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Archive for the ‘First Book’ Category

Clown Pants

I purchased a pair of pants for my daughter at Gymboree.  Of course, they were on the clearance rack and I got a helluva deal.  That goes without saying.  They were red with white polka dots.  She loves polka dots, so what’s the big deal?  I have tried to get her to wear these pants ten times now.  I’ve tried them on different days, with different shirts, and different begging, but it always ends up the same.  With big blue eyes staring back at me, she sweetly says no and “I’ll wear them tomorrow.” 

Finally the other morning, I’m fed up with it.  I tell her she wears them today or I’m giving them away.  (A ploy that usually works.)  She stares at me straight faced and says “They look like clown pants.”  Now, my first reaction is to pull out the tag and explain they can’t look like clown pants because they are from Gymboree.  Then I start in on how much she loves polka dots and the color red, not to mention how cute she will look in them.  It does no good.  To her, they are clown pants.

What does this have to do with a writing blog?  Because as I have struggled about what to do with my first book, I think I look at it now like clown pants.  I love the individual things about it, such as the characters and story, but maybe not in the way I have it created now.  It doesn’t matter how many times I tweak pieces of it, like choosing a different shirt to coordinate, it’s still the same story…aka pair of pants.  It also makes no difference of where it came from or that it was my first piece of work.  It only matters what others think on that first impression.  If they see goofy clown pants instead of chic outfit, it’s over.

Does that mean it’s moved to the Goodwill pile?  I’m not there yet.  I’m putting it away for a while and will put it out again when I have fresh eyes.  Maybe I’ll see it differently.  Maybe I won’t.  But maybe time will give me some perspective to see something else fabulous in it.  It just may need all the seams torn out and reworked into a cute skirt for summer.

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When I was around five and my dear little cousin Katherine was three, I took a pair of scissors and cut her bangs.  Of course they were crooked, so I cut them again.  Oops, still uneven.  Another swipe at it.  Hmmm…Should they be up to the hair-line?  I didn’t know how bad it was until my Aunt Jane screamed and my mom ripped the scissors out of my hands vowing I would never see  them again.

Luckily, I have not attempted this with my hair.  Unfortunately, I have with my manuscript.  After tons of feedback and many revisions, I think I have cut too much.  I am currently in a “Secret Agent” contest where I had to post the first 250 words.  (I know…only 250?!?  What can be done in that?)  What has happened is other bloggers have given their two cents.  Some say not enough setting, others scream “get to the action,” and more others say it’s too jumpy.  (THUMP!)  That is my head hitting the table in defeat.

My husband, the one who endears all my craziness, gave me yet another pep talk to finish the project.  Complete the revisions and let it stand.  It’s so hard when all you want to do it get it right.  The problem…what is right?  I have no idea.  I do think it’s improved and I’m happy with some of the revisions I have made.  I’m going to power through it and let it stand for a while.  Get a little perspective.  I’m even thinking of a different YA novel to start. 

I am putting the scissors down on chapter one.  That sucker was hacked to the hair-line long ago.  I’m going stand back and let it grow out a bit before I even think about working it again.  Let’s hope when I decide to revisit, crooked bangs are all the rage!

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The query letter is a dreaded topic for any writer wanting to get an agent and then published.  I have read blogs where seasoned authors dreaded condenscing their gut wrenching novel into two paragraphs on a one page letter.  This being the letter that makes or breaks if you get an agent. 

I worked my letter for the original push of Crescendo.  I read the how-to’s and what should and shouldn’t be in it.  I studied the craft and wrote my first query letter.  Out of about 14 sent, I had one partial request, one full request, and mostly rejections.  I took a couple months off of querying and went back to studying.  I signed up for a blog site that has a category of “Query Letter Hell.”  I posted, got shredded by others, and went back to the drawing board.  Alas, I had another (and improved in my mind) version.  And so it was mailed out…

Here were are after about 10 more queries have been sent.  To date, I have about 6 rejections (which feel like 100) and one partial.  I’m back to the insecure, baffled stage of is it the query or the story?  Is it because I don’t have any vampires, fairies, or werewolves?  Is it because the letter falls flat and doesn’t sound like someone would want to invest a couple of days to read?  Or is it the reason I can not even discuss yet?

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Every relationship starts with a spark and evolves into a roaring fire.  Passion courses through your veins in excitement to spend every waking moment together.  When you aren’t together, you think about each other and what you will do when you reconnect.  Then reality sets in and you start to see the truth of the relationship.  You may even get to a place where you need a little space to think it over.  It’s the same path when writing a book.

In the beginning of my process, I didn’t want to spend any time away.  It was agony to wait until night-time when the kids were in bed and quiet filled the house.  Some nights, I thought making bedtime at six-thirty so I could get back to my characters and make progress on the story.  When I thought back about previous chapters, they were flawless in my memory.  Everything together and moved forward effortlessly.  It was meant to be.

I read an article about when Stephen King finishes a novel, he shoves the manuscript into a drawer and leaves it for six months.  This was an absurd thought to me at the time because who would want to take a break from their passion, their true love?  When I completed it, I re-read it immediately to make edits.  I found grammatical stuff and, as you hopefully read in the earlier blog, called it good.  Four edits and seven months later, I think I have a better product than when I finished.

I realized why it would have been beneficial to put the novel away for a few months before reading it again.  First, I needed to forget the story.  When I read it with the vision fresh in my mind, my imagination filled in the gaps.  Time would have helped with identifying the spaces that needed more information.  Second, I needed the objectivity of time.  The emotion was too powerful and too raw when I first completed it.  I was defensive to feedback instead of welcoming it with open arms.  Third, it would have saved time in re-writing the four chapters that I ultimately decided to delete. 

If I saw my book for what it was then, and not the romantic picture of a completed novel, I may have been able to break up with original version a long time ago.

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Prologue

I thought writing the book would be the toughest part.  The longest piece of work I had ever written was a 92 page play in college and I held on to that accomplishment like a trophy.  My work consisted of short stories that took a few days to write and even that didn’t always get a great response.  So what made me think I should take four months of my life to write a good book?  (Well, the good is still up for debate…)

I met my characters.  Some are visuals of people I drool over in the movies, some are caricature of people from my past, and others are qualities straight out of my current life.  I got to know them, enjoy them, sometimes miss them when I finished writing for the night.  I thought about the story constantly and worried that I would rush to the finish.  (A common criticism of my short fiction.)  I made sure to dedicate more time and a specific page count before moving on to the next chapter.  It was a good way to keep myself paced.

The story developed and I was happy with where it ended.  I raced to get the darn thing printed and handed out to everyone who would read it.  I wanted everyone to know I wrote a book, spelling errors and all.  I started shy with begging people to be gentle.  All I really wanted to hear was that it was great!  A piece of work they would gladly pay lots of money for.  I did get some encouraging words, but there was the other side to the coin as well.  My fragile ego had to face reality that although I wrote a book, I was only at the beginning of the process.

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What is more redundant than writing a blog about writing a book? It’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. But here I am in the middle of the night starting my new blog.

I challenged myself last year to write a novel and a novel I wrote. Here I am a year later with two novels done and no closer to press. So I decided to write about what I learned and the pain in my quest to have a published work. Not just published on my computer paper and bound by Office Max, but a real life book.

Although, tonight I’m too tired to talk about anything since I spent the night re-writing that first novel I finished. But that’s another blog for another night…

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