Monday, February 28, 2011

The Importance of Importance, WriteOnCon, and More

Hey y’all!

Sometimes it can be difficult to determine which aspects of a novel need the most detail. To figure this out, think about what is needed to move the plot forward. In other words, figure out what is truly important.

Obviously, we sometimes need to describe our characters doing something “normal.” But that is not the focus of the novel. The focus should by on the “abnormal” – the things that makes the story unique. What’s different? What’s new? What experiences shift the character’s perspective or drive the character to do something?

Always keep the plot of the novel in the forefront. Detailed scenes should deal with what is integral to the plot. All the rest should either be left out, or mentioned in passing as needed. In the case of “normal,” less really is more.

There is a great post dealing with this topic entitled “Play by Play Narration” by Literary Agent Mary Kole. The beginning of the post is pasted below:


It’s time to get back to business with a craft-related post. I’ve been reading some manuscripts where the writers lapse into what I always call “play-by-play narration.” It’s the narrative equivalent of a chronological grocery list of events:

First we did this. Then we did that. He did this, and then he did that. After that, we did this. And then, that. A little bit later, we went and did such and such.

As a writer, it’s not just your job to transcribe what you imagine happens in a character’s day and think that you have yourself a plot. That’s not how it works. A large part of narration and storytelling is acting as a curator of the story. You’re supposed to maximize what’s important and minimize what’s not and keep directing your reader’s attention from paragraph to paragraph and page to page. When you’re filling up your pages with play-by-play narration, you’re giving us dull descriptions of nonessential events,… (Read the full text here)


Now, continuing on to other things….

Tonight: Don’t forget the WriteOnCon live chat. This should be a really great one with Literary Agent Suzie Townsend and Editor Maria Gomez, with Harper Collins. It begins at 9pm EST on the WriteOnCon website. Click here to learn more about Suzie Townsend and Maria Gomez. Hope to see you there!

Meredith Barnes, assistant to Literary Agent Janet Reid has begun a new blog here. She will be blogging about “publishing and digital developments/online media.” This is going be some good information, and I encourage you to check it out.

Also, I would like to give a special shout out to Julia King who had an amazing contest on her blog Writing Jewels. I loved getting the chance to participate, and I am thrilled to have won! Thanks again, Julia! Be sure to visit Julia’s blog. It is a very friendly place with lots of valuable information and insight. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Writing Hint #8 - Ye Be Warned

Writing Hint #8 (Query Hint #5)

Today’s writing hint is really more of a warning.

There are an abundance of resources out there for aspiring writers. For instance, in my post about writing queries, I gave you several websites/blogs with great information to get you started on writing that query letter. I also told you that those sites where just the “tip of the iceberg” so to speak of valuable websites/blogs out there.

However – and this is a BIG however – make sure you research the sources you use.

Just as there are a lot of great, informative websites and blogs, there are also many that contain incorrect information. Following the wrong advice will get you nowhere fast, and it may end up ruining your chances of finding an agent.

Janet Reid, literary agent with FinePrint Literary Management, addresses this very issue in a blog post here. I would certainly recommend that you read it.

Information and advice is only as good as the source. As Janet Reid says, “Listen to the advice of people who do the actual reading and deciding about your query before you listen to anyone else.” (link)

You have been warned.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Contest, Links, and How Do You Get Your Manuscript on Paper?

I do believe spring is in the air!

It is just enough of a taste to tantalize our senses with what is coming. I am sure there will be more snow before the days truly begin to warm, but wow, it is a nice day. Nice here being an understatement. My window is open right now, and I can smell the scent of pine in the air. The sun is bright the skies are blue…. It is definitely enough to make me want to go out there.

Now.

Okay, maybe not now. I do need to finish this post after all.

I have noticed that writers use a variety of different methods to get their manuscripts on paper. Some just open up a blank Word document and launch right in. Some make detailed outlines before they will type a single word of the story. Some keep journals and/or notebooks filled with information and full scenes. Some start at page one and write chronologically. Some write random scenes throughout the book and eventually go back and tie everything together.

For myself, I use a combination of methods. I usually have one journal that I use for notes, and I will frequently make a rough outline of the story plot. I have a tendency to write the story more chronologically, but if a scene pops into my head, I will either jot it down in my journal or type it into my computer. When I am ready for that scene, I will incorporate it with the rest of the story.

So my question today is – What works for you? Do you tend to gravitate toward a specific method?

Before I wrap up this post, I have a few links to share and contest to tell you about.

Kristen Lamb has a great post up entitled, “10 Ways to Improve Your ‘Likability Quotient.’” Nathan Bransford is having a discussion about favorite film adaptations, and Meredith Barnes just posted about how “Books are realer than life.” Also, don’t forget the live chat with WriteOnCon on Monday.

And now….the contest! 

Julia King is having a fun contest on her blog ‘Writing Jewels.’ If you love books and have a bookshelf, you can enter! Be sure to check it out here.

So what’s happening with everyone this week?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Music and Writing, WriteOnCon Live Event

Hey y’all!

As you know, I am passionate about writing.

Obviously.

Well, I am also passionate about music (as you could probably tell if you have read the info about me contained under “The Writer” tab).

Music has been a huge player in my life for as long as I can remember. My parents have videos of me singing and swaying to music when I was two and three years old. That love of music has continued, and it delves into almost every aspect of my life, including my writing.

Anytime I sit down to do revisions or work on a new novel, I turn on my music. Sometimes I listen to movie soundtracks while I work, but for the most part, I listen to music with vocals. I am pretty eclectic, so my playlist includes everything from pop/rock to country to hard rock and even some symphonic metal.

There are certain songs that resonate with particular scenes I am writing or even with the novel as a whole. Often, I will compile playlists filled with songs that have some sort of tie to what I am writing at the time. But basically, as long as I have some sort of music playing, the words flow more smoothly and I can concentrate better.

Jami Gold wrote an interesting post on this very topic not long ago. If you have time, I would recommend you check it out.

So how do the rest of you feel about music and writing? Do you listen to music while writing? Does music inspire you? Or does it distract more than aid you?

Just as a heads up, WriteOnCon will be hosting a live event on Monday, February 28th at 9pm EST at their website.

Literary Agent Suzie Townsend with Fine Print Literary and Editor Maria Gomez with Harper Collins Childrens will be featured in the event. So mark your calendars and come armed with publishing questions. It should be a great chat. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Beginning and the End - What about the stuff in between?

A lot of writers focus their energy on the beginning of their novels – the first chapter, the first page, the first line. There are no words to describe just how important the beginning is. In that first line, in that first chapter, you must hook your reader. For some people, the decision of whether or not to read a novel hinges on their first impression of the beginning.

Probably the next section of the novel to receive the most attention is the end. The end can be many things – the culmination, the climax, the build up, the wind down, the explanation. It is the final place to bring the whole story together or to set up for a sequel. Just as some readers base their impressions upon the beginning, so do others base their impressions upon the end. I have met numerous individuals who will read the end then decide whether they want to read the rest of the book.

With so much attention placed upon the beginning and the end – what about all the stuff in between?

Writing a novel is more than just a stellar beginning and an ending that leaves you begging for more. Writing a novel is about the whole. It is very true that you must grab your reader from the first line, but you also have to hold your reader’s interest throughout the book.

I have read postings by several agents saying things such as the following:

Lately I've noticed that the first 1-30 pages are AMAZING and then the story falls apart. I have a feeling this is a result of so many contests out there for opening page critiques. I'm so not against that (obviously), but if you receive constructive feedback and choose to apply it to your manuscript, you must apply it to the entire manuscript. Just the opening pages are not enough.” (Kathleen Ortiz, Literary Agent with Lowenstein Associates - link to the quote here)

Do a little test with your manuscript. After you are certain that the first and last lines (pages, chapters…) are perfect, take a look at the rest of the novel. Randomly go to different sections and ask yourself some questions:

Is the story plot still strong? Does it drag? Is there too much backstory? Is there action to move the story along? Are there any twists to keep the reader’s attention? Is the dialogue captivating and natural?

Give the same attention to the rest of your novel as you do to the beginning and end. Make sure that your entire novel is as enticing as your first and last sentence.

In book/publishing news:

Borders has filed for Chapter 11, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, approximately 30 percent of their bookstores will be closing. Find a full list of which stores will be closing here.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think this is very sad. Borders is a great bookstore, and I have always loved going there to browse and shop. I found out that one of the stores that will be closing is the one in my area. Very sad indeed….

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day, The Grass is Greener

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

The evening thus far has involved Italian food. Yum.

Now I am getting ready to do…..

Revisions!

Awesome revisions. They are so brilliant. They are so fun. And I am not being sarcastic at all.

Really.

No really.

I ♥ revisions.

*grin*

Truly though, if it makes the novel better, do it. 

Do it. Do it. Do it!

Hopefully, I will have most of the Novel A revisions finished this week. YAY! Then I will be focusing on the sequels, particularly Novel B2.

Before I skip off to Revision Land, I will leave you with a link. There is a good post on the Query Tracker blog entitled “The Grass is Always Greener.” Check it out.

Have a great rest of the day! ♥

Friday, February 11, 2011

Writing Hint #7 - Writing the Query Letter

Hey Everyone! 

It's Friday, so here is the next installment of Writing Hints....

Writing Hint #7 (Query Hint #4)

Now that you have a list of agents who represent what you write and you have researched the submission guidelines for each agent, you are ready to go…right?

Wrong.

You are missing one very important detail: the almighty query letter. Before you start growling and booing and hissing you need to realize one thing – the query is not some mysterious document that you can have no hope of mastering. Agents, authors, writers, etc., have written numerous helpful articles and postings about how to write a winning query letter. All you need to do is a bit of research. Obviously you will need to tailor each individual query to reflect an agent’s preferences, but the basic format is really not that difficult.

Do not downplay the importance of a query. The query is your one opportunity to introduce both yourself and your novel (with the focus being on your novel). It is the one opportunity to make a good impression and stand out from the hundreds of other queries filling an agent's inbox. So make it good. 

I like how Nathan Bransford describes it:

“A query letter is part business letter, part creative writing exercise, part introduction, part death defying leap through a flaming hoop.” (link)

The following websites are just a few that will get you going on your query letter:

Agent Query by agentquery.com
Formatting an E-Query by Casey McCormick
What are some email query DOs and DON’Ts? by Kristin Nelson, Literary Agent
How do I write an attention-getting query letter? by Kristin Nelson, Literary Agent
Query Shark by Janet Reid, Literary Agent
Queries: The Hook by Vickie Motter, Literary Agent
Writing A Query Letter by Elana Johnson
Queries by the agents at Books & Such Literary Agency

This is only the very tip of the information out there. There are literally tons of sources for producing a great query letter. Do yourself and your novel the favor of putting some real effort into it.

Do you have any other helpful query sites? If you do, post them in the comments section below.

I hope everyone has a brilliant end of the week! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Submissions and Helpful Blogs/Posts

Hey, y’all!

Sorry for my negligence in posting on Monday. I actually succumbed to a pretty nasty cold and have been a bit out of the loop. I thought about trying to post, but rather than risk inane, fever-induced babblings, I decided that silence might be the best course. *grin*

So, now that I am thinking a bit more clearly, I feel ready to tackle a new post!

On the writing front:

The submission process for Novel B is going quite well, and I am pleased with the progress. Novel A is getting a few minor revisions and, once I am finished, I will be putting it back out on submission. Hopefully the revisions will not take more than a week or two.

In other news:

Nathan Bransford is conducting a very interesting poll on his blog regarding the e-book trend. You can find his post here. What are your own thoughts concerning the rise of the e-book? Do you own an e-reader? What do you think of traditional print books versus e-books?

The Book Talk blog has a new helpful post up – “Writing Tip: Describing with Verbs,” and literary agent Kristin Nelson posted a few “Quick & Easy Answers” on her blog Pub Rants (Short for ‘Publishing Rants’). Topics include selling a novel to publishers and film rights.

Finally, if you are beginning the submission process, be sure to check out the following websites:  Writer Beware, Preditors & Editors, and SFWA’s Thumbs Down Agency List. These sites were formed with the express purpose of protecting writers, and I would encourage you to make use of them.

I hope everyone is having a great day!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Writing Hint #6

Happy Friday Everyone!

We are above freezing! The temperature right now is officially 34˚. It is amazing how different 34˚ feels as opposed to -7˚ or… -14˚. Needless to say, I am enjoying these balmy temps.

Now, it is time for…….Writing Hints!!

Writing Hint #6 (Query Hint #3)

Your manuscript is complete and revised, you know the exact placement of your manuscript within the market (i.e., genre, targeted age-group, etc.), and you have compiled a listing of agents who represent what you write. Now what?

The next thing you need to do is research the submission guidelines of each agent that you wish to query. Does the agent want just a query letter? Does the agent want a query letter along with some sample pages? What about a synopsis?

Be sure to follow the submission guidelines exactly. Not doing so could instantly diminish your chances of gaining representation with that agent. If you cannot follow simple directions regarding submission policies, well….*sigh*….

This is your one chance to make a good impression – be professional and follow the guidelines. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Negative Temps are Just Plain Cold and New Novel Progress

Hi, y’all!

Well it’s a beautiful, clear, sunny, -100 degree day. Okay, it’s not really -100, but it was -14 degrees last night. The point being...it is frigid! It seems like a large chunk of the country is frozen and snow-packed right now.

However, despite the chill air, I ventured out this morning, and it was gorgeous. Every limb on every tree and every twig on every bush looked like it had been brushed with crystals. The skies were bright blue and the sun made each and every speck of snow look like a million diamonds. I can put up with the negative temperatures for a short time each year in exchange for the views. Besides, the cold gives you an excuse to grab fuzzy blankets, drink cups of steaming yumminess, and camp out in front of the fire. And, in my case, write.

Now that Novel B has officially been revised to death and broken down into Post-it notes and the submission process is well underway, I have my mind turned to other projects. I have already written several promising scenes for Wannabe Novel C, and I have written the opening scenes (and outlined a bunch of the plot) for Novel B’s sequel (Novel B2). I wonder how much I can get done this week….

Be sure to check out this post on the Guide to Literary Agents blog by agent Jon Sternfeld regarding some writing “Don’ts.” 

So, what is happening with everyone? How are you dealing with the cold and the snow?