Writers, we need to stop saying this

Usually I limit myself to one writing-related post per month. But something has been irritating the living hell out of me for years, and the more time that passes, the angrier I get. So, lest I morph into some female version of The Incredible Hulk, I’ll expel that rage here, as a semi-productive rant. Because if …

Source: Writers, we need to stop saying this

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Back in the saddle again …

cowgirl-riding-horseWe’re moving into February and I’m just getting around to saying Happy New Year to everyone. For that, I apologize.

I’ve been away from blogging for a while and I’ve missed it. It’s not that I didn’t have any crazy thoughts or tidbits to share, I did. But life sometimes takes the wheel, and with all its unexpected twists and crazy turns, you sometimes have to put on your seat belt, say a prayer and hang on.

I’ve missed the camaraderie with friends, and the interesting conversations. But I’m back in the saddle and although my blogging schedule may be a little spaced out this time around, I intend to rejoin the hoedown! (Yes, I love westerns and everything cowboy!)

I’m planning to pitch at the next writer’s conference I attend. So, I have to keep my “ass in chair,” and focus on making both manuscripts the best they can be. I’m hoping to pitch two books this year. However, if I can churn out the third book by October, I’ll be pitching the entire three-book series.

Last month, I attended my first meeting with my new critiquing group and it was SO helpful. They’re an extraordinary group of writers who discovered things in my manuscript that went right over my head. That’s usually the case when you’re so close to the project. In addition to identifying the problems, they made awesome recommendations on how to revise it.

I’ve mentioned how important having a critiquing group or partner is in prior posts. And I must again. Having a critiquing group or partner is one of the best things you could ever do to advance your writing career.

Speaking of writing, how snazzy is the new format for WordPress?! It looks like they’ve added a few bells and whistles. Do I need a tutorial? Has anyone discovered if any of the new features offers a greater blogging experience? Hmmm ….note to self investigate this.

Thankfully, some things have remained the same. PoeWP My faithful buddy Poe is still here, and he’s still like Velcro. I move. He moves.

I hate to even throw this out into the universe. But one day, I’m going to break something because I was trying not to trip over him. In his defense, he’s there when I need him. When I’m working on a book, he offers his literary opinion with one or two barks. And if he totally hates the storyline or the character, he’ll howl. It’s nice to know that he takes his namesake (Edgar Allan) seriously!

In any case, I’m happy to be back and blogging, and look forward to catching up. Happy trails everyone!

Seek and ye shall find …

After I blogged about the possibility of venturing into self-pubbing, I went in search of a past article that featured a “to-do list,” for all self-published authors.

In the past 12 hours, I’ve destroyed my office in search of the electronic and hard copy of this article, gave my dog good reason to wonder why the hell he chose to live with me, and gave my neighbors proof that “The writer” next door really has a few screws loose.

But it doesn’t matter because I found it!

The article, 8 Things Readers Want from Self-Published Authors, which was posted in the May, 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest, offers a “to do” list for the discerning self-published author, who wants to be taken seriously. I thought this relevant topic was worth sharing and reading again.

The top three to-do’s:

Hire professionals for editing, proofreading, and design.
Put most of your cost toward editing. That means, aside from development or content editing, you must eliminate all proofreading errors and typos if you want to be taken seriously. Evelyn Lafont also recommends using beta readers to put out quality work.
Hire a conversion house for clean e-book formatting. (By the way, TheGreenStudy offered that bit of advice in our discussion about self-publishing. Way to go!)

You may want to take a look at The “Self-Pub Is Crap” Debate, which served as the catalyst for the to-do list.

This time around, I’m making a copy to hang on my wall and I’m storing one in Google docs just before I clean up the mess that is now my office.

Enjoy.

How would Scarlett O’Hara pitch her novel?

The New Jersey Romance Writers Conference is fast approaching and I’m very excited. Although I’m not pitching a book this year, I hope to do so next year. In every one of my pitches so far, I’ve been fortunate enough to get a request for a partial or full manuscript. But lately, I’ve been wondering about different approaches, and how others make their pitch.

Since I’m a movie nut, I even wondered how some of the most memorable characters in film might have pitched their work. The first character that came to mind is none other than Scarlett O’Hara from “Gone With the Wind” brilliantly played by Vivien Leigh.

How would Scarlett O’Hara pitch her novel?

The editor averted his eyes from the loosely tied manuscript to the green-clad woman sitting across from him. He watched the velvet purse of the same hue–the one she swung back and forth like a pendulum–collect streams of dust that now covered the sparse, makeshift office.

“Miss O’Hara, no one in any of the 11 confederate states would publish this rubbish,” the editor said, his tone stern, yet somehow appeasing. He seemed uncomfortable sitting behind a desk, and it appeared to Scarlett that he’d be more suitable on horseback, or escorting her to the latest ball. She wondered how he taken on this position.

“Fiddle Dee Dee, Rhett Butler. I had Mammy …I mean I spent all day making sure my story had a hook. I even missed Ashley’s barbecue at Twin Oaks to revise it and now that ole mealy mouth Mellie …”

Butler drew a long puff from his cigar and then placed it in the crystal ashtray in front of him. Squinting through the opaque swirls of burnt cedar, he watched the aspiring writer’s reaction with more than a casual interest. “From what I hear, Miss Mellie is a very talented writer.”

Scarlett flung herself against the high back chair, sending a mass of fringe twisting about like a pile of unruly worms. The salon’s curtains used to fashion the gown didn’t leave much for modesty, and her breasts rose and fell with each pout, giving an unapologetic editor a full, unwavering view.

“You’re a beast, Rhett Butler,” she declared, snatching the bodice of her gown together, “And a cad, which is why you simply must publish my memoirs. You’ve insulted my womanly sensibilities. I am a better writer than Mellie. I’ve led a full life with juicy details that could make lots of money.”

“Scarlett, we’re in the middle of a war. People aren’t spending money to read. They’re trying to survive. Besides, your characters are one-dimensional. There isn’t enough conflict. Your heroine has had too easy a life. She sounds like a flirt, a trollop.” His bluish-grey eyes darkened with a mischievous twinkle. “She sounds like you.”

Scarlett stood and then sashayed toward the open window, the slight rustle of her worn petticoat and the boom of distance cannons, fought for the right to be heard. “Why I could be famous and save Tara with all my new wealth. And I wouldn’t have to marry that old man, Frank Kennedy.”

Rhett checked his pocket watch before standing to stretch his well portioned frame. “Scarlett, I’m not in the habit of throwing away money. But if I had an investment, a promise of sort, I’d see what I can do.”


“Keep your proposal and your offer, Rhett Butler. They matter nothing to me. I’ll find another editor or agent. There are plenty you know.”

Then she turned from the window, her eyes gleaming with determination. “Why …why I’ll stay on the other side of Atlanta where it’s still just humming with literary activity. I’ll stay at my Aunt Piddypat’s. She’s knows everyone in Atlanta society and can certainly find one of her editor friends to publish my book.”If that Beecher-Stowe woman can do it, so can I.”

Okay, so if you plan to pitch your book to an agent or editor, I don’t recommend following Scarlett’s approach. The guidelines in the article, “How to Pitch Your Book at a Conference,” will be safer and smarter. The list below gives you a quick overview. The article gets into the nitty-gritty and what you need to know.

1. Do Your Homework
2. Prepare a Pitch
3. Be Professional
4. Break the Ice
5. Conduct Your Own Interview
6. Get a Business Card
7. Make Lemonade from Lemons
8. End the Right Way
9. Pretend You’re From Missouri
10. Breathe

I’d still like to know how Scarlett would have done. 😉

‘Tis the privilege of friendship …

“Tis the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense respected.”
― Charles Lamb

I’m fast approaching my 100th blog post (tomorrow, exactly) and despite pictures of the best gang of friends around–the “Little Rascals,” I’m feeling a bit philosophical.

It has been quite a journey since I started this blog three years ago. If I’d been consistent in my blogging, I might have tripled the number of hits, comments and posts. However, I’m not going to think about the would haves, could haves or should haves. Life jumped behind the wheel—as did my mission to finish my first book—and I had to let them drive.

This year, in between writing, I found my way back to my blog, self-expression and to friends, near and far, who matter. Whether we realize it or not, we’re making friends—through our shared interests, thoughts, lives, and our willingness to help others.

I’ve been fortunate to meet artists whose greatest joy is to hold a paintbrush between their fingers. I’ve chatted with photographers who rather hear the sound of their camera’s shutter first, and get laid later. (No joke, they said that!)

I’ve met mothers who love being a mom, but everyday yearn for the opportunity to pick up where they left off with their dance or art lessons. And that desire doesn’t make them a bad mother. If anything, it makes them better, fully faceted individuals.

And with each encounter, I realize that it is oftentimes the people furthest from you, who understand you without reservation.

At times, I feel that way about my writing. Although my family is super supportive, they don’t understand that I can sit in the house all weekend at the computer and be quite content. At times, they shake their heads at the thought that I’d rather revise a chapter or agonize over the correct word usage, than go bowling or go to a show. It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing those things, or get the chance to do them. I do.

But I live a writer’s life.

    A writer’s life consists of more nouns and strong verbs than endless chit-chat over the phone.
    It consists of countless hours of trying to reason with characters who believe they’re in control.
    It consists of destroying the dangling modifiers and adverbs that threaten to weaken our prose.
    It consists of sacrificing all you hold dear, so that your baby—your manuscript—will be so endearing that an editor or agent will want to take it home and keep it. (When that happens, drinks are on me.)

I look back over my blog and I see how far I’ve come not only as a blogger, but as an individual. I’ve opened up and invited others in, and it’s so exhilarating when they accept.

Speaking of accepting …On the my 100th post, a dear friend and new author has accepted my invitation to stop by and chat. Can’t wait!

Thank you for listening to my thoughts, my attempts to be helpful and my nonsense (because I KNOW I have moments of insanity).

“Tis the privilege of friendship …”

Why Olympian medalists and writers could be BFFs …

While enjoying the 2012 Olympic games, and all the wonderful achievements, I became a little nostalgic and in serious need of inspiration.

So, I decided to do some digging to find out what type of history was made on August 8.  Immediately, I was reminded of two events: the 1984 Olympics Games in Los Angeles, which I watched with intensity, and the achievements of one Olympian in particular, Carl Lewis.

On August 8, 1984, Lewis won his 3rd (200m) of 4 gold medals in the Summer Olympics.  I remember being glued to my television, watching history unfold as my two daughters (then, ages 4 and 2) sat nearby, playing. 

I didn’t answer the phone or the door because at that moment, nothing was more spectacular than watching Carl cross that finish line. I didn’t want to miss a moment. I wanted to celebrate his victory because I know what it’s like to want something so bad, you can see it in front of you.

Some of his other achievements during that Olympic year include:

  • August 11, 1984 – Carl Lewis duplicates Jesse Owens’ 1936 feat, wins 4 Olympic track gold metals
  • August 6, 1984 – Carl Lewis wins 2nd (long jump) of 4 gold medals in Summer Olympics
  • August 4, 1984 – Carl Lewis wins gold medal in 100-meter dash at LA Summer Olympics

Wow.  He was fierce. Dedicated.  And probably, at times felt very much alone.  Sound familiar?

Every four years, I look forward to watching the Olympics.  It’s a sort of “kindred spirit” period for me. Through the games I learn about people who know firsthand, what it means to sacrifice a life considered “normal” to pursue their destiny and their dreams. Many of these fantastic athletes negate friends, family, relationships, movies, books and yes, dessert, to stay the course that may lead them to Olympic gold, silver or bronze.

If not for the Olympics, we may have never heard of the obstacles and challenges experienced by Olga Korbut, Nadia Comăneci, Mary Lou Retton, (also a 1984 winner), Katarina Witt, Shaun White, Usain Bolt,  Michael Phelps,  Rafael Nadal, Gabby Douglas, Sally Pearson and Florence Griffith Joyner (affectionately remembered as Flo Jo).

While the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles was filled with controversy and boycotts, it was still an inspiring and memorable event. And the issues surrounding the games, didn’t take away from the achievements of those who competed. In the end, it was still a testament to those athletes who—day in, and day out—pour their souls into their craft—their calling.

Just like writers.

To Carl Lewis and Olympians past and present, I salute you. Maybe one day we can shoot the breeze, talk shop.

To writers enduring rejection letters, submitting your work, revising your manuscripts, and waiting to review your first or fiftieth galley, I applaud you. We’ll get there.