Stop Asking Me That!

I dread going to writer’s club meetings for one reason – the question.  And that is, ‘What do you write?’

It’s a natural question, no more intimidating than, ‘What do you do for a living?’ or ‘Are you married?’ or ‘Do you have children?’  Although, come to think about it, people don’t much like those questions either.  They’re used under the guise of harmless conversation, and we all default to them from time to time.  But the truth is that they are tools used to assess the character, status, quality, etc. of the new acquaintance.  Similarly, judgements fly following the dreaded, ‘What do you write?’  Of course, no one lets on.  People smile and nod with looks of intent fascination as you prattle on about your chosen field.  But here’s what they’re really thinking:

Literary fiction?  Sure you do, honey.

A World War II novel?  God if I have to read another one of those…

Fantasy/Sci-fi/Steam-Punk/Historical Fiction?  Oooookaaaay……

Upmarket fiction, eh?  In other words, you don’t have a clue, do you?

Ah, well.  The answer is, I suppose, that I need to get a spine.  I need to lay it on the line, or admit that I don’t know, opinions be damned.  And, I should take heart.  I should remember that the guy asking the question might be just as clueless as I am.

Hello. It’s Me.

Hello again, writing world.  I see you’ve all gotten on just fine without me.  :)

My last post was in February, and I quickly went from taking a break for a week to pushing writing aside all together.  So here I am, trying to get back into a routine.  I’ve got a new novel idea, and I’m going to try outlining this one.  I’ve found a new novel called The Wonder, and I hope that it will be a good comp for The Scars of Martyrs.  Fingers crossed, since the hunt for one back in the winter knocked me down.  Here is a link of the author, Emma Donoghue, talking about her latest project.

Stepping back into the blogging world will, hopefully, be the shove that I need to get started again.  After all, I would hate to abandon you again.  And while I say that jokingly, I do feel a sense of ‘coming home’ with this return.  I’m glad to see your pictures, glad to revisit your blogs.  I’m forever surprised by this blogging world and what a nice community it can be.

 

Pass The Foie Gras, Please

I’ve been delving into the world of non-fiction lately, and one of my recent finds has me ready to buy a beret and my husband bemoaning my enthusiasm.

It’s a book by Karen Le Billon, and it’s called French Kids Eat Everything.

For those of you with kids (especially picky eaters), stop what you’re doing now and go buy the book. Right now. I’ll wait…

And for the rest of you who don’t have kids, listen up. This book is for you too. Here’s the gist: Food is central to French culture (duh). They respect food and mealtime and demand that their children do the same. Now before you imagine totalitarian parental control, and pain and suffering for parents and youngsters, bear with me. Rules and a little discipline at mealtime do not an unhappy family make. The French have mastered the art of eating well, and they pass that art on to their children, which means that they have a serious leg up on those of us who live outside of their culture.

“We’re not French. We’re never going to be French!” my husband tells me. And to him I say, you’re missing the point. I don’t want to be French. I’m sure there are aspects of my life that I’d prefer to theirs. But not food and the culture that surrounds food. Tell me, what is wrong with a little discipline in eating habits? What’s the problem with reining in snacking, introducing a new item to the menu, expecting your child to at least taste what you provide, and putting a table cloth and candles out at dinner?

Yes, you too can use cloth napkins.

I have another non-fiction book on using linens, and what do you think my husband thinks of it? Well, that’s another blog post for another time.

 

Just An Idea

My son’s birthday is coming up soon, and he received a gift that I just might have to steal from him.

It’s an award-winning children’s book called ‘What Do You Do With An Idea’ by Kobi Yamada.  But this gem of a story should not be read by or for children alone.  It must be lifted beyond the messy chaos of the playroom, away from the kids’ bookshelf that overflows with rhymes about dinosaurs (nothing against dinosaurs, mind you), and given pride of place in the adult library.

It is the story of a simple idea, born without intention and determined to follow its young owner who questions what he should do with it and what others will say about it.

Sound familiar?  It does to me, and it likely will for so many of you who battle to keep your ideas alive, to protect them from criticism (especially your own), and to see them through to the point that they blossom and become somehow bigger than yourself.

Buy a copy of this book.  Look at it every day and remember that the end result of your idea is not the goal.  As with everything in life, it is the journey you take with your idea that matters.

Advice from a Sharpshooter

There are a lot of quotes out there about striving to meet a goal.  I recently stumbled across this one from Annie Oakley and thought I’d share it.

Aim at a high mark, and you will hit it.  No, not the first time, nor the second and maybe not the third.  But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect.  Finally, you’ll hit the Bull’s Eye of Success.

 

Happy New Year!

There is nothing I love more than putting out my Christmas decorations except, perhaps, putting them all away again.  It’s very cathartic.

So, as the new year begins, here’s to starting fresh, making great resolutions, and keeping every one.  Hope it’s a great year for you all!

Which comes first…the novel or the market?

Writers are often told not to write ‘to the market.’  We’ve got enough dystopian, Twilight-esq, and Harry Potter wannabe novels out there.  Hell, if I find one more novel set during World War II I might vomit.

Don’t search the bestseller lists and craft your story to match.  But when you follow that advice, take care, or you might end up in my situation.

I’ve started querying, and I’ve been told that I need to find a better, more recent comp.  But quite frankly, I am having no luck.

How do you best find a comp?  Am I looking for a similar tone?  A similar story line?  Similar theme?  Similar character development?  Several of those all together?  Am I looking at novels geared toward adult women since an editor agrees that my writing is good for upmarket women’s fiction?  Or should I instead focus on YA since my protagonist is seventeen?

I wrote my novel without regard for the market, but in doing so I may have made a rookie mistake.   I took the advice too literally.  Instead, I should have been reading widely in the areas of YA and Upmarket Women’s in order to clarify my audience.  I should have been researching to understand the marketability (or lack thereof) of novels with a spiritual bent.  I should not have written without a better understanding of my end goal.

Perhaps the better advice is to write your original story while keeping an eye on the market.  Don’t disregard it entirely.  Familiarize yourself with it.  Or you run the risk of having a story to sell and no clue about who might want to buy it.

 

The Twelve Days of Writing

Well it’s December 12th, and this seemed appropriate. Enjoy, and happy holidays!

On the twelfth day of writing my true love gave to me…

Twelve books on writing
Eleven bloggers blogging
Ten readers critiquing
Nine agents rejecting
Eight commas splicing
Seven plots unfolding
Six narratives braiding
Five novels written!
Four that won’t sell
Three more in mind
Two manuscript requests
And a house that will publish my book!

Who Cares About Talent?

I know a local singer who recently complained about Taylor Swift.  This person lamented, saying, ‘She really doesn’t have a very good voice.’

Well this musician has completely missed the point, hasn’t she?  Who cares about whether or not Taylor Swift has a great voice?  The girl had a lucky streak and made it into the limelight.  She found a style of music that appealed to people, and she worked it all to her advantage.  Good for her.

Finding success has little to do with raw talent.  It has to do with taking the talent you have, knowing your audience and marketing yourself accordingly.

Not as easy as it sounds.

Here’s to all of us who hope to be a little less like the local, lauded prodigy and a little more like the smart-as-hell Taylor Swift.

Talking to Literary Agents

In preparing for a writer’s conference, I have been hunting around online for advice on how to talk to agents and editors. A simple task, I know, but kind of intimidating. You’d think I was preparing to speak to God.

Turns out I’m not alone. Turns out the agents can sense our fear a mile away. It’s not that hard when some poor soul is sobbing on your shoulder seconds after spewing something resembling a pitch.

For all of you preparing to go face to face with an agent or editor, take a minute and read this from agent, Janet Reid. Then read this one from Mary Kole. They’ll give you some perspective, and God knows we can all use a little of that.