Saturday, August 28, 2010

When There's No More Room on the Bookshelf

I buy books, I use the public library, and friends and I pass around books. Before I know it my bookshelves are full. When I prepared to move I didn't want to pay to move all those books and I had no idea what to do with the several hundred hard back and paperback books we had accumulated over the years. A friend told me that a tiny town of about one thousand residents was trying to start a library. The city had little funds for extras so citizens were starting a grass roots campaign to start one with no money. Someone had donated a building and many others donated books. I gave them a call. The woman in charge came out with a pickup and went nuts over the books. Together we loaded the pickup with a few hundred hardbacks in mint condition from the sixties to the 2002. There were biographies, autobiographies, non-fiction, and fiction of all types. She couldn't believe the shape they were in and I explained that only two people, maybe three, read them before they went on the shelves.
After I moved I decided I wouldn't collect that many again. Well, seven years later, I was looking at over a hundred. I went through them yesterday and kept my "How to write" books, several MG and YA's that I'm saving for my great-nieces and nephews, reference books, a few signed first editions from my favorite contemporary authors, and a few favorites, including paperbacks, I'll read again. That left about fifty. I called a neighbor asking for ideas. She mentioned several nursing homes that had libraries and she told me that one of the animal shelters loved getting books for their thrift store. This was the same shelter where my sister adopted her first rescue. So I bagged up the hard backs and took them out there. They helped me unpack the car. Being hardback and recent best sellers they can even offer them to shops who deal in used books. I was happy to not only find a home for them and help the animals, but now my shelves are waiting for brand new occupants.
I realized driving away that real-hold in the hand and turn the page-books are still wanted. Yes, there are e-books and it is a wave of the future and I'm one of the supporters of those, but I'm happy to think it is going to be a long time until a book in the hand will be considered old fashioned and outdated.  There's got to be a place for both kinds in our future society. At least I hope so. What are your thoughts or hopes on the future of books?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Query Tracker Surprise

I am so excited, honored, and just tickled pink. Today BleeBonn  sent me a coupon for a membership to Query Tracker. I had heard other writers talk about how great it was, but never checked it out. It is fabulous! Blee, thank you so much! I have been having such a good time on that site today, so much so, I'm actually looking forward to writing more query letters and getting them out there.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sea Gull Epic Win

Ran across this today and just had to post it. Talk about creating characters, these two give a writer plenty to work with. (video removed)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's Too Hot!

It's Sunday. A hot, humid day with no rain in sight. Cicadas are still trilling in the tree tops and don't seem anywhere near ready to quit. I did manage to make it to church and had breakfast with my sister at a restaurant close by, but now I feel drained. I refuse to blame it on my full tummy which usually puts me to sleep like a new born baby. I blame it on the summer temps. It's just too hot to work. Yes, I drove in an air conditioned car to an air conditioned church then to an air conditioned restaurant. I came back home to my air conditioned house but it's too hot to write. (Hmmm, I sense a PB story in there somewhere.) So, in the tradition of a Seinfeld episode, I've written about nothing. I hope whoever stops by and reads this that you are much more active and productive.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What I Learned from WriteOnCon about Queries

WriteOnCon is over and I have to say I enjoyed every minute that I attended this first annual online conference. My keen interest was the subject of query letters and took notes. I'll mention a couple of things that stood out to me. I learned so much about agents and what happens on the receiving end of query writing. Kate Testerman gave a lot of great information but when she said that she received 6000 queries in one year and only signed one new client, my jaw dropped. When asked which client that was she said look for the debut novel of Veronica Roth's Divergent. She could not put the manuscript down to eat or shower. That's the kind of book she's looking for.

Natalie M. Fisher agreed to give query critiques and received over eighty from conference attendees. As she went through them we all received a reality check as well as some spontaneous belly laughs. A couple of the things she covered were:  if they were too long, she didn't read them at all and if they hinted at a "tired plot" she wasn't interested, the plot had to be unique especially in romance queries. And when someone had used a word from the novel without explanation, she said "Never write your query as if I'm already supposed to know what things are." There were several things she did like and one of those was reading the tone of the heroine in the query letter, she said it was a snarky voice and she immediately liked her.

So back to Query Writing 101 for me.

On my post about Synopses one of the comments from Jayne mentioned to make sure and include in my list to reveal the ending of the novel. I knew that but failed to mention it, so consider it number eight. Thanks, Jayne.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Today is the Day!

                WriteOnCon Starts Today!


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Finally! A Synopsis Technique That May Work

When I first heard this word in the writing world, I was naive and totally ignorant of how important it is in the submission process. Condense my forty thousand word novel into a two page summary? Sure, no problem. Then reality reared its ugly head. The synopsis is not just a quick summary.  My first synopsis was dry, full of facts, and boring. Even I wouldn't want to read that novel but I sent it out and sure enough, no one else wanted to read it either.

I did a lot of research, looked at lots of samples, and I learned a few facts.

The synopsis should:

1. cover the entire novel
2. retain the flavor of the author's voice
3. prove that the author is a storyteller
4. be written in the present tense
5. be an excellent sales pitch
6. be short because editors and agents don't have a lot of time
7. be formatted properly

Length, formatting, and present tense is nothing to fret over, but the first three shoulds are a lot tougher. If they hit the mark then number 5 is automatically successful. I've written another synopsis for a new novel  over and over and over again. Instinctively, even though it improved with each new version, I knew that some magic little element was missing. I kept going back to my WIP for a few days to get it off my mind before trying again.

 Then early one morning last week, with coffee in hand, I sat down to try again. I took a sip holding the cup with both hands and stared at it. There it was, the magic little element, the same imagination that carried my character through all her laughter and perils. Why hadn't I thought of something like this before?

I visualized a clatch of neighborhood women in my kitchen settling in to indulge themselves in delicious coffee and juicy gossip. They had dropped everything to rush over because I had learned the real story of what happened to the old lady, the nosy little girls, and the night police cars swarmed the neighborhood with flashing lights and sirens screaming.

I began typing as if I were telling the story to them and this synopsis took on a life of its own. It was actually fun to write and because women don't have too much time to hang around another woman's kitchen, the synopsis was complete at under 2000 words. It's now resting for a few weeks before I polish it and send it out again. I'll let you know if this synopsis results in some requests.

Now, I have to put the coffee on and call those ladies again. I have the real scoop about the teenager, the accident victim, and the intruder who comes in at night while everyone is sleeping, moves objects around, and leaves without detection.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Circle of Friends Blogger Award

I just received this wonderful award from the fabulous blogger and author Andrea Vlahakis over at Up the Attic Stairs. With this award comes the rule to pass it on to five other bloggers with their links. Thank you!


Ann Best at Long Journey Home

Myrna Foster at Night Writer

Amy Jo Lavin at Ramblings of a Novice Writer

Johanna at Once Upon a Novelist

Dawn Embers at It's in the Book

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What "Making Characters Memorable" Means to Me

As writers we have heard over and over that our characters should be memorable. After pondering this while creating many different characters, this is what it means to me.

One of the things I keep in mind when writing the first draft is that the plot doesn't happen alone. The plot happens to the character from page one. Every scene, every incident, every chapter, advances the plot but it also advances the development of the MC's personal character.

How the character behaves in each scene depends upon inner tension and conflict as well as what's happening in the plot. The character's reaction has a direct correlation to this inner conflict. Isn't that what real people face every day?  Two similar examples:
  • Mrs. So and So had a rough day at work, her boss is unhappy with something she did or didn't do, and all she wants to do is sit down and relax. But the minute she walks in the door, her daughter reminds her it's Meet the Teacher night. What will her reaction be?
  • Then there's Mrs. Such and Such down the street. She has had a fabulous day in real estate by selling the largest home on her list, she walks in the door and her daughter tells her it's Meet the Teacher night. Will her reaction be the same?

 When I get to the end of my first draft I want to see that not only does my plot have a satisfying resolution, but my MC has grown, resolved some of the conflict and tension in his/her life, and have become someone my future reader identifies with like a good friend. In order for the reader to feel that way about the character I've created, I have to make the MC someone to care about, who is believable, and has enough inner conflict that my reader carries a touch of anxiety throughout the novel hoping that things work out all the way around.

 I like to think about my main character as a person I just met who later becomes a friend. The first time I meet a future friend, I usually like her by what she says, does, or reacts to a given situation. I don't really know much about her, but gradually over time I learn how that person feels about things, what kind of temperament she has, and what she likes and dislikes. If I learn she has problems, I worry about her. I watch, listen, and encourage her. By the end of one year I can honestly say the person I met twelve months ago is not the same person I have come to know and usually I like her even more. I sure hope my reader feels the same way about my MC.

What does creating memorable characters mean to you?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Penny, my sister's dog, is a four month old basset and mystery hound mix. I was in the living room, heard the doggy door swing open, the click of toenails, and a loud thud.  August has definitely arrived. But, as with pups and kids, time was wasting. There were birds to chase, holes to dig, and racing the fence line with the dogs on the other side. Right after I snapped this picture she was up and out the door. My WIP could use some more attention this morning, but I'm no pup.