Thursday, September 30, 2010

More Bloffee

I’m late for morning bloffee.   It’s been one of those crazy mornings with sick kids and an impromptu trip to the dentist office!  What fun!

Anyways, I spent yesterday bent over my computer and fiddling with my query letter thanks to all the fabulous feedback I got over at Matt Rush’s place.  You guys totally renewed my enthusiasm for the query and the project as a whole so thank you SO much!  As soon as I get it perfect, I’ll be sure to post it here along with the critical points that make for a strong query.

In the meantime, I’m still over having bloffee at Matt’s.  What can I say?  The bloffee’s good, there’s that relaxing rainforest décor and the company can’t be beat.  He’s posted up a really fun interview with yours truly as a wrap up for this week’s query critique session.  Hope to see you there!


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday Morning Bloffee

Today I’m over at Matt Rush’s for some Wednesday morning bloffee.  He has graciously agreed to critique my query letter and offer it up for feedback from his wonderful followers.  

I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s take - and sprucing up this query until it sparkles so if you all have time to take a look- I’d be forever grateful! Grab your bloffee and come on over!


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Killing Time Between Revisions...Productively

Although my normal inclination upon finishing first round edits is to lock my manuscript away and spend two weeks scarfing crunchy cheetos in front of the boob tube, 

I decided to limit the above activity to one day only.  As I log in the initial changes- I’m already looking forward to different ways of killing time that will benefit my manuscript in the long run. 

First, I asked a couple people who I think would give helpful feedback on the plot, pacing and characterization to have a read of my MS when I'm through logging edits.   I know myself pretty well.  And even though it's early in the revision process, I know that no matter how many times I read through my MS and how much time I let accumulate between reads - I always get wrapped up in the story and have trouble seeing it with a critical eye.  Sending it off to readers not only makes me stay away from the damn thing while awaiting feedback- but it will give me critical points to keep in mind when I do go back and read.

In the meantime, there are a few things I can do to keep busy and help out my MS.  Today I’m going to focus on just one.

1-  Constructing a query letter.
Working on your query letter is a great productive way to kill time between revisions.  I started a first draft of my query when I began writing my ms and then went back and changed it as the story progressed.  There are some great tips for writing a query letter here, on Elana Johnson’s blog

This week Matt from the Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment has agreed to use my query as an example for critique on his blog and hopefully make it sparkle and shine for when querying time comes.  You can check out the query for FOSSEGRIM here and I appreciate any and all feedback! (thanks Matt!) 

What are some of your productive ways to kill time between revisions?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Catpoop in the Closet

I swear to God, if my cat doesn’t stop pooping under beds and in closets, I’m going to have to add ‘cruelty to animals’ in with my other Creepy Monday Misdemeanors.

Das right.  Creepy’s back to her normally scheduled posting.  Thank you guys so much for bearing with me this summer while I struggled to finish my work in progress before going back to my ‘real job’.  It’s been a crazy couple of months but things are finally starting to settle down.

Back to my cat.  Yeah. What is his deal?  I Googled ‘cats pooping in closet’ and it says to put cat food everywhere they’ve done their business in order to communicate that this is a ‘happy secure place and not somewhere for crapping at whim’.

I honestly don’t know what he found so offensive in our hallway closet to begin with.  Maybe the tacky Christmas decorations stored up for next year?

Anyways, back to writing- related topics:)-I’ve set a goal to have FOSSEGRIM query-ready by the end of October.   Elana Johnson’s article on ‘Editing Your MS in 30 Days’ is a wonderfull resource-  plus all the other tried and true advice I’ve accumulated in the last few months.

Therefore, my posts in the next few weeks will be devoted to revision (putting tips into actual practice) and killing time between revisions.  All you members of the ‘Revision Haters Club’ can be ready for some action!

Also, Matt Rush of the Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment has agreed to help me out with my query letter  (Thanks Matt!)  and will have the first installation up  on his blog tomorrow.

Hello and ‘THANK YOU’ to all my new followers!  I’m sorry I haven’t been able to get around to see everyone in the last couple months but my blesence (blogging presence) should be kicked into gear now that the first draft of my wip is in revision and the French ‘rentrée des classes’ has settled down.

How was everyone’s weekend?


Friday, September 24, 2010

The Great Blogging Experiment

When I first saw the cast for ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’, my jaw just about dropped to the ground in awe.  The casting was absolute perfection.  Harrid, Dumbledore, Ron, McGonagall…it’s like either J.K. Rowling wrote with those actors in mind or her characters were just that developed and dimensional, it was almost easy for the producers to cast accordingly and for the actors to slip into those rolls like a second skin (-yeah.  I’m going with the second explanation too.) 

J.K. Rowling built a solid foundation.  But what makes for compelling characters in the big scheme of things?  Here’s what I think:

First, compelling characters are ‘seen’.  Physical description has to be tight, along with all the little quirks that make them unique- just like real people.  ‘tall with dark hair and eyes’  isn’t gonna cut it.   How do they walk?  What does their voice sound like?  Their accent?  Physical ticks, habits or dress? 

Secondly-  Background.  Part of what makes a character intriguing is how their background relates to the story.  Do they have the ability to help?  Or hurt?  Can they be trusted?  Do they have a reputation?  Or are they discrete and mysterious? 

Third- Personality traits and tension building.  Each character has to have their own personality.  If two characters resemble each other too closely- you can probably roll them into one.  Different traits allow you to create tension- whether humorous, apprehensive, angry, sexual, or just plain fun.   Opposites attract, or repulse; making harmony or chaos and when you have different personalities, there are a million ways to bounce them off one another- creating tension throughout the story.

Last, I think the most important thing to relate to all of the above is realism.  Characters shouldn’t take illogical or unreasonable courses of action. Dialogue should reflect both personality and background and neither action nor dialogue should be used just to move the story along- but also to develop these characters as much as possible.  They need to be real.  To feel real.  I think, for this, getting to know your characters is key. 

One tip I’ve read about is to write one hundred facts about your character.  For example: (I’m taking this from one of my wip’s)

 1. Name is Aiden
 2. Seventeen years old
 3. Has pin straight blond hair that falls flat now matter how much he ruffles it, to his dismay.
 4. Eats constantly- Loves junk food.
 5. Is a terrible liar.  As in, can’t lie to save his life.
 6. Has hazel eyes
 7. Is horny about 90% of the time
 8. Gets emotional and heartfelt when he’s hammered
 9. Hates the fact his parents never have any money
10. Hates the fact his dad expects him to be a fisherman like him and never have any money ever.

Getting the picture?  Getting to know your characters inside and out will help you determine how they’d realistically react in a situation.     

I’m really glad to have heard about The Great Blogging Experiment and I can’t wait to check out what all the other participants had to say about ‘writing compelling characters’!  Thanks Elana Johnson for coming up with this brilliant non-blogfest!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


The most obvious sign my wip has taken priority over everything else?  My house gets dirty.

Really dirty.

House cleaning is already one of those things I force myself to do on a daily basis because…if I don’t do it, who the hell else will?  But I feel like it’s something I should get a gold star for because it takes monumental willpower on my part to do the same mundane tasks every day, over and over again, without running out the door screaming, hailing a taxi and taking off on the next train to anywhere-where-I-don’t-have-to-clean (not that I’ve actually thought about doing this...much). 

 Unfortunately- there are no gold stars (or gold anything for that matter) for mothers who clean up after everyone, which definitely dampers my enthusiasm.

I have kids.  So  I figure it’s kind of like when you keep rabbits or gerbils.  You gotta keep the crap outta their cage or they’ll get sick and stinky.  Despite this, their bedroom seems to take on a life of its own.  When I’m wrapped up in a writing project, I stick to the bare minimum- cooking meals, cleaning up afterwards; dishes, floor sweeping, table & counter wiping, and laundry.   Not to mention the whole child feeding, cleaning and changing that restarts the dreaded process in motion.

Now that wip is marinating, it’s like I woke up from a writing-induced haze and realized ‘Holy Crap.  My house is ridiculous!’.  So yesterday was spent digging out the girl’s room, uncluttering bookshelves and bureaus, mopping the floors, cleaning sinks and toilets and catching up on loads of laundry.

I didn’t get a gold star.  But I did order take-out sushi, which is more than enough compensation for me.

What falls to the wayside when you’re wrapped up in a wip?

BookShelf Muse is having a 1000 followers contest with critiques and a three month membership as prizes!  (Thanks for the heads up Stina!)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Revision Haters Club- First Meeting is Now in Session

I rewrote the ending of FOSSEGRIM this morning.  After my cold finally cleared up, I reread the first ending- written under the haze of a stuffy nose and cold meds and said ‘what the hell?’.  I forgot to tie up one of the major plot points and it still lacked filling out.  Which leads me to today’s ‘Revision Haters Club’ session.

I love my new ms and I think the idea and story has a lot of potential.  But it is a first draft and needs to be edited and revised in a big nasty way.

Revison + Editing = My weakness.

I’ve been slowly picking through the rough draft on my computer, changing words and phrasing here and there, and trying to figure out if the pacing is right or not before I hit ‘print’.  But the real editing won’t begin for a couple weeks once its marinated for a while.  One of my biggest problems is I know the right way to revise and edit but I’m either too lazy or impatient to put it into practice.

‘The first step towards solution is admitting you have a problem.’

So what do I do for motivation?  I go shopping.  Duh.

Hubby:  ‘Are you taking a picture of your office supplies?’

Me:  *camera up to one eye*  ‘Yip.’

Hubby:  ‘Why?’

Me:  ‘To show my blogging friends my new paper and pens…’  ** I don’t need to explain much.  With the word ‘blogging’ his eyes glaze over and I know he’s tuned out.**

That’s right people! Crisp new paper for printing out the my ms, post-it notes and multicolored ball point pens!  Woohoo!  We got ourselves a party up in heah!  I don’t know about you, but buying new stuff can pump me up for just about anything.

Do you have any other ways for getting pumped up and motivated about the dreaded revision / editing process?  Please share!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Writing Analogies- an addiction?

After looking back over some of my past posts, I realized I have a problem.  I’m constantly comparing the writing and querying process to other things in life, making analogies, metaphors, similes.   (Yes.  I put all three because I’m too lazy to God or Google what the difference is right now.)

It’s getting to the point where most of my posts begin with me comparing writing to some bodily function and querying to finding the love of your life.  Not pretty.  But I promise, I will seek help.

Let us have a look through creepy’s analogy (metaphor, simile) graveyard.   You might want to hold hands.  It’s scary in there.

LOL.  I'm sure there are more ridiculous analogies interwoven throughout my posts but these were the ones that stood out as I was reading.  Thank you for walking down memory lane with me!  What are some writing or querying analogies that have stuck with you?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Can't Do It!

I can’t pick just one blogger for the ‘I GOT YOU’ blogfest.  I tried, I really did.  But there are just so many awesome bloggers out there who have made me laugh, cry, get motivated and nod my head saying “Yes, I totally get you.  And I know you totally get me.”

Without the blogging community, I’d still be holed up in my Paris suburb apartment, sending out hard copies of the first three chapters of my totally-in-need-of-revision first manuscript to UK agents. 

Without the blogging community, I probably wouldn’t have a husband or a friend left in the world because they all would be completely sick of hearing about my ms, wip, revisions, querying, agents, publishing and all the ups and downs involved.

I love you all.  But since I’m ‘supposed’ to pick one,  I guess I’ll settle for picking three.   Sorry Sheri.  I can’t help myself!

I haven’t met any of you face to face.  Not really.  But I can’t help feeling close to you guys anyway.  This will probably read like end of the year messages in a senior yearbook- but I don’t care.

Candy from The Misadventures in Candyland- I don’t know how she manages it, but all of her posts are so hilarious, so honest, and so full of personality.  AND she keeps it real.  She puts her whole self into everything she does, full-heartedly and I can’t help but stand there in awe of all she stands for and accomplishes on a daily basis.  I love her spunk, her eye for detail, humor, and the worthy causes she promotes with her kickass contests.  Candyland, your blog is, has been, and will remain a place where I feel like I can kick off my shoes,  have a beer, listen to punk rock  and giggle my ass off, all while pondering all the serious and absurd life has to offer.  I love you chica!

Jen from Unedited-   I admire this girl’s energy.  She wrote her first book in, what was it Jen, FIVE WEEKS?  How many words Jen? Huh,  Huh?  I don’t remember the number -but I’m pretty sure it was some obscene word count.  I don’t know how she manages to keep us all entertained on a daily basis, promote upcoming authors, recently released books, and other bloggers, and- get this- she STILL manages to keep up with her writing and revising like no other.  She’s probably the most generous blogger I’ve ever met- with her time, her posts, and her comments and all you have to do is look at her ever rising number of followers to realize her generosity is inexhaustible.  Jen- you are my idol.

Jessica Bell from the Alliterative Allomorphe-  when I first discovered Jessica, all her posts were alliterated.   Seriously.  I can’t imagine the work that must have taken but I just started reading, my mouth dropping open at the sheer genius it must have taken to put them together.    SO. FREAKING. COOL- and I recommend everyone check them out if you have the time.  Jessica and I were born on opposite ends of the earth, but I can’t help but feel like we’ve lived kind of parallel lives.  Sometimes, it’s downright creepy.  And I know creepy.  We both write English education materials- she does it as a full time job.  I do it because the French system can’t seem to provide any so I have my make my own materials to teach with.  We both grew up with musician parents, went through the list of possible passions, only to find that writing takes the cake.  Now, we both live in European countries.  I feel like her writing is so filled with SOUL.  She is poetry in motion and I’ve been thrilled to get to know her these last few months.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Finished My First Draft, But I Feel Nothing...

Maybe it’s my cold.  My nose is stuffed up and the only thing I’ve felt like ingesting all day long has been black coffee with sugar.  I finally finished the first draft of FOSSEGRIM this morning.  I’ve been working on it pretty much non-stop since the end of July (hense one of the reasons my blesence, i.e-. blogging presence has been so scarce lately).  

The draft topped out at about 70 k and I think I’m pretty happy with the ending and the plot.  I won’t know until two days from now when hopefully my head clears and I’ll be able to do a first read through to check for any obvious problems.

This is the first time I haven’t been excited to have finished a rough draft.  Maybe it’s because I’m finally starting to realize how much work is still left to do before the book is really finished. 

Still, with my other projects, when I saw that final chapter coming, there was at least a small (often frantic) thrill of accomplishment; I’d be completely elated at having  something with a beginning, middle and an end.   Something that at least resembles a book.

This time?  Not so much.  I finished writing the scenes.  I followed my outline.  It was all very mechanical.  The characters did what I told them to do.  There were no surprises. 

It’s like I just skipped over that giddiness and went right to focusing on what needs to be done to whip this puppy into shape. 

I don’t know why this bothers me.   I just keep waiting for the ‘yes!’ feeling to kick in.   I am a little relieved that I managed to get through the draft before I start work again in October, but that’s about it.

I don't think it's the story.  The story is probably my best ever and I think it could have lots of potential.  I just don’t know what my problem is.

Maybe I’ve had one too many cold & flu meds. (step back from the computer, Katie.  Blogging under the influence never ends well.)

Has this kind of ‘eh’ feeling ever happened to anyone else when they finish a first draft?  What do you think it means?  “Achi!” (cause that’s the noise I make when I sneeze)  *wiping watery eyes and nose*  Am I even making any sense?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The 'Revision Haters Club'

I wish I was one of those writers who LOVE jumping into revisions.  Who revel in the process of ripping apart their first draft, cleaning up the overused words, tenses, plot holes, and adverbs and putting it all back together in a nice neat package.

But I’m not.

I HATE revising.  As in, really really really don’t like to revise.   

I think part of it is that I never used to have to do it in college.  I’d write my 5-10 page paper, double check it, change some wording here and there and voila!  I almost always got good grades on written projects.

Now, with 300 page manuscript staring me in the face, things are SO much more complicated than they were back then.  After I finished the first draft of my first book back in 2009, I pretty much did my ‘college version’ of revision.   I re-read.  I changed wording here and there and basta!- the agents should give me an ‘A’.  Right?

 Yeah.  You’re not in Kansas anymore sweetheart.

I actually had to Google:  ‘how to revise your manuscript’

Since then I’ve gotten TONS of great advice:

1.      1.  Let the first draft marinate for a few weeks.

2.      2.Give it a quick read through to note the plot, pacing, and characterization problems.

3.      3.Play 57 pickup (throw the numbered pages into the air and then edit them in no particular order.  Does each page have tension?  Are there any spelling mistakes?  Have you used the same words or expressions more than once on the same page?

4.     4. Play bingo.  Write your chapter numbers on slips of paper and throw them into a hat.  Then each day pull one out and edit it.  Is there a mini conflict in each chapter?  Is there tension?  Does it lead well into the next chapter or give a small cliffhanger?

5.     5. Read it out loud to check for flow.

6.      6.Line edit.  Check each line for clarity, correct word usage, and eliminate or change words that have been overused throughout the manuscript.

7.      7.Now that you’re completely sick of your manuscript and can’t stand the sight of it, it’s best to hand it over to Beta Readers- fellow writers (and binge readers) who know a good book when they see ‘em and can give you honest and constructive feedback.

8.     8.Fix problems based on feedback.

Now, after all of that, you’d think my manuscripts would be squeaky clean.  
But they’re not. 

Why you ask?

Because I hate revising.  Yes, we’re back to that. 

I can’t believe I’m admitting this... 

I start one tactic, rush through it, get sick of my ms and come to a halt.  I skip steps to make the process go faster.  I get caught up in the story and forget what I’m doing all together.  I get bored.  I move on.  I come back and try again.  I send it off to beta readers and slowly integrate their feedback over the span of weeks and weeks (months), knowing full well that I haven’t gotten to the bottom of the problem yet but then my new wip just looks so much shinier and more exciting than working on my boring old rough drafts!

SO -my questions for those who revel in the revision process are:  HOW do you come to actually like revision and editing?  How do you get pumped up?  Stay interested?  Not stop until you’ve actually finished?  Not get caught up in a new project because it’s easier or more fun than revising?

And for the other members of the ‘Revision Hater’s Club’- I know your pain.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Secret meetings at my place after dark.  No new wip’s allowed;)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Who is your 'Go-To' person?

We all know that the querying process is wracked with rejection.  And after awhile you build up a thicker skin, let it roll off and do what you gotta do to get better and keep putting yourself out there.  

But sometimes, it WILL get you down.  After all, you’re basically sticking your self esteem out there like a piñata and asking agents and professionals to take a whack.  At some point, there's just no more candy people. 

If you’re lucky, there’s somebody out there who will help you restock and duck tape the brightly colored crepe paper back together. 

Someone who says - “You can do it!  Just keep going!  I believe in you!  You’re a great writer!  Don’t give up!”.

If you have someone like that….well rooty toot toot for you:) lol.  I hope you realise just how lucky you are!  

This is the conversation I usually have with my dear husband when rejection gets me down.

Me:  *pouting on the couch with another order of take out sushi we can’t afford* ( It  just makes me feel better)

Hubs:  “What’s wrong?”

Me:  “I got another rejection.”

Hubs:  *deep sigh, maybe some eye rolling*  “Are you gonna be like this all night?”

Me: *throwing down a chopstick*  “You don’t know how it feels!  I’m doing everything I can, it’s just not happening for me!”

Hubs:  “Well, hunny.  Maybe you’re just not a good writer.”

Me:  *eye twitching*  “My writing is fine.  It’s not the writing.  It’s just hard to find the agent who’s looking for my story exactly.”

Hubs:  “Well maybe your story just isn’t interesting enough.  Why don’t you write a new one?”

Me:  *hand closing around chopstick and contemplating whether or not the dull end would pierce his aeorta*  “I have written a new one.  And a third.” *grit teeth* “I haven’t queried them yet.”

Hubs:  “Why bother?  Why put yourself through all this?  Look at your face!  You look like someone died.”

Me:  *psycho eyes* “Just wishful thinking I guess.” 

By now I’m sure you guys realize, for me YOU ARE  IT!  YOU are my go-to people.  Hubby has had it up to ^ with talk about writing, blogging, and querying. 

My family usually responds with a polite “That’s nice Katie.” Or  “Just keep doing what your doing!”  In other words:  ‘Don’t talk to us about this until you have some actual news.  You’re boring.’

And then there are those that respond with the ever astounding “That’s great!  You know I always say everyone has at least one book in them!” 

Yes, that might be true…Thank you for reminding me I’m just like everyone else.  Anyone can write a book, after all. *sigh*

I LOVE YOU GUYS!  All my followers- everyone who’s spared me a kind word or a pick me up in the last few months. 

Really, without all of you I’d have a dead husband and estranged family.

I’m sorry I’ve been a little MIA the last few weeks.  Kids started school last Thursday and since then I’ve been in the vice like grip of off net life.  I miss ya’ll and I’ll try to come around this week!


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Oh, You Never Forget Your First...

Book, that is.  (Ya, get your minds out of the gutter people) No, I’m not talking about your favorite picture book your parents used to read to you at night.  I’m talking about the first book you ever read because you wanted to and not because it was part of the curriculum. 

 The book that seemed to spring straight out of your daydreams and bring you on the perfect adventure.  

The book that was so good you stole it from your elementary school library in fourth grade only to stumble upon it in an old box at your parent’s house twenty some odd years later.

Or maybe that’s just me.

In my case, this book was ‘Into The Dream’ by William Sleator.  For years I remembered the plot line like the back of my hand but the title constantly eluded me.  Until some serious Googling finally bore fruit (woah-that phrase wouldn’t have made any sense ten years ago). 

Here’s the back blurb:

‘Every night Paul has the same frightening dream. He’s standing at the edge of a vast empty field, trying to move toward a large, glowing sphere.  A small boy is in terrible trouble…and Paul must save him.  Paul’s convinced he’s losing his mind—until he learns that his classmate Francine is having the same harrowing dream!  The two of them are determined to solve the mystery and save the little boy—before their night-mare becomes a terrifying reality.’

I’m going to order myself a new copy of this.  I haven’t read it since fifth grade but from the reviews, it sounds like it’s just as good as the kids from my generation remember and I find it funny that even as a ten year old, my tastes for paranormal were already well defined.)

Does anyone else have a book that stuck with them from a young age and reflects the kind of writer they’ve become?  


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