Sunny and hot, though not as hot as August ought to be. Here’s Loki–our Vizsla–soaking up some rays.
We’ve had a bit of rain this week, maybe about three-quarters of an inch. Although our neighbor down the street said he had eight inches. I suppose, given the way rain falls in Kansas, that’s possible. More rain predicted for later in the week, which will give my newly planted pecan trees a much-needed drink.
For those who don’t already know, check out my short story “Fluttering” in Dark Moon Digest 36. There’s a Kindle version in addition to print. Of course, if bugs terrify you, don’t read it.
I’m busy and feeling like there’s tons left on my plate before summer ends–and signs of fall are everywhere. So I need to hop to…
Hope your summer is just long enough and fall comes when you think it should.
I haven’t written about writing for a couple of weeks. In fact, I haven’t written much at all. I’m in–I was in–the writing doldrums.
After cutting 12,000 words from my completed novel, I sat back and took stock. I really believe in my paranormal romance, but getting it out there is going to be harder and take longer than I thought it would.
My editor emailed that she loved the cuts and would get the proofed document to me soon. Meaning there’s more work to be done. Sigh.
So instead of going full steam ahead on my work-in-progress–also paranormal romance–I’ve been pecking away at it. A chapter here. A half-chapter there. A page. A half-page. Hmm…
I keep checking Duotrope to see which of my pending queries needed to be updated as REJECTED. I had one email rejection from an agent. I had one contract for a short story to appear next month.
But then, this morning, I had an acceptance for a short story I wrote in response to a submission call. That changed my attitude fast.
Except, here’s the thing. My short fiction is almost entirely horror. I’ve had relatively good success with horror. Maybe I should be writing horror and not romance.
Something to think about.
What do you think about changing genres mid-stream?
I keep thinking we’re headed for an early fall. After a cool spring and a mild summer, the signs are there. The daylilies are done except for the rebloomers, which are about to do what they do in fall. The chrysanthemums are budding. The sedum Brilliant and Autumn Joy have flowered. My cottonwoods are losing leaves–not unusual in a dry August. But leaves on my tulip trees (yellow poplars) are also changing, and that is unusual.
We have too many tomatoes. Fortunately, our neighbor didn’t plant this year. Whew.
Lots of gardening still to do, and I’m also needing to put more time into my work in progress. I have submissions out that need following-up and submissions still to–well–submit.
It’s a busy time.
Here’s hoping fall comes at the precise right time for you.
When Anna Yeatts suggested I cut 12,000 words from my completed, edited 87,000 paranormal romance novel, I was a bit skeptical.
Her reasoning was perfectly sound. The shorter paranormal romance would be more marketable.
But sheesh. 12,000 words, or just a bit less than 14 percent of the book. Was it possible? Could I do it? Did I even want to do it?
But okay, I’d try.
I’m now on Chapter 23 (of 39) and have cut 8,000 words. That’s about 350 words per chapter. With 16 chapters to go and only 4,000 words to cut, I’ll probably make it.
The process has taught me three things:
This story needed to get “colder” before marketing. The line edits were completed in January, and it would’ve make a huge difference to let it sit until at least March, and then giving it that final once-over.
Cutting extraneous details makes for a stronger story.
“Kill your darlings” (Faulkner) is good advice. I noticed that this month’s Writer’s Digest included an article on overwriting.
So where am I, and where do I want to be?
I’ll finish up the word-cut this week. A final read before restarting the query process and thinking about #PitchWars this coming fall. And I’ll go back to writing the first draft of the next in the series–which is one-fourth completed.
I had another short story accepted for publication this week. I also had another rejection, but I get so many of those, it almost doesn’t count. The story should appear in July—more on that as I know more.
Meanwhile, I’m getting my completed novel ready for the next round of agent queries. I can’t decide whether to send queries out before or after I submit to #PitchWars. If accepted, I’ll work with a mentor to more fully polish my query materials. That’s coming up in September, which feels like a long way away, but really isn’t.
In the process, I re-read my first chapter and hated it..
What was I thinking?
As a result, I devoted most of this week to revision, cutting extraneous details to laser in on the primary conflict for my main character. I’m about to re-read chapter two. I sure hope I won’t be rewriting this coming week.
I wrote a short story about a sorceress betrayed by a king. She offers to have the king’s son, but he reneges on his promise to marry her. Her revenge? She refuses him his heir by staying pregnant for eight years.
That’s the premise. The story, which is mostly about what happens to the boy after he’s born, is told from the perspective of the sorceress’ giant bodyguard. More or less an uninvolved narrator. He follows the boy and tells the story, but doesn’t contribute much of anything to the plot.
The story—in addition to being somewhat clunky in its
current form—has just never worked. It comes across as mostly “tell” with huge
narrative distance. Maybe due to the point of view. The giant just doesn’t have
enough at stake to keep the tension high.
On the other hand, both sorceress and son die at the end of the tale, and since “dead men tell no tales,” the piece can’t be written from their perspective. Maybe one of them should live? I might try writing it that way and see if it works.
Have a thought about the uninvolved narrator? Pass it along.
On the querying front, no news to report. I’m looking at a couple of interesting options, including #PitchWars in September.
I started writing short stories in 2017 after reading about
the Ray Bradbury challenge. Bradbury recommends writing a short story a week, and
that it isn’t possible to write fifty-two bad short stories. I aimed to prove
At the end of the year, I had thirty-six completed short
stories, fourteen of which were deemed good enough—after much revising—to submit
for publication. Since I began, I’ve sent these fourteen stories out seventy-seven
times total. Six are currently pending. Five were accepted for publication,
three of which have been published.
In case you’re wondering, I’ve had sixty-six rejections, not
counting the rejections from agents I’ve queried. Novels don’t count.
So I wondered. Would I have better luck if I wrote short
stories specifically for submission calls? I’m about to find out.
I stumbled across a submission call for a dark romance. Lucky for me, I had exactly that in my “story starts” folder. After some frantic revision, I sent it off. While waiting for a response to the submission, I reread the story–a mistake because now I’m perseverating. I think I made three errors—not typos and not grammar. Fixed, I could have improved my story arc. Serves me right for rushing.
Next, I found a submission call for a horror story similar to a premise I’d been trying to get on paper since 2017. I managed to complete the piece, but here come the doubts. Is it an overdone trope? Is the twist predictable? Are the characters likeable—especially the main character? Do I have too little exposition? Too much? Is the dialogue stilted? Is it overwritten? Underwritten? Enough descriptive detail or too much?
Time will tell. I have to keep reminding myself to embrace
rejection, be patient, trust the process, and learn to be lucky.
What is #PitMad? That’s the question I asked Anna Yeatts last March when she encouraged me to “do it.”
#PitMad is a quarterly event (March, June, September, December) during which writers pitch their completed novels on Twitter, using no more than 280 characters including–at minimum–the PitMad hashtag.
The goal is to attract agents who might want to represent your novel to publishers.
So no problem. After learning about it, I decided it would be a snap to condense my 87,000 word paranormal romance into 280 characters. And, since writers can tweet up to three times during a 12-hour, I needed three different tweets would be swell. That took some time to figure out, and quite a bit of brainstorming and revising to get it close to right.
Last March, I had fewer than 20 followers and didn’t understand the power of retweeting. Multiple RTs make a tweet to more likely come to the attention of everybody, including agents. My third tweet in March got 12 RTs.
Today, June 6, is the second #PitMad I’ve participated in. This time around, thanks to the amazingly supportive #WritingCommunity, and a large number of new followers, I had 92 RTs and 8 likes, although sadly, none of the likes came from agents.
Never mind. I met a lot of new people and RT’d a gazillion pitches for novels I definitely will want to read someday.
My tweet for The Last Summer Queen read: At 19, Macy wants her magic but first, has to get pregnant. Not easy in a female-only town. Summer Queen magic fails. Macy casts a forbidden spell and triggers an old curse. She loses her powers only to learn that love is the strongest magic.
I’m still waiting to hear from the agent who asked to read the entire manuscript and other agents I’ve queried. Based on everything I’ve learned, this is a process that can take a while. Like gardening, patience is key.
Meanwhile, I’m in Chapter 10 of my new work in progress. Let me know if I have any beta readers out there–I should be done with the first draft sometime in early September.
Whatever happened to stories that distinguished the hero from the villain by the color of their hats? White for the hero, black for the villain. Where are the villains stroking their handlebar mustaches and laughing maniacally while tying the helpless, hapless heroine to the train tracks? And where the heroes galloping up on a white horse at the last possible second to save said heroine?
For me, reading Sir Walter Scott’s Lochinvar—I think in high school—changed forever my perspective of what a hero could be. Lochinvar comes too late to the wedding, forcing him to steal the fair Ellen from her family. Is kidnapping heroic?
I’ve written about the character milestones I use as a way to organize character arcs. In my latest work in progress, I discovered—with amazement—that my hero and my villain had virtually identical histories.
Both lost mothers. Both had emotionally unavailable—absent—fathers. Both had conditional love and support from replacement mothers. Both were sent far from home to learn their craft under the same demanding and morally-suspect teacher. Both were forced to accept culturally defined roles that curtailed their freedom.
The difference between them, what made one the hero and one the villain, had more to do with conscious choices than with nature or nurture. Neither was born inherently good or evil.
Leaving me to ponder—am still pondering—the difference
between them. Resiliency? Stubbornness? Positivity? Sheer dumb luck?
The challenge for me is to sort through the little choices they made and will make as I tell the story. I need to sketch their emotional connections to those choices, to get at what motivates them to be hero and villain. I’m a bit daunted.
Meanwhile, the query quest continues. No news on that front, but I hope there will be soon. Please keep fingers crossed for me.
Sitting down with a blank page and just writing. It hooked me early on—maybe around age 12. Many years later I learned the term pantser. Oh yeah, that’s me. A confirmed pantser. No plan except the vague one in my head.
Until I found myself getting to The End and needing to start over. And over and over and over…
I tried half a dozen outlining methods. No dice. For me, writing was all about letting my characters do the talking. When I imposed structure, my characters got sullen and silent, and I got stuck. I needed their voices. If characters don’t—won’t—speak, nothing happens.
But what if I gave each character their own therapy session? What if I just let them speak, telling their life stories, focus on what’s important to them?
I started with my villain and learned all sorts of important things I didn’t know. Most important, it was writing the way I like to write: in the zone, stream of consciousness, inside what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow.
By the time I finished letting my characters dictate their milestones, I earned their permission to do some chapter-by-chapter plotting. They were happy. I was happy. A finished novel was the result.
The how-to is pretty simple. I start with a description of the character, then stay open to whatever they want to tell me. It never seems to matter whether in first or third person, present or past tense. My job is to take what feels like dictation.
Instead of my drudging through their goals and flaws and aspirations and hopes and dreams—making stuff up about them—my characters reveal what’s important to them. What happened at age 6. Age 12. Age 16. Age 25. Childhood. Puberty. Traumas. Struggles. Rebellions. Everything else emerges from those tales.
Nothing works for everyone, and nothing works for anyone all the time. But if you’re stuck with a character or a plot, giving your characters control is worth a try.
Query update: This week, an agent asked to read the full manuscript. It took me a day to get back to normal.
Thanks for your past good wishes and please keep wishing me luck.