Monday, March 31, 2008

Which Authors Would YOU Represent?

Here's a little exercise for all you writers out there (which is probably everyone who reads this blog). Think about all the authors you've read for the first time in the past few years. They may be either established authors, or debut authors. If you were an agent, which ones would you offer to represent, if you had the chance?

As an agent, my list would consist of all subgenres of fantasy and paranormal romance except dark fantasy, plus all subgenres of science fiction, and all subgenres of mystery.

Some novels for which I would have offered representation immediately are:

The Book of Joby. This is a wonderful novel with probably the best opening I've ever read. Ever. Don't believe me? Go to the book store and read as much as you can of the opening without the manager frowning at you. Better yet, go here and listen to Mark read the prologue.

The first three novels I covered at Fantasy Debut: Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin, Thief with No Shadow by Emily Gee and Karma Girl by Jennifer Estep. For MLTF and Karma Girl, it was the voice. For Thief, it was the uniqueness of the plot.

The Queen of the Orcs, beginning with King's Property by Morgan Howell. I loved the portrayal of the orcs here.

Maisie Dobbs. Jacqueline Winspear does such a wonderful job recreating London in the 30s that I would have just had to have her.

Some novels that I ended up loving, but as an agent I might not have given enough of a chance:

You had Me at Halo. This was one of my favorite novels of the year. It made me cry. But I had a hard time with the opening and as an agent, I might not have spent the time necessary to get into this novel.

Auralia's Colors. Yes, I loved this too, but the protagonist was distant and the opening didn't engage me right away.

One For the Money. I would have slapped myself for passing on Janet Evanovich--who has become such a mega-star--but the opening was just not for me and I only got into this series at the urgings of a friend, who assured me that I'd love it. And I did.

Outlander. Another that I would have wanted to slit my wrists over for passing. Again, it was the opening that would have killed it for me. Of course, the novel's hook was so wonderful that I may have given it the chance it deserved. The time travel promise was the only reason I kept reading.

Hmm. The mega-sellers are all among those stories that I would have passed on. Many agents have an "I must love it" qualification before wanting to represent a novel. This shows me how few books I truly love.

What about you? Which authors would you represent? (If you do this on your own blog, please leave a link in the comments so I can go read it. Or, if you link directly to this post, I'll find it through Technorati. Probably. It doesn't find everything.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Public Thank You

(Wow; I started typing the title in my title bar and Firefox helpfully supplied the very text I was intending to type! I guess I've done a post like this before, and it was probably about the very same person.)

Anyway, I wanted to issue a public thank you to the lovely and gracious Kristin. Kristin is my critique partner. It is very hard, in my experience, to find a successful critique partner. Such a critique partner must:
  • Provide good feedback,
  • Enjoy reading your work,
  • Write stuff that you enjoy reading.
I loved Kristin's novel. It's a YA novel. It has a great name, but since she's never posted it online, I'll keep her secret. (She's probably smarter than I am--however, "Starcaster" is a code name, it's not the actual title of my novel. Since Forging a Legend already has a website devoted to it, it's a bit late to keep that one a secret.)

I think it's important to find someone who enjoys your work. I tried a critique partnership a few years back, but the novel was a literary ghost story that I couldn't get into. The author didn't seem to like my novel either, and since was my trunk novel, I can't say I blame her. We eventually lost track of each other.

This past weekend, Kristin and I have engaged in another round of critiques, and she's really helped me out. Therefore, I wanted to thank her! Go visit her blog. She's lively and insightful, and her blog is always a must-visit for me.

Monday, March 24, 2008

2nd Draft Complete!

Well, maybe not thoroughly complete, but I've finished incorporating edits from my print-out of Starcaster, along with some fairly significant rewrites. My enthusiasm in this novel is now back up, but I still need to rewrite the ending. I had written an ending about six months ago, but I always felt it wasn't quite enough. I also thought that it had a deus ex machina-type revelation, and so I'm going to squash that.

Right now, I got Tory against an impossible-to-solve situation. I have no idea how she's going to get out of this one. As a reader, I love that. In my previous draft, she pulled a power out of her hat. I didn't like it even as I was writing it. It would make everyone way too powerful in future books (always look ahead). I think she's going to have to solve this one without her magic. A bullet? Maybe. Something clever? A strong possibility.

I also wrote down all my "unused guns" (I read somewhere that if you have a gun on the mantle, at some point in the story, the gun will have to be used) to see if I can either find a use for them, or delete them from the story. I'm also exploring unexpected relationships between several of my characters.

I still love revising!

Friday, March 21, 2008

My Other Hobby

Those of you who followed me from my old blog know that I took up the piano again last year after a fifteen year lapse. I have a wonderful piano that was built sometime before the Great Depression. I've had it tuned and repaired. The only thing now wrong with it is the tuner was reluctant to tune it up to concert pitch, because it's so old. Therefore, A is closer to G#. But I can handle that. I don't have perfect pitch (but I believe I do have relative pitch).

Anyway I started working on Fur Elise last summer and I think I can safely say that I've got it. Yes, it took me nine months to learn it. Yes, I probably tackled it when I was not technically ready for it. But this is the way I learn music. The key is to make sure the difficult piece is not too difficult, and that it will musically keep your interest for a LONG TIME.

Anyway, I was playing Fur Elise last night. I didn't play it perfectly; there are two measures in it that occasionally trip me up, and I need to drill on those two measures (in different parts of the piece) until they are easy. When I played last night, one of the tricky measures tripped me up, but I breezed right by the second one. Buoyed by my success, I went right into the arpeggios toward the end--which is the climax of the piece--and played it at a rapid tempo with nary a flaw! This was the most technically difficult part. You do arpeggio jumps and scale descends most of the way up the keyboard, and then you rapidly descend while playing every note on the chromatic scale (both black and white keys). While going up the keyboard, you play chords with your left hand. All of this is in 6/8 time while playing triplets. Then you transition back to eighth notes into the familiar motif.

The best part about having technically mastered a piece is you can now infuse emotion into it. When I play Fur Elise, I can make that piano weep. In fact, the more I get into a piece emotionally, the better I can play it technically. I play Fur Elise better than I can play Bach's Minuet in G, which is supposed to be a much easier piece.

So now I'm trying to think of which piece I want to tackle next. I'm tempted by Mozart's Piano Sonata in C Major, K545, but I'm not sure if it will keep my interest. I'm also tempted by Dvorak's Humoreske in G-flat major. I have a transposition of it to G major. (I also have the original G-flat.) It's more difficult than the sonata, but it is more likely to keep me musically interested. I could SO get into the Humoreske. A friend is urging me to try Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (first movment), which is certainly in my reach (I tried it), but I think I want to try another composer, first.

Anyone know of any other interesting intermediate piano pieces?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In a Funk

I have not been writing for a few days, ever since I mailed off "Spin", and that's unusual for me. I think I have writer-fatigue. I have not been forcing it; instead I've been taking it easy, reading some good books and working on my query (the latest of which is at my novel website, if you're curious). I wrote some ideas in a notebook, but nothing has caught fire. I think I just needed to give my imagination a break.

Tonight, I watched I am Legend with my husband. I've also been watching Enchanted with my daughter. What a long movie! I thought two hours would be enough tonight, but my daughter lost interest and I finally turned it off. I'll watch the ending tomorrow. I've also been reading two novels, but one has sort of overpowered the other.

What do you do when you have writer-fatigue?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Another "Abandoned" Work

I've finished tinkering with my short story, "Spin." I feel wrung out. I lanced open my soul and bled some of it into this work. In it, I attempt to answer a deep and profound question:

What happened to all those poor women who had their spinning wheels taken away from them at the beginning of the Sleeping Beauty story?

Yeah, really deep, huh? I tried to mix humor with angst here, and gave it a bittersweet ending.

I have always had trouble with short stories. I would think of situations, not plots. My characters were always shallow and they petered off into nowhere and nothing. I only bothered to send out a few and I never even had so much as a "we'd like to see more of your work" type of reply (although JJA said I had "nice writing" a couple of times). I was not very aggressive in sending them out. I knew something was wrong with them.

With this story, something feels different. I got as into it as I have any of my novels. I have five different drafts of it, numbered and each quite different although they are the same basic story. I almost sent it off last week, but I had to add a scene which I think made it much more powerful, so a lot of it had to be retooled.

It's in an envelope here beside me, all ready to send to my top-choice market. I don't talk about rejections here, so the next time I mention it will be either when I sell it, or if I give up and I decide to post it here for all the world to see.

Wish me luck in getting it in front of the right editor!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More on Openings

I finally got through my opening of Starcaster and have been going back through the whole thing, tweaking the plot and taking notes. I wanted the opening to be 2000 words, but it ended up being over 3000. I will definitely work on it again, but for now I need to press on and get the second (third?) draft done.

I'm also fighting a hankering to create something new again. I threw myself a bone last month by writing "Spin," but I think I need another bone. "Spin" is a twist on Sleeping Beauty; now I'm working on a twist on Snow White. It's turning out to be surprisingly action-packed; much more so than "Spin." It may even get sexy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Abandoning My Novel

A quote attributed to Leonardo DaVinci goes like this:

Art is never finished, only abandoned.

After some final tweaks, I am abandoning FORGING A LEGEND for the second time. This side of a sale, it's done. I'll work on my query and synopsis, but I can't think of anything else to change in the novel. Well, other than a panicky reread in case I forgot something, or in case some trivial detail clashes with another trivial detail, which I've talked myself out of doing. I have other novels to write, other short stories to finish and market. It's time I get on it.

Let the querying begin! Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Separated From My Keyboard

Family commitments kept me separated from my keyboard until tonight. As soon as I'm done with this post, I'll be writing for the first time since Thursday. I'm practically going through withdrawal.

I think I found a way to make my new opening work. It was much too long and Tory's role was much too passive. I don't know why I had such trouble with it; I had no trouble making Tory active in other scenes.

My word count goal for this scene? 2000 words. Number of words to trim? 3000.

In the meantime, I met most of my writing goals from last week. I finished "Spin", but didn't manage to put my submission package together. I did figure out my first-choice market. I wrote one of my author interviews, but did not get to the other. And I worked on Starcaster.

For this week, I'm going to send off "Spin", write that other author interview, finish my Starcaster opening and continue plowing through my 2nd draft, which I've started three times now. Ugh!

Monday, March 3, 2008