January 31, 2012

Back Story: The Bog That Mires Down Your Manuscript

Back story is the bane of my existence. I worry constantly about where and how to sprinkle it in to my stories so that the reader stays solidly on the path between too much information and not enough. And the truth is, I think I'm right to be angsty. Go off the path too much in either direction and your story can die before it ever gets a chance to really live. The reader either gets bored with all the explanation and puts down the book, or she (I'm using she because my readers are mostly female, but please feel free to adapt this to the gender of your choice) never gets invested in your character at all because she doesn't know enough about them. So how does a writer ever really know how much back story to include? And does the amount change if your genre is say, science fiction as opposed to contemporary?

January 27, 2012

Volunteer At A Library And Improve Your Writing

I love libraries. As a kid they were always my hideaway. I could spend hours there and did, happily holed up in  a corner with a pile of books. I like the smell. I like the hushed atmosphere. Even the old card catalogs engender warm and fuzzy memories for me. It is one of those places that instantly improves my mood as soon as I step inside the doors.

Now that I have children, I have started to volunteer in their school's library. At first I  chose to do it because I remembered how much I loved checking out books as a kid and I wanted to relive that experience a little by watching my children and their friends check out their books. But over time, I realized that my hours there had an unexpected effect. They benefitted me as a writer. Here's how:

January 24, 2012

Revisions: The Core Of Writing

Anyone who's ever finished an entire novel can tell you that 95 percent of the processs is revisions. A rough draft is a good beginning, but it is never a finished thing, devoid of plot, pacing, and character issues. And the more inexperienced you are as a writer, the more revisions you will probably need to do to get what you have on paper to look like anything more than a succession of sentences. Trust me. I don't know one other writer who hasn't revised their manuscript to within an inch of its life. So today, I'm going to talk about my personal revision process and how I go about taking a manuscript from rough to polished.

Before I even start drafting I have a general sense of where I 'm  headed. I make an outline, I do any required research, and I compile character sketches on each of my characters.  So when I sit down to write I already have a pretty good sense of what the story will be about (although I never stick to the plan entirely). It is important to note that I always write the first drafts by hand. Something about pen and paper works for me. I draft scene by scene and at the end of every writing session, I type out what I've written. And this is where the first tiny revisions take place. While I'm typing I change things, in fact sometimes I skip whole handwritten pages, typing instead some new bit that comes to me in that moment which seems infinitely better than what I had.

January 20, 2012

How I Cleared The First Major Hurdle: Getting A Literary Agent

Yesterday I gave you the very quick version of how I got signed. Today I'd like to go a little more in depth and share my story from beginning to end so that you can see all of the things that fell into place to get me to this point. So here goes:

I met Lucienne for the first time not long after I started writing. I had started a novel group since I couldn't find one close by and she happened to attend with a friend who had been coming. She came as another writer since she is also an author (check out her newest release, Fangtastic, the third book in her series about a teenage fashionista turned vampire. I haven't been able to read the last one just yet, but I have ordered it. I have read the first two already and loved them.) So originally we met as writing peers although I did know she was an agent and that she did represent YA. The thing that struck me most about Lucienne was how generous she was about sharing what she knew about the business. She gave the group lots of helpful hints and her critiques were spot on. I went home that night excited to make changes in my WIP based on her thoughts.

January 19, 2012

It's Official, I Have An Agent!!!!!

Wow, it is just as nice as I thought it would be to sit down and type in those words! I have signed with Lucienne Diver at the Knight Literary Agency. So exactly how did it all come about?

The short answer: I sent her my completed manuscript just before Christmas. She was able to start reading it last Friday. She emailed me that night to say that she was a quarter of the way through and loving it. Saturday afternoon she emailed me again to say that she wanted to discuss representation. She happens to live nearby so Sunday we met for coffee and she told me her vision for my story, Silo, and I accepted her offer of representation right away. By Monday I had the contract and the first half of my revisions and by Wednesday I had the rest. Now I am knee deep in revisions and synopses and loving every minute of it.

For the long answer, tune in tomorrow when I will go into detail about my querying process and the road I traveled that got me to this point. I promise it is not at all traditional.

January 17, 2012

Write Clear, Not Fancy

I am a word lover. I'll freely admit. Aren't all writers? We roll words around our tongues like others do fine wine. We celebrate a particularly good arrangement of them with a fervor most people reserve for sports events and concerts. An apt description or nicely timed alliteration can set out hearts pounding. And while this is a wonderful thing when you make your living putting pen to paper, it can also be a handicap of sorts. Sometimes I think we writers want so badly to infuse their writing with interesting words and phrases that they use them way too liberally. Then instead of creating a scene the reader can really get behind and relate to, we end up drowning them in flowery pharses, esoteric vocabulary (now there's a doozy of a word), and way too many details.

January 11, 2012

Are You Up For This Journey?

Some of you out there are just starting out on your journey to be a writer and some of you have been on this road for a long, long time. I am a relative newbie. I've been writing for only two and a half years now. Total. I journaled for fun before that from time to time (like once or twice a year) but that's it. The only writerly thing I've always done since I was able, was to read. A lot. So obviously once I realized that writing was something that I wanted to do, I knew I had a lot to learn. The only problem was finding the time. I was a stay at home mom with a two and a half year old at home full time and a six and a half year old in school. Since neither of my children are what you'd call sleepers and are extremely active, I had precious little time to research writing or to simply write. In fact I think most of the moms out there can agree, to find any time to do anything for yourself is always a battle. The rest of the family always gets their needs met, but yours are almost always last on the list and the most easily discarded when things go wonky. So what's a girl to do? Here's what I did/am doing.

January 3, 2012

Character Building-How To Make Your Characters Come To Life

The characters in a story are what bring it to life. If you don't have strong characters who seem as real as your reader's next door neighbors, you don't have a story someone can get lost in. No one cares about your exciting plot twists and turns if they aren't invested in the people that they're happening to. But how do you deepen your characters enough to make them believable in the story?

January 1, 2012

How To Get Educated On Writing If You're Income Challenged

Three years ago I had been a stay at home mom for seven years. Before that I was a fifth grade teacher for six years. The last serious English/Writing class I'd taken was in highschool and I won't put a number on how long ago that was. I didn't know the first thing about how to crack into the publishing business. Heck, I didn't know the first thing about putting together a story or a poem. I just knew that I needed to write. But where can someone like me start learning about writing if college isn't in the cards and money is counted down to the last quarter most months? Here are the things I did to educate myself in a free or almost free fashion: