Miss Snark’s First Victim Contest

Literature Blogs

This week I’ve been involved in Miss Snark’s Secret Agent Contest, where an anonymous literary agent critiques submissions on line. (If you don’t know about Miss Snark, please check her out at http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/p/secret-agent.html  OR at  http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/  for this week’s first 250 words of a MG or YA completed novel.) Friend Rose told me about the contest. I subbed at noon on Monday, missed the first window by subbing too late (4 minutes after the hour v.s. 2; gotta be quick with these things), but made it in during the second window of submissions (by getting my email all set to go according to the rules, and keeping my finger hovering over the “send” key as I watched the clock change to 7 p.m. — a nice hint from Rose). I’ve be critiquing many of the subs, and just today the Secret Agent — oh, I wonder who s/he is! — has started commenting on them.

Interesting things learned from this experience:

1) I work well with deadlines;

2) I like clear-cut rules;

3) I enjoy reading first pages and the critical thinking involved on how a piece of writing could be improved;

4) I love writing communities;

5) I get to see if what I critiqued matches what a real-life agent has to say, and use his/her observations to improve my own writing.

Be brave. Enter contests. Learn from others. And keep on writing.

Learn Something New – Research and Experimentation

Literature Blogs

I remember a speaker at a writer’s conference, mucho years ago, telling us not to limit ourselves to one genre of speaker. If we write science fiction, go sit in on a workshop given by a romance writer. If we are an adult mystery writer, listen to an author of young adult literature. I found her advice very interesting. I also read outside my box (genre), sometimes randomly picking books from the library shelf or eShop. I have researched poisonous snakes of Brazil, and toilets of the middle ages, and land-locked U.S. Navy bases which GPS their trees. We have moved enough for me to have learned and several experienced different cultures and humor in many states, including internationals.

While I was working as a long-term substitute teaching the other year, I found myself at a school where white boards (don’t even mention black boards) were obsolete, and everything was taught via computer and workbook page projection through ceiling attachment. I had a lot to learn at that school, not about student behavior, nor about subject matter, nor about teaching in general from years of past experience, but about communication and presentation to the students. In fact, for the first several weeks teaching there, I wasn’t informed of meetings or even school-wide assemblies because my email wasn’t part of their daily staff system.

On the first second day, I asked my next-door teacher and grade team leader (in her third year of teaching) how to use the classroom equipment. She told me to ask the teacher across the hallway (in her second year of teaching) who was the equipment expert. I was substituting for a maternity leave teacher after six months of teaching. The equipment expert across the hall told me she just played around with it until it did what she wanted. I asked her more specific questions, which she couldn’t answer. I asked her to show me. When she came to my room, the expert informed me my equipment wasn’t the same as hers, and left. I went back to the team leader and asked for a manual. The team leader said she didn’t know of any, then informed me that it was good for old people to learn new things, that it kept them alert with new streams flowing in their brains. I really wish that slapping were still a viable means of communication, put that is so passe. Instead, I just stood facing her with my mouth opened, trying not to drool – like old folks do – then went back to my classroom and figured it out on my own.

Well, I’m off now to research different forms of nuclear energy and waste for a book I’m revising. I also feel the need to find out more about rose-breasted grosbeaks who have visited our yard this past week for the first time ever. (Merely curious.) Later, I’ll mow our lawn with our new manual push lawn mower – a very, very, very cool green machine – which I assembled the other day, before going for a run, showering, and singing and playing guitar at a health care facility.

Learn new things. Experience new places. Meet and talk with people unlike yourself. File away encounters for future references. And KEEP ON WRITING.

Ebook Experiment

 Literature Blogs

I’ve taken the ePlunge.

I published three short stories into one book with Smashwords.com: BIKER FOLK TALES, BOOK I ( http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/46366 ), all for the whopping price of 99 cents! It’s also supposed to be on 7 other eReaders. Very cool.

This as an experiment at this stage — huge experiment — since ePublishing is a rather new business, and it’s completely new to me. I figure I’ll be tripping over my eToes for quite a while, learning, learning, learning.  A couple of weeks ago I uploaded the book, but then last night uploaded a revised edition to include the protect-the-author line in the beginning about the stories being works of fiction and the characters not based on real people. Wouldn’t want any biker gangs showing up on our front lawn because I unintentionally dis-ed one of their brothers.

A sample can be read for free. But if any of you actually make it through the ePurchase line… let me know your success story.

Wordsmithing in Verse

 Literature Blogs

At first I thought this goal of writing a poem a day during National Poetry Month was just another writing challenge. Then, I thought writing them was lofty, poetic, oh so literary. Then, I panicked, because I know I’m no poet and couldn’t tell good from bad. I can’t even rhyme. I craved to give up this challenge after the first few days. After all, I didn’t even have a Poetry Month Partner to encourage me along the rocky way.

I’ve found writing poetry HARD. Writing good poetry takes talent. But if I fail in this challenge, then I fail as a writer. Why? Because if I am unable to pick my words well in short focused pieces, how can I choose my words well in larger works? Word detail is vital. Accent, tone, and each syllable is important. What an awareness! I’m thinking that every novelist needs to engage in poetry writing for a time.

My Tools of the Poetry Trade: Usually I write with keyboard beneath my fingertips. But in this month-long experiment (well, only a week so far), I’m finding myself using pencil and paper more than any other time. I write down snatches of ideas for poems. I use the eraser a lot. Revisions take on an entirely new dimension. I also use a printed Thesaurus. I haven’t done that in decades. Lately, I’ve lazily depended upon computer-generated words. Soon, though, I may come to the thinking that even using a Thesaurus is lazy.

The very interesting thing I’ve concluded now is that I’ve also found that writing poetry is FUN. There are so many venues. I’ve written sentimental pieces, silly ones from a child’s point of view, love songs, nature and gardening prose, couplets, snatches of ideas. The variety of possibilities is nearly endless, and best yet, I am not limited. I am no longer scared to try wordsmithing in verse. I’m thinking next time National Poetry Month rolls around, I may focus more, like write 30 limericks about nature. Surely, just for the sheer weight of my words, there will have to be one or two which is audience readable.

Onward to engage in my poem of the day.

How Much Social Networking?

Literature Blogs

Admittedly, I’ve been too busy lately to keep up with others’ blogs. I struggle just with planning out my AAA — Aggressive April Attack  with daily humor posts & writing daily poems & revising a novel). I’ve resorted to turning Darcy’s Fiction Notes into a weekly message since I was not getting around to reading so many of her posts. As much as I bow down to Darcy’s wisdom and writing advise, lately, I don’t even read those grouped posts. Today, I read a couple of her most recent ones — one was on social networking. She said to start small. Here were some of her suggestions of setting small goals: Make a goal of 10 comments a day. (Or do similarly on Facebook, posting daily and liking 10 things daily. Or new video daily and 10 comments on others. Or Tweet once a day and message 10 others.)
 

So… I didn’t comment or read anything more. It was just too daunting for this writer. Maybe I’m just unique that it takes me L.O.N.G. to write out even the simplest response (like this), because it gets me thinking, because it stirs a response, because I want to word my response well. You see, I’d rather spend more of my valuable writing time actually writing or researching or revising or submitting than responding to posts. Sure, doing what Darcy says gets your name noticed, published or not, and I love her gumption and challenges, and marketing (getting your name out there) is definitely a related topic. Responding to her post here on my blog has taken writing thought time. Off to write a poem and revise some more.

 

National Poetry Month Challenge

Literature Blogs 

Today starts National Poetry Month. Therefore, my April Challenge to anyone willing to accept it, is to write one poem a day all month long.

Okay, here’s my problem: I’m a horrid poet, and know it. I can’t even tell the Longfellow joke right. Sure, I own a few books of poetry and even a couple rhyming books, but, yikes! A poem a day! Who is crazy enough to accept such a challenge? Wait, wait! Aren’t couplets considered poetry? Why, yes, Sandy, they are. Even kids could write two sentences which end with a rhyme each day. What about songs? They are merely poems under another jacket cover. Okay, I’ll get my creative juices going, accept my own challenge, and see how disciplined I am to see how many poems I get written this month. Who knows? I may even be inspired to write more than just a couplet a day.

The Farmer’s Almanac let me know that April comes from the Latin word aperio, meaning “to open or bud,” because plants begin to grow this month. Perhaps… just perhaps some poet will begin to bud this month as well. Good luck to all you poet challenge accepters.

(BTW, today also starts National Humor Month, so if you wanted to swing on over to my Humor Blog ( http://sandycarl.blogspot.com ) you will find one antidote or personal story or joke every day during April. Somehow, that seems so much easier to do than a poem a day. Who thought of this, anyway? A poem a day. Yeesh.)

March’s Challege Results

Literature Blogs

At the beginning of March, I sent out a personal challenge (and included any others to join me) of writing 20,000 raw words (new words) during the month. How did you all do? Sadly, I didn’t reach my goal. I only made about 1/3 of the way through. If only an editor or agent were on my back pushing me… NO EXCUSES! I didn’t meet my goal. Too bad. Those are 4,000 words I didn’t have before, plus I have a full day ahead of me to write more. (If only the sun would stop shining so I wouldn’t be tempted to go outside and do some yard work.)

Tomorrow’s a new month. I’ll have a new writing challenge to set before you to get those creative juices flowing. For me, it will be a scary challenge. Oh, this challenge is on top of my revision of an entire novel during April. Hello, Spring!

Rejection

 Literature Blogs

I’ve only known one author who never got rejected (Barb Yirka, aka Anne Barbour). She was an avid regency romance reader, then wrote two chapters for a contest and won the book contract award. Outside of this highly unusual situation (and wonderful person), most writers need to expect rejections from agents and editors and sometimes even fellow writers (although we writers tend to be more gentle).

A recent newsfeed led me to a study done on rejection and that social rejections (e.g., relationships; but this could be extended to writers, too, you know) cause actual physical pain to the one rejected. It makes you think, doesn’t it? Well, it makes ME think. Here’s the link:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110328/ap_on_sc/us_sci_rejection_hurts

So why do we writers do this again?

I’m thinking that our submissions is like going through the pains of dating and breaking up… until… we find THE ONE. Here’s to every writer’s love relationship (with editor, agent, readers). May it be true and happily ever after lasting.

No Moving Body Parts!

Literature Blogs

When I first started in this writing business (for real), I was in a critique group with a wonderful well-published author who wrote in a completely different genre than I. When she’d come across some of my phrases, like “Her eyes dropped to the floor,” Barb would waggle her finger at me and say, “No moving body parts!” I guess I did it often enough for the phrase to stick in my head.

Today I came across a critique from someone in my critique group, of someone else’s writing. The critiquer had highlighted that the submitter used the phrase “her eyes darted around the room” twice in as many paragraphs. It was the repetition which she’d pointed out. But for a flash, I remembered Barb’s words and imagined the heroine eyes floating from the body and moving quickly around.

So, here is my question concerning this phrase: Can eyes dart (they do within sockets), or should they not dart (detached from the body)?