Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
So much work to do, and that counter keeps ticking down, down, down. So, the task of the day is to continue to fine-tune proposals. Tabitha asked yesterday about my process of writing a synopsis.
When I first started out writing, I was a complete SOTP writer, so writing a synopsis wasn't that hard. Write the book, then summarize what happened. :) Easy-peasy. Especially if using a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, which you need if you're going to sell to Barbour Heartsong. (Each publishing house is different. Some want a ch-by-ch synop. some want two pages, single-spaced, some want a ten page synopsis. Be sure to check the guidelines of the house you're targeting, and show the editor how well you can take direction by STICKING TO THE GUIDELINES. -- sorry about shouting, but this is important.)
After writing a few wandering first drafts that needed a lot of revision to be cohesive, I realized that I needed to be more deliberate about my writing, more efficient, and more focused. Enter the plot board and outline PRE-writing. This is more difficult for me, requiring a lot more linear thinking, and questioning. Instead of getting to know my characters in the first twenty to thirty pages of a novel, I am having to learn them up front.
So, my method of synopsis writing?
It involves a few steps, and moving forward, backward, sideways and all around these steps until I feel I have a solid story that hangs together before I ever start writing the story or the synopsis. Often these steps live in my head for awhile, and I do some preliminary research on the setting/occupation of the character, etc. There are a few basic things I need to know before I think about writing a synopsis for a story.
- A hero. For some reason the hero usually comes first to me in a story. I like strong, stubborn men of principles. (who doesn't, right?)
- A heroine. I try to decided who is the last person the hero would fall for, and create her as the perfect helpmeet for him once they settle their differences. After all, I write romance. :)
- A setting. I like to use either places I've been, or places that I can easily research from my local library. I use the Internet for basic searches, but I prefer to have actual history books, travel guides, and biographies (and that extra gold mine of period newspapers) to work from. I write historicals, so setting is uber-important to me.
- A crisis. Sometimes I take these from historical events. But it needs to be dangerous, compelling, and urgent. Life or death is always good. :)
I like to use the five paragraph essay as a framework for a synopsis for a proposal.
- Paragraph 1: Give the setting, time period, title, overall tone of the book.
- Paragraph 2: Introduce the main characters and what they want, why they want it, and why they can't have it.
- Paragraph 3: Give the main obstacles to a happy ending. These are your major plot points. And this is where you mention that unique twist in the middle of the book that keeps your plot from fizzling into dampness halfway through the book.
- Paragraph 4: The point of no return, all hope is lost, black moment of the book, and how the hero/heroine overcomes the impossible to save the day.
- Paragraph 5: Bring home the spiritual lesson learned, the truth revealed, the happily-ever-after conclusion to the story.
Then, for myself, I write out a second, working synopsis, using the post-its and plot board. I type out a rough, chapter-by-chapter synopsis to guide me as I write. With each scene I put in the working synopsis, I include the character's goal for the scene, the major conflict (and its source) and the story goal, just to make sure I stay on track with what I want to show in a scene. I've found lately that if I'm stuck on a scene, it's because I haven't loaded enough conflict into it.
So, how do you write a synopsis? Do you differentiate between a working synopsis and a proposal synopsis?
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Last summer, Stephanie signed a contract for three terrific books with Revell.
Here's a bit about the book, and about Stephanie:
Me, Just Different: Welcome to the world of Skylar Hoyt, a high school senior whose exotic Hawaiian looks have propelled her to the height of the "in" crowd, but who's no longer sure that's where she really fits. New friends, old friends, a reluctant romance, and a family crisis swirl around Skylar as she tries to keep it together and figure out who she really wants to be. Debut novelist Stephanie Morrill opens her first young adult series with a compelling story about characters every teen will recognize and relate to. Morrill addresses real teen issues, like popularity, friendship, sexuality, and more, with grace and style.
From the back cover: Getting a fresh start is harder than it looks. Skylar Hoyt is a girl who seems to have it all--she's pretty, popular, and has a great-looking boyfriend. Her senior year should be the best one yet. But a horrible experience at a summer party has changed everything. Now she's vowing to make better choices, including going back to church. But as
Stephanie and I had a little Q&A.
Well, we both have hair. And eyes. Okay, just kidding, but Skylar and I have almost nothing in common. Especially in the first book of the series. Though, like Skylar, I spent a lot of high school trying to figure out what it meant to be a Christian and how to talk to my non-Christian friends about my faith.
For starters, Skylar would totally roll her eyes at my dressing style (I'm a plain tee and jeans kind of gal). One of the fun things about writing Skylar was how confident she was about her looks, but not at all when it came to her "inside stuff." I've always been the opposite, unsure of my looks, but okay about who I am on the inside.
The enthusiasm of my extended family, and that includes the extended family I married into. They are gung-ho about promoting Me, Just Different and a lot of the early success I'm seeing has to do with them chatting it up with their friends.
Getting enough time at my computer. I have a 19-month-old daughter so my work time is mostly 30ish minutes in the morning before she wakes up and 2ish hours in the afternoon when she naps. I often struggle to balance blogging, e-mailing, marketing, and actual writing.
Usually character, though sometimes it's actually neither. Recently, I've had a few times where I think of an opening line, then build everything from there.
After a lot of trial and error, I feel like this has become a fairly refined process for me. I get scraps of ideas all the time. A couple weeks ago, I got an idea when I was walking across the supermarket parking lot. It wasn't a full idea, just a bit of one. I racked my brain to see if it fit with any other ideas I'd had recently, but it didn't. All day I dwelled on it, asking myself questions like, "Okay, what are her parents like? How did she feel when this happened?" I wrote down what I could think of, but it was still wishy-washy at best. Then, a few days later, I got another idea that fit perfectly with that one. I now feel like I have enough to at least weave together a story.
What'll happen now, as soon as I wrap up the projects I've got in the works now, is I'll write the first draft. I'm so not a plotter. I've tried, and it just wastes my time. My first drafts always really stink. They're the bare bones of the story. When I do the first round of edits, it often feels more like a total rewrite. When I'm done with that, I read one more time for continuity/typos, then give it to my husband and writing partner to read. After I've applied their edits, I read it one more time, then turn it in to my agent.
Yes I do! I have three favorite craft books, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and On Writing by Stephen King. As far as workshop teachers go, I took a fiction class from Angela Hunt that I LOVED. It was a key step to getting me published, I believe.
Uh, I don't know. How's that for an answer? McKenna is the priority. If I can help it, I never work when she's awake. I rarely even do e-mails. When McKenna takes her nap, I usually pop her milk in the fridge, then head down to my computer and work until she wakes up. Ben gets home from work around 5:30 and we spend that time as a family. When McKenna goes down, I'll usually take 30 to 45 minutes to get to a few e-mails, but for the most part I'm able to hang out with Ben at night. But that can vary. If I'm in a crunch, he's really good about letting me write a night or two. Somehow all the important stuff gets done. It's a God thing.
9. What were some of those milestones along the way that showed you things were going in the right direction in your writing career?
The first one that jumps out at me is when I went to the Florida Christian Writers Conference in early 2006. Everyone kept saying Christian YA wasn't selling, that it was an impossible genre to break into. But I left that conference with an award and a lead with a publishing house. Ultimately that lead didn't go anywhere, but I still felt encouraged that an editor had liked it.
After that, I got more comfortable with people reading my work, including other writers. Hearing positive feedback from them and also constructive criticism made me think, "It's not good enough ... yet." I knew I could get published, that it would just take a little more grit and determination.
When I went to the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in the fall of 2007, I had an amazing conversation with Natasha Kern. She really encouraged what I was doing, and even though I ended up with a different agent, I walked away from that conversation invigorated. Shortly after, I signed with my agent and the ball really got rolling.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
1. Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
3. Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
4. Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
5. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.
So, Passing this award along to five blogs that I really enjoy reading (this is going to be hard because I read so many blogs each day, and I enjoy each and every one.)
1. Georgiana D's blog. So much fun, and so much like her.
2. Writer-at-Large, Betsy St. Amant's blog.
3. The Compost Heap, CJ's blog.
4. Carla's Writing Cafe, Carla Stewart's blog.
5. A Cluttered Mind, Pastor Kevin's blog.
I have a long list of links on the left that I read every day, so choosing only five was really hard. Thank you to all of you whose blogs I read. You're all winners to me!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
My Personal Phobias and Quirks Finally Have a Purpose
I’m a writer of Western Romance. But I’ve been moonlighting, too.
I wrote three cozy mysteries for my publisher and they released in June, titled Nosy in Nebraska. For these three books I plunged head first into ‘Write What You Know’.
Book #1 Of Mice. . .and Murder has a heroine terrified of mice.
Book #2 Pride and Pestilence has a heroine who is a shy, insomniac bookworm.
Book #3 The Miceman Cometh has a heroine who is a complete klutz.
Okay that’s allllllllll me.
I am terrified of mice.
Just because I’m bringing this misunderstood phobia out of the shadows, does not mean I should be mocked.
Some may read Of Mice…and Murder and see the humor, mystery and drama. But for those of us who are musophobes (look it up, I can’t do EVERYTHING for you) this is an intense, life and death struggle.
You know, I decided at a very young age (too young to be deciding anything) while pondering eternal things like heaven and … well…NOT heaven—to avoid a four letter word.
I gave considerable thought to whether instead of eternal darkness, or a lake of fire, I might possibly end up in a room full of mice.
God knows each of us. God knows what our definition of—NOT heaven—might be.
The worst of that youthful pondering was the horrifying thought that maybe, since we’re talking having eternity to adjust, I might actually get so I didn’t mind being in a room full of mice.
That makes me really sad.
But I’ve made my peace with God and accepted Jesus as my personal savior, mice being the least of that decision, so I don’t dwell on—NOT heaven—that much anymore.
In Of Mice…and Murder my heroine Carrie is afraid of mice. Nothing else. She’s a very brave woman in nearly all other ways…except mice…….EEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!
In book two of the Maxie Mouse Mystery Series, Pride and Pestilence, my heroine is a shy insomniac bookworm. Hello, borrowing from my life again!
Yes, I am a shy, insomniac bookworm, musophobe, klutz. My life between the pages of a book. And yes, when I meet people they inevitably say, “You’re not shy.”
But my shyness is all internal. I know how to behave myself in public, but inside I’m a squirming, twitching, overly sensitive, lunatic. All my reactions are--Go home, go pull the covers over my head, better yet, GO WRITE. Have both sides of the conversation myself. Create COOL tough, bold women. Exactly NOT like me.
Or read books with those same cool, tough, bold women. Now THAT’S living. Or maybe pretend living, but if I pretend well enough, who’s gonna complain???
And it’s all set in small town Nebraska. Now THAT’S me. That’s the world I know.
So get a peek of Mary-the-Lunatic within the pages of the Maxie Mouse Mysteries, and a really nice, if somewhat exaggerated, look at life in a small Nebraska town.
The best thing and the worst thing about a small town is the same thing.
If you need help, have a death, lose a job, are sick or injured, everybody knows. They’re at your door with food and lawnmowers and company and even cash.
If you mess up, humiliate yourself, get caught in some outrageous act (you ALWAYS get caught) everybody knows.
Taking a break from cowboys for one book.
Welcome to Melnik, Nebraska
There is no escape.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
You do? Great!
Join me, Jaime Sundsmo, Erica Vetsch, Andrea Boeshaar, and Michelle Van Loon – with a host of others – for the latest and wildest reality show ever – “Who Wants to Be An Author”
Premiering in one unique place for one day only!
Thank you, Erica, for the opportunity to be your guest today, and announce the upcoming Writer’s Connect workshop planned for October 17, 2009, in Baraboo, Wisconsin. If you’re a Midwesterner who can’t make it to Denver for the ACFW convention this year, perhaps you’ll consider spending the weekend in Baraboo. It should be prime time color season, not to mention close proximity to some of the best, unique fun Wisconsin has to offer. And at $25 for the day, 9 AM to 4 PM, including lunch and door prizes, you can afford both Denver and Baraboo!
It’s been a few years since Wisconsin and other Midwest authors have had the opportunity to connect, so I hope we’ll return to regular get-togethers, and maybe even begin a Wisconsin ACFW chapter, as well as new writer’s and reading clubs.
To get away from the traditional key-note speaker, we’re starting off with a unique treat – yep – a reality show for wanna-be writers. More fun than a—well, I don’t want to give it away, but we’ll all hopefully learn something about the business, besides enjoying the opportunity to “vote” a new author onto the scene.
Jaime Sundsmo has put up a special website, http://www.wisconsinwriters.com/ that will answer most of your questions. Payment options, directions to the conference site, and local lodging venues are included.
Connect: A big part of our time together will be devoted to making connections. We’ve been approached about possibly starting an ACFW chapter in Wisconsin, and if there are people interested, we’ll make sure you have the information needed, and perhaps even the dues seed money, to start up. Book tables are a great way to connect with some of your favorite Midwest authors. You’ll have time during the day to chat and check out merchandise. I’m not sure at this point whether we’ll have the ability to take your credit cards, so plan accordingly, please.
Workshops: Besides those important connections, the bulk of the day will be devoted to learning and sharing and growing in our craft. The list of available workshops may still grow, so check in often. So far, we’re catering to both new writers as well as experienced ones with such offerings as:
Part 1: Steps to Publication - Andrea Boeshaar
Part 2: Steps to Publication - Andrea Boeshaar
Help, I'm Stuck! - Lisa Lickel
Nuts & Bolts of Submission - Lisa Lickel (Beginners)
Pitch to Me - Practice your verbal pitching in a non-threatening situation!
Ginger or MaryAnn? - how writers are like the characters of Gilligan's Island - Erica Vetsch
Writing your Story, Telling His - Michelle Van Loon
Discovering Your Writer's voice - Michelle Van Loon
Choosing early will let us know best how to meet your expectations. We’re also willing to entertain suggestions and, leader available, create the workshop that will help out most.
When I began writing professionally several years ago, the first writer’s gathering I attended was Wisconsin Christian Writers, hosted by Andrea. My eyes were opened to the possibilities of the writing career, and I was awed to meet wonderful writers like Linda Wichman, Kathryn Springer, Becky Melby, and Andrea, just to mention a few. I had no idea what I was getting in to, but I haven’t stopped. I have since attended other conferences and developed some wonderful friendships and I encourage you, too, to keep meeting other writers and professionals face to face.
Feel free to contact me for more information.
Which leads me to tell you a little more about me and why you should even consider asking me anything. Very briefly, I’m a Wisconsin native who got into the writing game after seeing an ad for the Christian Writers Guild in Today’s Christian Woman magazine while on my lunch hour as a church secretary. I signed up for the apprentice course and began selling my work before I finished. Since 2004 I’ve sold numerous magazine articles to my national church magazine and even one to Writer’s Digest, been a local features writer for a couple of newspapers, sold some devotionals, had a couple of radio theater plays produced, and sold two novels. If I tilt my head back, I can stick my nose out of the water while standing on the iceberg of ignorance. But I delight in sharing what I have learned so far. One of the most important ways is through meeting others who share a passion for language – for communication – for entertainment – for teaching and growing. You’ll find that I’m pretty blunt about my writing journey at my blog, where I share interviews and tips and updates about where I’m at on the path. I’ve been pulled kicking and screaming into social networking, although I’m holding out on twitter so far. This year I’m learning to market myself, although I’ve decided it’s okay to hate it. I walked cold into a bookstore the other day and left my poor little media packet and a copy of my novels for the owner – a very big step for me.
Whether or not you can attend the conference, I’d love to chat more with you.
Thank you, again, Erica, for this chance to meet your readers. My very best wishes for you and your writing journey, and I’m excited to meet you in person in October.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Here's a rare opportunity! My friend Sally Bradley (whom I like in spite of the fact that I'm a Cubs fan and she's a devotee of that OTHER Chicago baseball team...;) ) is giving away a free 10 page critique to some lucky contestant.
Seriously. A FREE 10 page critique by an expert fiction editor.
Here's a little about Sally:
Sally Bradley has worked for two Christian publishers, writing sales and marketing materials, sorting through the slush pile, and proofreading and editing fiction. She has a BA in English and a love for perfecting novels, whether it's her own work or the work of others. Sally is a judge in fiction-writing contests and is a member of ACFW, The Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network), and the Christian Editor Network. She's a work-at-home mother of three and is married to a pastor who moonlights as a small-town cop. Working with fiction, particularly Christian fiction, combines her love of stories with her desire to help others grow closer to God.
To check some references about Sally and her work, click HERE.
And how does one sign up for a chance at a free critique? Click HERE.
The deadline is midnight tonight, so hurry!
And, coming next month on Sally's site, a WICKED COOL new Fiction Reading Contest. Stay tuned for more details.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I realized while I was writing on Monday, that in my storyworld, the weather had been pleasant and sunny every day.
So I cooked up a storm to add to the conflict. It's so easy to forget about the weather when writing. It's one of those things I have to go back in and mention/layer/use when I edit.
So, what's the weather like in your WIP?
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
1. I craved Oranges. A. Lot. Of. Oranges. I asked the doctor if there was anything in oranges that would hurt my unborn baby. He said "No." and gave me a strange look. Then "how many oranges are we talking?"
"Six, maybe more a day. One at each meal and one for a snack in between each meal."
He laughed and said "Be glad it's oranges. For some women it's Snickers bars."
I thought Heather was going to be born with a peel on her head. :)
2. Morning sickness. EW. Had it.
3. My husband started practicing his dad jokes -- you know, the ones that are so bad you have to groan, then laugh because dad thinks he's so funny? Peter practiced his dad jokes for months before Heather was born.
4. The smaller the infant is, the more STUFF they need. Crib, changing table, baby clothes, diapers, pacifiers, diaper bags, toys, travel crib, stroller, car seat, high chair, walker, etc. The list of stuff to get before the baby arrived was tyrranizing.
5. Toxemia...no fun. Swell up like the Michelin Tire Man, go to hospital where doctors frown and look at monitors and take blood pressures, then suddenly decide to race down the hall for an emergency C-section.
How about you? Anything interesting happen when you were expecting your first?
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
But just when Myles thinks he has her out of harm’s way, his plans start to fall apart. He attempts to take Kenzie to a safe house—but the stubborn woman won’t go! So together they must uncover the clues that will reveal a most shocking perpetrator. All the while Myles tries to keep his distance from Kenzie … but finds himself falling in love.
Monday, July 06, 2009
Friday, July 03, 2009
Five Things That Have Happened To Me In New Orleans (over various trips of my life)
1. Sang with my youth choir in front of Jackson Square and attempted witnessing to a pyschic at their booth in front of the Cathedral.
2. Shared ONE hotel room with my parents and my boyfriend! (haha, memories!)
3. Watched the penguin feeding time at the Aquarium of the American, and touched a baby shark.
4. Ate a beignet from Cafe Dumond and had white powder sucked up my nose.
5.Was proposed to on the back of the Steamboat Natchez (hence the reason my parents were on the trip with us - chaperones, so he could propose and spend a fun weekend with me! They came along and were in on all of it! Good times.)
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Routine. According to Dictionary.com this word can mean:
-- a customary or regular course of procedure.
-- commonplace tasks, chores, or duties as must be done regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity
This morning I'm trying to get back into my routine. Actually, I'm trying to forge a new routine. Those customary procedures and commonplace tasks that were routine last week are no longer routine.
Since today is July 2nd, I thought I'd outline my goals for July.
1. Finish Lily and the Lawman, the writing and editing. This past month has played havoc with my writing. This afternoon I hope to re-read the first 40K words of Lily and the Lawman and get back into the groove, remind myself where I was in the story, and where I'm going.
2. Complete whatever edits on pending books with Heartsong as may arrive this month. There are several books in the pipeline in various stages of edits. When one hits my inbox, it becomes the priority until it is returned. Content edits, copy edits, galley edits.
3. Piece together two proposals, one for another Heartsong series, and one for a trade-length series. I have an idea for each. It's a matter of fleshing those ideas out and getting proposal packages together before September's ACFW conference.
4. Begin work on Maggie and the Maverick. I'm really looking forward to this story. The hero, Cal, is a favorite of mine. The story is in my head, but it's time to get it onto the plot board and onto the page.
5. Attend ACFW Denver. The counter continues to click down. Less than three months. This will be my third ACFW conference, and I'm surprised at how much I'm looking forward to it each year. I can't wait to see people, attend workshops and appointments, and soak up the worship. Still need to decide if I'm flying or driving. Should decide that soon, huh?
6. Finish up my responsibilities regarding the ACFW Genesis Contest for 2009. The final round scores are trickling in. As soon as the last scores are received, I'll tabulate them and get them sent off to Camy Tang.
7. Enjoy some summertime activities with the family. We'll be making some day-trips to see local sites, and hopefully taking a bit of a family vacation. The options are open right now: A trip to Chicago to bask in the museum air there, a circular route of Lake Superior to enjoy the rugged coast and the isolated lighthouses, or a drive across South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore, the badlands, the black hills and the frontier forts along the way.
How are you doing on your summer goals?