Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Stormtroopers relaxing in a pool

Song playing right now on my playlist: “Sally MacLennane” by The Pogues.

Writing and the Writing Life:

Ada Lovelace:

Jane Austen:

In Geekdom:

Introducing a new site for authors to hone their project and attract agents: AuthorSalon

I’ve been heavily utilizing AgentQuery Connect to hone my query and synopsis and I highly recommend it. Yesterday, though, I was lurking in some of their forums and saw a post about a new social network called AuthorSalon and decided to check it out. Their tagline is: “Where writers work and network, and where agents and editors discover them.”

It is currently in their Beta phase and anyone who joins during that phase has a free membership for life. After this ends, which should be pretty soon, it will be 9.99/month. If you are on AgentQuery connect, the interface will be familiar because it’s either the same group of people or they hired the same web developer.

What attracted me even more was the structure and hard work required. So I decided to give it a go. Filling out their registration form is not the simple fill-in-the-blanks you’re used to. It took me about an hour, and I’d say that was on the fast side because I had a lot of the information they needed already developed. However, if you’ve not yet been forced to boil your plot down to one logline or even a 250 word summary, it could take a lot longer. It forces you to look at your work in a new way by getting down to the essence of the plot and conflict. This can ONLY be of benefit when you go to write your query.

I got approved by the time I got home from work, so I only had a short time to play around on the site and kick the tires. Unfortunately the membership seems to be on the weak side for romance, so I’m hoping some of my fellow romance writers will join. How it works is that the information you filled out on joining, which asks you for your logline, short synopsis, first 50 pages, a dialogue sample, a narrative sample, etc., becomes your profile which is now open for critique. You put out a call in their forum for peers at your level (which is In Production) and self organize about 5 people who will grade your profile. You also do the same to theirs. Through this process, you hone your profile until you feel like it’s pretty solid. You then call for a vote from your peer group, and if it passes, it moves up the chain to the staff. If they agree, you graduate to Editor Suite status and form a new peer group and get critiqued again. When you’re ready, you call for a vote and if it passes, a mentor will look at your profile and decide if indeed your profile is ready. If they agree, you graduate to Marquee status. At this level, agents and editors will be looking at your profile knowing you’ve done the hard work and due diligence to arrive there.

Anyone want to join me?

From their site, they freely admit that this will not be for the faint of heart. No one will coddle you. Here is their mission statement:

First, to make Author Salon a preferred source of discovery for literary agents, producers, and publishing house editors. Author Salon opens channels to professionals to keep them updated on desirable projects, and for those who wish to search, we provide detailed writer and project profiles, multiple search parameters, and lists of high-rated projects, thus enabling professionals to more quickly obtain a range of information, and in a manner conducive to productive decision-making.

Second, to create a 24/7 writers conference environ utilizing a criteria-based step by step workshop approach that includes a primary and upper level peer-and-pro review process, a separate two level review by Author Salon, additional forum-based draft workshops, as well as a final top level review on the part of seasoned peers and players in the publishing business. We tell the writer what works, what doesn’t work, and what needs to be developed further – while they can still do something about it – and before an agent or publisher shuts the door in their face.

Third, to sustain a suitable and pragmatic work space for the nonfiction and novel writing community that combines the technical advantages of a Facebook-like environ (instant chat, site mail, video embeds, etc.) with the content approach of Publisher’s Marketplace. In other words, Author Salon provides the communication and features technology the writer community needs while enabling easy access to a backdrop of publishing news, as well as writer resource and craft content.

Fourth, to make Author Salon a trusted source of tie-breaking, valuable information on fiction and nonfiction writing, craft, publishing, and book marketing that avoids the myths and sticks only to the facts.

If you need more convincing, here are the advisory agents and editors and here is a partial list of publishers and agents communicating with the staff about projects posted:

  • ATCHITY ENTERTAINMENT INTERNATIONAL
  • ANDREA HURST AGENCY
  • LARSEN POMADA AGENCY
  • KIMBERLY CAMERON AGENCY
  • GAIL ROSS AGENCY
  • THE RIGHTS FACTORY
  • SANDRA DIJKSTRA AGENCY
  • INTERNATIONAL CREATIVE MANAGEMENT
  • WILLIAM MORRIS AGENCY
  • SIGNATURE LITERARY AGENCY
  • RANDOM HOUSE PUBLISHING
  • PENGUIN GROUP USA
  • HENRY HOLT
  • HARCOURT BRACE JOVANOVICH

Up for it? Register here and then friend me! I’m AngelaQ

Six Sentence Sunday – 3/25/12

Today is #sixsunday where writers share six sentences from their work. I’ll share a snippet from my time-travel romance WIP tentatively titled MUST LOVE BREECHES, which is now out in query land! (You can see the other entries here.) Just found out yesterday that it finaled in the SARA Merritt Contest in the paranormal category.

Here’s my new pitch/logline: When a thoroughly modern girl finds herself stranded in 1834 London, she must find a way home while navigating the pitfalls of London society, resisting her attraction to a hunky lord, and ultimately having to decide when her true home lies. 

Since everyone’s been enjoying her ride in the curricle with Lord Montagu, I thought I’d pick up exactly where we left off last week. It seems appropriate too, since what he asks her in a bit is the Act One break/turning point. This is from Isabelle’s POV, and she and Lord Montagu are in a curricle (a type of carriage) in Hyde Park. She’s only been back in time for two days and he’s just called on her to ask her to go on this ride with him:

Weird, so, this was a date? Well, as close as it got with these people? The idea almost made her laugh, but it really wasn’t that funny. This slower, more distant type of courtship was actually much more stimulating, more exciting. And oddly, more intimate, though that didn’t make much sense. Oh, girl, this isn’t good.

As always I welcome constructive feedback. Thank you!

To see snippets from others who are participating or to sign up yourself, visit here.

Thank you to everyone who comes by and comments each week! Have a great Sunday!

Yay, MLB is a finalist in the SARA Merritt contest!

For those that are already published, this would be no big deal, but this is my first foray into the writing world and so I’m super excited!

Just got the email today that informed me that MUST LOVE BREECHES is a finalist (one of three) for the San Antonio Romance Writer’s Merritt Contest in the paranormal category. I got super-great feedback from the judges, and the cool thing about this contest is that I can take that feedback and resubmit my entry before the final round judging starts. This contest judged the first 25 pages and a 5 page synopsis.

Judge #1 said:

Lovely story, refreshing take on the time travel. I loved that Isabelle will stay ‘modern’ and have to learn to incorporate into her new time. And that Phineas is a flawed and ostracized hero – always a promising situation :)

Another said:

The intrigue [the hero] brings to the table is impossible to resist. He remains a mystery even when we’re in his head, which gives him a surprising amount of depth that I wasn’t expecting. His past is well fleshed out, his goals are commendable, and it’s hard not to dig a guy who can light a woman just by kissing her knuckles.

Isabel is a character that is likable and relatable. Her sense of humor wins me over just as much as her flaws and lack of self-confidence. As a reader, I look forward to seeing her grow into the kind of woman who goes after what she wants and knows what she doesn’t.

There are really two conflicts taking place in this story. First is Isabelle discovering what she really wants, and then there is Lord [Montagu] getting what he wants. Both goals intermingle with each other, while still developing on their own terms. That makes this novel uniquely fascinating. I’m not just watching one really fleshed-out story unfold, I’m watching two.

In other contest news:

In March, I entered the first 250 words in Miss Snark’s First Victim Secret Agent contest. Out of 50, I was one of two chosen by the secret agent.

Thank you

for letting me indulge in celebrating! This business can give you some really hard knocks (hello, rejections!) and so I’m all for getting excited when I get good news :)

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Vader In A Kilt On A Unicycle Playing Bagpipes (I Kid You Not)

Song playing right now on my playlist: “Stray Cat Strut” by Stray Cats

Writing and the Writing Life:

Romance Writers:

Ada Lovelace:

Jane Austen:

Browncoats:

In Geekdom:

Six Month Blogiversary – What Am I Doing Right/Wrong?

Today marks six months since I started blogging! When I started, I wasn’t sure if I’d last this long…

I’ve learned a lot about blogging, and myself, since then. I’ve also made a lot of great blogging friends. I’m soooo glad I faced my fear and  started this blog.

At first I blogged every day, but then I quickly realized that would never do. For a while I did posts on Fridays that took writing lessons from the TV show Firefly. I may do some more, but only when I have something worthwhile to contribute, not because I have to throw up something and it’s Friday. It looks like I’ve settled into this pattern:

  • Monday – Hunk Who Reads
  • Wednesdayish – a post on writing or the writing life
  • Saturday – my grab bags
  • Sunday – Six Sentence Sunday

I wanted to turn the rest of this post over to you who follow this blog.

Please tell me what made you follow, or what things you like best, or would like me to focus on more? I’d obviously like to keep providing what drew you to my blog in the first place, so please let me know. In other words:

What am I doing right and what am I doing wrong?

I’ve been tagged by the Lucky 7 Meme

This past week I’ve been tagged by Jamie Ayres, Cindy Dwyer, and J.M. Blackman in the latest blogosphere meme, Lucky 7. Unlike some other memes, I thought this sounded like fun, so here it goes. The rules are:

  • Go to p. 77 of current WIP
  • go to line 7
  • copy down next 7 lines/sentences & post them as they’re written
  • Tag 7 other authors
  • Let them know

Okay, mine landed in a weird spot. If I counted down 7 sentences, it would have been the last 2 sentences of Chapter 6, and then the first lines of a letter. So I took the rules literally and counted 7 lines, which brought me to the beginning of the letter, and so I’ll continue with the next 7 lines.

Setup: My heroine has traveled back to 1834 and has hit upon an idea to write letters to her friend in her own time so she can save her job. She has a scheme to try to deposit them at a bank in trust for her friend until the future rolls around and she can receive them. So here’s the first letter she wrote:

London, May 12, 1834

Dear Katy,

Are you sitting down? Seriously, if not, you need to. Okay. It’s your own fault now if you’re not. Wow, I’m stalling. Well, no doubt you’re confused. If the folks at Barclay’s Bank have followed my instructions you’ve received this on May 11th. On that night, we’re supposed to go see a movie, but I won’t make it. I can’t make it. Or, maybe I will if time runs differently. Anyway, can you do me a big favor and stop by my place and pick up Roanoke?

And now, 7 authors. I’m picking ones I know either through critiquecircle.com or writers I met before I started blogging, so as to spread the meme to other spheres:

Six Sentence Sunday – 3/18/12

Today is #sixsunday where writers share six sentences from their work. I’ll share a snippet from my time-travel romance WIP tentatively titled MUST LOVE BREECHES, which is now out in query land!

Here’s my new pitch/logline: When a thoroughly modern girl finds herself stranded in 1834 London, she must find a way home while navigating the pitfalls of London society, resisting her attraction to a hunky lord, and ultimately having to decide when her true home lies.  (You can see the other entries here.)

Since everyone’s been enjoying her ride in the curricle with Lord Montagu, I thought I’d pick up exactly where we left off last week. It seems appropriate too, since what he asks her in a bit is the Act One break/turning point. This is from Isabelle’s POV, and she and Lord Montagu are in a curricle (a type of carriage) in Hyde Park. She’s only been back in time for two days and he’s just called on her to ask her to go on this ride with him:

On the ride to the park, she had no idea what he expected, so she had kept quiet. But she also had a hard time keeping her seat, and more than once the jolting of the carriage bumped her against him. So this was why the young blades of the ton preferred driving a curricle. So that their ladies would accidentally brush against them. Or maybe to give the ladies an excuse to seek their beau’s protection, with a Pretend Squeal thrown in?

Without even looking at him, every movement he made registered in her consciousness, every tilt of the head to a passing male acquaintance, and a few darting glances at her.

As always I welcome constructive feedback. Thank you!

To see snippets from others who are participating or to sign up yourself, visit here.

Thank you to everyone who comes by and comments each week! Have a great Sunday!

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Vader Hugging a Unicorn

Song playing right now on my playlist: “Bittersweet Symphony,” by the Verve. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Writing and the Writing Life:

Romance Writers:

  • Sarah Wendell does an awesome post in reaction to 50 Shades and everyone in the media shocked to learn that women enjoy sex: Romance, Arousal, and Condescension
  • Merry Farmer writes an awesome post in reaction to a Philadelphia magazine article about the sorry state of the modern male which could explain why women like to read about Alpha males in romance: Where Have All The Good Men Gone?
  • Apparently we’re hitting the fruit too much, specifically cherries and berries, when describing nipples– this post will either have you chuckling or groaning: A Description of Nipples
  • Romance author Beth Dunn does an excellent and humorous overview of men’s fashion, specifically their pants, in the Regency and why some eschewed underwear (they didn’t want a panty line!) in her post at Wonders & Marvels: The Turn of the Leg

Ada Lovelace:

Jane Austen:

Browncoats:

And I’ll leave you with this:

Pantsers – Done with your first draft and not sure what to do with the god-awful mess?

imageYou’ve finally finished your first draft and you’re ecstatic. You should be! Many aspiring writers never get that far!

Go out and celebrate!

As many writers will tell you, take a break. Long enough to forget the little details. Week, two weeks. A month.

Then do a reread (without editing!)

Did you flip out at how much work you have to do? Are you staring at it, wanting to shove it under your bed and just forget about it permanently because it would be just too much work to fix?

You are not alone. Pantsers have this trouble more than plotters, but as Stephen King said ‘all first drafts are piles of %&^%^’ (or something like that).

Knowing that, though, and then wondering how the heck you’re going to tackle it is daunting. How you need to approach it is like a trauma surgeon in ER– tackle the crucial, bleeding parts and amputate/bandage as needed. No use polishing prose on stuff that will need to be cut. So how to analyze? Focus gobbling up any and all craft books on plotting and do the work that plotters actually do before they start to write. Basically, you’ve created a novel length outline/synopsis and now you need to create a structure. (Plotters, you can keep snickering. We know we’ve created more work for ourselves)

There are many things to do, but I will focus on one craft book today to illustrate. The book most people recommend is Blake Snyder‘s Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, but I would like to focus on a successful fiction writer who applies the screenwriting tips to novels, Alexandra Sokoloff. She takes a lot of Snyder’s tips, but expands on them. One of her screenwriting tips is the use of 8 sequences, spread through the 3 Act structure. In the picture above, you’ll see my storyboard with colored stickies for each scene that I created after reading her book. The board itself is not only divided up into the 3 Act structure (with Act 2 divided in half) but also divided by sequences. Each sequence should have a climax too.

She has written two e-books on story structure: Screenwriting Tricks For Authors (and Screenwriters!) and Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors II. I hate reading craft books on my Kindle, it’s just so cumbersome to me, but it’s the only version she currently has. I did ask her about print versions, and she’s hoping to have those available maybe by the end of the year. Anyway, if you’re a romance writer, you might want to skip the first book and just get Writing Love, as it’s the same as the first one, but expanded to include elements for love stories.

What I loved about the books, besides breaking up the traditional three-act structure into eight parts, is that she goes into more detail than Snyder on what elements need to be in place in each act. There’s also fun homework, like watching movies and seeing how, on cue, the sequence climax falls exactly where it should almost to the minute. In a 2-hour movie, the first sequence climax will be at the 15 minute mark, and then the Act One climax will be at 30 minutes, etc.

image

So, I made stickies on my board (blue for hero’s POV and pink for heroine’s) and then wrote down what happened and stuck them up on my new board (which I can now re-use for new WIPs). I then went over all of her elements to see if I was missing anything. Boy, was I! It really helped me pull it into shape big-picture wise, but it also helped me add subtle layers of subtext. Pictured here is a closeup of some stickies where I wrote the elements in all caps on the appropriate sticky.

I can’t say enough about how helpful this book was. There’s more to it than just this. She also delves into theme, and insuring you have a consistent thematic image system and how to engage readers with visual storytelling.

Her blog has all of it on there for free, if you’re short on cash, but I found it handier (Kindle still easier to absorb this stuff than clicking through web page links) to get the e-books.

How about you? Are you a pantser and do these things that plotters do when facing revisions? What’s your favorite craft book? Have you used Sokoloff’s tips?