Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Golden Heart Pointers For A Successful Entry

October 7, 2009

Golden Heart Pointers For A Successful Entry

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Wild Blue UnderJudi Fennell has been hearing several of us whine and whimper about entering the RWA’s Golden Heart this year. We’ve probably pulled her ear all out of shape, poor thing. Why do we ask Judi? Because she’s been a category and contest coordinator, and a judge for the GH and RITAs. Not to mention a veteran in entering contests and now a successful author.

As I listened to her advice, I had this bright idea—well, I thought it was a bright idea :-). Why not have Judi write an article on her observations? So I asked. There was only a small groan, followed with mysterious mumblings in another language I didn’t recognize, from the other end of the phone. Judi is working on Mer galleys for her third book, Catch Of A Lifetime, due out February 2010, and finishing up the first book in her new trilogy on Genies. So, deadlines are definitely in play here. But being the trooper she is, she agreed to write the article.

I hardly had to beg.

Well, a little bit.

 

Judi, thank you for doing this for me.

You’re welcome, Sia

Was that a groan I heard?

No, no, just something in my throat. Ahem. (*hands Judi a glass of wine)

With the Golden Heart deadline approaching, I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about entering contests and ways to maximize your investments…

Come Join us Over Coffee and share your thoughts.

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Author, Actor, Director

September 30, 2009

Author, Actor, Director

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Directr2

Many writers will tell you they see their stories unfold in their head, much like a   movie.

Is that the case with you?

I attended a writer’s workshop recently that discussed using theatrical techniques   when writing your story. It was presented by an actress and author (Leanna Renee Hieber) and was a fun workshop. I came away with better visual ideas for my writing.

The author is not only writer, but also:

  • Cinematographer and as such you’re in charge of the setting, picture, mood, and ambiance of each scene in the story.
  • Director whose job it is to set the staging, pacing, and viewpoint
  • Actor. As an actor you have to delve into the character. What’s the character’s motivation, how should the lines be delivered, how do you use the dialogue to show your character and his/her inten
  • Marketing Director and as such what’s your movie poster quote? The one line pitch or tag line? You’re a brand so how do you present you and your work?

I’ve gotten stuck now and then, while writing. You know when you know something is wrong but you can’t quite figure out what. It’s frustrating. I had a light bulb moment as I was listening to the speaker. Leanna said, never forget your characters. They are what drive the book. If we’re writing, editing, or have gotten stuck ask yourself as the actor:

1444002 What’s my motivation?

How am I going to get what I  want (intention and tactics)?

What’s the conflict? Or what’s keeping me from getting what I want?

What’s my environment and how is it affecting me? This is context.

My light bulb moment was, wow, I could use this for character and dialogue but I could also use this when crafting or editing my scenes especially if I’m stuck. It would help me look at each character within the scene to see if they’re reacting true to their GMC and is the scene being written to the best dramatic advantage.

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Do you use any of these techniques when you write or edit?

What are your thoughts on this?

When I Make It Big…

September 23, 2009

Sia McKye’s Thoughts…OVER COFFEE

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Diana CrowningWeb[1]It’s my pleasure to have Diana Castilleja, author of Aiza Clan Shifter series, as my guest today. Diana writes paranormal, romantic suspense, and erotica as Diana DeRicci.

Diana discusses how writing has evolved over the last decade, as well as some well thought out advice about the writing process, our attitude towards rejections, and knowing the market we’re for which we’re writing…

I’m asked often what my advice would be for new writers just starting out.

There’s the basics:

  • Learn your craft, the skill of writing correctly without losing your innate flair and voice. Remember, the story you write, can only be told by you. Also understand that all the *rules* out there, aren’t in stone. Write the story the way you would want to read it. Only written words can be corrected and improved. A blank page is fodder for the crayon box.
  • Realize rejection, while tough, isn’t personal. It truly, really isn’t. Your story with all its wonderful twists and characters, is one of probably a hundred different story lines the agent, editor or publisher has looked at just that week when they finally reach yours. There’s places all over the web that discuss the most common rejections and why they happen. Everyone gets rejected. It’s part of the business. You’re not failing because you receive rejections. You’re succeeding because you are pushing forward, because you are driving yourself for more. Be proud.
  • Understand the market you’re writing for. Sounds simple enough, huh? Not exactly. Your market is going to change probably close to yearly as your style, voice and talent improve, as new authors arrive on the scene and mold the current reading selections, and favorites inspire whole new worlds. Sometimes the best thing you can do is generalize your story and let the publisher et al decide where to place it. Remember, this is a very fluid industry. Trends change on a nearly quarterly cycle with publishing. Aim for your genre and learn where your writing fits best. It’s not a reason to panic.

 

  • Lastly, glaciers move faster than any facet of the publishing industry. Different methods are faster (ebook/small press) or slower (New York) but it all still takes time. The best way to combat that impatience sitting on your shoulder? Write your next story. You might just discover something new that hadn’t appeared in the previous one. A new tangent, a new skill, a new idea. That’s what makes writing so rewarding, at least for me.

So when I make it big, I can say I knew me when, because I’ve already experienced a lot of this, and know I have a lot more rolling down that hill to smack into me at any given moment. Is that impending trouble enough to make me stop writing? Honestly, no. I have locked up with writer’s block, for a whole year once. I refuse to let that happen again, but I can’t see myself willingly tossing in the towel and never writing a tortured hero or a messed-up heroine again. I’d probably drive my family insane if I did. I’m sure they’d be grateful if I didn’t.

Do you see rejections as failures?
How have you evolved as a writer?

What are your thoughts on this?

Playing And Writing Well With Others

September 2, 2009

Playing And Writing Well With Others

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Tawny Weber Feels Like the First TimeI want to welcome Tawny Weber, one of my favorite Blaze authors, to Over Coffee. She writes some wonderful stories and may I add, they’re hot enough to sizzle bacon. Her characters are fun, quirky, and realistic.

Today her topic about writing with others and  with the new four part Mini-Series launched by Blaze, Dressed To Thrill.

Writing is, by nature, a solitary pursuit. We spin tales and weave make believe in our minds, then carefully craft them into stories with pen or keyboard. For some, that’s done in a quiet space, others in a cacophonous crowd. But it’s generally done alone.

At least it is in my little world. I’m a major lone-writer…I do brainstorm with my critique partner, the amazing Beth Andrews, and revise with my editor. But the story writing itself is an isolated process. At least, it was until my latest book…

 

Writers: do you write alone or do you have a group you work with?

Readers: are you a fan of connected stories?

Come the discussion and share your thoughts with us Over Coffee.

A Writer’s Journey To Publication

August 24, 2009

Every Monday, Wednesday, And Friday

 

 

Every Monday, Wednesday, And Friday

 

 

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Lisa's Book CoverI’m happy to welcome my friend and debut author, Lisa Brackmann, to Over Coffee. We’re part of the famous, or infamous, depending upon your opinion at the time, Writin’ Wombats. I’ve watched many of our group receive contracts for publication, including Lisa.

I know the road to publication isn’t easy. Most writers are so focused on getting published, they rarely think beyond that. What happens when you get an agent? What happens once the book is sold? We think we work hard on our novels prior to publication, but what about after?

Lisa shares a bit of her journey to publication with us. Some of this was previously published on her blog, The Paper Tiger. Lisa also agreed to answer some of my questions which you will find at the end of the article.

Writing a novel is a lot of work. Okay, I’ve known that for a while. I’ve written a few. This last one, the one that got me an agent and then a deal, took so much time and effort that I’d joke it was written in dog years. And that it was trying to kill me, I was pretty sure. That last bit might not have been a joke.

The part that I’d only previously known on an intellectual level is that getting published is also a lot of work. I mean, this should be obvious, and I sort of knew it, but until I went through it, I didn’t actually know it.

All of the sudden, you’re getting paid for your work. And people are depending on you. Your agent. Your editor. Your PR person. An entire infrastructure. You’ve signed a contract, and you have to deliver, quality work, on time. There are hard deadlines. Publication schedules. Catalogs for the upcoming season. I think that’s the first time I really absorbed that the whole thing was real, when I downloaded Soho’s catalog, read all of the book descriptions, the author bios. Wow, I thought. I’m going to be in one of these. Me and my book. Shit.

There’s the book itself. Editorial revisions. Line edits. A galley proof yet to come. And then there’s everything else that comes with being an author in the modern world. A bio. Photos. A new website. Marketing ideas. Where am I known? Who do I know? How can I help my own chances of success?

It’s that whole notion of thinking of yourself and your work as a product, as a brand. Most of us writer types are introverts, and we can all fulminate against this cultural trend of marketing uber alles (and I have), but this is the reality. It’s a part of our job, as authors. And if there’s one thing this whole experience has brought home to me, it’s that being a published author is a job.

Well, duh, right? And I’ve taken that sort of workman’s approach to my writing in general for the past few years. A writing book I’ve often recommended to people suffering from creative blocks is Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. It’s a little repetitive and has its metaphysical aspects which may or may not be helpful to a lot of people. But one of the basic messages I appreciated very much is, you have to think of your creative work as a job. Meaning, you can’t wait around for the Muses to inspire you. Because what’s the first rule of a job?

You show up. Whether you’re inspired or not. Whether you want to or not. Eventually that kind of discipline rewards you with productive output.

It worked for me, anyway. I’m not one of these writers who *has to write, who churns out thousands of words at a sitting. It takes a lot of effort for me, a lot of the time. Ultimately I’m happier when I’m writing than when I’m not writing, so I make myself do it, whether I feel like it or not.You can carry over a lot of other things from thinking of your writing as a job.

You have to work with other people. At times you have to put aside your ego and listen to what others have to say about your work and accept their criticism. You have to distinguish between trivialities and the things that really matter to the integrity of your work.

This experience has given me new sympathy for publishers—and agents—and the reluctance they might have to take on debut authors. Though I think if you write a good book, it’s pretty clear that you have some discipline, still, there’s always that risk that a new novelist isn’t going to be able to work to deadline, or work and play well with others, that she might be a big pain in the ass, and not worth the investment of time and money. Because that’s the other thing you need to understand, if you don’t know this already: agents and publishers are making a significant investment in you, of their own time and potential income.

Me, I take a lot of pride in my craftsmanship, and as I’ve gone through this process, I’ve realized that I also take a lot of pride in doing a good job. In getting the work done right, on time, or even ahead of schedule. This is a job that I really enjoy. One where I show up. One that I might even be good at. I like that.

  • How long you’ve been writing with the view to getting published?

I’ve always taken my writing really serious, but it’s hard for me to determine when I became serious about being published. Early on I wrote some prose mostly for fun that got me some publishing interest, but I was too embarrassed to follow through with it. For a long time I focused on screenplays and teleplays, but they were pretty idiosyncratic and strange for the most part. Even though I’d tell myself I wanted that career, I wondered about my seeming inability to make the necessary compromises in what I was writing to have it (the one time I did a screenplay project for hire, I really didn’t enjoy the process very much).

I then wrote a novel for fun, just as a way to keep my writing chops up, while I focused on that spec screenplay that was going to earn me six figures. I found out that I really liked writing novels way more than spec screenplays, so I kept going with that. I actually had some publishing interest in that book as well, but I always figured it was a serious long-shot (500 pages long! Sort of unclassifiable, semi-steam punk speculative fiction without any elves or dwarves!), and I gave up on subbing that when the editor who had liked it somewhat eventually passed. So ROCK PAPER TIGER was the first novel I wrote where from the beginning I had getting published in mind. And then, of course, the early drafts turned out weird and unclassifiable!

  • How long were you shopping for an agent. Did you get many rejections before Nathan Bransford took you on?

It felt like forever, but it really wasn’t that long. I think I had five or six passes before I tried Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown. But I was already pretty discouraged. The responses I’d gotten from agents (when I got personalized responses) were contradictory, and I was convinced that I’d written yet another unclassifiable, unsalable, weird book.

I only tried Nathan because, when I was about to throw the book in a metaphoric drawer, one of the members of my writing group suggested I try him – “He has a blog, and he likes novels set in foreign countries.” I did my research on what he was looking for – something which I strongly urge anyone who is querying agents to do rather than just sending out queries en masse – pounded out a new query letter over a rather large glass of wine, and sent it off.

  • Once you were accepted by him, what did you have to go through to strike the deal?

Nathan felt that my book had a lot of potential but needed some revisions before it was ready for submission. He had a direction in mind and offered to reconsider the MS if I wanted to rewrite along those lines. I agreed with his critique – he really echoed things that I’d suspected but couldn’t see as clearly as I needed to do the work on my own. So I did a series of rewrites with feedback from Nathan, who in addition to his agenting savvy is a great editor. By the time we got to a certain point in the process, when it became clear that I could get the book where it needed to be, he offered me representation.

I know that some writers might be wary of doing so much work with no guarantee of a contract at the end, but I think this was a really great way for both of us to test out the author/agent relationship and see how we worked together. Believe me, you want to have a good working relationship with your agent when you go through revisions and then the submission and publication process! And I’m sure that agents feel the same way about the writers they sign. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

  • How did working with an agent change your perspective of publishing?

Working with Nathan and then being signed by him and Curtis Brown was life-changing for me. I do not exaggerate, corny as it sounds. I felt validated for my writing in a way that I hadn’t before. Here’s someone whose job depends on recognizing talent and whose income depends on making smart choices about who he signs.

For me, long accustomed to writing stuff that was too eccentric to sell, it was a huge confidence booster, and another big step in being able to separate myself from my work, to see it as a product, not some deep reflection of my soul or what have you. That may sound a little crass, but it’s absolutely necessary to have that attitude to work as a professional author. You have to learn how to accept criticism without it taking it so personally.

  • I know you love things Chinese. You’ve been learning the language, you’ve visited China many times. How much influence has your studies of/love of China influence your writing of Rock Paper Tiger?

Well, most of the book is set in contemporary China. That was a sort of commercial calculation on my part – I knew that people are interested in China, and that not that many American fiction writers have used modern China as a setting. I felt that I had the familiarity to write it with some authority.

China is a fascinating place it’s a lot of fun to drop in some of the surreal details that are a part of the daily scenery there. (as an aside, I look for those details in any location I set a book – I’m planning a California road trip novel at some point, and believe me, there’s plenty of surrealism here to go around!)

  • Can you tell me a bit about the story itself?

Iraq war vet Ellie Cooper is down and out in Beijing, trying to lose herself in the alien worlds of performance artists and online gamers. When a chance encounter with a Uighur fugitive drops her down a rabbit hole of conspiracies, Ellie must decide whom to trust among the artists, dealers, collectors and operatives claiming to be on her side – in particular, a mysterious organization operating within a popular online game.

  • When will Rock Paper Tiger be released?

June 2010, by Soho Press – who have been an absolute pleasure to work with. My editor, Katie Herman, did an amazing job on my book – and the care they’ve taken with things like the cover – have I mentioned how much I love the cover? – it’s been a great experience. Also one that has really changed my perspective on what being a professional novelist is all about. Which is pretty much the topic of my post!

  • Lisa, thank you for taking the time to answer a few of my questions. I loved your article. It makes sense and gives an insider’s view of what happens once you’ve been sold as well as choices you have to make for your career as a novelist.

I wish you the very best with this book and can’t wait until I can read it!
 

*~*~*~*~
Lisa FredstiLisa Brackmann has worked as an executive at a major motion picture studio, an issues researcher in a presidential campaign, and as the singer/songwriter/bassist in an LA rock band. She’s lived and traveled extensively in China. A southern California native, Brackmann currently splits her time between Venice, California and Beijing, China.

Defending Inspiration

August 5, 2009

Sam Caught In The ActDefending Inspiration

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My guest today is Samantha Hunter. She’s written sixteen books for Harlequin. She’s worked as a university writing instructor for ten years and Sam’s been writing full-time since 2005. Sam loves to cook, being outdoors and she’s a quilter who makes some gorgeous bags, and a self named bag addict. So, I’d say she’s well familiar with the concept of inspiration.

I saw a comment on Twitter yesterday, where someone posted a quote that said “If you wait for inspiration, you’re a waiter, not a writer.” As quippy as it is, that made me sad.

A lot of writers dismiss inspiration, and I have to admit, that’s not me. I believe in the magic, the spark, and the muse. I consider myself a writer who does wait for inspiration – and that hasn’t kept me from producing sixteen books for Harlequin to date with several more that have either not been published or are in the works.

To me, inspiration is not antithetical to the work of writing, but it is the air that writers breathe – it’s what keeps us going. It’s the initial idea, the premise, the strike of brilliance, the trigger, whatever you want to call it. It’s the “roll” we get on or the thing that breaks the block. It’s the power behind the words, the thing that makes craft more than mechanics. It’s that feeling that pushes us through a book, and I think in the best of cases, the reader can feel it, too – when they are completely sucked in, or find a moment in a book making them laugh or moving them to tears.

When we get inspired, following a spark, we can work like we’re on fire, write page after page, barely able to keep up. Then the work starts to suggest itself, the book starts rolling out in front of us – the work fuels inspiration this way, too. The more we write, the more ideas we have to keep writing.

What I have found is that the process of being inspired is a lot like meditating – if you relax, if you open your mind to the world and the possibilities, it works. A lot of people don’t want to stake their careers on that, but I can’t imagine having a career without it, if only because it’s part of the joy of writing. I’ve found that the only time I am really happy and writing my best is when I am inspired, and I’ve also found that the more you encourage it, the more often it comes. But that’s just me.

So why do so many writers dismiss inspiration, as if it’s something that gets in the way of work rather than something that fuels it? I suppose because they fear it won’t come to them, and that’s a scary thing. I’ve also thought that writers might think that admitting that they believe in inspiration might make them seem flighty or floofy…but that’s where the work comes in. I believe in being inspired, and I don’t think any of my editors or my agent would consider me irresponsible or not having a good work ethic – I have never missed a deadline. I consistently propose new ideas, I finish books. I write almost every day, and sometimes, I do write even when I’m not “feeling it,” because we have to, but if I am really uninspired, I really can’t write. Yes, that’s scary. But, usually, if I relax and remind myself what it is I love about what I do, and maybe go work in my garden for a while, it comes back.

In the end, it’s whatever works for you – writing is highly individualistic. What’s right for one person is not right for someone else, and that’s okay, but I reject the wholesale dismissal of inspiration in our world. Sure, we have to know the business, the craft, the market, etc but we can’t let it take over, and I find believing in inspiration is the best defense. Twitter being what it is, also offered up a quote I did like, one that balanced out the scales, and that was from Ray Bradbury, who said “You must stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you.” So, I’ll leave it at that.
🙂