Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Common Writing Syndrome

Right now my house is suffering from a case of revision-provoked dirtyhousewrititis. So, today I will be folding, washing, and dusting my poor dwelling back to its pre-project state.

What's the worst thing you ever let slide when you were in the throws of a writing project?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ding Dong My Kindle is Dead

So, yesterday, I FINALLY finished the initial draft of edits for project Agent Revise & Resubmit.  These last two months of revision have been long and hard, with various interruptions and hair-pulling moments. So I can’t tell you how relieved I was to finally have the bulk of my efforts over with. Naturally, the first thing I did was contact a few beta readers in hopes of getting an outside take.

The second thing I did was look for my Kindle. Oh yes. I was oh-so-ready to enjoy one of the numerous books off my to-be-read list and get lost in somebody else’s story for a change. 

Alas, when I grabbed my kindle from its place on the bookshelf, I knew something was amiss. The screen was blocked on an audio book page I don’t remember opening and there was an overlaying message:

‘Collecting information.  May take a min.. Will restart when done.. Please wait..’

Those were- *sniff*- the last words my kindle ever uttered.

I tried CPR, mouth-to-mouth, and electric pads. 


My kindle wouldn’t reboot, turn on, charge, or change screens. And the computer wouldn’t even register anything was plugged into the usb. 

She totally flatlined.

I put out a cry for help on facebook and thankfully, my dear friend Dianne Salerni advised me to call kindle 911.

After trying everything the tech support advisor asked me to do, he regretfully declared my kindle ‘dead on arrival’.  And told me I’d have to package her up and send her through the valley of the shadows of death, all the way back to the Amazon Returns Center.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Since this is apparently a battery-charging defect issue, Amazon is sending me a replacement kindle, free of charge:) So, as much as I’m going to miss my ole’ ereader (we really have been through so many great stories together), all is not lost!

Have you ever had a problem with your kindle or ereader? Was your provider as helpful as you’d hoped? (In my case, I was totally flabbergasted when he told me they’d be sending a replacement.)

Thanksgiving Blues

So, this year’s Thanksgiving is going to be depressingly low-key. 
I say ‘depressingly’ because, in a country where Thanksgiving is just any other day, it’s difficult to be anything but low-key.

Truth is, I didn’t realize until now how much working in the French school system kept my American-holiday spirit alive every year. Explaining the history and traditions behind Halloween and Thanksgiving to hundreds of kids made me feel kind of like an Autumn Holiday Fairy, spreading the before-Christmas cheer wherever I went.  

My colleagues and students always enjoyed learning about Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday. Because it was so different from anything they have here. Their eyes would go wide when I told them we had a whole day dedicated to being thankful for what we have. (Not something that comes easily to the French:) Then we’d go around the room and offer up examples of things we were thankful for. We’d watch the Mayflower Voyagers as a class (I have a copy in French), and I’d show them the Macy’s Day Parade book with fold-out posters of the balloons over New York City. They’d ‘ooh and aah’ over the never-seen before pictures of spider man and snoopy floating amidst the sky scrapers and ask me if they’re ‘really that big?’  

They’d listen with mouths agape as I told them what’s involved in our annual feast, raising their hands whenever they thought something sounded ‘good’ or ‘gross’.  The little ones would make colourful hand-turkeys and the older kids would come to class later that week with stories about trying to make their first pumpkin pie with the recipe I handed out.

I feel like, in my own little way, I made the holiday real, not just for them, but for me, too. And being out of work this year, I’ve missed the build-up and excitement that comes from sharing Thanksgiving with people who know nothing about it. It was a really great feeling, and I hope to be able to do it again someday.

Until then, I’m thankful to be sharing the holiday with my own little family and for the little things. There may not be cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie filling at the grocery store, but there’s also no mad rush of people looking to buy last-minute ingredients, crowded parking lots or lines, or panic attacks over finding a turkey in time. So, I guess sometimes low-key isn’t so bad:)

I hope all of you back in the states have a wonderful holiday! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Playing Manuscript Jenga

So, this weekend was spent rewriting entire chunks of FOSSEGRIM for project agent revise & resubmit. And, while I’m still not an adept of all that is revision-love, I have to say it was kind of interesting to go back and actually change the direction of a manuscript. 

In this case, I needed to add a new plotline revealing more about my MC’s roots and who his parents were (Basically material I’d hoped to include in book II).

And the line begins about midway through the book and then needs to be woven in throughout the story until it gets its piece of the newly-written climax. This was not easy, and I still have a lot of clean-up to do once I’m done with the initial rewriting.  

My manuscript has jumped 17,500 words and 58 pages in the last six weeks, bringing my total close to 92k. Which is a lot, me thinks. So there’s going to have to be some scenes weighed and clipped.

This whole experience has me wondering- how do you structure your novels? I mean, there are so many things to take into account, like:

Sequence of events
Various Plotlines
Character Arcs
Relationships and Interactions
Important Revelations
Anti climax

And then you throw chapter marks and pacing into the mix, and it’s like trying to put together a very tricky recipe. You slip up on the temp, or the measurements of certain ingredients and the overall taste can be affected, tipping the whole dish too sweet, bitter, or spicy. 

How do you find that careful balance? 

I think a lot of my initial structure is based on ‘feeling’ as I’m reading through a draft. I get a pretty good notion (most of the time) as to which scene would flow well, where. And I usually write and organize my scenes with an outline (or several outlines) based on the themes above to try and keep things going in the right direction. 

However, now that I’m faced with a situation where I have to weave in, not only new material, but changed material, and a whole other point-of-view with its own arcs and revelations, I find myself spending a lot of time playing critical-scene jenga with my manuscript. 

My chapter breaks have flown out the window, because if I kept them as they were, I’d end up with some 6 page chapters and some 18 page chapters.  Finding a way to break off from the original story and move on with a different character without tripping up the pacing has been its own can of worms, too. And don’t get me started on the right-time-for-revelation hokey pokey. *sigh*

How do you go about structuring your novels and finding that careful balance?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oh, How I Miss You!

Maybe it’s because the focus on blogging as a form of self-promotion has waned amidst publishing professionals. Or maybe it’s because newer, faster, easier forms of networking, like facebook and twitter, have gained in popularity.

In any case, the blogging community as a whole has felt the transition. We’re posting less often. Visiting and commenting less. Participating in less contests, bloghops, blogfests, and blog tours.

Do I miss the good ole’ days when I would hit up over fifty blogs a day? Keep my finger on the pulse of all that was happening in the writer/agent/publishing community through blogs and shared articles alone? Look forward to my favorite bloggers’ daily posts?

Of course! 

Those early months of blogging- when we were all building up our following and getting to know new and interesting people was a total blast!

But I don’t think the kind of time and work it takes to keep that up is feasible for most people on a long-term basis. Especially if you’re a writer. So, like many of you, I’ve cut back. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. Or that I don’t miss certain blogs that have had to cut back as well. 

Today, as part of the Oh, How I Miss You Blogfest hosted by Alex, Andrew and Matt, I’m highlighting (some of) the blogs and bloggers I miss the most, whether from their having to cut back or from my own lapse in bloggy participation.

Three bloggers whose postings I miss:

And three bloggers who are still fighting the good fight but who I’ve been missing due to my own lack of bloggy participation.*blushes* 
Know that you are loved and missed I will try to pop in more often, my friends!

Do you ever feel like you're missing out on some great blogs because of time constraints and cut-backs? Let them know you still think about them! You can check out the rest of today's participants here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tied to the Roof

Not much to report today. The hubs and kids are home (no school on Wednesdays in France. -Which is both a blessing and a curse). And running the kids to judo and CCD classes takes up most of the day. 

Therefore, my online-self is basically gagged and tied to the roof of our car as we accomplish most of the day’s errands.  (see above)

BUT, I will make it up to you on Friday, when I participate in the Oh, How I Miss You Blogfest, hosted by Andrew, Alex, and Matt

There’s still time to sign up so take a look:

The bloggers we really miss…
and the ones we would really miss! 

Do you have a couple blogger buddies who aren’t posting as often? Those who’ve pulled back and seem absent from the blogging world? Do you have blogger buddies you are grateful they are still around and would miss if they vanished? Now is your chance to show your appreciation and spotlight them!

On November 16, list one to three bloggers you really miss and one to three bloggers you would miss if they stopped blogging. Then go leave a comment on those blogs. 

Our blogger friends are special – time to let them know!

Hope you guys have a great rest of the week! I’ll see you on Friday!


Monday, November 12, 2012

I Call Foul!

I know that, as a writer, I’m supposed to have an undying reverence for all that is 
*cue backlighting and sparkles and choirs of angels*

Revision is where the magic happens, right? Where you take that undefined lump of clay that is your first draft and mold and carve it into a masterpiece.

Problem is, one run-through never provides the kind of glimmer and shine that will get a manuscript through the mill and out into the world.

Not even close.

There’s the first revision where you fix any major problems, obvious typos, plot holes, etc.

Then the second one, where you do all that again, but better and more in-depth.

Then there’s the third draft that comes from incorporating beta-reader notes.

And the fourth draft that comes from incorporating more beta-reader notes.

And then maybe a fifth draft that comes from incorporating agent notes.

And, if you’re lucky, maybe editor notes.

And copy-editor notes.


Revision is where the magic happens. Where writers prove their true grit. It’s something we all must aspire to revel in and adore.

Well, I call foul!

Revision isn’t magic. It’s work. And it blows goat cheese. 

I've tried. Really, I have. But sometimes I suspect writers as a whole try and make revisions sound a lot more fun than they are because, well, they're such a huge part of the writing process.

I admit, however, to being one of those unfortunate writers whose creativity caps out in the makings of that first draft- where characters surprise me and the story elates me and I can revel in that indescribable feeling of power and awe over the words I’ve pulled from the etherlands and put together to form something that didn’t exist only weeks ago.

Going back over those magical words, and realizing they kind of suck? So not as much fun, imo. Don’t get me wrong, big changes I can handle. I don’t mind writing new scenes and rewriting old ones. 

It’s the little things that drive me crazy. A character quirk here, an over-used expression there. The same word spelled wrong a million times. A slow in the pacing. A confusing feature that you can’t seem to explain right now matter how many angles you tackle it from. 

And spelling. And grammar. And punctuation. I want to stab them all in the eye. You think you’ve got something down pat, but then every person who reads it has a different way of doing things. Even books and websites disagree. 

And so you fix it, and you fix it, and you FIX IT! But it’s never right. You read the same scenes over and over until you wonder why you even wrote them to begin with. Changing just a few paragraphs feels like you’re walking through thick mud. Every word weighs heavier and heavier until you can barely lift your fingers off the keypad.

And you think, how in God’s name can anyone enjoy this? It’s absolute torture! 

Yet, I see other writers who get all excited about revisions. They post about their rewritten chapters, and their dropping word count, and their gleaming prose. And I sit back and scratch my head. Are they in denial?

Maybe something’s wrong with me. Never in my life have I woken up and said ‘Gee, I can’t wait to revise today!’  Of course I feel fabulous once it's done. Because, well, it's done.

But for me, revision's always been a necessary evil. 
Like bathing my children. 

I mean, am I weird? (don’t answer that) But am I the only writer out there who doesn’t think revision is a magical ride through musical valleys of accomplishment and glee? 

Is there anyone else out there who thinks it's one of the most tedious and laborious of activities of being a writer?

Monday, November 5, 2012

When Amazon Opens Up Shop...

When Barnes & Noble announced that they wouldn’t shelve books published by Amazon imprints (Createspace, Amazon Crossing AmazonEncore, Amazon NY, Thomas & Mercer, 47North, and Montlake Romance) the first thing I wondered was ‘What if Amazon opened up their own brick and mortar bookstores?’

Low and behold, Amazon did release press in February that they were developing their first physical bookshop in the Seattle area, but any further developments have been kept on the down-low.

I can't be the only one who's wondered how this development could affect B&N?

Let us ponder...

Amazon would have the heavy advantage of knowing what appeals to buyers in the selected area beforehand, based on online sales. 

They’d know what books and titles are selling well, who’s buying what, and how they should stock their shelves for maximum profit. Trial and error would be online-based and involve little room for physical financial loss- unlike what traditional publishers face with current brick and mortar booksellers every time they launch a new book into the world. So, not only would Amazon be able to serve customers the same (if not better targeted) stock as B&N, but they’d probably do so at a more competitive price.  

Not to mention the monopoly they would have over books published under the above Amazon imprints, - the ones that B&N simply refuses to sell on principle.

Years ago, Barnes & Noble and Borders swept across the nation, targeting areas where independent booksellers were already thriving. They opened up their bigger, more comfortable, cheaper bookshops and slowly squeezed the life out of independents and smaller chains like a some kind of death weed.

But Amazon’s online business continued to grow and thrive as more and more people turned to internet shopping. And it wasn’t long before their business began detracting from the power that was the brick and mortar. Borders paid the price when they couldn’t adapt fast enough (or enough in general) and B&N is currently struggling to maintain some sense of competition with the monster that is Amazon. 

But I have to wonder, will they be able to compete if Amazon ever decides to adapt the same business practices that B&N employed twenty years ago and invest in physical stores on a massive scale?

Not that I think Amazon will take this route. Truth is, they don’t really need physical bookshops to succeed and don’t seem to have an interest in become THE central bookstore chain of America. But if B&N doesn't stop trying to save their own business by blocking Amazon’s, I’m afraid it won’t leave them much of a choice.

Do you think/hope Amazon will somehow become the next big physical bookseller? If not, how are you hoping the tide will turn when it comes to B&N? Do you think that independents will rise to the forefront with the decline of the chainstore?  Or that B&N will somehow find a way thrive?


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