Friday, August 31, 2012

GUTGAA Meet and Greet Post

I'm participating in GUTGAA, and today we're posting our meet and greets! So here's the short Q&A for me:

Where do you write?
At my desk at home.

Go to your writing space, sit down, and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
A blank, white wall. I look down and see my printer.

What genre do you write?
Adult fantasy.

What's your favorite time to write?
Whenever I get the chance. If I'm on a good sleeping schedule I'm more productive in the mornings, and write a little at night to keep my book in mind while I sleep. I find lots of problems work themselves out and I wake up with the answers.

Drink of choice while writing?
Water. I hardly drink anything else, writing or not.

When writing, do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
Silence. Sometimes my children and husband are playing so loudly I retreat to the basement.

What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
Stories just pop in my head without any clear source on inspiration. Sorry if that's uninteresting.

What's your most valuable writing tip?
Keep learning. Whether you're watching online lectures, reading books on writing and editing, going to conferences, or just reading writer's blogs, keep learning. While practice makes perfect, these tools will tell you what to practice, and jump you forward.

Hello fellow GUTGAA participants! And to my normal readers, I'm going to change the pace for my blog (again). See the new schedule in the sidebar. See you tomorrow!

Writing Conferences

I was going to go to the Surrey International Writer's Conference (running from October 19-21) and pitch my book to editors and agents there (you get 10 minutes alone with them to do just this), but have decided against it.

I recently decided to split my novel at the natural division that has had me tied up in knots trying to write a decent query...but it's two stories! So part one will now be a separate novella, which as a new author I won't be able to sell, even though it's about ready for publication. And part two will be the book I'm working to get published, and maybe once it is people will want to know more about Eiva and I'll sell the novella then. This decision necessitates a major edit that will take me more than a month and a half to finish.

Also, the conference is really expensive (because of how excellent and acclaimed it is), and my family's not in the best position to sponsor such a trip.

But I do want to encourage any writers out there who want to be published to go to writing conferences. I've been to several throughout the years (on the learning side of it, not the hob-nobbing side), and they're an excellent way to learn the craft. Even if you have a hard time learning from lectures like me. It's beneficial both because expert authors and editors tell you what works and what doesn't, and because you are around of a lot of other aspiring authors, and you get a measure of how you compare.

And on the hob-nobbing side, all the authors I've ever met in person say they hooked an agent through writer's conferences. Trust me, I will be attending one, probably in 2013. You know, if the world doesn't end this year.

If you don't know where to find a conference, there's a good search tool here, which lists them first by location, and then by date.

Have a great Friday everyone!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Critiques

As you may or may not have noticed, there is a second section to my blog, one titled Critiques. You see, I am more interested in critiquing readers' writing than doing my normal type of blog post. Here's a re-post of the rules:

All I want from you, my readers, is a page-length example of your writing, which I will comment on in my blog.

By a page I mean 400-500 words. You can send me a query letter, one page of a story you're working on (the first page would be preferable), ect. Just one caveat: no poetry. I don't know how to write good poetry, and I have limited tastes in it. So give me some prose, and I'll take a look. I don't expect a lot of people to participate at first, so if you send me something I'm pretty likely to use it.

Send me an email at arbiterofsanity AT gmail DOT com, with the subject line reading “Submission for deskoflaura” with the writing you want critiqued pasted into your email, not as an attachment or a link.

And to set an example, here's me critiquing a page of my own writing (that I hadn't looked at in several months):


After some time he saw a small trail of dust in the air between him and the city, then before the cloud a lone figure, walking toward him. This sentence is confusing. Could be worked as “After some time he saw a small trail of dust rising in the distance. Later he could make out a lone figure, at the head of the dust cloud.” He sped to a trot, and soon he could make out more of the figure. “The figure” is repetitive from the previous sentence. He was an erichthion, his pale green skin glistening in the heat. Starting this sentence with “he” makes it sound like you're still talking about the viewpoint character, but halfway through we get it's about the figure. Perhaps start with “it” and keep the “his.” He flashed in the light, and as Andren got closer he saw the flashes were from bronze jewelry. Okay. The only other thing he wore were baggy dun-colored pants, whipping one way they another in the wind. I believe you meant “then” not “they.”
The way he moved seemed wrong. His tail swung behind him, and his arms and toes were very long. This sentence doesn't mesh with the one before it. Try rewording it, perhaps to “He had a tail, and his arms and toes were too long.” His bare chest bore no nipples, and his face seemed neither masculine or feminine. Pretty awkward. I would cut the whole sentence. And as he came within a few hundred feet of him, he realized the erichthion was almost a foot taller than him. Or “As they came within a few hundred feet of one another, Andren could tell the erichthion was a foot taller than he was.”
He slowed back to a walk at this point. Cut “at this point.” The erichthion's face was blank, and he remembered with horror that Vigilem had said they didn't have facial expressions. Cut “Vigilem had said.” We don't need to remember how they know it along with the information. How would he know what they were thinking? Change it to “what he was thinking” to avoid reader confusion about whether he's thinking about the race or the individual.
He stopped. “Hail.”
“Where?”
Andren shifted to his other foot. “What?”
“It is no good to answer a question with another question. I asked you where the hail was. In case you haven't noticed, it's very hot right now.” Could cut “right now” to make the erichthion less long-winded.
“Ah. Well the word 'hail' serves as a greeting to my people.” Same goes for “well” in this sentense. If he's supposed to be long-winded, sure, but if not, cut.
“Do you live somewhere very cold?”
“Not particularly, though it is cooler than here. Let me start over. I am Andren, King of Halvmane. I request amnesty.”
“Are you dead yet?”
He blinked twice. “No.” Very nice exchange here.
“You have been trailed for quite some time. A few hunters followed you while a runner returned to Thang for instructions. Not many of your kind actually seek us out.”
“Trust me, I was nervous to do so.”
The creature's eyes darted about his person, taking it all in. Calculating how to best attack me? His eyes returned to Andren's face. “The Matriarch decided that if you traveled away from Thang, you were to be killed. If you kept coming, you were only to be followed. Because of my recent transgressions the Matriarch has appointed me to attend to you.” Comma after “transgressions.”
“Talking to me is punishment?” Missing an “a” between “is” and “punishment.”
“Yes.”
Andren chewed his lip. “May I ask you what you did to be punished?”
“You may ask anything you like, but I won't guarantee I will answer you.”
Summary: This foreign race speaks too much like humans for my taste. It's a predator, make it use more visceral and action words. The description and action were fairly clunky, but the dialogue was better, with great pacing.

So don't be shy, shoot me an email with a page of your own writing, and I will tear it apart similarly.

And I'd like to announce that I will be posting on Fridays as well as Tuesdays from now on. See you then!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Incorporating Writing Advice

There is a lot to know about writing well. Sometimes that task of learning it all is daunting. Sometimes you hear a piece of advice that everyone agrees on, but no matter how hard you think on it, you aren't sure how to use it. An example of this is introducing the antagonist as early in the story as you can. It gives a greater sense of drive through the middle and a greater sense of satisfaction at the end if, the whole time, you know who the hero's trying to beat.

But what if the hero isn't told at the beginning (by a cliche old, wise man) who he needs to outdo? What if the plot isn't a big, cohesive piece, it's episodic?

This is an issue I've struggled with. In From Halvmane's Shore, Andren only finds out he needs to wage a war on Potestatem halfway through. It doesn't make sense in his character development to know before then. But practically everyone who's published says to introduce the main antagonist in the first chapter.

After struggling with this for years, I figured it out. In the first chapter, I had two characters talking about dragons, but not Potestatem specifically. So I changed it, just a little.

Dragons eat people?” Eiva asked, shocked.
Sometimes.”
How do your people keep from getting eaten, then?”
Sometimes they don't,” she said, her voice soft. She paused as if to collect herself. “The world is not as it should be. Potestatem is a cruel master.”
Sibeal's distress made Eiva want to take up arms and go slay the dragon who'd hurt her. But no matter how much she wanted to, such a feat was not something she could do.

As you can see, this conversation sets up Potestatem as a bad guy, while saying Eiva can't defeat him, which begs the question, Who can?

It's not a lot. Perhaps it's too subtle and I need to drop other hints throughout. But I think it's a great way to incorporate a piece of advice I'd been struggling with. All I had to do was keep in mind the advice, even when I couldn't find an immediate solution.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Politeness

Today I have an interview for a new job. If I succeed, I'll move up in the world: from a survey-taker to a pizza deliverer. I'm excited for the transition, though many would see both as crummy, low-paying jobs. For me, I've been struggling with maintaining my cheerful nature while talking to about 1,000 people a day, at least half of whom are cussing me out for calling them.

Now I do think that survey systems are set up to call people too often, too late in the evening, and the surveys themselves are written poorly in repetitive ways, but none of those things are controlled at all by the people making the calls. We are people who resorted to this job after searching high and low for other, better ones, but were unsuccessful. People who just want to pay their rent.

All this to say I've been thinking a lot about politeness. My coworkers have decided that when people are constantly rude to them, they return in kind. A polite tone lightly veiling snide remarks is the norm.  It's even encouraged by our superiors, to keep up our moral.

I decided personally not to engage in such tactics. I figured out that I believe when the world around you has become rude and mean, that is when remaining kind is the most important.

That thought carried me through to today, where I am on the verge of leaving the calling cubicle, hopefully for good. So goodbye, people who enjoy screeching into phones and cussing out people you've never met. Hello hungry people who are glad to see me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

SpoCon

So I attended SpoCon on Saturday, during the two hours it was going on that I wasn't at work. There I got to meet some pretty cool authors, such as Rosemary Jones, SA Bolich, Deby Fredericks, and Jane Fancher. After the workshop that these lovely ladies were panelists on, I went up to their desk and talked to them.

Most of them were genial enough, but both they and I knew they didn't owe me any one-on-one time. But Jane Fancher took a good thirty minutes or more after the panel to talk to me about my choices in writing, including a concern I had with my first book. It was such an unexpected, book-altering talk, I think I'll always remember it.

She asked me several questions about my book until I revealed that part one was all-but-one scene in the perspective of Eiva, my female lead, and part two was all-but-a-few scenes in the perspective of Andren. She asked me if I thought that both perspectives throughout the whole thing might be more intriguing and less jarring to the reader. I'd never thought of it, but I completely agree. Here I was, on the verge of trying to find myself an agent, and I just now found a tidbit of advice that drastically changes my book's narrative.

It means I need to edit my book one more time, which means I need to spend another few months on it before approaching an editor or agent, but I think it's worth it. My book will be better for it, but more importantly I've learned yet another trick of the writing craft, just when I thought I knew enough to get by.

Thanks for checking in with me. I'll be here again next Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Welcome

I'm new to blogging, and though I've found a lot of authors' and agents' blogs helpful, I'm skeptical of getting into it myself. However, I've been finding more and more people out there who say it's an important part of breaking into being a published author these days, so here we go.

My plan is to blog once a week to start out with, about my own writing, the craft in general, and things I find interesting. The first thing I would like to mention is a really great lecture I've been listening to by Brandon Sanderson. Many of the things he's said so far (I'm in lecture 7 right now) have been extremely helpful. Here's a link: Write about dragons.

That's it for today. See you next Tuesday.