Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Thursday, November 30, 2006

NaNoWriMo 2006

Finished my paranormal for National Novel Writing Month last night - what a relief. The last few days were really grinding because I had this other mystery idea that must be written disturbing my peace of mind. Now, I can let NaNoWriMo go for another year and work on the mystery. This one will be a contemporary, since I'm hoping to sell my other historical mysteries to Cerridwen Press: and pursue another angle.
It is interesting to me how the market changes and even individual tastes change. I read a lot of mysteries and never thought of them as specific kinds, e.g. cozy, hard-boiled, or whatever. But lately, I've realized that there are a lot of mysteries and thrillers out there which are stepping way over the line for me. They are putting things and images in my head which I don't want there. This surprises me, because I love shoot-'em up, bang-bang movies and thought I didn't mind violence, but actually...I do. I don't mind Bruce Willis violence, but I can't "do" the "Saw" stuff, and I can't "do" a lot of thrillers coming out. I don't want images of rape or torture in my head. Give me a nice, clean shot between the eyes, and I'm good with that. Torture...not so much.
Which brings me to my contemporary mystery and thoughts of classification. Because I don't think of what I read or want to write as "cozy". Are Jonathan Gash's wonderful Lovejoy mysteries cozy? Lindsey Davis' fantastic Falco mysteries cozy? I don't know. People get hurt, get beaten up, but it's cool. The characters pick themselves up, brush off, rinse the blood out of their mouth, and move on (unless, of course, they are the murder victim). I also adore the new line of mysteries from Hard Case - the old hard-boiled detective stories where people get beaten up all the time--but there's no gore, really.
Am I going to yet again write things that are "old fashioned" or (blech) cozy because I don't like the rape/torture realism of todays mysteries and thrillers? Will publishers turn me away, yet again, because my stuff is not "realistic" enough? It is very possible. The mystery I have in mind is definitely going to be humorous. In fact, that's why I'm so anxious to write it--because if I can push my characters into wacky situations that push them to the limit--I love it. I love writing it. But does anyone like reading it?
I hope so. Stephanie Bond seems to be making a pretty darn good career from humorous mystery/romances. I'm not so interested in the romance angle, although there will probably be one, but humorous mystery--sure. What's mystery without a sense of humor? A lot of depression and images stuck in your head you don't particularly want.
Well, be that as it may, tonight is the big night. I start on a contemporary mystery. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

At last!

Happy Days are here again...

It's official. On Thursday, November 16, 2007 at 7PM I signed three copies of a contract with Cerridwen Press/Ellora's Cave. They are publishing A Smuggled Rose as part of their new Cotillion line of traditional Regency romances. It should be out sometime around May 2007.

I love my editor. I love the publisher. I love my agent, who sweated and worked long hours over the contract. I love the world. I love any potential readers I may get.

A Smuggled Rose started out life as Perchance to Dream and finaled in several writing contests. Several agents and editors were mildly interested in it, but because I wrote it about a year before the NY publishers finally closed their trad Regency lines for good, ultimately, no one took it on as a project. I'm so relieved that Regencies are not completely dead, although I'm a little worried that it may only be available as an e-book. I'm hoping they can at least do some print runs.

What is so nice about this is that I have several more already written, and now, they may actually have a home. Assuming my luck changes. I didn't say anything to my editor, but my writing career has had some strange intersections with the rest of the world.

Two of the agents who were interested in this manuscript suffered the loss of family members while considering it.

Two of my other manuscripts were sitting in editors' offices, with editors interested in them, only to discover that the lines the manuscripts were intended for closed and/or terminated.

One hopes this ill wind has finally died down.

It's a little scary, though, to have my toe in the door. I still want that big, NY contract with print runs starting at 20-30,000, instead of the slightly less exuberant expection of selling 1,000 copies with luck, but that's 1,000 copies I wouldn't sell otherwise, and 1,000 readers (one hopes) and I'm good with that.

I also plan to promote the dickens out of this.

So, I'm one step further along in this wild trip. I've even got a new website, specifically for my Regencies, at so I'm gearing up. I'm official now. I really am a writer--and not only that--I'm an author!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nothing in Particular

Still slaving away at my NaNoWriMo novel, so other than just heads down working, I haven't had any real revelations this week. I am up to 34,000 words, though, and unless I have some sort of a melt-down, I actually expect to hit my 50,000 mark before the end of November. Yippee!

Hmmm, maybe it's not strictly true, however, that I haven't had any revelations. I went to a writers meeting on Saturday where I was surprised to find that I didn't actually learn anything new. That's a shocker for me. I can't remember the last time I went to a meeting and didn't come away with some nugget that helped me with my writing. I had big expectations, too, because it was a special session with a big-time author, with the topic of writing dialogue. The author was a fantastic speaker and really, really funny, so it was enjoyable, but not actually thought-provoking. In fact, I'm having problems remembering what she even said.

Except a couple of things that depressed me:
  • Unpublished authors don't need/shouldn't have web sites. (Well, e-x-c-u-s-e me for living.)
  • Blogs are a waste of time/unnecessary. (Well, fine.)
  • If you give up your blog, it's taken over by porno sites. (Yeah, that is unfortunate, but since they are constantly linking to my site and trying to make mischief, that's sort of expected behavior.)
I guess that's all sort of true and I only excuse myself for having a web site as a lowly, scum-sucking, unpublished hack by saying that I write the newsletter for my local rose society and I have issues of that newsletter on my web site. As well as articles I've written on writing (although the fact that I'm unpublished sort of makes those look suspicious--I mean if I knew anything about writing, wouldn't I actually be published?) and a few other things. So, I'm hoping the site is a resource at the moment, which can be expanded when I publish.

On the publishing front, I understand my contract with Cerridwen is quite possibly in the final stages of negotiation, so I might actually come into visual contact with it before Thanksgiving. Possibly.

Since I'm writing fresh material now, I do feel better about writing in general and new ideas are flowing in like a virtual tsunami. Unfortunately, I think what it's depositing upon the beach of my mind is flotsam and jetsom. I got some real kicker ideas for short story/novelettes, but they are not saleable ideas--they aren't romances--they are just stories set in the Regency about rather unlikeable and nasty people. I'm afraid I rather like unlikeable and nasty people. The one I'm just dying to write is entitled (in my head) The Malicious Young Man. If you've ever read any H.H. Munro (Saki) then you'll have a pretty good notion what I have in mind--if you sort of took Clovis, twisted him up a bit and stuck him in the Regency.

Where would you sell something like that? Shrug. Who knows. I'm going to have fun writing it, though, and maybe I can convince Cerridwen to e-publish it. If it sells any copies at all, I may write a few more and eventually stick them all together into an anthology of sorts. Maybe I'll call them: Malice (for the first story--a shorter title than The Malicious Young Man), Revenge (for the second), and Murder. I rather like the idea. I rather like the idea of writing to suit myself instead of trying to meet the demands of a market that appears to be completely uninterested in the types of stories I like.

Anyway, that's enough for tonight. I've got to get back to work.
Let me know what interests you!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Writing Shorts

Short is sweet ;-)
I've been slaving away at National Novel Writing Month ( trying to hit the 50,000 word mark by the end of November. So far, I've written over 19,000 words. Probably all dreck, but it really does get your creativity thrust into high gear. It has also gotten me out of a desperate slump which I fell into early in 2005 due to some poor decisions (don't jump and sign with just any old agent who makes an offer, make sure they are the right agent--my second agent is a wonderful...but that first one...). From 2005 until now, I struggled just to keep my head above water and not just totally give up on writing. I wrote less than 80 pages of new material. Nothing I wrote or worked on seemed to be working, which made me grow more despondant. And of course in that mood, everything I tried to write was awful and I never finished anything. Even getting a new agent didn't cure me because I was terrified that she would "realize" I was useless and drop me. I felt that I was a complete failure as a writer and that I was beating my head against the wall for no reason.

Except I love writing.
But why can't I get published? What is wrong with me? Why did two agents love that one manuscript, but all the editors thought it stank-on-ice? What was wrong?

Who knows?

Along comes NaNoWriMo. I crawled up out of the pit, shook myself off, and started writing. Agonizing. The first few days were total torture. I had to scrape for each pathetic word. But I wrote every day. I've been writing every day, now, for 8 days and yesterday I took a tottering step away from the pit. I got new ideas. My mind leapt ahead to upcoming scenes and dialog I wanted to write, and it was actually sad that I had to go to bed so that I could go to work this morning. (I shouldn't be doing this, either, but...) I wanted to stay up and get those new scenes on paper.

And I had a minor epiphany. I remembered two years ago that whenever I got depressed about writing, if I just put my head down and wrote new stuff, I could work myself out of it. But the key was, I needed to write new stuff. Every day. Not just edit things I wanted to send to my agent. I love editing--it is far easier than scratching my a$s and trying to come up with new material, but the creative part is coming up with the new material--not editing the old--and it is the writing new material that lifts my depression and makes it more manageable.

That's not the epiphany part. Here is the epiphany part.
You have to write new material every day if you want to publish. I mean it. Get your production up. Editing and re-editing something you wrote five years ago is not going to get you published, assuming publication is your goal.

A dear friend of mine wrote for 18 years and couldn't get published. Then, she went to a class and started writing every single day. She started producing manuscripts at a rate of 1 every two months. A year later, one of the new manuscripts snagged an agent. A year after that, she got her first contract for publication. A year after that, she got TWO contracts for a total of SIX books coming out over the next few years. All because she writes constantly. Each manuscript is better than the last because you incorporate all the things you have learned along the way.

I experienced something similar, but dropped the ball. In 2004, I got deadly serious. I wrote two manuscript, and the second one "almost" got a contract. Instead of getting depressed, I wrote a third manuscript in two months. Another "almost". I wrote a fourth in two months. Bingo. I got an agent. The WRONG agent, but an agent. But things didn't work out. I got depressed and thought I was the worst person and writer in the world because of it. I stopped writing new stuff. I tried to keep going, but over the next 18 months, I only wrote one partial manuscript. My agent dropped me. I got a new, better agent WITH THE SAME MANUSCRIPT. She loved it and is still trying to place it although it doesn't look like it is going to work.

But the point is: when I was writing a lot, I was producing BETTER MATERIAL even though it was written more quickly. Because like any other art, practicing makes you BETTER.

Now that I haven't written for a while, I'm rusty. I did finish a new manuscript after 18 months and sent it to my agent, but she is not in love with it like she was that first one. Although I actually do love it. It has a lot of meaning for me and some themes that were important to me, although I suppose others may not see or like them. And, I'm going to get my stuff published--even if it is e-published--I'm determined. But I know now, and I mean really know something: you have to write to get published.

How many times have you heard that? How many times have you just said, well, duh, I know, so what? And you're writing, right? Scribbling in journals, editing that book you wrote five years ago...
That isn't what that advice means. It means you have to write fresh material, and it has to be a story--not that journal stuff. Journal stuff doesn't make you think about the hero's journey, the sequence of events, and all the other elements necessary for a story. That's why you have to write new manuscripts, even if you just write new pages for one hour a day and spend the rest of your time editing other things for submission.

It's the only way if you don't get that first manuscript snapped up (like some authors I know).

If you're determined to get published, then you have to commit yourself to writing new material every day. Or at least 5-6 days a week. Think of it as practicing the piano. Don't let your skills become rusty.

Write on!