Friday, August 27, 2010

BAD Antennae!

I had lunch with two friends today. We spent time catching up on our lives at a noisy Buffalo Wild Wings. One of my friends talked at length about a sort of Renaissance she's having in her life. She and her husband may be on the verge of a divorce. In fact, after she told him that she was unhappy and what she thought they could do to have a better marriage, his response was "Well, we should just separate then." According to my friend, her husband had absolutely no interest in doing anything differently. No compromise. No change. If it  meant things had to be different, he wasn't interested.

Now, my friend has been coming into her own in the last six months or so. She looks better, happier, more buoyant. She chalks it up to the fact that she decided after more than a decade of wedded unbliss, she wanted to focus on her own happiness and her own life.

Okay . . . what does this have to do with writing? Well, as a writer, the number one question people ask me is: "Where do you get your ideas?" Today I could say, "From a friend going through a divorce and is suddenly the happiest I've ever known her to be."

When people ask that question, my response is usually that artists always have our antennae up. Ideas come to us from all the experiences we have. This afternoon, while listening to my friend talk non-remorsefully about her situation, I felt a twinge of guilt because a small part of me was creating plot lines and developing characters. By the time I got my "To Go" box, I had an idea for a three-book series and couldn't wait to add it to my idea file.

So . . . what about you? Have you gotten a story idea from an unexpected experience? What was it, and what did you do with your idea?

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez | loudpoet

Really diggin' this dude. He's got some new fashioned ideas on writing.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez loudpoet

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

America's 10 Most Dangerous Jobs - Fisherman (2) -

Talk about manly-man jobs! Here's some ideas for your hero's career.

Or, turn it upside down and put your heroine in one of these jobs.

America's 10 Most Dangerous Jobs - Fisherman (2) -

Let It Marinate

I've been working on a short story for about two weeks now. When I say "working on," I don't mean I've been producing pages of writing. I've been marinating an idea in my mind. I've written about 10 pages of notes and thoughts and feelings about the short story, but nothing concrete.

This is not my traditional process. Usually, when I come up with the idea for a story, it comes together quickly. I see the first scene immediately, have a good idea about who my main character is, and already have goals and obstacles falling out of my ears before I sit down to write.

With this story, I've gotten:
  • premise: a thief and a mark
  • story theme: we are our possessions
  • first line: These things usually start with an introduction.
  • story form: an IOU
So far, my main character is somewhat elusive. Most of the time, my main characters pop into my head fairly well developed. This character MIA is nerve racking. I'm also searching for my main character's greatest fear. I'll be ready to start when the answers to these issues give me goosebumps.

This is a stubborn story. Like a baby that goes way past the 9-month mark. The good thing is, the longer I mull it over, the better the ideas. Each day gives me new insight into the story. I just write all my insights down, until I've figured out where this story wants to go.

If anyone had asked me before today, I would have said that I'd been finished by now. I only want to write a 30 - 50 page short story. If I write my traditional 10 pages per day, I'd have that in less than a week.
Something tells me this story is going to be different in every way.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Heartland Writers Group: Ask the Publishing Guru: Top 10 Mistakes Authors M...

Heartland Writers Group: Ask the Publishing Guru: Top 10 Mistakes Authors M...: "Ask the Publishing Guru: Top 10 Mistakes Authors Make When Promoting a Book on Facebook"

Something to Chat About

Yesterday my critique group had an online brainstorming session. We used Yahoo Messenger and took turns “talking” about our stories, coming up with plot points, and turning our ideas inside out. It was a free for all, no holds barred, conjuring outside of the box bash.

We like Yahoo Messenger because after each writer has her turn, she can copy and paste all the ideas (verbatim) into a Word document to use later.

There were three of us, but there are five in our group. Yesterday was great, and it’s fabulous when we all get together. One idea triggers another, bounces off another, takes off on another. Even when I’m brainstorming for someone else, ideas for my stories are also popping into my head. I’m sure it’s the same for the others in the group.

We used to meet once a week at a restaurant. Now, we stay home, sign on, and go for it. The internet is so convenient for this type of thing.

If you find yourself on the verge of writers block, or in the midst of a writing dilemma, have an online chat with a couple of writer friends and try trading ideas. You’ll be amazed at how many options you come up with in a short period of time. 

There Are No Rules - How to Ensure 75% of Agents Will Request Your Material

For over 10 years, I've read article after article on "How to Query an Agent." I finally found one that speaks to my sensibilities as a writer.

Forget trying to sell your book, this author says. Just seduce the agent.

I like that approach. Without it, writer's are focused on the wrong things and can get frustrated trying to pack their 400-page novel into one paragraph of a 1-page letter.

Just prove that you're professional, intriguing, and can tell a story. Don't try to dump your story on their desks via query. Make them crave it through the tease.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Heartland Writers Group: Urban Dictionary, August 10: Youtube Attention Spa...

Heartland Writers Group: Urban Dictionary, August 10: Youtube Attention Spa...: "I'm a big fan of Urban Dictionary. Whenever I go to this site to look up a word, I always find 6 or 7 other words that I just have to click ..."

You Mean Every SINGLE Day

At a summer writers’ conference last month, I took a children’s book writing workshop. During the open Q&A portion of the workshop, one of the attendees asked the instructor (who is a published children’s book author) how often she writes. The instructor answered “Every day.”

The attendee, who was a very sweet, slightly overexcited, and a touch underconfident, lady stiffened, blinked and said, “I’m not sure how to hear that.”
 At this point, I know what’s going on. It’s the deer in the headlights look I get when people ask me that question and get the same answer.

The instructor frowned and asked, “What do you mean?” to which the sweet lady responded in a voice undercut with astonishment, “Well, when you say you write every day, do you mean every day?”

Instructor: “Yes.”

Sweet Lady: “Oh. So, you mean every single day.”

Years ago I would have laughed at this. Now, I’m just chafed and confounded. Why is this a surprise to people? Especially if they are aspiring novelists asking this question of a novelist. Most novels are at least 300 – 400 pages long with 100,000 words in them They don’t pop out whole. Oh how I wish they did!

I’ve had similar experiences with other areas of writing, for example:

A young woman who’d recently gotten a degree in journalism that told me she hated college because the instructors were always correcting her work. Huh? I told her to look into self-publishing.

A gentleman said the guidelines of the publisher he was targeting mentioned the house is looking for manuscripts 90k – 120k and wanted to know how many words they will really accept? 70K? 80k? I asked him to tell me about his day job because his future just might live there.

More recently I was on an author panel. One of the questions we got was regarding how polished a manuscript should be when you turn it into an editor. To which we responded in unison “Polished.” The person followed up her question with “Polished, polished?” To which we responded, “Yes!” Undaunted she wanted to know if that meant grammatically correct and free from typos.

One more example and then I’ll let this go:

I was editing an anthology with a friend. In our call for submissions, two of our guidelines clearly stated that we were looking for short stories of 8 – 12 pages and that all submissions had to be within the body of the e-mail. One writer sent an e-mail pleading for us to allow him to send an attachment. He expressed his angst at the error messages he received trying to send his story in the body of the e-mail. Suspicious, I wrote back asking how long his story was. He wrote back . . . 69 pages (after he’d put it in 10 point Times and single spaced it). He was trying SO HARD to get it to the point where it could be sent in the body of the e-mail, but alas . . .

I wrote back and told him how many times I’ve heard editors say they reject 80% of the manuscripts they receive simply because the writer didn’t follow the guidelines.

These are not isolated incidents. I get this stuff all the time.


What is wrong with these aspiring writers? Seriously. I never had this kind of hesitation about the craft—backing away so acutely from the things that would help me get published. No published authors I know had these kinds of deflections--this need to circumvent the rules or have exceptions made for them. I guess it takes all kinds. You’d think after 10 years in the industry, I’d get used to it.

To all those struggling to learn and follow “the rules,” I wish you lots of luck, tremendous effort, and tenacious pursuit, because that is what it takes.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Top 100 Creative Writing Blogs | Best Colleges Online

Top 100 Creative Writing Blogs Best Colleges Online

Top 10 Blogs for Writers - The 2009/2010 Winners

Top 10 Blogs for Writers - The 2009/2010 Winners

Even the Experts

I mentioned in a previous post that I'm reading The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. I have a first edition, and I must say I'm surprised by the inordinate number of typos in the book. Coming from a highly respected agent and a publisher like Writer's Digest--both behemoths in the publishing industry--the typos are unexpected, refreshing, and ironic. Unexpected for obvious reasons. Refreshing because it goes to show that even the experts can miss the mark. Ironic in that Donald Maass, who seems to want so much from aspiring writers, has fallen short of his own demands.