Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Productive

Well I managed 450 words on my WIP today. Not bad considering that I'm sleep deprived and the kids are sick. (I've felt much better ever since I found out Pratchett is a 1200-word a day guy... and he's NOT taking care of small kids!)

Even better, I sent off my next round of queries for Yeller. Ok -- at 3 queries, it's a pretty small round. But at this point I'm only querying agents I can get excited about.

AND to top it all off, I've been working on dishes and laundry AND got a 1/2 hour of phonics in with my 5 year old.

Not too shabby, since I haven't slept for more than 45 minutes straight in nearly a week......

Slogging

Ok, so I'm a fifth of the way through chapter 3 on my WIP, and I've hit the wall. Every paragraph is a slog. I can't get the words out, they're like cold honey - hardly moving at all.

And so many tempting ideas for other books are dancing before my eyes.

But I have to ignore them and force myself to go on. I learned that with "Yeller." Otherwise, I just keep writing beginnings and never FINISH anything.

(I'll have to hit the library soon, though. Some time spent working on my NF project might give my brain the break it needs.....)

Don't believe people who tell you to only write when it's fun. If you do that, you'll never get anywhere......

(Now, off to do some dishes and see if that helps me crank out the next 100 words. So slow today!!!! )

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Swan Maiden

So, I just finished reading The Swan Maiden by Heather Tomlinson. I'm usually a sucker for "fairy tales retold" and when I saw this one on the library's new book shelf, I wondered why no one had recommended it to me.

Well, now I know. The story started off strong, with good depth of characters and an interesting and believable world. But about half-way through, something changed.

I think the author decided to cleave to the outline of the original tale. Unfortunately, it didn't work as well here, because the events that followed didn't really work with the characters she created.

Instead, it seemed like Doucette, the heroine, had suddenly turned from a good, and kind and brave princess into a spoiled, arrogant, nasty little brat. After a few chapters of this, I hoped she never reunited with her true love. I hoped she was doomed to spend eternity alone in the wilderness. Because, frankly, I rather liked the hero and didn't want to see him saddled with a nasty, self-centered shrew.

But, of course, fairy tales MUST have fairy tale endings. I'd hate to see what becomes of the poor man after a winter with Doucette, though. He'll probably end up a typical swan-pecked weakling.....

So, I can't really recommend this book. It had a lot of potential, but I think the story ended up quashing the characters. (I can imagine them as tragic figures in a curse--forced to act out this story even though it doesn't fit them. Cursing the cruel author who has given them wills of their own, then bound them to a tortuous outline.)

If you really want to see how strong characters can retell a fairy tale without having to stick to the original story, check out Robin McKinley, Elizabeth Pope, and Elizabeth Bunce. They've all written books I would read again. Swan Maiden? not so much.....

Curse you, Holly Lisle!

Or at least whoever designed your book.....

I was in the children's section yesterday and noticed that Holly Lisle had a new Middle Grade novel out! I enjoy her adult stuff, so I decided to give it a try.

Except..... the print is PURPLE. PALE purple. It gave me a headache while I read the first page.

So, Darn you, Holly Lisle! I kind of wanted to read that book, but not if I'm going to get ill from it!!!!

(Maybe when it comes out in PB, it won't have the fancy print?)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reading, Writing, and Dishes

Yesterday I finally read Westerfield's Uglies. On the one hand, it left me dying for book two (alas, there's a wait list at the library!)

On the other hand, it left me with an unquenchable desire to burn all my notebooks and pencils, delete all my files, never write again and devote my life to Webkinz and chores. Because I can't see how I'll EVER be that good.

Today I read Montmorency by Eleanor Updike. I enjoyed it and will definitely pick up the rest of the series, but it's more in my league. So I sat down and wrote 500 words on "Flix".

Meanwhile, I'm gearing up to send out the next run of queries (kind of annoying since a few of the agents want synopses, too -- argh....)

And I'm eagerly awaiting the day when Editorial Anonymous unleashed the full power of her snark on my first page.....

(It helps that it's not currently too cold to write.... when my house is 58 degrees, all I can do is play tetris.....)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Too Cold to Write

I have a warm tray of brownies. I have a fresh pot of coffee. The kids are being reasonably well behaved. Its dark and cold, and I'm not in the mood for chores.

So I opened up my WIP file and realized: This crummy, crummy, single digit, house can't seem to warm up above 58 degree weather has given me WRITERS BLOCK. And a stuffy nose.

I'm going to huddle on the couch, play Mario, and count the hours until my husband gets home. (4 or so...)

Because right now I am just too cold to move and too cold to think. And that's WITH the wool hat on!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gluttons for Punishment

Sister Mary Martha had a great post on Gluttony the other day. I was especially struck by the breakdown of the types of gluttony:


Praepropere - eating too soon.
Laute - eating too expensively (washedly).
Nimis - eating too much.
Ardenter - eating too eagerly (burningly).
Studiose - eating too daintily (keenly).
Forente - eating wildly (boringly).

And, this morning, after reading a post over at Editorial Anonymous on questionable contests, I realized that these categories also apply to WRITING. Now, I'm not saying that overeager writers are necessarily committing a mortal sin (though, based on some of EA's slush, there may be some near occasions there), but I think that avoiding these pitfalls can make us more successful writers in the long-haul.

Praepopere- Submitting too soon. Have you had your writing critiqued yet? Did you take constructive criticism? Did you at least run spell check? As I've said below, I had a year where I submitted WAY too much-- and most of it had never been critiqued and just wasn't ready to go. A critique isn't required, of course. I'm usually the only one who looks over my magazine pieces. But they're also usually 5th drafts, and I have an easier time distancing myself when it's only 800 words.

Laute- Do you think the reason you can't get published is because you need more supplies, more expensive computers, more classes, more conferences, more "how-to-write" books and more memberships? Getting too obsessed with acquiring the tools for writing can keep you from actually working on your craft.

To get published you need: Pencil, paper, a place to type and print (usually called a 'Library' for non-computer owners),envelopes and stamps. And, most importantly, a will to improve. Which costs nothing.

But new writers often let themselves get caught up in costly extras. (ooh! I just need one more ICL class. And SCBWI conferences in NY and California!!! and...and....) Don't. Just work on writing well and submitting well. As the ladies at Writers' Beware always say, money flows TO the writer.

Nimis Writing too much. At some point you need to stop writing and actually SUBMIT or you'll never be published. Also, sometimes a break, a nap, some coffee and a snack will really improve your prose quality, even if it hurts the quantity. AND if you only write but never take time out to READ good writing in your genre, how will you improve? Take the time to find some good examples. You need something to aim for! Even Rowling read Lewis. And she's nowhere as good as he is in terms of style, but imagine how bad she'd be if she was writing in a literature-less bubble!!!!!!!

Ardenter -Submitting too rashly. To make money at this, you need a strong desire to be published. But don't let the desire to see your work in print make you lose your common sense. Keep a cool head. Research agents and publishers. Don't fall for scams.

Studiose - Writing too daintily. If you want to succeed, you can't wait for the mood to strike. You have to write even when it's HARD. Even when it feels like work. If you only write when it's fun, you'll never make a profit!

Forente - eating wildly Ok. I'm not really sure how this differs from Ardenter. Anyone want to explicate it for me so I can finish the post? =)

Monday, January 5, 2009

One of those days

I just advanced my plot more by deleting 600 words than I had by adding them in the first place.

Don't have to cut the character, at least. I just realized that her story was a lot further along when my MCs story started.

Still, work is going slowly right now. The kids are still sugared up from Christmas and need constant supervision (Need to get back to whole grains and veggies!!!!), i STILL have to finish my Christmas cards, and I'm distracted by the Wii. My first draft for Flix is going to be nearly as bare as my first for Yeller, I think. The difference is that this time I KNOW where i need to go back and flesh things out, and I'm noting that as I work.

So this time around, friends will have an easier job telling me what stinks!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Some Stats on My Career To Date

2005
# of Submissions: 38
# of sales : 7

Batting Average: .184

2006
# of Submissions: 27
# of sales: 1

Batting Average: .037

2007
# of Submissions: 88
# of sales: 1

Batting Average: .011

2008
# of Submissions: 25 (counting resubmissions on revision requests)
# of sales : 2

Batting Average: .08

A few Observations:

1. Even though the first year of writing was my highest Batting Average, I've made steadily more money every year.

2. This year was my best year ever, and I made twice as much as my next best year. A big reason for this is that I shifted from writing poems in 2005, to writing short stories. And now I'm trying to move over into novels!

3. In 2007 I made a phenomenal number of submissions relative to my productivity. Why? I think it was my "Cocky Year." I'd just joined SCBWI, I thought my picture book manuscripts were awesome (they weren't) and I subbed them to every publisher in creation. I'm just glad that no one remembers the slush. Because I am seriously embarrassed for myself.

4. I've also made fewer submissions as my work becomes more targeted and I now favor certain magazines. Also my novel writing is taking up a lot of time, so I only take the time to submit a short story if I think it has a very good shot of being accepted, or at least seriously considered. After all, any time spent subbing is time NOT spent writing.

5. I expect my stats to be pretty poor this year as I'm including agent subs in the numbers, and I expect that, like other first-time novelists, I'll have to try many agents before I find the right fit.

Anyway, I thought these #s might be useful to others just starting out in the submission game. I DO think I could improve them if I was a more prolific writer. We'll see what happens as the kids get older....

Starting the New Year off Right

With a flurry of submissions!

I've decided to follow the policy of "receive one rejection, look over query letter and then send three more out" so we'll see how that goes. Though I can already tell my new book is better than the last one. I'd shove the last one in a drawer and not sub it at all, except that it IS better than 1/3 to 1/2 the MG out there, I think. So I'm trying to find an agent.

I also need to send off my Highlights entry today!!!! I hope they like it -- because I worked like the dickens on it!!!