Back To The Novel Front

Standard

It’s been a loooooong time since the subject of my novel has come up here, in my head, or anywhere else. Some think I’ve given it up or just don’t care anymore, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s always been lingering in the background waiting for me to come back to it.

Here’s where things get brutally honest. There were a number of reasons why I had to shelve my passion project. Most of them revolved around having no choice but to reorganize priorities. I’ve heard writers are supposed to have tunnel vision when writing and pushing for publication, but I refused to keep the blinders on when it came to being there for those I care about when they needed me the most. That meant redirecting my muse towards shorter writing projects so I could be at hospital beds, visit with friends who had limited time in this world, and provide extra care to aging furkids.

There was also the little thing of having to take care of myself. I needed to take a step back in a number areas of my life, so I could evaluate and adjust to so many changes that have taken place in the last three years. It’s been overwhelming to say the least and I’m not sorry for taking the time I needed. Slowly but surely, I’m coming back to things that have gathered dust during my absence.

Last week, my novel muse is started to whir back to life. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I opened the file for The Muse. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about after so much time …

Would I still like it?

Does it still read like a finished novel?

What about the Chapter 1 rewrite – does it still work?

With all those questions rolling around in my head, I read through the most recent draft. I still love it. Minutes later, I opened my Query Tracker spreadsheet and updated all the information I had for agents on my list (a lot has changed since my last round of query packages!). While it sucked to add a few more rejections to the list, it was energizing to select the next batch of agents that will be receiving query packages.

Now, here’s where things get fun. It turns out my muse had another surprise in store for me. My characters started talking to me again (I swear I’m not crazy!). The sequel for The Muse has been locked away for a while, but I opened up the file again and pulled my Novel Notebook from the shelf. I outlined two major sections of the plot and found I need to conjure up two new characters, and add depth to one that already exists. How cool is that?? It looks like this summer will be full of creativity and more world building!

Like so many other things in my life I’m sure the process will be slow, but it’s nice to be back on the novel front.

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

2015 Goals: August Status Report

Standard

1. Work towards getting The Muse published.

All rewrites and adjustments are officially finished! The Muse has a new beginning and all plot holes in the epilogue have been plugged. Yes, I did quite the little happy dance!

The process took much longer than I would have liked, but cutting an entire chapter was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Ultimately, I know I made the right decision and I don’t regret taking my time to get it right.

Armed with my reconfigured novel, I’m looking to start the query process once again. I pulled up my query letter tracker (i.e. spreadsheet) and updated it with possible targets. Let the games begin!

2. Start writing Lineage.

While plugging plot holes in The Muse, I added to my notes for Lineage. This month was all about world-building. Lineage will take my characters to a place that exists somewhere between myth and reality, (more so than already established in The Muse).

I’ve been doing some really fun research to determine what this pseudo-reality might look like (the colors and textures of Kartchner Caverns and Mammoth Cave are tickling my muse right now!), while also figuring out the characters who live there. Ever heard of a rogue muse? Well, you will! Stay tuned!

3. Submit poetry.

It was a good month for poetry! Partial results for the 2015 April Poem A Day Challenge (via Poetic Asides on Writer’s Digest) have been posted and I was thrilled to see my name listed in the Top 10 for Days 6 and 11. Considering the sheer number of entries (upwards of 900 to 1000 each day), I am both humbled and amazed to be included among the finalists. Results are still coming, so stay tuned!

Once again, I participated in the Poetic Asides community via Writer’s Digest. As always, I find the prompts challenging and the community inspiring.

I also completed another month of National Haiku Writing Month’s daily prompts via NaHaiWriMo’s Facebook Page. August prompts all started with the letter T and they were so much fun! I completed the month with at least one haiku a day.

4. Don’t give up or get distracted.

Despite the start of a new school year, (the busiest time of the year for teachers!), I managed to keep my muse focused on writing when I wasn’t at work. No matter how tired I am, the day isn’t over until I’ve written something!

5. Be flexible.

To close out August I decided to experiment with the haiku form, yet again. While I love the three line format in both traditional and contemporary haiku, I am intrigued by the single line format. It’s tricky and requires precise word choice. The examples I’ve seen are either amazing or weirdly abstract, which has left me leery of trying it out for myself.  Well, I finally jumped in and started playing with single line poetry. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m loving the challenge.

– – –

And let’s not forget the word of the year:

Persistence

– – –

How are you doing with your 2015 goals?

– – –

c.b.w. 2015

Love-Hate Challenge: Part II

Standard

My Love List of books, (see Love-Hate Challenge: Part I), was easy to make because I love so many books. The Not A Fan List however, is much more difficult. While I read a wide range of books, I also know myself well enough to avoid books I know aren’t for me (like computer coding or anything where a dog dies). That means there aren’t too many books that end up on the yuck pile!

I had to work pretty hard at this list and I honestly mean no disrespect to those who do like the books on my list. This is all just my humble opinion.

Not A Fan Book List

1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

I’ve ranted about this book before, (See Favorite Thing Friday: Last Books). Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Roth is an incredible writer – I loved Divergent and Insurgent – but Allegiant made me so angry. I can’t remember the last time an ending killed the entire series for me. As a reader, I felt betrayed and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

2. Harlequin Romance

I want to clarify that I’m not totally against romance. I actually read a lot of romance novels, just not Harlequin. Why? They are all the same! If you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. I like a little originality in my mindless escape reading!

3. Books where chapters shift between different points of view or series that start in one point of view and switch to a different point of view in the last book

My post, One YA Reader’s Desperate Plea outlines a rather lengthy rant on this particular point. I really, really hate it when writers shift the point of view in a series. And I won’t even pick up a book if the point of view shifts constantly from chapter to chapter. Grrrr . . . it just bothers me!

4. Books I haven’t finished: The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeirer and The Idiot by Fyodor Dosteovtsky

I’ve read almost 200 books over the last few years. These are the only two with a bookmark still stuck in the middle. The Illumination wasn’t half bad, but I got bored and couldn’t bring myself to finish it. I still intend on finishing The Idiot, but I have also realized that I am not a huge fan of Dosteovtsky. He’s a little too depressing for my taste.

5. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I was forced to read this book in high school and that might be part of the reason why I do not like it. Even though I’ve always loved to read, I’ve also always hated being told what to read and then subsequently forced to read it on someone else’s set schedule. Aside from that, I could not relate to the characters and I found the story quite disturbing. It’s just not my thing.

6. Series that go too long

There are a number of series that fall into this category, but the only one I fell into and then out of was the Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore. I read I Am Number Four, The Power of Six, and The Rise of Nine thinking it would just be a trilogy. The story however just keeps dragging on. The sixth book comes out later this year . . . This series should have ended a long time ago!

7. Most Works of Emily Dickinson

It took me two years to read Dickinson’s complete works. I have a lot of respect for Dickinson’s talent, but I don’t really like her poetry (with exception to her works regarding nature).

8. Most Works of Charles Dickens

With exception to A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities, I am not a fan of Charles Dickens. I made attempts to read all of his works (which is how I came upon the two exceptions), but could never get past the first 100 pages. I think he’s a talented writer and I understand why he is so adored, but I think it’s the Dosteovtsky issue all over again for me. Dickens is quite grim!

9. Books by Dan Brown before the Da Vinci Code

After I read the Da Vinci Code, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on all of Dan Brown’s previous books. After attempting to read the first 100 pages of each, I realized there was a reason why he didn’t hit it big until the Da Vinci Code. His previous thrillers weren’t that thrilling.

10. The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff (later redeemed by Rosoff’s What I Was).

The Bride’s Farewell was a thin book but it took me forever to read because it was such a slow moving story – almost glacial. I’d only get through a couple of pages before I started to nod off in total boredom. To this day, I’m not sure what the point of it was supposed to be. However, I liked the writer’s overall style, so I gave her another shot with What I Was, (which was incredible).

Nominees

I picked these nominees because I think they’ll all approach this challenge with an interesting perspective. I’m hoping they’ll create lists that are unique to their personalities and writing genres.

The rules of the Love-Hate Challenge are simple:

  • Make a list of 10 things you love
  • Make a list of 10 things you hate
  • Nominate 10 bloggers

Rita Ackerman

Suzanne Brent

TBN Ranch

The Everyday Epic

Heart to Harp

Windy Words

Metaphors & Smiles

Random Acts of Writing [+art]

Michele Venne

YA Chit Chat

 

Yes, It Takes A Long Time

Standard

There are questions every writer hears at one time or another: What’s going on with your novel? Why isn’t it published, yet? What is taking so long?! If I had a book for every time someone asked me these questions, I’d have enough to fill a library.

It’s easy to feel demoralized, but I keep reminding myself the people asking me these questions are not writers. They have no idea how long it takes to get from First Draft to Final Draft. Nor do they have any concept of how tough it is to break into the publishing industry. All they know is new books show up on amazon and bookstore shelves every week. What looks like a speedy process on the outside has actually taken years of hard work.

Aside from non-writers, my inner critic gets in on the game, too. She loves to point out that my novel still hasn’t found it’s way to print. It’s been three years – What the heck have you been doing all this time! Grrrrrr! This is one of the many frustrations I soothe with chocolate and lattes. In this instance, I have to remind myself of what I already know. Writing is a long process. Publishing is an even longer process.

To put things in perspective, the timeline for The Muse offers considerable insight into how long it takes to write a novel (when one holds down a full time job and writes on the side) and get it in publishable shape.

April 15, 2010 – The Muse shows up in my hard drive as a Work in Progress

September 26, 2012 – First draft complete.

September 27, 2012 – Revisions for Draft 2 begin.

March 28, 2013 – Draft 2 revisions complete.

August 4, 2013 – Draft 3 revisions complete.

August 2013 – March 2014 – Query packages sent and subsequent rejections received.

June 2014 – I hire an editor and send The Muse off to get gutted!

July 2014 – The Muse comes back fully edited and polished. It’s gorgeous, but needs a little more work.

August 2014 – Final edits begin based on editor’s notes.

October 2014 – Query letter rewritten. Researching agents and compiling a list of those who might be interested.

And the process continues! Here I am in November still working on those final edits. On the bright side, I’m down to the last item on my list of things to fix. Within the next month, I’m hoping to send out my new query package to the list of agents I’ve compiled since October.

It’s been long process, but I truly believe the end result will be worth the wait. Hopefully, my readers will feel the same way.

– – –

c.b.w. 2014

Query Letter Madness

Standard

While I’m in the midst of reading the commented version of my edited manuscript (more on that later – what an eye opener!), I’m busy putting the finishing touches on my new and improved query letter.

The inspiration to write a new query letter was the result of going through the process of hiring an editor. I figured my manuscript was getting a make-over, so it made sense for my query letter to go through a similar transformation. After all, my previous manuscript and query letter were rejected six times. I know that is a very small number of rejections, but deep down I knew I could do better on both fronts.

At the same time, the fact that I got any sort of response from six agents told me I had something worth pursuing. Even though they rejected my work, they took the time to give me a written response (most agents don’t bother with queries they aren’t interested in representing). One agent even went as far as to encourage me to keep searching for the right agent for my work. It was that response that made me realize I am not chasing a lost cause.

Despite getting those responses, I understood I had to take things a step further. That’s when it dawned on me: If I could get multiple responses with a fourth draft manuscript that was never touched by an editor, imagine what could happen with an edited manuscript and a better query letter.

After reading so much about query letter formats, do’s and don’t’s, and countless articles on the subject, my head was stuffed with information. Too much information. Every time I sat down to write a new query draft, I went into panic mode from worrying too much about writing the so-called perfect query letter. The result was a stiff, hesitant query letter. Who wants to read that??

I decided the best way to escape the panic was to sit down with the same ease I had when writing my novel. I didn’t care about whether I was doing it right or if everything fit into some prescribed format. The story mattered to me and nothing else. So, that’s the attitude I decided to take on when writing my query letter. I let go of all that stuff that was making me nervous and just started writing.

The letter I now have is decidedly different from any other draft. The stiffness is gone and the personality my writing style is much more vivid.  A strong voice is key in selling any novel, so it makes sense for my query letter to match my novel on that level. In addition, I think I’ve laid the story out with more clarity. In the past, beta readers have told me the summary didn’t tell the complete story. Now that I’ve identified the holes, I think I’ve got the leaks plugged!

The only problem I’m struggling with is length. A standard query letter is usually around 250 words, but my current query is 325, (and will potentially go up to 340 when I add personalized details for each prospective agent). I’m tempted to go in and start slashing words, but I’m also trying to remember that I purposely let go of the rules. Perhaps, its time to go with my gut and see what happens.

– – –

c.b.w. 2014