Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Writing Life

Just a quick update on Tuesday's post. By some miracle, I made it through all those emails, even though they kept coming in as I went through the ones already sitting in my inbox. There's nothing like an empty inbox to brighten your day.

Now for today's topic. If your writing life is anything like mine, it's crazy. Between work and family, I find myself writing and revising late at night and on weekends. Sometimes, writing feels like a full-time job all by itself. But I belong to a couple of great online writers groups, and the members face some of the same struggles I do. We all have our own personal struggles to overcome to get the writing done and prepped for submission.

But once that manuscript is ready to go, where do you send it? Is it even really ready to go? These are questions that plague a lot of writers. We spend every free moment working on our masterpiece only to finish it and realize we don't know where to submit it. Even if you've carefully researched markets and have a list, how do you decide where to send the manuscript first?

My method is far from fool-proof, but it works for me. When I make my list, I put my dream agents/publishers at the top. Once I've submitted to them, if I receive rejections, I go on to the next name on the list. All of the markets on the list are reputable and good (I make sure of that while putting the list together) but there are always at least a couple of agents or publishers I'd love to work with more than the others. The best comparison I can think of is when a high school kid is looking for a college. He researches various colleges and universities, which are very good institutions but not his first pick. He knows which school he wants to attend, but various circumstances may prevent him from going there. If that's the case, he has the rest of his list to apply to. The point is to avoid placing all of your hopes for your manuscript in one place because what you think is the perfect fit might not be quite right.

Of course, I've noticed something else as I write with a goal of publication in mind. There are a lot of opportunities for writers out there. Just in the last week, I've heard about half a dozen or so. Here's my problem. Not all of them are right for me, but of the ones that are usually would all work for one particular manuscript. If all of the opportunities look good and they all have similar deadlines, how do you choose which one to submit that manuscript to? I'm still trying to figure that one out. I think I've got a plan that will work for me, but with my luck another excellent opportunity will come along and I'll have to rethink that plan again.

These things are all part of a writer's life, at least one who's aiming for publication. Those who write for the fun of it and never plan to submit anywhere have it easy. I write for the pure enjoyment of it and because I want to entertain others with my writing. This means looking for a publisher and marketing and all sorts of things that will limit my writing time further, but I think it's worth it.

What do you think? Is writing for publication worth the occasional headache and time-crunch? Or do you write for yourself and not worry about another person ever seeing your manuscript?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Inbox is Flooded...

Almost 100 emails this morning. The number just keeps growing as I try to take care of the half dozen things I need to do ASAP. I'm dreading the moment when I have to wade through those emails, responding as necessary, deleting as possible, and giggling over the latest installment of my favorite webcomic. Unshelved comes to my inbox every day and is what helps keep me sane. That brief bit of entertainment is a great way to relax and completely worth the extra piece of email.

Have you ever been inundated with a ridiculous number of emails? How did you handle it, aside from setting aside an entire day to get through them all? I'm close to doing that now, but with just under 100, I might get away with just blocking out a couple of hours. Of course, if I get very many more before I have the time to deal with email, I may be spending tomorrow on it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Writing Woes: Revision and Overused Words

Have you ever looked back over your "great" manuscript and wanted to cry? I have. I've also laughed when I looked at something I thought was great when a wrote it a few years ago. How could I ever think something that poorly written was great?

Because I was a beginner and didn't know much about writing. I revised my little heart out on those early works, making them perfect to my poor inexperienced mind. No wonder everything I submitted was rejected. Now that I've learned a ton more about writing, I'm shocked I ever let those manuscripts out the door.

But I did get over my fear of submitting and getting rejected thanks to those early manuscripts. I know that when I submit something again, it'll actually be in good shape because I now know how to really revise and what makes good writing.

This doesn't mean revisions are any easier. It just means the end result is at least close to publishable. If I could find the right person for the manuscript.

Now, to give you a laugh and a glimpse into what I deal with as I revise an older manuscript (yes, I'm in the middle of doing that now), here's one problem I constantly come across in my writing. Repetitive word usage. All writers do it at least occasionally, but I seem to do it often. Want to know the most overused word in stuff I wrote two or more years ago? Smile. That's write, my characters smile A LOT. So, thanks to my apparent addiction to the word "smile," I have to go back and get rid of as many occurrences of it as possible or have people think my characters are grinning lunatics.

Another word that gets deleted quite a bit during revisions is "that." You'd be amazed at how many times "that" appears in a manuscript and it isn't even necessary most of the time. And I'm not just talking about my own manuscripts, either. Nearly every writer I've ever come across has overused "that" in at least one manuscript. The one that really makes me cringe (so thankfully I don't think I've done it in my own writing) is "that that." As in "You should have known that that construction is annoying."

Please excuse me while I shudder. Here's a much better version of that poor example: "You should have know that construction is annoying." Or, my personal favorite, "That construction is so totally annoying." Can you tell I also write YA fiction?

So, if you feel like you're the only one who struggles with revisions and overused words, know that you're not alone. All writers struggle with this stuff at some point. We just learn to suck it up and put a little elbow grease into the work. Oh, yeah, make sure to revise clich├ęs out of your manuscript. It'll make editors happier.

Before you think I'm a perfect writer who no longer makes those same old mistakes I made in the beginning (don't I wish), I'll let you in on a little secret. I had to revise this post as I wrote it because I realized I was overusing "a lot." Some things never change, but at least now I know to watch for them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Frustration...

Grr...it's one of those days where nothing seems to work out the way I want it to. I guess you could say it's a Murphy's Law day; you know, one of those days where if it can go wrong it will? The one good thing is that our power is staying on today. It went out yesterday--while I was in the middle of editing a manuscript.

Today's major source of frustration: people. I want peace and quiet to work, and everyone decides to talk to me or come to wherever I am to have a conversation with someone else. A couple of times I wanted to talk to someone about something, but I couldn't get a word in edgewise.

Sigh.

Life is far from perfect. I know this, just as every other human being knows this. I think even my cat knows it. In his case, if life were perfect, the weather would always be in the mid-seventies and sunny and not humid so he could spend hours outside doing whatever it is he does when he goes out. Considering the weather's been in the upper eighties to low nineties and really humid and a little stormy, he hasn't been going out much or for very long.

I was reading my Bible this morning, and I came across this verse (Psalm 27:14):

Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!

It seems like I always come across this verse when I get impatient or frustrated. And that little reminder that everything will happen in God's time helps. Of course, that doesn't keep me from getting frustrated, as evidenced by most of this post. I'm human, after all, and the first to admit that I'm far from perfect. But there's another verse I ran across again this morning that helps me when I feel like I can't deal with everything on my own (Deuteronomy 31:8):

"And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed."

What a relief to know that God is with me! He knows I'm frustrated. If I'd do the smart thing and ask for His help in dealing with the frustration first until waiting until I'm ready to scream, my life would be a whole lot easier. But I do like most people and try to take care of it on my own before praying about it. You know what? As I've learned repeatedly over the years, what I can do on my own is nothing compared to what happens with God's help.

So, now I'm offer to pray for the strength to deal with this latest round of frustration. I may be saying that prayer a lot as new frustrations appear, but I know God hears me. I just need to remember to follow that old saying, "Let go and let God."

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr. Mandela!

Today is Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday. To learn more about the South African nationalist and statesman, visit his entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another Point for Kindle...

I learned through Publishers Lunch that more Christian publishers are making their lists available for Kindle. You can read the press release from Amazon.com for more details.

While making more Christian books available to Kindle owners is a very cool move, it makes me wonder how long it will be before the Christian publishers and others turn their lists into ebooks compatible with other readers. Kindle is huge, it's been all over the news and internet, yet it's not the only e-reader out there, though it is one of the most expensive I've seen (there was one more expensive, but I can't remember what it was).

I'd love to have an e-reader that allows me to read manuscripts and take notes on them, but the current version of Kindle has two major drawbacks for me: the price and several...I guess you could call them glitches that would drive me insane in a very short time. The more affordable e-readers I've seen don't have the keyboard the Kindle has and not all of them allow you to transfer Microsoft Word or text documents to them. Personally, I'll wait for a later version of the Kindle, which should be more affordable and will (hopefully) have the design flaws corrected.

If you're thinking of buying a Kindle, there are reviews of the thing everywhere. Most either praise it profusely or tell readers how bad it is, but there's one that gives both the good and the bad pretty equally. Literary agent Nathan Bransford recently bought a Kindle, and as a kindness to his blog readers, he posted what he's learned about it since getting it. I think his review gives a good picture of what the current version of the Kindle is like and provides enough information to help someone who's considering buying one make an informed decision.

How Nerdy...

I ordered some books last week and expected to receive them late this week. Imagine my surprise and joy when I received them yesterday. Here's the part that makes me a nerd:

I got excited over my new dictionary arriving.

Yes, I couldn't wait to remove the plastic and open it up. I looked up a couple of words, ecstatic that it tells me when most of the words came into usage (very helpful when writing or editing a historical novel). It's beautiful.

If that's not nerdy enough, wait until you hear about the other two books: another dictionary and a style manual. My reference library has grown, and I'm happier than a little kid on Christmas who got everything she asked for and more.

I admit it, my geek is showing. But why would I want to hide it when my geek is what got me the career I'm in? That love of books and the English language is what led me to become a writer and an editor. The books I now have will help me in both of those jobs.

Now all I need to do is buy about a dozen more reference books (a list which grows and changes on a regular basis) and wait for the next version of Kindle, which will hopefully come down in price to something affordable and have the minor design flaws fixed. Books and technology...you can't go wrong, even if it does bring your nerdiness to light.

Nerds (and geeks) unite!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New Agent at Foundry Literary + Media

According to Publisher's Weekly, Lisa Grubka has moved from William Morris to Foundry Literary + Media. Before working at William Morris, she was at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. A quick check of Agent Query told me the genres she represents. Fiction: Literary Fiction, Chick Lit, Women's Fiction, Humor/Satire, Historical Fiction, Short Stories, Offbeat/Quirky Nonfiction: Sports, Food & Lifestyle, Science, Memoirs, Travel, Pop Culture, Narrative, Psychology, Health & Fitness, Humor, Journalism

Agent Query has her listed as still working at William Morris, but I'm sure the information will be updated as soon as she has the time. I would imagine she's unbelievably busy with her job move, so you might want to wait a little bit before querying her.

Now for the update I promised. I picked up my pen Tuesday evening and started writing, slowly at first, then faster as I realized there was no reason to be afraid of writing this particular story. Between that slow start and life intervening, I only wrote four and a half pages, but that's four and a half pages more than I wrote in the previous two days.

I am officially past whatever was holding me back from writing. Now I just have to find the time to write and I'll be in great shape.

Have a happy Thursday!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Writer's Block

Okay, so my problem isn't exactly writer's block. I mean, I have ideas for what to write, I know where the story is going, I even know what sentence should come next. The problem for me is the actual writing. For one reason or another, I can seem to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write the words floating around in my head. The best I can figure is that fear is keeping me from writing.

Afraid to write? Sounds pretty bizarre. But it's true. I don't know if it's fear of failure, as in "What if this turns out to be complete garbage?" or fear of success, "What if it gets published and I have to navigate the promotional waters?" or something else entirely, but I know it's fear.

Believe it or not, writing can be a scary thing sometimes. You wonder if anyone will like what you write even half as well as you. You know your words could impact someone's life and you want to have a positive impact rather than a negative one. The thought of dealing with contracts and marketing at some point in the future is downright intimidating.

So what do you do? How do you get past that fear and write your story? To borrow Nike's catchphrase, "Just do it." Even if you know what you're writing is bad and will have to be rewritten or deleted later, getting the words down is the important thing.

I'm sick of letting fear control my writing, even though it's only been going on for two days. Today is the day I get back to writing, with or without the fear. During breaks or after work (or maybe both) I'll be working on the story that has me completely stalled. I may have to rewrite everything I write today, but at least I'll have written something. Letting fear keep me from writing will never get me published. As others wiser than me have said, the best way to guarantee you won't get published is to not write.

Something else that goes along with that, also said by people wiser than me: If you submit your writing, you risk it getting rejected. If you never submit, you'll never be rejected, but you'll also never get published.

But fear of submission is a topic for another post. For now, I'll concentrate on writing. If you're like me and fear is holding your writing back, make today the day you break free of the fear. Even if what you write has nothing to do with your current WIP (work in progress), write something. Anything. Just to get past the fear of getting those words out of your head and onto paper (or computer screen). Then, once the words are flowing, even haltingly, pull out your WIP and add a couple of sentences to it. If just looking at that manuscript strikes fear in your heart, write anyway. Don't let the fear control you. You control the fear.

Check back Thursday for an update on how well I followed my own advice.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rainy Days

When it's raining outside during your vacation, what should you do with your time? Read, of course. Unless you're like me. Then you split your time between reading, writing, and that craft project you never have time for.

Today is the perfect reading day, but I have a manuscript I'm revising in preparation for submission. So, I'll be working on that with brief breaks for that craft project I mentioned. I can only take so much of the printed word before going cross-eyed. Rest assured, I will be reading another book this week. It's not often I can find the time to read something I don't have to think about (meaning I don't have to edit, critique, or revise). I plan to take full advantage of the free time.

So, all of you dealing with a rainy day, go find a good book to read. Preferably something set in a tropical paradise where the sun always shines and the temperature is always perfect. Ah, the wonders of the imagination.

All you Americans have a great July 4th! For the international readers, have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"On the Run" is back!

Some of you may remember I mentioned a romantic suspense novel titled On the Run a few months ago. Well, there was a glitch with the charity all the proceeds were supposed to go to, and the book was pulled from publication.

Here's the good news. On the Run by Judith Rochelle has been revised and a new charity will receive all the proceeds. The book was re-released on Sunday by The Wild Rose Press and can be purchased in either e-book or print format. Every cent that would normally go to the author, editor, cover artist, etc. will instead go to the Victims Advocacy Office of the San Antonio Police Department.

From the official release announcement for On the Run:
This charity is located in San Antonio, Texas where "On the Run" is
set. It is also a charity that compliments the book perfectly as it
deals with the worst kind of violence today - domestic violence. The
Victims Advocacy Office of the San Antonio Police Department
(http://www.ci.sat.tx.us/sapd/Victim.asp?res=800&ver=true)
is thrilled to be a part of this project with us.

"On the Run" will sell as an ebook for the usual $6.00 and is also
available in print. Please help us help this wonderful organization
do the kind of work that is so desperately needed for women and
children of this horrible violence.

As part of this project, The Wild Rose Press will be donating books
to the shelter that is funded by this office. Judith Rochelle will
also be doing a book signing for the shelter.

For more information you may visit Judith Rochelle's web site www.judithrochelle.com or contact Rhonda Penders at
rpenders@thewildrosepress.com.

So, if you're looking for a good romantic suspense novel and want to support a good cause, stop by The Wild Rose Press website and order a copy of On the Run!