Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Final Wednesday Fools of April Check In

Can you believe this is the final Wednesday of April? It’s been sharing the motivation and encouragement with all of you. I didn’t quite reach my goals since school assignments got in the way, but I did get quite a bit of writing done. I’m much further along in my new WIP than I would be if I hadn’t done Fools of April.

I’m hoping to finish the MS and begin revising by June. I think it’s an achievable goal since school will be out in a couple of weeks and I’ll have much more time to concentrate on my writing. YAY!

Not that education isn’t important, but I’ll be glad when the semester is over. I think full time is too much for my busy life right now. In the fall, I’ll be going part time, and I believe it will work out better for my writing and family.

Anyway, how have you done on your goals this April? Did you accomplish all you wanted to? Don’t be discouraged if you didn’t reach your goal, because as long as you worked toward it and did some writing, you rock!

Write on.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Road to Publication; GPS

In my previous post about the road to publication, Nathree commented (on my LJ blog) about how she tends to stop and stare at the roadmap for hours on end and that she’s insecure of where she’s going. I suggested she needed a GPS and thought I’d elaborate a bit on that today.

What is a GPS?

In the analogy of The Road, a GPS is a good critique group and/or feedback on your novel. Bogwitch64 has a great post about getting some harsh feedback. Though it’s not ideal to be run off the road like that, sometimes we need to have someone grab the wheel to keep us from wrecking our manuscripts.

Of course, we often fight having other hands on our wheel. After all, this is our car, and we don’t want someone steering us wrong. However, if we recognize the hands as trying to help us, we’re more likely to allow them to guide us back onto the road.

That’s not to say we should always allow other hands to steer our car. Our hands should be firmly planted on the steering wheel, but we should allow other hands to guide us when we’ve gone astray. This is one reason it’s important to have a GPS you trust.

Where do I get a GPS?

Agent Mary Kole has some great advice about what makes a great critique group/partner on her blog. She even has a Critique Connection where those seeking critique partners can post information and seek out others who are also searching for some GPS guidance (yes, I posted there).

You can put the word out on other sites as well. Verla Kay’s Blue Boards has a section where writers can request critiques and get help with query letters.

Those are only a couple of options. Feel free to link to more in the comments.

How will the GPS guide me?

The important thing to remember is that in order to have a GPS to guide you, you have to be able to be a GPS for someone else. Those just starting out on the road may not be as advanced in the area of being a GPS, but their guidance can still be helpful. Mary says you need varying levels of experience for a GPS to guide efficiently.

We’re all learning, but we all learn at our own pace. Therefore, some GPS capability may be further advanced than our own, but this doesn’t mean we should allow them to steer us completely.

Advice and suggestions are great, but this is still our car. We don’t want to incorporate every turn and direction a GPS might give us. Even in the “real” world, I sometimes ignore my GPS’s advice. If I know the road and where I want to go, I’ll go my own way. The same is true with a GPS on the road to publication. If you know where you are going, ignore the advice your GPS gives you. Keep your hands on the wheel and steer on past. Like my real GPS, your road to publication GPS might say, “recalculating,” and that’s okay.

If you take every bit of advice and incorporate it into your manuscript, it is no longer your manuscript. I’ve made that mistake. It isn’t pretty.

Finding the right GPS

If your GPS is upset when you don’t take the advice, it may be time for a new GPS.

Understand, there are many different GPS available and not every one is right for you. The only way you’ll know is to get one and “test” it. This can be done by exchanging a few pages or a chapter at a time. If you both like what you see, you can take it from there.

There’s also the issue of “out growing” your GPS. Sometimes our journey on the road takes us further away from our current GPS and makes it necessary to seek out new guidance. I think this is why many critique groups/partners don’t last through the years. Since we all move on the road at different paces, we may gravitate more toward those who are at the same place on the road as we are or reach for those further along to learn how to advance.

While I think it’s important to have varied experience levels in a critique group, I’m not sure where the “correct” levels of experience should be. Is it important to have someone just starting out in your group? Should you surround yourself with GPS guidance only from those above or close to your own level?

I think it depends on the individual and their patience.

Being “Updated”

Sometimes dealing with a less “updated” GPS can be frustrating. They don’t know the new roads and can’t help guide you along them. There is a solution!

With my real GPS, I plug it into the computer and download updates. This keeps the GPS guiding me with the proper information.

While you can’t literally plug yourself into the computer, you can keep yourself updated. Read novels published in your genre(s), study books on writing, read blogs about writing, attend conferences, seek advice from those further along the path. All these things help you learn and grow. Being a good critique partner can also help you grow.

Some of the most profound lessons I’ve learned came from critiquing other people’s work.

Get the car in shape for the journey

No one will get far along the road if their car keeps breaking down. When I look at my car, I don’t see how the paint is chipping on the top. I don’t examine the undercarriage for grime that needs cleaned away, but I have no problem seeing these things on someone else’s car. Once I’ve seen them on another car, I’m much more likely to take a closer look at my own vehicle. I’m able to spot some of the defects, but not all. I need a good tune-up mechanic . . . but that’s fodder for another post.

Write on!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Check in for Fools of April

I’m late in getting this posted (again this week . . .what’s up with that?).

I’m still plugging along, but I’ve changed goal. Instead of revising, I’m working on a different WIP. This is a piece I’ve worked on off and on since November. The idea has been there for quite some time, but I hadn’t done anything with it. I started writing it for Nano last year, but didn’t finish it. Now I’m working on finishing it up and then I’ll start revising it.

How are things going for you all out there? Are you meeting your goals? Have your goals changed since the beginning of the month?

Write on.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Road to Publication

Some quick thoughts on the road to publication before I go off to class.

First the good news. The road to publication is mostly paved. There may be a few routes left unpaved or only chip sealed, but the majority of the way has been laid by those who have gone before (other authors who have struggled to make it).

The bad news is, there are parts of the road less maintained than others. This means there will be holes to fall into. Some of the holes are small and will just be a passing bump, others will be huge things that blow a tire.

What’s interesting is everyone sees the bumps and holes differently. While someone who gets a rejection may look at it as a huge hole that blows a tire, another person who gets a rejection may only see it as a small bump.

This got me thinking. Why do some rejections seem like huge holes and others only small bumps?

I think it depends on the attitude of the author and how much they are invested in the answer. I’ve had some rejections that really hurt. I’m talking tire blown out hurt. Sometimes it took me a while to find the spare, get the tire changed, and get back on the road.

I’ve also had rejections that were only small bumps in the road. I think this is partly due to the thick skin I’ve developed over the years. My tires are becoming stronger. Rejections at the beginning of my journey seemed to give me more flat tires than do the current ones.

On the other hand, I also seem to develop more slow leaks. Like a nail in the tire. The nail gets stuck in there, and I go along without even knowing I’ve got a leak. Before I know it, I’ve got a flat. I’m not sure when I picked up the nail (and sometimes I’m not even sure why), but sure enough, the tire’s flat.

These little leaks seem to come from a comment that doesn’t bother me at the time, but stays with me. Or from little things in every day life that seem to add up until the tire pressure falls, and I’m deflated. These slow flat tires are more damaging to me than a full blow out. I can usually get a new tire and keep going after a blow out, but the slow leak takes longer to fix. Sometimes I can pull out the spare and get it taken care of, but I don’t always have a spare.

So, why does it take me longer to fix the flat in these cases? I think it’s because I never saw it coming. The leak sort of snuck up on me, and I wasn’t prepared for it.

Still, whether quick or slow, the tire eventually gets fixed and before long, I’m back on the road ready to face the potholes and bumps on the road to publication.

Remember, just as with any road trip, we all need to stop now and then. Sometimes we need to refuel, sometimes a snack, and other times we need a hotel and a long rest. I seem to need a stop more often when I’m flat from a slow leak than when I have a blow out.

I’m curious, does a slow leak cause you to stop more often than a blow out?


Write on.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Breaking Up With A Novel

You know when it’s time. If you don’t, go check out Five Signs It’s Time to Step Away From Your WIP on annastan’s blog.

I’ve been with a particular novel for seven years. I admit I’ve cheated on this novel during those seven years, in fact, I’m cheating now. The bad part is, I’m completely in love with a new WIP.

This new WIP is shiny and beautiful and exciting. I think that’s the main problem. My old novel is . . . well, old. It still thrills me, but I know it so well that there are no surprises. No spontaneity.

When we first started out there were surprises and excitement. With each revision, there were new levels to explore and our bond deepened. The novel changed over the last seven years. I forced it to change whether it wanted to or not (I’m demanding that way). Most of those changes are for the better, but some of them might not be.

Still, I always seem to come back to the old novel.  Even while involved with a new WIP, I continued to visit the old novel. The old novel knew I was cheating. How could it not? But it also knew I came back. Because I loved it. I still love it. I always will love it, but the first blush of love is over.

And now a shiny new WIP is demanding more of my attention. Shiny new WIP wants to be exclusive, and I kind of want to be exclusive right now too. The passion I have for new WIP is much stronger than the pull of old novel.

This isn’t to say I won’t ever go back to old novel. I’m sure we’ll visit again sometime. But I think it will be more like old friends.

Old novel’s file will sit on my computer, but I won’t open it. I may wave at it as I click on new WIPs file, but I won’t open old novel’s file. Not now, and not for a long, long time.

It’s time to break up and move on. I have another couple of novels I need to break up with too so I can devote my time to new WIP . . . at least for a while. I’ll still see more of the other WIPs than I do of old novel (they still have some changing to do), but I’ll be seeing much less of them than I have been so far.

New WIP is calling and I must answer.

Write on.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Is there anyone out there?

The weather forecast is saying there’s a chance of rain later today and through the weekend. Because of this, I have men on my roof working madly to get the shingles on. I’m wishing hubby were home right now to deal with it, but he’s out working to earn money to pay for the roof. I’ve been trying to work on revisions, but the banging is aggravating, and I can’t concentrate.

I’m even having trouble concentrating enough to blog.

Anyway, I’ve been wondering what makes a good critique group. I’ve belonged to a few over the years, but for some reason, they never seem to work out for me. Lately it’s been a time issue, but with school winding down, I’m thinking there might be more time in the near future and I’d really like to find a group that works for me.

But what works for me? I’ve enjoyed the critique groups I’ve been in, but I’m not sure I’ve found the right fit. Most of the groups had six or more members. I’ve come to realize six or more is too much for me. I end up spending more time critiquing than I do writing.

This tells me I’m the type of person who needs a small group maybe limited to four at the most, but three might be ideal.

Another problem is the level of writing. I’m not saying I have a problem helping others with their writing, because I don’t. I love critiquing other people’s work, but I don’t like having to hold someone’s hand and “teach” them how to write. I want a group of writers who know the basics and are well on their way to publication.

This tells me I need other writers at or above my own level of writing (not that I’m perfect by any means).

I also prefer novels to short stories or magazine pieces. I’m game for an occasional PB manuscript, but I guess I’m a short MS snob. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy reading them or even writing them, just not critiquing them.

This tells me I need a group of writers who focus mostly on novels with occasional PB manuscripts.

I write and read mostly fantasy/paranormal/mystery/fairytale novels so I’d need other writers who are into the same genres. I also read other genres and enjoy them, but they aren’t my “specialty.”

I’m pretty picky and not afraid to tell someone if I don’t like something. Let’s be honest. How can our writing ever improve if all we ever hear is how wonderful it is? It’s not wonderful or it would already be published. It’s okay to point out the good things, but the critique should focus on what to improve.

This tells me I need writers who are able to give tough love and aren’t afraid to take it in return.

I guess I want a critique group that is sort of like the agent/author relationship. One that is there for the duration. Good times, bad times . . .  the whole career and not the one book deal.

This tells me I need a group that will last.


When it’s all added up, I need a group of writers who:

Are accepting new members

Like small groups

Know the basics and are well on their way down the publication path (or already published)

Write mostly novels with occasional PBs

Write and read the same genres I do

Can give and take an honest critique

Will stick together


Where can I find such a group? Most groups are already established and aren’t accepting new members. Those who are accepting members are too large. I’ve advertised on Verla Kay and the SCBWI boards and tried starting my own group in the past, but it fell through and the members drifted away (too many members and not enough commitment). I do have some wonderful friends who occasionally look at my work and I look at theirs, but I need a consistent group that won’t fall apart.

Am I living in a fantasy world or can this kind of critique group actually exist? Okay, I know it can exist, but as I said before, it’s members have been together for years and they aren’t seeking new members. (why is it that I keep spelling members as “memebers” today?)


Is there anyone out there who knows of a group that fits the above criteria?

*bigger sigh*

Is there anyone out there who would like to start/be a part of such a group?

*biggest sigh*

So, people are banging on my roof, and I can’t find a critique group. That’s my life today.


Write on.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Check in for Fools of April

I’m a little late posting this, sorry. It’s a crazy day and not likely to get any less crazy. We’re trying to fix our leaky roof so I’ve been helping take shingles off.

I’m almost finished with my initial read through of my MS and will hopefully dive into revising by the weekend. Things are moving slower than I’d like, but at least they’re moving.

How are your goals coming?

Write on.

Monday, April 12, 2010

How Do You Learn to Write?

Jody Hedlund had an excellent blog post discussing if “putting in the time” really matters. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Among other things, she reminds writers that everyone’s journey is different. It may take one writer years to get published and another may take a much shorter time, but the main thing is to keep learning the craft. This got me thinking (yes, I occasionally do this).

I do think it’s important to learn the craft of writing and one excellent way (as we’ve all heard) is to read lots of books. I agree about the importance of this, because we need to know what works.

However, I also believe we need to read what doesn’t work. Crit groups are a good way to do this since most work when it starts out doesn’t work. We get to see the process of taking something that doesn’t work and watching it blossom into something that does (hopefully). It’s hard to do this with our own work because we are too close to it. We know what it is supposed to say and think it says or conveys what we want it to, but this isn’t always the case. Having an objective viewpoint can help us see the errors in our work, but seeing the errors in other people’s work is often valuable as well. By learning to critique work, we learn to improve our own.

It is for this reason that I’ve often wished I could intern with an agent/editor and read through the slush. Though I’ve never experienced this, I feel it would be an amazing opportunity to learn about not only what works, but also what doesn’t work. Of course everyone has different tastes so what I like, someone else might not, but it’s the same way with agents/editors out there now; though one may not like your work, another may fall in love with it.

So, while I’ve been plugging away at this writing gig for more years than I care to count . . . who am I kidding, I’ve counted many times and it all adds up to seven long years of learning . . . I’m still going at it because I love it. Have I learned all there is to learn in these last seven years? Heck no! I’m not sure the learning ever stops. Even published writers are still learning.

The craft of writing will always have something new to teach us if we are open to learning. I believe the continued learning is an important part of being a writer. There’s always room for improvement . . . sometimes even after the novel is published. I’m not sure there is such a thing as a “perfect manuscript.” However, I do believe there is such a thing as a perfect attempt at a manuscript. We can do our best, and that’s all we can do.

The important thing is to keep raising the bar on what our best is. This can only be accomplished through continued learning.

So, if any agent or editor out there is looking for someone to read through the slush, I’m game!

What is your process of learning to write?

Learn on.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Six on Saturday

1. Today will be a clean up day. The kids aren’t too thrilled with the prospect, but I promised them Lunchables if they can get the living room, kitchen, and hall cleaned up before lunch (they have four hours so I think they’ll make it) so that helped make things a bit better.

I’m not sure why they love Lunchables so much, but they do, and I’m grateful for it because it’s a great bribery tool and somewhat healthy (hey, I said somewhat).

2. The puppies are six weeks old today so it’s time to introduce them to solid food . . . well solid food soaked in water. They can’t crunch it up just yet so we have to start slow.

3. Hubby and I might get a chance to go to the movies this afternoon. I’m thinking we’ll see “Clash of the Titans.” I admit to liking the older version when I was growing up, but I had no desire to see this one. However, one of my sisters saw it and said she liked it and thought I would too so I’m going to take her word for it and give it a shot.

4. My oldest nephew will be 18 on Monday. This boggles my mind because it reminds me that my oldest will be 17 in June! I think I’m getting old.

5. Sometime today I’d like to find time to finish up the read through of one of my MS (the first step in the revision process). I’m not sure the time will present itself, but I’m hoping.

6. I’m also hoping to find some reading time (probably tonight while hubby watches TV) so I can keep working through my TBR pile.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Write on (or clean on, or read on, or whatever you are doing).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ceramics and contests

No, I’m not giving away any of the ceramics I’ve made (you wouldn’t want them anyway). I’ve been promising pictures of the stuff I’m doing in class and will fulfill that promise in a moment, but first, here are a couple of cool contests for you to enter.

Jackson Pearce is having a contest for Sisters Red. You can check out her LJ blog to watch Space Dog tell you about it.

Sisters Red

Next, Kimberley Little is having a contest for ARCs of The Healing Spell so go enter on her blog!

The Healing Spell

Now, on to some ceramics. As you know, I’m taking a ceramics class at the community college. I’m completely enjoying it (so much that I may purchase my own kiln). I’m not very good at it, but I’m getting there. My very first attempts at creating in clay have finally come through the firing and glazing process and here are some pictures for you to laugh at.

P3090241 P3090242

This is a heart shaped container (we use it for a candy dish) and a heart trivet (we call it a hot pot plate at our house). I made the trivet because I messed up when making the heart container. The container had to be done in three pieces; the bottom first followed by the two sides. On my first attempt, I didn’t leave enough room to attach the sides (which must be attached on top of the bottom, not around the sides of the bottom piece) so I turned it into a trivet. Thus the little white “feet” on the underside.

The underside that touches the kiln shelf can’t be glazed or it will fuse with the shelf and break (both the shelf and the piece).

This is a picture of the decorations on the side of the candy dish. P3090243

Now this next thing is my first attempt at a larger piece. It’s a big plate thing, and I’m not sure what I’ll ever use it for, but it was fun to make. ;-) The glazing didn’t work out like I’d hoped so you can’t see the designs I made very well. I’m including a picture on the right taken without the flash so you can see the designs a bit better. I won’t use that color glaze again if I’ve etched a design. =(

P4080271 P4080276

And these next things were kind of fun.

This first one was my mistake. P4080265 I tried to make a “mold” or “stamp” to use but the etching wasn’t deep enough so I punched holes in the wet clay (I’ll loop ribbon through the holes and hang it on the wall).

The second one is the mold I use (thus the date and my mark are reversed), and the purple one is the finished product (my youngest daughter wanted purple but I’m not too fond of the color . . . unfortunately I’ve already dipped a vase I made in the purple glaze so we’ll see what it looks like when it comes out).

P4080264 P4080270

As I mentioned above, I have a vase I made that is glazed and waiting for the final firing. I also have a few bowls. I’m hoping they’ll be finished next week. One of them is a small bowl I did on the pottery wheel. It’s a lot harder than it seems! I managed to make the bowl after only four hours at the wheel (which I’m told is pretty good considering the instructor usually makes students sit at the wheel for six hours learning to center the clay).

I suppose these  works aren’t horrible for a beginner (according to my instructor and classmates, they’re pretty good), but I’m having fun and that’s all that matters. It’s so relaxing to work with the clay and see some finished products.

Now I’m off to do some revising on a WIP before I have to get the kiddies from school!

Write on.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Check in

This is the place to check in for Fools of April. How are you doing? Meeting your goal so far?

I haven’t managed to do much work on my revision goal, but I did get my short story analysis rough draft written for my English 102 class. The final draft is due next Tuesday so I’ll be spending time polishing it up, but first I’ll be diving into my revisions today.

When you look at a goal, it can often be overwhelming, especially if you have a goal like, “Revise my MS.” That’s huge! It’s much easier to break it down into much more manageable daily goals.

The revision class I took with Lani Diane Rich was amazing and I’m looking forward to applying what I learned to my MS. The first part of the process is to do a read through. The MS is over 200 pages long so I’ll be breaking it down into more manageable daily goals. I’ve already read through chapter one so today’s goal will be to read through to chapter five. I hope to read more than that, but the kids have half a day of school so I’ll be lucky to make it through to chapter five.

What will you be working on today?

Write on.