Thursday, March 29, 2007

What Are YOU Waiting For?

There's an interesting change that occurs when you sign with an agent. It's one I never thought about before I sent that contract back in.

I stopped waiting for my mail.

My snail mail, I mean.

While shopping for an agent I checked my e-mail compulsively, of course, but I also got very frustrated with my mail carrier if he was late. . . especially after I got a rash of partial and full requests via snail mail--which had never happened to me before. My SASEs always had rejections till about August of last year at which point I started receiving requests. It was very odd. I got about six requests via SASE.

Anyway, I don't wait for the mail anymore. I don't march out and demand why my post guy is not on schedule either and I imagine he greatly appreciates that. He waved at me today so I think I'm forgiven.:)

What I do wait for, is e-mail and the phone.

I don't generally get a lot of calls. We're on the Do Not Call list, my husband doesn't have a cell phone so he rarely calls me from school, most of my friends are online so we e-mail, and I admit, I'm a bit of a hermit (please tell me you can relate.) So when my very shrill phone rings my heart speeds up, I glance at my watch to see what time it is in New York, I clear my throat, and I push the button and say in my most professional voice, "Hello?"

Hasn't been Jodi yet, but I'm ready if it is!! (I know the one time I like just sneezed and have a sore throat and croak out, "What?" it'll be her. *rolls eyes*)

Okay, here's my shameless plug . . . Anyone who is obsessively waiting for e-mail should get a G-mail account. Seriously. Want one? e-mail me, I'll forward you an invite. I have like a zillion. G-mail is Google's e-mail program and I LOVE it! It has this search function, which is cool, and tons of free storage, but the part that is invaluable to me, is that it continually refreshes. This means that I can open my e-mail account and then minimize it to the bottom of the screen so all I see is a little rectangle on the tool bar that says, "Gmail, Inbox." And then I can open up my WIP and work to my little heart's content without worrying about my e-mail. I don't have to stop working and open up my browser and refresh my inbox page to check my mail. I just take a quarter of a second to glance down at that little square. And since it refreshes continually, if I have an e-mail, that little square will instantly say, "Gmail, Inbox (1)." Now come on, admit it, that's cool.:)

Anyway, enough of my advertising for Google. I think they do well enough without my input.;)


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Zoo

*Okay, first off, you all gotta go check this out . . . Just in case you didn't see it on Miss Snark. Go Pat! You totally rock!!*

Back to our regularly scheduled blogging.:)

I took my kids to Hogle Zoo yesterday. We got a family pass from my mom for Christmas this year and it has finally been warm enough to go. My daughter in particular loves the Zoo so much! We go every year on her birthday because this girl eats, drinks, and breathes animals. So we had a fun time: saw rhinos and elephant and monkeys and zebras. You know, the typical zoo experience.

Do you remember going to the zoo when you were little? I do, and I seem to remember having boundless energy and staying for like five or six hours. (On field trips mostly.)

Well, we got there at 10:00 AM and were all funned out by 12:30. So we went home.:)

What does this have to do with writing? Well I'll tell you . . .

Absolutely nothing!!!

No, I'm kidding.:)

At the zoo, my daughter walked at least three times as far as I did because she would do that thing where she runs ahead to see what's next, runs back to tell you what's next, and then runs ahead again to make sure it hasn't gone away. On top of that, she ran around the playground for almost an hour while I sat and rested. Now, it's not just at the zoo that she does this; she does this all day every day. This girl has infinite bounds of energy that just flow from her.

Me, I have to have breaks.:)

But the difference between her and me is that she's not generally getting a whole lot done--and certainly not efficiently--she's just running around and having a great time doing it.

I may need to sit down every half hour and rest (less often when I'm not pregnant, thank goodness) but in those half hour stints I am doing dishes and making dinner and cleaning the toy room and kissing hurts and brushing hair and any number of tasks. Trust me, I know how to squeeze the most chores possible into a half-hour period . . . usually the half hour before my husband gets home.:)

This really did get me thinking about writing. When I wrote my first book (and I'm going to call the book that is currently out on submission my first book even though there's a very confusing story about how it's my first, third and fourth book . . . I won't go into that here.:)) I would get up in the morning and type furiously. When I couldn't put off being a mom any longer I would dash from the computer, take care of my kids, and generally plop them down in front of an educational video. (My kids watched tons of educational shows while I was writing The Chain and the Sword, did I mention my three-year-old reads and my two-year-old has known all the sounds that all the letter make since he was 19 months old? See, I wrote a lot.:)) Then it would be back to the computer to write some more.

So I wrote a ton! But I wasn't very efficient. By the time the whole book was "finished" (and I really thought it was) it was 210,000 words long. That's about 850 pages. By the time I got done trimming all the excess, it was a sleek 142,000 words.

Did you do the math? Almost 70,000 words.

That's a whole book! A short adult novel or a kind of long YA novel. I wrote a whole book's worth of words I didn't need. Talk about the literary equivalent of running back and forth between my mom and the next animal up ahead. (I felt a little better when Jodi had me put 10,000 back in . . . but that's another story too.)

But I've noticed an interesting trend lately. I'm writing new stuff again while waiting to hear back from editors on Chain, and I thought I had turned into a major slacker!! I used to write 3-5,000 words a day. Really. I was Ms. Prolific!

Now I feel really good if I clear 3,000 and 1,500-2,000 suits me just fine.

And you know what? I go back and read what I've written, and it's good. I don't have to cut, I don't have totally wonky POV, I don't spend paragraph after paragraph saying, "And then he thought . . ." I've got some quality work there.

Not polished. But quality.

I'm getting more efficient.

Have you found this in your writing? Do you get slower but more efficient or do you get faster? Are you the three-year-old at the zoo, or the mom trudging along with the wagon?

Maybe it depends on the book.



Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Going Public

I've been part of the online writing community for about 15 months now. I use a handle different than my real name so most of my idiocy is not Google-able.:) But still, if you know me at AbsoluteWrite, you can find me here. If you see some of my comments on Miss Snark, you can follow the link on my profile and get here too. So I'm fairly open about my publishing journey; I'm not hard to find.

I have a lot of author-hopefuls who I follow on writers' forums and a few whose blogs I frequent. I've seen a lot of things in the last 15 months.

I've seen a fabulous author acquire an agent, sweat through the submission process, and land an incredible deal. I've also seen her start through the long and often tedious process to actually get the book published.

I've seen a writer celebrate the release of her book through a big house and start to garner reviews, popularity, etc.

I've seen a very talented writer decide to take the route of a small publisher instead of continuing to look for an agent. He's very happy with the choice he made, and I'm happy for him.

I've become friends with a man who is on his twelfth book. He's not a bestseller, but he has a steady, mid list career and a solid fan base. He's very happy with his career and from him I've learned abut the life of a very normal published author. Very few are superstars, guys.

I've seen a friend acquire her first agent, get her first sale, and now she's starting to see foreign rights sales. How exciting!

This is what you like to see. It's a great way to start building some buzz for your book and gain a few fans as well as friends. If we're honest, it's what we expect for ourselves when we create that first handle and post for the first time.

But usually, that's not what I see.

Early on I saw a writer sign with a very respectable agency. Hooray! I thought! We'll be hearing about her book deal soon! But no. Her agent sent her book out to about five editors and then totally lost interest in her as a client. A year later she has picked herself up off the literary floor and started looking for a new agent all over again.

I've seen many, many posters who get so excited about the process of looking for an agent. They get requests for partials! Fulls! Invitations to re-submit after a revision! Things are so exciting! . . . And after a while, we just don't hear from them anymore.

I knew one guy in particular who has had more fulls and partials requested than I ever did. I keep thinking we're going to get an announcement any day. But after over a year, it hasn't panned out yet.

I see many people who are afraid to try.

Putting your goals out in the public eye is often done for motivation. And that is fine when your goals can be reached simply through grit and tenacity. For example, fitness goals, weight loss goals, word count goals, etc. But when you are making public your goals in an industry that rejects over 95% of the people trying to get in, you have to wonder what we are thinking?

Did you think about the risk involved when you started posting about your writing?

Now, I don't have a huge readership or anything . . . But I'm pretty sure there are at least 20 of you. Heck, my family is at least ten of you.:) What if nothing works out for me? Will you be disappointed? Will I feel like I've let you down?


When I started this blog I was sure that I would get an agent soon, and a sale would follow closely. It was a time saving device, really. So I wouldn't have to call everyone who wanted to be updated on my publishing process all the time. But I was certain that the glorious end was just out of sight on the horizon.

I've been lucky; I've had some great success. I'm not to my ultimate goal yet, but I'm close!

But what if I wasn't?

I think that writers need to be inherently optimistic--it's a hard industry to crack into; you need your good nature. But if I knew then what I know now, I don't know if I would have gone public quite so quickly.



Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Some Things Are Easy

Doesn't it seem like everything in the publishing world is hard? It's hard to get that book done--even harder to get it polished and sparkling. Anyone who's ever done it knows it's really hard to then turn that novel into a query letter. Finding an agent is hard--being rejected is hard. Once you find an agent, doing revisions is hard! Waiting for that submission list is hard--waiting for editors' responses is even harder. And I can only imagine (and gather from friends' experiences) that even once you have that publishing deal, things continue to be hard. If it was easy, it wouldn't be hard.

But sometimes we get to take a step back from all the things that are hard, and enjoy some of the things that are easy.

Like being a three year old's hero.

My daughter loves to draw. LOVES to draw. And she doesn't draw with crayons, she like to draw with pen. This one particular pen especially. Now this girl draws the way really, really prolific authors write. She covers both side of about twenty pieces of white paper every day. So, inevitably, her pen ran out of ink.

It was a tragedy.

But the biggest problem was that she still wanted that exact pen. Now it's not the kind of pen you can go pick up at the store. It's a pen from some pharmaceutical company that I happened to acquire about two years ago. I am NEVER going to find another pen like this again.

But my daughter is near tears because her special pen is out of ink.

So what do I do? Well I thought about it for a minute and then went and found a regular old Bic clicky pen and took the inside out and put it in the special pen.


Took a little creativity, but easy.

My daughter loves me! She smiled and hugged me and said, "Oh Mommy, you put the ink back in my special pen! Thank you!" And then she scampered off to cover another twenty pages.

With all the things in life that are hard, it's good to know that there are still some simple pleasures.

Like being my daughter's hero.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

I Wanna Be Cool Like My Friends!!

Okay, so it's good news day!

Patricia Wood- Pat's debut novel LOTTERY is officially available for pre-order at amazon .com. Here is the link to it. Go Pat!!

Stephenie Meyer- Steph got a mention on national television this week! They had a snippet regarding her book on a short section of The Colbert Report (funny guy!) called "The A-Pop-Colypse." Here is the link to that one.

Do I have talented friends or what?:)


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

20,000 Leagues . . . er . . . I Mean Words, Under the Sea.

Ah! Hit 20,000 words today. That seems like a milestone for me. The point at which I know this is more than just an idea--it's actually going to become a book. 20,000 words is the no-turning-back-now point. If the idea was going to fizzle, it would have done so already. All of my books have been this way.

And all of the books I have abandoned have been before reaching that length.

Some people can know off an outline . . . or even just as the idea percolates within their mind. But I have to get into the meat of the book before I know for certain that it can hold out for the long run.

Well, I guess that's not completely true. I have the second book of my fantasy series all planned out and have written a very long synopsis for it, actually. But I know that one can fill a book.:) Maybe it depends on the book. The second book in my fantasy series I am very familiar with already because I've written, edited, revised, and polished the first one. I guess it's like having the trilogy a third of the way finished already. But the YA I'm working on right now is its own world with completely new characters. Maybe that's why I wasn't sure at first that the idea was big enough.

Sometimes it's the opposite; you have an idea that's just too big to fit in one novel. I guess that's how a lot of series are born.

How about you? When do you know your idea is big enough for a novel?


Monday, March 12, 2007

Can I Just Say . . .

There is nothing funnier, I'm sure, than a six-month pregnant woman trying to start her pull-cord lawn mower for the first time since Fall.:)

But hey, I got it!


Thursday, March 08, 2007

A New York Minute

So I live in Utah. But I live in this very strange part of Utah. It's a little square about three feet by three feet that follows me everywhere I go. It is the only part of Utah I know of that runs on Eastern Standard Time.

That's right, I run on New York time.

I'm sure many of you can relate.

I have a New York agent and, other than one, my book is out to New York editors (and the one who is not in New York is still going to call my agent, not me, so she still ends up running by EST.)

I think it's pretty funny; I look at my watch and think,"Oh, it's two o'clock. That's four in New York time." Anyone else do that?

This thought was prompted by an e-mail from my fab agent Jodi, announcing that all of my first round manuscripts are out. Hooray! I'm so excited. Not only are some really wonderful professionals going to be reading my book, there's even a chance they might want to publish it.

But one of the really exciting things is that people I "know" in the literary community, whose professional opinions I really trust, are going to be weighing in on my little book ... well, it's not that little ... but that's a whole other post. How cool is that?

And even if they ultimately reject it, it seems like something you can mention at cocktail parties. "Yeah, well, Editor XXX read my manuscript.":) I mean, that's awesome, right?




Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Did You See This!?!?

From Publishers Lunch:

"Lauren McLaughlin's comic debut CYCLER, pitched as Orlando meets Freaky Friday, about a likeable and seemingly normal teen girl with a secret condition: she changes into a 17 year old boy for four days out of every month, and now her boy self - tired of being suppressed - is plotting his own agenda with explosive results, to Mallory Loehr at Random House Children's, at auction, for two books, by Jill Grinberg at Jill Grinberg Literary Management (NA)."

Wow, that is an incredible idea. Pair it up with some good writing and a unique voice and this is going to be a book to watch for. I'm already thinking abut all the problems this would cause. Talk about the wrong time of the month. And you know there's going to be some sex issues, and do her parents know? They must know. How long has she been doing this? Has she always turned into a 17-year-old boy or has this alternate personality aged with her.

I am so blown away.

No wonder this one went at action for a multi-book deal. Whoa!



Tuesday, March 06, 2007

You Never Know What You'll Find in the Comments . . .

Like this guy. Welcome Sean Ferrell. Now all you other people, go check out his blog.:) He's got a fun blog. I've already managed to waste a good quarter of an hour on it this morning. He blogs the way that I think authors should blog . . . i.e. not the way I blog. Ever notice how some people sound so intelligent/literary/informed/etc. in their blog? Me, I just tend to look kinda scatterbrained.:) Anyway, go check out his blog and see if it floats your boat.:)

I'm getting back in the habit of writing every day. When you are used to doing revisions on a semi-regular basis it is really hard to have any energy to write anything new. In fact, I don't know anything that sucks your energy more than doing revisions. . . or anything that makes your story better. But it does put a damper on new material. My friend Stephenie is working on two serieses (is that a word?) concurrently and for a couple of months there she was under deadline for both a new book and edits for an already written book. I think that would be really hard. I guess like any other task; you would get used to it, but I think at least at first, it would be difficult.

But then, I know authors who like to juggle no less than three projects at a time.:) I guess I'm somewhat that way too, I mean, I've got several iron in the proverbial fire right now, but I don't like working on more than one each day. Somebody on Absolute Write mentioned a few weeks ago that they have six WIPs and they have a set time period each day that they work on them. He said he writes one page in each and when he gets to the bottom of the page, he stops and moves on to the next book. If he still has time left at the end of the six pages, he picks his three favorites and writes one more page each. Then if he still has time, he writes for the rest of the time on one of the books. That would drive me nuts! When I get going on a good scene, I don't want to stop! And certainly not for piddly things like, oh, eating or performing the Heimlich maneuver on my son. Yanno.:)

Anyway, the whole point was that I am writing every day again. I have a set time in the morning that is computer time. I may use half an hour of that to post, check blogs, check e-mail, etc. (Thus the reason 15 minutes on Sean's site seems so long to me.:)) Then I write.

It's nice to be creating again.

Writing is a habit; one that I don't intend to give up any time soon.:)


Friday, March 02, 2007

Okay, I'm Telling a Joke . . .

I don't normally do this, but I have to pass on a joke I got in an e-mail from my grandmother. Here goes:

Brian invited his mother over for dinner. During the course of the meal, Brian's mother couldn't help but notice how beautiful Brian's roommate, Jennifer, was. Brian's Mom had long been suspicious of a relationship between Brian and Jennifer, and this had only made her more curious.

Over the course of the evening, while watching the two interact, she started to wonder if there was more between Brian and Jennifer than met the eye.

Reading his mom's thoughts, Brian volunteered, "I know what you must be thinking, but I assure you Jennifer and I are just roommates."

About a week later, Jennifer came to Brian saying, "Ever since your mother came to dinner, I've been unable to find the beautiful silver gravy ladle. You don't suppose she took it, do you?"

Brian said, "Well, I doubt it, but I'll send her an e-mail just to be sure."

So he sat down and wrote:

"Dear Mom:

I'm not saying that you "did" take the gravy ladle from the house, I'm not saying that you "did not" take the gravy ladle. But the fact remains that one has been missing ever since you were here for dinner.

Love, Brian"

Several days later, Brian received an email back from his mother that read:

"Dear Son:

I'm not saying that you "do" sleep with Jennifer, I'm not saying that you "do not" sleep with Jennifer. But the fact remains that if Jennifer is sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the gravy ladle by now.

Love, Mom"

Hehe. I laughed really loud.

But something struck me; how quick are we to believe that we are carrying off a lie? And how transparent are we actually?

The really does relate to writing.

How often do we see a main character (good and bad) lie to someone as a plot device?

And how often is that lie as transparent as a newly Windexed sliding door?

But somehow, whoever the MC is lying to, believes it and Ta-da!! you have conflict!

But it's not real conflict. Why? Because there's one person you haven't fooled. That's right, the reader.

Now, cliches abound everywhere, but for the moment I'm going to pick on romance (no offense, I write it too.:)) How many of us have read the romance where the heroine decide the hero would be better off without him and despite the fact that yesterday they had a rock solid relationship of trust and love, today she tearfully whispers, "I don't love you anymore." The hero immediately believes her, leaves with his shattered heart in tow, and we spend the rest of the book trying to get them back together again.

Except that the way she lies to him is so transparent even a child could spot it. And the hero is so gullible she probably could have added, "Oh, and your tennies are untied," and the hero would have looked down at his hip boots that have no laces at all and said, "Huh?"

Doesn't it just make you roll your eyes and want to throw your book across the room?!?!?

On the other hand, when lies are well done, they can be stunning/devastating/suicidal/earth shaking . . . you get the idea. But you have to have so many elements to make a lie good. You have to have a justifiable reason for lying, you have to lie in such a way that it is understandable that the person being lied to would believe them, and the person being lied to must have some justification for believing the lie. Without those elements, lies fall flat on their faces.

I'll give you an example. I am reading "The Surgeon," by Tess Gerritsen (new author of the week, yea! She writes horrifying medical thrillers. Not for the weak of stomach.) Quick sum up, we have an emotionally fragile rape victim who is now being targeted by a killer. She is slowly falling in love with one of the cops in the investigation. The cop's partner has a crush on this guy, gets jealous, and reports her partner to the supervisor. The cop gets send on an out of town assignment to give him some distance from the victim. Before he is allowed to explain himself to his new love, the jealous female partner find her first. Jealous partner insinuates to victim paramour that male cop just doesn't want to see her. Victim is shattered and doubts her feelings.

Why does this work? First, the female cop has a reason to tell the lie. She's jealous, but powerless to keep the two lovers from having feelings for each other. All she can do is plant discord. Second, she lies well. She doesn't out and say, he doesn't care for you, she simply insinuates that leaving town was his choice and that if he wanted to call her, he would have. And thirdly, she has a lot of reasons to believe it. It's the first guy she's let into her life since the rape, she's been very scared and protectiveness is often mistaken for affection, and there was some alcohol involved. Also, it was just after their first night together--they didn't have some rock-solid love going on. It was a timid, tentative first time.

And you totally ache for them! No! Don't believe it! She's conning you! Stupid cop, disobey order and call her and explain! Don't let this happen.

Also (and I personally think this is important) this lie and the drama it creates are far from the center of the story. The plot is not driven by a lie--it's only a side plot.

So how about you? Example of lies you love and lies you love to hate in literature? Movies? You family . . . no wait, we don't want to hear about your family.

Anyway, thoughts?