Buttons! Buttons! Everywhere!

Buttons! Buttons! Everywhere!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dark Agents

Okay, I'll admit I'm less than knowledgeable on the process editors and agents have in choosing what books they decide are winners and losers. But even a beginning writer understands that we don't have the expertise to know what we don't know!So....with that, I've been reading everything several blogs on editors and agents. One in particular I really enjoy is Janet Reid's "Literary Shark" at http://queryshark.blogspot.com. She is shameless in her honesty, but a hoot!
For newbie writer's like me who are willing to take a good kick if my writing isn't up to par, sending a query to Janet Reid is like hitting a gold mind. If she like's your work, she likes it. If not, you are relegated to the "slush pile" quicker than a muscle twitch. So what has this to do with anything?
Well, I'm working on a pitch that I hope to throw in front of her sometime in the next 60 days. If I can keep her from puking....I win! If I can't, then I get some good critique I hope I can turn into a teachable moment....I win again!
Point is, learn from what the pros tell you. They know good work when they see it. They also know what won't sell. Learn from them. Don't take their critiques personally. Their thoughts make your writing better one way or the other!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Deciding on a Voice

One of the things that hit me when I first went back to school was the true lack of knowledge I had on point-of-view when writing a story. I remember well our first professor, Mike Lennon, the very talented author who is now working on Norman Mailer's autobiography. We were standing in the cafeteria, me nervously mingling with the other new students, he engaging in conversation with another professor.
All of a sudden he turned to me and said, "Do you know what point-of-view in story is?" His white bushy eyebrows were furrowed into a question mark. I,in my usual deer-in-the-headlights fashion, stood open-mouthed, my gaping hole filled with a half-eaten piece of pizza, and blurted, "Huh?" He whirled back the other professor and said, "See? They (meaning me) don't even know the basics." The disgust in his voice washed over me and I shuffled away, head down, a long piece of mozzarella still clinging to the side of my mouth.
Fast forward to now. I am just completing my educational piece (well, maybe completing) for this semester. I've had to dissect point-of-view (POV)and structure to the point of ad-nauseum. But you know what? Professor Lennon was right. I didn't know squat. I'd start writing a story with one point-of-view and then change the point-of-view without even realizing it.

Here's an example.

Emily's watched her mother move to the kitchen window. Maureen hated days like this, days when gray covered the sky like an unopened umbrella.

The story starts out with Emily's POV, but snaps into Maureen's POV. How do you know that? As the POV character, Emily cannot know that Maureen hated the day unless her mother had used dialoge telling her such. Everything thought must come from Emily's point-of-view for the reader to understand story. When the author changes point-of-view, they must use distinct triggers so that the reader will understand the point-of-view has changed. The better use of the second sentence to keep it in Emily's point-of-view should have been:

Emily's watched her mother move to the kitchen window. She knew her mother hated days like this, days when gray covered the sky like an unopened umbrella.

See,even being blonde and married to a pollack, I AM learning something!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Even Generals Don't Know Everything

I'm in San Jose, California with a retired Brigadier General. The General is a natural leader and recently has been encouraged to write her memoir. She had about 3/4 of the book written and had a publisher very interested in getting the book into print. But they wanted the book NOW! They also wanted to have control over the entire process and that can be difficult for someone who has been in charge for so long.

Without clear understanding of what the process entailed and no real explanation to the General, she found herself confused and a bit put out by the fact that both the agent and publisher wanted to "take over" her life.

I had the opportunity to share insights I have learned through my Master's program with her, such as an inside look at how and why agents and publishers want to "assist" us with our books. I explained that WE have the book idea, THEY have the expertise to know what the reader wants and how to get it in the hands of the reader. But, you might say, IT'S OUR STORY! I can't argue that, but if you are so tied to you work, your memoir and won't accept an expert's view in how to make your work marketable, then WHY are you writing a book? You are probably not that good!

So my advice to anyone who wants their baby published. Kill the baby. Let experts guide you. You don't have to lose the integrity of your book, you just need to be open to changes that make your baby sellable.

The General is a humble and very kind woman. She felt that the publisher wanted to "take control" of her life. The fault of her trepidation is not understanding what the "buying of rights" by a publisher means. She thought they'd have total control over her, thus she felt compelled to say no. Now she is more informed and ready to push ahead in the publishing world.

Writing a book is just one of the many cogs of the wheel when it comes to gettting a book published. It's a process and a tough one at that. In the end, it is rewarding to share with others the knowledge I've learned from my Master's Program. After all, isn't passing it on something we can all do?

What's your take?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pass it On

Trying to catch up on so many things, but I wanted to stop and give a shout out to several people I've met on the road lately, people who are ready to take the next step in their writing career.

In St Louis there was a man who drove the National Car Rental bus and shared with me his desire to write a book. In his face I could see a dream and it was beautiful.

Then in the trade show booth next to me in Orlando, I shared the premise of my manuscript with a wonderful lady who brought me to tears with the story of her sister's abuse by an uncle. She said she had felt so helpless, even though she had only found out about it years after it had happened. She wants to read the book when I finish edits. I was very moved by how the subject of my book had affected her.

Today on my way here to California, I sat next to a veteran who got choked up when I read him one of my favorite writings, called Passage. It's the story of a soldier I saw taken from a plane in a coffin.

Last week in Alaska, I went into a section of the convention that had different crafts from Alaskans. There in a corner was an old man with a stack of books in front of him. When I approached him, he smiled so brightly I just had to stop. I picked up his book and realized he was one of our nation's last living Code Talkers, one of the bi-lingual Navajo Indians recruited by the US Marine Corps in World Two to transmit secret tactical messages. Code talkers transmitted these messages over military telephone or radio communications nets using formal or informally developed codes built upon their native languages. Their service was very valuable because it enhanced the communications security of vital front line operations during World War II.(Info from Wikipedia)

I thumbed through the book, put it down and then left. Just outside the door I realized that I might be walking away from history and worse yet, a fellow writer, without offering some form of support. About two years earlier I had been in Alburqueque and book a book that I had signed by seven Code Talkers, so I knew the value of preserving this history.

I walked back in, bought the book and had the man autograph it for me. Just $15.00. The old man shook my hand so many times my arm almost fell off. He smiled widely again as I left as I stopped once more to thank him for his service. He was weeping.

I just don't know what my purpose here on earth is, but somehow, some way God is allowing me to use this writing thing as a way to encourage others.

As a writer we are never alone. There are thousands of people that have a dream of writing something. They just need a little encouragement.

I have seen so many of my new writing friends offering advice, patting me on the back and networking to help me find my way. Most writers have people in their lives like I do that offer that word of encouragement, or want to read our writings. Maybe it's time to pass their generosity on to someone else.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Last Frontier

Just back from our recent Alaska journey. (This one went without a hitch!) I'm on my way to St Louis, then to Orlando for a week. October is a wild month of travel, but right now the most important crush on time is my educational paper and edits, both due by early December for my MFA program. I'm taking every minute to read and write so blogs are scarce at this point.

Quick update though. Tate and Amanda live in a wonderful albeit remote area of Alaska. They are hunting, fishing and really enjoying a simpler life. Michael & I loved it there, though Alaska is a bit remote for someone as high maintanence as I am:) A great journey for us though!

As for writing, I'm in crunch time so I'll be changing photos but doing little talking until early December! Bear with me. Some good things coming!