Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Survival Tip #9 - Chill Out

There will be things in this business that will irritate the holy beans right out of you.  There will be people in this business that will make you want to tear your hair out.  There will be instances when you want to beat your head on the desk until the desk breaks or you pass out - whichever comes first.

There will be people who mispronounce your name.  There will be people who put you on email lists and Goodreads groups.  They will invite you to things on Facebook.  They will sign you up for newsletters.  You will get spam from every organization that ever had a toe in the seamier side of publishing.

You'll get one-star reviews.  You'll get snotty comments.  You'll have people say they hate your work or that they hate you.  There will be readers who just didn't get what you were trying to say, and there will be ones who got what you were saying and hated it anyway.  

When any of this happens, chill out.

At least in public.  In private you can wail and gnash your teeth.  You can call every single person who ever pissed you off all the vile names you can think of.  You can turn into the nastiest, most petty person who ever walked the earth - as long as you do it where no one in the industry can hear you.

And even then, after you loose all that frustration on your private world.

Chill out.

It's hard to work with all that anger seeping through your pores.  Well, unless you really need to write that kind of scene.  Channeling all that into some excellent, tension filled writing is a great way to chill out.  As long as it's chilling you out and not riling you back up again until you do something stupid.

Because in this business, writers (and even agents and publishers) who don't just chill out drive people away.  Who wants to work with someone who lets all the little things whip them into a frenzy?

Just a thought.  What do you think?

*FYI - It's entirely possible that as you're reading this I'm partway into a journey to Michigan, so I won't be around to moderate comments after a certain point today.  Leave one anyway and it'll be up on the site as soon as I can get to a computer with internet access. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Check This Out

If you get a chance, stop by the Word Whores and check out Jeffe Kennedy's post: Why Your English Teacher Was Right All Along.

You'll never look at curtains the same way again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Survival Tip #8: Getting Personal

I know I said in the first Survival Tip not to take any of this personally... unless you already made it personal by writing about your life in some kind of vaguely fictionalized way.

Case in point:  The Query Shark's latest chum.  (My apologies.  Apparently, he asked to have his query removed right after it went up - and after I wrote this post - so the 'case in point' will have to fly without your actually being able to look at query #237.)


This poor guy wrote a book about his life and added some fictional elements to snazz up the place.  And what he got was a poor treatment of his life and a poorer treatment of his query.  (Not that Ms. Reid wasn't justified.  He asked for it; he got it.  Toyota.)

If you feel like you MUST write about your life in some kind of fictionalized way, you're going to end up taking the rejections personally.  Who wouldn't?  See, this is why my college English professor told us all that we needed distance from any story before we could do the story justice.  Distance, my friends, is the getting personal without letting all the rejections get personal.

I feel bad for the guy who offered himself up as bait for the Shark.  He thought his life was pretty interesting.  It probably was.  Hell, my life has had its share of interesting bits.  I've even thought about writing some of them down in what would have to be a fictionalized memoir (because I can't remember all the details of the events - not because I want to pull a Mr. Frey.)  I haven't written it because I was too close.  I may always be too close.  Hell, I'm living this life, so it's kind of hard to divorce myself from it.

On the other hand, they do tell you to write what you know.  And as Ms. Reid pointed out in her critique, the gentleman did do that - perhaps to extremes.  I think the idea, though, is to weave bits of yourself into your work.  It is not to have yourself and that work be intertwined.

There's nothing wrong with getting personal, folks.  But like Aristotle said 'everything in moderation'.  Take bits of yourself to weave the tapestry, but don't give all of yourself.

Because, let's face it, folks - no matter how interesting we think the entirety of our story is, it just won't sell as is.

What about you?  Have you ever thought of writing a memoir?  Do you use bits of yourself into your fiction?  How much is too much?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Guest Post: "Getting Physical" by Silver James

At the moment, I’m wrestling with a scene in my WIP. It involves a lot of action. One of the toughest things to write, in my opinion, is physical actions. No, I don't mean fight scenes, though those present their own set of complications. I'm talking about an actual physical act—picking up a sandwich and taking a bite, rolling over after making love, watching someone from across the room. A writer has to walk a fine line between narrative and dialogue as is. Where exactly does room to play with physicality come in?

I fear I come down on the side of narrative over dialogue. When I'm writing, I SEE the scene unfolding in my imagination just like a movie. The trick is to translate what I see in my head to words so my reader can experience the scene as well.

In a romance, the act of eating or drinking can become a sensual turn on. The way a woman licks her lips, the tip of her tongue brushing across the corner of her mouth to capture a stray drop of wine, the way her throat works as she swallows, the half-lowering of her eyelids as she savors the flavors in her mouth all become visual cues to the hero as he watches her--and hopefully turns him on! Conversely, our heroine may watch the hero work (or work out), and that bead of sweat dropping from his rugged chin to slide down his muscled chest, rolling inevitably toward a place she's forced her eyes not to stare and now finds she can't look away from as her imagination runs rampant.

Stepping away from the heat for a moment, just the physical act of our hero and heroine walking down a street together becomes a glimpse into their personalities. Does he stay on the outside, toward the street? Is he half a step ahead of her to ward off any clumsy oaf not watching where he's going? Or does he let her take the lead? Do they hold hands or does he keep his arm around her shoulders or waist? How does she walk? Does she bounce, or slouch and scuff her feet? Does she keep her head up, eyes roving the faces around them? Does he? Is his stride so long she has to trot to keep up? Or does he slow down, matching his gait to hers? So many questions! (And yes, Iffy is bouncing over there across the room wanting to play “What if?”)

As writers, we want to show, not tell. By getting “physical,” we can impart a great deal of knowledge to our readers by giving physical cues. Instead of saying, “He was angry at her” show the reader. “His eyes narrowed to slits above his flaring nostrils and she watched as his hands clenched into fists, his right one raising as if to throw the first punch.”

As a writing exercise, find a picture of a couple and write a brief paragraph about it. What does the photo “say” in terms of action, setting, mood, and emotion? How would you describe those things? What feelings are the couples expressing about each other and their surroundings? Can you paint a word picture that effectively conveys the sense of time, space, and emotion by describing their physical reaction to the action, setting, mood, and emotion? Do you do this automatically in your own writing or do you add this as a layer when you go back to revise your first draft?

This link is a quick cheat sheet I've found helpful when I need a reminder of what physical reactions a person might have (when I don't have time to stand in the mirror and make faces and poses—lol) As you write or revise today, think about how you can get more physical and beef up your writing at the same time.


With a rampant imagination aided and abetted by a Muse who runs with scissors, Silver James loves to share the stories created in that vast cosmic void pretending to be her mind. Over the course of her lifetime, she's been a military officer's wife, mother, state appellate court marshal, airport rescue firefighter and forensic fire photographer, crime analyst, and technical crime scene investigator. Retired from the “real world” now, she lives in Oklahoma and spends her days at the computer with her two Newfoundland dogs, and the cat who rules them all, writing tales of mystery, mayhem, and magic. Oh, and a little romance.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Looking Ahead

Stop by here on Monday for a special guest post from Silver James: Getting Physical.  Should be loads of fun.  =o)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Traditional Publishing Dollars

If you were ever wondering what the financial numbers are like for the traditionally published:

Or like they say, 'don't quit your dayjob'.  Unless you're like me and have a spouse to support you while you write.  Or you're independently wealthy.

But, hey... if you're in this for the money, you're probably not in the right profession.  Writing is its own reward. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Survival Tip #7 - We're All Afraid of Something

Ever get that roiling sense of nausea in the pit of your belly just thinking about something?  Maybe it's something easy to point to - like spiders or heights.  Maybe it's not.  Perhaps it's something so abstract you can't put your finger on it without a few therapy sessions or several long hours of really deep introspection.

As a writer, this amorphous fear can totally stall us.  We're terrified of something, but we're not quite sure what.  Are we scared of rejection?  Lord knows we get enough of it in this biz.  Are we terrified no one will like the words that came out of our heads?  Just talking about it is making it hard to type.

I don't know if it helps you to hear this, but we're all afraid of something.  (Yeah, yeah, you've been told that before - but have you really heard it?)  Even best sellers get the creeping willies about some aspect of this business - be it their own writing or the public's reception of said writing or whether they have another book inside them when their brain feels as fertile as the Sahara. 

We're all in the same boat here.  And it helps to remember that.  So, if you're sitting at your computer, petrified by the thought of sending out another query or horrified over opening that new email from an agent or just stuck because you're afraid everything you write is garbage - wrap the idea around yourself as you forge ahead.

Because despite all the fears, you really do have to forge ahead. 

What are you afraid of?  Personally, I'm afraid of moths and of suffocation. I'm also harboring all the little writing fears described above, but I'm forging ahead.  Are you?

Monday, February 4, 2013

No Guest, but Check This Out

I couldn't find a guest for this week, but we should have an awesome post for next week (if all goes according to plan).  Meanwhile, check out this new blog from one of the gals at Nelson Literary Agency:

I heard about this in this month's Nelson Agency newsletter (if you don't subscribe, go do that - it's worth it), and after looking at a couple of posts, I think Word Cafe is going to be an excellent resource for us unpublished writers.

Also, if you're not doing anything else, go comment at Tabula Rasa and maybe win a free book.

Or if you've got time tomorrow, stop by The Killer Chicks and read my pimpage post about Kerry Schafer.  (Comment there to maybe win a prize, too.)

Friday, February 1, 2013

This Just In

FYI: Jill Corcoran just announced she's re-opened to submissions.

The post includes what she's looking for.  Sadly, it's not anything I write, but that means there's more room for those of you who do write what she needs.

Good luck!

Also, if you have a NaNo 2012 novel and you think you're ready to pitch it, check this out: 

Let us know if you make the leap!  =o)