Crystal novel. Check out the details more specifically on this site.

The idea is you write a “7,500-10,000 words that represent the story you would tell in a full-length Dark Crystal novel.” The deadline is between October 1 and December 31, 2013. They want the final novel to be somewhere in the 50,000 range, so try and make yourself a nice, tight-knit story.

They’ll also be posting all of the lore and world details on DarkCrystal.com, but all the creativity is up to you.

What do you think my hearties? That many words is about 14-18 pages, depending on your spacing, font, etc. We’ve got until October. I guess my thinking is why not? What better exposure for your work than writing the new Dark Crystal novel? And even if you don’t make it, it’s good practice, especially if you’ve been laboring on the same novel for years (like me).

I’m going to check out the website and see if I become inspired. We’ve got this peeps!

UPDATE: Thanks to a few good writing cohorts, I was made aware of this blog post. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you are published with the Henson company name, I’m sure agents and publishers will be clamoring for your next book. But it’s good to know exactly what you’re getting into. I guess this contest is much like the Amazon one when it comes to rights, but read this post carefully before you submit. Also the official RULES.

SMC: Voice

This was a panel given by agent Michelle Witte, who has also authored a couple of books. One is The Craptastic Guide to Pseudo-Swearing, something you children’s, MG, and even some YA writers may find valuable. The other is The Faker’s Guide to the Classics, a snarky version of cliff notes for those who want to up on the classics, but don’t have the time to read them. Having read some of the Craptastic Guide, Witte’s snark is something you’ll find extremely enjoyable. They’re both available to Kindle sample, so give ’em a try.

Okay, NOTES:

She said there’s three parts to writing that form the “story” triangle of sorts:

  1. Voice
  2. Writing
  3. Plot

Two areas of the “triangle” can be bigger than the other. But if one is big while the other two remain weak it may be why your story falls flat.

CHARACTER

Character is the central part of voice. It’s the character who brings voice out onto the page.

“The writer’s voice in a novel generally belongs to a character.” –Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

There are two kinds of voice: the writer’s voice and the voice of an individual book. The main character defines the voice of the book.

Take Mary Higgins Clark, for example. Her novels all sound the same. Your writing is what works for you. Each book should have its own unique voice.

Continue reading

A Midwinter Update

Time for an update. Woot! Okay, not that kind of woot. Just a general let’s get this done woot.

jae scribblesSHADE – I finished my most recent round of editing on my novel. It was a major change again, like the one I did over the summer, but I think it’s stronger for it. My Pitch Wars mentor Marieke said she’d take another quick look at it (I’m guessing just the parts that have changed). Hopefully I’ve made much improvement. I know there’s more to be made, but I need a break and so I’ve been letting it get cold. I’m pleased with its progress thus far, however, and there are a few scenes I’m particularly proud of. I’ll probably take parts of it to writers group and bother a few of you peeps for feedback soon. But like I said, break needed.

QUERY – This is what I should be working on right now, but I’m still in recovery mode from Pitch Wars I think. But this is next on the docket. I’ve got a decent-ish one now, but Marieke gave it a once over and now I need to fix it up again—which I’m fine with. I’d rather have a query that kills than a query that chills.

CONTESTS – Unfortunately I heard back on my Gotham Writers contest and it was a no win. *shrug* I still have the Writer’s Digest coming up which I entered my short story Trick or Tree into. I should know about that at the end of February or so. I’ve got Cupid’s Literary Connection running next week, at least the “bouncer” round of it. If I get a “you’re in!” then I move on to the agent round. I’ll be sure to update you on that progress.

There’s a few other short story ones I’m looking into, but first the query. If you’re interested in trying to write short stories, I recommend reading a lot of them from either Ray Bradbury, Ernest Hemingway, or Anton Chekhov. A lot of Anton’s are available online for free. I wasn’t sure about being able to write short stories (I’m long-winded) but after reading a few dozen of these I started to get a feel for how the story flows when it’s short. Plus these are all great writers and they’ll help make your own writing better for being exposed to them.

BOOKS – Right now I’m reading Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. It’s a lot of great stuff on getting your plot and characters to as he calls it, a breakout level. Some of it is similar to Story by Robert McKee, but obviously more novel-focused. I had wanted to read On Writing by Stephen King next, but my bro let me borrow The Wiseman’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, and I’m probably going to look into that next. It’s thick—real thick. But hey, can’t be any longer than Atlas Shrugged, right? Right?

squier guitar kitGUITAR – I did get my replacement guitar, for those who remember my previous post. It’s been a lot of fun. Too much really. I go back and forth between softer songs and hard rock. I’m getting close to nailing the timing on Thunderstruck and Johnny B. Goode. Apparently most of the Top Gun theme is ridiculously easy. I’ve also been messing with Danger Zone (another easier-than-I-thought piece).  I usually get home from Kung Fu around 9ish and play until 10 (don’t want to tick off the neighbors). I really hadn’t been playing guitar that often before the electric. It’s interesting what a little change will do for your habits.

FIN

And that pretty much takes care of life in a nutshell. I’m excited for another Studio Ghibli movie coming out next month, and of course the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3.

What about you? Making lots of progress in writing and otherwise? Any contests you’re waiting to hear back on? And you’re looking into entering? What movies are you most excited for?

Oh, and I should also mention one more thing. Kid History finally came out with another full episode. *grin* I’ve posted it below. Enjoy!

Shnoobers

Never heard the phrase shnoobers? Well, that’s because you didn’t have my dad growing up. In our household, any kind of swearing was the biggest no-no, so of course we had a bunch of substitute words. In fact Napoleon Dynamite utilizes most of them. But sometimes my dad would say shnoobers, you know, kind of like great googly moogly.

Why do I bring up shnoobers in the first place? Well, as you may remember I have a full manuscript in for consideration with an agent. Call me a perfectionist (hey, it’s true, I won’t be insulted) but I’m still scouring the thing for typos, etc., and I’m still finding some. Argh! Shnoobers!

I know, there are some books in print that have typos in them, but you know how it is… You want to present them with your best possible manuscript. I’m just hoping the agent sees the story and the voice past the few errors.

Hence my reaction shnoobers! I know there’s nothing I can do about it now, and I’m guessing I’m not the first aspiring author to send in an imperfect manuscript and I’m sure I won’t be the last. It just makes you wish for some kind of man with a time machine to help you get the better one emailed off instead.

AHEM. Man with time machine, that’s your cue.

*sigh* No blue box. Shnoobers…

In other news, I did get my replacement guitar and it is working fabulously. I’m getting closer to going all Marty McFly with Johnny B. Goode and having fun messing around with the Top Gun theme and Thunderstruck. I’m so close on the speed for Thunderstruck. It’s not technically a hard song, just the speed.

Now our neighbors that can often be heard yelling at each other at least have a soundtrack for their fights. That’s got to be positive, right?

But I’m pretty close to being finished with this most recent edit session on SHADE, then I’ll put it away for a little while and to short stories I go. I may even try a novella. There are many more contests to enter after all!

Have you ever submitted something you realized was a bit more error-ridden than you’d like? Any really big mistakes that made you cringe? How are you coming along with your editing or writing? Are you more of a short stories person or a novel person?

The Pitch Wars Cometh…

I know, I’m terribly late to posting today. One of those days. But that’s all right, because tomorrow is….

Pitch Wars Day!

That’s right. The day I’ve been long preparing for is finally arriving tomorrow. For those who haven’t heard, Pitch Wars was a contest sponsored by Brenda Drake and a slew of other fabulous people where if selected the writer would be mentored by a business professional. They would receive feedback on their manuscript and work with their mentor to prepare a pitch for participating agents in the hopes of receiving requests for more material.

Why is this such a great opportunity? The professional feedback alone is worth the effort. But as any of you who’ve tried querying know, it’s hard to get an agent’s attention when they get hit with mountains of submissions daily. This is like stepping to the front of the line for consideration. Sure, it’s no guarantee, but front of the line, people!

My mentor is Marieke Nijkamp and you’d think we were destined to be mentor and mentee from the beginning. Both of us have rabid loves of all things geek, especially Doctor Who. I knew, however, when she was getting my obscure Captain Planet references we were a good match. She gave me great feedback, but I feel like I should explain. It’s one thing to get typo corrections and sentence structure feedback, which is important. But Marieke really dug into the heart of my book. It was like having my subconscious coming out and telling me the weaknesses of my story. The best part was she didn’t tell me this is how you must fix the manuscript. She told me more what she believed I was going for and where she thought it was week and what she thought could help fix problems.

Point being, I didn’t really disagree with anything. I really felt like she’d given SHADE a fair shake and helped me see things my subconscious had tried to tell me all along. And I really like where things went from there. I can’t believe how much SHADE has come along, and I’m proud of where it stands now. Thanks so much Marieke! And Happy Birthday tomorrow!

If only all our birthdays could be as awesome as this!

So tomorrow’s the day. I encourage you to visit the YA Misfits blog to see the pitches of yours truly as well as other mentees. I think it’s good to see how they pitched things to learn how good pitches are made.

The alternates’ pitches are being hosted on the blogs of Kimberly, Dee, FizzyGrrl, Mónica, and Brenda, which you should definitely take a look at as well. These are all strong stories. And if Pitch Wars isn’t what makes it for them, I’m sure you’ll see them in publication down the road via another route very soon. I know an agent would be crazy not to take a look at my the pitches of my friends Brian (The Key to Eden) and Kati & Heidi (Mystic Cooking).

Wish us all luck tomorrow! 🙂

Wahoo! Time For a Happy Dance!

I know, I don’t traditionally post on Saturdays. But let’s face it. Technically for me it’s Friday night. And I just had to share happy news. Okay, not that happy—but happy for me all the same. I just made it to the last chapter of my novel on edits and scene rewrites, which means I’ll have some time for edits before Pitch Wars.

WHY IS THAT HAPPY NEWS?

Because I’ve been stressing this whole week over whether or not I was going to make the deadline, and here I am MAKING the deadline! Wahoo! My mentor wanted a word count by this weekend, although she’s fabulous and probably could have stretched it another day or two, should I have needed. But I really wanted some time for as many final polishes as I could sneak in. Some of the scene rewrites probably didn’t get as hard a look as they could. It’s not as easy to edit while you’re writing. That’s not to say you shouldn’t edit while writing, I’m just saying one more is for creativity, the other mode is for making things pretty.

Plus, this is the final chapter, and I like the idea of having a day to work on it, should I need. And there’s a few things I realized need fixing story wise, not complex things, just extra bits I need to weave in so things make sense.

But I wanted to celebrate the progress I’ve made already. As of right now I predict SHADE will be about 87,000 words, not bad for epic fantasy. I’m hoping I can shave it down to 86,000 with polishing. We’ll see. Why does word count matter? Because people, an agent will judge your marketability based on your word count. I went from 98,000 to 87,000, which means I’m that much further from the dreaded 100,000 mark. (This is generally seen as a sign to run in the other direction for most agents when looking at new novelists). Plus I feel like the story is more succinct and stronger than it was, so I’m happy to have made so many changes (and it such a short amount of time, too. Phew…)

I’ll post again Monday with how things are looking. I’ll put on my word economizing glasses and see what I can’t pull out of it and hopefully make that 86K goal. It just feels nicer to me. It’s looking to total 26 chapters. I don’t think that’ll budge unless I split a chapter in half. And then come Wednesday…

PITCH WARS

I hope your writing is going well this weekend too. Do any of you have Monday off? You know I’m going to be editing like a madwoman. Hooray for progress! See you Monday!