Saturday, July 31, 2010

Good Luck

We're heading over to the awards dinner. Good luck to Keely from the Rockville 8!!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Night Lights in Orlando

Great time here at RWA nationals in Disney. Fireworks every night at nine o'clock on the dot. We can see them from our hotel room in the Dolphin. Yes, the fireworks are at Epcot, not in the bar.

I've met some wonderful people in the lobby of the hotel. My roommate and I often spend our extra time hanging out in the lobby chatting with folks. I love romance writers. We speak the same language and it doesn't matter if I never knew you before today, I'm the same species so I totally get you.

The keynote lunch speech today was given by Jayne Ann Krentz. She encouraged writers to identify your core story, know your market, and understand the importance of fictional landscapes to your readers. She talked to us about her career ups and downs over the years. I enjoyed hearing her speak. Not quite as much as I enjoyed listening to Lee Child speak yesterday, but that could be because I'm a sucker for a wonderful British accent. Now I'll have to read the Jack Reacher series.

I went to hear Linda Howard give her swan song on 12 Steps to Intimacy. It was awesome. She's retiring from speaking. I'd seen the list of her twelve steps before, but I really enjoyed her presentation. The delivery was flawless and funny. Definitely one you don't want to miss on the recordings folks.

Cherry Adair's workshop on Creating a Career Plan That Works was excellent. One of the best tips I got from her class was to identify your dream publishing house. Then find their debut authors and read their books. Ask yourself why they might have been published. It's a good way to begin to find that elusive quality editors are looking for in new authors and their work.

Also loved Suz Brockmann and Sarah Frantz's chat on Theme. Sarah is an academic and president of the International Association of Popular Romance Studies. She gave the literary critic's view of Brockmann's themes and Suz then revealed the theme she'd intended for each book. An interesting exercise. Brockmann's point was if you know your themes, or the themes you tap into in your stories, you can make them work for you to create a cohesive three-dimensional story.

I pitched to Pamela Ahearn and received a request for the first seventy-five pages of The Meggido Mark. Yay! Another pitch tomorrow morning to Emmanualle Alsphaugh (soon to be Morgan again). Wish me luck. I also won a critique by Holly Root for my query and first ten pages at the Pro Retreat.

Tonight the publishing houses throw their gala events. My roommate went to the Harlequin party and I'm sure many of the Rockville8 are off at the St. Martin's party since Jen Enderlin was gracious enough to invite all WRW members to the party this year. I, however, am relaxing in my room tonight. Since, yes, I'm the introvert whose tank was on empty by five o'clock today. I did enjoy a bit of fresh air first. I walked the Disney boardwalk around the lake and then got on the water taxi for the rountrip ride from the Swan to Epcot and back. It was nice to feel the breeze and get the fresh air and exercise after remaining indoors most of the week.

I promise I'll take my camera out of the room tomorrow to snap a few photos. There are more workshops tomorrow and the Golden Heart and Rita dinner and awards festivities tomorrow night. It's been a great week. Catch you all soon!

Orlando Day Two-Three-Four...???

Just past 7:00am on the Friday of conference. Still jumping with energy...who knows how long it will last. Mx, Lisa and I are having a fit of the morning giggles. It's nice to be with friends. We're getting ready for breakfast and SEP (Susan Elizabeth Phillips) talking about those six magic words (Keep the reader in the story).

Yesterday - The Golden Network reception in the evening - soooo much fun to see so many Unsinkables (this year's Golden Heart class name). Very inspiring to see so many writers "booted out" of the Network after having sold a book in the last year.

Before that...WRW party at the Bluezoo during the cocktail hour. Two hour-hour? $15 champagne. Not a cheap drink! Tasty though, so what the heck. Thanks to Mary Blayney and her assistant in setting it up and thanks to all our chapter friends for coming to hang out and catch up! Bluezoo is CSI: Miami chic - lots of water, hard angles and cool colors.

Suz Brockmann and Lee Child - must get a copy of one of his books - Reacher sounds like a yummy hero to Child has a greaaatttt voice. So not a problem to listen to him for an hour...

Nora's lunchtime speech. Inspiring? Naturally. Funny and Poignant? In the bag. She added a new phrase to my vernacular: Eat the Hard. As my dad said: not sure what it means but I so get it. I want to make a pin out of it and hand it to everyone. As in Romance Jeopardy - the publishing world is a game that is Not Fair. The writers who rise to the top Eat the Hard for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Pitching today and in the afternoon there is the RITA and Golden Heart reception and after that is the St. Martin's party. No rest for the wicked...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Live From Orlando

Yesterday, I arrived to a whirlwind of activities. First, I registered and received a canvas tote filled with swag. Next, I attended the "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing. It was well attended by many authors in residence including Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jayne Ann Krentz, Courtney Milan, and Roxanne St. Clair. Everyone met with their favorite authors and had a great time.

Today's Keynote Speaker for the luncheon, celebrating 30 years of the Romance Writers of America, was the witty and fabulous Nora Roberts. She told everyone that writing was hard but that was what made it special. We think she's special as well.

Nearly all of the Rockville 8 joined me at the Washington Romance Writers (WRW) reception at Todd English's Bluezoo. (We missed you, Nicole!) In addition, I also saw Golden Heart Finalist Jane Sevier. This evening, both Jane and our very own Keely Thrall are attending a reception for the Golden Heart Finalists. Good luck to both of them!

Monday, July 26, 2010

RWA Nationals - Here We Come!

This week we're doing something a little different at the Rockville 8 - we'll be posting "live" via comments from the Romance Writers of America National conference. Join us of we journey down to Orlando, Florida to make publishing history!

Maybe not the history that gets into school books, but...this is RWA's 30th anniversary year - yay! - and we'll be celebrating Michelle's presidency, Keely's Golden Heart nomination, Yvonne's new agent, a couple of birthdays, the impending birth of a baby girl (the R8 are unofficial fairygod aunties!!), and the humongous number of requests we'll be getting from all the networking and pitching we'll be doing.

This year will be Marjanna's first official Nationals - woot! And Candy will moderate a workshop for the first time . Lisa will mark her THIRD July in a row with time in Florida. Will she post on travel karma? You'll have to check back and see.

All of us will miss Nichole, who'll be holding down the fort at home and making sure that DC is a bit cooler upon our return. Right, Nic? Nic...?

Monday, July 19, 2010

On Becoming a Finisher, Part 2

As of 10 PM on 25 June, 2010, I became the proud "owner" of a completed manuscript.

Completed first-draft.

I wrote The End.

Well, Y made me go back and write, The End, after I had saved everything and closed down the computer with a satisfied smile on my face.

I had to re-open everything--computer, Word, file--and then re-save to my thumb drive. The End had to be backed up in case of fire.

War. Famine. PC fail.

Saved, re-saved, backed-up, re-opened to check that the saving worked, saved again for good measure, then everything closed and shut down again.

(Of course, as I was writing the last chapter, all I could think was, I write crap, I write crap, I will never be Jenny Crusie when I grow up because I write crap.

I do not care that she also says she writes crap because all of us know that her crap is no comparison to my crap. Or is it the other way round? That mine doesn't compare to hers?

Oh, Crap. I don't know.

But getting back to me and my crap. I mean, first draft. Maybe one day, maybe some day, I will actually think, this is ok. But not last night. Not today.

Not when I am thinking about conflict and theme and core story and all that kind of thing. Not when I am thinking, I haven't any of that. I couldn't identify it in the novels and shortstories Dr Galvin had us read in 11th and 12th grades and I'm not certain I can identify it in my own book.
So don't ask me.)

But all that aside. All that ignored. Bottom line. I wrote THE END (thanks, Y).

I told the Crit Group. The Rockville 8.

We yahooed.

I told my family. I called a friend. I wrote Joe.

I made an appointment to meet with an editor at RWA.

Because I became a finisher.

As I said was possible in my last post. Possible to finish. And the only way to truly get published is to finish the damn book, complete the story, and start the rounds of revision that will surely keep me busy through the autumn.

But my book is written. Far far far from complete. But it is written. It is The Ended.

I am now a novelist.

With my very own, hand-written, brand-spanking-new Novel.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Women Rock!

Recently, I took a trip to the Boston area. I’m not an expert on the city but I love Boston for many things. The writer in me loves it for its rich literary history.

Louisa May Alcott’s house (in nearby Concord) is wonderful. When visiting, I was struck by the fact she wrote part one (the original published version) of Little Women on a tiny tab of a desk her father built between her two bedroom windows. The surface is about the size of a one-armed school desk. She wrote her book by hand with a pen and an inkwell. And still did all of the work required of women in the nineteenth century, while wearing a long dress and a corset.

By the time she lived in this house, her father had moved the family 22 times over the course of 30 years. They were struggling financially. Their father, though a great mind of Transcendentalism, was not so concerned with the more mundane aspects of life.

While in Boston, I also saw the building that once housed the top publisher, Tichnor and Fields. Louisa approached Tichnor and Fields to publish her work, but Mr. Fields advised her to give up writing and concentrate on teaching. However, he was kind enough to lend her $40 to help her with the kindergarten she’d established in Boston to support herself while writing. Louisa didn’t listen.

She once said, “I will make a battering-ram of my head and make my way through this rough and tumble world.” The battering-ram didn’t give up – she found another publisher. And later she repaid Mr. Fields’ loan with a note thanking him for his help.

I’ve struggled with finding a balance between all of the things that I have to do and my writing. It’s all about making choices and being smart with your time. It’s also about letting go of things that don’t matter. I’m not just talking about cutting into your TV time. I’m talking about shutting out everything else and getting your mind in a place to be able to create.

Now, if Louisa, a Victorian woman, can sit down at a crude tongue-shaped desk with a messy inkwell and in two months produce a book still beloved today, then who’s to say that we can’t overcome our own obstacles to writing and publishing? Oh, yes, I forgot – in a long dress and corset.

What are some of the ways that you’ve found to make writing a priority? Or, for those of you who are published, what efforts did you make to get your first book published?

PS – Mr. Fields gladly acknowledged his mistaken advice and later accepted four of Louisa’s manuscripts for “The Atlantic.”

Friday, July 2, 2010

Git 'Er Done

Last night, a colleague said to me, “I can’t imagine writing a novel. I start things... poems... short stories... But I can’t imagine finishing a novel. How do you git ’er done?”

Well, finishing a novel starts with finishing the first draft. Nothing could be simpler. And nothing could be harder.

Here are five strategies that help me in my daily struggle to git ’er done.

Nic’s Top Five Tips for Gittin’ That First Draft Done

Tip #5: Plan your plot. If the notion of plotting strikes terror in your heart — or boredom in your brain — keep in mind said plan doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed. You can just hit the highlights.
When writing that mystery, romantic suspense, or thriller, listing five turning points keeps me from painting myself into a corner — and wasting time. It can also keep my middle from sagging. Well, my novel’s middle.

A sagging middle in a finished novel can serve as a stoplight for agents and editors. Talk about a time waster! And a heartbreaker.

You can avoid those pitfalls, and finish a first draft, when you plan your plot.

Tip #4: Word count? Forgeddaboutit! Sometimes, at certain stages of a first draft, the words rush from your fingertips, don’t they? But other times? I know: not so much. So set a time limit instead of a word count.

When the going gets tough, I get going in two-hour increments. Don’t have two hours? That’s quite all right. Work with what you’ve got. Just devote time to putting words on the page. It’ll be tempting to tinker with words you’ve already written, but resist! Sure, you’ll eventually need to revise this manuscript. But dedicate time to writing new words.

After all, that’s the only way you’ll reach the end of your draft.

Tip #3: Skip ahead. If that scene just won’t take shape, skip it — for now. Don’t be afraid to type SOMETHING PIVOTAL HAPPENS HERE. Or JOHN PROTAGONIST SAYS SOMETHIING PROFOUND NOW. Highlight the area so you can find it quickly later. And give yourself permission to discover the details as the rest of your story unfolds.

You'll make the most of your time and save yourself some headaches.

Tip #2: If in doubt, throw it out. You know that long, elaborate paragraph that you can’t get quite right? Or that plot twist that will fit if you force it into shape? Beware. You might be trying to shove a square peg through a round hole. So toss it. Let the section rest while you press on.

Now, this tip is difficult for me to follow. But I’ve found when I’ve hung onto the section in question, hammered at it, let it rest, then looked at it again, the prose is always labored. The draft’s pacing is always interrupted. And the Rockville 8 always flags it during critique.

When I’m in doubt? When I throw it out? When I let it rest while I go on? When I come back, I don’t miss it. Because the draft didn’t need it.

Tip #1: Remember the First Draft Rule. Strap on your seatbelt. The following rule may shock you. Here it is: The first draft doesn’t have to be good; it only has to be done.

I’ve heard this rule cited more than once in newsrooms across North America. And it’s one I try to live by. Good will come later. But only if the draft is done first.

Of course you want your best work to sally forth in contests, to agents, and to editors. Worry about perfection in the next draft, though. For now, git ’er done.
So those are my Top Five Tips for finishing a first draft. But I’m always on the lookout for more. When it comes to a first draft, how do you git ’er done?