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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Time for True Confessions of the Writing Kind

Okay, okay, you beat it out of me--I did not participate in Nanowrimo this year.

"What?" you scream in horror, your hands clutching your face, your eyes big as full moons.

Yep, or I mean nope, not doing it this year. Notice that I don't even have the decency to pretend to be ashamed. I'm a disgrace and I know it. What can I say, I just didn't feel the whole Nanowrimo love this year. Maggie Stiefvater gives some great reasons for not participating. So does Cassandra Giovanni's in her Anti-Nanowrimo post.

Nice to come across two posts on the main problem with the concept of writing garbage just to get to the 50,000 word count. I don't agree with writing nonstop without at least considering plot, characterizations, consistency, etc. Last year I participated and finished the first draft of a YA book. I'd be lying if I didn't agree that it felt good to finish a complete draft in a month, but when I read through it, I realized it was a mess and knew I had months of editing and revisions ahead of me. Groan.

Another problem I have with the Nanowrimo organization is their constant requests for donations. I donated last year before the month of November; I'm never opposed to donating to a good cause. I am as generous as I can afford, I simply wasn't interested in giving again and again and again. Kind of turned me against the concept.

A third reason, which has nothing to do with the whole write for word count or request for donations overkill, is that I am currently working on a Chapter Book. A chapter book is the reading step between early readers and middle grade. They tend to be between 10,000 and 15,000 words and are a ton of fun to write.  I guess I did my own version of the Nanowrimo because I wrote, revised, submitted to my critique group, and re-revised all within the month of November. What do you know?

Anyway, for those of you participating, good for you, but please do a lot of editing before sending out your book-in-a-month project.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Before I start my post I too want to join Elizabeth Fountain in sharing  my sympathy for all of those wounded or killed at the community college in Oregon. As our world gets more and more violent, I, an historian by training and inclination and a strong believer in the cyclical nature of things, achieve a sliver of solace knowing that these difficult times will one day evolve into more peaceful ones. Just wish the waiting wasn't so damn hard. Now onto my post.

Last month I shared with you my plan for snaring an agent and have done exactly as I said I would: I researched and have queried five agents between three and four weeks ago. I've not heard back from any of them and plan to send them email reminders within the time frame they specified. I'll check their websites this week and find that out.

In the meantime, I've been revising a YA romance I wrote over a year ago and despite not noticing any sparks of brilliant writing as I'm revising, I can say that this is a solid YA mystery/romance. I've purchased the Guide to Literary Agents 2016 and have found quite a few agents interested in YA romance so as soon as my two writing critique groups agree that they like my first pages, I plan on querying for this book as well. I figure if one type of story doesn't peak interest in an agent, maybe another one will.

There are some solid sources for finding out about agents and their interests including:

Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents Blog This is a good site and he usually lists one or two agents actively seeking clients. I'm new to this site and don't know how often she lists agents, still the ones she lists here are a good starting place.

Publishers Marketplace I have a membership that costs $25 a  month and can cancel it at any time. I use it to find out who's selling what. Once I get an agent, I'll most likely cancel.

Even though at times I feel that it's all so hopeless, I keep plugging away and hope you are too.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

10 Resolutions from Citizens for a Saner Internet—and Life

10 resolutions put forth by L.L. Barkat at Tweetspeak Poetry, as part of a movement called “Citizens for a Saner Internet—and Life.” Consider me one such citizen; want to join me?

1. Consider sharing three beautiful posts for every negative post we feel we must share.

2. Share angry posts only if they significantly contribute to an important conversation.

3. Understand anger as important, a red flag type emotion, that loses its strength if all we ever do is feel angry.

4. Write headlines that are intelligent, witty, or intriguing without exhausting our readers by frequently playing the “outrage card” to get click-throughs.

5. If we feel we want to listen to an angry Internet conversation for what it may be able to teach us about a subject, we resolve to do so silently for a “waiting period,” in a stance of learning rather than one of defense and counterattack.

6. We will not link to attack journalism from our websites, so as not to give more power to the writer or website of said journalism. Related, we will not link to or re-share iterative journalism, which is a sloppy form of journalism designed to deliver a “scoop” that may have no foundation yet in truth.

7. Consider ways to move beyond the “page view model” of Internet sustainability (which is one reason attack or sensationalist journalism is often pursued by individuals and websites, because it can result in high page views, which can translate into staying financially sustainable).

8. Get offline for periods of rest—optimally, one offline day a week and getting offline by a certain cutoff time in the evenings—and use this time to cultivate face-to-face relationships, read, exercise, or otherwise interact with the world around us.

9. If we are unsure about our own angry or sensationalistic post on a subject, we will first pass the post by trusted friends who come from different viewpoints, in a more private setting, before deciding whether to hit the publish button.

10. If we have been online for hours and are finally simply “surfing” because we feel lonely or unfocused, we will get offline and spend time with people face-to-face, read, exercise, play, or delve deeply into a new interest area—one that will seriously challenge us and open up new avenues for our learning and our lives.

Sometimes, anger isn’t as much the issue (for me) as feeling buffeted by the concerns, egos, and ambitions that can be baked into social media interaction—where our moods and attitudes can be influenced who’s following, liking, responding, or connecting … or by who’s getting recognition or not … or by who’s agreeing or participating or not. Getting stuck in that thought pattern is a sure sign you’ve lost focus and probably control over what you’re trying to accomplish.

Personally, I have a bigger problem dealing with email distractions than social media distractions, something I’m working on. The allure of the internet is often difficult to ignore, but at least I fight against it. That’s got to be worth something.

For more thoughtful reading on this topic:
Baratunde Thurston Left the Internet for 25 Days, and You Should, Too by Baratunde Thurston
I’m Still Here: Back Online After a Year Without the Internet by Paul Miller
Stop Talking. Start Doing by Jonathan Fields

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Oh, The Terrors of January

You know what I hate about January? No, not the weather, which swings from rainy and cold to warm and balmy where I live. And no, it's not the start of a new semester when I have to go up against an array of new faces with weak grammar skills and cellphone obsessions (although their poor writing is painful to grade, the way their eyes get that dead look as their fingers stroke their phones is what I dread. It's as scary as the Zombies in Night of the Living Dead).
No, what I hate most about January is the snippets of Christmas songs that refuse to leave my brain. In fact, right  now the words, "the weather outside is frightful," has been on my internal repeat for, oh, maybe three weeks. This holiday classic is interspersed with snippets of "What Child is This," with hints of "O Come O Come Emmanuel," and my all time favorite "Merry Christmas from the Family," by Robert Earl Keene. It's like a party gone wrong in my head.

The good news is music cheers me up the bad news is, I have a lousy voice even inside my brain so I'm forced to listen to screwed up words sung off key. Oh well, it could be worse although I'm not sure how. Anyway, as a treat I give you Robert Earl Keen's Christmas.

Sing it Robert Earl.

Monday, December 29, 2014

If Only...So Many Regrets Once Again.

Happy almost New Year's Eve to you all. I hope you, unlike me, are sitting pretty on this cusp of the new year with absolutely no regrets. I unfortunately am loaded with them including the usual lament of my weak self control--Why or why did I have the extra piece of gingerbread cake with lemon
frosting yesterday?--and my laziness--Why didn't I finish my revisions when I vowed I would instead of sitting in the sunshine reading A Dance To The Music of Time by Anthony Powell? (A truly wonderful book, you should read it.)

I always have so many regrets this time of year, you'd think I'd learn, but, alas, I never do, hence here I am moaning and whining and, once again, wasting my time instead of doing what I need to do, which is to get more written, revised, and published. Note my flowery language and enjoy. I mean really how often do you get to read alas and hence in the same sentence? Okay, okay, I hear your moan and will henceforth cease and desist using archaic and yet lovely--to me at least--verbiage. It's tough to resist, after all I am in the middle of reading Powell.

Back to topic, which is staying on track with my writing and my calories, both equally difficult for one as weak as myself. Maybe it's my complete lack of stamina to see things through that makes the end of December and early days of January so bittersweet to me. Bitter because of all the lost opportunities and sweet because once again, I can start afresh like a newborn babe. And even though in my heart of hearts, I know my resolve to work harder, focus more, and stop eating cake will erode into nothingness, for a few weeks at least I will be full of zest and vigor to get things done.

So here are my writer's resolutions (don't worry, I won't bore you with my spartan goals diet-wise, they will be as dust in the wind long before my writing goals).

1. Finish my revisions on what started out as a middle grade story and is now, after a discussion with an editor, a young adult by mid-January.
2. Send it to above editor at my own expense for a solid content edit by mid-January.
3. While the manuscript is being edited, research possible agents.
4. Prepare a query letter to the 3 - 5 agents that my research indicates would be a good fit for my ms.
5. When I get my manuscript back, polish it up and query agents, hopefully by the end of January, beginning of February.
6. Continue revising another manuscript that started as a YA and is now a funny, time travel MG. Funny how I had to reverse my two ms.
7. Rinse and repeat my agent querying, fingers crossed I'll find one interested in taking me on.

This is my list and certainly not one you should consider following, however, you need to gird your loins (sorry, I love that phrase with all its strong visuals so had to add it), make a list specific to your writing needs and try your best to stick to it, as I will also try.

As to the other issue of diet, I don't know about you, but I've already resolved to break it, after all life's too short to not have cake.

Monday, December 1, 2014

My NaNoWriMo Adventure

Well, the month is over and I'm happy to report that I achieved my NaNoWriMo goal, which was not to write 50,000 words, but instead to begin and complete the first draft for a middle grade novel that's been niggling around my noggin for the past few months. The good news is that I was able to accomplish this while teaching my two college english classes, babysitting several of my favorite babies, and hosting the family Thanksgiving.

Now before you get all snappy and accuse me of becoming an obnoxious braggart, take a deep breath
and let me explain why I bored you with the above paragraph. It was not to show off (trust me, I'm far from impressed with myself), no I decided to tell you about this so that all of you writers and want-to-be writers can take heart that you too can accomplish your writing goal in a relatively short period of time without making yourself and your friends and loved ones crazy.

It also makes you realize stuff about yourself in regards to your writing.  I discovered that I'm not writing new material nearly often enough and my goal is to write new stuff at least three days a week. I'm not setting up a word count requirement because sometimes the words flow like a fast river and other times they're more like a heavy object in a slow moving stream of molasses and I refuse to add undue pressure on myself.

The reason for my limiting myself to completing the first draft regardless of length is because I always struggle with the first draft and this one was no different. My newly completed story,

Shadows or Hiding Behind Shadows, is about a 13 year-old-boy dealing with the recent death of his mother as he finds two girls from Mexico hiding on his family's south Texas ranch.  Since it's a
middle grade it's only 35,000 words, which is a good length for this type of book. My plan is to spend December revising and then sending it to an editor for comments because in January, I'm going to begin my search for an agent. I'm writing two posts this month and will talk about this process and why I've decided to find an agent, but for now, I encourage you to open your laptop, or break
open your writing pencils and join me in a year-long writing frenzy.

Come on, join me. I need the company. Dancing by myself is way too lonely.

And remember, no one likes a braggart.
Happy Writing

Gabriella Austen Author of sexy novellas

Susan Arscott Author of YA and MG fiction