Wednesday, June 17, 2009


There is nothing like fixing your mistakes to make you aware of how sloppy you've been. Isaac notices this when he has to do the dishes. Emma pouts when she has to stuff all of her possible outfit combinations back into her drawers. Eli is very good at distracting me when he's got Legos to pick up (those things are everywhere, but he makes some amazing Star Wars ships), so I'm not sure he's learned it, yet. Neither has Jonas.

But me...well. There is quite a list of sloppiness.
I draft in passive, participled, dangling phrases. I really use 'really' far too often. Some feel I have 'felt' too frequently. Misplaced commas and adverbs all over the place. Why do we have adverbs if editors hardly like to read them? It barely makes sense!
And that reminds me: exclamation points, dashes, ellipses. I must be prudent. I wouldn't want to use more than one a page (if I must use them at all).
But I wonder, why have them in the dictionary if they're so awful?
Why can't I 'just' write that my MC (main character) is sad? Why must I twist my brain to avoid saying what is going on? I must show it! No telling!
I have a list of words to search for and root out- am, was, must, really, which, very, and on and on.
I have stomped out injudicious use of the word just. Just one time. Just one more. Just give it back. Just over the hill. Just hold on. Just one more night. Is splitting the cookie just? If I could just...
I found over 400 uses of 'just' in 115,000 words. About one a page, but they are in clusters, perhaps concentrated in text I wrote after midnight.
I have scenes to combine, plots to examine, characters to motivate, effects to cause, and I am tired. First draft was a party. Clean up...not so much.

But, since I actually love writing, I make a pledge: to learn so much about why that it will become second nature, to clean up my mess, and never let it get so messy again. Next time, I will think just before I just put pen to paper. I will make an outline. Well, I won't pledge that. But maybe. Just maybe.
Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Do yourself a favor, and watch a sports movie.

It doesn't matter what sports movie it is, watch it. Field of Dreams. Hoosiers. Chariots of Fire. We are Marshall. Miracle.

I am usually lukewarm about watching sweaty guys bang into each other on tv (being there is good), regardless of if it's over a puck, a baseball, a volleyball, etc.- but drastic measures must be taken. There is a feeling that has been bringing me down. Unemployment rates. Companies going under- (that one's personal; it happened to us when hubby worked in the mortgage industry). Foreclosures. Food prices going up. With a family of six, the grocery budget has seen way more than 'slight increase'.

I understand that times are tough- but I think it's a good thing.

Keep telling yourself that, Kelly.

What I mean is...We can be more, do more. Sometimes it takes a catalyst to let it out.

An email about a real man (sans pants) driving through our neighborhood reached me today. It's the last day of school, and he chooses to cast this shadow over summer by throwing his perversion in our faces? I am ticked.

My kids are semi-free range. They walk home in a big, happy(mostly) gang from school. They play outside for hours with limited interruption from me; going from our backyard to the many neighbor's backyards, calling when they are invited inside a friends' house.

What am I going to do? I will emphasize that they stay in backyards, not frontyards, and they know where to go for help. But I still feel scared.

I drove down to the back entrance of the school, waiting on the neighborhood road for them to walk by, telling myself I was there because of the light (very light) drizzle. But they never came. I checked the neighborhood pool (party going on, thought they might have wandered over, but they hadn't. Not surprised; they always come straight home.), called the office to see if Emma had a migraine and was in the office, but no.

Finally I drove to our locked home, and Isaac was on the front porch crying, Emma on the back. A mom-friend (who has driven them home before) had given them a lift. I just hadn't see them in their car, and they hadn't see me in mine.

So, where has caution gotten us? I feel scared, and the kids are crying.

This is where comes in: 'sports pep talks'. Or this gets you to Chariots of Fire.
We can do it. It's tough. We can still do it.

I truly believe that as individuals and a society we have a chance to do something beautiful with our lives.

I will take the spotty bananas and turn them into banana bread, made with whole wheat flour of course. I will allow the kids to play outside; put their helmets on them and let them ride their bikes.

Every sentence I type, I am straining myself, in a good way: Does it make sense? Is this the best way I can say that? Is that what I want to say?

I literally have to fight the resistance in my brain to keep thinking about it. I have to force my self to write, write, write.

On an agent Nathan Bransford's blog he urges us to bring our A-game, and warns that everybody, every genre, is hurting. He also says it's not impossible, just harder.

As an already compulsive editer (not editor), I don't like to hear that. How will I ever finish if it has to be totally perfect?

It's equivalent to saying, "I'm moving to LA, and going to star in the next Batman movie." Getting published is an equally shaky longshot. Who knows what publishing houses will be looking for? Who knows what other people are writing?

And part of me says, "Who cares?"

I will write because I have a story, and I love it. I need it to be written, even if it doesn't get me a house on the Lake (people in Columbia will know I mean Lake Murray) with the gobs of money from royalty checks (it's such a pain to have to endorse all of these things. My hand hurts!)

I am better for having written it. I am more confident of my ability to finish what I started. I am more sure that what I think and feel is real and important.

Anyone up for a run on the beach?
Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Editing and Persistance

How To Get Published

Okay, I'm not published, but here's how I'm going about it. I am writing an awesome story, and that has to be number one. I will estimate that I have spent two-hundred-fifty hours a month for seven months thus far writing a total of about 200,000 words, including all of the edits and deletions. (The finished MS should be around 100,000-110,000) I write whenever I can. Literally.

Right now, my four year old and two year old are sitting on my bed with me, playing with a deck of 'Go Fish" cards. Yesterday, when all four of the kids were playing on a big inflatable water slide at the neighbor's house, I sat out there and edited a chapter. (Thanks again for the laptop, hubby. Best birthday present ever. Ever ever ever.)

I remember when I was a kid, my grandma would pick a Harlequin Romance out of a big box that she and her sisters passed around, sit on the the swinging bench on the edge of the pond, and watch us swim for eight hours every summer day. I still don't know what she would have done if one of us had gone under. The water was brown with tannic acid from the cypress trees, and she couldn't swim. None of us drowned, so I feel okay about following her example.

Potty training while writing a book is a little more challenging, however. That's all I will say on it.

As the writing improved, I tried to get some home grown criticism, but decided it would be better for my relationship with my family if I sought impartial criticism from...impartial sources. That was tough for me. I honestly felt sick to my stomach waiting for that first crit. Down to the twentieth email notification of a new review, they all made me ill.

I'm over that; now I just get a little excited. There is a whole world of writers out there, and some of them are going to like what I'm doing, and some will have other preferences. They've all been helpful, though, since the different comments have given me new insight into what other people are bringing to the table.

So, do I start a blog, write some things so clever and interesting and helpful that people pass it on and a new weed is born? Perhaps, but I don't expect that.

Mostly I'm writing this because I want to. I have read a lot of blogs on writing: queries, synopses, hooks, POV, even articles as forward thinking as how to get a good contract!

What I hope is that the more contact I have with the writing world, the more I will understand the mindset of agents and publishers, and what they are trying to do. Why some books are published and others are not.

Is there really such a book as "this is fantastic, I couldn't put it down, but the timing is just wrong"? I'm not sure I believe in that. I think that is a nice way of saying "this is pretty good, but I don't think it will sell because it's missing 'something'."

I will not let 'something' elude me! I will be patient, waiting to query until I can read through the MS without having to stop and change anything. Seeing possibility for change is okay, but seeing something that has to change is not.

Here is my anticipated querying process, step-by-step.

1. write query (this is the hardest part. I've done four versions already)
2. send query via email (no stamps needed, no SASE- very good)
3. wonder if the query has arrived (SKIP this step! I love it! I will save three days of obssessive worry right here!)
4. wonder if they've read it.
5. three months later, still wondering if they've read it?

I am hoping that the turnaround on emailed queries is faster than this, as it is purported to be. I have a short list of agents that claim to reply within a day or two most of the time. That is extremely attractive to me. Even if it's a no, I'm okay with that.

My query is developing, just like the book has, and they'll both be ready one day. In the meantime, it has helped me answer coherently when someone asks me what I'm writing, instead of 'it's about this girl, and, um...she has this uh....problem..."

I hope that I am correct in assuming that, though I will be sick about the first round of queries I send out, it will not kill me. Then the second round will not be too bad, and eventually, agents will be just as much 'real people' to me as crit partners are. Real people who should just give my book one little chance. Pretty please?

That's my plan. Editing and persistance.

Excuse me now, I have to go mop...somehow the floor got wet.
Glutton for Punishment?