Friday, December 20, 2013

New Story Smell

There's nothing like "new story smell" you know? It has a freshness, a promise of something exciting. Something different.

Sometimes I can ignore it and focus on what I'm currently working on.

Other times, like today, it is what I have to be working on.

Today, for me, involved blank pages of a legal pad, lots of flipping from one page to another, a blue pen that writes just right on the paper (OCD? Whaaaat?), and coffee. That is how I celebrate new story smell. And how I brainstorm for a new book proposal. In case it helps anyone, or in case you're just curious, here's a little peek into how I do a new story. It's different for everyone, so after you read this, please share how you do it. I can always use a little inspiration too!

1. Initial idea. At this point I usually know something about the hero and heroine. Sometimes it's their names, sometimes their occupations. I think both happen equally often for me. (Haha, and if I don't know names then in the initial summary I write things like "NAME needs a fresh start in a new town. But she didn't expect danger from her past to follow her there." And then later I go back and fill in the name. Hopefully before I send it to anyone. ;)

2. Once I know something (anything!) I can't usually resist trying to start Chapter 1. This rarely ends up being my final chapter one, as I have this irritating habit of not starting right int he middle of the action. That's okay. I'm sure what I learn in those hundreds of words I end up deleting is worth it.

3. Back to brainstorming. At this point it varies. Today, I decided to brainstorm with pen and paper because that was how my brain was working. I made little notes alllll over several pieces of paper. Other times, I'll start my summary.

4. Summary. I don't know of a nice way to describe my first summary to you. My utter-piece-of-junk summary? That's the best I can do. =) It. Is. HORRIBLE. Awful. Bad beyond description. I sit down at my computer and just type. If I don't know something I usually use capital letters and make a note like PUT HER JOB HERE LATER. Or something like that.

5. Again, it varies. Sometimes I go back and make the summary "pretty" if I'm feeling so inclined. I might attempt a little more of chapter 1. Usually I break up my utter-piece-of-junk summary into the amount of chapters I want the book to have.

6. Then I really start writing. I use my very rough summary to give me a basic outline. I used to be a pure seat-of-the-pants-et. But then I converted. I like having a basic summary to give me something to work with. But I also like that it's not detailed. That way I still have the freedom to write in scenes that I didn't know were coming, or let my characters have conversations that surprise me (and freak out my husband since he says if I make them up nothing they do should surprise me...)

How does a new story work for you? Do you need to talk it out with friends first? Let it simmer in your head for a period of time (days? weeks? months?) Please share! You might have the brilliant idea someone else needs to get a new story started. =)

And also, Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I don't normally do this....

I try not to do this too much, but seriously, I'd be honored if you'd blog hop for me today and read this post on my personal blog. It was a tough one to get out.

"For the Broken This Christmas". It might touch you or someone you know who is struggling this holiday season.

Merry Christmas :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

The One Where Nothing Happens

Ever feel like all you do is write, write, write and then edit, edit, edit and then meet and greet, meet and greet, meet and greet and make websites and brochures and business cards and try to develop a platform and a Facebook fan page and submit manuscripts to eight different publishers you met at a conference and THEN...


Not a peep. Not even something as simple as a smiley face or frowny face from a potential publisher.

And then the days of waiting for an email or a phone call or a letter turn into weeks and months and months. Sometimes, you may never hear anything. Sometimes, you may hear something you don't want to - but I found that even in that, at least I KNOW and that is even better than nothing.

The wait is long. It took almost exactly a year after submitting Miss Match before I heard anything from the publisher and found out later that it had gotten left in a slush pile of an editor who had since left that company. Publishers are people just like us. And just like it sometimes takes me a week of making my family eat saltines and questionable cheese before I actually make it to the grocery store, sometimes publishers get sidetracked too.

So, if you're stuck there in the waiting period, here's a few ideas to help distract you from checking your email every 92 seconds.

1) Write something else!!

By far the biggest piece of advice I could ever give you is to not write a proposal or a novel or both and then just WAIT for that to get published. Keep writing! Keep learning. Keep stretching yourself in your field. Maybe the one you're waiting on will never be published but MAYBE the one you're writing in the meantime will be.

2) Read and read and read.

Read your favorite authors. Read new authors. Read bestsellers and read brand new books from brand new authors. See what speaks to you and ask yourself why it did. See what you hate and figure out why it rubs you the wrong way. You learn to write not by being in a classroom but by reading and reading often.

3) Go do something.

Find a friend and go Christmas shopping together. People watch at Starbucks. Listen to your friends and the way they talk to you and to each other. What inflections do they use? Watch the lady on her cell phone at the grocery store. Why is she upset? How is she portraying it - words? actions? both? Learn the nuances of people and then go home and try to bring them out in your writing. I think everyone has something weird that they do - some one special, very odd, very weird thing that they and only they do. How can your characters portray this??

4) Eat.

When all else fails and the day is long and your inbox is empty, the last piece of advice I can give to you is to just eat. Eat chocolate, eat potato chips, eat ice cream. Whatever your vice is, go for it. After all, your email will still be waiting for you when you're all done. ;)

How do you cope with the long waits from publishers?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Knowing your reader...

I'm posting now, even though it's Saturday, because I forgot this week :)  OOPS. 

A reader recently asked: 

I read a blog post about knowing what your target audience is and making sure your writing "fits" that audience. Right now my audience is definitely teenage girls, but my MC is almost 15 and I'd like for her to grow up over time. If the character grows up (like in the Christy Miller series) does the genre change from YA to that new college/twenty-something genre that's getting to be so popular (like Erynn's books) or is it bad for the target audience to shift to older girls?

To be honest, I feel that's a discussion and a decision for your publisher to make when that time comes, and not something that needs to be dwelled on or worried about right now. :)

Your chief concern right now should be creating that never-ending story world and lovable character set that will stand the test of time, like Christy Miller, and will have a dedicated readership, willing to follow them wherever they go. Robin Jones Gunn is truly a master at that heart connection with the reader.

When you have that fan base, it doesn't matter what the genre changes to or if it does. The readers will follow. And truly, that's not something you need to be concerned with right now, even in a proposal. Get the first book written. Pitch it, get it out there and write the second while you wait. Then while you wait, write the third, exactly the way you want it, without any regard to all the future big looming "what-if's". And see what happens to the first book as you continue. If it sells, perfect. You have a second book ready in the wings. And then a third. And then hopefully your momentum continues and you have a fourth, and your series is growing, your readership is growing, and as they fall in love with your characters, they'll do whatever they need to do to continue reading them. 

Remember, readers read all over the grid. Teens read adult romances. Adults read YA. A large percentage of the feedback I received from my YA novel, ADDISON BLAKELY, CONFESSIONS OF A PK, was sent to me by middle aged women, one who claimed that novel was her favorite of the entire year. Who'd have thought??? :)

So while you DO need to know your target audience, allow them to grow as your characters do, and if you acquire younger or older readers along the way, then HEY - even better :)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Be a Rule Breaker!

Or don't, it's up to you.

And also, I'm only advocating possibly breaking the "rules" in writing. I do think things like speed limits should be followed--so there's my disclaimer. =)

I'm writing a scene right now (literally. I clicked over from Scrivener because I wanted to share some thoughts...) that is in my main character's sister's POV. I've toyed with ideas about whose POV to include in this story and I think I decided to leave the sister's out of it. But today, for some reason, she was just kind of intriguing me. So I decided to write this scene for her and see what happened, see how she'd handle the sibling tension we have going on here.

And you know what? 400 words just appeared on that scene with little to no effort. It. Was. So. Cool!

Now, I may go back and read those tomorrow and decide they're terrible. But for today, I'm really happy for what this scene is turning out to be. Maybe I'll love it and leave it there. Maybe I'll eventually delete it and no one will ever know Kate's side of the story except me. Who knows? But I think sometimes we have to be un-afraid, be bold enough to break the rules.

Love Inspired likes a specific kind of story, and that's totally fine. I LOVE writing for them and coming up with stories that fit what they're looking for. But as a rule they generally only have the hero and heroine's POV. So that's how I've been writing EVERYTHING lately. But you know what? I don't have to. I can include anyone's point of view I want! (Mwahahahaha!)

Seriously, though, it was freeing to me to remember that while I want this story to be published, today there is no contract on it. Today it's just me, these characters, and some fun ideas I have for developing their story. I don't have to worry about what percentage of the book is taken up by which character's POV. I don't have to agonize which publishing house this style would "fit" with if I stay with the multiple POVs. Today, I just get to write.

And drink my hot chocolate and pretend like it isn't 79 degrees outside. You read that right. 79. Ick.

So my issue for the day was remembering that there's no set rule on Points-of-View and whose to include when. And if someone has invented a rule, it's okay to break it.

What rules to you struggle to give yourself permission to break? Which do you keep no matter what? How do you know when they're important?