Archive for August, 2008

The Positive Side of Losing

August 24, 2008

There are a lot of pluses about writing romance. One of them is the contests where anything from query letters to the first 5o pages of your book is judged by your peers. All the judges are trained to critique romance. Some are like me and have finished one or more novels and achieved PRO status with RWA. Some are published in romance, other fiction or nonfiction. If you final in the contest, the final judging is often done by an agent or an editor.

One of the reasons I enter contests is the hope that my work will reach the eyes of those elusive editors or agents and they will fall in love with it. Another reason I enter is to find out if my opening chapter or love scene or breakup scene works. If it engages the reader or if there are problems. You can’t solve problems unless you know where they are.

Judging is subjective. That’s important to remember. Not all writer’s voices appeal to all readers. When I get back the score sheets and comments from a contest, I try and weed out the ones who don’t like my voice. They are the ones who dislike scenes or dialogue or characters other judges like. Of course, I had to get feedback from many judges to be able to do this.

I won’t lie to you. It hurts for someone to pick apart your work. It hurts even more to know that there are people who hate the way you write. But this is the real world and when your book is published there will be people who read it and don’t like it. And they will let you know this. So it’s good to have a layer of calluses built up before your book goes out to a greater audience.

The second thing I do is to focus on the positive comments. What do I do well? In my case, it’s dialogue. And I treasure notes saying the judge hopes to see my book on the shelves because they want to buy it and read the rest of the story.

Then comes reading the notes about what doesn’t work. Most judges I’ve gotten feedback from tell me this in a constructive manner. Some don’t. Again, I try to focus on the constructive comments. Sometimes I have to put the score sheets away for a couple of days (or weeks, or months) before I can do this. Sometimes I fight it. But if several judges are saying the same thing, I have to take it seriously. I have to look at what I’ve written and say okay, if this doesn’t work what will. How can I make it more exciting or faster paced? How can I improve? Do I really need to buy a grammar book? (Yes! And I still have trouble with commas.) Do I need to go to a workshop or take an on-line class to help me with this?

When I first sent out my baby to contests, the overwhelming feedback was that I head hopped. I had POV problems. Now, first I had to learn what the heck that meant. Then I had to learn how to correct it. In this last batch of contests, I entered I learned that the classes I’ve taken, the books I’ve read ,and the writing and rewriting I’ve done trying to get the perspective or point of view right have paid off. One judge said my POV was “masterful”. Wow. My hard work is paying off.

Now I’m thinking about some of the other comments that have been made. Letting them percolate in my mind while I get on with the business of finishing my rewrites. Considering how I might use that feedback to improve the delivery of my story. Because I love this story and I want to do it justice.

So it’s not always a bad thing not to final in a contest. You can learn a lot by looking at the positive side of negative feedback. At least, I have.

Of course there’s another good thing that can come of entering contests. Making it to the final three. Placing. Winning.

Body Language

Third Place 2006 Summer Sizzle
Third Place 2006 Ignite the Flame
First Place Romantic Suspense 2008 Dixie Kane Memorial Contest
Finaled and awaiting the final judging in 2008 Toronto Romance Writers’ Golden Opportunity Contest.

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The Hardest Thing About Being a Parent

August 15, 2008

Parenting is not an easy job. The manuals aren’t complete and training in 0n-the-job and seat-of-your-pants. But the hardest thing is seeing your children hurting.

Hurting at a cut, a sting, a broken bone. Hurting at a broken toy, a messed up video game, a screwed up audition. Hurting at the loss of a friend, a pet, a girlfriend.

If I could I’d take all the hurts physical and mental and spare them the pain. But I can’t. And shouldn’t. Because learing to cope with and survive the small hurts gives them the strength and mechanisms to deal with the larger ones. I know this. It doesn’t make it any easier.

All I can do is be there for them with a hug, an ear, advice if they ask for it. (Still waiting on that day), and love. Lots of love. And hope that they will learn that though living life to the full and risking your heart sometimes brings pain, the rewards and the joys outweigh this and you should never stop striving for the heights. Never stop loving and caring. If I can teach them this then I will have done my job right

Cherry Bombs in San Francisco

August 9, 2008

K.T., OH, RSS (back), Merry, and GG after a great dinner in Chinatown.
Who knew our own Lori had a diner. Breakfast was delicious.
K.T. and OH in front of the diner. I could have sworn I took a picture of the sign too.
In the top middle is the top of the San Francisco Marriot where RWA National was held.
The gate to Chinatown where Dee, my youngest and I had just finished buying out the shops and having a nice lunch.

Not the best pictures but there they are.

One of the best things about the conference was the chance to meet my on-line friends in person and reconnect with friends I’ve met before.

Thanks to everyone’s tips the blues fled, the submission was sent off and jet lag was a non-event. Now I need to get back into the book.

Goal. Revisions done by Sept. 15th. Final polishing done by Oct. 1st.

Post Conference Blues

August 4, 2008

The energy at RWA Nationals is so strong and it is so wonderful to have 4-5 days to talk with other writers that once it’s over there is a let down. No matter how much you missed your family and your own bed. No matter how excited you are about getting back to your WIP to put into practice what you have learned.

It hit me today after the red eye flight and a nap once we got home. I found myself feeling down and doubts about my ability to sell reared their very ugly heads. I wanted to talk it over with someone. I thought maybe I shouldn’t send in the pages to the agent I queried. Maybe I needed to wait, to polish, to change, to avoid the chance of rejection.

Thank heavens I recognized it for what it was and made a plan. I’m so tired today that looking over my first 10 pages and working on tweaking the synopsis and writing the letter did not seem like the best use of what little energy I have. I want to be fresh. Because it’s important to let your belief in your book and your passion for it shine through when you send out a partial or even a few pages.

So I thought what will free me up to concentrate on the book tomorrow? What might pull me away from it? What could I use as an excuse to avoid working on it?

The answer was the necessary chores anyone has when they return from a trip. Grocery shopping, unpacking, laundry, and in my case a car that should have been inspected by 7/31/08. So I pushed myself to do those things. Now the kids have food for the next few days and things they enjoy that don’t take a lot of preparation. Clothes are unpacked, washed and drying. The car is at the shop where it will be inspected tomorrow. No I haven’t sorted all my notes, papers and promotional information I gathered at the conference. But the biggies are done and I can set aside a little time each day to finish the rest. There are not suitcases sitting in the hall or mounds of laundry piled in front of the washer to drain my energy tomorrow.

The only thing that will keep me from getting the information to the agent tomorrow is myself. I will do this. I owe it to the story. The story I love and believe in. I believe in it and am so committed to sending it off that I did the stuff today that usually takes me more than a week at the least. Or a month or two. I’m the queen of procrastination.

Are you feeling the post conference blues? Even if you didn’t go, are you putting up roadblocks that stop you from selling your book? From finishing it? How do you motivate yourself to burst through those roadblocks? Because if we don’t destroy the roadblocks we set up we will never succeed.

Day 4 RWA–Icing on the Cake

August 3, 2008

Today was good. Really good. I had breakfast with a friend, went to a workshop that was worth the entire trip and got free books. Learned a lot at publisher spotlights and a workshop on three ways to make yourself irresistible to editors and agents.

The workshop was Save The Cat given by Blake Snyder. He wrote a book of the same name. Go out and buy it now. I’m going to. Tried to buy it at the bookstore here but they were sold out. He’s funny and his explanation of the pitch, the log line, and his 15 point beat sheet really gave me some light bulb moments. I can’t write all my notes here. Besides his website and books will do it much better. He is also a very funny man who loves romance writers. His audience loved him right back.

This year is the first year I’ve gone to any of the Spotlights on publishers because the first two years I was concentrating on craft. I’d strongly recommend these spotlights to authors who have finished manuscripts but aren’t sure what lines they fit. I only wish I’d gotten to more. Oh well. Next year.

I also recommend visiting www.larsenpomada.com to learn the Three Ways of Impressing Editors and Agents. It is an informative website and I really enjoyed hearing Elizabeth Pomada and Laurie McClean give the workshop.

I’m going to miss the Award Ceremony because this is my anniversary and being a romance writer I think it’s good for a husband and wife to spend their anniversary out together.

I’m so glad I came to the conference and I’m looking forward to the next one in Washington D.C. next year.

Making it Through the Rocks

August 2, 2008

The road (or boat trip) to publishing a book can be very rocky. What is important is not giving up even when your way is blocked or when your boat breaks up. Talent is not enough. You have to persevere.
I saw this demonstrated over and over again yesterday when I volunteered at the editor/agent sessions. We got to the rooms a half hour before the sessions were to begin and the co-ordinator started listing assignments and asking who would like to do them. When she said she needed someone to handle filling the open and cancelled appointments, I immediately volunteered. That meant I had the first shot at the appointments so I picked an agent and put my name in. Then people started coming in and the next 4 hours were insane.
I’d never realized that you could come to the waiting room for the sessions and check for a free appointment. We did it first come first serve, had people sign in and called them when we got to them. By the time the morning session ended, we had worked through 92 names. Not everyone found an editor or agent they wanted to pitch to but most of those people got a session. Some of them waited almost the entire 3 hours. They persevered, they got to pitch and I bet there will be some who get an agent or contract out of it. Not all were those like me who had procrastinated to long to get one before the conference. Many already had appts but were getting others to increase their chances to find the person who would fall in love with their book.
It was stressful, loud and exhausting but I was amazed at how nice the majority of the people were despite their long wait and the fact that I knew little about what the agents and editors on the list wanted to acquire. An angel named Karen who is President of a chapter, took pity on me and helped me with my job. I learned a lot about the various agents, editors and handling anxious writers from her. I just wish I’d caught her last name. Would I volunteer for that again? In a heartbeat. But next time I will have armed myself with a cheat sheet about the agents and editors and I will request a helper if there are enough volunteers.
Connie Brockaway spoke at the awards luncheon. She likened writers to superheros and used The Heros Journey to describe the journey of writers. Very good and very funny.
The afternoon I spent working on my pitch since I hadn’t planned on doing one so no workshops. Then since I had a few more minutes I visited the agency website to learn more about the agency and the agent.
Back to the waiting room. Reading over pitch. Deep breaths. Finally my turn. Ten very long minutes of sitting at a empty table with no agent. Smiled. Said no problem when the co-ordinators apologized and said they didn’t know what had happened. Left my name, cell and email as requested.
I was upset though. Getting geared up then nothing leaves an emotional backwash. Went back to the room, immediately changed out of my uber professional suit and asked DH if he wanted to go and get a glass of wine. Just before we walked out of the room my cell rang. Stephanie, the co-ordinator told me that Ms. Pomada had come in and would stay late to see me and the other writer who she had missed. Did I want it? Oh yes.
Back into suit. Back to waiting room. Joking with the volunteers I knew from the morning. When I got my time, Ms. Pomada was very nice and very apologetic. I told her that sometimes things happened we couldn’t controll and I appreciated her staying to see me then I pitched. She acted very interested in my concept, the session went very well and she requested the first 10 pages and a synopsis. Just a standard request but I’m happy. And I liked her.
The writers that have impressed me the most at this conference are the ones who have a positive attitude, are appreciative even if things don’t go their way and who smile. I am trying to immulate them.
So did not make it to any workshops today but I learned a lot. It was a good day and made better by getting to meet online friends and go out to dinner with them. But more aobut them later. I need to get dressed for today.

Dream Big Write Big

August 1, 2008

Blogger ate the last post. Let’s try again.

In the Pro Retreat today, Linda Howard said she practiced 20 years before she sold her first book and she still doesn’t know how to write a synopsis.

Rules are good when you’re starting out and learning but then you need to throw them out the window and write your way.

Write the book you are passionate about even if it doesn’t fit into any slot. No one else can write the book you’re passionate about. She had an idea that just wouldn’t go away though she was told it wouldn’t sell. That idea became Son of the Morning.

There is no such thing as too sexy, too far out or too fantastic. You are cheating yourself if you don’t write the book you passionately believe in.

Another speaker (didn’t catch her name) said that success comes if you keep your hope and believe in yourself. Being sedentary is the death of creativity. If you believe it, it will happen. You will be published.

There was an agent’s panel consisting of Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency, laurie McLean of Pomada-Larsen Agency, Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown Ltd, Barbara Poelle of Irene Goodman and Jennifer Shober of Spencerhill. They are all actively acquiring. They flew through the types of books they want so fast I couldn’t get them all done. Check the Agency websites for that and for what they want.

Dream Big Write Big

August 1, 2008
That’s what Linda Howard said in the Pro Retreat this afternoon. She also said she practiced 20 years