Happy Birthday – Free Critique Giveaway

funny pictures - Henry couldn't remember much about his birthday party, but from the taste in his mouth, he was sure he'd had a good time.

Today’s my birthday, and in the spirit of the Hobbits, I’m going to give a birthday present to someone else!

I really don’t know if any of you would want this, but in case you do, here’s what it is: A detailed critique of your first 5 pages.

I’ll look at opening hook, possible weak sentences, instances of telling, ways you can go deeper in POV. I’ll mark that puppy up!

If you’re interested, comment below with your title, genre and a short blurb and I’ll pick one winner.

I’ll take comments until midnight CST June 7!

My Fast Draft Experience

Humorous Pictures

Whoa! Hello World! I feel like I’m waking from a two-week stupor. Monday, May 14 I started Candace Havens’ Fast Drafting class where we committed to a certain number of pages for a 2-week period, the goal being to finish your first rough draft as fast as possible. If you need convincing on the soundness of this method,  hear this confession from a former scoffer and why she now embraces fastdrafting.

I found out about it a couple of days before the start date and thought “No Way”. I waffled, I felt nervous about signing up, I had the same feeling I had before I agreed to do NaNoWriMo the first time: that the word count goals would be impossible to do. Trepidation, in other words. All day that Friday, the signup link kept taunting me, and finally I scolded myself. I realized that I should sign up precisely because it scared the heck out of me. I’d found out by doing NaNoWriMo that writing 50,000 words in 30 days was totally doable. What if it was totally doable to do it in half the time and I was just too chicken to find out? I’d also realized that I had begun to find excuses not to start my new novel idea STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY a steampunk romance set in 1890 Mobile, Alabama. So I signed up.

And I did it!

Last night at 9:22 I typed THE END and had written 56,267 words in 14 days!

It feels rather weird, and frankly surreal at this point, especially as I wasn’t allowed to read any previous days’ writing. It just happened so fast. And more so than the other times I’ve finished a first draft, I feel like I have this shiny new baby that popped out of me all of a sudden and I’m wide-eyed with amazement and want to show others–Look! That came out of me in 14 days!….

How I did it

I’m not the only one who did this either, there were many in our class hitting their goals of 15 or 20 pages a day (mine was 15 a day, but there were days I did more and yesterday I did 31!). I thought I’d share my experience in case any of you would find it helpful.

  1. I already had a rough plan of how the story would unfold. This was the first time I’d tried to write a synopsis and work out plot points ahead of time. I’d done this work the previous month, so it was all ready and waiting for me when I started this. I used Scrivener and already had scene cards made for a lot of scenes. When I ran out of steam in one scene, I just clicked to the next and started writing it and didn’t worry about transitions or anything. That can be fixed in revision
  2. As Candace advised, tell your Internal Editor to take a hike. I’d struggled with this already in NaNo and had learned how to do this, but it was hard in the beginning to get back in that groove coming off of a year-plus of just revising. I had to tell myself as I typed: “Yep, just used a cliché.” “Yep, that’s a bit of telling” “Yep, not the best way to describe that” “Yep, I just named an emotion instead of describing it viscerally” and kept typing. I looked on all these as placeholders that I’ll tackle and rework in revisions. That I was just getting the basics down and the pretty will come later. No one will see this draft, I also had to keep telling myself. I gave myself permission to write crappy.
  3. If I didn’t know something and couldn’t find the answer in two minutes of Google-Fu, I just typed in brackets things  like [look up how they did this] or [describe this better] or even used _____ for place names or names of things I didn’t know yet, and kept typing. I also used the Document Notes in Scrivener for each scene and typed out things I’d need to look up in revision for that scene. I also kept forgetting about her pet monkey and found myself typing “Forgot about Loki in this scene again! Fix”
  4. #1k1hr — Seriously this hashtag on Twitter I owe a serious debt to. I made many new friends that way too. I think almost every hour I wrote I used this tag. It really helped me focus and cut down a ton on my compulsion to check out what’s happening on the web. I knew that when that hour was up, I had to say my word count, and I really wanted it to be over 1000 so it made me push. One time I wrote 1858 words in one hour, but typically I averaged around 1200-1500. So what I found out was that I could knock out my page goal in three hours.
  5. I woke up 1/2 hour earlier to get in more writing time before work. I already had 2 hours and 15 minutes set aside for this before, now I had 2 hours and 45 minutes. Depending on how fast things were flowing, I could get between 8 to 14 pages done before I even went to work! Usually it was around 10 pages, which was so nice to be able to know that when I came home, all I needed was one hour to wrap up my daily goal.
  6. I think Candace’s idea to focus on pages instead of words is a solid one, psychologically. I remember agonizing some days during NaNo to squeeze out the requisite 1667 daily word goal because that seemed large somehow and so mentally I’d made it large and would think, okay just got another 50 words down. Now, since it’s by page, it just seems more attainable and it becomes so. Now you’re thinking, okay just one more page and ding another 250 words has been written.
  7. I worked in chunks of time, which built up my page count over the course of the day. Whether it was 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes, I’d set my wordcount tracker in Scrivener and type. For 1 hour, I had it set to 1000, which totally seemed attainable and usually was. I had no idea how many pages I’d written until I went to “Compile” at the end of my session and counted. That’s how I knew where I stood going into work, i.e. that I only had 5 pages to write when I got home, etc.

What I learned

  1. I learned to trust myself more. I also oddly found out that I’m a morning person (had always thought the opposite) and that I seemed more creative and inspired in the morning, go figure! (My mom probably just fainted from shock).
  2. I learned that I can’t plot my romantic story line too well ahead of time. I knew before going in that I didn’t know how it would play out. I had a solid action plot, but I didn’t know my turning points for my H/h. I just couldn’t picture it. What I had seemed too forced. So I trusted myself that it would unfold as I got to know the two characters better, and you know what? It did. They surprised me!

There’s more I’ll learn as the process continues. We get a two-day break and then we start Revision Hell, which will be like Fast Drafting, only applied to revisions. One of the rules of fast draft was to not reread what we’d already written, so I’m dying to know what I actually wrote! Kind of scared too! So I’ll write another post later to let you know how that process goes. I also want to do another when this is over about my conversion from full Pantser to a Plotser (half-way between a Plotter and a Pantser)

Anyway, there’s plot holes, there’s minimal set dressing, there’s cliches, but hey, it’s written and now I have something to mold into shape during revision, which is more than I had two weeks ago!

Have you tried Candy’s Fast Draft class? What things helped you?

Six Sentence Sunday – 5/27/12

Today is #sixsunday where writers share six sentences from their work. I’m eager to share lines from my new short story BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS. If all goes as planned, I’ll have my polishing done and this will be going out on submission by Tuesday. Wish me luck!

Last week, Riley met his blind date for the night. Fast forward past dinner, and things have gotten serious, fast. They are now in an elevator, and Riley’s told her he wants her in a bad way, but extracts a promise that they be totally honest with each other and asks if she wants this (his hands are holding her face. her response, in her POV):

Tapping a seldom used inner streak of boldness, she moved her head to kiss his palm. She darted her tongue out and traced his life line. His breath hitched. She could swear his rich, brown eyes darkened.

Suddenly she was on him like white plastic on a Stormtrooper, shamelessly pressing against his body, groping and kissing him. He groaned, a good groan, cinched his arms around her waist and spun them until her back hit the wall of the elevator.

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! 

Six Sentence Sunday – 5/20/12

Today is #sixsunday where writers share six sentences from their work. I’m eager to share lines from my new short story BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS.

Riley is about to meet his blind date for the night, we’re in his POV, edited slightly to fit 6 sentences:

At the top, Juan swept back a leafy frond to reveal a granite table surrounded by lush foliage and a stacked stone wall. More torches sat in each corner, lending enough light to see by, but also adding a ton of atmosphere.

[Riley's] date faced the far wall, light flickering across the dark hair tumbling down her back. Shit, if he were the romantic type, he’d be in hog heaven with this setting. She slowly turned to face him.

His breath caught–Dear God, he was in heaven.

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! 

Blog going into low-wattage mode

Hello, I just wanted to do a quick post to say that for the next two weeks, there won’t be my regular posts to the blog. You might have noticed there was no Monday Hunk Who Reads post today.

I joined Candace Havens Fast Draft class at the last minute as a kick in the pants to get my new steampunk romance, STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY, rolling. She’d like us to output 20 pages a day for 2 weeks, which is about 70,000 words! More hardcore than NaNoWriMo! However, we are allowed to set our own goals, and mine will be 15 pages a day. Today was the first day, and I did 3559 words which came out to 16 1/2 pages!

So, until this is over, the only regular blog post I will be doing is Six Sentence Sunday.

If you’d like to do word sprints with me in the morning or evenings, look for me on twitter. I’ll be using the hashtag #1k1hr and #fastdraft.

See ya on the flip side (or on Sundays)…

Six Sentence Sunday – 5/13/12

Today is #sixsunday where writers share six sentences from their work. I’ll share a snippet from my time-travel romance WIP titled MUST LOVE BREECHES, which is now out in query land! (You can see the other entries here.) It finaled this past week in Virginia’s Fool for Love contest, in the paranormal category!

This might be the last from this story for a little bit. I’m eager to share lines from my new short story BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS. On that note, if anyone’s interested in Beta reading it (11K words), let me know…

Here’s my 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. 

This is the midpoint of the novel, right after she’s caught him sneaking around in a room at a ball. Oh, and she’s on top of him on the floor because she’d been surprised by him and tackled him to the floor before she realized who it was. Picking up one line later from last week (you only missed him smiling)–someone’s opened the door, he kissed her for cover, and she responded. When she heard the door close, she was startled and to his complete shock, she returned to his lips and asked “Where were we?”, and now (this is in his POV):

“I believe I was about to do this.” He angled his head and nibbled on her lower lip. A small moan escaped her. Emboldened, he deepened the kiss and found that she did not hesitate to explore on her own.

Blood rushed instantly to his groin, stiffening his arousal. Never had he met a lady so comfortable with her own sensuality.

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! Happy Mother’s Day!

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to a Sendak/Avengers Mashup

Song playing right now on my playlist: “Take a Chance on Me” ABBA

Writing and the Writing Life:

Jane Austen:

Browncoats:

In Geekdom:

  • And I’ll leave you with this:

What’s Been Up Lately With Me

I don’t do these often, but I thought I’d post about what’s going on.

I WENT PRO!

Oddly enough, Romance Writer’s of America (RWA) allows you to join their PRO ranks if you get a rejection! You have to prove that you are in the querying stage and also send them a copy of your complete manuscript. No extra charge, but now I have a groovy pin, am in a PRO listserv with others in the same stages, special tracks at the RWA conference this summer, and a shot at agent pitch timeslots before the general membership! So if you’re in RWA and qualify for PRO, take the small steps necessary and go pro!

AM NOW AN OFFICER IN OUR LOCAL WRITER’S GROUP

Last Thursday, I was honored to be elected the Vice President of the Mobile Writer’s Guild! I’m super excited to be a part of this dynamic and creative group and look forward to another year with everyone.

MUST LOVE BREECHES

Still playing the waiting game here with agents. This is really teaching me patience, which is a good thing. I stopped querying agents when I reached 18, just so I could get the feedback from this round. Based on the number of positive responses to my query, I’m having a 33% success rate. If I hear back from the rest all in the negative, the worst my query will have will be a 17% success rate. I’m told this is really good, so I know my query is solid enough. Right now I have  two partials and two fulls out. Why aren’t I sending out to more agents if my query is solid? I don’t want to blow through them all if my submission isn’t the strongest it could be. So that I could dovetail agent responses with ammo for making it better, I put out a call for a new round of Beta readers, and I got so many awesome replies! Especially from the #sixsunday crowd. Thank you! Those are starting to trickle in and I think the space I’ve taken away from the manuscript, coupled with their feedback, and hopefully agent feedback, will help me make it better.

Since I can be obsessive about things, I needed to step away from sending more queries. So, I started brainstorming for a new novel, which led to…

STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY

This will be a steampunk set in 1890 Mobile, Alabama. I’ve tried to be a reformed pantser with this one and pulled out my storyboard and brainstormed sticky notes, etc. I even wrote a 14 page summary. But I think I’ve learned, especially for the romantic throughline, that I need to pants parts of it. I really liked coming up with my opening and closing images ahead of time, and my theme, which should help me write a tighter first draft, but there’s just some things that don’t happen for me until I’m in scene and writing. I just learned a new term from an online RWA class this week–plantzer–and maybe that’s what I’ll end up being! Here’s my mini character bios for this story:

A fledgling reporter in 1890 Mobile, Alabama, adrenaline junkie ADELE DE LA POINTE must get the new job at the paper or her father will force her to marry his new business partner. Determined to remain independent and free to enjoy all life has to offer, Adele pounces on the Jack the Ripper-style murders plaguing her city as just the story she needs to get the job.

Fresh from London, immigrating to America is about the most daring exploit DR. PHILLIP RAWLEY has ever done, thank you very much. He wishes to settle quietly in his adopted town and marry a sweet, supportive wife. His employer’s beautiful and impulsive daughter does not fit that image. She works. She’s wild. She has an armored pet monkey running errands for her.

BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS

While brainstorming STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY, I came up with a title for another story, BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS. This is the first time I’ve thought of a title before the story, and it was a fun way to start one. I’d been wanting to try my hand at writing short stories on spec for specific lines at epubs, and so a couple of days later my brain finally caught up and put that idea and the title idea together. The title provided some character and setting ideas, and I sat down Friday a week ago and started writing. Boy it felt so good to be writing something new! I started out with just an idea of the characters and their premise and by Sunday I’d written 7K words. I finished it by Tuesday and have been polishing it since. It’s now over 10K and I had a lot of fun with it. It’s about a guy who owns a microbrewery and is a bit of a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy’s body. He longs to meet a smart chick, but in his line of work, and given his outward appearance, they don’t give him a second look. Will computer nerd Mirjam be the woman of his dreams?

I’m looking for Beta readers for this too, if anyone’s interested. I think it would be considered erotic romance, just because of the amount of sex in a short story and that’s how they find each other, but there’s no BDSM.

AUTHORSALON

Forgot to add this when I first hit publish. I’m still participating in the hard-core website www.authorsalon.com. The process is pretty rigorous, but I believe it’s worth it. Weekly I get emails announcing different agencies that want submissions from profiles that made it into their Showcase. I’ve received feedback from all my peers and just need to finish one more peer review, and then I’m going to make tweaks to my profile and call for a vote for advancement.

I highly encourage all authors serious about their writing to join this site!

How about you? What are you up to? Consider this an open thread to share the latest in your writing world. If you’re interested in Beta reading either of my new WIPs, just let me know. I will return the favor!

Six Sentence Sunday – 5/6/12

Today is #sixsunday where writers share six sentences from their work. I’ll share a snippet from my time-travel romance WIP titled MUST LOVE BREECHES, which is now out in query land! (You can see the other entries here.)

I am currently looking for Beta readers. If you’re interested, let me know. I’ve stopped querying to see how this batch takes and so this new round of Beta reading will be to help me tighten up what problems will have come to light.

Here’s my 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. 

This is the midpoint of the novel, right after she’s caught him sneaking around in a room at a ball. Oh, and she’s on top of him on the floor because she’d been surprised by him and tackled him to the floor before she realized who it was. Picking up a couple lines later from last week–someone’s opening the door, he kisses her for cover, and she responds, much to his astonishment and he kisses her back (which we’re skipping so we can get to the dialogue), and now (this is in his POV):

At the sound of the door closing firmly, Miss Rochon flinched slightly, breaking contact. “What was that?” she breathed.

“Nothing to worry about.” His voice was pitched lower and rougher.

“Oh, good.” And to his complete shock, she brought her lips back to his and whispered, “Now, where were we?”

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! 

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Whedon as Bathroom Coach

Song playing right now on my playlist: “Monday Morning” Fleetwood Mac

Writing and the Writing Life:

Ada Lovelace:

Browncoats:
  • If you’d like to see a Serenity LEGO model crafted by LEGO, sign up here. Less than 900 votes needed to make this a reality!
  • Have you seen Avengers yet?? I can’t wait to get some Joss Whedon goodness. Am going today if I can…
  • Did anyone else catch Nathan Fillion live tweeting Out of Gas and Ariel last Sunday? It was really cool, but distracting, as I was doing word sprints at the time. Plus it was making me sad hearing him talk of his love of the show.
  • for some Whedon weirdness, check out Whedon as Bathroom Coach (h/t the Nerdist):

In Geekdom:

  • check out what the instructions are on Google Maps for the walking option, if you type in directions for The Shire to Mordor
  • And I’ll leave you with this: