Sunday, May 31, 2009

So I watched the Wedding Singer again, and ...

no matter how lame it may be, the ending still gets me. Why can't all guys do romantic things like that? Sigh ...

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Writers' Asylum

We writers are a wacky bunch, are we not? I spend so much time talking/writing to other writers and reading agent blogs that I sometimes forget the things we talk about--and the ways we respond to each other--are not the norm.

First, there is the writer's code, or dictionary, if you prefer. You know, with words like "betas" and "WIP" and "crits" and "queries" and tralala ... I think you get the point. Occasionally, my curiosity-killed-the-cat hubby glances over my shoulder as I'm reading a blog (and either laughing about the post or focusing intently on a reply) and confusion muddles his eyes. "Whaaaa?" he says. "And you make fun of my software engineer lingo?"


Second is the way we are with our writing. We could do it all day, and we all love it, but damn it, writing is hard! Or, for those of you that think it isn't, we all have a problem from time to time with our muse. Inspiration, being the tricky devil that it is, hides underneath our covers and refuses to come out and play. But still, we persist. We write--for minutes or hours or days or weeks--and then we reread. On the best of days, we love what we've written. In fact, we love it so much that we can't STOP writing. My hubby says, "But ... you've been writing ALL. DAY. Aren't you ready for a break?" I mumble something unintelligible. He sighs and goes off to entertain himself. On the worst of days, we (sigh...) delete delete delete. "Huhhhh?" the hubby says. "But you spent all weekend on that!" "Psshhhh," I reply, with angry jabs to the backspace key. "It's all crap. Crap, crap, crap."

Or maybe it's just me?

Next is where we get really weird: We're all secretly, or perhaps not-so-secretly, schizophrenic. Or maybe it's more of a D.I.D. thing, I'm not really sure. At any given time, we have a wide array of personalities living inside of our heads, screaming at us and at each other, fighting for the front lines or our minds.

Case in point: I'm talking to my sister about my newest MC (and trying to convince her that YES, she does indeed wish to write a book with me) when I say, "Yeah, so I'm exhausted because last night, this guy inside my head was screaming at me to write down the opening scene of his story before he got lost in the forest forever." My sis, who's about 1/2 a year away from a pretty little paper that says master in psychology (or something like that), replies, "You hear voices in your head?" "Well, yeah ..." I say. "But I mean, it's not like THAT." Hmm ..." she says, unconvinced. "Maybe you and I should talk more often about these voices ..."

To me, the character convos are completely normal. Sometimes they monopolize my brain. Other times, I push them to the side so I can get something productive done for a few hours. To my very logical little sis, I guess it's not so normal. She says, "Honestly, I think writers use a completely different part of their brains than other people." Or maybe she said "normal people." I can't really recall ... ;)

Welp, that's all my work brain can conjure up for now.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

WWYK, I spit on you!

Write what you know (hereinafter "WWYK") ... ahh, the fickle relationship we have. Sometimes we hate each other, sometimes we're best friends.

Hate: I start something new, w/some plot line that involves medical issues. It screams: "What ... are you a doctor? No. Then you can't pull that off. Write what you know!" I give it the middle finger and (a) give up, (b) change the plot, or (c) do some research.

Love: When I'm in the middle of some scene/chapter/whatever, and suddenly this scene pops into my head from where I did this-that-or-the-other last weekend ... or when I have an idea for an MC in my head, and something I've learned about from my work adds another element of intrigue to my character. WWYK? H-E-Doublehockeysticks-YES!

Sometimes, the caveat "WWYK" holds me back, makes me feel like I can't do this-story or add this-subplot or give a character this-personality b/c it's not something I have a lot of experience with. Other times, I'm so intrigued by whatever it is that I DON'T know that I go figure it out so I can write about it.

For instance: I know a little bit about witches, at least through popular media. A month or so ago, a male MC popped into my head. He's a witch. Or a wiccan. Or whatever you want to call him. I did a little research just for kicks and moved on. About 2 weeks ago, this little convo happened.

Voice in my head: "Hey! Yoohoo! I know you're trying to sleep and all, but I'm running for my life and bullets are flying at me. Are you going to write about that or what?"

Me: "Umm ... You're a dude. I don't know dudes. Go talk to someone else."

Dude: "You being serious? My life is in danger and I chose YOU, and now you're telling me to find someone else?"

Me: "Uh, yeah. Channel someone who's not a chick laying in bed who's already in the middle of another WIP about other chicks."

Dude: "Nope."

Me: "Ughhh."

Dude: "La de da ... doo doo dum dum ... doo be doo doo ..."

Me: "You're not going anywhere, are you?"

Dude: "Not until you get me out of here."

Me: Sigh ... "What's so interesting about you, anyway?"

Dude: "Remember that witch stuff you were looking up the other day?"

Me: "You were spying on me?!?"

Dude: "Who do you think led you to the website?"

Me: "Creepy."

Dude: "Yeah, kinda. But no worse than talking to yourself."

Me: "I'm not talking to myself. I'm talking to you."

Dude: "Well then pick up your laptop already."

Me: "Sorry. I don't really know witches."

Dude: "What? Yes you do."

Me: "Not really. Just what the media tells me is right."

Dude: "Well I'm not one of those Charmed weirdos. I wouldn't mind looking like that Covenant guy, but I wouldn't be caught DEAD in a speedo, so don't even think about it."

Me: "Are you at least interesting?"

Dude: "Hellooooo ... Miss the whole bullets flying at my head memo?"

Me: "Gahhh ... FINE. I give."

And I did. I wrote a brief intro to get Dude's thoughts onto paper--what he felt about his pursuit, why he was being pursued, whether he was going to get away. And then I did a little more research.

What I know so far: My MC is definitely a guy--no way around that. He's dark. He had a messed up childhood, a screwed up present, and a future that is going to be a blast to create.

Write what I know, you say? Fiddlesticks! I'll research what I need, and the rest is coming out of my messed up brain. And I have to say ... I'm kind of excited.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Just keep swimming.

I was going through all of my old "the next great novel" attempts, and, inspired by the Miss Snark's First Victim Secret Agent contest (sorry, link's not working for me tonight), I decided to post a few of my beginnings. I'm limiting it to about 100-200 words on most of them, though, b/c the majority are a little traumatizing for me. Only 3 of the 6 below made it into full-length manuscripts, which is about 1, maybe 2, too many. So here goes ... don't say you weren't warned.

1) Title: none. (I labeled it as "stuff" so it would sound boring on my computer and no one would open it out of curiosity and laugh.) Genre: ? (first chapter is about a teen, but then it shoots to her in college ... so maybe YA? Heck if I know ... didn't think about genres then.)
At age 15, in a dark, crowded room full of teenagers, Danika Benson’s life finally began. Because that night, Danika met Austin Dunaway.

As she sat in the corner of the gymnasium, her white sneakers lit by the black lights and disco balls around the room, Danika silently watched as other students talked, laughed, and danced with one another, ringing in the new school year.

At age 15, and in her sophomore year of high school, Danika Benson had been thrust from the comfort she had known for years when her father lost his job. She had been forced to move to a new school, to make new friends, and to try to fit in all over again. Like other teenagers, Danika desired to be accepted by her peers. However, her insecurities always held her back. At 5’6, with chestnut hair, hazel eyes, and a face full of freckles, Danika wasn’t exactly a beauty queen. She didn’t turn heads when she walked into the room. She didn’t have guys lined up just for the chance to get to talk to her. And she never got asked to dance. So why was she here?

---Yeah ... I used the phrase "At age 15"--not once which may have been forgiveable, but two stellar times. And I sounded like i was dictating my shopping list. Total word count on this one? 19,354 too many. (And from a cursory look back over it, I think I was just about finished. Yeah ... Uh huh.)---

2) Title: A Triangular Affair. Genre: chick lit/women's fiction
Prologue –

Three hours of cheap beer and vodka shots later, the seven of them gather in an intimate circle on the living room floor, an empty beer bottle spinning clockwise between them on the large white tiles. It slows, somewhat meticulously, and finally teeters to a stop. Their eyes meet for the briefest moment, and then quickly dart away. They carefully lift themselves onto their knees, slowly leaning toward one another. And then they kiss. When they both pulled away, their cheeks are flushing bright pink. It suddenly feels as though the room has grown ten degrees hotter, only the thermostat still reads a comfortable seventy-five degrees. Surely it isn’t the kiss that has caused them to feel this way. Surely a kiss between two friends, while playing a silly little game nonetheless, hasn’t caused their extremities to rise to a temperature that nearly lights the room on fire. Surely it is something else, they both assure themselves. But what if it isn’t?

---I don't even know what to say about this one. First w/the title: Like an affair with 3 people involved is so unusual that I had to label it a triangle. Let's just say I was going for literal. Next w/the writing: I swear, it's like I was setting the stage for a screenplay, using my best Mr. Moviephone voice. Who did I think I was, and what did I think I was doing, exactly? And, yet again, I might as well be reciting the pledge of allegiance. Except I think that the pledge is way more interesting than what I have here, and much better written. Total word count on this one? 15,197, and about 2000 more for my outline of what I had left to complete this little doozy.---

3) Title: Matched Up. Genre: Chick lit/Women's fiction.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It really wasn’t. And by “it,” I mean my life. I was supposed to be married to Alex—my first and only love, my high school sweetheart—by now, and we’re supposed to be living our own happily ever after. Alex and Alyssa—seriously, how cute would that look in calligraphy on our wedding invitations?

Being the typical girl that I am, I’ve had our wedding planned out for years—from the invitations to the honeymoon (never mind the fact that we’re not even engaged; that’s a minor detail). Of course, I change my mind at least once a month, but here’s the latest (Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with all the details. Just a select few.) We’ll get married at The Dunes, the private beach where we used to make out for hours, and where he asked me to go steady when we were sixteen. I’ll wear a strapless white gown, something simple and tasteful with beautiful beading on the bodice. My bridesmaids will wear classic black cocktail dresses (because I’m just not interested in a taffeta fiasco) and will carry small calla lily bouquets wrapped in white satin.

---So you may sense a couple of themes here: a fascination w/chick lit (which has passed, btw), backstory-backstory-backstory, telling-telling-telling, and at best very blah writing. It's not necessarily that I don't have a good idea inside my head, it's that w/all of the crap I've given to wade through, no one would ever know. For instance, if I told you this was about my MC's attempt to hook her best friend up with a guy from a dating website, where my MC goes online and pretends to be her friend and ends up falling for internet guy instead, creating all kinds of turmoil when everyone meets, would you get any of that from what I have above? If you would, you have powers beyond this realm. Be very careful, or scientists will lock you in a lab and study you for all of eternity. Word count: 2, 681 + about 1k of outline.

4) Title: Running Backwards. Genre: Chick lit/Women's fiction.
Reunion, T minus 1 day

“How the hell did I let you talk me into this?” Jocelyn shot a glance at her sister, Kendra, as she threw a black cashmere sweater and hip hugger jeans into her already overflowing suitcase. She rummaged through her closet full of shoes before deciding on strappy black sandals, brown wedges, black flats, pointy high heel boots, running shoes, her favorite fuzzy slippers, and her trusty flip flops.

Kendra giggled, adjusting the bright red scarf tied loosely over her pixie cut hair. “You know, you can’t fit your entire wardrobe into two suitcases. And you’re only going to be gone for five days.” Kendra caught Jocelyn’s eyes before slowly continuing.

“And you’re going because it’ll be good for you … and because you wanted to.”

Jocelyn furrowed her brow as she stood in her closet, trying to decide which belts and scarves to pack. Later tonight, she would fly back to her old stomping grounds, and in a mere twenty-four hours, she would be at her ten-year high school reunion, sitting in the midst of forty-five people that she was friendly with but never really knew.

---This one, I actually queried. Finished it, edited it, and sent it on its merry little way. Got about oh ... 20 or so standard rejections. Got 1 partial request, followed by a "No thanks; too much backstory for my tastes." I was attached to this one, but it took me awhile to realize why. It wasn't b/c I loved it, or b/c I thought the writing was any good. It was b/c these characters were based on real people--me, my sister, my clique of high school friends. The story was about a group of friends--my group of friends--going to their high school reunion, each with their own secrets and struggles. It was immensely cathartic and enjoyable, b/c it allowed me to extract quite a bit of written revenge on old classmates that I thought deserved it. But did that make it good? Not so much. I considered reediting it, changing it up, etc., but then I realized I just had to let it go. The only reader it ever had was my sister. And you know what? She ate it up. But that was b/c she knew these people, too, and it was like being in on a secret that the rest of the world wasn't. Total word count: 97, 828 (hot damn! I didn't realize that!)

5) Title: Beneath the Skin. Genre: Women's fiction (if it's chick lit, then it was of the darker/more dramatic variety, due to its subject matter).


“Holy Mother of God, it hurts!” I shrieked as a tattooed man named Sober dug a buzzing needle into my wrist.

Kendal wiped the sweat from my forehead and cocked her head to the side. “You can’t quit now,” she said as she looked at my half completed Chinese marking. “What will people think when you tell them your tattoo means ‘younger’? That doesn’t even make sense.”

I opened one eye and glared at her. “Please, for all you know, yours says ‘I smell like egg rolls.’ No offense,” I said with a quick glance toward Sober, “but it’s not like a man completely lacking Asian heritage is the most reliable source.”

“Oh, ye of little faith. Sober’s super-skilled in the art of Kanji. Aren’t you Sober?”

Sober grunted in response.

I rolled my eyes and glanced back at Kendal. “And just so you know, genius, the second word is younger. The first is sister.”

“Sister younger? Now you’re just being silly.” Kendal furrowed her brow and held her wrist up to mine. When she noticed that the first symbols were identical, she shook here head and tossed up her hands. “I swear … English must make zero sense in other countries.”

“S***!” I yelled as Sober began drilling the second word into my arm.

“Keep still,” Sober mumbled—his first words in over an hour.

“I’m trying, but you’re killing me.”

He shook his head and tightened his grip on my arm. “The drunk ones aren’t usually such drama queens,” he muttered.

---Okay, now this may not be your thing, and I certainly respect that. But it holds a special place in my heart. One day, I will go back. I will make changes. I will make this one work. Right now? I'm not ready for that. It needs too much attention, too much reworking, and I think it may need a younger narrator. Problem is, I can't make her that much younger and have my story still work as it is. So it remains in limbo. I did "finish it" at one time. I queried it to a handful of agents. I got about 3-4 rejections and 2 requests for partials. One, I was stoked about--I emailed a query, she replied the same/next day, and I sent her a synopsis and the first 10 or so pages. Result: not her thing, not into the writing, or something like that. I think I still have the reply saved somewhere. The second agent requested a partial, which I sent, but somehow it ended up marked as unsolicited and returned. By that time, I realized it wasn't ready--it wasn't anywhere near ready. So I never resent the partial. Word count: 85,174.

6) Title: Into the Dark. Genre: YA paranormal

I was four years old when I first saw a ghost.

We met in the guest bathroom of my mother’s latest “gentleman friend’s” house, while I was searching for a clean towel to dry my hands.

Bottom drawer, an unfamiliar voice said. Behind the razorblades.

I gasped and turned toward the sound, my wet hands collapsing at my sides.

The stranger sat on the bathtub’s ledge, his arms crossed over his chest and one foot kicked over his knee. He wore black boots, black pants, and a long black trench. His skin was an unblemished pale, his eyes brighter than stars against a dark canvas.

You are making quite the mess, he said with a disapproving nod toward the puddled white tiles.

Everything I’d ever been taught told me to run, but all I could do was stare, my eyes bulging from their sockets like marshmallows under heat.

Are you ill, child? he asked.

N-no. I tucked a loose curl behind my ear, tracking water across my cheek. I’m uh, I mean I um

Ah. Plagued by the stutter. He frowned and shook his head. How very unfortunate.

D-do I know you?

No. And you will do well to maintain such an arrangement.

I braved a step forward, my eyes wide with curiosity. What are you doing here?

Things that I should not.

I don’t understand.

Of course you don’t, he said with a scowl. You are just a child. A brainless prey for the taking.

---I included the first 248 words or so, b/c it has been through some changes recently. I'm keeping the old version, just in case, b/c I can't be sure yet that I'm going to like where I've taken it. This is my latest WIP. It's my first YA, so in many ways, it feels like my first attempted novel. Is it great? I really don't know. I think it could be. I may need to tighten some things up and/or lose the prologue in the long run, but I could have something here. Rest assured, however, that it didn't come easy. (and oh ... word count: something like 90k--it's been changing a lot lately, though.)

The point of this, other than to make a fool of myself, was to note that writing is a craft. And, like any other craft, you have to work at it. You may have great ideas, but that doesn't equate to great execution. But that doesn't mean you should throw down your pen (or slam your keyboard into a wall). It just means that you need to keep practicing. Keep working at it. Join critique groups. Enter contests. Do whatever you can to learn and grow, both as a person and in your writing. In the words of someone very famous: "When life gets you down do you wanna know what you've gotta do? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim swim."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Secret ... Agent Man

It had been awhile since I'd had any critique of my work--probably at least six months or more--when I stumbled upon Miss Stark's First Victim, Secret Agent contest. Enter your first 250 words, and get (a) feedback from other bloggers, (b) feedback from the secret agent (man or woman, I'm not sure, but I have the song stuck in my head), (c) a prize--i.e., submission of pages, and/or (d) all of the above.

My answer: (a) and (b)

(a) feedback from other bloggers--I most definitely got that, along with an interesting debate about the merit of a prologue. 15 or so comments in, I realized that even if I didn't "win," I would know what I should do to make mine better for the next agent that looks at it.

(b) feedback from the SA--just got that last night, some time after midnight. Not what I was hoping, but hey ... not every agent likes the same Kool Aid flavor. And I wouldn't want an agent that's only half-heartedly interested about my sorta-kinda paranormal YA, even if it meant I had representation.

For anyone interested (that means you, Omi :P), mine was number 24. (I figured out how to do the link thing--woohoo!) As a brief overview, it's about a high school junior named Lexi who falls in love with new guy, Jake, but being with him unlocks memories from a past she'd rather forget. It has a paranormal element, but the crux of the story is Lexi's self-discovery and personal growth, as well as how this all affects her relationship w/Jake. Vague, I know. I'll work on that later, when the brain cells are up and running again.

Please feel free to let me know what you think or ask any questions. I could talk about writing all day :)

Me. Off the record.

I am a lover of words. I read. I write. I watch a lot of TV/movies. I repeat cycle. Repeat cycle. Repeat cycle. I save quotes from movies or television shows or songs that I think are genius/moving/hilariously funny.

Without words, the world would be a scary, scary place. A place I'm not sure I'd find life was worth living in.

I've always wanted to be a writer. Well, at least since the fourth grade, when my teacher stopped at my desk and read my creative writing assignment about my favorite room in my house to the class. I thought, "Wow ... cool! And to think I just picked some random room and started writing like I cared about it! This is easy--I just need a bunch of adjectives!" Yeah. So, I was a little off about that.

One day, long before I was old enough to make such a decision, I watched an episode of Matlocck and decided, "Hey, it looks easy to be an attorney, and really cool. I'll do that!" And so my parents' dream for my future was born. After awhile I faltered, but then came A Time to Kill. What I didn't think about was that the part I loved most about the movie (and the television show, to be honest) wasn't really the lawyering so much as it was the writing. The beautifully written closing in A Time to Kill? THAT's what made me cry. But I was distracted by the beauty of Matthew M and decided that no, it was definitely the lawyer part that did it for me. So I went to college, majored in pre-law, took a few writing classes along the way. Begin to doubt I was focusing on what I should be ... Went to law school.

And that's where everything changed. It was on a random weekend when I was putting off reading the umpteenth case about contracts when it happened. I opened up a blank document on Microsoft Word and started typing. For the week or so prior to that, these characters had danced in my head. I knew the basic plot. I outlined a few of the steps. Basically, girl falls in love, boy dies, girl is saved from heartache by new best friend, girl kisses engaged best friend at a college party, screws everything up, girl and boy eventually work it out. I know, I know, not the most original. But I didn't care about that. I didn't even think about publishing or others reading it, or anything like that. I wanted an escape, something other than a Contract=offer, acceptance, consideration, bargained for exchange, blah blah blah shoot me now please ...

While I was writing, I thought "Wow, this is soooo easy! I'm the bomb!" And then I stopped and reread it, quickly realizing I wasn't. That manuscript never made it past the first 50 or so rough draft pages.

Attempt # 2 I completed, edited, and queried. About 20 or 30 "no thanks" and one partial request followed by a "no thanks" later, I reread it and thought, "Man ... this sucks! I hate this!" And I moved on.

This time, I wrote about something I cared about. And I joined a writing workshop. And another workshop. And another. Those workshops changed me and my writing. They opened me up. They broke me out of cliches. They brought my characters to life. I queried MS #2 a few times (2 partial requests, one of which I sent and the other of which there was some miscommunication and I never resent it) before realizing ... it's just not ready. It needs substantial rewrites. It needs ... a younger narrator. No, I need a younger narrator, but I'm not sure this story lends itself to that.

And so MS #3 was born. My first YA, and I'm loving it. I finally feel like I've found my voice, my genre, my market. I hope some day, others will love it, too. I think I'll post a separate blog with some details about this journey, as well as my reaction to Secret Agent's somewhat crushing May contest blow. (I didn't scream or cry or send nasty emails, fyi. I just got to thinking. A lot.)

I think that's enough about me for right now.

And now: I'm off to play with more wallpaper and spend lots of plastic money. (Hmm ... maybe Twitter's not such a bad idea, after all ...)

It's a Blog World, After All ...

Okay, so I'll admit it. I'm always a few steps, or in this case, a few years. behind the latest online networking tool.
Myspace? I balked. My sister signed me up. I went on a year or two bender before going cold turkey (myspace myspace I must check my myspace!). Now I check it once a day, tops. Normally less than that.
Facebook? Puhleaze ... The layout doesn't make any sense, and why does it keep asking what the heck is a new application and why would I download something just to add it, and oooh that one's kind of cool, and look ... I have twenty apps on my profile! I'm still mildly addicted to Facebook, minus about 15+ apps.
Twitter? What the eff? Is that some gross new sexually inappropriate activity or misdemeanonr that I'm unaware of? Or no ... isn't that the std-ridden guys name from Varsity Blues? I'm still of the belief that my day is just not that interesting. In the slightest. And making the unexciting 20+ hours of my day sound exciting for everyone else? Not that easy when it's my own life. As of now, I haven't joined the Twitter camp. But you never know ...
LiveJournal: found a YA author on Publisher's Weekly, thought the book sounded cool and did an email search. (Wow! People blog? Since when?) Made an account, almost solely so I could leave comments without having to be "Anonymous." Typed up a blog or two of my own--I was really proud of myself, darn it--before: Wait ... all of the people following this writer's blog don't have Livejournal? Wait ... there's ANOTHER blog?
Blogger/Blogspot: I don't want it--as if the one I already have (that my hubby says is "so 5 years ago") and my three emails and blinking-blinking-blinking work phone aren't enough to check daily, now there's this ... Okay I'll look ... Ooh, I can see what other people are following? Hmm ... I'ts kind of fun being a sheep. Well, it's free so I might as well get it ... Look, I'm following a blog! And now: I don't just follow. I stalk. So long as the blog has a writing element and an intriguing owner, I'm there.

I had a point to all of this, but for once, sleep is winning against my active brain. I blame it on the wallpaper. Maybe the dry wall and the hubby's vinegar+water home-remedy is screwing with my brain ...

Next time, my blog will have a purpose. Maybe one of those "here I am in 100 bullet point letters." Or maybe something writing related. If I don't close it now, I'll end up tying fifteen lines of the letter "B." Not pretty.

G'night, my sole blog follower. G'night, anyone else who stumbles upon .