Sunday, October 30, 2011


Much to my surprise I received three blog awards over the last couple of days!

From Kelly at Savvy Suburban, I received the Liebster  Blog Award.  Thank you Kelly! Check out her blog - she has interesting posts about a variety of relevant subjects!

In accepting the Liebster Blog Award, the recipient agrees to:
- Thank the person that gave the award and link back to their blog
- Copy and paste the award to your blog
- Reveal the 5 blogs you have chosen to award and let them know by commenting on their blog
- Hope they pay it forward by accepting and awarding it to bloggers they would like to honor

From Nicole at The World of My Imagination and Cassie Mae at Reading, Writing, and Lovin' It!
 I received the Versatile Blogger Award.  Thank you Nicole and Cassie Mae!  Well, I am versatile, but do not manage to do everything super competently... not enough time for that, but I do appreciate the award!  Check out their blogs too - they are both great and their blogs are always up to date and interesting and they are versatile for sure (not falling behind...)

The rules for accepting the Versatile Blogger Award are:
- Thank the person who nominated you.
- Tell 7 things about yourself so that your readers may learn more about you
- Nominate 15 other newly discovered bloggers and let them know you nominated them.
So, looks like I have work to do! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Writer's Wednesday and a Blog Hop

I just joined the Writer's Wednesday Blog Hop.  I don't usually blog hop (couldn't tell you why), but after giving it some thought I decided to participate now.
Why now?  
I have learned a lot by following other writers/bloggers, seeing what they are working on, what their challenges are, and how they go about solving them.  So why not continue down that road!

Do you want "in on the action?"
Go to The World of My Imagination, add your link to the blog hop roll, and follow a few simple rules.

And enjoy the results!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What Are They, Really?

Writing competitions, I mean.  Waste of time if you enter or wasted chance if you don't?

I entered one YA piece into the WD YA competition last week.  I was not particularly in love with the story - of course I liked it, otherwise I would not have entered, but I feel like I almost can't find my voice when it comes to YA.  Anything I write and re-write ultimately ends up sounding too adult.  I start out well and then it all goes downhill.  But at least I am trying.

I am also going to enter a short story into the WD Short Short Story Competition.  This is a story I absolutely love; it is a stand alone chapter from my first novel.  My character is well developed and the voice is distinct. 

My question to you is - what do you think about writing competitions, especially ones we pay for (like WD)?  I browsed the WD boards where some opinions are less than gracious about these competitions (or the writers who enter them), spewing negativity thicker than rhyolitic lava.   Others seem to think they can help budding writers get practice and perhaps recognition.

I'd love recognition, sure, but the main reason I participate in these competitions is that a deadline keeps me on track.  I write even when there is no deadline, but if something is on the line, so to say, I make sure I find the time, even if it is at midnight or two in the morning and six-thirty is not too far off.  Perhaps if I did not work full time as an attorney, have a family, and keep a second blog, maybe I would not need extra prodding, but it is what it is.

So, what do you think about these competitions? 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Random Thoughts From The Trenches

As I am finishing up one novel and starting the next, I am pondering the style and "voice" of my new novel.  First and foremost, I want the work to please me, but wanting to get published in this lifetime, my work must have a certain quality that will make an agent willing to sell it.  Thus, producing a novel with a salable voice is possible only if the agent's definition of voice is the same as mine.  Otherwise, writing a novel with a voice to please others means I am a sell out and I am not going down that route this time.  At least I already have a list of agents who I believe would appreciate my style and recognize my voice - a slender hope, but hope nonetheless.
But anyway - why the focus on voice?
Several interviews with and commentaries by agents who take literary fiction say that in many submissions the work itself is good, the grammar at times impeccable, and the sentences flow nicely, but the novel is missing something - missing "it."     
Some agents called it style or tone, but most have called it voice.
The dictionary defines voice as the distinctive style or manner of expression of an author or of a character in a book.  Others say that voice is the author's style, the quality that makes the writing unique and conveys the author's attitude and personality. It is the element that brings the novel together, that makes it come alive.
For me, the following are great examples of true, recognizable voices:
The next day commenced as before, getting up and dressing by rushlight: but this morning we were obliged to dispense with the ceremony of washing: the water in the pitchers was frozen.  A change had taken place in the weather the preceding evening, and a keen north-east wind, whistling through the crevices of our bedroom windows all night long, had made us shiver in our beds, and turned the contents of the ewers to ice.
Jane Eyre/Charlotte Bronte
 I don't buy gold eye shadow, but I do pick up a bottle of Black Death nail polish.  It's gloomy, with squiggly lines of red in it.  My nails are bitten to the bleeding point, so it will look natural.  I need to get a shirt that matches.  Something in a tubercular gray.
Speak / Laurie Halse Anderson

Yet both of them experienced the same flash of envious but joyful surprise as they recognized that the other has passed the had test: the forty-one years that had elapsed, the time of their separation in which they had not seen each other and yet had known of each other at every hour, had not broken them.  We endured, thought the General.  And his guest felt a strange sensation of peace, mingled with both disappointment and pleasure - disappointment, because the other man was standing there alert and healthy, pleasure because he himself had managed to return here in full possession of his powers - as he thought, "He's been waiting for me, and that's what's kept him strong."
Embers/ Sandor Marai

Later he would tell her that their story began at the Royal Hungarian Opera House, the night before he left for Paris on the Western Europe Express.  The year was 1937; the month was September, the evening unseasonably cold.  His brother had insisted on taking him to the opera as a parting gift.  The show was Tosca and their seats were at the top of the house.  Not for them were the three marble-arched doorways, the facade with its Corinthian columns and heroic entablature.  Theirs was a humble side entrance with a red-faced ticket tacker, a floor of scuffed wood, walls plastered with crumbling opera posters.

Invisible Bridge/Julie Orringer

Mom and Pop were at their best when it was worst.  There was a kind of calmness, and it would settle over our house.  We'd spent so much time waiting for the bad part that it was almost a relief when it came.  We didn't have to wait in that edgy, nervous zone, because what we waited for had come, and for a while we were rescued from it.  From the waiting, I mean.
The Memory of Running/Ron McLarty

What are some of your favorites?  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Revising Again (Before Querying Again) ... But What and How?

Although I hoped to get a positive response to my first query, I knew that a rejection was almost guaranteed.  Still, it rattled my confidence and filled me with doubt again as to my novel (which I really do love).  So, to quiet those voices of discontent, I am doing another read, and edit where needed.

But am I doing it the right way? 

There are many different kinds of revisions and edits we employ as we polish our novels, but has it ever happened to you that after spending endless hours perfecting your sentences and creating a great flow of words and phrases, you end up tossing the entire section simply because it does not fit within the story structure or framework?

I find the following helpful every time I question my approach.

The initial revision should be nothing but a review of the structure of the entire work.  Read and re-read the novel and determine, first as you go along and then after you are done and reflect on what you read:

--  Is the story smooth?  Does the plot / main character's development work?  Does it have the classic elements of a novel, however modified or unique?
--  Is the story / main character's journey interesting?  Can it carry the whole novel?  Are there any irrelevant subplots?  Or does it need subplots to add background or simply some spice?
--  Is the main character real?  If not, does he/she successfully make you suspend your disbelief?
--  Does the main character develop, grow and/or change and carry the story through?
--  Is there a central theme?  Does the novel say something?
--  Does it have a voice?
--  Is the pace right?

After the overall structure, I attend to the supporting elements of the structure:

--  Does the main character monopolize the story?  If so, should he/she?  Do the supporting characters get enough time to stay relevant?
--  Is the dialogue real and believable?
-- Are the transitions between time and place smooth enough?  How about the transitions between sentences?  Between paragraph?  Chapters?  Are they all properly "connected?"
-- Do you need every scene?  Do you need ones that are not in the story yet?

Once I am satisfied with the structural and supporting elements, I look at the paragraphs and sentences in more detail and polish them as needed. I do this as I write, but there is always lots of room for improvement.

--  Is there a proper balance of show and tell?  Is the character telling us or showing how he feels and what he is doing?
--  Are the words the right ones?  Is there too much repetition?  To many adjectives?  Not enough?
--  Does each sentence flow and make sense?
--  Are there enough action words?  Too many cliches?

Of course it is never as simple as this.  I thought I was done with all three and now I am checking again and again... just to make sure.  Writing the story took about one year, the editing and revisions just as long.

Anyone else use this approach?  Do you have a better one?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

HIs Products and His Words

I am a big Apple fan - I always have been.  My first computer was an Apple PowerBook 140.  I bought it in 1991 and, twenty years later, it still works (well, it turns on and opens word or excel, but not both...). Of course I have upgraded since then and these words are being written on a MacBook Pro. 

But it is his words that inspire me. 

"If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."

"And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Wrong Agent Versus Bad Writing

I sent my query package to an agent for whom, I thought, my first novel would be a great fit - his likes and preferences, as well as his willingness to accept first time writers without referrals or references gave me just enough hope to believe that something might just work out.

This unreasonable amount of hope, brewing until I could almost smell it, soon evaporated when I received a rejection letter via email.  It was addressed to me and mentioned the title of my novel - a form rejection but at least it had some some personality.  Although I really like my work, I am not exactly sure what made me think a positive response was in order when novels like The Help were rejected 60 times.  Perhaps a bit too much confidence.

The letter made me rethink my approach and I returned to the questions and answers I put aside just last week, when I thought I was query ready.

Aside from the obvious (does the agent handle the type / genre of my novel, does he accept unsolicited submissions),  what are the key qualities and factors, or that "subjective intangible" that makes agents decide onto which pile the submission is going?  For some, it is the tone of the work, for others the voice, and some just say it cannot be defined but they know it when they see it.  Writing aside, a novel has to have a certain something that connects with the agent and what is a star submission for someone may be a nightmare for another. 

Going back to my list of agents, it is that certain something I have to identify in the books they represent.  Then I may be on the right track.