The death of a character…. #writing #amwriting #writerproblems #author #writerslife

I did it. I killed off a character today.

The poor guy was not one of my main characters. He was just one that popped up out of nowhere while drafting a chapter – not planned on or in my outline. And, while he was a quirky soul that probably could have been more involved in the story, he just needed to go. Will his death be mourned by the readers? I doubt it. Does that matter to me? No, not really. He wasn’t special to me, and to be honest, to die was his sole purpose in the novel. Poor thing. lol.

The shrug of my shoulders and lack of concern, though, got me thinking about a few characters in other books and movies who died that I will never get over. No matter how much time goes by, every time I open that book or see that movie the sting happens all over again. And, yes, a couple of them are animals! I can’t help it, I’m an animal person.

sean_bean_stars_as_lord_eddard_ned_stark_in_i_game_4eae500ad9Eddard “Ned” Stark, Game of Thrones.

I don’t think I will ever get over the death of Lord Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark. Ever. Ever, ever, ever. Ever. If I didn’t love the show Game of Thrones so much, I probably would have stopped watching it and cancelled my HBO subscription after the episode he was killed. I still might if they kill off John Snow!! untitled

I have started reading the books, but I haven’t gotten far into them due to a lack of time (of course, ‘time’ would be involved). I enjoyed the few pages I’ve read, though, and can’t wait to finish them…… at least until I get to the part where Ned is beheaded. Ugh. I might have to take a moment, throw the book across the room and dry my tears.

rDV7kyzWPooviqohKGIKby4go1_500Sirius Black, Harry Potter

Ok, I admit it. I watched pretty much all of the Harry Potter movies before I read the books. I was a late bloomer in the world of Harry Potter and actually, had it not been for a nasty cold one day when nothing was on TV except for the second movie, I don’t know if I would have seen them at all. When the first one came out, I just didn’t have any interest in seeing it or reading the book. Fast forward a couple of completely addicted to anything Harry Potter years, to the theater release of The Order of the Phoenix. sirius-black

Having not read the book, I didn’t know that Sirius Black would be killed and when it happened I almost screamed out loud in the theater. Watching the movie is still hard, especially, with the budding relationship between Sirius and Harry throughout the whole movie only for them to be ripped apart in the end. I have to admit, though, a good part of the reason for my attachment is more because of Gary Oldman than the actual character J.K. Rowling created. Gary is probably my favorite actor of all time. He can play any role given to him and play the role amazingly strong.

 

manfromsnowyriverDenny (the horse), The Man from Snowy River, Return to Snowy River

Ok, so this isn’t a person, but as a horse lover growing up watching horse movies, Denny was the perfect horse in my eyes. I wanted him or at least a horse just like him. Why I still to this day don’t have a Buckskin Mountain horse is beyond me. Hmm….. (Don’t read this part, hubs!) Anyways, I can still remember, at the young age of 10, when Return to Snowy River, the second movie of The Man from the Snowy River series hit the screen. I was so excited to see that little horse again, and of course, see, in Snowy River fashion Denny (Or Den as Jim called him) jumping off a cliff and running down a mountain side. thCAM05ECU

And then it happened…about half way down the mountain, the evil Allistar Patton pulls out a rifle and shoots the horse, sending him tumbling down the hill to his death. The horror!!! I think I actually did scream with that one, and it took me a long time before I could watch that movie again.

 

marley-and-me-reviewMarley (the dog), Marley and Me

When the movie first came out, I did not know the ending would be what the ending was. Talk about one of the saddest endings in the history of movie endings! th

Yes, I know his death is apart of the story, but after watching it once, I can safely say I won’t watch it again. I cried for hours and then days later every time I looked at my dog.

 

braveheartWilliam Wallace, Braveheart

Another movie with the worst ending ever! Even if he was reunited with his wife, I hated seeing him die in the end of that movie. Braveheart_portrait_w858

And, I’m sorry, but even if Mel Gibson has gone off his rockers, the man is still good looking and he can act! I still love this movie, and while watching the end credits think  “Damn, if I could only write a story that epic.” But, with that said, the ending still sends me grabbing for a tissue.

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Declining a Publishing Contract #writing #amwriting #writerslife #writerproblems

As writers trying to find agents and publishers for our novels receiving those emails with the “Congratulations” and “We would like to publish your manuscript” is like winning the lottery. We dream of it day and night – the dream of signing the contract and holding our books in our hands or seeing them on our fireplace mantels. At least I’ve had that dream, the dream of running my fingertips across the cover, then opening up the book and flipping through the pages and pages of my words.

So, in knowing my hopes and dreams for my manuscript, why on this great earth would I ever do what I did today?

Exactly what did I do today, you ask?

Well, I did something that either makes me a) a complete moron or b) a brave and smart writer.

I declined a contract offer from a publisher.

I have to admit that the shock of the whole afternoon still hasn’t worn off. And, seeing email messages from  my friends and family saying how shocked they are and how they couldn’t have done what I did isn’t making the choice any easier to swallow. But what’s done is done as I sent the email telling them I respectfully decline the offer.

Do I feel awful? Yes, I do. The fault lies with me, not the publisher. I should have done a little more research before I submitted my query. Do I feel sick? Uh, that would be another yes. After nearly 4 years of writing and editing this novel, dreaming of it being published, I just turned down an offer for exactly what I wanted!

But with that….

Do I feel proud? Yes. I know what my novel is and I know what I want for it. I will not settle and today I proved that I am willing to stand up for myself and my novel.

While this publisher was a good publisher (I even researched reviews on them, which I read nothing but excellent things about them) their selection of books did not match the category I want my novel to be placed in. As I skimmed through the product line, all I saw were rows and rows (even in their level 1 and 2 heat categories) of bare-chested Fabio looking men and half-naked women on the covers. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with those types of books. However, my novel is not that type of novel. Yes, I realize it is a historical romance, but it’s not your typical historical romance, and having a Fabio like cover would have been the biggest regret of my life.

I want this: Regina    Not this: Damsel_In_Distress2_web

Now, granted I could have suggested my ideal covers, perhaps even requested and begged. However, in the contract it stated that the Publisher would have final say and when you sign away rights like that, if they want the latter, well then you are going to get the latter. Plain and simple. I’m not bashing the publisher in saying this, though, don’t get me wrong. They have every right to produce what they want to sell and I wish them all the luck in the world with every book they sign. What I mean is that while there is absolutely nothing wrong with the latter, the latter is not my novel in the slightest and not what I a) want my name on and b) want sitting on my mantel. So, with that, I did what I had to do. I told the publisher I was declining their contract offer. I didn’t want to waste their time and money or mine.

Will I regret it? I don’t think so. In fact right after I sent the email I felt a weight lifting off my shoulders. Even if I never get another offer, I’m glad and proud I stuck to the integrity of what I want and what my novel is.

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The final draft….wait, maybe not… #amwriting #writing #writerproblems #writerslife

Last May I shouted from the roof top that my manuscript was finished. I pitched it to an agent, got rejected, and submitted it to six other agents and seven small publishing houses. Of the ten I heard back from all rejected it with a big, fat nope. *That’s a nope with a big, popping emphasis on the “p” by the way.*

An editor of one of the publishing houses was kind enough to send me a rather long, detailed email telling me why she was rejecting it and that I was more than welcome to resubmit after the changes were made. So armed with that email, I began another set of revisions. Why the heck not? It’s only been nearly 3 years since I started. *Insert eye roll.*

I stumbled over bumps, banged my head against a few desks, smacked into a few brick walls, wanted to throw my computer from the Empire State Building, then run over it, then burn the pieces, then bag the ashes, then blow them into space a few times. But in December of last year I once again shouted. “I’m done!”

Not so fast, Angela.

I sent my manuscript off to my beta readers, and printed it out for my neighbor to read. In the back of my mind I knew another set of revisions was coming. Certainly, the beta readers would find things, and yes, for the record they did. But the biggest change that ended up happening was from myself.

I began to read the printed copy my neighbor gave back to me when she was done. I don’t understand why reading it from different hosts (i.e. computer screen, iPad screen, printed paper) always seems to draw your attention to the errors, but for me, it does. I began noticing all these little, pesky problems, and then the koo-da-gra, if you will, a big problem. Luckily, I discovered that around chapter eleven and have been fixing it since, though I still have to go back through one through ten.

I’m hopeful that this will be the final draft, though, my gut is telling me to read through it just once more. I know many writers will say “no matter how many times you go through it, you will always find something so just stop going through it.” Hearing the words, I agree to a point. Certainly, I never will be 100% happy with it. Certainly, there will always be something here or there I could tweak or change. But, I’m not going to ignore my gut, so I guess this draft is my next to final draft.

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The Absence of Time #writing #amwriting #writerslife #writerproblems

Every so often, I bounce into another world. Tumbling through the grey colors and dull mood of this new world, I am reminded of that old Mickey Mouse cartoon “Thru the Looking Glass”. The humbling little tale were Mickey Mouse falls asleep reading Lewis Carroll’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and dreams himself into Wonderland, a world where inanimate objects are alive. After eating a nut, he is transformed in size, dances with a top hat and a pair of gloves before his eyes fall upon the Queen from a deck of cards. His flirtatious antics enrage the King of the cards who sends his troops to chase him back through the glass where he awakes from his nap.

thCAVE6C42

In my other world there is no living furniture or dancing deck of cards, but there is an absence of time, as in I’m lacking time to do all that I need and desire to. Between dishes, laundry, baking and cooking, cleaning, and raising a six-year-old and six month old, I’m finding that my book and this blog are seriously suffering. And to even further stick the knives in their backs, next week I will begin the first of several beds of fruit and vegetables in my garden, begin looking into building a chicken coop and purchasing chickens for eggs, and will be bringing home Snowflake, our new goat who will be providing our family with milk, yogurt, cream, butter, and soap. The additions mean I’m adding to my all ready, daily packed list of this to do.

Don’t get me wrong, these newly acquired tasks are very important to me and things I’ve been wanting to do for years. My goal is to be as little dependent on a grocery store as possible by next year, so of course adding to my list is stepping us in that direction. With that said, though, I also want to blog every week and I definitely want to finish my book submit it for publication (or self publish) and write more novels. My only problem, my only hindrance are those pesky seconds that just seem to tick by, mocking me and laughing as they pass. The absence of time for it all in my life is a hair pulling, growling, annoying frustration. Like a bad house guest you want to kick from your door and throw their suitcase at.

But with the same breath, each and every responsibility is what I want. I want to stay home with my kids, do the dishes, do the laundry, clean the house, cook and  bake, take care of the horses, chickens, and the goat, and tend to a huge garden. I want it all, and I want my writing. I suppose now what I need to do is figure out a better schedule, because the one I have just isn’t working.

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Write for you….. #writing #amwriting #writerslife #author

dreamThis past weekend I attended a local writer’s group meeting.

To be honest, with everything that is going on in my life, I didn’t know who was actually speaking at the meeting or his topic of choice.

If I had, and if I had known how profoundly this man would inspire me I wouldn’t have taken my youngest daughter and been more prepared to take the notes I wish I had taken.

Unfortunately, my mind can’t hold much in the memory department these days. Why, I don’t know, it’s not like I have a job anymore. Well except for cleaning, cooking, laundry, and taking care of my daughters, among finding any time I can to squeeze in an article or two or edit my manuscript for ten to fifteen minutes if I’m lucky. Whoever believes stay-at-home moms have all the time in the world to do whatever they want when they want is an idiot.

With all that said, though, there was one thing that the speaker said that I can remember, and will hold on to for the rest of my writing career:

Write for you. Don’t write for anyone else. Don’t write for editors. Don’t write for publishers. Don’t write for readers. Write for you.

This struck me, and it wasn’t until today that I fully knew why it struck me. Last July I submitted my manuscript to a small publishing house. It was rejected for numerous reasons and the editor said in her email to me that if these reasons were fixed I could resubmit. With this glimmer of hope I started another set of revisions. For the most part they have been good changes. I cut a whole chapter that I had known deep down needed to go, but until then didn’t have the courage to actually hit the delete button. I realized my sincere overuse of dialogue. Holy cow, do I make my characters talk a lot! It actually started to annoy me when I was reading it.

The only problem I started to have, and it was a problem I didn’t realize until the writer’s meeting, was that I lost who I was writing this book for. Each time I opened my manuscript and began editing the only person I thought of was this editor. Would the changes be enough for her? Would she like these changes? Am I taking out enough dialogue for her standards? Would she like this version enough to accept it? Her. Her. Her.

What the heck am I doing to not only myself but to my manuscript?

While I believe her advice is genuine, while I believe she was correct in saying I have too much dialogue and my manuscript is hovering over two genres without a home, while I believe I did need another set of revisions, including a new ending, and while I appreciate her entire email, I lost sight of the whole meaning and whole reason I even began this insane journey. I wanted to write a novel for me.

My novel is just that: my novel. The characters are mine. The plot is mine. The story is mine. And while I am revising and editing, yet again in what I hope is the last set of revisions, the only person I’m going to ask is this good enough for is me.

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New Writer Blues? Don’t Ever Give Up! #writing #amwriting #writerproblems #writerslife

While researching how many times popular novels have been rejected I came across an article on a website. The article was written by Kathryn Stockett, the author of The Help, about her determination through the process of writing and revising her novel.

Needless to say the article inspired me more than anything I have ever read in my life – so much so that I have repeatedly returned to website countless times just to read it again.

Every word she wrote and every thought she had in this article could be my own words and thoughts. I know exactly the feelings she felt through the process from the time she was thrilled about getting her first rejection, (I was too, though it did sting) to her nearly writing through the birth of her child (I can picture my nurse come October yelling at me to close the computer), to when she started lying to people about what she was doing because she didn’t want them to know she was still working on the same story.

I began writing my manuscript on September 18, 2009 and in just a little over thirty days it will be my three-year anniversary. Three years and yet again I am in revision mode, starting all over again.

Before coming across this article I most likely….oh who am I kidding…without a doubt would have been a panicked, frustrated, and inconsolable person over the fact that I was starting over again. Especially after believing for months that I was finished and submitting to agents and publishers. I know because I went through it at year one and year two.

Knowing that a woman kept plugging along with her book for six years making it better time after time and now not only has a published book but also a movie based upon her book, has given me a new outlook on not only the time this novel is taking me but the revision process too.

Each time my manuscript is only getting better and better.

One comment she made in the article hit home for me more than any other part, though. Her thoughts regarding when people suggested another book would perhaps make it. “I wanted to write this book,” she says. And I know exactly how she feels. A few times I have had friends suggest to me that I take a break with The Woman on the Painted Horse and work on another book. I know their suggestions come from concern or thinking that it would help me, but in all honesty no matter how much it’s suggested, I’m not going to do it. I want to write this book. Period.

And because of that I’m going to do exactly what she did. Never give up and just keep revising and submitting until I receive that one “yes” – even if it takes me six long years and sixty rejections.

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Manuscripts and the Little Plus Sign #mommy #writing #amwriting #momlife

One fateful day in February I stood in my bathroom staring at an array of little white sticks. The little pink plus signs laughed at me as I muttered several colorful metaphors under my  breath. For a few months prior my husband and I went back and forth with the idea of having another child. Since I had been so dead against it for the last five years, he was hesitant to believe I had actually changed my mind about considering it and for good reason.

Of course as the months went by with nothing happening I began to think about the idea again and my mind started to change. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea. Maybe we should just forget about it and enjoy our lives as a single child household. Of course, wouldn’t you know that’s when the choice was made for me and POOF I was reading a digital stick that read “Hey dimbulb, why aren’t you believing those other plus signs?”

The next morning I drug my sick self out of bed at 4am to write. About thirty minutes and with not a single word typed I shut off the computer and went back to bed frustrated, even more sick, and exhausted beyond comprehension. Over the course of the next few days, and after repeated failed attempts to write, I started to become concerned. Could I write while pregnant? Did Authors write while pregnant? Surely they did, so why can’t I? I began searching for any information or blogs about the subject and came across one that I kept going back to from time to time when I needed encouragement. The author made me feel as though I could do it, even if I didn’t think I could.

My first trimester was harder with this pregnancy than the last. I was sick and I was exhausted, all day, everyday. I mean, like a new level of exhausted I never thought could be possible. Getting up at 4am to write, which besides my lunch hour was my only time to write, was impossible. And even if I managed to drag myself out of my bed I couldn’t concentrate for beans. How can you write a scene when all you want to do is kneel in front of a white porceline thing you are ment to sit on?

Before I found out I was pregnant my edits were coming along with a pace I was proud of, a pace that I believed would give me a March 1st completion date – a happy thought after two and a half years and many failed completion dates. After those little plus signs came, though, the days began to slip away from me. A chapter took weeks to revise and edit instead of days, and before I knew it I wasn’t even half  way done and March 1st seemed like a distant memory.

I worked through my frustrations and sick days though, and by the seat of my pants finished the novel May 1st, just before I was supposed to pitch it to an agent at a conference I was attending on May 5th. I would love to give this great inspirational diatribe about how I did it and how anyone going through the same thing can too, but to be honest, I really don’t know how I did it. Sheer dumb luck, comes to mind, though. For a few weeks I never gave it much thought because I was in the submission process with manuscript #1 anyways. Of course after the exciting newness of that died down I was faced with the fact that now it was time to begin manuscript #2.

It’s been no secret that I have struggled with this manuscript. Between the plot, the characters, the world, and the research my head is spinning most days. Combine that with the ever growing belly, the body aches, and fatigue, I started to wonder if I was even meant to write another novel, or at least was I meant to before I popped. The answer to that question for me was simple in theory. “Yes!” I screamed at myself and then proceeded to pound my head into the desk when days would go by before I would open the document. I struggled with conversations that should have been easy and struggled to envision the world I’m so desperately trying to describe. I find myself distracted a lot, especially on the internet. Why research the struggles of Alaskan wilderness trail life when there are cute baby things to look at on my lunch hour? I had wanted the first draft done before my second daughter arrives in October, but I know it won’t happen. Not only can I not think about drafting a whole manuscript right now, but I’m also faced with more revisions on manuscript #1, so I manuscript #2 is on hold.

Entering into my third trimester, I still can’t even consider getting up at 4am  unless it’s a rare occasion like a weird dream that wakes me up and stirs my brain so much that I can’t get back to sleep. In the afternoons the dizziness sets in and I lose all capable brain power. The revisions are going slow and I find that most days my brain is nothing more than mush. When you ask a butcher if a pound of hamburger will make four hamburgers and he looks at you biting his lip to keep from laughing while he says “Yeah, four quarter pounders” you know you aren’t working on all cylinders. It’s even double worse for me because I’m an accountant.

The last couple of days that I’ve been revising I’m happy to say that really looking at each line again is helping. I’m starting to see the mistakes and errors. I’m starting to understand why it has been rejected numerous times. And, I’m starting to see where I can add the depth to show and not tell and make it better. Now all I have to do is get done with these revisions. Course, that would be a whole heck of a lot easier if I hadn’t just gotten over a migraine that lasted me 5 days. This pregnancy has not been easy. Not from day one. So I think it’s just best to smile, and no matter how hard it is to say, I am going to leave the pressure at the door and I will just enjoy what I can get done. Period.

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Does your book suffer from too much dialogue? #writing #amwriting #writerproblems

I’ve been thinking a lot about the use of dialogue in novels lately. One of the reasons my book was rejected by a publishing house is because it had too much dialogue and the Editor said that novels with too much are generally weak novels.

For me personally as a reader, I love dialogue. I tend to skip the paragraphs of expoistion in a book and go straight to the dialogue. Especialy towards the end and in the grips of action. And when books begin with pages and pages of exposition I get bored easily. To me, the story and action come alive when the charaters are speaking to one another, and I learn more about the characters from what they say and how they act.

While a lot of writers say they have trouble with dialogue, I find it the easiest to write. And, I’ve been told that my dialogue is written very well. Writing a character’s internal thoughts and paragraphs of exposition are harder for me. For me, narrative can become repetitive over time and they are boring to me.

I suppose, though, that a novel can have too much dialogue. Especially when conversations drag on and on to the point where it feels like the writer was just trying to fill space and add words to their total word count. Too much dialogue or conversations that drag tend to slow a story down. Perhaps that is what she meant and I should go through my draft to make sure that every word spoken by my characters is actually needed, that each conversation moves the story forward and it’s just mindless ramble.

But at the same time, I don’t know if one could label a novel with too much dialogue if that is the best way to tell the story. I guess the only way to describe it is a balancing act that each writer must balance themselves using their own judgement. While researching the topic I came across some great advice on the Writer’s Digest website on how to strike a balance. They are basic rules you can follow when editing your drafts.

Ask yourself:

  • Is the story moving a little too slowly, and do I need to speed things up? (Use dialogue.)
  • Is it time to give the reader some background on the characters so they’re more sympathetic? (Use narrative, dialogue or a combination of the two.)
  • Do I have too many dialogue scenes in a row? (Use action or narrative.)
  • Are my characters constantly confiding in others about things they should only be pondering in their minds? (Use narrative.)
  • Likewise, are my characters alone in their heads when my characters in conversation would be more effective and lively? (Use dialogue.)
  • Is my story top-heavy in any way at all—too much dialogue, too much narrative or too much action? (Insert more of the elements that are missing.)
  • Are my characters providing too many background details as they’re talking to each other? (Use narrative.)

Off the top of my head I know there are certain conversations which do not follow these rules. The only problem for me know is how to edit them and have them show don’t tell. Because I know of a few that I changed to fix that problem.

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Is your book in the wrong genre? #writing #amwriting #writerproblems

After weeks and weeks of waiting for the email from the publishing company that requested the full manuscript, I finally got the email. And it wasn’t the email I wanted. I suppose I am grateful that the email wasn’t some blanket email, a standard email that is sent to all writer’s leaving them wondering exactly why they were rejected and frustrated with no clues. She actually sent me an email full of feedback.

Her problem #1,  according to her, my manuscript doesn’t know which genre it belongs to. Is it a Historical Fiction or a Historical Romance?

For a romance, the main plot of a romance novel must revolve around the two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship together. Check. Both the conflict and the climax of the novel should be directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship. Check.  Furthermore, a romance novel must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” Check.

Historical Fiction tells a story that is set in the past. Check. That setting is usually real and drawn from history, and often contains actual historical persons, but the main characters tend to be fictional. Check. Writers of stories in this genre, while penning fiction, attempt to capture the manners and social conditions of the persons or time(s) presented in the story, with due attention paid to period detail and fidelity. Check. Stories are set in a historical setting and it’s the setting that is the effect on the character, like a war, the frontier, or a revolution. Well, this is a sort of. Perhaps there is a romance, but it’s a subplot. Nope. If the romance is taken out of the novel, the story will stand on its own. Definitely Nope.

AHA! It’s a Historical Romance!

Nope, not quite because of the Editor’s problem #2. My novel does not fit into the Romance genre is because it lacks the traditional romance narrative structure.

The conflict in the book isn’t just whether the main characters will save their world, but whether they’ll find fulfillment in their relationship together while they save their world. Check. Such storylines requires not one, but two major plots, which must be intertwined. Check. A romance plot is primary 75% of the book. Check.  External plot(s) are 25%. Check. Either the hero or the heroine is present in every scene, with perhaps a handful of scenes in the villain’s point of view. Check. The villain is also associated closer with the external plot than the romantic, but if that character can be tied into both, the story is much stronger. Check. As in any novel plot, the standard elements are present in romance as well: conflict, stakes, crisis points and the climax. Check, check, check, and check.

So where is my problem?

The romantic conflict is emotional, not merely situational. Check, though perhaps this could be stronger. A decade or so ago, the hero and heroine were kept apart by a father or an arranged marriage to another person, but such books are no longer marketable. Crap, that’s not good. A romance plot does not merely detail the changing of the hero and heroine’s feelings, or simply chronicle their interactions. Oh well this is just great.  The plot is the formation of emotional goals, being hit by emotional obstacles, and reaching the emotional conclusion of the Happily Ever After ending demanded by the genre. I can see some of my holes.

Stakes in the emotional plot are all personal to the character. Check. The hero and heroine should relate to the reader in a way that allows the reader  to sympathize with what the characters are going through. Well, I’ve made people cry, but is that enough? Involving the emotions of the reader is a vital element in escalating the stakes. Again, have I done this enough?

“Crisis points” is a term used to define points in the plot where the courses of actions change irrevocably and the hero and heroine have no choice but to try the next plan. I have these, but perhaps they are weak.  Just as in external plots, the emotional plot needs to have such points along its route. Check. The basic structure of a scene in an emotional plot is: goals, obstacle, conflict, which move the plot forward. But  in a romance scenes should also alter the emotional relationship of the characters and take center stage. These should also not be solved not all at once. The hero and heroine’s relationship problems should not begin and end in a single scene. I think I have some that end too soon.

The end of a romance novel has two climax scenes, one for each plot. Check. Properly placed, the emotional plot’s climax should be the last one in the book. Check. In the external climax, the hero and heroine join forces and save their world, catch the murderer or whatever needs to be done. Oops, my heroine does it alone because my hero is enslaved. In the emotional climax, they resolve the last, and most personal, blocks against their making a lasting commitment to each other. Check. Romance books no longer have to end with a wedding, though many of them do. The reader must close the book, knowing in her heart that these people will be together until the end, regardless of ceremony, and will live Happily Ever After. Check.

So now that I have figured all of this out what is my next step? I still have submissions out that I have yet to hear back on. Do I begin revisions and wait? When I hear back from them, and if they actually say yes (which is doubtful knowing this) do I inform them I have made revisions? Do I simply ignore what this woman said?

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If patience is a virtue, then count me without virtue #writing #amwriting #writerslife #writerproblems

I have no patience. Not even as a child did I have any and while I got better about it the older I got, the whole writing/publishing adventure is testing the last shred I have. After spending two and a half years writing my manuscript, I’m having difficulties with the time it’s taken in the submission process.

Having my email attached to my phone isn’t helping. Every time the little red light is flashing and has a star next to my email icon my I instantly get excited at the thought that it could be an email from a publisher. To my disappointment it’s always an email about something else and I want to throw my phone.

I think I’m slowly going insane.

Every time I overhear people talking about a book while I’m in a restaurant or store, or I see my Facebook friends talking about a book  on their page I want to scream. I want them to be talking about MY book, not someone elses! I want them to be reading MY book, not someone elses!

I just want my book published. Period.

Some have said. “Well if you want it published now, then self-publish it.” Um, yes, I do agree that, that option does eliminate my problem. I don’t want to self publish the book. At least not yet. Let me see if I am rejected by the other publishing companies I have submitted to first. 🙂 Course, I guess with that answer there is nothing more to say to myself than “Just shut up and wait your turn then.”

I realize that agents and publishers are bombarded on a daily basis with thousands and thousands of queries and they only human beings. Reading all those queries day in and day out, then reading the full manuscripts they request are time-consuming. But om my stars do they really need up to three months to give me an answer? I suppose I will respect that they do and just pout in the corner. I know that because this is my debut novel the feeling is heightened and that if I’m lucky enough to have a second, third, or twentieth, I will one day calm down about the whole issue of time – at least I hope I will.

One thing I know is that submission limbo is for the birds!

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Are you a panster or a plotter? #writing #amwriting #writerslife

My first manuscript wasn’t outlined when I started. Course that probably is the main reason why I spent months and months writing chapters that eventually were deleted, scenes that got axed for being either impudent or irrelevant, and changing my premise about a year and a half into writing the novel because my main character had no purpose.

I decided with my next manuscript I was going to outline it completely. Before I began my research I was able to outline the first four chapters and because the outlines were done they are all nearly written…at least the first drafts anyways. After chapter five though, I had to quit so I could begin the research about life traveling through the Alaskan/Canadian wilderness.  Throughout my research I’ve been able to start outlining again.

Fun, fun, fun, let me tell ya!

Two days ago I actually outlined myself into a brick wall. Super. Usually writer’s write themselves into a wall not outline themselves. I have since adjusted the storyline and worked myself around the problem, but I still can’t believe I did that.

Some writers outline with just a few or even just one sentence per chapter. I am not one of those writers. My chapter outlines are two to three paragraphs long and after they are written I do a bullet list of the different scenes/conversations that will transpire in that chapter. I find that doing my outlines in this manner helps me not only watch my character arch for each character but allows me to see holes in the storyline. Also I can fix chapters that are lacking a certain level of drama to keep the reader from getting bored and wanting to throw the book across the room. While my process for outlining is probably taking more time then it should to outline, at least I have a better idea about what I want from a chapter before I start and hopefully it will keep me from wasting time again on scenes that will be axed or whole chapters that would be deleted.

I am not a fan of outlining, but I know now that believing it was better to ‘write by the seat of my pants’ was foolish of me. Had I outlined my first manuscript perhaps it wouldn’t have taken me two and a half years to complete.  Ah, the lessons we learn.

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Did you pick the right genre for you? #writing #amwriting #writerproblems #writerslife

Sometimes I often wondered if in choosing historical fiction I’ve automatically limited myself in regards to readers and book sales. If you were to ask me if I was worried, or if I would have not written my book or began my next because of the above fact, I would say no, but the thought has at least crossed my mind a few times. Being surrounded by SciFi/Fantasy and Thriller writers tells me my genre isn’t the most popular in the writing world.

Even though, novels like The Notebook and Water for Elephants are considered and labeled as historical novels, they aren’t the Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games books that have swept the world with millions of readers. But my goal for my book has never been to become a worldwide phenomenon, my goal is to be published and simply enjoyed by how ever many people buy it. Whether that number is 100 or 1,000 or 100,000.

One of the reasons I chose to write in the genre of historical fiction is I love history and I love learning about the history of this country. For my novels, I have chosen events and time periods that have most intrigued me.

Ones I could read about all day, every day.

With that said, though, writing in the historical fiction genre is hard. I remember one morning while researching for my first manuscript, I stared at the pages and pages of notes spread out all around me and I wanted to scream. What was I thinking? Why didn’t I just pick the Chick-lit genre where I write in this time era? Why didn’t I pick the Fantasy genre where I can make up my own world and that world history? Why? Why? Why? Oddly enough moments later the coffee hit my veins and I calmed down.

The idea for my first manuscript came from one of my favorite movies: The Last of the Mohicans. It’s a story that I spent countless years thinking that if I ever wrote a novel, I would write a story with characters like Nathaniel and Cora. While The Last of the Mohicans is set in 1775, Ohio, during the French Indian War, my novel The Woman on the Painted Horse is set in 1861 Alabama, just at the start of the Civil War.

I chose this time period over the other because I have always loved the antebellum period with the large plantation manors lined with oak trees and the big dresses that fancy women wore to elegant parties. And certainly, researching about the Native American culture helped. Reading about the lives of clans and tribes in the 1800’s only sparked my curiosity more. not to mention gave me another idea for a different novel.

For my next manuscript I chose another time period that is very intriguing time period for me – 1897 Klondike gold rush. While I’m enjoying the research, I have to admit that once again I’ve had moments of stress. With every start of each new chapter I’m coming across bumps in the road. What did train cars look like back then? How much did it even cost to ride the train and how long did it take to get from one particular city to another? What did houses look like? What types of material possessions were invented and who owned them – working class, the poor, the rich? How was it like traveling by train or by boat in 1897? And I think the most important question, what were the travels like for the people brave enough to face the Alaskan/Canadian wilderness through snow and ice on their quest for gold?

Certainly, as with my first novel, I have surrounded myself with non-fiction books full of first hand accounts of what everything was like on the trails of the Chilkoot pass. For all my other questions Google has once again become my best friend. Every time I open a book up or click ‘Search’, I feel better about my ability to describe and build the world I have too. The women’s stories of their trials and tribulations are interesting, and I have to say their courage amazes me.  I suppose every time I want to scream and pull my hair out I will just keep remembering why I chose historical fiction.

I love history, it interests me, and more importantly I love creating my character’s stories right smack-dab in the middle of it.

So what is your favorite genre to read and write?

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What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger #writing #amwriting #writerslife #writerproblems

Though the words from the famous Kelly Clarkson song are about the loss of a jerk boyfriend and not for a first time writer trying to cope with the pain of opening up one rejection letter after another, the words still help. In all honesty, I’m taking the rejection letters rather calmly. Of course the first one, which wasn’t a letter, but an actual horrifying face to face rejection after a pitch, was the hardest. The others have just only stung a little.

I try to remember that it only takes one agent or small publisher to say “yes”, and just because others say no it doesn’t mean they are the end all be all, and the book will never be published.

Some of the most successful authors and books were rejected countless times before they were on millions of bookshelves across the world. J.K. Rowling was rejected twelve times with Harry Potter book one, Stephanie Meyer received nine rejections and five no answers for Twilight, and Kathryn Stockett was rejected a whopping total of sixty times for The Help.

In total I have submitted my manuscript to twelve agents and one small publisher and I’ve received six rejections. As I said, each one brings a sting of disappointment, but none of them have made me want to quit or give up.

I understand why the letters sent are form letters as I can only imagine how many queries agents get every day, but I do wish they were a little more personal, or even have maybe a reason or two.

I have to laugh, though, when I read “This industry is incredibly subjective…” or “Because this industry is so subjective…” Really? I wonder how many of those responses J.K. Rowling received. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing to have said that to J.K. Rowling about her young Mr. Potter and a franchise that is now worth $15 billion dollars?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying agents are idiots or anything. Believe me, I know their job must be difficult and they certainly have every right to have their own tastes in books and what they want to represent. I am just merely stating how funny and confusing I think the whole endeavor is at times.

With any luck I will get an acceptance from one of the other six agents I’m waiting on or the small publisher. If not, then I’m going to just send out more queries and keep writing my next book. While away for a work conference this past weekend I started my next manuscript.

After two and a half years it was weird writing new characters in a new world, but it was also exciting too and I can’t wait to write more of this new adventure while I wait as patiently as I can for the rest of the responses.

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Writers who are bad with grammar? #writing #amwriting #writerproblems

After coming off of a few days of writing bliss, I was not expecting the powerful blow I received this morning. With a thud, my butt hit the floor, and though I have since stood back up and dusted myself off, I can’t help but notice the rather large black and blue bruise in the mirror.

Certainly, I am confident in my writing ability, and I believe I have a very strong story with a very, very enticing beginning. But I also realize that there are probably numerous books authored by people who believe the same about theirs as I do mine. Unfortunately, though I am confident in my writing, I’m not confident in my grammar, and more often than not, I consider myself very grammatically challenged.

And that is the problem – the blow – that has left me bruised.

For months, I have been anticipating the night when I finally hear the results for the book contest at the OWFI conference in May. While I’ve never allowed myself to believe beyond a doubt my book would win or place in the top three, I did imagine at least a few times how I would feel walking up to the podium to accept my winning certificate. How could I not?  To not picture the joy would be harder than not imagining what I would do after I won the lottery, which admittedly, I have done.

The whole month of January passed in a blur. I was in the process of a company audit, the corporate officers from Italy were visiting along with the owner of the company, I was fighting a cold, trying to plan my daughter’s birthday party, and I was trying to get the Preface and Chapter One ready for the contest. In the end, I didn’t have time to get my submission to my wonderful cousin for copyediting before the entry deadline. Of course, part of me knew my submission wasn’t perfect, (Hello! Grammatically challenged person talking here!) but at the same time, I thought that I had combed through it enough that I had at least caught and corrected anything that would keep it from placing or receiving an honorable mention.

I didn’t believe “I had it in the bag” but I believed I was at least holding the darn bag.

So you can imagine my cringing shock when I opened up the finally copyedited document today and (BAM) saw all the red lines on the first page of the Preface. Ugh. Even hours later, my head still hurts from hitting the table. While I admit the errors are not catastrophic, I fear they are disastrous enough to keep the book from placing. How could they not? Last year there were seventeen entires in the Historical Fiction category. How could a book with grammar, sentence, and word usage errors even be noticed in a stack of seventeen other books that have probably been copyedited or at least written by someone who actually paid attention in English class?

Perhaps I am overreacting, perhaps I’m not. I won’t know until May 5th when I’m sitting at the table in the hotel ballroom. Certainly, I feel deflated. Certainly, I don’t want to face the notion that I, more than likely, ruined any chance I had. But with that said, I certainly can’t do anything about the situation I am now in so the pity party girl screaming in my head will just have to sit down and shut up. All I can do is lick my wounds, sit up tall, and keep working on the novel. Hopefully, I’m wrong about how detrimental the errors are, but at the same time, I can’t control that situation any more than I can control this one.

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The Ethels to our Lucys….. #writing #amwriting #writerslife

056c48c213d27eae3e141e13c5ef2547We all have them, those people with whom we share our lives with in good times and in bad (aside from spouses, of course).

The childhood friends we grew up with. The friends from high school that we never parted from or had the chance to rekindle the friendship later in life. The friends from college that held our hair as we spent the night in front of a toilet, or held the tissues and spooned ice cream into our mouths after a nasty breakup.

Perhaps they didn’t even come into our lives until recently, after a move across the country or with a new job. Friends are an important part in our lives. They give us advice, a shoulder to cry on, and an ear to listen as we either voice exciting news or scream into the phone (or their face) venting about life. They share in our joyous moments as well as the moments we never ever want to think about.

The list of different friendships for everyone can be as different as night and day, and yet, every single friendship is important and should be cherished. Single friends, married friends, friends with children, friends without children, the list goes on and on. But for a writer, there is one particular friend that stands out: the writer friend.

Having been in the career of accounting for the last thirteen years you can assume correctly that my list of writing friends was pretty short when I started my novel. In fact, it didn’t have a single name on the sheet. Any writer can agree that having writer friends is the glue that can hold you together at times. They are motivators, supporters, and sounding boards you throw ideas at when you are stuck on a chapter or scene. They also understand in ways non-writer friends can’t the trials and tribulations of the world you have become completely obsessed with.

orig-21014481Let’s face it, even though non-writing friends are sacred, writing friends are the difference between insanity and sanity when you are in the process of writing a novel.

My favorite form of obtaining writer friends is creating my own by coaxing my non-writer friends into the dark side. “I have cookies,” I say with a devilish smile.

My lust for recruiting has brought in two of my friends that now have works in progress. I am very proud of them, and will be the first in line for book releases and signing parties! Writing groups, conferences, and workshops are also an excellent way to meet fellow writers, and through all three I have met tons of wonderful people, and formed many friendships. Some of which I hold very dear, and couldn’t see a life without them now.

I have been very blessed with my writing friends. They are my best slaps in the face when a scene sucks, the best motivators when I feel like I just need to give up (death threats are always motivating), and my biggest supporters (aside from my husband and daughters.

Writing friends are the Ethels to our Lucys in both friendship and helping plot out crazy, harebrained ideas….like writing a novel for instance.

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