May 26, 2010

Write, Revise, Repeat.

Time for revisions again! Yay!


Here’s why I love my editors: They catch mistakes that I pass over all too easily (and, they do a whole lot of work that I am, frankly, unqualified for).

Today marks the beginning of revisions on Magic is for the birds. It’s always nice to have my editors read a piece because, but the time I hand it off to them, I’ve stared at it so long that I no longer see a novel. I see a couple hundred pages of pig swill. When they get it back to me a month or so later, I no longer hate it, partially because they tell me not to and partially because I’ve been away from it long enough to gain some objectivity.

So today I say: Bring on the birds – and the trolls and spiders!

May 25, 2010

Voce

My mother emailed me yesterday. She’s finished her edit of my third novel, and it was time to discuss.

My third novel is different from my first two novels: the first being a Family Saga and the second about Demons; it is an Epic Fantasy that takes place in another world. But even though it is different, she knew I had written it because after three novels, she could clearly see a defined voice. But what is voice?

A writer’s voice is extremely difficult to define. What sets one writer apart from other writers? It is that voice.

According to Nathan Bransford, Agent extraordinaire:
Voice, at its most basic level, is the sensibility with which an author writes. It's a perspective, an outlook on the world, a personality and style that is recognizable even out of context…. We leave fingerprints all over our work. That part of you in your work is what makes it something that no one else can duplicate.
Voice is often the term used to describe a writer’s unique style. Style is the way a writer puts word to the page and gets their point across, it is – in essence – their personality on the page. It is the way that a writer decides to format their thoughts into a sentence, a paragraph and then a page.

That style is a part of the author’s personality. It gives the novel life and brings story to a level that the reader can relate to. A successful story is one that resonates with a reader, and thus the personality you interject into your novel is key.

Often new writers will try to imitate the style of an author they admire or that is successful, but the thing about voice is that it is truly something that only the author has. The saying “often imitated, never duplicated” applies. Finding your own voice can take time, it is the reason it is important to think of yourself as a revisionist.

May 24, 2010

Excel – the program that keeps me sane, and keeps me writing!

I need organization. Did I say that loudly enough? I NEED organization!


(An example of how I'm neurotic!)

I can’t write at a cluttered desk, and I can’t write if my head is cluttered and in a jumble (which it usually is). This is why Excel is key when I write.

Let’s face it, I can be a bit of a flake if I don’t remind myself of things. Frankly, I’m amazed that I’ve even finished one draft of a single novel, let alone several drafts of three.

Excel also helps me to feel like I’m getting somewhere. One hundred pages of writing can look really jumbled if you’re just staring at a word doc. I have a formula down in the bottom of the spreadsheet that lets me know how far in I am, every percentage point is a mini victory! As is every completed chapter, which excel allows me to mark with conditional formatting!

I have said before, and I’ll say it again now: I am not a math person – at all. So it may be surprising to you that I am so enthralled with a program that is essentially math oriented.

Please do forgive me for taking up your time with an ode to excel. I just felt I needed to share.

May 18, 2010

Loath to Summarize

I guess I should really explain my last post! It was remiss of me to not do so yesterday, but it applies to today’s post and tomorrow’s… so hopefully you’ll let it slide.


Nathan Bransford wrote a post last Thursday about summarizing your novel and about how authors, as a whole seem to loathe them.* He then detailed the reasons why you should summarize, and the fact that you really need to have three different summaries of your novel. They are:

The One Sentence Summary,
One Paragraph Summary,
And the Two Paragraph Pitch.

So yesterday you saw the one sentence summary for my three completed novels. That is, in essence, what the novels are about when distilled to a single line.

Today, you get the one paragraph:

Duty & Death:
Being the loyal daughter of an oppressive Emperor is one thing, murdering for him is quite another. That is exactly what is being asked of Skydra, the eldest daughter of Vladimir, the Emperor of Hetia. But Skydra has an unnatural gift: moments of split consciousness allow her access to the thoughts of others, even through the walls of the mind, and have made her a silent observer to the atrocities of her father, including her own mother’s death. This gift now shows her that the man she is supposed to kill is in no way worthy of that fate. With the knowledge of exactly what fulfilling her father’s demand, and duty to her country, will cost. She must decide between duty and death.

Forfeit Souls:
Having died, Joellen Ellerbee and Paul Bennett, are no strangers to the misconceptions of the living. Heaven and Hell are no longer an option for them as they have both entered a demonic in-between they didn’t know existed. As they adjust to their new roles they discover there is no peace in their half-deaths. Each wants nothing more than to find the demons that killed the ones they love and return the favor.

Magic is for the Birds:
In a land where everyone can transform into birds and everyone is endowed with magical powers from the time they are sixteen, Nerina, apprentice to the sages, must rescue Lars, a human from earth, before his imagination can give Brogan the ammunition he needs to destroy their world. But Nerina’s magic is haywire at best, creating a bridge almost has her squashed by an ancient sycamore and with the untimely disappearance of the sages, her only aide is Lars’ son Liam, who doesn’t have any magic at all.











*I do not loathe Query paragraphs. I will admit that I used to… but more on that later.

May 17, 2010

One Liners

A summary of my three novels, each in one line.

Duty & Death:

The daughter of a deranged and tyrannical emperor struggles with moral implications when she is sent to wed and then kill the prince of the next country he wants to conquer.

Forfeit Souls:
Recently deceased, two newly converted demons work to find their place in the afterlife and avenge the deaths of their loved ones while discovering that distinct lines between good and evil may not exist.

Magic is for the birds:
Thrown into a world where magic exists and people turn into birds at will, Liam must rescue his father from an evil sorcerer with the help of Nerina, a girl whose magic has a mind of its own.

*Thanks to Katie for help with wording on FS

May 14, 2010

The A is for Ambition!


It occurred to me the other day (ok, yesterday, it was yesterday) that I may be addicted to writing. Don’t ask me why it took me this long to determine that. I really don’t have an answer for you, I wish I did.


At this very moment:



I have 3 Blogs that I post on nearly every day of the week (the others are here and here)

& A LiveJournal (that doesn’t get as much postage, but it’s here)

I’ve “Completed”* three novels

I’m 90% through a fourth (thanks to Major Revisions)

Currently I’m elbow deep in my Space Opera

And I’ve got a spreadsheet (more about that neurosis later) and synopses/outlines for scads more



“My name is Amy, that’s short for Ambition, and I’m addicted to writing.” Amy sat back down in her computer chair. “Phew,” she sighed whipping her forehead, “That was good to get off my chest!”



During my epiphany – in which I discovered I’m addicted to writing, keep up people! – I also came to this conclusion:

I am going to write until I die (and I’ll probably find a way after that), regardless of whether or not I ever get published.



It wasn’t like this is a particularly new revelation, but I think this is the first time I’ve ever written it down. And you know… writing makes it so. *Winks with gobs of cheese*



So there you have it. I’m addicted. I’m never going to quit. Even if I can’t fulfill my dream of becoming a full-time author who can live off of her craft (though, fingers crossed that I can and do). I’ll manage. I’ve been doing it this long.

May 13, 2010

The Query Process – an indepth look:

The blocks in Blue are things you get to do (and have control over). Obviously you would rather not get any responses that fall into the red blocks, but they happen –I’ve got a stack in a filing cabinet at home and even more in a specialized folder in my email. The Green is where you want to be!



Let’s discuss.

Blue 1 – You can query an agent before you’ve finished your manuscript, but its not advisable unless you’re some sort of celebrity, or are big name in the publishing industry already. All that you’re going to do, by pitching an unfinished book, is annoy the agent and waste their time – and time is something they have in short supply.

Blue 2 – the most irritating part of the process (imo) condensing your ms into a 150 -300wd pitch letter and a, no more than, 5 page synopsis. Most Agencies only want a query at first, but even if they don’t want the synopsis up front, they may want it if they request a partial, and you don’t want to have to waste time writing and editing your synopsis, when you could have it ready to go for the asking.

Blue 3 – Different agencies have different requirements, different agents within those agencies have different requirements. If you want to be taken seriously, you’ll need to know what to send to who. You don’t want to send a splatterpunk novel to an agent who only represents midgrade fiction, just like you don’t want to send genre fiction or YA to someone who only represents Literary fiction or memoirs. Do your homework.

Blue 4 – Personalize your query letter. Tell the agent why you’re picking them. Don’t apoligize if this is your first novel, it doesn’t earn you any points to excuse your naivety. Be specific, if you read their blog, mention a post that was particularly helpful to you, or mention an interview you read from them and cite the source. A little bit of flattery goes a long way. Don’t lie. Superlitives should be used sparingly or else you’ll sound fake. If you have read something of their clients that is similar to what you’ve written, mention it, but don’t make wild correlations.

Once you’ve finished personalizing your letter to the specific agent: Send it. If it’s in Letter form, be sure to send a SASE.

And then, you wait.

Red 1 – After waiting for what seems like ages (the longest response time I’ve gotten on a query letter was 3 months, sortest: 40 minutes.) you’ll get a reply (unless of course, the agent states that they do not reply unless interested). If the agent wasn’t intrigued by your query, you’ll get a rejection. These happen, you just have to find the right agent.

Green 1 – someone likes your Idea! Or at least, they like the way you’ve written your query and they ask for a partial. This means that you send them between 30 and 50 pages of the ms, and they see if that hooks them in enough to want more. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the agent.

Red 2 – After reading your partial, the agent decides that they arent intrigued enough to continue reading the piece and the decline to read the full. But hey, at least you know that your query is solid enough to get an agent to read it. There are plenty more fish in the sea. Best get back out there and chum the waters again.

Green 2 – The agent likes what they’ve seen so far! Having read the partial and liking it, the agent can then request the full ms, which you, the author salivating to become published will send over post haste. This could take two weeks to six months (and I’ve read horror stories where authors haven’t received a response from agents, ever.)

Red 3 – After reading the full ms, the agent doesn’t think they are the right one for the piece. They don’t think they have the connections, they don’t have the time for the amount of editing your ms will require… etc. There is a laundry list of things that could cause an agent to pass having read the ms. Most will know by the time they’ve hit page 100 if they’re going to pass on the ms.

Green 4 – They want to represent you! You’re ms has passed their stringent inspection and they’re offering to represent you, if you have other fulls out, now is the time to let those agents know, so you can a) tell them you’re going to take this offer if it’s the agent you want most or b) so they can hurry up and read the ms to decide if they too want to offer to rep you, or c) they can decide they want to pass and not finish reading the ms. Do this as soon as you can. Agents are busy and no one wants to waste time they could put toward a current client or another potential clients work by reading a ms that’s already off the table.

This got long, fast. Sorry about that. But there’s what I know, and now – if you’ve gotten to this point – you know it too.

May 12, 2010

Revision Wars: The End of a Revision

End of Revision counts:


Words: 89,268
Pages: 318 (358 with normal printing parameters)
Chapters edited/remaining: 15/0
How I feel: happy about one thing and frustrated by others.






When I say “End of a Revision” I don’t want you to assume that this means the novel is actually complete. I still have to send it off to my editors and get their feedback… etc. (a novel is never finished)

Yesterday when I sat staring at the then unmarked first page of chapter 15, I felt like I was staring at a freeway ends sign, but there was no option of taking an exit. It’s like in speed. In my head, the freeway’s completed, but in reality, only one section is done, and there’s a huge gap that means I’m either going to have to jump the bus, or explode in a fiery plummet.

Today, I feel a little better about the ending. I re-added the major subplot that I’d taken out, and it feels like I’ve tied up a lot of the loose ends that were left hanging with it gone. Before with that piece missing I felt like I was looking at a car that was missing a transmission and expecting it to run perfectly. I could rework the entire novel to drop the subplot… but it would change the entire story arc for not only this book, but the rest of the story (I suddenly heard Irulan (from the Sci-Fi miniseries) say “The Saga of Dune is far from over” not that this book is in any way comparable to Dune… It just popped into my head.)

I’m happy to be done with this major rewrite. It was good to do. I think the book is better for it (I’ll have to wait and see if I’m right or just delusional). But I’m glad that I’ll be able to get back to other things that I’ve been neglecting – like my space opera.

May 11, 2010

Revision Wars: Imploding brain syndrome.

End of Day Counts

Words: 88,403

Pages: 315 (354 with normal printing parameters)

Chapters Edited/Remaining: 14/1

How I feel: Brain has imploded.



I officially don’t know if this book makes sense anymore… I’m not sure it even looks like a book. It’s 88,000 random words thrown together on 315 pages… as I’m nearing the new conclusion, it doesn’t seem right. It just doesn’t make sense to me…

I feel like this: the story is a road. You, the reader, are watching a car driving along. But instead of cresting a hill and arriving at home, the car drives directly off a cliff.

Maybe I’m too close to the story, maybe I know too much that happens down the road, but it does feel like I don’t actually have an ending at this point. It seems like a resolution in the 130K ms… but now that I’m approaching it in the cut down version… I don’t see it anymore.

Hopefully when I finish revising this (if I ever do) I’ll have:

One full manuscript (I think this is the 5th draft)

A first draft of the second book (though it’s gone through at least 4 revisions already)

The third I’ve written of a third book (which was up until last month, the second).



I’m suddenly inundated by the lyrics of Tim Barry – “I think another drink might kill me. If that’s god’s will then it’s my time, and if I die a simple man of patience, then I’ll be fine, yes, I’ll be fine.”

Turn drink to page, man to gal, and “of patience” to “unpublished”… and you’ve got my morning.

If this didn’t make any sense, I do apologize.

May 10, 2010

Revision Wars: This is my house. Would you like to read it?

Words: 88,661
Pages: 315 (355 with normal printing parameters)
Chapters edited/remaining: 12/3
How I feel: I don’t want to talk about it…

I’m at the point where I’m thoroughly embarrassed by the errors I’m finding. How did they stay in the ms this long?



I suppose writing a book is like building a house. My father built the house he currently lives in, after he got remarried. I don’t remember exactly how far into the project he was, but at one point he sat me down and said. “Never build your own house. There is no stopping point. You’re never finished.” And that’s true also of writing a book.

Granted, when the book is published there’s no point to going back and finishing the basement into a furnished apartment. You are forced to stop “building the house” because you’ve sold it. You’re forced to stop editing the book, because it’s published.

But authors aren’t technically like the home owner who builds, lives in and continues to renovate his home. They are more like contractors…. Or better yet, developers. Our projects aren’t done until they’ve sold and been printed. But we have multiple projects in the air at the same time. We own them, we love them, and they are a part of us. We spend years perfecting them, getting the architecture just right, and then we find them new owners and share them – those little pieces of us – with the world

May 6, 2010

Revision Wars...

End of Day counts:


Words: 88,110
Pages: 312 (352 with normal printing parameters)
Chapters edited/remaining: 9/6
How I feel: Fried

Yes, little has changed. Unproductive writer is unproductive.

I actually have edited 1.5 more chapters today…. But until they’re input… they don’t exist. (They’re dead to me)

Today was one of those days.

Add this onto a drawing, transfer this information from this spreadsheet to the corresponding spreadsheet, do everything else you already normally do, ignore the fact that you’re eyes are already being stupid, and don’t kill Dan. The last was the most difficult. My job has its own level of stress attached. It’s not that what I do is necessarily hard by any means…. It’s that my coworkers sometimes don’t seem to understand that I cannot change the laws of the space-time continuum.

Several of my coworkers like to give me projects they’ve been sitting on for a few weeks and ask me to get it done, the next day. More accurately: The bring me something at four and ask if I can have it done by the end of the day or by noon the next.

Now, if I rush, and don’t do anything else, I can usually fulfill their requests. I often do things in one day that I would have preferred to have three or four to do. And there are some that I will stay late for (I don’t get paid after my 8th hour). But these things make me a little loopy. This is only added to by the fact that I’m sort and insist on wearing heels.

Now, when two co-workers bring me things at the same time, both of which are time sensitive, I tend to have a bit of a psychotic breakdown and start to well… go insane.

I made this equation to show how I feel:

(Click to make bigger)

This was supposed to equal my mood, but I suck at math, so I’m not really sure what it means. Hope it helps you more than it’s helped me :S

May 5, 2010

Revision Wars - The Blue Pen Strikes Back

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with a Star Wars Parody other than the title.

End of Day counts:


Words: 88,076
Pages: 312 (352 with normal printing parameters)
Chapters edited/remaining: 9/6
How I feel: Real work is making me feel like I’m going to go all raiders of the lost ark and find my eyes melting out of my face!


(Chapters 7, 8 & 9 - done, done and done, look at all that blue!)

And the blue marks clog up the pages!

So far, I’ve revised the first 9 chapters. It’s been a process of cutting, inserting, and moving as well as renaming chapters and adding a little flavor to one character’s personality. The beta readers deemed him Vanilla (which happens to be my favorite type of Ice Cream) so we’re now looking for a more Mint Chocolate Chip version of the character.

I only finished thee chapters today, but I’m still able to meet my goal of finishing it this week… my minimum average has to be 3Ch/Day, so we haven’t sunk below that yet.

May 4, 2010

A day in the life of a Revisionist.

End of Day counts:


Words: 88,606

Pages: 314 (354 with normal printing peramiters)

Chapters edited/remaining: 6/9

How I feel: Blahrgh

(What I did today... )


Days like today I wish I’d brought mittens with me to work.

I managed to finally hold the procrastination at bay and bust out 4 chapters of revisions today… that means that everything up to page 121 is done! Well, for now… until I have another schizoid moment, panic attack or bright idea.

Four chapters a day has me well on my way to finishing these revisions by Friday, so cross your fingers. I’m not betting anything on it.