Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fighting the Urge

In a recent issue of Romance Writer’s Report from RWA, there was an article titled “Speed as an Antidote to Writer’s Block” by Hillary Rettig. All jokes about methamphetamines aside, the basic gist was that in order to write prolifically, you just had to write. And then write some more. And keep writing. Most importantly, do not let the desire for perfection slow you down.
How simple – and yet the idea was something new to me. For years my style had been to write a few pages and then go back and edit. Of course I would find problems, so I would rewrite. But then I would remember an inconsistency and go back to a previous section and fix that. And then I would find myself editing in that section. Usually at that point I would swear under my breath (so my kids wouldn’t hear me) and call my sister to vent. Then I would completely lose focus, do some dishes, clip my daughter’s fingernails, have a glass of wine, and return to my story. At that point, I’d have to reread everything I’d done so far in order to be in the zone so my writing wouldn’t come across as choppy. Rereading would lead to editing. It was a vicious cycle with the result of me taking a lot of time to get very little done.

One of the side-effects of my particular writing style was that I got too invested in my plot/character decisions. By the time I considered myself done, I practically had the ms memorized and was in love with every line. This is NOT GOOD. Rettig points out that speed writers are more likely to involve others in their writing process and look for and apply critiques. Perfectionists hold on to their ms until it is perfect, which it never is, and cannot take criticism. It was actually funny for me to realize I was a perfectionist. I mean, I’ve always referred to myself as ‘flexible,’ which is really code for disorganized and a little sloppy. Seriously -- my house is a mess, my regrowth is showing, and my youngest daughter got yogurt in her hair this morning so I decided to put it up in a bun for the day so no one could tell. Sloppy. But in writing, I was a perfectionist.

This was an eye opener for me. Do I want to get published? Yes. Do I want to be a prolific author? Yes. Do I want to be an author agents/publishers can work with? Yes. I chose to rethink my approach.

For this last month I have NOT been a perfectionist. I have been focusing on telling my story. When I sit down to write, I write. I do not go back and worry about the seduction scene in chapter four (even though I still want to, I fight the urge). I going to keep writing and writing until I finish this book. My monitor is covered in sticky notes reminding me to change things later when I am ready to edit, but I’m not wasting time on that now. I’m part of a romance writer’s group and really value the critiques and take all the input seriously. Most importantly, I’m able to do so without feeling that the book of my heart has been slighted or my genius impugned. I know where my story is going and I know I can get it there. It’s actually really exciting.

So now that I’ve lost (brutally killed – suffocated, perhaps?) my inner perfectionist, is my writing just as sloppy as my house? I don’t know. If I wanted to make an analogy of it, I could say that at least my house is a complete and comfortable home even if the Nativity scene is still on the piano. Likewise, I’d rather have a slightly sloppy complete manuscript than five grammatically perfect, almost poetic, overworked chapters that might never become a book. If my home was like that, it would only be a few standing walls with beautiful Venetian plaster finishes.

So, thank you Hillary Rettig, whoever you are. I will no longer be a perfectionist. I will simply write. That said, if there are problems with the flow of this blog, it is because I did not go back over it, I just churned it out. Good for me!

And now I’m off to help my hero discover that he truly wants to marry the heroine.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Didn't Quite Finish my Out-Candylanding Candyland. Oh well.

Candyland had a competition Imma Do Candyland Better Thank Candyland contest entry. I started to put my stuff together, but lost steam and creative energy. Plus, I’m still figuring out how to configure my blogs using the tools available through blogspot, so I have no clue how to insert pics mid text without getting html error messages. Someday I'll finish it just for fun. I mean, hey, I have tons of stories of my kids being cute and my kids being gross -- sometimes at the same time. I do have a problem using words like 'Imma' seriously. I don't criticize when other people do it, I just can't seem to make myself. It might have to do with when I said "bidness" to my class of 8th graders and they were all, "Oh, Mrs. Spock" with downcast eyes, expressions of pain and disappointment.

That said, this is all I have, but I hate to waste any writing effort, so I will post it here and perhaps you will feel like you know me better.

Random Fact #1: I knew I was a grown up when a student vomited on (and in) my shoes and I did not vomit in response.

Random Fact #2: I like to plan crimes. You know, the perfect murder, embezzlement, scams, etc… I would never do them, but I think about them. I told my husband that if he ever sees me cultivating an icicle in our freezer, he’s in trouble.

Just for fun: My all time favorite blogsites is Lovely Listing. It’s got nothing to do with being published or parenting or World of Warcraft, but it makes me happy. Seriously, if you have the time (and, I recommend an empty bladder) do look through the pages until your neck hurts. Then come back the next day and start from where you left off. Between the listings and saga of Chair, it’s genius. Sara, I salute you.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Doing it Elizabethan Style

In my frantic and obsessive efforts to become published, I have come across a few articles suggesting that an author needs a tag line in order to effectively market their product. I can do that.
So I brainstorm and come up with all sorts of touchy feely stuff about self-worth and being worthy of love, blah blah blah.

Friend and fellow author Raquel Byrnes has 'Edge of Your Seat Romance.' Good. Catchy. You know what the product promises.

And still I have nothing.

Courtly Love
is a story of a woman who has been in an arranged marriage since she was fourteen. She and her husband hardly know each other. She hardly knows herself any more. Her story is of self discovery and, during her journey, she and her husband find a passionate love together.

Courtly Christmas
is the story of a woman who has settled for the mediocre, always giving of herself to others but never seeking her own happiness because she doesn't think she deserves it. She has to believe that she is worthy of love, and Sir Charles is just the man to teach her.

Both stories have the 'Because I'm worth it' theme, but that one has been taken by L'Oréal.
That's when my husband came into the picture. He is not a writer. He's not even a reader. But he is a businessman and has a better understanding of marketing. I expressed my concerns to him and he immediately suggested, "Doing it Elizabethan Style." We both laughed. I dismissed it a silly and somewhat crass and continued to consider my tag.

After a day or two, I was sold on 'Doing it Elizabethan Style.' It's funny, it's catchy, and it's much more interesting than anything about self worth. Besides, my characters are Elizabethan and they do 'do it.' Plus, it helps me not take myself too seriously.

So, I have my tag line... at least, for now.

And what does any of this have to do with a hamster and a lollipop?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Query Spoof Contest

So, my first day blogging also marks my first contribution to a blog contest. Creepy Query Girl has a Query Spoof Contest that ends tonight at midnight. My good friend Raquel Byrnes wrote her fake query using the basic plot of Twilight. I wrote mine about Pride and Prejudice. I ended up having more fun playing with the character of the author (for the record, I was NOT mocking Jane Austen. Sacrilege!) than I did the actual summary of the story.

I can't help but laugh at the irony. For this contest, I wrote a bad query on purpose -- whereas all of my real queries to date have been bad on accident.

Read on.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am excited about your opportunity to work with me. My novel, I’m Not Good Enough For You…Or, Perhaps You Are Not Good Enough For Me is character driven. You will find, as you read my enclosed manuscript, I have a gift with words – words that you cannot help but read aloud so you can feel them, thick and sweet, on your tongue and hear them whispered on the wind, drifting into the ether to blend with all that is beautiful in the world. I am confident that you will be as moved as you read as I was as I wrote. This is my gift to you. Treasure it. You are welcome.

Although my text is rich and abundant and full of witticisms and persiflage between my archetypal characters, I will strive, for your benefit, to make my summary as mundane as possible.

Lisa, at the age of twenty, has begun her decline into spinsterhood. She is the second eldest daughter of five, all of whom have little chance of succeeding in life. This is due to poor retirement planning on the part of their father and gauche behavior on the part of their mother. Of all the daughters, the eldest, Joan, has the most chance for success because she is not only beautiful, but she is docile and submissive – traits to be admired in a woman. Lisa and Joan are great friends and both wish to find a handsome, rich man and fall in love.

Luckily a handsome, rich man, Barney, moves into, the neighborhood. His best friend, Darryl, is even more handsome and rich. Joan and Barney begin dating, but both of them are too shy to express their feelings. Lisa had some hopes of attracting Darryl’s attention, but after overhearing him criticize her, goes into a snit and swears she will have nothing to do with him.

What she does not know is that Darryl, much to the chagrin of his pompous groupies, has had a change of heart about Lisa. Lisa finds herself having to spend time with Darryl and, although she cannot stand him, she cannot seem to leave him alone, and they have many verbal sparring matches, full of thrust and parry that hints of the tension caused by the sex they are not having.

Meanwhile, Joan and Barney’s relationship appears to be thriving. Darryl is not convinced that Joan is honest in her feelings, and convinces Barney to leave. Joan is sad, but is too pleasant to be heartbroken.

Amidst some filler subplots about Lisa’s other sisters, Lisa finds herself, once again, forced to be in Darryl’s company. He professes his love in a rather rude way and admits that he talked Barney into leaving Joan. Lisa is horrified and tells him she could never love him. Or could she?

In order to forget her woe, she takes a vacation with her Aunt and Uncle. As they tour the countryside in rustic splendor, Lisa finds out just how rich Darryl is. She begins to doubt her initial reaction and resumes an awkward relationship of sorts with him.

Luckily for Lisa and her entire family, Darryl, realizes that he had been a jerk and fixes everything for everyone. Lisa finds out about his good deeds and agrees to marry him. Everyone lives happily ever after.

The above summary is as small of a nutshell as I can make my masterpiece without being forced to commit seppuku. I feel like I have butchered my life’s work in trying to outline the meat of the plot, when, in fact and in actuality, the plot has only ever been the mere and inconsequential medium for me to express my art. This summary cannot show the beauty of the written word – in order to experience it fully, you must read my manuscript. While originally over 500,000 words in length, I understand that the average reader without the necessary education might be overwhelmed. I have condensed as much as my conscience will allow, to be a brief 122,000 words in length. But please understand, each word is integral to the art that is, I’m Not Good Enough For You…Or, Perhaps You Are Not Good Enough For Me.

I am sure you will enjoy my work. I look forward to talking about myself with you.

Narcissa Braggadocio

My first blog is about rejection. Let's not make this a theme.

5/27 On the day I found out I was NOT a finalist in the RWA Golden Heart, I wrote my first blog entry. Today, over two months later, I am actually setting up my blog. Part of me says the moment has passed and I should just file this away with all the other snippets of writing I will never use... Then again, it's my blog and I post whatever I want. So I will point an angry finger at my common sense and yell "You're not the boss of me!" and decide to post a very late reaction to a rejection that happened two months ago. At least this little article may be relevant to many struggling writers.

3/25 I was not a finalist in the Golden Heart competition through RWA. I don’t know if I really expected that I would be, but I must have because my disappointment was palpable. My writing was really unfocused on 3/25 as I went back and forth between my Word doc and the RWA website watching the finalist’s names as they were updated. Eventually I called RWA and asked if they had made all of the notifications. Yes, they had. I had to get off the phone in the hurry because I was crying. My reaction surprised me. I mean, I’ve handled rejection after rejection with only mild frustration. But then again, the agents rejecting me hadn’t actually read anything of mine.

The RWA judges had had to read my first fifty-five pages – I paid them my entry fee to do it. Were they not interested in the rest of the story? Did no one find the characters compelling or the plot driving? I felt so defeated. Crushed. Whether it was a rational reaction or not is irrelevant – the fact is that it really hurt.

Still totally obsessing on the rejection, I started looking up the authors that did get a place in the finalists. Many have websites. Many have entered the same competitions I have entered. Most of them are looking for agents. All of them are in the same boat I am – they have books and they want to get them published. Being a finalist and potentially winning the Golden Heart award is huge for them. Woohoo! Look at me being a good sport. I’m the actress at the Oscars who does not win and is acting like they’re happy for the real winner so the camera doesn’t catch them being less than beautiful.

But in all honesty, I am happy for them. Of course, I still wish I was one of them, but hey – if they can get breaks, maybe I can too. And it doesn’t mean my book was bad, it just means their's were better. And I have no idea about the judging criteria. I get to see the scorecards eventually and then I’ll know what they were looking for. For now, I just have to keep on truckin’ and have faith in my story.

But boy, would it have been awesome to add that I was finalist in the Golden Heart competition to my query letter.
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