Writing Sensory Images

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Today may prove to be a record-breaking heat day for this area. I’ve closed all the windows to keep in the early morning coolness, but haven’t yet turned on the air. It just seems too early in the year to do so. Besides, I find a bit of perspiration and being uncomfortable helpful to me as a writer.

Once, I was writing a chapter about kids traveling through a desert. The more I typed, the hotter and more thirsty I became. There I was, typing on the computer, while sweat dripped off of me. I kept thinking, “Wow! I must be one terrific writer to imagine things so vividly that I’m physically getting hotter and hotter.” I’d been typing for a few hours, closed up in the den, when I finally got up to take a break and get a drink of water. It was only then that I realized it was 100 degrees outside, and I hadn’t turned on the air conditioner.

Did I turn on the air conditioner at that moment, you ask? No, I did not. I finished the chapter first, taking note of all my hotness and putting it into words.

Speaking of Manuscript Rejections…

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Yesterday I received a form rejection letter from an editor. I’d like to say that’s never happened before, but if I tried to actually say that aloud, you couldn’t be able to make out my words through my laughter. Yes, I received a form letter, even down to the signature, which was typed out. Surprise! (Not really.)
 
I realize that editors are extremely busy folk. I know they receive thousands of queries each year, along with dozens of requested manuscripts. I know their time is valuable and their work is never, ever done, and that picking and choosing what to read and what and how to respond to each letter personally is difficult and time-consuming. I understand, because from this writer end, I certainly feel a similar time-crunch.
 
Lately, I’ve gotten to the point that when “Dear Author” letters come, I don’t keep them. I do usually glance over them before tossing them into the trash. Yesterday, after the toss, there was a line in the letter which kept coming back to me. The more I thought about it, the more I chuckled, so I dug it out. After the greeting of “Dear Author,” and thanking me for sending my manuscript — it was actually a query letter — came the line: “I’m sure there was something that appealed to me about your manuscript — perhaps it was a good idea, a strong character, or some lovely prose. However,…” and then came the reject with encouragement to try my story elsewhere. I’m wondering 1) if the query was even read (I know one conference editor admitted that during busy times, she’d tell her assistant to simply open the mail without reading the contents, and put in form reject letters); 2) if there was some good, strong or lovely part to my story (or query) which truly appealed to her, what was stopping her from pursuing working with me to make it better and stronger and lovelier?
 
(I must admit here, mostly I send things to editors or agents I’ve met at conferences, therefore, most of the reject letters I get are indeed personal. Thank you, kind editors and agents.)
 
I suppose honesty is a bad thing at times. I suppose one couldn’t have a form letter reading, “Dear Author, Man, has my life and work been crazy lately. Sorry. Can’t wade through the slush pile. Good luck in finding someone in a better position.  From, An Editor.” Or how about,  “Dear Author, I couldn’t get to your manuscript/ query/ proposal/ questions. Have you ever considered self-publishing?”
 
I’ve thought of composing a “Dear Editor” letter in response to form rejects, but by doing so, I’m afraid I’d be cutting off my arms at the elbows.
 
Enough procrastination by thinking and writing about this. Time to get back to my real writing, and turn my good ideas into great ones, my strong characters into memorable ones, and my lovely prose into… er… gooder stuff.

Need a Two-Week Writing Challenge?

 Literature Blogs

I do… need a writing challenge, that is, especially when the weather is lovely and I hear my needy yard whimpering at me to come outside and play.

I’ve found that when I put writing challenges on my blog, it is rather like an accountablity statement for me.

Here’s the writing challenge: 3,000 raw words, and at least one submission, by May Day.

Ready? Get set? Go!

Whole Novel Critiques– Rewriting and Revision Process

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I have just finished receiving my first group whole novel critique. The five others in my on-line critique group spent the past month reading and critiquing a novel they’d never seen before. This last week we’ve been discussing what everyone wrote about it.

The process: I submitted the whole novel on line, with an author-list of questions in four categories: 1) beginning and ending of book; 2) characters; 3) plot; and 4) theme. After three weeks, I received their responses, then compiled a new set of 7 or so questions stimulated from their comments. Now that I have those second responses back, I need to think how to proceed (in other words, comes the nitty-gritty bit of rewriting and revision).

In my past, I’ve had individuals read whole novels of mine. If editors or agents comment, they usually come back with just a line or two (e.g., “too quiet a story line for me”). Other writers’ comments vary in length, usually 1-2 pages of printed naration. What I found so fascinating about this group process, was that I had five different people in 4 different states and 1 other country, giving their thoughts on how to make it a better story. If one or two of them didn’t like something or was confused by some part or character, I could TOT it (take it or toss it). But if all 5 of them felt some part was needy, I would certainly see it as something needing to revise or rewrite.

One person in our critique group has revised one of her novels 17 times. She says it was a good story in the beginning, but now she really likes it. I don’t keep track of the number of times I rewrite or revise, since I often do it by chapters or scenes. I’d only do whole novel look through right before sending it out to an editor or agent. This time, I hope to do things differently before the professional submission.

I’ve compiled a list of things I need to address (e.g., the relationship between father and son). I plan on taking one of each of the things which need fixin’, and go through the entire story focusing on just that one concern. When I am done with that revision, I’ll move on to the next one and go through the entire story with only that concern in mind, and so on. THEN, I’ll do a whole book look to see how much I’ve messed things up or fixed things up.

Man! When I made up stories for my friends in junior high, it was never this hard.

“Easy” March Writing Challenge

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There’s still plenty of snow in our yard, but with temps getting up to 50 later this week, I bet it won’t be too long before a lot of it will magically disappear. Because it still looks wintery outside, I’m not distracted by dreaming of gardening quite yet. (“Gardening” — a nasty little good-weather habit which sucks up chunks of my energy and writing time.) I did, however, find three snowdrops on the southern side of our house today where the snow, warmed by our toasty abode, had melted. There is hope for spring. Oh. No! Write quickly.

So here’s the “Easy” March Writing Challenge:

Write at least 3 complete chapters of your WIP, or 5,000 words, by the end of March.

Ready? Get set? GO!

What Are YOUR Writing Rewards?

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To reward my 5 hours of revising and critiquing today, I went outside in the MARVELOUS afternoon sunshine, and built me a 6′ snowman. THEN I put a sign on it, challenging the neighborhood to a Snowperson Contest. (I’ve seen several stoppers & lookers so far — tee-hee.) At the bottom of the sign, I wrote that their snow person had to be seen from the road, so I would be able to tell if anyone did it. So far, mine is the only snowman in our neighborhood. I can hardly wait till the weekend to see if I’ve got any takers.

I did this (made a snowman) for several reasons: I work for rewards; I like making/creating things; I like making things out of snow; the temp was perfect snowball-making snow; I LOVE being outside, especially in the sun; and, the last time I made a snowman (last month, in fact) I pulled a muscle in my arm carrying the middle ball, so just wanted to prove to myself that I could get right back up on the snow horse and ride her without fear.

I did this (Snowperson Challenge) for several reasons: I wanted to send a message to my neighbors that it’s fun to be outside; I really wanted neighborhood kids who would rather video game inside, to take up the challenge and spend some time in the great wintery out-of-doors; I thought it would be way-cool if our neighborhood had snowmen on every other yard; and, doing a neighborhood event/challenge like this makes me feel closer to my neighbors, whether they build snowpeople or not, whether they hibernate or not.

So… what rewards do YOU give yourself for successful writing times?

Whole Book Critiques and Not so Alone in the Ocean

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I’m three days early in adding this post, but simply can’t help myself.

This year my on-line critique group is doing whole-novel critiques. We just finished critiquing and discussing Donna’s book. It has been a wonderful experience, for, as Donna pointed out, we all chose her chapter 2 as the chapter we least liked or saw whole-book purpose to. Yet, she reminded us, when she passed the chapter through our group while we were doing one or two chapters at a time, we all liked the language, chapter arc, etc.

We’ve been learning that we can be great writers, but miss the forward-moving action of a great story. It’s an eye-opening discovery.

It can get very lonely and discouraging, waiting to hear back from editors or agents.  This past Christmas I heard from two long-time writers friends who decided to pour their creative energy into other-than-writing stuff — Aaron is in theater and Meridee now does pottery. They’re both great at what they do. I’m glad they’ve found contentment.

Sometimes I feel like I’m splashing around in an ocean, clinging to a life ring, waiting to be rescued. I feel some hope as I kick together with another writer, also on her life ring, or a group of us (networking, it’s called in the real world). I let the theatre and pottery boats pass me by. I sometimes rest a while on a magazine or web boat. But I aways end up back in the water, kicking and hoping and waiting. Some day I know that agent-editor boat will pass and rescue my weary bones. Sometimes at the crest of the wave, I imagine I see land… but I’m not sure.

Keep on kicking, you faithful writers. Either ship or land is bound to come our way sometime.

As the Recession Dips, Creativity Soars

 Literature Blogs

It’s not just me. Several of my writer friends have been given a shot of creative enthusiasm lately. People are not getting acceptances like before, but maybe we are realizing that we can no longer send out just any old thing we slapped down from our keyboards. In my opinion, writers are becoming smarter and deeper and certainly more craft-conscious. Perhaps it actually goes hand-in-hand with the recession. Maybe it is because there are not the acceptances, that more time is spent on revisions and rewrites v.s. submissions. I say, Yeah for the literary world.

Happy Creative New Year, Everyone.

Day 4 of my First NaNo — My NaNo Buddies

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I have 9 NaNoWriMo Buddies on my NaNo page, people I can keep track of, and see where I fall in with. I’m very proud of my son taking up the challenge this year, along with the bazillion other things he has going on in his every day life. Makes a mommy proud. But as far as my own pacing, I like to check up on my on-line critique group. 4 of the 6 of us in the Blue Quills critique group decided to take November off of our submitting-critiquing schedule to participate in NaNoWriMo. Two had done it before. The two non-NaNo-participants are spending November in novel revisions.

So here I am today, typing happily away (or at least thinking about doing so), when I decide to procrastinate a little more of working on my NaNo novel and check how my NaNo writing buddies are doing . Natisha, Jaqueline and I are plugging away about the same-ish word count, and then there is Lap-Boy-Holding-Rose, so far ahead of us that the dust has already settled. I’d like to know, Rose, may I please borrow Colin for a few days? Sure, she says her writing is a lot of stream of consciousness, but once you have the words down, THEN you can go back and add, delete, or rearrange.

Congratulations, Rose. Really. Congratulations all who have written anything during NaNoWriMo, officially participating or not. Any words down, are some words down which weren’t down before. (And you may quote me on that.)

So now… I guess I’ve procrastinated long enough — although I really am curious about the machine noise clanking and banging down a few houses; maybe that will be my reward for writing my first 500 words today. BUT, will they be gone by that time? Oh, what is it? What is making that strange-to-the-neighborhood noise? No, wait! We are almost out of milk. Must go buy milk. I’m getting thirsty for it already. I could check out the noise as I drive past. Must go… Must go to work now on my NaNo novel, a MG historical fiction, THE TOWN THAT DISAPPEARED.  (Ooooo!)

NaNo Novel Decision

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October is supposed to be planning month for NaNoWriMo. Part One of my plan is to decide which novel (story-line/plot) I’m going to be writing out.

When I first decided to take the NaNoWriMo plunge, I was going to rewrite one of my MG fantasy novels (North Wind) during the month. I’ve been struggling with it off and on for a couple months now and thought this would be the nice push to get it completed. 

I also considered rewriting my horrid self-published (PublishAmerica) adult thriller (The Spin Murders). Not that the plot or characters are horrid, but my word by word writing corrections was never put into the draft. My “editor” sent the original ms to be published. Yeesh. So I thought I’d use November to ready that novel for when my 7-year contract runs out.

Decades ago, I wanted to write a novel about my perfect school — what it would be like. (no working title) Years ago, I started the idea for a Native American school, incorporating many of the ideas from my other alternative school idea. (Golden Paints the Sky)

I considered expanding my 3 Tristan fantasy chapters I’d written for my son’s Carlson Photo Writing Challenge into an actual plot and story during NaNo, but all I had were three incidents/scenes, no plot.

Then I thought I ought to just start fresh, like the No Plot, No Problem philosophy of NaNo. I thought of a cool story of a town which disappeared. (based around Silver Lake, MI)

THEN I thought of writing a MG historical novel about dunes taking over a town and a mystery which is buried forever with the town. (East of East, working title) So the past two days I’ve been doing lots of research of different things I’ll need to know. I suppose I can also research it AFTER NaNoWriMo is over, when I do the revisions. Now, with 2.5 weeks to go, I think I’ve settled on this last novel idea. But what great fun it’s been to allow my creative juices to flow in just coming up with ideas and doing research. Writing is awesome.