Saturday, December 11, 2010


I've been working on revisions of my first novel, a romantic suspense, requested by an editor of a small press. I've got no problem with the revisions requested; in fact, I was excited to make the changes, as I wholeheartedly agreed with them. I'm finished with the revisions and have turned them in, and I should know by Dec 20th whether or not I have myself a contract.

But I wanted to share this experience with everyone: My voice changed! It had been a while since I even opened this manuscript to look at it. Since then, I've been working on my new YA paranormal (no fangs, claws, or wings, thankyouverymuch!) and I'm writing it in present tense teen-voice. So when I went back to make the revisions on my adult romance (where the main character is a doctor) I felt like a stranger in this world I'd created. Seriously, I felt it would be easier to cram into my nine-year-old's tights than re-create the original voice of the manuscript.

Plus, I kept writing it in present tense, no matter how many glasses of wine I drank. In the end, it took me and my critique partner combing through the manuscript as if looking for present-tense lice. When we both agreed it was good, I submitted it.

Is it good enough? I don't know. Am I nervous? You bet your sweet aspercreme I am! Still, we all know that writing is re-writing. Revisions are to be expected. And I'm thankful to have added "Revision Request" to my writing experience, even if I'm not offered a contract.

My question to you: Have you ever disagreed with a revision request and why?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Basic Editing

Here are a few basic tips I follow when editing. Feel free to add in your own.

1.) Does your character do something too much? Giggle? Blush? Belch? Brush her hair aside? A character only has to do these things a few times for the reader to understand it's part of the character's personality. Brutally cut the rest.

2.) Don't be redundant with dialogue tags. It is not necessary to write, "But why can't I go?" she asked. It is not necessary to write, "She's always gets her way!" he shouted. And a conversation between two people needs very few dialogue tags at all. Don't burden your dialogue (and word count) with he said/she said. Make your tags count.

4.) Be refreshing. Use the search mechanism on your document and find words you use too much. Then visit your friendly neighborhood thesaurus to get rid of boring/over-used words.

5.) Be methodical. Read your manuscript over for typos only. Then read it over for numbers 1-4 only. Then read it over for voice/craft only. Isolating one problem at a time will help you make sure you didn't miss anything.

6.) Above all else: First draft work is zoo dirt. Don't send an agent/editor zoo dirt.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How Far is Too Far?

This past week I've been sick with the flu. Right now, my body feels like it wants to hibernate. If I weren't a writer, I would let it. But my story won't leave me alone. So I sit at the computer pumped up with flu medicine, tissues to the left, water to the right, cold-air vaporizer in the corner. For the past week, I woke up early every. Single. Morning. To write. In my sweatpants and socks, tissues crammed into my nostrils. Instead of sleeping in, instead of taking an extra long steamy shower to break up the phlegm. Instead of eating a good breakfast. Is this insane?

So, my question is: What is the craziest thing you've done in order to write? Post anonymously if you have to. Just tell me I'm not insane.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Because I expect to be published one day, and because many of my friends seem to be signing contracts these days, I've been giving thought to my public image. Sure, I'll never get the chance to press charges against the paparazzi. I'll never have to wear a wig and big weird sunglasses to avoid a potential fan mob. But eventually, you will be able to Google my name and come up with a picture of me. And the more I think about it, the more I want that picture to be professionally done.

We hear talk about how author websites need to appear professional, efficient, and informative. So then, your author pic next to your bio shouldn't be of you in hair curlers, or you sliding down a suspicious looking pole. Probably you don't want the camera-phone picture your best friend took of you with that big glob of ketchup on your chin.

Does a good picture have to be expensive? Nope. Should you hire a professional photographer? Probably. You want to put your best face forward (and if you're a woman, you know you have variety of faces) so you don't want to leave that public image up to chance, flash, thumbs, zits, or lighting that makes you look recently resurrected. Sure, you don't want to spend a fortune, but you don't necessarily have to. Maybe you could exchange advertising favors. Maybe you could negotiate the price, or get a discount for referrals.

Bottom line though, I plan to use a professional. What about you?

Monday, October 11, 2010


I think it's safe to say I won't be making the RWA Golden Heart deadline this year. I've got 36k words of a 65k word manuscript, and while I'd love to hurry up and register my place in the contest, there's this itty-bitty section that makes you promise the manuscript is complete. I. JUST. CAN'T. DO IT.

So here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna say that I have faith in my current WIP. That after it's spanked by my critique partners, after it's trimmed by the shaking scissors of self-editing, after it's shining so brightly I can use it to find my way to the bathroom at night: I have faith it will earn me an agent. Who will then win over a publishing editor. Who will offer me enough money that I can buy myself a flashlight instead of re-breaking the same toe on the corner of the door while I shuffle my way to the 2 am meeting.

So my question to you is: Have you or anyone you know ever landed an agent/publishing contract from entering a contest? And how often do you participate in writing contests, and what are your likes and dislikes about them? (No need to name specific ones, generalizing will do).

Saturday, September 11, 2010


What gets you in the mood to write? For me personally, it's music. I've always been a fan of movie soundtracks. Maybe that's because the key points in movies are always accompanied by music to enhance the impression made on the audience. "What a Feeling" from Flashdance, "Take My Breath Away" from Top Gun, "Must Have Been Love" from Pretty Woman, "I Will Always Love You" from the Body Guard, "Eye of the Tiger" from Rocky, and so on.

When I'm prepping to write a particular scene, I listen to music beforehand. If I'm writing a fight scene, I'll select something with a fast pace, and it will probably be hard rock or some hateful rap (edited, though). Something that makes me want to scrap. If I'm writing a first-kiss scene, I usually go for 80's love songs, because they tend to be sweeter, and they build to a climax, like a first-kiss. And if my character is overwhelmed by loss, well, then, there are plenty of depressing songs out there for that.

But what gets you in the mood? Meditation? Reading other works in your genre? Exercise?

Monday, September 6, 2010


Okay, so not as many words this week as last week. I only churned out 6k words, so I'm at a total of about 23k words. What I'm finding is that I'm more meticulous in word selection now. And being meticulous is time-consuming. While my word-count goal is still important, I don't want to rush this story. This story needs to be told, but it needs to be told right.

A few of you mentioned that I don't have to submit it the very first day the contest opens. While I want to get as close to that date as possible, all of it would be a waste if I turned in a rushed manuscript. It would be like baking a cake but forgetting a key ingredient. It looks delicious, the icing is pretty, but when you dig in...something is missing.

I don't want the judges to spit my manuscript in their napkins. So, meticulous it is. Is this the right decision?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Progress Report

I promised to give weekly updates on my WIP, as I've set a break-neck word count goal in order to whip my WIP in shape for the RWA Golden Heart Contest. The result? Since my last post, I added 10k words to my manuscript, for a total of about 14.5k words. While it falls short of my goal of 2166 words a day, you must take into consideration that Mockingjay came out Tuesday. 'Nuff said.

I will say that the more I write, the more I enjoy my story, and well, the more I write. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some dialogue that's screaming to be written!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Countdown: A Procrastinator's Motivation

Well, I've set an idiotic goal for myself. And now I'm telling people about the goal, so there's no backing out. I've decided I want to enter my YA romance in the RWA Golden Heart Contest this year. Thing is, I only have about 5K words into it right now, at 6:53 am on August 21st. And entries open in exactly one month.

I've entered the figures on my dollar-store calculator: 2,166.66 words a day for the next 30 days.

Here are the Cons: I work full time. I have a family. I will probably need to eat and sleep at some point. We're also moving in the next month. The finished product will not have a whole lot of time for editing before I enter it.

Here are the Pros: I've cleared it with my boss to use my work computer at lunch to write. I already know how my story is going to go. I have the most awesome critique partner on the planet who said, "Go for it, and send me chapters as you finish them and I will edit/critique and get them back to you quickly." My husband has agreed to give me as much writing time as humanly possible.

So, can this be done? Any tips on how to do it?

I will post weekly to update work count progress.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Outlines and Stilettos

I know writers who plot every twist and turn in their story. Who can write from a synopsis. I admire this kind of writer. I am not this kind of writer. Which surprises me. Every other aspect of my life is done by schedule. I pre-plan what I will eat for the week, when I will workout. I pre-plan my savings to accommodate big purchases. If I have a problem, I devise a plan to fix it, then follow said plan. I am an itinerary kind of person.

Except when I write. To me, outlines are like stilettos. They look nice, but aren't meant for long-distance travel. Like chapter two. Or up a flight of stairs. Or three stairs.

The point is, I can only plot so much before it feels wrong, like when you accidentally get in the shower with your bra on. Something just doesn't feel right. Like I'm being stifled during the one time I get to be really free.

So, um, what about you? To plot or not to plot? Stilettos or flip flops?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Write What Sells or From Your Heart?

As I finish the final edits of one project, I'm starting to mull over ideas for my next. But I'm faced with a fork in the road, and it's almost an impossible decision. When I began my first project, I wasn't worried about if it would sell, because quite frankly, I never dreamed I'd try to get it published. But now I want to. If not this, then my next. Or my next. Also, the one after that. You get the idea. But here's the thing: I'm not sure what to write. I know YA is hot right now, and I have a pretty good idea for a YA paranormal romance that DOESN'T involve vampires, werewolves, or ghosts. But then there's this OTHER idea I have for a high-concept women's fiction, one that would be so fun to write I wonder why someone hasn't done it yet. But I shy away from this one, because YA is hot like Mexico (thanks, Lady Gaga) and quirky women's fiction is hot like...well, Tennessee, for instance. Sometimes it's hot, sometimes it's more frigid than the Waffle House. So, what to do?

Monday, June 7, 2010

I Don't Feel The Same Anymore

When I first began this publishing journey, I was eager. Confident. Foolish. Ignorant. Now I'm only eager. I've received enough rejections to be humble, I've researched enough publishing innards to be educated about the odds of success. Still, I've got enough manuscripts out on request to be eager. When I first started querying, I received only form rejections, since my query letter sucked worse than a clogged-up Kirby. I looked forward to a rejection, because it was an acknowledgment that I'd sent out something. I probably would have fainted if an agent actually showed interest. Now I'm getting pretty steady requests, pretty potent interest. And I'm not fainting. I'm calculating. I'm hoping for the best, but staying rational, unlike my early days. I send out a request, and then I don't think about it anymore. I'm approaching this business like a business, instead of like a game of chance. I'm researching the market for my next project, reading up in my genre. I feel differently about everything. I never think about if I will get published...I think about when I get published. I think about what I will do to promote my book, who I will send my author copies to, who I will approach in my area for book signings, how can I build my readership for future projects. My-oh-my, how things have changed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How Many Rejections is Too Many?

Just a thought on this. We read all the time how many rejections those best-selling authors received before catching a break. But how many rejections is too many, before it's time to move on to the next project? A writer on Query Tracker announced that she received 115 rejections before obtaining representation. Would you hang in there that long? Would I? While I haven't received quite that many, I have received enough to make me think it's time to move on to my next project. And then I get a request for a partial, or encouraging feedback from an agent--just enough to convince me to keep shopping it out. So what about you? How many rejections before you call it a bust?

Monday, May 3, 2010


Yes, that's right. I'm tired of looking at it, tired of editing it, tired of tucking it in at night, tired of picking up after it. I'm constantly polishing it, making it shiny and pretty, and what does it do for me? N-O-T-H-I-N-G. It's ungrateful. I'm sick of pummeling it, and molding it, and fixing its cracks, and filling in its holes. I want it to just BE something already. I'm ready for it to be its completed, sculpted form, so I can start on my next project. Because my next project is going to be oh-so-much fun. Just like this one used to be. Only better. So this is what I propose:

One solid month. I will give it one more painstaking month of at least an hour a day of editing, polishing, smoothing. One more month, and then I'm done with this manuscript. Whatever it is at the end of the month is whatever it will be for the rest of its life.

Unless an editor/agent needs me to revise it. :)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Short and Sweet

As an update to the previous post, the answer is no, my under-edited, -ly word burdened, almost-first-draft manuscript did not place in the RWA contest. Am I shocked? No. Am I dumb enough to pay the $100.00 entry for next year and re-submit said manuscript? Why yes, yes I am! And THAT is what makes me a real writer. I eat failure for breakfast. (And umm, snack on it before lunch, and sometimes have a big helping for dinner.)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Attending Conferences

Next week, on March 25th, the finalists of the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest will be announced. I did enter this year, with an early draft of my manuscript. On the off-chance I'm one of the finalists in my category (when I say early draft, I mean barely edited), I guess I'll have to start saving my pennies to go to the conference in Nashville. If not, that particular conference will be put on hold until next year, and I suppose I'll re-enter my now-prisinte-and-polished manuscript for the 2011 contest. That said, I'm wondering if I just shouldn't go this year anyway. We all know its a gold mine of workshops, networking, and formal pitching opportunities. But when you add up the cost of the conference, hotel accomodations, food, travel expenses, and the daunting idea of being in Nashville all by my lonely self....I think I might chicken out. Agent Kelly Mortimer says that if you're serious about writing, you'll find a way to go (she said this on her website, not to me personally). I will be attending other conferences this year, but RWA is 'the big one'. It's also the biggest price tag. So, if I'm a finalist, I'll go. If not, I won't. Is that wrong?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


What keeps you motivated? As writers, we all go through low points, where we're ready to toss in the towel. Usually, that's when something good happens. I read a great book and say, "I can do this!" Or an agent will request a partial, or my small group of readers will start nagging me about the next chapter of my book. This week, I read Jessica Morrison's Buenos Aires Broken Hearts' Club. It was an easy read, and hilarious, and beautifully written. It got me motivated all over again. If you get a chance, check it out. Sometimes you really do need a break from writing, so that when you return, your noggin is refreshed, your fingers are rested, and you're ready to push forward with that manuscript/editing/querying. Whatever it is you have to do, do it. Don't give up.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Critique Groups

I joined a critique group for the first time a few weeks ago. Because I didn't give them advance notice, I was only able to bring three pages (instead of the normal ten emailed to everyone in advance) and they would critique them there. The group consisted of six other women, one of whom read my work aloud while the others followed on the pages I'd given them. They were like, "Wow. That was good. Very, very good." They really didn't have anything to add, except a flourish of compliments, and how excited they were to keep reading my book. I left the place in a state of euphoric astonishment. I bragged to my friends and relatives about how I'd impressed even my colleagues. See, I told myself, I DO have a place in this crazy world of publishing! I felt validated. Sigh. The next session, I was efficient (eager) in emailing them my next ten pages. I received all of their pages as well, and began to critique them (a middle-grade fiction, a YA urban romance, a memoir, and two biographies. Mine is women's fiction, borderline romance) although I felt a little unqualified to do so (and still do, actually). I brought them to the session, and awaited my turn. My turn came first. And they flayed me alive. Oh-my-sweet-goodness. Some of them didn't remember what I had covered in the first three pages, so they nailed me for not properly introducing setting. They didn't like/recognize my sarcasm (who doesn't like sarcasm???). They reaaranged my sentences in a flurry of red ink (or was that the blood of a sacrificed animal?), rude arrows pointing this way and that. I was devastated. My ears were turning red. My skin was getting splotchy. It was like some stranger spanking your child, that's how offended I was. After the critique (execution), I told a few of the above mentioned friends and relatives what these women had done to me. I got the expected sympathetic ear, the appropriate rage from the few who'd read my work. I no longer felt valid. I felt broken. I sat down to read their full critiques. And then something great happened. I found a few of the suggestions were actually good. I did rearrange some of my sentences. And I kept what I wanted to keep. The final product was better. And all this editing advice, this line by line critique, was FREE. All it costs is a thick skin (or one that grows back quickly) and the exchange of your advice for theirs. As a writer, especially a new one, critique groups are invaluable.