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Archive for December, 2008

Change Over Complete!

Here’s my new URL:

http://inthewritemind.wordpress.com/

The title of my blog is “Tales from the Writing Front.” You’ll have to change over the link now if you have me on your blogroll. But it’s the same thing–even has the same layout–I just wanted a new URL.

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So I got a little bored with my website title and came up with this.  However I will probably change over to a new URL and I may do this in the next day or so, but everything will be transferred over; I’m even keeping the same layout, but I wanted to change the blog url to something more general than the title of my book. So, this is just a heads up to my loyal readers, since you’ll have to change the URL and re-add me to your list. I’ll put the new link up when everything is transferred over.

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I realize the time for a New Year’s resolution is a few weeks away, but it’s on my mind now so I figured I’d write while it’s on the forefront.

My goal for this year is to get my first draft researched, edited and completed enough that I can start sending out queries by the end of the year.

I’m this close to typing “the end” with the book. I wrote about 700 more words today, bringing me closer to the goal. I’m not sure exactly how much is left–guessing between 7-10 chapters–but I’m not entirely sure on that so I’ll just say that I’ll finish when I finish. 😛

Yesterday at my critique group organizational meeting, we made goals and changes for the year to help things move along better.  We used to submit our chapters or sections a week ahead of time, but the majority of the group was having a hard time getting things read and critiqued well in that time span since two people per week were normally critiqued (there are only seven of us). We decided to make submissions due two weeks ahead of our critique date, giving everyone plenty more time to do a thorough reading.

My first session is January 22nd, meaning I need to have something up by the end of the first week in January. So I really need to get this book done, so I can go back and focus on editing the chapter that’s up next–it generally takes me a week to do that 😛

We also decided that we should post a running synopsis of our book up to that point so that if we have to skip a week here and there, we aren’t lost. I found this great idea because a good chunk of my book is changing (at least from what they’ve already read) so instead of submitting new or redone chapters that take place a good deal before where they left off, they won’t be confused and I won’t get comments about continuity 😛 This should be fairly easy to do as I have a running chapter synopsis anyway.

That’s pretty much all we’ve changed for the year, but it should make things easier for all of us.

Anyway, I am wondering (and worrying slightly) about the monumental task of research waiting for me at the end of my first draft. It’s something I try not to dwell on too much now, but it’s hard not to, as it is a mountain I’m going to have to climb at some point. I am hoping that it won’t be as hard as I thought, but with a completely different culture, language and time period, I’ve got my work cut out for me. Not to mention the task of editing…cannot forget that important aspect.

Anyway, the contest I mentioned in the previous post has chosen finalists. The paragraphs were good–not my taste and most of them were too long in my opinion–but well written. I don’t think any of them are books I’d actually pick up and read by the paragraph alone, but it all comes down to a matter of taste.

Of course I hoped I’d be one of the finalists, but out of 1300+ entries, it was slim. Still, the hope was there as well as the slight disappointment that followed. I see it as practice for the mounds of rejection letters I will probably receive in the coming years for my book 😛

One good thing about it though is that if mine was chosen and a partial ms was requested, I’d be scrambling around, editing like mad. I may have over 3/4 of the book completed, but a very small portion of that (perhaps like two chapters) are good enough to even be looked at by an agent. So it was for a reason that I didn’t win at this time–but I will eventually succeed in landing an agent and a contract–I am determined to do such, even if the publishing industry becomes more and more selective and difficult to break through. I will not be deterred! 🙂

And on that note, I’m off to bed. This post was becoming a bit on the long and rambling side anyway.

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I’m putting a plug in for literary agent Nathan Bransford’s Ultimate 1st Paragraph Challenge. All the details are on his site, but the gist of it is to submit the first paragraph of your WiP by Thursday, the 11th at 4 p.m. Pacific time. (I’m sure he’ll love even more entries to read, lol). He’ll post the finalists on Friday and then readers will vote on which one they think is the best.

Currently there are almost 1000 comments/entries. I doubt I’ll win or even come close, but it was interesting to at least enter. Can’t say I didn’t try, right?

Here’s what I entered:

The brisk fall breeze blew throughout the small garden, bringing with it the promise of the long, cold, winter.
The winter of my life, young Sophie thought. A tiny cry came from her baby, as if sensing the despair of the moment.
“Hush, my little one,” she said. “No need to cry.” She rocked her daughter, trying to soothe her while wiping the tears from her own eyes.

Not the greatest piece of prose ever written, but I’m rather fond of it at least 🙂

Anyway, it’s interesting to read some of the entries and see what people are working on. There’s definitely a lot of talent out there!

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So this past weekend was a bit on the hectic side–especially Sunday.

Saturday was my husband’s company’s annual Christmas party. There’s over 2000 people that work in his branch, so it was rather crowded–so much so that there really wasn’t a place to sit and eat until the band started playing at 9. Thankfully we’d gotten there around 8:30 so we didn’t have to wait too long–we’ve decided next year we’re coming after 9 😛

It went well; didn’t leave until after 1 in the morning–mainly because we carpooled and the couple that drove with us wasn’t ready to leave yet. We got home around 2 or so and crashed into bed.

Not an hour later I awake to hear my poor hubby puking his guts out 😦 I felt awful for him…he was up all night running to the bathroom, and I by extension was up with him, as I was worried about him the whole time. So, I didn’t get out of bed until after noon that Sunday. Poor hubby was in bed all day up until 4 then he managed to migrate to the couch and play a little XBox. I made him drink some too because I didn’t want him to dehydrate. I ended up going to church that night, despite my misgivings, because he assured me he’d be fine (which he was).

I’m coming home from church around 7:30 or so and as I’m turning on the green arrow, I literally am missed being hit by a mere few inches. I was too in shock to hit the horn or do anything really–God had certainly prevented that from occuring because had the man who ran the red light hit me, it would have hit at an angle that would have sent me spinning and the car behind me would have hit me. Needless to say, I spent most of the drive home crying and shaking at such a close call.

Thankfully I came home and found Phil asleep again. He woke up shortly after 8 and managed to eat a handful of Wheat Thins. I wish I could say the rest of the evening went smoothly, but talking to my mom, I felt depressed on things. Everyone’s thinking Grandma may depart this life after the holidays; then I discovered my other Grandma–the one I haven’t seen since I was 12 and the one who lives in hilly Tennessee–never knew I was married–even though this happened over a year ago and my father’s family that did come promised they would tell her–and apparently didn’t. So all of those family issues to deal with.

And one other thing, which isn’t really major but really just the cherry on top of a grand Sunday–I discover that my cousin, who’s still in college and now working at Sam’s Club (a superstore in case some readers don’t know what that is) makes nearly $.50 more an hour than I do.

Grrr.

It seems I would do better working in a store or at a fast food place than being a real estate secretary. And makes me wonder yet again if my four years of higher education really were worth it.

One good thing that happened the past few days–my hubby’s cousin had her first baby, a little girl named Madalyn Edith, on Friday night. She’s got the darkest and fullest head of hair I’ve seen on a baby!

Sigh. That was longer than I’d thought 😛

I think I need to spend some major time tonight escaping this world and delving into that of my book–1890s Japan here I come!

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I must admit, lately it seems I am becoming somewhat of a literary snob. I don’t want to be this way, yet I have the hardest time finishing a book, either due to the actual story not fulfilling up to its glowing reviews or because the actual writing is so poor, I get frustrated with it.

Seriously, it’s been a couple of months since I last finished a book.

Perhaps it’s because of my degree in English (which has yet to prove useful in life, lol) that I find myself more critical of things. Then again, half the books that are considered classics that we were made to read really weren’t, in my opinion, “classic” at all (case in point: anything by Hemingway. I seriously cannot understand how his work has become so lauded in literary circles).

So, I was thinking about it, and I made a bit of a list of what I consider to be the foundations of a good story. It’s pretty simplistic.

  1. There must be a character the reader can identify with. This has been something that I think has been neglected in many popular books and the “classics.” Perhaps that’s why I dislike Hemingway’s stories so much–I cannot identify with his main characters–or any characters really–that he writes about. Example: Frederick Henry in Farewell to Arms. Throughout most of the story I’m pretty disgusted by him and his actions. How then am I supposed to enjoy the story if I’m reading about someone I could care less about?
  2. The story must be compelling. I may really love the character, but if the story isn’t compelling enough for me to keep reading, I won’t finish the book. For me, this is typical of some chick-lit books I’ve read (or attempted to read and just couldn’t get past the halfway point). I’ll love the character, but his/her story just doesn’t catch me enough and the book will seem neverending. This also goes hand-in-hand with #1. If the story is compelling but the characters are distant, it also falls short.
  3. Will I be able to understand the message? Perhaps I’m not a “deep” reader, but some literary fiction (I say some because I’ve read a good number of literary books that don’t fall into this category) makes my head hurt. Questions are good to have throughout a story, as long as they are not drawn out or never answered. This is what I found particularly frustrating when I took a Contemporary Lit class in college. One of the books we read was Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. It was so confusing I would literally have headaches after reading it. The only reason I was able to make any sort of sense of the book was because of my lit teacher (and some of the more talented lit majors :P). Perhaps I’m just not cut out for such “deep” prose, but I do not care for books that need a doctorate to understand.
  4. Is the message too blunt? The opposite of #3 but are you being inundated with the message at every page? This is something I know as a writer I need to work on as I’m afraid I may be making things too deep for the reader to catch on to. But you have to give readers credit; they can figure things out if the message isn’t too deeply hidden.
  5. Is the story too cliche? Is it a story you can figure out the ending from the first few pages? I know nearly everything has been done before. However, a story could be the typical boy meets girl type yet be original in how it’s presented. It’s difficult, but not impossible–I’ve read a good many books that manage to present what could be a “cliche” topic yet are still successful in my opinion–at least to the point where I finished the book.

Finally:
Does the story stick with you long after you’ve finished? I believe this is one of the most important aspects of a great story. If it’s a book you’d want to pick up again and again, a story that haunts you hours, days, weeks after you’ve read it–then it’s a great book. Many stories are good but the truly great ones achieve this aspect.

I know as a writer this is everything that I need to live up to as well, at least if I want my book to be moderately successful and not one that people wonder how it was published in the first place 🙂 I think as writers, these are things we should keep in mind.

I realize that all of this probably makes me sound even more like a literary snob/elitist when it comes to reading–and perhaps I am in a way. But as a reader, I’m spending valuable time with an author and their story. It can be incredibly disappointing when the book you had great expectations for turns out to be a dud in the end. Truly good literature can be hard to come by, but when it’s found, it’s equivalent to gold 🙂

Anyway, any comments? Any suggestions of a good book are welcome too as I am always willing to try anything.

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Now that NaNo is over and the rush to hit 50K has past, I find myself wondering: will I be able to maitain my motivation?

It’s sad really. The first draft of this book should have been completed a year ago…but December came and for some odd reason, I turned away from the book and didn’t work on it.

I have throughout the year submitted some of my written chapters for my weekly critique group, but I only ever worked on those chapters, rather than finishing the book.

Now I’m wondering if the same will happen this year.

I don’t want it to happen again. I need to get this finished…and I’m so much closer to that finish line that was elusive last year. It’s on the horizon–I can see it in the distance. Yet I can feel myself growing tired, desiring to stop and sit on the sidelines once again.

So, I need to keep myself motivated…somehow. I need to focus on that finish line, getting the first draft completed. I need to make every day like NaNo, even if I only get a thousand words written.

I am hoping to get my first draft completed by the end of the month. By midnight come the 31st of December, I want to have those words “the end” written.

It’s going to be difficult for me–more so than it was during NaNo. Perhaps I’m not what some would call a “true writer”; one who would have the discipline enough to keep writing every day. It’s that discipline that I know I am lacking–but something I have to find if I ever have the hopes of being a novelist.

So, I must still keep that inner editor locked away and search for that motivation to keep going–and finally type “the end” on this draft.

So, my question to writers out there: how do you keep yourself focused on the goal?

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