The Manuscript Mavens are excited to welcome Guest Maven Carrie Ryan!
First off, in honor of this awesome blog I wanted to give away some awesome books. Read through to the end of the post to find out how (ha! made you read it!)
Some of you who know me, know my boyfriend is also a writer (spec fic short stories). Last year, at the beginning of 2006, we embarked on what we call our 10 Year Plan. It's pretty simple: in ten years we want to be able to support ourselves with writing. We recognized how hard it was going to be, how long it would take (hence the 10 years). We started off great: in my first year on the plan I wrote 171,701 words and JP wrote 50 stories and got a sale. We've both plugged ourselves into the writing world, learned about markets, etc. We've told ourselves time and again: the only people who dont' make it are those that give up. If you just keep writing, eventually we'll make it.
So why do people give up? And for those of us who don't, what keeps us writing?
I've been thinking about this because today my boyfriend wrote and said: ... I could really, really use a win in the writing department. It just seems like it's slipping through my hands. Every place I turn, I get a door shut in my face and I can't figure out why.
That's why I think people quit. It is so hard to keep going in the face of rejection, to keep banging against that door. To spend 6 months or a year or more writing a manuscript and polishing it and getting it critiqued and revising it and then submitting it and then... no sale. No agent. Back to the beginning. It just gets hard to keep going back for more.
And I think what it comes down to is, at some point you have to learn to write for yourself, and not just for publication. If it's only about the win, if it's only about other people, then you'll give up. It's too hard not to. I'm not saying all of that selling stuff isn't important, because it totally is. I'm just saying, at the end of the day, you have to write because you want to tell the story.
I'm always reminded of Diana Peterfreund saying when she wrote Secret Society Girl, her fifth manuscript, she wanted to write something that would fail in the contest circuit--something that broke all the rules. She had footnotes, lists, and spoke directly to the reader (*gasp*). She wrote that book because it was a story she wanted to tell, and it launched her career (as seen by the giveaways today!)
I took that attitude to heart when I wrote my most recent WIP. I was already in the middle of writing 2 other books when I started WIP.* I wrote the first line just to get it out of my head. And then, since I was stuck on the other 2, I kept writing. I decided I wanted to write this story for myself and for my boyfriend--it's set in a world he created. I loved this story. Of course, after about 20k I started to care about selling it (which threw me into a tailspin for about a month because I stopped writing for me and started thinking too much about the market). And now that WIP is done and is being critted (Thanks Erica!) I realize even if it doesn't sell (*gulp*) that I love this book. Unequivocally, I would not take back writing this book for anything.
Do I want WIP to sell? Heck yeah, man! To a certain degree, that's the point. But we have to love it, too. We have to love getting an email from a critique partner that says "this is fantastic" or getting a shout out on a critique partners blog. We have to love reading it out loud to our friends and loved ones and hearing them laugh (or get really turned on and say "you wrote that steamy scene?!"). We have to love that rush of losing time when we write and of becoming our characters: of being a tooth fairy, or a teenager, or a member of a secret society. You know, that feeling when you look up and realize you've been writing for what felt like 20 minutes but it's actually been two hours and you've written so many words that you just now realize how much your hands hurt. Or how you didn't even touch that glass of wine you poured to get you loosened up for writing.
These are the things we have to remember when we come face to face with that door. It really is true that the people who fail, who don't sell, are the ones who give up. Who can't face that door any more. It's times like that when you have to turn to yourself, to your friends, to your writing community. Go back and read your writing: remind yourself of how good you can really be (haven't we all read something and been like "huh, that's actually pretty good!"). Email your friends and say "help! I need a pep talk!" If you're lucky, maybe you'll get an email like the one Erica wrote here . Read the archives of a published author's blog--go back in time and experience her insecurities and fears and the the ebullience at selling. Join an online writing community and let them tell you about their own experiences, about how they kept pushing against that closed door. Email your significant other and let them blog about it :)~
I know, I know. Just like saying "those who suceed are the ones who never give up" is easier said than done, so is writing purely for the love of it. The truth of the matter is, it is so hard to face rejection. We all have to admit that. We all have our days when we just want to throw up our hands and ask why why why! Those days when it feels like the dream is slipping away and we're working so hard and not getting there. And we're allowed to have those days, it is not weakness or betraying the dream to say "dude, this rejection stuff really stinks!" We just can't give up because of them.
In the end, it may feel like we face that closed door alone, but we really don't. If you're reading this blog, you're already a member of a pretty cool community of writers--a wonderfully supportive group (just say hello in the comments and you'll see what I mean!). My boyfriend and I prop each other up all the time. We both get this--we both understand. But it's hard. And we whinge about it and then we get back to writing. That's how I wrote over 170,000 words last year and he wrote over 50 stories.
So keep pushing against the door, and when you get tired, let your friends help you push. You'll make it through. It's all about not giving up, of remembering why you love to write in the first place.
YOUR TURN: Let us know how you keep yourself writing. What keeps you going?
About those free books... in honor of this great blog and of writing for the love of writing, I'm giving away autographed copies of Diana Peterfreund's Secret Society Girl and Under the Rose. The 25th commenter gets Secret Society Girl and the 50th commenter gets Under the Rose.
Thanks for stopping by and reading! And thanks to the Manuscript Mavens for inviting me--y'all rock!
*while I think it is very important for beginning writers to finish a manuscript before moving on. First of all, it's an amazing accomplishment and a huge ego booster. Second of all, finishing a manuscript teachers a ton of important things about the process, etc. Third, you just gotta do it.
Friday, June 29, 2007
The Manuscript Mavens are excited to welcome Guest Maven Carrie Ryan!
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Erica is so freaking awesome, but in case you somehow missed the news...SHE FINALED THREE TIMES IN THE TARA CONTEST! And her cp, Kelly, finaled, too. I don't know about you, but I'm impressed beyond belief. Triple-wow!
So last night I met up with a few of my chapter gals to go see Shannon Hale sign Austenland. After the signing, which was hilarious for a lot of reasons I'm not going into right now, I went out with one of them for drinks. Which was very cool, since it was a Wednesday and I had to stay up way past my bedtime to do it. Of course, it's not hard to stay up past my bedtime. I have to be at work at 6am. Speaking of which, I'm late.
Anyway, she's very new to this whole thing and y'all know how much I lurve to share my opinion. HA-ha! Captive audience! World domination ensues...
Imagine my surprise when I returned home to see Erica's just posted a really fantastic pitching blog. It wasn't there when I left, I swear! /smacks forehead
But that's ok. Even though I saw a new, clean pitch drafted by Darcy in response to Erica's blog -- which means Erica somehow managed to make her point in under the 3 hours it took me to -- I looked through didn't see the same level of detail I'd used over drinks. Probably because Erica has a life. And no mango margarita :-)
So here's what I think is important (and it definitely goes WITH what Erica said) (Btw, Erica, what's a GMC-D hook? I know a GMC hook is what I'm describing here -- Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, but what is D? A typo? Quoting an email thread from a long time ago).
You need to find the core of your story and then you need to find a way to stick to it while you're pitching. Here's why: the agent or editor is going to interrupt your every next sentence to ask for clarification on a point. That's fine -- it's what they do, right? But at the same time, you're still responsible for delivering the story hook to them. If they get sidetracked on how your Shawano heroine got to England and you never manage to get to the reason why she's a great foil for the hero, you look like you have a very implausible character in a manuscript with no plot and a heap of backstory.
As I suggested to my new little friend (insert diabolical accent here), if the editor (or agent) tries to start asking questions that YOU KNOW have no real bearing on the story you're trying to tell, find a way to answer the question in a way that brings the conversation back around to the point. Example (yes, I'm quoting myself; bite me):
"My heroine is brazen, wild, and actually pretty violent. As a Shawano warrior, violence is all she's known. She needs the hero to--"
Editor interrupts. "What did you say?"
"Uh, I said she's Shawano. Like the Indians. Er, Native Americans, but of course they were called Indians in 1814."
"Why is the heroine a Shawano warrior? I totally don't get that. How'd she get to England?"
"Oh! Of course! Well, let me explain..."
So here's where it gets tricky. The editor or agent will interrupt you a LOT. You think they're either interested in your story or trying to find giant plotholes and you start to get nervous, so you start to blather trying to answer everything (in the meantime, you feel like you sound totally stupid and your confidence starts to plummet). GET AHOLD OF YOURSELF! You're treading in dangerous water. If you don't ever make it back to why the hero and heroine can't be together, then you may use up 10 minutes bumbling on about your really complicated plot and never make your point. Then she'll close with, "Well, that sounds very fascinating and well-researched, but I can't see what's going to sustain the novel for the 100K words you were talking about. Plus I'm really confused."
Don't panic if this starts happening. Just try and make the conversation come back to the conflict. So above, I might say, "Well, the heroine's father made some pretty debatable choices when he was her age, and she's been raised very differently than most of your RS-H heroines. Basically, this is what makes her a great foil for the hero. He'd like to overcome his very undeserved, very dark reputation so he can have a normal life. But the heroine is all about danger and darkness. 'Normal,' in her world, means surviving to see the next day, and she has no interest in changing this. She thinks that would make her weak. They're drawn to each other, but they have completely different values and a lot to learn about balance before they can be together."
So to summarize:
a) DO practice talking about your story in English
b) DO be prepared to be interrupted every 5th word
c) DO ask if the story sounds right for her
d) DO act like you LOVE your story as much as is humanly possible without coming off false
See all the hms and uhs and wells I put in my example? It's OK to talk like that! Just keep smiling. Say "Good question" if you need a minute to think. DON'T FREAK OUT. You'll only have 3-5 if it's a group session and 10 if it's just you. That may seem like forever at the time, but it can be easy to be sidetracked and use it up on nothing in particular. You will want to ask HER questions, so don't let the time get away from you. It may seem like the more time you spend talking about your ms, the better, but in truth she won't remember anything you say. YOU, however? She'll remember YOU. Sell yourself, not your ms. Be a good listener. And for goodness sakes, act interested in your own story! (Side note: When I did my pitch session in Atlanta, the lady goes, "Oh, you do voices, too?" Well, it wasn't on purpose, but I was nervous. When I'm nervous I let my mouth run. Benefit? She loved voices.)
Anyone else have some great pitching advice? (Yes, I'm calling our advice great. Hey, that's part of self-promotion!) Horror pitching stories? Great experiences?
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Maven Erica has finaled, not once, not twice, BUT THREE TIMES in the TARA Contest. Her Touched finaled in historical, Trevor and the Tooth Fairy in Single Title, and Dorinda and the Demon in Paranormal. Let's hope she triple WINS. W00t Erica! (And our plan for Maven World Domination continues...)
I was going to write a post piggybacking Maven Erica’s Monday post on detail. I thought we’d try a workshoppe in which you could post passages showing us detail using a setup I provided. Sounded fun! And then the following happened.
Monday I got some great feedback on the first 55 pages of Notorious, which I was planning to enter in the Indiana Golden Opportunity contest. Then, I got feedback from a contest I entered (and didn’t final in – Monday was an up and down sort of day, but mostly up overall – hey, I finaled in the Summer Sizzle!). Wonderful comments from all parties, despite a giant problem with the opening scene and one of my main characters. Both are fixable, but how does fixing them affect the rest of the ms, which I am nearly halfway through final polishing? Ack!
I got up Tuesday morning and immediately attacked the opening scene, eager – no excited - to incorporate the suggestions I’d received. First off: remove leftover plot point from the very first version of the book. Easy enough. Second: fix the implausible backdrop situation. Takes some finagling, but doable. Uh-oh, the h/h can’t meet in the same way. What about their banter? What about their delicious, lovely banter? For the love of God, WHAT ABOUT THEIR BANTER? Everyone liked the banter so I have to find a way to work it in. Okaaaaay. Deep breath. Uh-oh again. The hero’s first POV scene has to change and everyone loves that scene. I. love. that. scene. It shows his character perfectly and sets up a call back in a later scene. Argh! Another deep breath. Maybe I can still keep it if I just tweak the order a bit. No problem. We’re still working here, people. Now I need to pepper in the secondary character’s link to the heroine a little better so there aren’t questions about her. No problem. Except, as I type, I suddenly realize the removal of the leftover plot point ruins my villain’s motivation! End excitement. Begin teeth gnashing and hair pulling.
And here I am. I think I’ve actually figured things out, with the primary thing being, why am I freaking out over this? There are lots of reasons and I’m not going to bore you with them, because they’re not that important. The important thing is that I have a plan. I am nothing without a plan (right Maven Lacey?). For awhile today, I thought my plan had been obliterated and that was crushing, but plans are meant to be changed. Plotters probably hate hearing that, but I think it’s invariably true. Flexibility is key. I’m a plantser myself (I’d like to claim this as MavenSpeak, but others have used this term long before I). I plot and pants and know that sometimes things do not turn out as I’d planned, but that this is maybe for the best. Hey, I never planned to get married at 21. I was going to go to grad school and travel. I also never planned to have kids. Not that I didn’t want them, I just didn’t pick out names or plan it (okay, in the interest of full disclosure, we really, really did plan – God did we plan – once we decided we wanted to have them, and even that didn’t go according to plan).
What’s my point? Oh yeah, these blog posts are supposed to have a point. The point is, life deals you some cards and you just play them the best you can. You can make it work. After all, this was supposed to be a blog post about details.
Your turn: How do you deal with unexpected change? Do you cling to what you know and kick and scream the whole way? Or do you embrace it with giddy excitement and see opportunity where others see soul-crushing disappointment?
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I promised on Friday that my first “official” post would be about promoting your book(s), and by extension, yourself. Some of you are probably already thinking, “Well, this has nothing to do with me, because I don’t have a book to promote.”
To which I say, “Au contraire, mon frere (or soeur, as the case may be).” The perfect time to start thinking about how you’re going to promote your books and your “brand” as an author is before you sell. (And I'm betting that most of you who have blogs have them, at least in part, because you know there's self-promotion value in them, so it's not like you haven't thought about this already!) Having sold something, however small, I’m already behind the eight-ball and have to play some catch-up.
Before I go into any specifics, however, I need to credit the source of this information and send you to her website. Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a multi-published author who has made a sideline career out of teaching writers how to promote their work in ways their publishers just won't. If you visit her other website, http://howtodoitfrugally.com/, you can order her book, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't, which goes into a lot more detail about this stuff than I'm permitted to do here without being accused of plagiarism!
Now, Carolyn shared a lot of different ideas with us during her presentation, but the one I want to talk about because I think it's most applicable to writers at the beginning of their careers is the Media Kit. Your Media Kit is exactly what you think it is--a group of materials you send out with a media release (not a press release, folks; this is the age of multi-media, remember!) to introduce yourself to a story editor and make it easy for that editor to choose to do a story about you and not someone else.
Building a media kit is a significant endeavor. You'll need to write two bios, one long and one short. You'll want a list of your awards (yo, contest finals) and publications (and blogs count :>). You should try to get some reviews of your work from other authors or experts, again one long and one short, to include in the kit. If you have any areas of special expertise related to your writing (think Kalen Hughes and costuming), consider putting together seminars or podcasts on the subject and including that in your media kit.
And that just scratches the surface. There's more. Go get Carolyn's book for the details. (Should I mention at this moment how well Carolyn's self-promotion efforts worked for her? She came and gave a talk to about 40 women at an RWA chapter meeting. Today, I'm here pushing her book to you, my blogosphere friends. Can you say snowball effect? That's what you want for yourself and why being able to give seminars on writing-related subjects can be very effective.)
I think you can already see that there's quite a bit of work involved in getting all that stuff written and compiled. In addition to the actual materials, however, you also need to start scoping out media outlets to which you'll want to send your kits when you've actually got something cool to announce (your first sale or, for those who've sold already, your next sale or next release).
Here, you need to be thinking not only of the obvious places (RWR, Romantic Times, etc.), but of places outside the romance-writing-and-reading community. Sure, you want to sell your book to people who already read romance, but how about broadening your audience by attracting more readers to the genre? So look at your local newspapers, both where you grew up and where you live today (that's your hook into them), the little freebie papers that you often find in delis and restaurents (which people actually read because they're there eating alone, and so can be even more effective than traditional newspapers), as well as radio stations, online media, etc. Carolyn's recommendation is that you have a list of at least fifty different media outlets along with the names of the story editors.
But the beauty of doing this before you sell your first book is that when it happens, you're ready! You write your media release, tweak the details in your media kit to appeal to particular media outlets, and package and send your releases to the folks on your media list.
Of course, there's no guarantee that any of these news outlets will ever pick up your story. But if you don't send it, they certainly never will. Your goal is to get your name out there and eventually, the effort will probably pay off. You just never know.
Carolyn told us a great personal anecdote that illustrates the value of sending out these media kits, For two years, she sent media kits to a local paper in Pasadena and they never printed a story about her. Not one. Then, early this year, she was recognized by that very same paper as One of the Ten Women Who Make Life in Pasadena Happen. So, they were paying attention, even if it didn't seem that way!
Since I don't have a media kit but I do have a release coming up in August, I have to get cracking!
Monday, June 25, 2007
BREAKING NEWS: Mavens Darcy Burke and Jacqueline Barbour received notice today that they both finaled in the 2007 OVRWA Summer Sizzle Contest! Whoo! Go Jacq and Darcy!!!
The first thing I'd like to roar is CONGRATULATIONS to all our winners!
The grand prize winner is COURTNEY MILAN, who's taking home the coveted multi-maven critique. Congratulations, CM!
The winners of single-maven critiques (yes, yes, we couldn't stop at three) are:
* B.E. Sanderson
* Heather (wordyheather, dunno your last name)
* Isabel Sotelo
* Lenora Bell
* Maggie Robinson
* Mary Danielson
* Mary Jensen
* Tessa Dare
And a big THANK YOU goes out to everyone who helped us reach 100 comments and beyond, making the Spectacular Launch Party Jamboree a raging success!!!
Winners, please email your chapter (and short setup, if applicable) to mavens @ manuscriptmavens.com (all one word--the spaces are to make life tricky for all the nasty spammers out there.)
The second thing I'd like to share is a heads up on our next Guest Maven. This Friday, CARRIE RYAN will be guest blogging with us, and--wait for it--there will be MORE PRIZES. Free books! Mark your calendar now!
While you're busy marking your calendar, don't forget that Diana Peterfreund's second Secret Society Girl book, Under The Rose, comes out on Tuesday. (If you read book one, holla in the comments! If you're familiar with my blog, you may recall I was lucky enough to receive an ARC [Advance Reader Copy] of book two. Yay, me!)
Now to squeeze in a little craft time...
I'd like to chat a bit about the difference between conflict and complication. (Thanks to CP Kel for the link to Linnea Sinclair's post on Kristin Nelson's blog. I can't link to Kel since she doesn't blog yet, so you'll have to take my word she exists. Oh, wait! Kel guest blogged for me a while back on Google Stalking. Funny stuff.)
Kel and I had actually discussed this before ("this" meaning the difference between conflict and complication--sorry about the long commercial break) but Linnea gives an extremely clear explanation. You should probably read her whole post, but here's a quick snippet:
The thing that keeps the story moving forward, the thing that keeps the reader turning pages is conflict happening to characters about whom the reader/agent/editor gives a damn. Impersonal conflict--which can sometimes appear as complication--doesn’t light the "give a damn" fire and get the story wheels turning as much as personal(ized) conflict.
Basically, it breaks down like this.
If your story revolves around Planet A not succumbing against the evil perpretrated by Planet B, that's boring as hell even though entire planets of life are at stake. Whose lives? We don't know, so we don't care.
If, say, a boy is ripped from his home on Planet A and must learn to use powers he never knew he had to defeat the evil perpetrated by a kingpin on Planet B, who happens to be the father he thought was long dead, now we have a story. (And that story is Star Wars.)
It's got to be a protagonist we care about (Luke) and the conflict has to be personal (I won't go into why the whole plot is personal to Luke as I'm going to assume Star Wars is basic pop culture, whether you've seen it or not. Speaking of which, sound off in the comments as to when/whether you've seen one/all--I'm curious!)
So anyway. I'm not here to regurgitate Linnea's post. You're perfectly capable of clicking on the link and reading it for yourself. The thing I want to talk about is... details.
Because what struck me as the difference between caring and not caring is details.
Take the movie Titanic for example. Half the people who saw it (I'm making that stat up, but you get me) sat through the ending credits in tears. I was not one of them. (And I call myself a romance author! Don't exile me!) I saw this movie at a drive-in theatre, and I remember looking around at all the wet-cheeked people and thinking, "Why on earth are they crying? They KNEW the boat was going to sink!"
But that's not what made people cry, was it?
People did die when the Titanic sank. Real people. That fact alone doesn't bring (most) people to tears.
But the details, the character sketches of Jack and Rose, changed the premise from a tragedy in our history to a tragedy happening NOW to people we care about. And their conflict was personal! Had the movie been about the scullery maid who went down with the ship (I actually have no clue if there are scullery maids on ships) there wouldn't have been the same punch. Jack and Rose! Destined to be together! Separated by death!
Details made it personal.
So then, in my own meandering way, I discontinued thinking about conflict altogether and started thinking about sexual tension. (Don't ask me how I made that jump.) And I decided that the difference between good sexual tension and bad (ie non-existent) sexual tension is the details.
My first completed romance novel had pl-en-ty of love scenes. Only a couple of them were consummated, as at the time I was married to the 12 Stages of Intimacy (that can be next week's blog if anyone's interested) which meant my hero and heroine got together and got naked, a little more every time, doing the sorts of things people do when they're horny and their clothes are missing.
Sexual tension? Nada.
The 12 Stages of Intimacy alone don't equal sexual tension. Buck naked doesn't equal sexual tension. Wild hotel monkey sex doesn't equal sexual tension. Even almost-not-quite scenes don't equal sexual tension. I learned this the hard way. As in, I completed two novels with little-to-no sexual tension, one novel with a smattering of sexual tension, and one novel with some sexual tension.
My latest book (number five if you're counting, not that you should since there's no quiz) has sexual tension galore. The Mavens (who are privy to each scene virtually as I write them) have of late said things to me like, "If these two don't get it on soon, I'm gonna throw my laptop against the wall."
I just broke 60k words this morning, and so far the h/h have kissed. Twice.
There are a multitude of potential reasons why a book with two kisses would have more sexual tension than a book with like two pages without kisses (okay, novel #1 wasn't that porn-ish, but you get what I mean) but in my case the difference was the details.
In book one, hero would look at heroine and think, "OMG, I want you naked. Now." and proceed to make that happen. No details except hero=horndog and heroine=slut. Uninteresting.
In this book, hero might stand next to heroine. She's not sure if he meant to or not, but his knuckles just brushed against the back of her hand, and--oh!--he did it again. Maybe she should scoot closer, too. Share his space. Rub him back. (Have you ever had a similar does-it-mean-what-I-think experience?)
Or perhaps hero swings heroine out of danger's way and holds onto her a moment too long, eye to eye, body to body, breath to breath. By detailing what she smells like, how she's trembling, the warmth of her skin beneath his callused palms, etc, reader will actually get where hero is coming from. (Minor disclaimer: both of these examples are huge paraphrases of various scenes, not actual prose. I thought copying and pasting 4,000 words might be overkill, considering how long-winded I'm managing to be all on my own.)
So then after I had fun picking apart my favorite sexual tension scenes in my CPs stories--all of which worked because the POV character noticed and was affected by concrete, unique details--my mind wandered yet again.
This time, to comedy.
Unlike writing sexual tension, being funny is something I do naturally. I don't mean I'm always funny, or that I go around spouting canned jokes or doing accents (not that I'm above either), but that I tend to see the funny side of life and have a knack for making quick comebacks. My whole family is like that--we're loud, we're snarky, we're teasers--but to translate that to the written page, guess what I think we need? (10 points if you guessed, "specific details.")
Rather than quote from myself here ('cause--gulp--what if you didn't think I was funny?) let's look at movies again. In There's Something About Mary, Cameron Diaz sports a very singular hairdo. What's funny isn't that her bangs are sticking straight up into the air and she looks absolutely ridiculous. What's funny is why, the specific detail of what is making her hair look so crazy. Just walking on screen with a bad hairstyle wouldn't cause the same effect.
Remember when I said sexual tension works when the POV character notices and is affected by concrete, unique details? I think that applies to comedy, too. Even though I giggled when Cameron slapped a handful of impromptu styling gel onto her bangs, I giggled even harder when the scene cut to Ben Stiller across a romantic dinner table for two, valiantly trying to focus on Cameron's face and not the wad of--well, let's just stick with "wad"--in her hair. In fact, I haven't seen that movie in years, but that scene is fresh (and hilarious) in my mind.
Any number of other shows and actors--Mr. Bean, The Three Stooges, Jim Carrey in the majority of his roles, characters in any given sitcom--make us laugh not when they do whatever silly thing they do, but when they react to something. Yanno, noticing and being affected by specific details.
Around about this point in my mental shenanigans, I had to stop thinking about conflict/sexual tension/humor and start thinking about breakfast, but I'd be willing to bet the same thing is true for almost any emotional effect you're aiming for as a writer.
I don't write horror these days (I did as a teenager, but let's not go there) but let's see if this is scary: SOMEONE is coming to KILL YOU.
How about, someone is coming to kill you who's already dead himself, and he'll attack you in your dreams and with the long knives he has for fingers? (Nightmare on Elm Street)
Concrete, specific, unique.
For such a "duh" concept, it can be so easy to forget and so hard to implement effectively. If you have a section that isn't working, I suggest one of the things you check be your choice of details (or lack thereof).
Maven Darcy recently shot back one of my scenes with comments along the lines of "boring" and "pointless". (Not her exact words, but close.) I *knew* that scene needed to be there, so I chatted her up a bit on instant messenger and then took a good hard look at my details.
There weren't any. I added some.
A faltering smile, a responsive crowd, a turning point in the internal dialogue of the heroine. Maven Darcy re-reads and likes the scene after all! Yay!
Well, yay until Maven Lacey got a hold of it. "Where is she?" she asks (paraphrased b/c I'm too lazy to dig up the email). "You mention 'stadium' but nothing about wind or temperature or background noise, so I totally didn't get she was outside until the end."
Oh. Oops. Guess I need to go add some more details.
Catch you next Monday!
YOUR TURN: Thanks again for coming out to party with us this weekend! Let's keep the comments rolling. I mentioned Under The Rose--what other June new releases are you looking forward to reading (or have read)? Please share your thoughts on my "details" rant. What craft elements do you think create evocative scenes?
Friday, June 22, 2007
Welcome to the Launch Party! As promised, today heralds the first ever Manuscript Mavens comment contest!
Comment Contest Rules & Prizes
To celebrate the official launch of manuscriptmavens.com, the mavens are giving away their time and expertise to four lucky winners. Commenter #100 to this post will receive a multi-maven critique! You may choose the chapter of your choice, up to 20 pages. (If not the first chapter, you may include a 2 page synopsis/setup.)
Three random visitors who link to this post and leave a note in the comments to let us know will receive single-maven critiques--Even if you're before or after commenter #100!
As with the grand prize, you may choose the chapter of your choice, up to 20 pages, and a short setup if necessary. Are we already on your blog roll? Then bless your heart, you're well ahead of the game. (Don't forget to leave a note in the comments to let us know. We want to visit you, too!)
At our discretion, we reserve the right to award even MORE prizes than mentioned here. *g
Mondays with Maven Erica
What up, party people! So glad to have you all with us for the official Manuscript Mavens launch party.
Since I designed this bad baby (based on clever Maven feedback) I'd like to call your attention to a few things. See those TVs on the right? Those aren't stock photography models--that's really us! Aren't we just darlin'? <g> Links to our web sites and blogs can be found beneath our headshots. Do drop by. =)
And did you have a chance to check out the rockin' Maven Timeline over there on the left, underneath the list of blog posts? It's in reverse chronological order (most recent on top) and will be updated continually as we further our movement toward complete and utter world domination. (Wait. That's not a Maven goal. That's my personal objective.)
Not too shabby a list, eh? Would I be honking our own horns if I pointed out that all four of us have completed multiple manuscripts and finaled and/or won industry-respected writing contests? Yes, definitely tooting our own horn? (Oops, sorry. *g)
Actually, not sorry. I figured you'd want an explanation for why we figured we could call ourselves something so lofty as Manuscript Mavens. Well, that list over there answers the "maven" part. As for "Manuscript"...
We're no better than any other aspiring author out there, except we set goals for ourselves and go after them 100%. We network at workshops and conferences, we improve our craft by reading advice and analyzing keeper books, we give back our time by volunteering on loops and on chapter boards, we give and receive critiques almost every day of the week (we're CPs and contest judges) and above all... we write.
We write even when we don't have time to write.
Every day, we're improving. And we want to share that with you. From our knowledge and experience, such that it is (and isn't--we're not outselling J.K. Rowling just yet *g) to a basic sense of community, all of us writers, published or not, book one or book one hundred, all of us in this crazy industry together, writing stories and making friends.
I know you have amazing experiences and knowledge and frustrations and achievements of your own to share, so please don't be shy in the comment section. I want your thoughts, opinions, and viewpoints, even when they contradict mine. Maybe especially then, because how else do we learn new things and affect change?
So jump in, speak up and speak out, and feel free to be as encouraging or as snarky as you like. =)
Thanks for joining us!
Tuesdays with Maven Jacqueline
Damn, it sucks to follow Erica. She’s so darned witty and funny and upbeat and I’m so... um... not.
Well, okay, right now, I’m not mainly because it’s 1:30 in the morning and I’m up writing my launch jamboree post because I screwed around all day and didn’t do it before now. What was that Erica was saying about us Mavens setting goals and going after them 100%? I think I’m in need of the Passion Slaves’ wet noodle. Fifty lashes, please!
Regardless of my wit or lack thereof, you’re stuck with me on Tuesdays :-).
And since I had the very good fortune to sell a novella, Carnally Ever After, to Cobblestone Press last month and the even better fortune to attend a fabulous seminar on book (and self) promotion at the San Diego chapter’s meeting last weekend, I’m going to start off by sharing some thoughts on that subject with you. I can’t steal the whole seminar and regurgitate it verbatim, of course, but I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction!
Because I’ve decided to have my edgier, erotic novella(s) published under a different pen name than I use for my more traditional, full-length historicals (meaning I now have more names than completed manuscripts), I’ll also probably write a little about pseudonyms and branding along with (possibly) multiple personality disorder.
When I exhaust that subject (which may not even be possible!), I’m sure there’ll be something else. Like how to take unfavorable reviews with grace. (I’m expecting to need that lesson myself. Anyone out there like to give it to me now?)
So, sit down with your coffee, tea, or Cherry Coke (Darcy) and join me on Tuesdays. I’m sure we’ll all learn something from the experience!
Wednesdays with Maven Darcy
I'm sorry to inform you that my husband and I already have a concrete plan for World Domination. I could tell you about it, but then I would have to kill you. Are you sensing a theme here? The Mavens are driven, type A people. Hmmm, no wonder I feel at home.
I hope you'll feel at home--no need to be type A, but driven is good. And driven by what is entirely up to you. I am driven to do lots of things: write, drink great wine, dominate the world (ahem, I guess we covered that), and occasionally I am even driven to tears. And I am always driven by my wonderful children (I have two little ones), though sometimes (okay, often), Jacqueline and I refer to them as the IE (interruption express). In all seriousness, my family is the center of my universe, which is, IMO, as it should be.
So, welcome, welcome one and all. If you manage to pick up a small tidbit on my Wednesday posts to help you on your way, I'm glad (and perhaps a scoosh surprised - the other Mavens are pros at this blog thing and well, y'all were here for the cherry-poppin'). I'm confident I'll learn more on this journey than my overloaded brain cells can handle. But what a ride!
Thursdays with Maven Lacey
First of all, I'd like to point out that I had a Plan to Rule the World long before Erica decided she was going after World Domination.
Now, I can understand how it might seem as if I only meant "at work." How I plan to rule the world "at work." However, I'm a greedy little whore and I'd really prefer to rule it all.
Lucky for you, I don't mind competition and I'm more than happy to share my plans, so on Thursdays with Maven Lacey you'll come to expect a pretty good share of My Opinion coupled with the odd Random Piece of Advice.
Like Erica, I prefer to be argued with (lie lie lie) so feel free to bring it on. You should especially watch out for posts on critiquing craft. I'll be sharing my thoughts on the books and manuscripts that come under my nose--all blessedly nameless, naturally, because my cuppa tea isn't necessarily yours (and also because last time I checked, my name was neither Nora nor Julia Quinn).
Fridays with Guest Mavens
And now, heeeeeere's Guest Maven Janice to introduce the Launch Party Jamboree Comment Contest!
Do you want the truth about your manuscript? If you're not certain, don't vie for the honor of a Maven critique. These girls will break your heart. For although they have renamed themselves the Manuscript Mavens, (makes them sound sweet, doesn't it?) they remain brutally honest.
Don't believe me? This is not my original post. They trashed the first one! Said it was too formal. Well, I tried to rewrite it with my usual smart mouth charm but couldn't. Being critiqued is serious business, especially for the uninitiated. Like many first times--and no, DH, I'm not talking about you--it can be painful and disappointing. But if you want to be published, (warning: I'm about to state the obvious) you have to hand over your precious baby to an agent or editor. Trust me, you DO NOT want that to be your first time. If you're unlucky, they'll throw the kid back without comment. If the universe deems it your day to hit the cosmic lottery, they'll throw it back after pointing out all the numerous reasons it's ugly. Either way, you're probably getting it back.
Have someone else read your manuscript first. Ask for honesty, and when you get it take a few minutes to let the pain wash over you, then gush your thanks. Someone just did you a huge favor.
Guest Maven Janice
Critique veterans, what was the best and/or most painful comment you've received?
To the uninitiated, what do you expect from your first critique?
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Since we've been talking about firsts and The Evolution Of this week, I'll tell you how *I remember* our little group starting. The caveat is, of course, that this information is only as good as my memory, and to be perfectly honest my memory isn't all that great. Which is why I'm the List Maven a.ka. She Who Writes Everything Down.
Waaaay back at the dawn of 2006 I found the Avon Discussion Board. It was right at the time I decided I needed some information about this whole publishing thing and I think I found the site because I was looking up page counts. We all know the question--Good Lord, how do I know when I'm DONE??
Yeah, yeah, the 25 lines/page + Courier 12 (it was 2006, after all, and before the MS Word count thing became more mainstream). But let me tell you something about the internet you may have figured out already. It's HELLA addicting. It looks so innocent at first. "Oh, I'll just get this one piece of information I need here..." 3 million clicks later you're knee-deep in your Favorites list and the blog roll keeps right on rolling.
So back to the story. I was talking (typing) about how awesome this internet do-hicky thing is and then some girl actually replied to me. Like Darcy found out yesterday, this is how it starts. She talked to me? She talked to me? She talked to me! I'm one of the cool kids now!
She said Yes! The internet IS awesome! and it turned out we'd become discussion board members within a few days of each other. Through the discussion board, she and I both joined a yahoo group called Aspiring Romance Writers. We started emailing about a thousand times a day, checking out writer websites, and gossiping about cute actors. And we also did some critting in there somewhere.
The particular loop we joined does something called Excerpt Friday. There's a few good things to be said about EF, though it can't replace having your own band of slaves--I mean crit partners--to serve you. But it's a great place to meet people, and I'll get to that in a minute.
So the first one to go down was Ms. Darcy. She posted a scene that has since been removed from her manuscript (wah! all that effort!) but that I thought was pretty darn good. (If you're new to me you'll quickly learn that I'm extremely fond of my own opinion.) It was so good, I thought she could take some brutal honesty al la Erum-style. I marked that puppy up until it crapped blood and then I posted it for the other 164 members to see.
But she actually wrote me a civil email back! If I hadn't had my hard drive reformatted I'd tell you exactly what she said. Instead, you'll have to rely on my memory. She said something like, "I know you probably feel like a horrible person for being so mean to me, but the truth is I screamed with laughter and told my husband it was ABOUT TIME someone told me what the heck I'm doing wrong. Will you crit with me?"
Like I said, it's approximately what she said.
So I distinctly remember breathing a huge sigh of relief and immediately following that up with a polite but firm No. I was waaaay too busy with the first girl to think of taking on someone else. (I laugh now when I realize I blog four times a week AND crit for 6 people. Time is definitely what you make of it.)
Despite my firm rejection, Darcy is a crafty little witch and she figured out how to get my attention. Or maybe she was just mad at me. Either way, she scooped up my excerpt and ran it through the ringer. I was verra impressed and proceeded to reconsider. That woman has a really good eye.
So the first girl and I must've invited Darcy into our private email loop. 80 zilllion emails commenced. It couldn't have been that much later when Jacqueline joined the ARW loop. (I *know* this figure's right because in the end, the first girl had to stop screwing around with us after just 2 months--1 month with me and then 1 month with me and Darcy.) Anyway, by that time I thought critting was a blast and everyone deserved the tip of my red pen. So I whipped it out and went at it.
Jacqueline was heading off for a family vacation, but she asked if someone would take a look at her first 6 chapters while she was gone--or maybe she asked me specifically; I can't remember and you don't care. The point is, I got lucky that the 6 chapters were really more like 6 scenes, because I probably spent 2 or 3 hours on each of them. Ok, not that long. Maybe that long. It's not like I timed it.
Long story short, I had to tell Jacq I didn't have the right to invite her into our threesome. But eventually she raped my story like Darcy did and I had to admit she might be really good on the team, and worth my exerting a little pushiness. (Yes, there was a time when I was timid...)
Jacqueline, as I recall, immediately started pitching Janice to the group. But 5 people is 5 manuscripts! That's a lot of work! Yet when the first girl came back after a short hiatus and Jacq realized she had a contemporary manuscript but the rest of us had historicals, the effort to add a fifth doubled. Maybe it tripled. Anyway, the way I remember it, Janice had to decline the offer to join our group (tentatively titled We Are Brutally Honest, as Erica said Monday. There was a reason for this weird title, btw. Brutally Honest was already a yahoo group. Left to start anew and ever the improver, I pointed out that by beginning the name with a W, Outlook and Gmail and other email services wouldn't have that many options to drop down. Not like Maven, which pulls Mary, Maire, Matt, Mizu, Mercer, Mark, Mom...) .
ANYWAY. Janice declined (for now). We started thinking up other people we could invite instead. Most of us had crits on the side, like me and my Purple Pen Posse. Jacq had 9 cps at one time! But none of them felt like a good fit for this particular group. For one--with One being the major one; so major, in fact, there isn't a Two--we are time consuming. Before I went Gmail I routinely downloaded over a hundred emails a day into my Outlook.
But there was one name we could all agree on. Erica Ridley was a regular on Excerpt Friday. She had some HI-larious manuscripts. Double-bonus, she wrote both contemporary AND historical fiction. Rock on! I dispatched an invitation to WABH which she, obviously, accepted.
Unfortunately, we didn't immediately click as one group. The first girl, the original Maven, finally had to admit she didn't have time for our shenanigans. Boo. If you're reading this, we miss you! Second, we didn't invite Erica into our mass-flurry of emailing. We stuck her on the WABH yahoo loop. Anyone who's ever used yahoo groups knows it's impossible to have a flurry of anything on it. The emails come when yahoo is good and ready to send them to you.
So we did miss out on a few months of hoppin' good times. But right around the age of FanLit we corrected this problem (Erica played, too, so we HAD to huddle around with her while we obsessively checked our scores) and it turns out, Erica can waste time with the best of 'em. What am I saying? She's a Master Procrastinator.
And she can make one killer website.
YOUR TURN: So how did you meet your gang? Your blog pals? Your crit group? There's so many great people out there, it's really hard to stay focused and say No (at least, this has been my experience). Do you say no? Or do you find yourself constantly swamped by manuscripts and critiques? Are you a Jacqueline, with 9 other cps, or do you go it alone a la Janice? Tell!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Wow, my first blog post. How’d I make it two years into a romance writing “career” (I use quotes because career infers I’m getting paid for it, which I’m not…yet – see, I’m hopeful!) or perhaps I should call it an “endeavor.” Anywho, how’d I get this far without blogging? My CPs/writing friends blog. Look right and see links to their blogs. No linky for me. They’ve even asked me to guest blog and I never have. Fear? No. Lack of ideas? Maybe. Inability to be witty, snarky, or remotely interesting? Probably not. Deficit of time? Absolutely!
That said (you’ll see this is a favorite sequitur of the Mavens), Jacqueline assures me that blogging is addictive. Probably another reason I haven’t tried it. Same reason I’ve never drank coffee. (Yes, I live in the Pacific Northwest and I don’t drink coffee.) I’m sure I’ll like it, but do I really need it? (Uh, not when I drink at least one can of Cherry Coke a day.) I don’t even spend a lot of time visiting other blogs because I can see where I’d spend my entire day doing it and I have kids. And a work-from-home job. And, ahem, the writing. Not to mention the critting for our fabulous foursome (and occasionally fivesome – here’s a shout-out to Janice!).
So why now? Because I wanna play! One thing I’ve learned is that nothing beats a community of like-minded people. Like, say, romance writers. I LOVE going to my monthly Rose City Romance Writers meetings if only to sit in the room and soak up the vibe. The vibe we all share. The indescribable drive of creation that makes us writers. I get the same vibe from the Mavens and other writers I’ve met online. So, my hope is that this little blogsite will generate a lovely community of like-minded writers as we cartwheel through our individual and shared adventures.
YOUR TURN: So why do you blog? Or if you don’t, why do you go a-blogging? Do you think blogs are helpful to us as writers?
Do visit us often and keep us posted on your own adventures. Every success, no matter the size, is better when it’s shared. (I need to remember that.) And be sure to come back on Friday, June 22 when we will be awarding fabulous prizes for our Spectacular Launch Jamboree!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Once upon a time, long long ago, four beautiful maidens (I'm using the word "maiden" loosely here) converged in cyberspace and formed a critique group called We Are Brutally Honest. Although a descriptive moniker, WABH wasn't as catchy as, say, Miss Snark or Smart Bitches Trashy Books or PlotMonkeys. Thus, the maidens decided to rename themselves and enter the blogosphere as one. In the alliterative spirit of Evil Editor, Risky Regencies, History Hoydens and Word Wenches, the original list of potential titles is as follows:
* Plot Posse
* Plot Divas
* Red Pen Posse
* Sassy Storytellers
* Story Sirens
* Fiction Floozies
* Hook Hotties
* Literary Ladies
* Manuscript Mavens
* Novel Nymphos
* Novel Nymphs
* Paperback Posse
* Pen Posse
* Pitch Posse
* Book Beauties
* Book Bitches
* Book Divas
* Brutal Babes
* Book Babes
* Brutal Bitches
* Fiction Chicks
* Story Sisters
* Story Sluts
* Story Squad
* Writer Chicks
Although Story Sluts and Novel Nymphos have a certain je ne sais quoi, when the votes were in, Manuscript Mavens stuck.
The next item on the branding agenda was a blog. Maven Erica was called upon for this task, as she happens to own a web design/development company called WebMotion, Inc. Erica's first attempt looked a little something like this:
which we all decided looked a little too Erica-ish, so after some tweaks suggested by Darcy, Lacey and Jacq, the final product is what you see here!
Well, quasi-final. Am still fighting with the blogger widgets to make the main content section expand to fit the page. Blogger widgets and database driven internet applications are two totally different animals. (One is a guinea pig, the other is a Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Don't ask.)
So, don't be shocked if you visit someday and the site is (gasp!) exactly how we envision it. We can only hope!
YOUR TURN: Do you belong to a blog group? Why or why not? Do you speak of yourself in the third person like Erica did when talking about Erica in this post? Isn't that a really annoying thing Erica does and wasn't it great when Erica knocked it off about halfway through? Admit it: you think Fiction Floozies is a damn good name, don't you!