Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Miss Communication

Sorry I've been so MIA lately. But the good news is that my revision is in and my agent sent me the excited response from our head of foreign rights and, let's just say she was really excited. Which was very encouraging to me. That first ed letter that tells you everything big that is wrong with your book can--even if you agree with it--be very discouraging. But I am so happy to have the first round done and for my agent to have so nicely reminded me that there are a lot of people who are excited about my book!

I have been reading my very first taste of fan fiction lately by the lovely and extremely talented Sarah Rees Brennan who I am going to ride into the sunset with some day.;) So after following this particular story for several months, I came to the mistaken conclusion that I like HP fanfic. So I went in search of some more.

Note to other readers, liking an author does not necessarily translate into liking a genre.

I started reading this rather interesting story but got totally stuck when it became painfully obvious that there was a question in the two MC's relationship that they should be asking, but were not. I skipped to the end and, just as I suspected, the reason they were not asking said obvious question was that it was part of the Big Reveal(TM) at the climax of the story.

No other reason.

I hate that!

It reminded me of an experience I had in college. My husband and I have a really weird courtship story, but suffice it to say, we were promised for about a year and a half while he was in another part of the state and for most of that time we could neither call nor write letters. So he wasn't really a part of my daily life, but I didn't date anyone else and I wore a promise ring on my left hand. I did a lot of theatre in those days and I was in the show with this guy who I really hit it off with. That was hardly unusual for me. I have always had mostly guy friends--I had a best man at my wedding. I didn't think anything of it. We hung out outside of the theatre occasionally and went out to Chinese once, although we did go Dutch. So one night a bunch of us were sitting around talking at the theatre and I said something about my boyfriend (I can't remember now, I may have even said fiance . . . but regardless . . .) This guy came unglued! Turns out that because of the Chinese event, he thought we were dating. (There was no hand holding, no hugging, certainly no kissing. I didn't think it was dating.) I didn't realize I had never mentioned Kenny before.

But what really bugged me was that he hadn't asked. Don't you always check and make sure before starting a relationship? Especially if said person is wearing a ring? And particularly in the theatre where we tend to be a little more *ahem* affectionate than in many other fields.

So anyway, drama (no pun intended) ensued, he couldn't keep his personal feeling off the stage, and he single-handedly almost ruined every scene we were in together. It was a huge fiasco.

And why? Because of a very silly refusal to communicate.

Miscommunication is a common conflict in any kind of novel. Why? I think it's because it resounds so easily with so many readers. We all miscommunicate things all the time. We say something wrong, forget to say something right, or totally misread a situation all together. I'm not saying we need less miscommunication in our fiction, I'm saying it needs to not be silly.

I have read a lot books (and I'm sorry to say that romance is particularly guilty of this) where a strong, destined, completely fulfilling and trusting relationship is blown to smithereens (I love that word) because one of the MCs overhears the wrong conversation, or reads a note that they assume was written by the other MC, etc. Do they stop, think rationally, and ask the right questions? No! They fly of in a huff and commit the Unforgivable Act(TM) creating more turmoil and heartache that, understandably, stresses the relationship. (Almost without exception, some hot sex will make things right, but still . . .:))

Just once, when everything is cleared up, I'd like to see the hero or heroine stand there blushing and say, "Well, I feel stupid." Because that's what they are!!

There are plenty of way to have conflict via miscommunication. One of the best is fear of communicating because that can be linked to so many of our own fears as readers. Fear that communication will lead to rejection, or hurting someone you love, or damaging a friendship, etc. Or how about inability to communicate because of language, distance, cultural differences, etc. I can buy any of those.

But not asking the obvious question/s? That drives me nuts!

Which is why when Tara pointed out about six obvious questions my MCs should have been asking, I was happy to change thing so that they did. My story is stronger for it and I guarantee yours will be too.

Now where was that pink elephant?


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Finding the Time

Would you believe that's my biggest challenge these days? Not the hard work it takes to do revisions, not writer's block, not working instead of compulsively surfing the 'net (though that is a problem sometimes ;)) but simply finding the time. Although my world is completely new (not to mention wonderful!) the fact of the matter is my life hasn't changed much. I still have kids, and chores, and exercise, and a spouse, and various other commitments. To be honest, I don't know how those of you with full-time (or even part-time) jobs do it! That's why I had to go to my mother's house last week.:) There's just not enough time here.

So how do you make time? I have heard a couple of people say that they disconnect themselves from the internet. But I use the net for a ton of research. It was frustrating at my mom's house to have to run to the other room every time I had to look something up on Google or Wikipedia.

I generally try to work when my baby is sleeping, because my other kids are old enough to be pretty self-sufficient for an hour or two. But Gid is outgrowing one of his naps and I can't plan on them anymore. *sad* So I'm looking for some more suggestions. Bring 'em on!:)

In other news, my editor is totally awesome. I wanted to see if she could send me something, so I e-mailed her this morning to ask, and she replied just a couple of hours later to tell me it was in the mail! Yay for awesome editors!


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Revisions! A Story in Pictures.

I'm baaaaack! (Did you miss me?:)) I had a lovely time at my mothers. Some good visiting, more than too much good food, and lots of babysitting by my mom. Life of leisure, right? Ummm, not exactly. I went to bed absolutely exhausted every night. Why? Because I spent 5-6 hours working on my edits every day.

It reminded me of doing renovations on my house before we moved in. And the more I thought about it, the more apt the comparison became. So here is the analogy of revisions/renovations.:)

When we went house shopping two years ago we had a rather small budget, but we were determined to get the best house we could. We looked at a couple and were rather disappointed. They were very small and clearly cheaply made. They were all in good repair, but I had trouble thinking of us living there for the next three years. Then we pulled up to a house that--although the colors of paint were kind of ugly--was larger and on a bigger sized piece of land. So far so good. We walked into the living room and almost gasped in appreciation! A large, finished room with paneling on the walls and a fireplace to boot! So what if they has decorated in terrible, terrible faux zebra stripes and cheetah spots. They would take those things with them. Wow! Why was this house in our price range?

We soon found out. For starters, there were cars and motorhomes (yes, that's a plural)in the yard as well as some other junk. Then the paint in the kitchen was this terrible orangish red, the laundry room wasn't painted at all, there was a room in the middle that was totally unfinished, and the old Coke machine on the porch didn't help much.

But you know what I saw? I saw potential! I wasn't afraid of a little work, and by buying a house at this price, we could spend a bit on revisions.

So we bought it (although I think our realtor thought we were nuts.) and soon the renovations commenced.

One of the worst rooms in the house was the bathroom. See exhibit A.:)

See that door . . . It doesn't even go anywhere! Now, the people who lived there didn't think there was anything wrong with it. They lived with it like that for five years. I wasn't quite so easily pleased.

So revisions began.

Who'd have thought that taking down that awful mirror would make it look even worse!

But we kept trucking along.

We pulled out the sink. That was an improvement right there.:)

Luckily, we were working with a professional. Our friend Kevin is a master electrician. He helped us with all the wiring.

But an interesting thing happened. In order to get all the the wiring done correctly, we actually had to go back and undo some of the work we'd already done in order to get everything in the right place. (See how the door that was boarded up is not boarded up in this picture?)

Luckily, Kevin knew what he was doing and soon our wall looked like this.

We added a new vanity and mirror as well as some pretty light and viola! We had a perfectly functional, and much prettier bathroom!

This is a lot like revisions. We think our book is just fine the way it is. (Although I trust all of your books are at a much better starting place than our bathroom was!) It gets submitted to an editor and--just like I saw in our house--one of them (hopefully more!:)) sees potential in it. They know it needs work, but they see what it can become.

The first thing they do is pull out all the bad stuff. Then they bring in their professional skills and do the things that you can't on your own (or, in this case, fix the issues you can't see in your "baby.") Sometimes that may mean undoing fixes a good crit partner or even you agent suggested!

But when they are done, you are left with something better than what you started with. In subsequent revisions they help you add those finishing touches that really make your book a beautiful thing. And hopefully, when you are done, you have something like this.:)


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"You Said 'Tavern;' I'm Goin' to Moe's!"

Hehe, we love The Simpson's in our house. Tons of fodder for appropriate quotes.:)

Anyway, the title really will come back and relate in a minute.

First I have to tell you how cool my husband is. My hubby, Kenny, is in law school and doing quite well. But only because he works SO hard. (He's in the top of his class and on the board of the law review and has managed a couple of 4.0's in his classes. *grin* I love my hubby!) However, about four weeks into the semester *cough, cough* NOW *cough,cough* he reaches this point of stress where he gets really worried about how he's going to keep up with everything and understand his classes enough to pass his exams. (Last semester he came up to me at about the four-week mark and said, "I think I bit off more than I can chew this semester." In the the end he had his best semester yet!) Well, it's that time of semester again. Yesterday he was so distracted when I dropped him off at school that he forgot to move his hand when he shut our very large and totally unpadded van door and crushed his fingers (on his right hand no less) pretty good. *Ow!*

So I invoked the Pike household rule. "You were so stressed you slammed your hand in the door: I'm goin' to Mom's!"

So I am off tomorrow. I'll still be around--they do have internet in Idaho . . . it may still be dial-up, but I'm sure it's there *winks at Mom*--but probably a little more absent. With my husband stressing out so much and me needing to get my edits finished, Kenny and I could both use a week of relatively uninterrupted work. Hopefully we'll both be less stressed when I come back.

My mom's taking me to the symphony while I'm there. I've never been to the symphony before, but I think it will be a nice treat! So I may or may not have another entry up until I get back. So until then . . .


Saturday, February 02, 2008

It Really is a Lot of Work!

Little update . . . I got my first editorial letter on Wednesday!! Hooray! I feel like things are actually moving now! I was very pleased with my ed letter. When you have signed up to write a series--especially a series that is already mapped out--I feel like the first ed letter is even more important than with stand-alone books. With any first ed letter you discover your editor's editing style as well as their precise vision for your book. And you just hope that everything meshes.

With a series you are kind of in a different boat. Everything above applies, but instead of finding out if her vision of the book meshes with yours, you find out if her vision of the entire series matches with yours. And there are, inevitably, changes involved. Will they be the kinds of changes that will make both the book and the series better--stringer? Or are they the kinds of changes that will reverberate through the series and pull down a super-important plotline later on in book . . . say, three?

There's no way to know until you get that letter.

I am happy to say that my letter was awesome. Tara asked some great questions, brought up some extremely valid concerns and then gave a lot of guidance regarding character and pacing. Ten pages. Which is neither long nor short. About average. But it was chock full of great stuff and I really think she is going to help me make this whole series the very best that it can be! I'm very excited.

However, I did have a moment when it really hit me just how much work this revision is going to be and I felt momentarily overwhelmed. And this is just the first revision. There will probably be a minimum of two more before this book goes to copy-edit. (and maybe we'll have a title by then!:))

Folks, it is a lot of work.

Being published is a job. It really is. They don't pay you just because you wrote a cute little story, that's only half of the job. The rest of working on revisions, being available for marketing, doing promotion, etc. It takes a lot of time, and a lot of effort.

And I am totally up for it!!

Now the query recap I promised.

In a query, it's not enough to just tell what your story is about. There a story somewhere that is about the same thing yours is, I guarantee it. But the strength of your query letter (and of your story for that matter!) is finding what makes your story unique and marketable and then highlighting it.

And please do so with correct grammar and eloquent word choice.;)