Posts Tagged ‘agents’

I probably should be writing a mentee bio for Pitch Wars, but . . . well, that’s not really the kind of writing I’m best at–writing about myself–and, anyway, I feel that I’d like my story to stand on its own. Still, fingers crossed for MAGE STORM everyone.

Instead, I’m going to write about using stories as an escape. It’s one (only one) of the primary purposes of fiction–to take us away from our day-to-day lives and problems for a little while.

This post was inspired by a quote by Dorothy L. Sayers (who wrote the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries) I read somewhere:

Lord Peter’s large income… I deliberately gave him… After all it cost me nothing and at the time I was particularly hard up and it gave me pleasure to spend his fortune for him. When I was dissatisfied with my single unfurnished room I took a luxurious flat for him in Piccadilly. When my cheap rug got a hole in it, I ordered him an Aubusson carpet. When I had no money to pay my bus fare I presented him with a Daimler double-six, upholstered in a style of sober magnificence, and when I felt dull I let him drive it. I can heartily recommend this inexpensive way of furnishing to all who are discontented with their incomes. It relieves the mind and does no harm to anybody.

It’s pleasant to share time–either writing or reading–with a character that doesn’t have to worry about the same things we do. As a writer, I have more scope for this than my readers. I get to spend more time with the characters as I write and revise the story than readers ever will. Plus, I get to determine the backgrounds–privileged or impoverished–from which my characters come.

Of course, those characters do have to have problems or there isn’t much of a story. This wasn’t too much of an issue for Lord Peter, because his problem was almost always a mystery to be solved. Only a few times did those mysteries really impinge on his life.

For other kinds of stories–quests, for example, which are common in fantasy and even some science fiction–that won’t work. We have to put the characters in real danger, chase them up trees and throw rocks at them.

But, you know, even that is a kind of escape. Going along, from our safe arm chairs, on hair-raising adventures or romantic adventures, takes us out of the here and now temporarily. Some days, we all really need that. 

Good thing those stories are fun to write, too, isn’t it?

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It’s part of life. It’s certainly part of a writer’s life. Some days, you just wonder why you keep beating your head against the same walls–time after time.

I’m frustrated today and I’m just going to have to work through it. That’s a skill you’ve just got to learn. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t get you down every now and again.

Right now, nothing seems to be working out how I’d planned or hoped. That doesn’t mean that they won’t work out–eventually. One way or another. 

Even my current WIP has decided to grow a will of its own and take off in an unplanned direction. But there’s the bright side in all of this. Because I’ve decided I like the new direction better. It works. Does that mean I’ll have to revise some of the 20,000 words I’ve already written? Sure. But I was going to have to do that anyway. I’ve never yet written anything that was perfect on the first draft. That’s not what first drafts are for.

So, I’ll keep plugging away at the stuff that is working–and at the stuff that’s not working yet.

And, on that note, check out Wattpad for new chapters of FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD WILL TELL. And, if you like what you read–or even if you don’t–leave a little comment, please. Right now, in all aspects of my writing, I’m hearing mostly crickets, which is just a little discouraging.

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 First, let me say Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

 Saint Patrick

And fingers crossed for a little of the Luck of the Irish. (I am part Irish, after all.) I made it in to The Luck of the Irish Pitch Fest. We’ll see what, if anything, comes of that next week. And I have to wait a couple of weeks to find out if I make it into Pitch Madness. In both cases, I’m pitching my YA alternate history, THE BARD’S GIFT.

Next, a small announcement:

Chapter 2 of FIRE AND EARTH and Chapter 5 of BLOOD WILL TELL are now available on Wattpad. It’s free, so go check them out.

Now, back to the topic, stories taking on a life of their own:

I just passed 20,000 words on this story I’m working on now–and it’s starting to veer off in an unexpected direction.

This was supposed to be a short story or maybe a novella. I picked it up to fill the time (productively) while I figured out which of my novels-in-waiting to take up next and do a little more prep work on the chosen novel. This one is looking more and more like it might decide that it needs to be a novel, too.

That’s–I won’t call it a problem, let’s say interesting (as in the Chinese curese “May you live in interesting times”)–because I deal with short stories and novels a little differently.  I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m a discovery writer by nature and a modified discovery writer by experience. I’m willing to freestyle (fly by the seat of my pants) with a short story or even a novella. After all, it’s only a few thousand words. If it doesn’t work out, well, no writing is ever wasted. Hopefully, I always at least learn something. Maybe I try something that I’ve never done before, like first person or a different genre. Short is the place to experiment.

But when I plan to start a novel, I do at least a little planning. I want to know the inciting incident (obviously), the central conflict, and if possible the try/fail cycles. I don’t outline, exactly, but I do usually have a separate file with a paragraph or so about key points that the story will hit. Most importantly, where the story is going to end. I have a plan.

I had an idea where this story would go, but it left a lot of room to explore. Well, now I’ve introduced a new character who has decided that he’s going to be a second love interest. I’ve never written a real love triangle before. Not as in there’s real doubt about who she’ll choose in the end. Now this new character is turning out to be maybe the better choice. Which wasn’t in the plan at all. Stinker.

Oh well, I better fasten my seat belt. I’m already on this rollercoaster. There’s nothing to do now but ride it to the end–and hope.

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Well, after a break of a few months, I’m back in the game. I started sending out queries for THE BARD’S GIFT yesterday.  Hopefully, this is the one.

The query:

Sixteen-year-old Astrid keeps mostly to herself, amusing herself with the stories her grandmother used to tell. She’s too shy even to talk in front of the young man she secretly dreams of, Torolf. Then the Norse god of eloquence appears in Astrid’s dreams and forces her to drink the Mead of Poetry. Suddenly, she’s compelled to tell her stories. In public. Even in front of Torolf.

This leads her to actually talk to Torolf–and find out that he likes her, too. They’ve barely enjoyed their first kiss when the seeress makes a prophecy that splits them apart. The gods have chosen Astrid to bring her people to a new future in the part of the map labelled “Here be dragons”. Meanwhile, Torolf undertakes a hazardous voyage in the opposite direction to supply the fledgling colony.

But an ambitious rival plots to control Astrid’s abilities and status to take power. The only weapon Astrid has to thwart this attempted coup is the ability to know the exactly right story to comfort, inspire, instruct, or warn. Failure will mean disaster for all of them.

THE BARD’S GIFT is an 84,000-word young adult alternate history set in late fourteenth century Greenland–and beyond.

I still have to work out a shorter 35-word pitch. Eep. I’m no good at that, but I need it for an upcoming pitch fest.


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And likely to be revising for a while.

I’m still deep in the revisions to FIRE AND EARTH, though I hope to finish up today or tomorrow. The agent round started today, so it really needs to be ready, just in case I get a request.

That’ll be the major revisions. There are a few smaller suggestions that I may tinker with later. Things like name changes, which literally, with the magic of word processors, take about a minute. Pitch Wars aside, I think I may want to try to find another reader just to look this over after I’ve torn it apart and put it back together again in the course of two weeks. I’ve lived this story for that period and I don’t think I’ll be in a position to see it clearly myself. Then I’ll make a decision about what to do with it next.

After that, it looks like I’ll be getting to the revision on THE BARD’S GIFT. I have four critiques back to start working on. I’ll need to really work on the query and *gasp* write the synopsis, too. I want to have this one ready to start querying by this summer. Maybe earlier.

That’s part of the reality of writing. Revisions usually take more time than the first draft.

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The first part of my revisions for this next phase of Pitch Wars was all about deleting. My mentor made me realize that there was too much foundation in those first few chapters–too much space dedicated to letting the reader know how things worked. The reader needs enough of that to make sense of the story, but not quite as much as I had put in. I may be fascinated by world building, but that doesn’t mean it will engage the reader.

So, the first thing I did was to delete approximately 10,000 words. Ouch.

As I went through, there were small places where I could add a little more. Mostly, these were places where I could do a better job of showing a character’s emotions, for which I remain indebted to The Emotion Thesaurus. That adds up gradually, because showing generally takes more words than just saying that a character is sad or angry, etc.

Now, though, I’ve come to the first place where I’m adding back serious word count. It’s a place near the middle of the manuscript where I can do a lot more showing–as in scenes, not just paragraphs–about how this character begins to move from one state to the next. It’s an important point for this character and I think it not only can support, but that it needs the extra foundation.

I’m really happy with this.

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You think trying to sum up a whole novel in 250 words for a query is hard? Try a 35-word pitch. They’re evil, I tell you.

This is what I’ve got so far:

Casora was raised as a warrior. Tiaran can barely swing a sword, but he knows palace intrigue. To win the war and make a place for themselves, they’ll both have to stretch beyond their limits.

I have to get this and the first 250 words ready for the alternate round of Pitch Wars by Sunday.

The first 250 words have changed, too. Sometimes, you just need someone to slap you on the side of the head. After getting the revision notes from my mentor and taking a couple of days to digest them, I realized that there was too much world-building in the first few chapters. Not that the world-building was bad, just misplaced. It got in the way of letting the story really get rolling. Just because I love world-building doesn’t mean it’ll draw a reader in. Well, sometimes . . .

Anyway, here’s the new first 250 words:

Casora restrained the impulse to get up and pace across the floor of the command tent. She couldn’t show emotion, not even frustration, in front of her troops, but the continued silence from home was troubling. She reached up to rub the little scar above her right eyebrow.

She glanced up at the mountains visible through the open tent flap. The snow crept lower every day and so did her hopes of a recall order to let the troop over-winter at home. Casora dreaded the prospect of a winter stuck in camp with a troop made up entirely of homesick teenagers and every one of them carrying the potential of the berserker curse. She’d better start planning a lot of training exercises.

“Riders coming!” The shout came from the lookout to the east, toward home. After a pause, the lookout added, “Two of them.”

Only two riders? She’d sent three out.

Casora walked to the front of the tent and cursed under her breath. They were her scouts all right, but whatever orders they brought had better be end-of-the-world urgent. There was no other excuse for abusing the horses like that. Then she realized that Varana’s braid was redder than it should be–blood red. Casora took off running. So did others from all parts of the camp. Varana fell off the winded mare just as Casora reached her.

“Report,” she said, but more quietly than her usual command voice.

“Stumbled into a scouting party just inside the pass. Ambushed.”

And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few days–and will be for the next couple, too.

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Well, it was nice while it lasted, but it looks like I’m leaving the first draft behind for a while and heading back into revision land.

I think I mentioned here before that I’m a first alternate in Pitch Wars with FIRE AND EARTH. I got the revision notes back from my mentor on Friday and I’ve been digesting them for the last day or so. Some of them I completely agree with, but one in particular has taken me awhile to come around to. She says I started the story in the wrong place–by about eight chapters. Yikes. And then use some of the saved words to further develop the characters, side characters, and their goals and conflicts, as well as more showing of emotions.

But, you know, she has a point and what she identifies as the inciting incident may be a better choice than what I thought was the inciting incident. Now, I don’t know yet if I’m going to be able to delete all of that. There are some things in there I really do believe the reader needs to know to understand what’s driving the characters. But I’ve already identified–and cut–quite a lot that isn’t really necessary. I might be able to work in some of the rest later in the story.

I’ve got a lot of work to do on this. And I have to try to do as much as possible by the 20th, because where the story really starts will determine what the first 250 words are. Duh! (Also, you know, it’s just good form to have a completed ms for things like this just in case an agent makes a request.) Plus I need to write a 35-word pitch. I have about four possibilities right now and frankly, they all suck. This is not the part of writing I’m good at. I really like the description by a critique partner (thank you MattLeo) that trying to boil the story down to 35 words is necessarily like trying to decide which blind man had hold of the most interesting part of the elephant.

Plus, the reader critiques of THE BARD’S GIFT are starting to come in much earlier than I expected. (I was planning on the end of the month.) I think that’s good. It takes longer to read a story to critique it and I only sent it out on (I think) the 30th of December. I’m taking that to mean that the story kept them reading.

Back to work with a vengeance.

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Yesterday was my birthday. (No, I’m not going to tell you which one.) We’re actually doing the dinner and cake thing tonight. It’s a rule in this house: all birthdays happen on Sunday. It just simplifies things.

birthday cake

birthday cake (Photo credit: freakgirl)

However, since yesterday was my real birthday and since one of my New Years goals is to make (or take) more time for me, I gave myself the day off. There are some things I can’t avoid doing, but other than that, I didn’t do anything if I didn’t want to–and for the most part, I didn’t.

I slept in and then made myself a birthday brunch of Sour Cream Pancakes–absolutelty the tenderest, most melt-in-your mouth pancakes you will ever eat–and bacon.

Sour Cream Pancakes:

1 egg

1 c. buttermilk

1 c. sour cream

1 c. flour

1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt.

Mix all that together until the batter is smooth. Let it rest at least 10 minutes. And then cook like any other pancakes. Yummy.

Then I watched movies pretty much all day–mostly movies I got for Christmas–with a few breaks to get up and move around a little and occasionally indulge my internet addiction.

I watched:

“Ice Age Continental Drift” — fun, made me laugh.

“Snow White and the Huntsman” — good, even though I’m not a great fan of Kristen Stewart. I didn’t like the slightly ambiguous ending, but that’s me. I tend to like my stories tied up properly.

“Robin Hood” — I’m not a great fan of Russell Crowe, either, but I’ve always been a Robin Hood junkie. Unfortunately, despite the title, this one hadn’t gotten around to being a Robin Hood story more than an hour in, so I quit. I’ll probably watch the rest of it sometime.

Birthday gifts will be tonight, along with the dinner. I did get one thing via email though. Another query rejection. Which might have stung a bit, being my birthday and all, except that this is one I’d already marked down as “No reply means no.” After all, I’d sent the query back in July. Obviously, they’re just doing a bit of New Years house cleaning.

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Well, it’s that time of the year. Time to look back and see what was–or wasn’t–accomplished in the last year and declare goals for next year. I’ll do the first in this post and blog about next years goals in my next post, which will actually be next year.

The full post of my goals for 2012 is here.

Teen and Young Adult Fiction

   Writing goals:

  1. BLOOD WILL TELL was e-published during 2012. It’s original cover wasn’t very good, which I’m sure affected sales. It has a new and much better cover now.
  2. I did query MAGE STORM during 2012, but I currently have it torn apart for revisions with the help of a very thorough critique partner. I expect to give it another go in 2013. I believe in this story. Plus, I have at least three potential sequels for it that I’d like to write.
  3. SEVEN STARS, which is now titled FIRE AND EARTH, has also been queried. It got chosen as first alternate in Pitch Wars this month and I’m waiting for the feedback from my mentor so I can make revisions and see what happens.
  4. MAGIC’S FOOL will never get beyond first draft, I’m sorry to say. I learned in this year’s WriteOnCon that the age of my protagonist is poison. Too old for middle grade and not old enough for young adult. I can’t make him any younger, so I’ll give the story a rewrite as young adult, including material that was planned for the sequel (MAGIC’S APPRENTICE), possibly in 2013.
  5. Keep writing. This was an unqualified success. I finished three drafts of THE BARD’S GIFT, which is now ready for readers in a few days.

As for the personal goals, well, let’s just say I did better with my writing.

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