Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rejections on Partials

I'm going to break my own rule and write about rejections. I figure I'm not giving away any big secret here. You guys know I'm querying; I haven't announced an agent yet, so you know I'm getting rejections.

Problem is, these rejections are on partials. Requested partials. More than a few of them.

Rejected requested partials are a problem because 1) the agent was interested to begin with and 2) something about my writing disinterested them. They didn't want to see the rest. I did better than this with Forging a Legend. Something is obviously wrong with those opening pages.

I expected to do better than this. My readers--all writer-types who I know online, and who are unlikely to blow sunshine up my ass--used words like "I loved it" and "I couldn't put it down." I never got feedback like that before. Maybe I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up, but I am human, after all.

Yesterday, I finally got some feedback from an agent. Something I could work with. She said that she loved the premise, but I was showing more than telling and I had too much authorial intrusion. What brutal words for my fragile writer psyche!

I promptly wrote a thank you email to the agent for taking the time to provide such priceless feedback.

Then, I went in draconian mode and cut 12,000 words off the opening.

By this morning, I had come to my senses. I needed those opening chapters. They lay all sorts of foundations and set up a bunch of conflict. So I went back to the previous version of the manuscript. And I read the opening pages. And lo and behold . . .

Yikes! I was telling! For three pages--three out of five of the critical opening pages--I was delving deep in to my character's psyche with--yes!--authorial intrusion! My goal was to make my reader like the character. But if my character's actions can't make the reader like the character, than nothing can.

I skimmed until I got to the action. Then, I discovered a gem of a sentence. I decided to open my story with it. Here is my old opening sentence:
Mr. Julian Crain was late.
This evokes mild curiosity. Late for what? But nothing more. We aren't dying to know what this guy is late for.

Here is my new one.
I hurried up to the embassay as if I belonged there.
I like this better. I think it evokes curiosity. Why is she hurrying? Why is she going to the embassy if she doesn't belong there? And why is she trying to look like she does belong there?

Still waiting to hear back on some other partials, requested and otherwise.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Writing Unleashed - Larger Than Life Characters

I feel like my current novel has unleashed some latent quality in my writer's voice, because it is intense. Yet, I'm also trying to make it fun. Like this:
He was leaning against a water truck on a cactus-covered hillside in a tiny mountain range southeast of Phoenix. Behind him, he could hear a bike rev. He turned around. The director yelled for action and after a few moments, the bike came sailing over a gully. It was a beautiful sight. Not for the first time, Max thought about learning how to jump.

He'd spent the past few days tearing around the desert for the camera. He took a nasty spill early on and slid right into a cactus, and ended up with cactus balls sticking in his rear, right through his leathers. He could have sworn the cactus balls actually jumped off the cactus onto him. One of them left a thorn behind that the paramedic had to yank out with a pair of pliers. Then, he had to drop trou and let the paramedic prod his butt cheek with tweezers and antiseptic wipes. It was humiliating, but it gave him a healthy respect for the damned things.
I found a cute intro to Jumping Cactus on You Tube.

It's all true! Even the location of this scene. It's the Santan Mountains in Chandler Heights, Arizona. My husband and I spent a lot of time, driving around, exploring old mines, shooting the .44 and listening to the coyotes.

Anyway, I'm learning there's a fine line between larger-than-life and over-the-top. I think with Abriel, I strayed perilously close to over-the-top. With Max and Karen, I needed to keep them as realistic as possible, while also having them do things that I wish I had the guts to do. When Karen and Max first meet, Max is so impressed by something that Karen has done that he's a bit in awe of her. And by the end of the book, Karen is so impressed by something Max has done that she is in awe of him. What I'm aiming for is for the reader to have the same reaction that Karen and Max have to each other.

I'm also enjoying writing a novel that takes place in the here and now. I have never been able to use a term like "drop trou" before. It's pretty fun.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Write Every Day! And Delete With Impunity!

I hit a small snag in my novel and I stopped writing for a week and a half. Today, I slapped myself around some, uploaded my Neo files to my computer and started writing again. And I wrote a great scene.

It's all too easy to get out of the habit. Sometimes, the amount I write is very small--not even a thousand words. It's not easy trying to be a writer with a disabled child and while working full time. But I still have an hour or so to myself in the evening, and I still have my Neo, which I can use to write almost any time. I have no excuse.

Slow but steady was how I wrote my 75,000 word first draft of Starcaster in five months. Progress is progress, even when you occasionally have to delete a scene. So if you are a writer--and I'm thrilled that not all the followers of this blog are writers, since that means they are READERS interested in my work--if you are a writer, be sure to scribble something down every day.


On a related note, I've noticed that the number of discarded scenes for this novel is sharply down. Here's a rundown of my discarded scene for all my novels:

Oath of the Songsmith - All of it
Forging a Legend - 55, some of then quite lengthy
Starcaster - 40, most rather short
A Hollywood Miracle - 2, so far, each very short, of 12,000 words

I don't know if this is because I'm working from an outline this time. All my other novels just grew, and required extensive reworking even while I was writing it. With AHW, I'm doing a lot of thinking before I actually write anything. Or, I write it in my notebook first, where I appear to plan things better.

Oh, and I should add that my motto about deleting is "delete with impunity, but save everything". This is why I have all my deleted scenes in dozens of tiny files on my hard drive.

What about you? Do you write every day? Do you delete a lot of scenes?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Something Special - Sneak Peak

I'm starting a new program at Fantasy Debut and you guys get to be the first to know about it because you read this blog. I call it "Discovery Showcase", and it's where I will post the first chapter of unpublished or self published novels. The details will go live tomorrow at 6 AM EST.

I won't be vetting or editing these chapters in any way. I'll simply format them as I do a debut showcase, and post them. I won't comment. But others probably will. I will post them in the order that I receive them, once a week on Saturday morning. Not sure if any of you will be interested, but if you are, stop by Fantasy Debut tomorrow for the full details.

(Yes, I deleted a post. Sorry about that. I appreciate the encouraging words from everyone who commented.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

An Absurd Dream

I dreamed last night that I got not one, but two offers of representation. One was from an agent who has my full right now. Another was from my daughter's language therapist, who apparently--in my dream--wants to moonlight as a literary agent. Her only "sales" (in my dream, mind you) were self-published novels. Through a comedy of errors, I accepted both offers, and had to retract my acceptance with the language therapist. So now, my daugher's language therapist hated me. And she's the school language therapist, so I can't exactly fire her.

In the meantime, other agent was showering me with attention by flying out to meet me, sending a photographer to do a photo shoot and alerting the media. People who I know in blogs were stopping me in the street to congratulate me. Kimber An--who lives in Alaska--was one of them. She looked just like her Meez.

It was a completely absurd dream. But with dreams like these, it's no wonder I write novels.

Monday, February 2, 2009

10,000 Words! Plus some thoughts on Plotting

I'm drafting again. It's been a year since I seriously drafted a new novel (Starcaster being the last one). After false starts on various Starcaster II drafts, I decided I needed to work on something different while querying Starcaster. So I loaded up my Neo with the first three chapters of my Christian suspense, deleted the scene that caused me to get stuck a few weeks ago, and started writing. I'm not sure how many words I got in this weekend, but overall, I am at the 10,000 word mark.

10,000 words seems to be an important milestone for me. Once I reach 10,000 words, I know I'm in it for the long haul. I start thinking about long-term word count goals, like where I want my novel to be by the time I reach 25,000 words, 50,000 words and 75, 000 words. That's the count I'm going for with this novel.

This is the first time I've started a novel with the opening scene that I know I want to keep. I know where I want the novel to end. Going from A to Z is the fun part.

I'm having to do some interesting research. The point-of-view character is a stunt man. The antagonist is an actor. A secondary antagonist is an actress. Another point-of-view character is a courier. I'm not big on Hollywood. I don't know much about this stuff. Right now, I'm just getting the story down and I'm doing the minimal amount of research it takes to plot it out. I'll go fill in all the fun details when I get this story out of my head.

I know they say to "write what you know", but I needed my antagonist to be someone rich and famous. So no matter what I did, it would have to be something I had no experience with. So I went with Hollywood because it had the biggest wealth/fame potential.

I can feel my three-novel experience as I write this. The plotting is coming smooth and easy. In my most recent scene, Max, my hero, has brought in his friend Karen, the courier, to help. He had to introduce her to John, the actor, for whom he works a stunt double and a sort of bodyguard. Max recently met Karen, and he really likes her. John suspects this immediately. Well, I thought, what would John do? He's a famous actor. Of course he would pour on the charm, because he really doesn't like Max at all, even though he trusts him. And Karen is doing her best to keep objective, but damn! John keeps flashing that knee-melting smile and is treating her like she's the only woman in the room. Which makes Renna, the secondary antagonist and John's female lead in his current movie--and who, by the way, is possessed by a demon--distinctly irked.

And then something magical happened. Remember that scene that I said I deleted? It suddenly came back to me, significantly morphed. It will be perfect for upping the conflict between John and Max, and it will make Karen nicely indebted to John. And John likes having people in his power.

Next post: why I decided to write a Christian novel.