Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Literary Pet Peeve: Too Many Characters

I have a few literary pet peeves. The biggest ones, of course, I've already ranted about in my Take the Anti-Douchebag Challenge post.

But another thing that bothers me is too many characters to keep track of.

Have any of you ever had a moment where you're reading a book, come across a character's name, and for the life of you can't recall who that character is, or why they're important? I have. And it drives me nuts.

It's for this reason that I try to keep my cast of characters compact. My female mc's usually have only one or two close friends, and it's not because no one likes them. It's because I get all sorts of flustered when I have to remember more than a handful of secondary characters in a novel, and I don't want to inflict that torture on anyone else.

Of course, if the characters are all unique, and all serve a purpose, and the author has made them all stand out in my mind, it isn't a problem.

But the sad fact is this: I may write about teenagers, but me and my brain cells aren't getting any younger. If you're going to introduce me to a clique of folks who all act and sound the same, I'm only going to wind up confused and annoyed by the end of the story.

For example, I have a huge Italian family, with 7 female first cousins. And two of those 7 are twins. So if I introduced you to all of them, wouldn't your brain start to glaze over somewhere around the fourth brown-eyed, brown-haired twenty-something girl? Exactly. Which is why if I ever write a story about them, I'm going to pretend there are only 3 or 4.

Would you want to remember all our names? What's that you say?
You have no idea which one is even me? Yeah, that's what I thought.

What about you, peeps? Do you get irritated when you need a roll call to keep track of the characters in a book? Or am I just old and forgetful?

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Anyone who's attempted to be published knows exactly how much waiting is involved in the process.

First of all, you have to wait for your book to be finished - which, if you're a slow poke like me, can feel like eternity in itself. I mull and ponder and mull some more until I'm happy with a scene. After I've done that with every scene and finally strung together a completed manuscript, I have to go back and edit. Commence more mulling and more pondering and throw in some hair pulling, too.

Then you send the finished product off to your betas, and wait again.

And once they get back to you? You realize "finished" has no place in the same sentence with your manuscript.

So you edit again. And you write your query. And you wait again.

Finally, you're ready to send off your CP-approved query and manuscript. And once you do?

zzzzzzzzzzz.... Huh? What? Oh...

Yep. That's right. You wait again.

Sometimes the wait is worth it, ending up in a request for material. Other times, you'll wait weeks on end for a form rejection. It's the same with submissions: you send them off, floating on a cloud because someone showed interest in your work. But then the days drag on while you wait for that response, and it can all start to feel a little tiresome.

That's where I am right now. And I'm wondering if anyone else starts to get a little bored and disenchanted with the whole process at this stage, or if I've just got a case of Instant Gratification Denied-itis?

I'm trying to concentrate on WiP #3 while I wait, but I'm finding I could use some help drumming up inspiration.

So - can anyone suggest some kind of dark, angsty music to go along with a kind of dark, angsty paranormal story? I'd really appreciate it! And then you can tell me how you keep yourself from going crazy during the waiting game. Thanks, peeps!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Perseverance on Paper

I've done blog posts before about my struggles with infertility, but I've been thinking a lot lately about the parallels between trying to have a baby and trying to get a book published.

In both cases, you do everything you possibly can to ensure the outcome you want:

-You decide you want to be published
-You write a book, you let your CP's hack it to pieces, you put it back together again to give yourself the best chance.
-Rinse, lather, and repeat with your query letter and synopsis.
-You send your book out into the agent world and hope someone somewhere in that sea of queries finds yours, falls madly in love with it, and elevates it from slush to published book

-You decide you want a baby
-You figure out your cycle, pee on ovulation sticks, take your temperature etc. to give yourself the best chance
-Rinse, lather and repeat each month
-You drag your spouse into the bedroom even when you're both exhausted and completely uninterested, in the hope that one bumbling sperm out of a billion will somehow find your egg, fertilize it, and make it become a baby

For some people, the journey through both processes is fairly easy and minimally bumpy. For others, one might be a lot easier than the other.

But I'm going to be blatantly honest when I say it gets extremely hard to fail at both simultaneously. There's a line in a Matchbox 20 song that says Sometimes you can still lose even if you really try, and I often feel like the personification of that line.

I've been trying to have a baby since 2008. Since then I've been through 3 specialists, numerous tests and procedures, 2 surgeries, and 2 heartbreaking miscarriages.

I've also been trying to get published since 2010. Since then I've written two manuscripts, been through numerous query rejections, 2 partial rejections, and 2 full rejections. I have a partial and 2 fulls out with ms #2, and those could very well end up rejections, too.

In both endeavors, I've come so close, but no cigar. And I'm not writing this post because I'm pregnant - I'm not - or because I got over the wall and I'm about to get published. No dice there, either. But I am writing it to say that the best way to ensure that neither of these things will happen is to give up trying.

I'm not even saying that giving up is a bad thing, if it's what a person needs to do to salvage their sanity. But I am saying that if you want something badly enough... you don't give up.

And I sure as hell have moments when I want to. But then I look at this:

Basically, these temperature charts are the last two years of my life on paper. Each sheet has 3 charts, and each chart represents one menstrual cycle.

Out of the 24 cycles represented on these pages, I was only able to get pregnant in ONE of them.
People around me have had two and three children in this amount of time. And you bet your ass it's discouraging.

BUT-  had  I not been trying, it probably wouldn't have happened at all. And yes, the pregnancy may have ended in miscarriage, but at least I know I can get there. Now, it's a matter of making it stick.

It's the same with writing.

There are only so many times you can get thisclose and watch people around you succeed with a fraction of the effort before you want to throw yourself on the ground and scream. To which I say, go right ahead. You've earned it.

But just because one person succeeds on cycle #2 or query #2 doesn't mean that another person can't succeed on cycle #200 or query #200. It just means that if you stop trying to get there, you never will.

So until you stop wanting it, never stop trying to get it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Quick Update

I just wanted to say thank you again to everyone who stopped by on Monday to offer words of wisdom on my query letter.

I'm currently revising, with all your comments in mind. It's a story that I really love, and I don't want to misrepresent it with a subpar query letter.

Until I get it right, I'm focusing on WiP #3. Which, I'm happy to say (*evil cackle*) will be my first novel to include a sex scene. Not that the others didn't inspire "dessert" scenes (my CP's can confirm they did!), but there was no place that made sense for them within the manuscript. So, sadly, they're sexless. And yes, for a romance writer, that *is* sad.

My other favorite kind of dessert

How 'bout you, peeps? How are your writing/querying endeavors going? What keeps you grounded when you're overhauling your writing and/or querying?

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Lucky Seven Meme!

Woohoo, I've been tagged!

Thanks Chessie, for giving me something fun to do for my Friday Post! Here's how it works:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS

2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next seven lines as they're written--no cheating!
4. Tag 7 other writers
5. Let them know

So, from my finished ms, LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE, here's my Lucky Seven:

I'd failed David, failed his father. Both of them had been there for me when I needed them most. When my turn had come to pay them back, I'd left them both in the dust without a single glance back.

I hated myself.

A knock on the door made me jump, and I scrambled to my feet, nearly tripping over nearby paint cans when I heard David's voice.

"Kelse? You okay?"

I hurriedly wiped my face and nose with a tissue before I cracked the door open.

That's it, folks. Hope you liked it. And since I'm so bad at picking people to pass things on to, I'm just going to invite whoever wants to participate in this to go ahead and do so and feel free to mention my name :)

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Rejection That Restored My Faith

I know it sounds weird, but I'm floating on a cloud from a rejection I received yesterday.

Back in December, I sent out the final set of queries for my first novel, Life Before Death. I didn't expect anything to come of them. I'd had a few requests, but all my subs were rejected via feedback-less form R's.

So when I got an email in January requesting a partial, I sent off the first five chapters expecting more of the same. But a couple weeks later I was pleasantly surprised when the agent's assistant wrote back asking for the full manuscript. Realizing it was probably my last chance with this ms, I spent 2-1/2 hours proofreading and revising before sending it off - but still, I expected nothing.

In the mean time, I threw all my love and energy into revising WiP #2 and started to send off queries. And as my CP's can tell you, it isn't going well.

Responses seem to be taking forever, and the ones that have come back are all form rejections. I couldn't, and still can't, figure out what I'm doing wrong, especially when I'm querying agents who claim to want the kind of story I've written.

Yesterday morning, another query response for #2 showed up in my inbox and -yup, you guessed it- a form rejection. I admit, I swore at my computer screen. Then did a little more copious whining to my CP's, lamenting that if I ONLY KNEW WHAT THE PROBLEM WAS, I'd fix it.

But alas, I'd never once received feedback on a rejection, and I didn't see the pattern changing any time soon.

Then, around 6:00 last night, the assistant who'd contacted me about Life Before Death e-mailed me. I steeled  myself, ready for another unhelpful form rejection. When I read "Thank you for your interest in our agency," I thought that was exactly what I got.

But then she went on to say how much she and the agent enjoyed the manuscript, and how lovely the ending was. To which my reaction was, Wait, what? She read all the way to the end??

Peeps, she most certainly did. She went on to tell me exactly what she loved about the ms, and the things that worked - and didn't work, which ultimately led to their passing on it.

And even though she passed, the fact that she took the time to offer such thorough, helpful, and kind feedback put me on cloud nine. Sure, my beloved first novel is going back in a drawer, for now. But someone had found it worthwhile enough - thought it DIDN'T SUCK ENOUGH - to tell me how I could make it even better - all while using words like "lovely" and "clever" and "multi-dimensional."

It was a rejection, but it's the best I've felt about my writing in a long time.

So now I can say with certainty that there ARE agents out there who will care about your work, and who will pay attention to what you've created. And then, even if they don't take you on, they'll tell you why with more than just a generic, "Sorry, not right for me."

And that is how a rejection restored my faith in the publishing world. Amen.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Live From CT... It's the Race Against Time!

Morning, peeps!

So I'm off from work today and tomorrow (hooray!). My sole purpose for taking these days off was to not lose my vacation time - and, of course, to work on my (as yet untitled) third manuscript.

But naturally, there are a million other things on my To Do List that are demanding my attention, and I won't be able to write with a clear head if I can't get at least some of them crossed off. So, I'm going with a live blog today to keep me focused.

Here's what's on the agenda

- Iron the 13 dress shirts cluttering up my laundry rack (because yes, my husband has more clothes than I do)
- Do a load of laundry
- Dust and vacuum my family room
- Write a blog post for my company's blog on healty eating tips for kids in school (remind me again how someone with no children got roped into this?)
- Get the ink cartridge for my printer refilled (way cheaper than buying a new one)
- Make a Wal-Mart run
- Balance the checkbook
- Buy, clean, and cook a couple pounds of chicken
- Send query letters for ms #2

It's 7:43 a.m. right now.... Off I go to start that load of laundry and eat some breakfast. Be back later!

8:11: Laundry is in. Put a bunch of clothes away. Currently sitting in front of the computer eating cereal (EnviroKidz Leapin' Lemurs Organic Gluten-Free Chocolate-n-Peanut Butter Puffs, just in case anyone was wondering) trying to not sound like an idiot for this Work Blog thing.

9:40: Work Blog Post has been drafted and sent off to my co-worker. (The one who said "You're a writer - wanna help me with this?") And for the record, writing about stuff you're not real familiar with? Yeah. Not so easy.
Anyway, laundry is in the dryer and I'm off to tackle those dress shirts!

11:15: Guys. Things aren't looking so good for ms #3. Thanks to trying to iron in between copious texting with my sister-in-law, I've only done 6 out of 13 shirts. I have not yet showered or brushed my teeth.

I feel the crabby setting in.

This might get ugly.

12:45: I've ironed all 13 of those mothereffing dress shirts, all while fielding phone calls and texts from both my husband and sister-in-law regarding some ridiculous family drama.

I'm starving. My back is killing me from standing at the ironing board. I'm still not showered. And I still have to go fold the clothes that finished drying about 20 minutes ago.

Happy Freaking Monday, people. Happy. Freaking. Monday.

2:27: I'm fed, showered, and dressed. Which seems to have helped with both the aching back and the crappy mood.  Next line of business: Get my butt out of the house and over to Wal-Mart.

6:21: I managed to get to Wal-Mart and buy most of the items on my list. $90 later, I went to Stop & Shop to pick up a few more things. Halfway through checkout at S & S, realized I'd managed to forget something on the list, and then had to make another trip through self-checkout with said elusive item.

And what happened when I got home, the minute I'd finished putting everything away? Oh, that's right. Got the "I'm on my way home" call from my husband. (Which means there will be no writing tonight. Though I love him dearly, I can not write, or send queries, while he hangs on me and talks to me like I'm not doing anything else.


At the very least, I made dinner in the crockpot yesterday. Because if I had to cook right now, I think there'd be some acts of violence happening in this small Connecticut town.

So let's declare the winner: In the battle of Time vs. Gina & The Manuscript... Time Emerges Victorious