Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Learning about my leads

Okay, so much for posting once a week. Can I use the excuse of being ridiculously busy leading up to Christmas?
I didn't think so.

Part of my problem is I don't want to blog unless I have something interesting or useful to say. Well, I've finally thought of something worth sharing, so here goes.

I am currently completing a course with the American Christian Writer's Guild. It's a two year correspondence course and covers the basics of both non-fiction and fiction writing, including a few lessons on understanding the publishing world.
I have FINALLY reached the lessons on fiction writing and am loving them. My mentor is an editor and always gives me such great feedback. I am learning so much.
The lesson I've just completed has been a fun one. I had to write a 5-7 page biography on one of the lead characters in my WIP. I included everything from family life to food habits, from the clothes he likes to how he spends his money. It was a fascinating task and I am now going to do another one of my other lead character.
Over the years, I have been guilty of not knowing my characters well enough, simply giving them history as I needed it, making up things as they came into play. After doing this biography I've realized just how much I was missing out. To write my characters convincingly, I need to know them intimately. Even if I never mention their history in my text, I have legitimately built this character into the back of my mind and I know why he does or says anything.

I'm sure most of you do this already, but if you don't, I really encourage you to start learning about your characters. It's a fascinating process and will make your story so much better.
Here is a list of things I was told to start with. I have added other things and built from there.
- The nature of their childhood
- Fears
- What they love and what they hate
- General temperament
- Dreams and longings
- Vices
- Quirks
- Relationships: Everyone - family, friends, pets, colleagues, teachers, peers, etc
- Tastes in food, music, clothes, entertainment, recreation, transportation - you get the idea
- Education and career
- Appearance, health, disabilities
- Secrets
- Details of their history
- Gifts and talents
- Verbal habits
- Where they live, and why, and how they feel about it.

Well, good luck and have fun learning about your leads :)

Oh yeah - Happy New Year too. May 2010 be a good one for ya :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Testing the waters

I am school teacher, well, when I'm not being a mother that is. I substitute teach at the local middle school I used to work at before having my son. Having just finished at young adult trilogy that has been rejected by a few agents, I decided I'd test out my work on my target audience.
My friend's class has about 11 kids that were willing to read my work and give me some honest feedback. It's been awesome. So far the kids are loving it, but they have had a few things to say about character development and the odd scene that bugged them. When they have finished all three books, I'm going to pull them aside and interview them further on their thoughts.
Now granted, these kids are not seasoned writers. I understand this is not a professional critique, but I am finding this a really helpful exercise. I agree with the things they have mentioned and totally understand why they have given me this feedback. I'm looking forward to sitting down and undergoing a big revamp before starting to query agents again.
I guess what I'm most excited about, is that if the kids are bounding up to me at recess begging me for the next book then I might just be on to a good thing.

Staying in touch

I'm sure you all do this already, but I'm going to write about it anyway.
Time only allows me to follow so many blogs, but I have found five that I try to check most days and I am learning so much about writing and the business. There is a wealth of knowledge out there from people who know what they're talking about. It is totally worth making the time to read what they have to say.
Not only am I refining my craft and storing away useful tidbits of information, I am also getting to know these agents and discovering their style. It helps with querying. When I'm choosing who to query next, I take the time to read through their blog. It tells me exactly the kind of query letters they like, the genres they have the best contacts for. It also gives me a really great idea about the kind of person they are and whether they would be a suitable agent.
I know it's tempting to rush onto another agent when you receive that rejection letter, but I think it's worth taking the time to research an agent thoroughly before asking if they want to represent your work.
To the bloggers I regularly follow - thank you. I so appreciate the time you take to write your blogs and give us writers a chance to improve.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The rejection

I've been sending out queries for a couple of months now. I had five query rejections before I got that magic e-mail that asked for more. Man - that was super exciting. I stopped sending queries and began the waiting game. Well the waiting game is over and I'm back at the beginning. I have to admit that I was disappointed. I didn't want to touch the keyboard for a couple of days, which surprised me. I thought I was tougher than that. It has now been five days since hearing word and I am now ready to dust myself off and try again.
Self-doubt badgered me all morning, but I have managed to ignore its ugly voice and sent out three more queries. I feel really good now. I know I will probably get more rejections, but every rejection teaches me something new. If all the agents start saying the same thing, then I've got some work to do, and I'll do it.
I want to be a great writer and the only way to become that is to put myself out there and learn whatever I can... even if it is through a rejection letter.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The waiting game

I have just completed a young adult fiction trilogy that I'm hugely excited about. I'm currently preening and perfecting it, with the hope that there is an agent out there who would love to take it on board.
Now comes the hard part. Getting it accepted. I am currently in the throws of learning all about how to do that and I'm loving every moment of it.
Except... the waiting. The waiting sucks!
You spend hours debating over every syllable of your query letter. You revise it to perfection. You spend hours reading agent blogs, finding ways to show them that you've done your research and you know a little about their style. Then you compose your e-mail, press that send button and wait.
Over the next few days I find myself obsessively checking my e-mail, willing a response to pop up on my screen. Even if it is a rejection, you know where you stand. You can feel sad then pick yourself up again and move on. But the waiting - that is just painful.
I guess this whole process is teaching me the art of patience and I should be very grateful. A little waiting never hurt anybody... just possibly made them mentally unstable :)
Any suggestions on how to make this part of the journey easier are more than welcome!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Let It Begin

Learning the ropes of the writing world is a fascinating and daunting task. My dream of one day being published burns bright as I climb this steep hill.
In my enthusiasm to make this dream a reality I have made a few errors that I want to share in the hope that others will not make the same mistakes. Just a few tips from a very junior member of this profession...
1. Slow down - take the time that's needed to make your work shine.
2. Research, research, research - read blogs from other writers, read books designed to help you, chat to people in the business. Nathan Bransford's blog is FULL of awesome info to really help us "newbies" out.
3. Don't give up.
I am currently unpublished and in search of an agent. I have written several manuscripts now, two of which I think are ready to go. I will continue to put myself out there and learn what I can along the way.
I encourage everyone out there with the desire and follow through to finish a novel. I know how hard it is :) Keep putting yourself out there... the right way... you never know what the future holds.