In Deep Smit– 09/26/08

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Another Friday is here! Today I have a very writer-friendly deep smit posting. 😉

Today, I am deeply smitten with Lulu.com

You can use Lulu for print-on-demand self-publishing, of course, but that’s not why I love them.

Back when I was finishing up my first round of major editing, I noticed that I found different changes I needed to make when I read my manuscript on the computer vs. on paper. I wanted to print it up like a novel to read-through for my next round of edits.

Unlike a lot of other POD options, Lulu gives you the option of a private project, which means you can print up a nice-looking, bound paperback without ever making your manuscript publicly available (so you still have first publication rights to sell).

I decided it was time to reprint, since I’m done with editing until an agent or editor wants changes.

My manuscript for The Edge of Memory is ~275 pages. In 11-font standard paperback format, it makes for a ~350 page novel and cost $11.77. You can design your own full wrap cover.

I ordered it last Tuesday, and a week later my package arrived.

I know it’s nothing close to getting published, but it still feels amazing to hold what looks like a novel in your hands and know you wrote it.

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Methods and Madness. Not Necessarily in that Order.

So, my lovely gang of QueryTracker peeps and I agreed to start a blog chain.

I will concede that I did, indeed, agree to join the chain and to post on the topics at hand.

I did NOT anticipate the lengths those cheeky, sneaky things would go to to outshine me… Photobucket

Not only did they post gorgeous, thoughtful posts on their own blogs (here, here, here, and here) on the topic of writing methods, but they stealthily rolled them out one after another while I was working a 26-hour shift. Leaving me now to catch up on reading them all and then try to hold my own in a hazy-headed post-call state. No fair, you stinkers! Photobucket

Aspiring novelists are so durned competitive!Photobucket

But I will show them all… I’ve headed straight for my beloved Caribou Coffee and with this large Hazelnut Latte at my side, I shall do my best to muddle through.

Despite my thread title, I am definitely much more method than madness when it comes to writing. I’m a big fan of thinking. When I sat down to write The Edge of Memory (which, by the way, came as much of a surprise to me as to anyone) I had already spent about a month of long commutes working out the plot and character details.

Before I wrote word one of my manuscript, I had already decided the major plot twists and story arc. I knew who all the characters were and what their motivations were for their behavior. And while these things did change both during the writing and editing processes, they didn’t change as much as you might have expected.

I researched the etymology of names for all my characters, and for the fictitious town (the other towns and cities I used are real cities). I researched details down to when major battles were fought in the Korean War, what the weather was like in 1951, and what major news events happened in the early eighties.

Here is the notes sheet I typed a couple of days before I started writing… my very first outline, I suppose.

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Once I started writing, it was quick and chronological. I wrote, on average, a chapter a day. My chapters for TEoM average about 2300 words. On the days I had to work a 24+hour shift, I couldn’t write at all, but I usually made up for it by writing two chapters on a day that I was home.

I started the draft on October 18th, 2007. I finished the draft at around 95,000 unedited words on December 6.

I don’t hear voices or anything interesting like that. I just see the story unfolding on the back of my eyelids. Very much like a DVD. And when I don’t like something, I rewind it and play it again slightly differently. I make a lot of faces when I write, copying my characters expressions so I can describe them properly.

Whenever I got stuck, I researched some detail I needed more information about. When I couldn’t think of anything that needed researching, I designed fake book covers and compiled imaginary soundtracks. I cast actors to star in the imaginary movie based on my imaginary book. I immersed myself completely in my story until the draft was complete.

Naturally, along the way I panicked. Often. What in heck did I think I was doing? For keeping me (relatively) sane during that time, I owe huge debts of gratitude to my BFF Clara, and my first secret test readers (Ariel, Erica, and Stacey) to whom I mailed 3-chapter chunks as I finished them. Yes, the raw unedited original draft versions. And they all told me to keep going. I Photobucket them more than I can ever say.

The bottom line is that writing is extremely personal. In every possible way. What works for me wouldn’t work for Elana. What works for Elana makes my head hurt when I think of trying that way. If you are driven to write, you will eventually find your way to what works for you.

My tips:

  • I find music both soothing and inspirational. I have a couple hundred songs that I listened to on random while I was writing The Edge of Memory; I chose them because they were appropriate for my story. I made a disk for my car, which put me right into story-planning mode.
  • Writing a novel is an overwhelming concept. So don’t do that. Write a chapter. Or a page. They will accumulate faster than you thought possible. Like laundry.
  • As much as it pains you, try not to edit until your story is down on the page. It is still easier to revise the roughest prose than it is to make yourself finish when you are wallowing over how much work your writing still needs.
  • Find a cheering section. Be they family, friends, internet buddies, or supportive strangers. Make yourself accountable to them and let them support you.
  • Once you’ve finished the draft, then look for the ruthless folks who will help you make your manuscript better.
  • And, finally, if you ever agree to join a blog chain, make sure you read the fine print, so you don’t end up babbling at Caribou Coffee. Photobucket

So, that’s my sleep-deprived addition to the discussion. Your next blog post will be brought to you by the letters M and L. As in, Mary Lindsey who is probably tapping her foot Photobucket waiting for me to get my blog-chaining Photobucket in gear.

Incidentally, if you’re a writer (or agent or editor or publishing peep of some sort) interested in joining a (very sneaky!) blog chain gang, we’d be delighted to have you. You can contact me, or any of the other bloggers to get started.

First Page Contest: Off the Hook

Many big kudos to both Authoress on the Miss Snark’s First Victim blog, and to the amazing Secret Agent Holly Root at the Waxman Agency.

This was a rocking contest in so many ways. Ms. Root invested a lot of time to give thoughtful feedback on each entry to the Are You Hooked? contest. All 115 of them. Photobucket

Mine is here, if you’d like to see. It was a fresh revision, as I was inspired to rewrite my opening from another character’s point of view just a couple of weeks ago. The feedback I received was absolutely invaluable.

It is SO helpful to have fresh eyes look at your work, especially expert, professional agent eyes. I’ve now revised my new opening and am pleased with the changes.

Especially significant was the disconnect occurring with the first paragraph of my contest entry. Several readers mentioned that paragraph was less engaging because they didn’t care enough about the character yet to be moved by her husband’s death. This is why the fresh evaluation is so important. I have hundreds of test readers, but they already know and care about the characters, so they can’t have the same reaction a new reader would.

I’ve posted my revised page in my entry comments if you’re interested. And if you haven’t been by Miss Snark’s First Victim previously, you might want to spend some time poking around. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

Links to all the contest entries are currently displayed on the left side of the page.

This is What Happens When I’m Not Busy With Editing…

Since I first started writing The Edge of Memory in October, I have spent virtually every minute I’m alone in the car working on it in my head. I commute 75 minutes each way. So that’s a lot of time.

But I think I’m really done now with editing, until/unless an agent or editor has suggestions for further changes. And the plot details of my next project are still percolating.

I finished a 26-hour shift this morning, and then hit the car for the long ride home. This is the result.

So, with fair warning that the following post will be full out ridiculous, proceed at your own risk…

New from Imaginary Label, a division of Totally Bogus Records, I present the novelist’s soundtrack:

  1. Every Day I Write the Book (Elvis Costello)
  2. Language (Suzanne Vega)
  3. All I Ever Wanted (Depeche Mode)
  4. Paperback Writer (The Beatles)
  5. The Book of Love (The Monotones)
  6. Grease is the Word (Grease Soundtrack)
  7. I Promise You I Will (Depeche Mode)
  8. More Than Words (Extreme)
  9. Open Book (Cake)
  10. The Word (The Beatles)
  11. Words (The BeeGees)
  12. The Story (Brandi Carlisle)
  13. Bookends (Simon & Garfunkel)
  14. I Could Write a Book (Tony Bennett)
  15. The End (The Doors)

And, if you order now, you’ll receive our special Agents Who Blog companion soundtrack, featuring…

For the powerful ladies of BookEndsAin’t Nuthin’ But a She-Thing (Salt-n-Pepa)

For Nathan Bransford, the only acceptable rhetorical questionsBlowin’ In the Wind (Bob Dylan)

For the folks at Folio, embracing the tidal turn towards electronic books and readersThe Electric Slide (Marcia Griffiths)

For desperately query-guideline clarifying Jennifer JacksonAll I Really Want (Alanis Morrissette)

Sadly, the song “Stompy Boots of Doom” has yet to be recorded, so for Colleen LindsayThese Boots Are Made for Walkin’ (Nancy Sinatra)

For Jonathan LyonsThe Guitar (They Might Be Giants) “Hush my darling, be still my darling, the Lion’s on the phone…”

For Ipod-addicted Kristin NelsonPut Your Records On (Corinne Bailey Rae)

For Query Shark Janet ReidManeater (Hall & Oates)

So, gang… what else should we put on this imaginary soundtrack?

Minor Housekeeping Post

I have updated the crap out of my blogroll. Links galore!

Query Thoughts From a Serial Monogamist

I have been a serial monogamist for as long as I can remember. I got engaged to my first boyfriend at 3 years old. Our engagement lasted two years, until we started separate kindergarten classes and decided to part ways.

That’s when I got engaged to the boy I called “Mucho Macho Jason” who looked like a miniature prize fighter and who proposed to me with vows to guarantee my choice of any seat on the school bus and provide “a pile of candy”.

I have never, in my adult life or prior, dated more than one person at a time. I’ve always ended one relationship before moving on to the next. My brain just isn’t wired for dating several people casually until finding the right one to get serious with.

Which brings me to the query process… I’m not wired for proper querying. I’ve read that to effectively query, you should send out five to ten letters a week until you get a request for an exclusive read or an offer of representation. Granted, I’ve only just begun the query process, but already I feel disloyal as I send out 2 or 3 letters and then wait for replies.

I have to learn how to be a query player.

My revised beginning from a few weeks ago is up for review in the public queue on critiquecircle.com this week. Provided the revision is well-received (and early reviews are promising). I am committed to becoming a coquette when it comes to query letters.  No really.  I mean it.

Here’s hoping I uncover my inner Belle of the Ball.

Editing Makes Me Cry

Well, not directly.

But the results of editing make me cry.

I finished my most recent edits and sent the manuscript out to a fresh set of test readers. One reader, after finishing in 24-hours, sent me an email this morning that had me in tears.

DONE!!!

Bravo!!! BRAVO!!!! It’s beautifully written… I laughed, I cried. I was terrified and scared and at the same time desperate to read each word that came next. I bawled at the end. big fat elephant tears and everything.

Two wildly enthusiastic thumbs up!!!

What a great story! Honestly. Everyone should read it.

I can’t begin to explain how overwhelmed I am by her response (Thank you again, Kendra!), and by the tremendous support all my test readers have given me throughout this nutty process.

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