Why Keep Going?

I’m sure that some of you authors-in-training are out there asking yourself this question and it is a legitimate one; especially if you have been chiseling away at your craft, learning the business, reading in your genre, watching Twitter posts and participating in a myriad of workshops, pitch wars and all that is the writing life. And after saying all of this I say, yes, keep going. Why? Well for one I am and here are the reasons.

Because all that information you have been gathering is going to culminate into your ‘ah ha’ moment and then it will all come together. I say that because that is what is beginning to happen to me after plugging away for years. You begin to see a pattern forming. You start to make connections between things. You notice a trend and then you say ‘Oh, so that’s what they meant.’

Now I am going to tell you something that everyone has told you: accept rejection and keep moving. I wrote an earlier post Why I Love My Rejection Letter that may help you get over the sting. At this point I take them in stride and look forward to getting them so that I can take that agent off my Excel spreadsheet and add another one. If you get feedback which unfortunately is rare, cherish that. I save those and try to apply what little morsels they dole out. I always try to thank those agents/editors in particular for taking the time to do that since they are very busy people.

But a pubbed writer and critique partner gave me the best advice: READ, READ, READ. Since I have a full time job and other responsibilites reading is very hard to fit into my schedule so I go to the Overdrive app for my local library and am reading a lot more. Believe me when I say it makes a H-U-G-E difference because you start to notice trends in structure, language and content that you can use in your own work.

Make your book the best you can make it before you send. At first I had issues with that but have learned I really have to take it as far as I can even if I end up being asked to revise it several more times. Be willing to do that work for the sake of the work and the reader. If you value what you do you won’t have any issues with revisions. It’s a win for all involved so be grateful for the suggestions and apply them.

I also suggest you not allow yourself to get discouraged until you have sent out at least 80 queries (and yes there are 80 agents/editors out there for your genre). It’s almost like job hunting – its a numbers game. I use the CWIM and also make sure I check the agency/publisher website in case something has changed. In the latest version Chuck has included some examples of first pages that several different agents critiqued and they all had differing reactions to the books. That was a big eye opener as to how subjective it is; all agents won’t view your book the same way and that is a good thing. It gives you hope that maybe there is one out there that will love it.

I try to research the agent to find out something about them personally and what they tweet, blog about so that I can get to know them before I submit. If I don’t find much I just approach them with the same respect and courtesy I would any new person I meet in business.

If you participate in online pitch wars make sure you work on the pitch in advance and use the most descriptive words you can; don’t be vague – you only get one shot at it (well maybe two in the 8 hr period but you know what I mean). It’s nice to get agent likes and that feels good so consider that a win as well even if you don’t get repped.

Well, I’ve got a conference to attend shortly so hope this advice helped and happy writing!

1st or 3rd?

Lately I’ve been contemplating POVs. Should I write the protag in 1st and stay in his perspective or should I write him in 3rd and allow the reader to see inside a few other heads from chapter to chapter? Most of the books I’ve read caution against head jumping and I get that. It’s jarring to me too; that’s why if I do it I change chapters — if I don’t catch it within scenes, then oops — but I am aware of the rule.

In my current manuscript, the protag makes a life-altering discovery that only he can overcome, so 1st would be great to show his reactions/emotions and his mindset. However, after we get over all that, we still do not know how others feel about it since this discovery also affects their view of him — or their guilt — depending on the character. Therefore, I have been forced to really think hard about how to bring out their emotions without always relying on dialogue. It’s tough. I am used to writing in 3rd so this was never an issue. I had always reserved 1st and even second for my self-help books, but writing a novel in 1st is proving to be quite challenging.

Another difficulty I find in 1st is the past tense. Sometimes I catch myself writing in present when I don’t want to do so. I say ‘don’t’ when I need to say ‘didn’t’. 😦 Thank goodness for editors. 

Then there’s the suspension of disbelief: how can a person tell you a story that happened in the past when he already knows the outcome? Writing so that the reader doesn’t pay any attention is also an art. 

Fortunately for me I have lots of example books I can read to get a feel for it. Some of my fav authors — Gary Schmidt, Jackie Woodson, and even James Patterson (Middle School) are useful to read and re-read to jar the old noggin and get some ideas flowing. 

If you have any thoughts please on this post a reply.

Keep writing!



How Far We’ve Come

Do you remember the day you discovered the Internet? I do. I was working for a graphic designer and he had a computer. A computer I had access to use. In those days, you had to load 10-20 square disks to install a program, such as Ami Pro, WordPerfect, or Quickbooks. Now it all happens with the click of a link. I remember only a few (counting on one hand) websites back then: AOL, CompuServe and NetNoir. These were places I frequented to ‘meet’ people online. That excitement led me to change careers from TV news reporting to web producing.

But I don’t want to talk about technology as much as I want to wax rhapsodic about the world technology has literally expanded for us, both good and bad. True there is a lot of junk online. No I take that back — a lot of disgusting, filth and trash. But for those of us who avoid that kind of thing, the Internet has been a time-saver, an educator and an accelerator.

As a time-saver, the Internet allows me to find things I need to buy or investigate. I don’t have to go to the actual store and browse. Granted I still like to window shop and the Internet cannot really help me touch the clothes or smell the fruit. And even though it can save me time in my search  for books at the library (I can search Dekalb County locations and reserve my books) I still go to the actual LIBRARY to borrow them.

As an educator, the Internet has exposed me to resources I need in order to understand my field better — be it project management or writing. I can find lots of blogs and other sites hosted by folks like myself who share vital information.

And finally as an accelerator, the Internet brings me in touch with the organizations I want to join in order to meet the people I want to know and a very short period of time. I find it amazing that if I did not have this resource, I would never have met my book illustrator in Duluth, Minnesota or my critique partner in New Brunswick, Canada, or my book cover designer in India. In addition, I wouldn’t have become aware of organizations like the Society for Children s Book Writers and Illustrators or the Georgia Writers Association, and everybody they know. So I guess I’m saying that the Internet has been a wealth of useful information in my life these past 20 years and I am grateful to have the help, and to see how far we’ve come.

Lessons and Lessons and Lessons Oh My!

I am SO behind in updating this blog about my PB lessons! We are already on #8 and we are being kept SO busy! So in a nutshell here’s the skinny:

#3 – We had to choose a setting (I already had mine)

#4 – We focused on word count. HARD. My book is w-a-y too long. 😦

#5 – Learned there were all types of PB approaches:

  • Classic
  • Circular
  • Cumulative
  • Familiar Sequence
  • Flip-Flop
  • Parallel
  • Question & Answer
  • Timeline

(I will explain these later)

#6 – We had to come up with 3 different beginnings for our books. I changed my twice.

#7 – We were encouraged to write 3 endings for our picture book. I love my new ending!

We have a lesson everyday and I can only write so much!!! Cya