Thursday, April 29, 2010

Promoting RWA PRO Writers

I've been a PRO writer with the RWA for over a year now. I could have applied for this status about four years ago, but I didn't go for it till 2009. I'm glad I did because it opened up a world of opportunities for me as a writer.

Some of you might be wondering what the heck a PRO is so I'll give you a quick rundown.

*PRO writers with the RWA have finished at least one manuscript and queried the manuscript to accredited agents/editors of publishing house only to be rejected. After they are rejected, they fill out an application with the RWA (found on the website), send in proof of their completed manuscript and a copy of their rejection, and they are approved PRO by the RWA.

*When a writer in the RWA becomes a PRO, she/he is privy to all kinds of business information because they want to do more than write, they want to and are seeking publication. The RWA PRO organization has classes, Yahoo loop, a special retreat at the conference where editors and agents share more about the industry, and access to PRO materials through the RWA including a newsletter.

*A PRO writer's greatest ambition is to progress from PRO to PAN because a writer who becomes a PAN is a PUBLISHED writer. Woohoo!

*Becoming PRO doesn't mean a writer will suddenly become more eligible to become published, but if the writer utilizes the information and continues to actively learn and grow as a writer within this umbrella of writers, she/he has a better chance of becoming PAN.

*PRO writers can be PROs for years despite their best efforts or they can become PAN very quickly. The business is capricious so there are no guarantees.

If you are a PRO, what are the perks and pitfalls of being a PRO?

If you are not a PRO, why not?

If you have a finished manuscript, have you tried to query and sell it? If not, why not?

If you have tried to sell a manuscript to an accredited editor/agent, have you taken the next step in your career and applied for PRO? If you haven't, I highly recommend you go for it!

I'll be focusing a lot on PRO writing for a few days because I want to take this to another level. I'm considering a Q&A blog to recur where I will interview my fellow PRO writers and give them an opportunity to share their work on my blog. I feel the more traffic we can generate toward our writing, the better.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Have You Thanked a Judge Today?

Not every contest judge is a villain with vampire blood and destructive diatribes flowing through her/his veins. Most judges are very conscientious and encouraging when they score a manuscript. Even if a judge gives scores that hurt one's ego, if the judge gave constructive criticism or advice or encouragement, that judge deserves a big thank you.

Yes, even a low scoring judge deserves a thank you if that judge took the time to evaluate your work with the intent to encourage a writer along the path to publication. As a judge, I can tell you that I spend a great deal of time reading the entry, considering the market, looking at the tone and intent of the story. I read it more than once, I take the time to make suggestions and show why I am having trouble with the MS, and I add and re-add the scores (math is not my forte).

In the last seven months, I have judged several contests, some where I was also a entrant and some where a call came out from a contest coordinator for help.

Why? Because I have benefited from my own work being judged. As a PRO, I feel it is important to pay it forward. While I may not be published yet, I can assure you that I didn't even consider judging any contests till I became a PRO, had entered many contests myself, and I had been trained.

I enjoy judging other people's works. There are a lot of talented writers in this world and a lot of people with tons of super cool ideas. I am a voracious reader of all genres from YA to Paranormal to Erotic. I write sexy contemporary romances so I don't judge that category. But I do believe as a reader with a wide palette of tastes in fiction, I am qualified to read and judge other categories.

The deal I make with the entries I receive is pretty straightforward: I read the entry as if this might be the person's first writing attempt and/or contest attempt. I look for the strengths in the writing and point them out. And where I see weaknesses, they are often areas I myself had to fix as a newbie writer. I try to show how to fix them in a nice way. I hope I succeed.

I don't know how many entries I've judged because I've lost track of the count. However, I do know how many thank you emails I've received. Two. Yup. That's all. Not that it matters, but I'm the type of person who believes that positive feedback goes both ways. When there is a flagrant miscarriage of the judging duties (I've only had one such an experience), then I do point it out. I feel there is a responsibility to vet inappropriateness. On the other hand, I also take the time to send thank you notes to my judges who took the time to judge my works.

It's not time consuming to send a thank you. Sometimes I'll send a thank you to the coordinator and ask her to forward the thank you to all the judges. If a judge took special time and consideration with  my work, then I write a separate thank you to that judge where I address the specific help and encouragement she/he gave me.

Why? Because I want that judge, PRO/PAN or RWA general membership, to want to judge again. I want the good judges to desire to help again. So I tell them why I appreciate them. Much has been ballyhooed about on various writing loops about the capriciousness of judges and the East German Judge (I know there's more than one) and the horrible comments. But all judges are not created equal. Not all the judges were super critical to the point of making a writer want to give up her dream.

If we're going to complain, we should also give praise where it is due. I know I have.

Have you thanked your contest judge today?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Writing Isn't Always "Writing"

I've reached a point in my revision where I must stop and let my characters reveal the story to me before I jump into the next revision.

Confession: Patience is not one of my higher virtues. I must be forced by circumstances to be patient.

The circumstances I face are:

A) Guests coming in for a week. I am very excited about the family visit. I can't wait to see my brother, my SIL and my niece. We have a lot of fun things planned. This is their first visit to the Southeast. I want to make it a memorable one. This also means not writing a lot.

B) Battling the VA again regarding my FIL's insurance claims. That's phone calls and waiting and phone calls and waiting and ... lots of time finding the right person to help us help my FIL. He's dying of cancer, his wife is focused on him, and we are fighting for his rights. That's called real life. Sometimes real life has to come first.

C) Waiting for responses from my CPs regarding my story sketch. I spent a great deal of time interviewing my characters. My heroine has come out and I KNOW her story. Other characters have revealed themselves. I've got oodles written in backstory regarding the history of why my heroine is where she is and why she wants to stay. I KNOW her inside and out. My hero? Oh, he's being cagey. There's a hole because I had to eliminate so many elements of his backstory to even out the tone of the story. And that leaves me questioning why he's back home--it's not just to stop his mom from making, in his mind, a monumental mistake. But he's not fessing up. That means going to the Villain and asking him. I need to interview him and see what he knows.

D) Researching and brainstorming ideas in general. Looking up information about the laws in my state regarding the subject matter. This takes time.

So writing is not always about getting the story revised. Writing is about breaking down the elements and thinking/muddling/talking about the story. I've sat down in front of the computer three times now. I've written a first draft and two revisions. I've entered contests and received feedback regarding the storyline and the characters. I've been critiqued by a published author and learned more about why my middle is sagging at a workshop. All of these elements, the lessons I've learned, the positive and constructive feedback I've received are gelling in my mind and forcing me to seriously evaluate where the story is going before I sit down to revise it again.

The only problem with this stage of the revision is that inspiration strikes at odd times. I'm not always focused on the real world tasks because one of my characters pipes up and prods me with their information. I have to write this information down quickly or I might lose it. I'm living in two worlds: my fictional world and my real world. And they collide on occasion.

The good news is I believe this dual life is helping me shake out the story elements. I'm not feeling pressured to know all the answers this week. I just want to let the characters reveal themselves to me while I clean the kitty litter, shop for groceries for my company, do laundry, exercise, set up the guest room and make my phone calls.

This is all good. I am glad I am forced to be patient. I'll be released to write soon enough.

What do you do between revisions? How do you approach your story problems?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Heart of Dixie: Online Workshop & Why I'm Plugging It

I'm shamelessly plugging my Heart of Dixie's online workshop on this blog because I am the new online coordinator and I would love some of my writing friends to be my guinea pigs as I learn the ropes. I would also love some more classmates to share the journey with me. If you want to beef up your writing, check out this workshop and head to the Heart of Dixie Website to join in the fun!

May 3 – 17, 2010

Snakebite Scenes and Hollywood Plots:

Enhancing Action and Emotion in Romance

Instructor: Carrie Lofty

Class Description:

You have the beginning. You know how it should end. But what to do with those hundreds of pages in the middle? Carrie Lofty, author of sexy, adventurous historical romances for Kensington, will demonstrate how action can make your novel more exciting and more emotional. Use Carrie’s so-called “snakebite scenes” to help characters acknowledge their deeper passions and bond over moments of danger or everyday drama, and analyze films and novels to see how Hollywood tells rip-roaring, action-packed stories. For plotters, pantsers, and everyone in between, this course can unblock your creativity and help you power through that draft, adding action and heart to every page.

Born in California and raised in the Midwest, Carrie Lofty found the love of her life in England . She earned her MA in history from Ohio State University with a thesis on Old West legends in post-Civil War society. Now she writes, raises two precocious elementary-aged daughters, and manages Unusual Historicals (, a blog she founded in 2006 to celebrate romances set in unusual times and places. Carrie's debut, WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS (Zebra: 12/2008), is the hot, adventurous tale of Will Scarlet and his dangerous lady love. Romantic Times gave it four stars: “Lofty writes adventure romance like a born bard of old.” The sequel, SCOUNDREL’S KISS (Zebra: 01/2010), pits a Spanish warrior monk against the woman he’s sworn to protect.

  • Cost: $20 - Submit the payment via Paypal below or mail to the address listed.
  • All payments for a workshop must be received by the registration deadline – May1st.
Sponsored by : Heart of Dixie, RWA
Cost:  $20

And best of all, the price is right! 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Time to Kick it Up a Notch: Judged, Scored and Still Standing

For those of you who are following me, you know I entered a few contests in February to get a feel for where the story is going. My first contest results came back from the FAB 5 and the comments/scores I received were in line with where my current WIP was at the time I sent it in. The judges confirmed for me that the changes I am making are the right changes. And the judges confirmed for me that my writing voice and style is strong.

The author critique I received via my participation in the Georgia Romance Writers of America's workshop  (March) has steered me in the correct direction. I owe that wonderful writer a big bottle of champagne or wine or whatever she prefers as a huge thank you. My recent journey to GRWA's BREAK INTO FICTION workshop in Atlanta also helped me clarify why my mid plot point was in trouble. Okay, now my weird backstory is cut. The story's tone is on the way to getting fixed. And now I am in the process of brainstorming my plot, listening to my characters and confirming the answers with my CPs.

But I was still waiting for my SHEILA results before I pushed on. They arrived last night. Four judges. Four scores. Drum beat. And....

First I'll tell you about the BAD part of my scores. Yikes, I received less than a 50 out of a 100 (my worst score EVER in any contest I have entered through the years), and the published romance author who judged the MS wasn't wasting any time trying to find one good thing to say. She did, however, spend a great deal of time finding thousands of ways to crush my writing and pulverize my will to push onward in this business. She had a very strong, harsh and negative reaction to my WIP.

And you know what? I'm glad. Because if she HATED it that much, it means that all those PERFECT SCORES/and NEAR PERFECT SCORES from the other two published authors and non-published author carry more weight. The harsh judge didn't really hate my plot or the fact that I didn't put my chapter heading 1/4 of the way down the page (as a judge, I don't take away 2 points for that one--I know how much we work to squeeze every last word into the entries we send into the contests LOL) or my characters. She reacted very strongly to my STYLE AND VOICE.

After drinking a copious amount of wine, and working it off this morning while talking to my CPs about this Vampirella judge, I realized this judge's critique was a sign that I'm getting close to making it. A strong negative reaction is just as important as a strong positive reaction. This means my writing voice is solidifying. And that is confirmation of a different sort.

And you know what? Maybe, just maybe, I frightened her. Maybe, just maybe, she wanted to crush my writing soul into a thousand pieces because I'm potential competition in a very competitive business.

You see how my mind operates? It's amazing how delusional I can be when it comes to encouraging myself in this journey toward publication.

And now for the GOOD part of this contest. There were 6 finalists in the SHEILA Romantic Suspense Category. I was ranked, after the low score was dropped, number 7. I missed finaling in the RS category by ONE POINT. All my other scores were in the 90s! Woot! My first time EVER attempting to write a Romantic Suspense while taking a Category Series length book to Single Title length placed 7TH in a field of very talented writers. 1 of them is my CP in VA. She's a Golden Heart Finalist this year. Two others have finaled in the Golden Heart as well.

I was competing with very tough, talented people. And my little WIP with all its tone problems placed 7 in that field. Yup. Me. I almost finaled in the SHEILA--I'm happy with my results.

Even better, I got FABULOUS FEEDBACK from the two other PUBLISHED IN ROMANCE authors who saw the potential for my story. They flagged the issues I had and confirmed my decision for the story's direction and tone. All three judges felt I was close to ready with this story -- ready for publication. Now I can go forth with my new ideas and up my ante for the story KNOWING I'm going in the right direction.


I printed out comments and suggestions given by the constructive and edifying authors. I also deleted the other author's file. Then I sent out my thank you notes to the three judges who were constructive and kind and helpful. That's why we enter contests: finaling is nice, but its the feedback about our stories that we crave. Cruelty and harshness should not be tolerated. Therefore, I did contact the contest coordinator and make her aware of this situation.

Why? Because what if that had been my FIRST book, not my FOURTH? I've been through the gauntlet and I've been validated by wins, finals and good critique. Oh, a quick aside: thanks to all those very kind judges years ago who wrote nice things in the margins of my first MS--because of you I am enjoying feeding my glorious obsession. Whenever I judge a contest entry, I approach it as if it might be that person's first attempt at writing. If I see problems, I try to show them where they exist, and I try to do it in a nice way. I also suggest books about craft and writing. I try to encourage them to keep working to attain their dream. Why crush them? We don't need contest judges to add to the pile of our own self-doubts and harsh self-criticism. Rejection letters from editors and agents suffice, thank you very much.

I'm not opposed to constructive criticism, I'm opposed to soul crushing and blood letting criticism. I don't need a fake "gee I really liked it" kind of criticism. I need honest, real and helpful feedback. If someone wants to BLAST my story, that same person had better be prepared to tell me where my strengths lie and how to improve my story as well. That person needs to able and willing to show me how to pick up the pieces and start again.

So come on, before I sit down to revise my WIP and bring to light all the wonderful new revelations my characters have shared with me, let me know what your worst contest results were and how you overcame them to write another day?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Friend Mary Blogged about the Workshop We Attended

I'm heading to Birmingham to meet my CP.  But I've got a treat for you over at Romance Magicians.

Read all about the fabulous workshop Mary and I attended in Georgia. Mary Buckham and Diana Love led the Georgia Romance Writers of America and guests on a great learning journey during this workshop.

Read all about it on the Romance Magicians blog.

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Writers, WIPs, Wrangling & Work

I'm back from my workshop in Atlanta, but I am not jumping back into my writing. Why? Because the answers I sought only led to more questions about my story. I am glad I went to the all day workshop, but now I must examine my story a bit more closely and make sure that my plot is strong enough.

Intuitively I already knew my story has plotting issues. This is what happens when you don't shore up all the lovely scenes in your head with solid structure points. And every time I go back into the story to fix a major plot point, it affects the entire story. As one writer friend said, it's like pushing down a domino and then a whole row tumbles.

I know my beginning, my set up, my ending and my pinch points. But the middle is a bit iffy. I believe it's a decent midpoint, but I brought the middle to the workshop to make sure it was decent. And the leaders said I needed more. A bigger reason for why my heroine wants to do what she does. I need a very compelling reason for her decision to stay in the area she is living in. But I balk now at the idea of adding a HUGE plot element to fix the story. Why? Because another author who critiqued my work said to "keep it simple." And there will be "more than enough conflict" to compel the reader to read.

I've brainstormed fun ideas to shore up the story with one CP. Suddenly I am on the Internet researching Burlesque dancing (don't ask--long story). Another CP said "if the writing is compelling, the reader will read it anyway and why does anyone read the books they read?" Back to keeping it simple, right?

Repeat after me: writing isn't for sissies or the faint of heart.

In the meantime, I got contest entries back for my opening. I scored well. My "writing voice" was strong and they scored me high in that regard. Whew. One problem solved. I didn't final, but I didn't expect to as the story was still in major revision at the time I entered. I sent in the first 10 pages to see if I was going in the right direction before I was told by the author I had a two tone story. I've worked my little writer fingers to the bone to fix the tone, but that was before the entry flew to the coordinator.  So I was pleased that the comments and scores were pretty decent. Lots of perfect scores from two judges, one of the judges (a published author in romance so gotta heed that one) marked me low on my characterization and the other two marked me high. Two loved the original plot, but the author was iffy on the originality (there are only 12 stories in the world, the trick is to tell them in unique ways). Well, the plot is different now, but that's okay. I believe the issues with characterization are cleared up by fixing the tone.

Right, so now I have even MORE information to digest and deal with before I trudge onward. And I eagerly (not) await my other contest scores (I know I didn't final because they called the finalists on Sunday and I didn't get a call). That entry was the same entry I sent to the critique author and has been changed already. I'm sure that one will not do well--I am praying for decent and constructive feedback.

Repeat after me: not all contest judges strive to be constructive and some of them are soul crushing critics who may not realize the pain they inflict isn't necessary. I try to be constructive when I critique. I usually succeed.

Ironically, I judged another category in that contest. I hope my entrants receive my critique with spirit it was given. I want to build people up, not tear them apart. Why pi**on somebody's parade? I sincerely hope I have judges who judge like me: with kindness in their intent.

On the way home from the workshop, my writing friend and I chatted about what we had learned. We had a four hour drive so we chatted a lot. We clarified her plot points (Larry Brooks' book continues to help me understand plot and I wish I had read it BEFORE I wrote this MS).

But mine? Hmm, not so much. I did decide that I am not writing a thriller or RS (why are nearly all the examples for writing taken from thrillers and suspense movies?) and that the main conflict is, as always BOY MEETS GIRL, BOY AND GIRL WANT EACH OTHER, BOY AND GIRL CAN'T HAVE EACH OTHER, BOY AND GIRL FIND WAY TO BE TOGETHER. THE END. All the other plot stuff is just that, plot stuff. Romance readers want to be entertained, and they want a credible plot, but most of all they want to fall in love with our hero and they want our heroine to deserve him. They want the LOVE to be compelling.

Romance is MORE about characters than it is about plot.

So here I sit, at my computer with a lot of questions. And a lot of ideas and a lot of information. I sit here and wait for contest results to come back so I can digest them and think some more.

Repeat after me: writing doesn't always mean writing words and counting them. Writing takes a lot of thinking, daydreaming, wondering and mulling.

And today I will do a bit more wondering and mulling. I've also decided to talk to my hero and heroine. I'm going to sit down with my Main Characters and ask them a lot of questions. Why? Because I have realized that I have played Goddess of their lives too many times and it is not working for me. I've tried to direct their lives with plots and schemes and ideas. And they aren't cooperating. Therefore I will step aside and let them take charge. I need them to tell me why I should write their story.

Stay tuned. I'll let you know if they reveal their story to me later. I hope they do because I entered this MS in the MAGGIES and the contest deadline is June 1, 2010. There's nothing like putting all our proverbial derrieres into the fire to get the job done.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Off to the Workshop-- Hooray!

I am so excited. Today I leave for Atlanta with my writing friend. It's about a four hour drive, and the BRAVES are playing this weekend, so we're heading out early to beat the crowds and traffic. She should get here around 9AM, and then we'll load up for our road trip.

Oh glorious day! Four hours with a writing friend where we can talk to our hearts' contents about our passion without worrying about boring the listener. This is my favorite thing to do (well I DO have a few other favorite things--but that's romance research LOL).

Here's what I am bringing for the trip:

*lap top
*a book
*my workshop homework

I had to print out four different parts of my current MS in Revision. Sounds easy, right? Not really. First I had to export the various scene info out of Scrivener and into WORD. Always a minor snafu when I do that--next time I meet my CP in Birmingham I will get a tutorial from her. Then I had to look at the stuff I wanted to bring with my own critical eye and redo it to the best of my ability. And I can tell you that rewriting stuff with the knowledge that Mary Buckham or Diana Love will critique it is, well, *gulp* very motivating.

But I managed to churn out a reasonable stash of homework pages. I have my 150 word opening, my approximate 100-150 word setting scene bit for deep POV analysis, my sagging middle scenes (help me please! I have to figure out if these even are the middle part!), and my scene to check for hooks in general. Most of the homework I am bringing is taken from the first 15 pages of the current WIP. Only the mid-section is not.

Before I could even determine what to bring for the mid-section, I had to finish my structure outline/label scene cards in order for the WIP. I worked solidly for 2 hours to wrap up that work. Then I analyzed the number of scenes, calculated the word count necessary for each story Act, and I approximated where the major plot points should fall.

You know what? I am pleased to say that I have a clear set up, a clear ending, solid dissecting plot points to break the 1st Act and 2nd Act as well as the 3rd Act from the 4th Act. Now only the MidPoint is nebulous, but it is within striking distance in the mid 40-44 scene range. I also have a pretty darned good idea about the PINCH POINTS (Larry Brooks Story Structure) in Acts 2 & 3. In working on the resolution/Act 4, I realized I had introduced new information, so I quickly marked it, changed it to reflect the way the Act was supposed to flow and voila, brainstorming occurred that would affect the rest of the book in a positive way.

The MAJOR issue I have is TONE. I'm still working on lightening the tone without losing the emotional elements I feel are necessary for my WIP to come to life.

Getting ready for this workshop deadline has helped me focus on my overall story structure. But I know that what I learn in this workshop MIGHT force me to reevaluate my PLOT. Or, if I am super lucky, the workshop will CONFIRM my plot's direction and give me more fodder to support the structure. Or maybe it will lead to my realizing how to fix the mess regardless of the outcome/analysis.

Stay tuned! I'll keep you posted about my writing adventures in Atlanta.

(PS--I see some of my fellow bloggers on blogspot have lovely links to other pages and the blogs look like web pages--any information about that would be greatly appreciated)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Emergency! Scene CPR

I managed to write for at least 3.5 hours yesterday. Well, writing is probably not the "right" word. What I did was start labeling my scenes in Scrivener. Oh yeah. That's a lot of fun (I did promise not to whine after having to do housework--this is me actively trying not to whine).

Any rate, why am I doing this? The first reason is I have a workshop to attend at Georgia Romance Writer's of America in Atlanta where I have to bring in different scene elements for critique and, yes, CPR. I know that Mary Buckham and Diana Love will apply major life saving techniques to my work because I have attended their BREAK INTO FICTION workshop and they are amazing teachers.

Note: If you see a workshop with their names as leaders, run, don't walk to the class. Their energy and enthusiasm and genuine desire to see YOU get to your publishing goal is outstanding. The cost, if any exists, is worth the price.

Here's what I am bringing to this workshop: four bits of my current WIP in Revision  scenes, primarily from the first 50 pages (the set up in Act 1). Why? Because if I can hammer out problems in the first 50 pages I will know what to do with the last 250 pages (give or take). And what does the first 50 pages bring to me? Oh yeah, do you see where this is going? Yes, three stars if you get this right.

Did you guess contest entries? You're right. Did you guess partial? Right again? Did you guess framework for synopsis? Yup.

A lot of talk and bandying about lately regarding the Golden Heart scores amongst those of us who didn't final and what I want to talk about is getting ready for the next contest. You see, I never entered the GH to final. I entered it to get a partial and synopsis ready. I don't care about my scores because they are meaningless to me. Why? Because I know that a person with a 3 book deal didn't final and got a 2 and a 9 on her tally. She was upset. Why? She's published. Who cares about the scores? They don't even matter if you DID FINAL. I know a finalist who got a 4.5 on her finaling manuscript (you can read about it on ROMANCE MAGICIANS blog) and she never won a Golden Heart but she's a NYT bestseller two years later and has a contract with Harlequin Presents!

But will knowing the scores don't matter and knowing that to final in the contest stop me from entering? Heck no! I want to play that roulette wheel and see if the magic combination of cool story and 5 judges who connect with it occurs. Talk about a JACKPOT! And I want to get the ball rolling that direction NOW. Because I am not going to be putting this puppy together in November again. No way. I want both my entries out the door, both with new titles and one in a new category, no later than October 31, 2010. It is NEVER too early to start preparing. You never know what curve balls life will throw at you.

So there you have it. I am mining my workshop mentors for serious CPR on my current WIP because I want to have 50 solid pages to enter in the GH (I'm entering two MS's again). I also want to have 30 solid pages and a new direction for my synopsis by the end of May. Why? The MAGGIES. I entered them. Now that's a tough contest to final in. I managed to do so once. I was thrilled. I got a lot of amazing feedback from the authors who judged my entry. I also got a lot of amazing feedback the year before on the same book (earlier version) and I utilized almost 95% of their suggestions.

Do you see where I am going with this? Oh yeah. The GRWA MAGGIE contest is, in my honest opinion and based on experience, one of the TOP contests to enter both for feedback and prestige. And when you enter, if you don't win or final or whatever, PAY HEED TO THE AUTHOR'S WORDS. They spend a lot of time critiquing your unpublished MS. They want to see you get published. They KNOW what sells. Their intentions are for good.

Note: If you have never entered the MAGGIES, get to the GRWA website NOW and enter. This will force you to write a partial and synopsis that will be judged by PUBLISHED authors. Their advice will help you. This is money well spent!

Now, yesterday I didn't pull together my scenes. I was still a bit in brainstorm mode about a cool idea I have for the current WIP and I also wanted to label my scenes in Scrivener because I need to see which ones will work in the new revision, where they really belong according to the tried and true Acts of story structure, and hunt for my pivotal plot points and where they might fall. I'm about half way through the process. As I went through the first half, I wrote a bit, made annotations thanks to my friend Gwen's wonderful Scrivener Tech Tuesday blog, and shifted some stuff around. Not much more than that.

Note: If you have a Mac, I highly recommend the SCRIVENER program for your writing needs. You will LOVE IT. Trust me. And it's cheap, too. Something we poor and struggling writers need to hear.

So that's what I'll be doing most of today (when I'm not running around with my Mom Hat on and getting forms signed for my DD's upcoming trip--I loathe errands--I am transferring all future whining to boring household duties and diets).

What contests have you entered? Why? Are you going to enter the Golden Heart again? How do you feel about getting started on the next big contest? Are you preparing for the RWA National Conference? It's in July. We have 3 months now to get a partial, query, synopsis and pitches ready for the conference. Now is the tine to get focused! These contests aren't about winning. Yeah, winning is nice. But what's more important is they force YOU, the writer, to get BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keys) and to get serious about your writing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tweet, Tweet--Hi There, Staying in Touch--Ring, Ring

I'm in the middle of my current revision. Occasionally, I take a break and come up for air, but for the most part I'm keeping my fingers on the keyboard for one purpose only: writing.

But writing and focusing on the revision isn't easy when all my distractions, a large portion of them, are right here on my computer. If I get stuck or bored or angry about the scalpel job I have to do AGAIN, well all I have to do is click on Safari and go to to my bookmarks and voila! I have found my virtual world of friends.

I've got FaceBook and my blog. I follow blogs. I FB follow my friends. I dabble with a couple of non-writing forums (only to leave quickly because the other forums aren't nearly as wonderful and giving as my writing forums), and I recently added TWITTER to my repertoire of computer distractions.

Why? I don't have time. Oh, I do, but only if I don't write or clean or shop for groceries or tend to the family or (and yes, I am leaving out the commas on purpose) or or or.... but still I dabble.

I have a CP who does not use her computer for anything BUT writing.
Nora Roberts doesn't write a word she doesn't get paid for, but then as another CP said, NR doesn't need to network.

Do we? Do we really need to network?

I do. Writing is lonely. And nobody gets writers other than writers. But that's really the only reason I network. I'm not published and I don't have a brand. If I spend all my time wondering how to get my name out there, I won't get my writing done. And then my brand, whatever that might be, would be pointless because I'd have nothing to sell but my... oh yeah, nothing to try to sell.

I'll be honest, I miss the phone. I miss long chats on the telephone with my friends. There are a few I call regularly to this day and we all believe that talking, really talking, leads to less loneliness and isolation than all the Tweets, FB status comments and more.

But so many people don't have time to talk. And so many of my new friends are friends I've made in the virtual world. In essence, this crazy virtual world is my phone.

So call me on this blog, don't get too disheartened if, during revisions, my answering machine picks up instead, and when in doubt, try to tweet me on twitter. I'll try to find time to tweet back.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Twist, Turn, Pivot and Point: Structure & Plot

I'm nearly ready to transfer my entire document back into a new project in the Scrivener program. I love this program because I can easily shift my scenes around, mark my structure points, color code my hero/heroine/villain cards and more. Oh, it is a lovely writing tool.

Before I move my WIP into Scrivener, I am revisiting the idea of plot and structure. I've read a few books on the subject and they've helped me clarify the major points I need to work toward in my overall novel writing. However, at times they merely muddy my thinking because there are about twenty billion different ways to label the major turning points and sections of the novel. Many novels and commercial movies have been dissected using these amazing templates.

I am in awe of any writer who can sit down with any novel idea/template and know all the answers before she starts writing.

I am not that kind of a writer.

I know most of the answers, or think I know. Then I write away and try to meet the goals I've set for my writing. Then I read my muddled mess, or send it to CPs or enter contests or share it a workshops, and all my clever plotting and ideas are shot down (well not all, but a lot or they are asked to go to the "next" level -- whatever that is as I don't often know what my original level is).

And then I sit down, rip out the parts that aren't working, or don't resonate, and try to come up with more answers to the original questions and fill in renewed blank spaces that I thought were answered. And then I have to look at the mess again and try to create order out of my chaos.

So here I am at the apex of binding my WIP into a solid structure and I am revisiting the plotting ideas once more.

This time I am reading the book STORY STRUCTURE-DEMYSTIFIED by Larry Brooks. He's really good at distilling the information for the reader. The book is a fast read (thank goodness), and it offers really amazing examples from movies like the TITANIC and books like THE DAVINCI CODE. He renames some of points, restructures some of the elements I've gleaned, but essentially I already have the basics written down on my handy dandy chapter/scene skeleton outline (it is very simplistic).

Sure, the words are different (not all, but some), but it is basically the same. So even though I have had this skeleton and have used it for every revision, guess what? Yeah, you got it--I still have to rip the guts out of the story because I haven't quite nailed down all the plot points/major milestones, or I have them but they're not in the right spots.

What gets me is that the information is the essentially the same, but the labels become different. For instance, INCITING INCIDENT. That's Larry's HOOK. His INCITING INCIDENT is the FIRST PLOT POINT. Or in another language THE FIRST PIVOTAL PLOT POINT. He talks about the 3 Act Structure in terms of the novel and screenwriting, but for the novel, he talks about 4 BOXES. And what scenes belong in each BOX. And his ORPHAN, WANDERER, WARRIOR, MARTYR remind me of the hero's mythical journey (or something like that--I have that info tucked somewhere as well).

And I'm glad he does relabel or restate the facts in a new way for me. Why? Because it makes me think outside of my box. I start brainstorming and getting new ideas for my book. I am affirmed about what is working for me as a writer, organically and structurally. I'd love to become the writer he talks about: you know the writer that figures out all the points, the main items in the boxes, and then writes a fairly clean first draft where it needs minor revisions.

Heck, that's why I read structure books. They give me hope that one day I won't need to gut my stories four to five or more times. But the truth is, I'll be lucky if I can get away with not gutting more than twice. That's my goal. At least until I get the "call" and an editor asks me to gut my story and revise it again.

So here are the fun ways to label plot points and story arcs I've gleaned over the years I've been struggling with structure:


Well, you get the picture. Is it any wonder I consider my writing process "organized chaos?"

What clever books and ideas have you got to share with me regarding plotting and structure and the writing process?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ripping Out Word Weeds

The hardest part about revising is wanting to add words and having to wait. Yes, wait. Sure, I've got the first global pass on the total WIP and I've managed to fix a couple of big picture problems more easily than I had anticipated which is a relief. I've even got some fabulous ideas about how to make this a bigger, lighter book with the depth it needs to go to a single title.

But I can't act on the ideas because I'm not finished weeding out the words I don't need. I am editing out the darker elements I had in the book and layering in lighter touches and/or marking the scene to do so at another time. I am also noting where I need to add scenes, and I am writing down all my brainstorming ideas into my trusty notebook. I have to be patient as I work through the scenes I've already written otherwise a good idea might not be useful OR I won't know where to place my new scenes and my revised scenes.

It's like gardening. First you have to pull the weeds, plow the dirt and add the fertilizer before you can plant the seeds for new growth. That's what I am doing. Some writers give up at this point and move on to writing a new MS because the task is overwhelming. Then they might return to their WIP in revision and be able to work on it, but I can't work that way. To me that would be like planting seeds for a new garden next to a weedy patch. And then the weeds in the old garden might overrun my new garden. 

What would be the point? I'd have another weedy garden to fix.

Oddly enough, I had hoped to play with my new YA idea this week, but by the time I finish working all day on my revision, I have nothing left to draw from my creative well. All my energy is going into the revision. I'm not fighting it. I believe that if I do have a spark for the other idea, then I'll run with it. My brain will know when it is ready to work on something different. 

I've been down this revision path before. It's murky at times. MS #3 took over a year to wrestle into shape. The book did get better with each revision, but the revising didn't get easier. Even at the very end of #3's revision, I went through it and picked out details that needed strengthening or finessing. Now I can play around with it to change the minor details and keep my mind focused on the 4th MS, but I don't think I could work on a first draft of a new story without draining my creative energy. And I need my creativity to stay true to the task at hand.

I imagine published authors work on more than one book at a time, but I wonder if that is after they've really gutted a story and revised it. Line editing and tweaking is not revising. Revising is getting into the heart of the story and rearranging the way the story is pumped out.

I know I can't revise this 4th MS forever. I need to get it to a point where I can say I'm as done as I can be and move on. I've given myself till the end of June. Maybe I'll finish earlier. Maybe I won't. I do know that I need a partial and a synopsis by June 1 for the MAGGIES, regardless of where the rest of the MS stands. Afterward, I need to know that the book I'm pitching has a solid plot. That the bones and muscles of this book are set and grounded. Then it'll be easier to fine tune the story should an editor or agent request the full. 

What do you think? Or are you able to juggle two manuscripts when one is major revision? And if you do juggle two manuscripts, do you feel you're giving both stories the same level of effort? Or do you feel you're short changing one of the stories?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

WIP Goals

The WIP is cut down by about 5000 words. Now I go into the whole document and continue working toward getting it ready for the Scrivener round of scene by scene work. I hope to be adding words by the end of the week. I had hoped to work on my YA idea, but that hasn't happened to date. I'm not worried about it. This WIP is the priority. If time allows, I'll play with the YA.

Goals for Today:

*check tracked changes and accept or not
*make line edit changes as marked in the comment section
*shift four scenes that I know need to move
*free write where I am inspired (you know those moments where you go "aha"--like those)

Everything else I accomplish is icing.

Do you set daily goals? I like to set word count goals when I am in first draft work, but it's hard to do when I am revising. Yet I joined the RWA-PRO Forum to reach 50,000 words by the time the RWA National Conference opens at the end of July.

Crazy? Maybe. But it's good to push ourselves where we can if we want to become prolific writers.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

WIP Whack

Yesterday I barreled through the first 150 pages of the WIP. I tried to focus on the global changes and not on the micro changes. I managed to do so for the most part. How? I used my handy dandy "insert comment" button in WORD.

When I am writing on a big scale, I don't work in Scrivener. It's a fabulous program for individual scene work, but a bit wieldy for me for large scale tracking of changes and comments. Right now I have a huge document on WORD that has lots and lots of tracking blood and blue comment blood. I don't want to stop and make small editorial changes yet, so I'm marking the areas with those changes along with the page numbers in the MS they are located in.

Sometimes I want to fix the scene right away, or make notes straight into the document. That slowed me down a bit yesterday as my goal was to move through to the end. I was also baffled by the fact that 100 pages of edits I had saved were gone for moment. A FRIGHTENING MOMENT. But I found it almost immediately and saved again under a new title just in case.

It's important to save a lot during this process or all those brainstorming moments will be lost. The moments where free writing is occurring and grammar be darned. Yeah, I had a few of those yesterday and that is a great time for a writer. I like to work fast and quick so I don't over think my creative bursts of energy or my inevitable cutting of scenes.

I haven't lost too much as far as word count is concerned. I started at over 68,000 words. I'm down to 67, 211 now. I am sure I will lose more today as I head into the last act of the book. But that's okay. I have TONS of ideas about how to add more delicious words to the document.

I have about 120 pages left work through for this part of the revision. I also have the real world pressing in: calls to make for the darling FIL and handymen coming to the house. I am structuring my workday to write first, call during the "hurry up and wait for us to show up" time period this afternoon.

This is the part of the revision that I love cause it is quick. Generating new ideas and writing them is fun for me as well. Finesse work? Not so much. But I will do it. I've got less than two weeks before I have to bring bits and pieces of this MS to a writing workshop. Good times. I have less than a month before I have to start reworking the synopsis and the first twenty-five pages for the MAGGIES.

Having a wee fire under my behind works wonders for my motivation to get the job done. Perhaps that's why I procrastinated so much.

What helps motivate you to write and get the job done if you don't have an editor hanging over your head? I use contests and writing workshops to give me deadlines. Learning to write as if one has a deadline is vital if one wants to survive the post "call" period of one's career.

Monday, April 5, 2010

WIP Round 1

This week I am heading back into the treacherous waters and revising my current WIP. Oh joy. Actually, now that I want to plunge into the story, I'm excited about the possibilities.

Today's Goals:

*go into total doc and mark global changes I know will stick
*put transposed scenes back in order
*if time, start cutting out scenes I know won't stay

And for fun:

*500-1000 words on my YA idea
*play with a new blog site (I plan to move to a new site over the summer)

All you writers know that these goals are part of my bigger life: one where I have to put on my other hats and be a helpful DIL and mother and wife and friend. But somehow, with proper time management, I believe I can get this work done. I am nothing if not ambitious.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Repairing the WIP

I've groaned about revising this WIP long enough. I've procrastinated and creatively avoided the WIP for almost three weeks. Other than reading through my printed pages and blogging about how to avoid working on this POS, I've done nothing to begin the long process of yet another revision.

I'm ready.

I cleared the decks, literally, on Monday with a huge re-organization of my office. I played a bit more. I read through all my contest entries and judged them. Now they are in the coordinator's capable hands. I organized my future online coordinator files and got in touch with the instructors. I went to the library and signed out a bunch of books written by authors who have been recommended to me based on their tone and style. I've brainstormed new ideas for the current revision's direction. I've spoken to one CP long distance about the future of the book and what to look for as she reads my pages. And I spent the morning going through another CP's critique.

Now I've saved my WIP under a new document in Word.

I'm ready to tear into this and start my revision.

I don't plan to start at the beginning. No. I learned a few good methods about revision from a great online class I took about a year ago. In a nutshell, besides the whole procrastination part, I revise my messes by doing the following:

*let the MS sit for at least two weeks, longer if you can (but not for six months)
*quick read through of the hard copy pages with a pencil in hand bearing in mind the WIP's new direction
*mark micro changes as I catch them
*mark global changes throughout the MS based on earlier brainstorming and critiques
*go through CP's comments and grammar check (TG she is so good at the technical side of writing)
*make minor changes and answer some questions immediately in the document
*add my own comments to the doc as I look at CP's work based on WIP's direction
*save the document with stored comments on WORD with a new title reflecting upcoming round of revisions (TFC7)

Now that the new document is stored in WORD, I plan to do the following:

*macro changes first--no point in fine-tuning something that might be cut due to big changes
*cut the scenes that no longer work and shift to a cut scenes document in WORD
*micro changes in scenes I plan to keep
*address all comments after scenes are cut or shifted
*any brainstorming or old scenes that might work are checked for possible use in next draft
*save the doc

After I complete Part A of my revision, I will move my document back into Scrivener's writing program and break all the scenes into separate documents. Then I will will begin the process of adding new scenes, shifting other scenes and fine tuning the story's timeline. I will focus on the revision throughout the month of April.

During the first part of May, I need to step back and work on the contest entry for the MAGGIES Contest run by the GEORGIA ROMANCE WRITERS OF AMERICA.  I will write a new synopsis and fine tune the first twenty-five pages for the contest. I'll probably have other contest feedback to look at and will consider incorporating some of that feedback into my MS.

Once I have that contest entry ready to roll out the door, via electronic transmission, I will go back into the MS and continue revising until the end of June (or hope against all odds that I am finished earlier). Then it's time to put this MS on the shelf and let it percolate while I begin working on a NEW project (yay!) and spend time with my family.

I have a plan. I have an end in sight. I have a bit of hope that I can wrestle this one back from the brink. And that is why I am beginning to feel a bit of a rush, a high and a thrill.

Onward ho!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Come Join Me over At Romance Magicians Today

I'm blogging about how to make revisions easier over at the Southern Magic Romance Magician's Blog.

Come visit me there and learn all about it!