Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Again

Things will change, and then change again.  My daughter (only child) is pregnant in Idaho, and I sit her 2800 miles away, worried and useless. So, after some discussion, I am leaving my husband here and heading out for several months in Boise.  What will I find? Will I be useful or is she self-sufficient, not needing me at all? Will I be able to adapt to the winter that I was so happy to leave behind when I moved to FL?  I just know it's something I have to do.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Joyce Sweeney Workshop #1

Monday I went over to fort Lauderdale to the first of a 4 session writing workshop put on by Joyce Sweeney.   It is being structured as 4 things you need to get published:  a good idea, good voice, a good plot and good structure.  We talked about how it's important not to just have 'an' idea, it has to be a good idea.    How do you know? If it's a being written as a memorial to someone, if it's been done too often, chasing a trend, TOO wierd, too quiet -pulling punches... a good idea has a good sound bite.
Joyce's theory is nobody knows that they are bad at ideas (I do) I'm still such an novice that I'm thrilled to have any idea at all.
Okay - other signs you have a bed idea - if you send your stuff out and your editor or agent says no, but requests something else by you.

The picture is one of a pair of eagles that live in our neighborhood. This morning the two of them were up in a tree that Harley and I passed by on our way home from getting Dale coffee.  Dale has been sick for three days, sleeping almost all the time, but just now we think he has turned a corner.  I guess we'll see in the morinng.  I wonder how many days until we find out if I'm going to get sick too.  We tried hard to make sure I wouldn't get it.  Elbow kisses... funny memory.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday - rewrite

Today was devoted to finalizing Old Man Watson for a workshop Monday. I also did my final draft of the Dog Biscuit rewrite based on Joyce's comments.  Mary Ann had already done one draft, so my work should have been easier, but I find you can rewrite forever, and as long as it's still getting better, that's a good thing.  At the end of the day I did a final read-aloud. 
Reading aloud really helps me hear what other people, who aren't familiar with the story, will hear.   It helps you find the rough spots.  I think we have about two of those left right now, and then we'll have the story back where it was before we sent it out for review, only missing an unnecessary character, and with a whole new ending that is more 'right'.   I'm pretty happy with it.  I wasn't sure we'd make it through another review/rewrite... it can seem like too much work.  But it was really worth it. 

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Letting Go

So the next phase after wavering is Letting Go.  So far that is easy for me.  I think I perfected it when I committed to my poetry group 10 years ago.  I guess I figured there was no point in writing if you were going to stand in your own way.  I'm sure I'll come up with new ways to have to let go as I wander down this writing path, but so far so good. 
I finished the rewrite of the ending of Old Man Watson and sent it to a friend for review (after it got my husband's blessing, that is)  Hopefully she will have a chance to look at it before I take it to Joyce's class in Fort Lauderdale next Monday.   I'd like to have it finished and sent out.  Old Man Watson has a Halloween-ish theme as well as boy characters.  I'm hoping both of those things add to it's appeal. 
I looked again at World's Best Dog Walker.  I still like it, it's a quick read, and it's fun.  There's not really any tension though... I guess I need to figure out how to up the stakes, Shelly is supposed to be earning money for a trip, but she ... Oh! I just had an idea! I wonder if I can make it work...bye.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Seven Steps

Today I read about half of a book called Seven Steps on the Writer's Path.  I didn't really know what it was when I picked it up, but it turned out to be very timely for me.   The book claims there are seven steps:
1. Unhappiness - what I would call dissatisfaction with your path, your life, been there, had that
2. Wanting - this would probably be my longest phase, as I think back I have been 'yearning' for a writing life since I was a child, since reading the titles off the back of Golden Books, and trying to thing what I would write for that title, through song-writing, poetry, NaNoWriMo, and now children's writing
3. Commitment - well, that happened right here, a couple of months ago
4. Wavering - and this is where I am, or where I was,  stuck with three manuscripts, all with problems and wondering if I could do this after all,.... but reading it in the book was really helpful.  It was comforting to know it was a common phase, that everyone questions and it's just a stage,   That got me off my butt to try a rewrite on the first manuscript and think up a direction for another...
5. Letting Go -
6. Immersion -
7. Fulfillment
Haven't read about 5,6,7 yet, and probably haven't been there yet either... more later.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Save the Cat

Today I read quite a bit of the 'Save the Cat' book recommended by Anastasia Suen.  It was basically an analysis of the movies, and said that all movies followed 10 basic plots.  Maybe so, it's hard to see, even when it's explained in detail.  I know books are basically plotted the same way, but can't say I understand how to use this.  Do I just come up with an idea and follow the plot steps?

Monday, September 14, 2009

or Maybe Not

Today I don't feel like a writer at all.  I have three books finished, in various stages of rewrite and no confidence at all that any of them can be fixed, or will ever be any good.  I think maybe I'm a good writer, but not a good story teller.  That probably can't be fixed.


One of the things I'm doing is writing with a partner - like everything else, it has an upside and  a down side.  There's a lot of waiting for the othr person to get around to doing their part.  On the other hand, the story is definitely better for being created by more than one mind!  I'm not sure if I have it in me to do a story by myself.
Anyway, today was a partnership challenge.  We did NOT agree on where the story needed to got. I'm fighting to remove a character and my partner fighting to keep her.   It takes a really open mind to work together.  You have to be willing to give up sections you've put it place, ideas you had, to at least see it another idea can work better. 
In the end we worked it out, the solution was my partners idea, which puts the whole story back in play.  It means we're going to have to polich and re-send to the editor - more expense, but probably worth it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Finishing Up

Today I finished a next to final rewrite of Lucky Tuesday.  I sent it to two people because I think there might be something wrong with it.  I don't know what it is, maybe the main character spends too much time being grumpy... anyway, hopefully I'll get a couple of opinions and be able to figure it out.

I also finished the first draft of The Ghost of Old Man Watson.  It has a good ending.  Hopefully I can get a really good first draft next week.

And that was all I got done.  Up next is the follow up to the Lucky Dog Biscuits book. I need to plot that out next week too.  And when that one's done I'm going to try non-fiction I think.. take another Anastasia Suen class...

I have job interview at Beall's Monday.  I hope I get it.  We really need some more money to come in.  Writing may or may not ever pay off...  Wish me luck.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Manuscript Feedback

Well, today we got our manuscript back from Joyce Sweeney.  It included handwritten notes on the hard copy, plus almost two pages of suggestions.  In general, the comments were positive, and I was pretty thrilled. 
Biggest problem was POV - we said things we couldn't know, like how Emma felt, when the book was supposed to be from only Abby's point of view.  This is pretty hard.  We were aware of POV before we sent the manuscript, but we thought we'd only left one bad piece.  Wrong!  there were several places that need correcting. 
We also had an unneeded character and need to add some more delineation between Abby and Emma.  That means strengthening, and making consistent, the examples of their strengths and weaknesses. 
There needs to be a minor change at the end, and a pretty big rewrite in the beginning.  After this and after my critique group, I'm seeing that the first chapter is a big weakness of mine.  I'm doing to much telling of the backstory, not getting POV set early enough, etc...
So - aside from that, I worked on Lucky Tuesday today, finished a whole rewrite - changed chapter 8, where my biggest problem is trying to explain how Tuesday comes to deal with the problem of Aunt Lydia. It's better than it was, but I don't know if it will hold up in the long run - I'll take another look at it tomorrow.  Then I think I'll send it to Joyce!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bad news/Good news

Well, my great idea for a biography is apparently not so great after all. The world only wants more bio's of the same famous people (George Washington, Martin Luther King, Paul Revere) as always.  But I'm still going to try and work on mine, make it a picture book.  If I was a teacher, I would LOVE the book I had planned. Aaaaargh.  On the other hand, our manuscript is on it's way back and got fairly good reviews.  I understand there are many suggestions, but that it is fixable. So that's very good.  I got an email back re: an online critique group.  That could help me a lot, now it will be three weeks before my face-to-face group meets again. Mary Ann and I are going to move forward on the second Abby/Emma Harris book.  So things are still moving along. 

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Critique Group

Yesterday I went to my new critique group and let them critique the first chapter of Lucky Tuesday. I got very valuable feedback - basically, if the story's about Booger increase Booger's part in chapt one (it's not, I'm not) and if the story is about chapter is about bad luck, increase the amount of bad luck Tuesday has in Chapt one (it is, I will). There was some tell/not show comments, which kind of become irrelevant if I rewrite the chapter based on luck.
Now the really exciting part - I came out of the library and got two story ideas from NPR within 5 minutes of leaving. One is non-fiction and one is fiction. Since I have never done non-fiction before, and I totally don't miss this incredible opportunity, so I am trying to find a non-fiction expert to be my writing partner. I asked Joyce and she forwarded my info to another writer she knows. I am crossing my fingers. If you want a clue about the new project, just look at the picture on todays post!

Friday, September 4, 2009

In Praise of Failing

I just came from another blog, where someone had written a poetry book called 'In Praise of Falling', but I didn't read it that way, I read it as 'In Praise of Failing'. I think it makes an excellent title for a poetry book, perhaps I'll get to that someday.  In any case, I used to spend most of my time trying to avoid the 'humiliation' of failing.  What a waste.  Finally I figured out you can't get good at anything without failing, it's not so bad, it's just normal.  And so I write and write, hoping the next thing will be the good one, the great one, and knowing it's pretty much average. Still they say even a monkey could hit the right keys given enough tries.  Guess I'm the monkey in this metaphor... hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo


to update yesterday.  Sent the Looking for Lucky manuscript to Joyce Sweeney.  We are very curious to see what comes back.  Will she jus tell us to put a comma here, or take one out there? or will she say, this story has flaws here and here and you need to correct them before you send it out.  Who knows - I go back and forth on the story anyway.  Some days I hate it and somedays it think it's very good.  I thnk you just get sick of your work. 
Worked a little on my PB concept and read an Australian chapter book, which was funny because of the language... 'biscuits' = cookies, and going on holiday... there were lots more, but they escape me now. The book was called Being Bee by Catherine Bateson.  It was good... one of the adults had a mental illness which I hadn't seen in a book before.  I wonder if I should right about a child where the mother is depressed.  Wouldn't need much research for that!! haha..
Gotta Write.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Rockstar Element

Today, while doing a bunch of research on how to publish, I suddenly realized that it is not going to be good enough to be good.  Like the rest of the arts, musician, actress, (I don't know about art) a lot depends on who you know, luck, right place/right time.  For some reason I hadn't thought of that. I just thought if I was good I would make it. 
Dale says, the thing to do is get to be my best and then we'll worry about the who you know element.  I guess there's nothing else I can do. So be it.
I wrote about a chapter and a half on 'Ghost'.  Mary Ann and I worked on the end of 'Lucky'.  I'm going to send that to Joyce instead of 'Lucky Tuesday'.  I'll take 'Lucky Tuesday' to critique group.  I'm trying to get hooked up with an online critique group as well, since every two weeks is not going to be enough for me... at that rate it would take 3 months just to get through one chapter book.
I started looking at PB ideas, because there is so much more out there as far as support and also publishers.  I don't love PB's but, I do love to rhyme, so maybe I can make something work out with that.  I also need to get back to plotting 'GUN'. 
I got a book called Save the Cat today, that analyzes movie plots.  It was recommended by Anastasia Suen.  I keep learning...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I can't believe it's September

Time flies when you're having fun, and I am.  Today I read several children's books, since our internet connection was very iffy.   I got a response back from Joyce Sweeney.  She is willing to take a look at my chapter book manuscript.  So I will send it off as soon as I decide if I'm taking it to critique group on Saturday, or if I'm taking something else. 
I wrote two chapters of my next solo chapter book.  It's called 'The Ghost of Old Man Watson'.  I did write a brief plot for it, since 100% freewriting doesn't always work.  And I think that because I had plot, I had a much harder time getting started.  Maybe I shouldn't do the outline until I've gotten one or two chapters written. I can already see that it will need more rewriting than 'Lucky Tuesday'.  Anyway, Old Man Watson has a boy protagonist, so we'll see how well that works.  I feel more affinity with girls...
No response from Jill Corcoran, but I found out I should have written 'Query' in the subject line.  That wasn't in the submission instructions, but I found it in an old blog post of hers. So, who knows where it is, did it make it to her email or get directed to Spam?
Tomorrow I'm going to the library for a new load of books, and at 5PM Mary Ann and I are going to do a (hopefully) final rewrite of the last 4 chapters of Looking for Lucky or whatever we wind up calling it... Also need to write at least 3 more chapter of Ghost.