Sunday, May 30, 2010

Creepy's Monday Misdemeanor

Underage Drinking
Like any red blooded american teenager, I had my fair share of run ins with underage drinking. Surprisingly enough, the very first time is easy to recall.  I was fifteen and sleeping over my friend Jess's house.  (The ‘sleepover’ antics seem to be a reoccurring theme in these posts. I think I’m going to have to keep a very close eye on my daughters in the future.)
Jess had her license and we picked up some older boys and  headed over to the 7 eleven.  (Yes, small town. That’s where we hung out. Stop laughing) One of them broke out a bottle of southern comfort (I said stop laughing) and we mixed it into our grape slushies.  Breakfast of champions.

Drunken scenes have been slipped into literature since the Fiddler on the Roof sang ‘La Kayim!’ and understandably so.  Adding alcohol to the mix can diminish a writer’s inhibitions on the page about as well as in real life. 

Bad & sad things can happen when people drink.  But good and funny situations can derive from a ‘night out on the town’ as well.  How many times have I read a scene that featured the MC waking up next to the guy she swore she’d never date?  Or having too much champagne and sticking her foot in her mouth? 

Alcohol allows a writer to explore a situation, a character, or even gives them an excuse for their mc do something completely out of character in order to move along the plot.  Many a blogs have debated the ethics of featuring substance abuse in YA and if you're interested, Punk Writer Kid had some interesting things to say on the subject.

I don’t usually do this, but all this talk of drunkenness makes me daring.  So I’m posting an excerpt from my recently finished manuscript where one of the characters is 'under the influence'.
*    *    *
The metallic car came to a stop and swayed as Avery got in.  She felt the cold metal through her jeans as she scooted over to make room for Scott.
“What the hell, man!!??” 
Avery looked up, startled by a commotion near the ticket line and then jumped back as a muscled body pushed his way into the passenger car. 
“Keep the change!”  Craig barked at the carny with the backwards cap.  The man frowned but looked down at the long line of tickets in one hand and shrugged, closing the compartment door behind him.  Avery caught a glimpse of Scott’s angry face as the machine lurched forward and they were pulled out of sight.
            Her jaw hung open.  “What the HELL Craig?”
Craig turned towards her and burst out laughing. “God, you should see the look on your face,” he snorted.
Avery’s eyes widened.  “Holy shit, you’re drunk.”  She threw her hands up. “Un-believable.”
Craig’s dark brown eyes were slightly out of focus and his smile wide.  “I am not.  We just had a few beers out in the parking lot.”
She wrinkled her nose. “You smell like you fell into a keg.”
“Thank you.” He leaned in and sniffed her hair.  “Mmmmm. You smell like…apples…and vanilla.”
Avery cracked a smile but caught herself and grit her teeth.  “That was a real jackass maneuver you pulled back there.  Scott has good reason to hate you.  And so do I.”
“Do you?” Craig’s smile faded into a friendly pout.
            “Well, what do you expect Craig?  You’re like a walking, talking, breathing hypocrisy!”
Craig leaned back, throwing one of his legs over hers.  “Yeah, No.  I’m not following.”
Avery rolled her eyes and pushed his leg back over to his side.  The car continued to bring them higher into the air, the carnival lights spanning out before them in all directions.
“Ugh.  You try and build this image of mister muscles for brains, when, truth is, you have real interests.  You have your own mind!  I just don’t see why you’re so ashamed of it.”
Craig stared forward, his head wobbling with the movement of their car.  “I’m not ashamed of it Avery.  I can be whoever the hell I want to be.  I can have….interests.” He paused and swallowed hard, his eyes closing for a moment.  “And not have to tell everyone about them.  Jesus, I’m not like you.  I like to keep some things to myself.”
Avery folded her arms.  “Whatever.”
“Yeah, whatever.”  He leaned his head on her shoulder.  “You’re warm.”
Avery stiffened.  His hair was silky soft against her cheek and she couldn’t help breathing in the familiar scent of his shampoo.  His breath warmed her skin.  “Mmmn, why do you have to smell so good?”  He brought his lips to her neck.  Avery’s skin tingled and her body grew warm in response. “Craig.”
“Avery.” Craig continued to place wet kisses on her skin.
“Avery….” He buried his head in her hair and grabbed her thigh, his mouth nibbling and sucking on the spot above her collar bone.
“Craig!”  Avery dug her nails into his hand and pushed his chest upwards.  “Knock it off!  Seriously, this is about to turn into an afterschool special.  Now get your freaking drunk ass OFF ME NOW!”
Craig’s head hit the back of the metal bench with a thud.   “Ouch.” He frowned and rubbed it, eyes closed.  “Jesus Avery.” His full lips pouted.  “Why do we always gotta fight all the time?”
“Because you are a dumbass stuck up hypocrite that’s why.  Tell me, is getting drunk part of your master plan to ‘becoming someone’?  Because it seems like a real loser thing to do.”
Craig’s chest rose in a heavy sigh.  “Hey, every guy’s gotta let off a little steam,” he gave a half smile.  “Look at you, being all judgmental for a change.”  He sat up, his eyes focusing in on her face.  “Tell me, why do you think I need to tell everyone about Yale, and my grades, and all that anyway?  What’s it to you?”
Avery frowned.  “I just don’t get it, that’s all.  You should be proud of who you are.  I think a boy who works hard at what he wants….” She sat up straight and looked him in the eye.  “..someone with ambitions and a good head on his shoulders is a lot more interesting than some domineering jock.”
Craig searched her features.  “Do you?”  He brought a hand up to caress her hair.  “Avery, I…..”  He frowned.
“I think I’m gonna be sick.”
“Oh.  That’s just wonderful.” Avery’s voice flattened.  She pushed him against the backside of the bench and then scooted into the opposite corner. “Just don’t move.  Breath.  And I swear to God if you puke on me, I’ll throw you off this thing.”
Craig smiled, his eyes closed.  “I know you want me Ave.  Just as much as I want you.  I can feel it across a crowded room.”
Avery blew hair out of her eyes. 
 “And for the love of God, please stop talking.” 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday's Video Battle and Bloffee


Entries will be judged down to the final five by the 3CriticsClub and then posted back up on my blog Wednesday and Thursday -June 2nd & 3rd.  I'll have a poll up so that everyone can vote for thier favorite Query Spoof and winners will be announced Friday morning- June 4th.

This morning I'll be having bloffee at Matt Rush's blog so I can check out his interview with the marvelous Elana Johnson.  She'll be sharing the query letter that led her to her agent and BOOK DEAL!  Be there or be square.

Now for Friday's Video Battle sponsored by the lovely Jen from Unedited.  Be sure to check out the other Battle Bombshells listed below.  This weeks battle is Tube Socks vs. Ankle Socks.  Enjoy!

Other Battle Bombshells:
The Alliterative Allomorph (Jessica) 
The Misadventures in Candyland (Candace) 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

'Put Me Down!' Getting Caught Up in Your Own Story...

Now, I believe that a rapid reread of your manuscript after a few weeks away from it is a great way to pick up on problems with plot, sequence of events, flow, pace, and characterization.  It lets you look at the big picture.

Once you’ve gotten all of those squared away, however, and you’re ready for the honest to goodness deep-sea editing, I find that Rereading is just about the Anti-Christ of Revising.

It happens more than I care to admit.  I sit down at my computer, eyes narrowed and finger posed dutifully over the ‘delete’ key.  I think 'Watch out adverbs, over used dialogue tags and passive phrases!  I’m comin to getchya!'

I begin to read aloud.  'Aha!  Got one!'  Tappity tap go my fingers.  I’m picking up on things every paragraph or so.  And then every other paragraph.  And then things begin to go awry. 

Instead of searching out those words I find myself caught up in the story.  Thoughts such as 'Oh, this is good!  I love this description.' and 'Ha ha ha! I’m so funny.' Start taking precedence over what I’m actually supposed to be doing. 

Then inevitably I arrive at the end of my manuscript, having barely changed a thing besides the odd tweaking of a phrase here and there.  I blink as realization dawns. 'Son of a CRAP!  I did it AGAIN!'  I sink into my chair and bury my head in my hands.  'What is WRONG with me?'

It doesn’t seem to make a difference if I’m reading aloud or not.  When I get going, my husband says it sounds like I’m speaking in tongues. 

Yesterday I got A LOT of great advice from the people who commented on different ways of editing but some of the biggest ones that will help me I think are:

-Get your manuscript to as many beta readers as you can.  They read it in chunks and are more likely to keep their distance from the story and catch more ‘mistakes’.

-Reading aloud can really help, for those of you who don’t have a tendency to turn into Speedy Gonzales.

-the ‘search’ button.  I have a list of annoying words that I plug into the search box.  It keeps me out of the story and focused on just those words I’m trying to get rid of or replace.

Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to give advice or sympathize with my plight! What about you guys?  Do you ever find that rereading is toxic to revision?

LAST DAY TO ENTER! Contest closes at midnight tonight! 

1st Prize winner will receive an over-the-phone publishing consultation from one of the accomplished authors/editors at The Writer’s Workshop!

2nd Prize winner will receive a 30 page critique from the members of the ‘3Critics Club’ (my critiquing group) on The Word Cloud

3rd Prize winner will receive a choice of champagne or gourmet chocolates shipped directly from yours truly (in France:)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

There's More Than One Way to Edit?

I’m finally ready to sit down and edit my finished YA Romance ‘Welcome to Coventry’.  After cleaning up the first three chapters to the best of my ability, I sent them off to my critiques group and anxiously await their reply.
In the meantime, I’m left with the perpetual question: Am I doing the right thing?

I have the dilemma of having two very different projects on my lap.  Different styles, genres, word counts and therefore, I have the growing suspicion that the editing I’ve been learning to do all along on my first project just isn’t going to cut it with my second.

 Laura Pauling had a post a while back about some of the worst advice she received about editing her manuscript and she said at the time it was ‘cut cut cut’. 

Now, my first manuscript benefited (and could probably still benefit) from this advice.  It was majorly overwritten and contained details that didn’t move the story along.

This project, however, is fairly underwritten.  It contains a lot of dialogue with some carefully chosen description and detail.  It’s also very fast paced and only 52k.  I’m really hesitant to simply ‘cut’ anything out but would rather flesh it out, reword, or rephrase. 

Justine Dell had a fabulous guest interview with Candice from Live Raw that explains how to do sentence by sentence editing and I found this to be worthwhile advice and perfect for this type of manuscript so I’m hoping to use this method.

Does anyone else have any advice for editing a shorter ms?


1st Prize winner will receive an over-the-phone publishing consultation from one of the accomplished authors/editors at The Writer’s Workshop!

2nd Prize winner will receive a 30 page critique from the members of the ‘3Critics Club’ (my critiquing group) on The Word Cloud

3rd Prize winner will receive a choice of champagne or gourmet chocolates shipped directly from yours truly (in France:)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday's Unsung Hero

In the spirit of supporting talented people who don't get the recognition they deserve, I give you Jeff Dunham.  In my opinion, ventriloquism is a lost art and its a shame there aren't more well known ventriloquists out there for our entertainment.  This guy never fails to crack me up!   


Don't forget to enter! Ends Thursday Night- May 27th!

1st Prize winner will receive an over-the-phone publishing consultation from one of the accomplished authors/editors at The Writer’s Workshop!

2nd Prize winner will receive a 30 page critique from the members of the ‘3Critics Club’ (my critiquing group) on The Word Cloud

3rd Prize winner will receive a choice of champagne or gourmet chocolates shipped directly from yours truly (in France:)

Happy Tuesday everybody!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Monday Misdemeanor and Other Such Rot

First of all, I want to thank everyone who read and commented on the interview with Harry Bingham.  He’s a great guy in addition to being a top notch writer so thanks!

Secondly,  the Query Spoof Contest ends Thursday night- May 27th!  Everyone who wants to win a one hour over-the-phone publishing consultation with an author-editor at The Writer’s Workshop (yes -they do read your work and talk to you about where you should be going with it) should get cracking! Also up for grabs is a critique of your first 30 pages by the members of the 3Critics Club, and third prize is a bottle of champagne or chocolates sent from yours truly.

I don’t know if ya’ll have noticed a change in my side bar but Creepy finally succumbed to the pressure and joined 
I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing and the 140 character limit is a constant slap in the face since I'm an over-writer by nature.

Finally, I want to shout out a huge CONGRATS to Elana Johnson who received news last week of a book deal!  Wherever you are Elana (and seriously I wouldn’t be surprised to hear you’re out running naked in the streets, walking on water, or hand gliding after news like that) – You are an inspiration to us all!

Now without further ado:  Monday’s Misdemeanor

Breaking Curfew

I wasn’t one of those girls who would sneak out of her window at night to go meet up with a group of delinquent kids.  Oh no.  I was the kind of girl that would sneak out of OTHER people’s windows to meet up.  Translation:  The only time I ever ‘snuck out’ was while sleeping over at my friends’ houses.  For some reason it felt safer- at least if we got caught it wouldn’t be MY parents doing the catching.  Not that there won’t be karmic retributions somewhere down the road…

In any case, it got me thinking.  ‘Breaking Curfew’ has been used as a YA plot device ever since Romeo threw stones at Juliette’s window.  I mean, how much trouble would Harry, Ron and Hermione have gotten into if they had just stopped roaming the castle or sneaking out to see Hagrid after hours?

I realized that I use ‘Breaking Curfew’ in both of my novels but the question is why?  And I suppose the answer is the same reason kids do it in real life- it adds excitement and tension to the scene.   In addition to the after-hours adventure, there’s always that chance of discovery looming over their heads.  Whether you’ve ever broke curfew or not, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement.

What do you think about ‘Breaking Curfew’ scenes in books and have you ever used one?

Paying it Forward:  thanks Dawn for including me in this.  My Pay it Forward picks are:

Tessa's Blurb
Suzanne Casamento
Kelly Dexter
T.J. Carson

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Interview with author Harry Bingham!

‘Harry is the author of five novels, all from HarperCollins. The first, The Money Makers, shot straight onto the Sunday Times bestseller list.
The second, Sweet Talking Money, was shortlisted for the WHS Thumping Good Read Award 2002.
The Sons of Adam came out in 2004, and was picked by the Bookseller as one of the most exciting books of the year.
Glory Boys came out in 2005, with the Bookseller commenting, ‘If you haven’t yet discovered the sales potential or sheer story-telling power of this author then you are missing out. He is the next [Jeffrey] Archer or [Sidney] Sheldon.’
The Lieutenant's Lover is out in paperback, Oct 2006.
This Little Britain, published by 4th Estate in 2007, is his first non-fiction publication. It's an entertaining, argumentative romp through British history, full of surprising facts. It's available from all good bookshops. Harry lives in Oxfordshire with his wife and dogs.’-WW

First of all, I want to give a HUGE thank you to Harry for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions.

Between running The Writer’s Workshop, editing, scouting, and organizing festivals-  Do you still manage to find time to write ?
Um, yes, more or less, in fits and starts. I do still think of myself as a writer mostly, and a WW person only secondarily.

Are you currently working on a new project and if so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
Yes indeedy. I’m writing a detective story, set in Wales and featuring a young woman detective. The murder mystery part is fairly conventional. The interesting bit is that there are two extra layers of mystery. First, the detective is clearly hiding some huge secret about her past from the reader. Secondly, it turns out that there’s a second huge secret about her past which she isn’t even aware of. The reader comes to learn more about both of those two things, but only at the very end of the book.
**This sounds really fascinating!

What gave you the idea to start ‘The Writer’s Workshop’?
I came to writing when I gave up a proper job to look after  my wife, who was very sick at the time. When she started to get better, I had more time on my hands, so the WW seemed like a logical step.

When a manuscript arrives at The Workshop- how do you decide which editor is going to take it on?
We always look fairly closely at the manuscript to understand more about its genre and its quality. Obviously we know our editors very well: what they’re good with, what they love handling. Since we have a lot of editors, we can normally pair manuscripts to editors pretty well.

What criteria must a manuscript under editing meet to be considered ‘strong enough to sell’ to one of the agencies or publishers the WW scouts for?
Er, well, in the end it needs to be saleable to a publisher. For commercial writing (crime, women’s fiction, fantasy, etc), that means that the writing itself needs to be competent, and the story needs to be powerful. In literary fiction, the bar is set higher when it comes to prose style, but possibly lower when it comes to storytelling. Either way, the book needs a strong angle or marketing hook to grab an agent or publisher.

Can I ask which agencies or publishers ‘The Writers Workshop’ has worked with in the past?
A lot of them. We’ve had clients taken on by AM Heath, Conville and Walsh, Rogers Coleridge and White, Curtis Brown, MBA – but too many to name. We don’t usually place books direct with publishers, though we do have a book coming out with Orion this summer that we sold to them directly ourselves.
**For those of you who haven’t been familiarized with agents yet- these are all really big names.

What are some of the biggest mistakes that first time writers make?
Oh dear. There are so many ways things can go wrong. But I’d say that good writers always focus on the quality of their writing. Literally caring about each sentence. If you have that care for the texture of your work, you’re not likely to be slipshod about the bigger things.

Do the manuscripts that you present to agents most often the ones that required the least amount of editorial work or have there been cases where the WW has helped to completely transform a manuscript that went on to be successful?
On the whole, I suppose good manuscripts look good right from the start. But yes, there are definitely plenty of authors who just work hard at understanding what isn’t working in their writing and then they work away at those things till they get them right. We’ve definitely had successes from people who I thought would never make it – so now I know that I can’t pre-judge these things.

What are your feelings about current market conditions (ie- what’s hot and what’s not for fiction these days?)
Gosh, it’s really tough. And the trouble in saying anything about market conditions is that it’s really hard to give writers information that’s useful. Misery memoirs were really hot a few years back, but within a year of the peak it was hard to sell anything except the very strongest work in the category. Same thing with vampire work now. Unless you have some startlingly strong & original work in that genre, it’s really hard to sell – despite the fact that Stephanie Meyer is still huge. And of course the huge sellers are never expected. No marketing department ever said, ‘Bring me a book about a boy wizard!’ or ‘What we need is a Vatican-based conspiracy novel now!’

Do you feel like the American publishing industry is easier or harder to break into than the U.K. industry for fiction and why or why not?
Not much difference, I don’t think. The US market is very hard to crack if you’re a Brit resident in Britain. But if you’re an American in America, then the challenges you face are much the same there as here.

Do you feel like there is a large difference between what is being sold in the U.S. market and the U.K. market?
No. I think there’s a general perception that the US non-fiction lists are smarter than British ones. Nothing to do with readers, more with the way the retailers work. And of course the Christian market is way bigger in the US than it is here. But no, on the whole there’s no colossal difference I wouldn’t have said.

I notice that many U.K. agents still require hard copy queries by mail whereas most American agents now prefer queries by email.  Why do you think this is and do you think the U.K. agents will open themselves up to email queries sooner or later?
I’ve no idea! I’d love to know. I think it’s because the British industry still secretly hankers for quill pens and coal fires and leather bound ledgers. It’s bananas.
** Since this just about sums up my American-minded stereotype of the British book industry- this answer made me laugh out loud.

Did you have to query to find your agent and if so, how long did it take you to find one?
I’ve had two different agents. With my first, I sent out about a dozen letters all told (in two waves) and ended up with offers from two agents. The whole process took about 3 months. With my current agent, I just made an appointment to see him. We liked each other. It took me some time to get a manuscript into a shape that he was comfortable with, but then we signed on the dotted line straight away. But that kind of thing is only possible really if you have a track record.

 Under what circumstances would you recommend a writer seek editorial help for their manuscript?
My answer to that one is a bit useless really: writers should get help if they think they need it. Plenty of good writers will get an agent without outside help. Plenty of other good writers will make excellent use of expert advice. If you’ve tried to get an agent already and failed (ie: you’ve made a professional approach to 10-12 agents), then it probably makes sense to get a genuinely expert outside view on your work. If you feel that you’re going round in circles, or you know that there’s something wrong but you’re not sure what, then you need editorial help. But if you complete your MS and you’re very confident in it, then you should certainly go direct to agents. No point in spending money on editorial help if you truly won’t benefit.

Do you have any other advice for writers hoping to break into the publishing industry?
Always, always kidnap a member of the agent’s family before submitting your MS. Treat publishers with aggression and disdain – they’ll think you’re a star in the making. And always speak contemptuously about your peers: it’s a brilliant way to make friends.
... More seriously, though, if you write a good book, approach agents professionally, and treat everyone you come across in a courteous and businesslike way, then you’ll do just fine. If you need more detailed info, then as it happens I have a book on just this subject coming out in a few months. It’s called Getting Published; it’s coming out with A&C Black; and it’ll be available from 27 September.
**Awesome!  Thanks so much Harry for taking the time to answer my questions and I will definitely be on the look-out for ‘Getting Published’- which sounds like it will be a great resource for us aspiring writers!


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