Monday, August 31, 2009

Extra Words- Agent Comments

I just got back my comments from Janet Reid from Fine Print Literary Management. She missed the Alaska Writer's Guild Conference (cursed airlines!), but was still able to read the first fifteen pages of my WIP and offer some very valuable feedback.

I sent her a draft that is far from perfect (and crossed my fingers that she would be kind enough to reply before using the paper to line a birdcage) with the hope that she would be able to give me some direction about the starting point of the story.

She told me what I knew- that the story is bogged down and doesn't start until about page 15. But she also told me that there are too many extra words.

And you know what? She's right.

I'm pretty impressed because she took the time to edit the first few pages, deleting a TON of stuff. And her revised copy reads so much better, getting you to the meat of the story a whole heck of a lot quicker.

So I know I have yet another edit in front of me- one to seek and destroy all extra words. And that should help me pare down my word count too. It started at 118,000 (according to Word, not the 250 words per page calculation) and needs to fall somewhere between 80,000-100,000. I've got it down to 111,000 so I've got a way to go!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Blog Award!


Woot woot! I got an award from Michelle McLean! My very first blog award- I'm doing a happy dance right now! Thanks!

Here are the rules for the award:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.


Here are my seven things...

1. My favorite people in history are Hatshepsut (ahem... as if you didn't know that!) and Theodore Roosevelt. I have a signed letter of TR's framed in my den. It's awesome!

2. I hate it when people write alright. It's all right.

3. I really love getting at least nine hours of sleep. That's a rarity with a two-year-old.

4. I've been to almost 20 countries (there's a bunch of Caribbean islands that might push me over the top, but I don't count them).

5. I read 14 books this summer. 15 if you count the first 300 pages of The Pillars of the Earth which I simply couldn't finish.

6. I recently discovered that I kind of like running.

7. I tried growing tomatoes for the first time this summer. Ummm... They're really hard to grow in Alaska!


And here are my 7 Kreativ Bloggers...

1. Suzette Saxton
2. Skyclad
3. Wyatt at Panhistoria
4. Elana Johnson
5. Chronicles of a Novice Writer
6. I Am Write
7. Sara Hodon

Friday, August 28, 2009

Words I Love. A Lot.

There are words I love. And phrases I adore.

Lackadaisical and phantasmagoric are two of the best words in the English language. Some of you may quibble (another great word!) with phantasmagoric actually being a word, but I've seen it used in print and speech before so it counts. Maybe not on Scrabble, but since I'm not writing a Scrabble dictionary I'm okay with that.

After editing 415 pages of my WIP I've discovered that there are a few other words and phrases I wasn't aware that I liked. But I've used them enough that I must really like them!

Debacle. I think I used the word four times in 100 pages. Fortunately, there are plenty of synonyms for it- ruckus, catastrophe, havoc, and so on. Easy edit.

I also wrote, "He'd be lying if..." or "She'd be lying not to admit" more times than I care to recount.

Is there anything you find yourself writing over and over? And over again?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Back to School


Someone needs to tell my principal that it's incredibly inconvenient to expect me to teach American history to 125 teenagers when I'm supposed to be writing. But whoever mentions that should also mention that I still want direct deposit for my paychecks.

Right...

I guess it's a lot to ask for time in the day to write when I can barely find the time to eat. School started on Wednesday and while still sporting the crazed teacher look, I think I'm starting to get back into the groove. And I'm pretty excited because a few days ago I finally finished the last chapter and the epilogue of my book- just in time for the madness to commence. I'd been waiting to write the end until finishing the first edit because I wasn't sure I liked where the story was headed. But I think it's in a good place now and after a gazillion proofs it might be ready for querying!

But that's a topic for another day.

Today's topic? This afternoon as I was grading my kids' first writing assignment I discovered they can already write!

Yes, I almost fell out of my chair.

Their sentences are coherent, spelling errors were few and far between, and some of them even used metaphors. That was pretty impressive considering these were summaries on a nonfiction history book. So now I feel like I can get creative with them. Yahoo!

So then I got to thinking about where I learned to write. Obviously I picked up the mechanics from my English teachers, a pretty amazing bunch of women who have since retired. But nitty gritty writing, the kind you use for storytelling? I definitely picked that up from writing online. Panhistoria has been a great place for me to experiment and also to learn from other people. I've picked up a lot about plot, character, and even mechanics just from practicing there. I also discovered that I really hate writing in first person. I only managed two first person posts with a character there and I had to stop. My guess is each of us has learned in different places, but only through practice and experimentation.

Care to share? Where did you learn to write?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hemingway Does Have Good Quotes


My favorite Hemingway quote?

The first draft of anything is shit.

Thanks for the reminder, Ernest!

Friday, August 14, 2009

It Takes How Long to Get Published?

The other day I was talking to my husband about the publishing process (a rare moment of adult conversation when the two-year-old dictator was at Grandma and Grandpa's). I mentioned that after I get an agent and that wonderful human being finds a publishing house dying to print a book about Hatshepsut, it will still take somewhere around a year to get the book on the shelves.

His comment?

You can make a human in nine months, so what the heck takes a book so long?

I knew I hung around with him for a reason. :)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Picking Scabs: The Editing Process

Blood Red Pencil would be proud of me. Yesterday I killed one of my darlings, a beautiful scene set at the foot of the pyramids.

"But you just went to the pyramids," you say. "Why would you cut a scene like that?"

It was a plot-killer with no tension. And even though it was poetic and dripping with imagery, it had to go. And I'll be honest, it hurt a little as I slashed through the pages with my pen. But it also felt good, kind of like picking a scab.

Okay, that's pretty gross, but you get what I mean.

I knew that this scene was part of that ooey gooey plot sandwich in the middle of the novel. And as much as you want that tasty gooeyness, (Firefox says gooeyness isn't a word, but I say it is!) you don't want the whole sandwich to be gooey, right? Unless it's baklava, but that's not really a sandwich.

But I digress.

So just cutting that one scene has done a lot for the action element. And I have an idea for another historical fiction novel in ancient Egypt so maybe one day I'll get to use some of the fun pyramid visuals that I just cut.

Do you ever reuse scenes that you've cut from prior works? Or once it's in the trash does it stay there?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Editing Slog

I am still editing.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a chapter I wrote a couple months ago, flying by the seat of my pants, is actually really good. It adds some serious tension to the plot- always a good thing. All excited by that extra boon, I was then dismayed to find that the sequencing is a little out of order as I'm going to end up cutting almost an entire chapter here soon. That's going to take some major re-working to get right.

And as school will shortly be upon me (I'm trying to ignore that fact), I started thinking about how many times I'm going to end up reading my manuscript from beginning to end. In high school and college I usually wrote a paper, proofed it once for mechanics, and called it good. When posting at Panhistoria I usually proof a post three or four times before hitting the post button. But there's one scene in my book that I've already edited at least ten times, tweaking it as the rest of the story develops. I just have a feeling that I'll end up reading through the whole manuscript at least four times- once to write it, once to edit for plot, another time to read it aloud for mechanics, and a final time to make sure it's as shiny as I can get it.

So, how many times do you edit your work?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ohlala! Manuscript and Query Submissions

Before I left for my trip I discovered via Janet Reid's blog that the Alaska Writer's Guild was hosting a conference later this month with agents and editors. Let me tell you, living in Alaska we don't have a lot of opportunities for stuff like this. The other day I was reading random blogs and someone said you should try to have as many face-to-face meetings with prospective agents as possible.

Right. Maybe that works if you live in New York, but not for those of us in places like Alaska.

So anyway, I was thrilled to discover that not only was I going to have a chance to listen to people in the business, but also that I could submit 15 pages of a manuscript and a query letter for review. I decided to send the first 15 pages of my book because honestly, I don't feel they're the strongest part of the story. I've edited them a gazillion times so I'm interested in hearing feedback from someone else, especially an agent. Unfortunately, I was leaving town the next day and had to get both the manuscript and the query done that night. So let me say that the query is not as squeaky clean as I'd like, but I still really want to hear the feedback.

But you know what's even cooler? There was a scholarship program to help cover the costs of the conference. I entered, just to see what would happen, and found out the other day that I'm an alternate. But the Writer's Guild decided to cover half the cost of my conference payment and that is pretty flipping awesome. Someone out there likes my work! I get to go to the conference on the cheap, get feedback on the first 15 pages of my book, and hopefully watch Janet Reid critique my query letter. What could be better than that?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ernest Hemingway? Blecch.

I just finished reading Ernest Hemingway's "Old Man and the Sea."

Blecch.

Double blecch.

Maybe this takes me down a few notches on some sort of literary totem pole, but I hated it. I would even go so far to say that I despised it.

The only good thing I can say about it? Thank the gods it was less than 150 mind-numbing pages that I was forced to read. And I skimmed most of the last 50 pages just so I could put it on my summer reading list when school starts in two weeks.

As a writer, there are two things I focus on: plot and interesting writing. I know Hemingway is one of the guys Barnes and Noble puts on their bags, but really? The book is about a guy who goes fishing. Have you ever watched someone fish for four or five hours? It's pretty freaking boring. But that's pretty much what this book is like. And the writing? Also pretty freaking boring.

I mentioned this to my husband who promptly launched into a dissertation on the struggle of man v. nature, blah, blah, blah. I got that part within the first two pages of, "My hands hurt, the fish kept pulling the line."

I guess this just goes to show that sometimes rules are meant to be broken. I will say one thing for good old Ernest, he doesn't bore his readers with a bunch of flowery prose.

So, what do you think? Would you rather read something long and flowery or something Hemingway-esque, short and to the point? (I would say sweet, but unless you consider wanting to gouge your eyes out to be sweet, I don't think it would be an accurate description.) Do you think someone who writes like Hemingway could even get published today?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sensory Details, Bloody Papers, and Plot Sandwiches

I'm back!

The trip was truly fantastic and I picked up a lot of gritty fodder for the sensory details for Hatshepsut. I'm still kind of bummed that I didn't get to go to Luxor, but just being in Egypt reminded me of so much of the little stuff- the trees, the heat (110 or so when we were there), and even the bugs. Granted, I'm not going to ramble about any of those in the novel, but it's nice to be able to include a sentence here and there that you know is truly authentic. It's one thing to research another country, but it's another to experience it.

So my goal while I was gone was to edit the paper manuscript- all 115,000 words of it. And did that happen?

Um... No.

When I sit down to edit on my computer I tend to look at just one thing- dialogue, grammar, sensory details, etc. But having the book in front of me on paper sent me into full-on teacher grading mode. When I hand back my students' papers they're dripping in blood.

Okay, it's really red ink, but whatever.

There were points where I got really discouraged, realizing that what I'd written was total rubbish or so full of mechanical errors I was appalled to realize that I'd written it. But then there were some sections where I just couldn't stop reading, barely taking the time to scribble myself a note. And that felt really, really good.

So I got about halfway done. The last half of the book hasn't been edited at all- I just wrote and didn't look back. I'm also coming up on the middle of my plot sandwich which is a little scary. I knew when I sat down to write this book that the beginning and the end had specific high points that had to be hit, very dramatic and sure to pull in the reader. But the middle was squishy and gooey. There's a whole chapter of squishy gooeyness that I think needs deleted or at least condensed into the preceding chapter. That's going to be a little painful.

So I'm off to edit- wish me luck!