Friday, September 29, 2006

Not quite what I expected...

Bleh. 92nd out of 299 entries. And to think I was hoping for the top 25...

'Course, I did struggle with the "promo" part, which is how you get people to read it. And I got some really low rankings with no explanation that I didn't think were warranted (I should have gotten 2's and 3's on the strength of my writing alone, and that's just being objective). Also, the entry I thought would win it all was only ranked 69th.

OTOH, the winning entry is really good. Not much of a bombshell at the end, but the chapter itself is great. I may or may not try for round 3, depending on the prompt they post this afternoon. After a week-long hiatus, my inspiration for Elspeth is picking back up again. That's my primary focus now. But I'll have a weekend of leisure, so hopefully I can get quite a bit of writing in.

In other news, I heard back (personally!) from Kristin Nelson today. I had e-mailed her a question to her blog address. Basically, since time-travel romances to Scotland seem to be thought kind of cliche in a lot of circles anymore, I asked if agents/editors would even look at another one, or if I would be seen as "just another one of those." Her answer was quick:

If the writing is good enough, anything can sell. It's really that
simple. Good luck to you on this project.

So, woo for that. I'll keep plugging away, then, and just try to make my writing good enough to sell (which was the goal all along). I would have e-mailed her back to thank her, but if there's one thing I've learned from reading agents' blogs, it's that they get a crap ton of e-mail. I don't want to bog her down, since she's probably got a million other e-mails to get through today. My first message included the fact that I read her blog regularly and I thanked her for all her good advice. So that should suffice, right? Or would a quick "Thanks for the reply!" not go amiss?

Anyway, day job is jerking my chain today. I'll be lucky to get home by dinner time. Ugh. So back to that.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I hope she's happy now

There, I've written the first new words on my current WIP in over a week. Elspeth was getting a little antsy for attention, so I decided to give her some before round 3 for Avon starts up tomorrow.

I spent the first bit further refining the "takedowns" scene that I'm going to submit for the Surrey chapbook. Then I hopped way forward and started writing the scene where Alec finds her just after she's fought off three drunk Campbells who followed her from the tavern and attacked her. I got about 500 words of that; not much, but at least it's progress.

Will I reach my end-of-September goal of 20,000 words? At this point, not likely. That'd mean getting about 2,000 words a night for the next 3 nights. Even if you count the 3,000-4,500 I've written for Avon I wouldn't make it. Well, then I might be getting close. But really the goal was for 20K on this WIP, so I guess not. *sigh* My new goal is at least 25,000 before Surrey.

Now it's very nearly midnight, and as I'm already pretty brain dead (loooong week) I'm going to stop now and go to bed.

Better luck next time...

As I suspected, I did not end up as one of the 10 finalists for this round. I write as well as they do, but I need to work on squeezing more plot into fewer words. On to Round 3! The prompt will be posted tomorrow, and I'll have the weekend to work on it.

Oh, there's still a chance I'm in the top 25. I'll find out tomorrow, I guess.

Now I think Elspeth is demanding some attention...

Cramping my Style

With 3 hours left to go in the prelim voting for Avon FanLit round 2, I doubt that I'll make it to the finals. I seem to be getting average ratings around the 2-3 range, which is pretty good. (And many thanks to those who have gone and voted for me!) But there are several entries out there getting 3's and 4's and they deserve it. So I'm already setting my sights on round 3 (of 6).

I know what my problem is. It's not my writing, per se. I read a lot of Regencies, and even if I'm working on a Scottish historical at the moment (or not working on - this week has been crazy), I didn't find it hard to slip back into the Regency style. This comment left on my entry pretty much sums it up:


Your Regency voice is excellent, and your dialogue charming -- but this didn't move the plot forward a great deal. It feels like you were just hitting your stride and needed more space.

It goes to prove what I already know about myself: I'm a novel writer. Sticking to the novella word limits is really cramping my style. Even DH told me that my entry read more like a scene from a novel than a chapter from a novella. Which I kind of knew as I submitted it. And it does advance the plot, if you look closely. It indicates their interest in each other and willingness to move forward in the relationship, but it doesn't have the trite "Oh, wow, I'm suddenly in love with you despite our history" moment that some (too many, and it annoys me) romance novels have. And it opens the way for a fast-paced chapter to follow in dealing with the woman in the foyer, etc. But yeah - it really belongs in a novel, not a novella.

So, lesson learned: for this contest, I need to pare down my scenes and include a lot more plot progression. Most of the entries that I've seen that look like they could be finalists have plots I can work with. I'll wait for the next chapter prompt on Friday and make a point of including more in my next entry. And if this entry even makes it into the Top 25, I'll be more than pleased.

My guess for Round 2 winner: The Contrary Countess.

Stay tuned...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Round Two...ding!

Wow, I've been behind in my blogging. Much is going on! Not the least of which is my entry for the second round of the Avon FanLit contest. The prompt for Chapter 2 seemed workable, so this time I made sure to get my entry in in plenty of time.

I had hoped to link to my entry and ask readers of this blog to rate it, but the most I can do is send e-mail invites. Any URLs to the submission are specific to the invitee, and there's no way to browse directly to my chapter.

So, if you want to help me out, drop me a line (e-mail or comments) with your e-mail address and I'll send you an invitation. Be honest, but if you want to give it 5 stars, I won't complain. *grin*

Avon FanLit Romance Event



The other route is to go to the contest website (linked above) and register to vote. Browse through the entries until you get to mine - I haven't the foggiest idea where it is; my IP address is logged so the website won't show it to me - and vote that way. That may actually count for more, but it's not guaranteed.

How will you know it's mine? Here's my "promo":

Title: What’s in a Name? (many thanks to DH)

Headline: A meeting in the park ends with suspense.

Summary: Damien can’t get Penelope out of his head. Patience. Whatever her name, he needs answers to his many questions. And so he finds himself on Rotten Row during the “fashionable” hour—will his wayward wife provide the answers?

Excerpt:

“Then tell me this: you wish to resume your place in Society, for whatever reasons you have. I can help you do that. But are you willing to endure all that entails? Will you become my wife in truth? Use my name, share my home…my bed?”

She looked back at him, blue eyes wide. “I-” she began.

A disturbance in the crowd caused Damien to look up. Horses, carriages, and pedestrians parted like the Red Sea to reveal one of his grooms, riding hell-bent for leather directly at them…



(And yes, it's true that I've written over 3,000 words in the past week that are not for my WIP, but I'm stuck on that at the moment. I'll get back to it this week. I promise.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Evolution

The longer I work at this novel, the farther the MC and the situations in it move from being based on me and my life. And I think that's a Good Thing.

Primary example: the opening. As mentioned before, I'm dropping the 3K or so I have written of a first chapter and picking up in a new spot entirely. That cuts out a good portion of the stuff that was loosely based on my own experiences. But I'm not mourning the loss. I think skipping this part makes the story tighter and more readable. Also, in writing that scene, I learned some stuff (history, family details) about the MC. It just sort of flowed out while I was writing and I probably wouldn't have come up with it on my own. So even if I don't use those words in the book, it deepens my understanding of the character and gives me some backstory that I could use later on, if necessary.

It's funny, 'cause one of the things that held me back at first was me wondering how would I come up with all this stuff? And so I based some of it on me and my life, 'cause I could write that. But the more I go on, the more stuff just crops up, and more stuff from real life gets cropped out.

I still have a problem with secondary characters, tho. J's theory is that's because we're so introverted and don't have many minor characters in our own lives. Oh, well. I trust I'll get better with that as I grow as a writer as well.

Miss Snark posted a great link on her blog today. Read the story. It really encouraged me, as I can see some of the steps I've gone/am going through in there. And hooray for cats. Dearest, that's why I let Smokie sleep on top of the desk while I'm writing, as long as he's not knocking stuff off). *g*

This week is a slight hiatus for me, since I'm trying to get all my crits done and back to people waiting for them. (And catch up on sleep, but so far that's been a bust.) I'm also letting the book percolate and waiting for some fresh ideas to come to me. I'll make another strong push at the end of the month and hopefully still manage to hit 20K by DH's birthday.

Oh, I did post my first chunk for critique on the ForumsAmerica workshop, if anyone is interested. That will be the first intro to my characters--and my writing--with any great length that anyone has seen. I'm a little nervous, and a little excited. I still enjoyed re-reading the scene before I posted it last night, though, so hopefully that's a good sign.

Four weeks from tomorrow, I'll be leaving for Surrey. Wow. Heretofore unspoken goal: 25-30K by then, so I can tell the editors and agents I meet that I'm about 1/3 of the way done. Better get on it.

But for now, back to my day job.
(Posting at work, so no Gaidhlig Word for today.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Disappointment

So, my day was completely wasted.

On my lunch break, I was cruising the blogs and came across this entry on Miss Snark's blog. I read the linked article, and in the article mention was made of a fan fiction writing contest sponsored by Avon. Hmmm... So I googled it and found the official website. (It's here, if anyone is interested.)

I'm not normally the fanfic type. (Though in middle and early high school I did dream of writing a Star Trek novel. Original series. No kidding.) But this contest was more than just fanfic, and it could get you pub credits or even editorial attention. And, the premise was a Regency setting. Now, Scottish historicals are my hands-down favorite, but when I'm not reading them I'm reading Regencies. So I dragged up all my mental references to the haute ton and Almack's and waltzing and Napoleon. And then I checked the submission deadline: today at 4 pm EST.

That left me 3 hours to write a coherent chapter (1500 words; 8500 characters) based on their setup and submit it. I was caught up on work at the moment and thought 'what the heck?' At 3:55 I was finishing my final word/character count and ready to submit. My chapter was uploaded at 3:57 pm. Then I hit the snag - they wanted you to do a little "profile" for your chapter so people who were voting could skim through and read the ones that looked interesting. They wanted a chapter title, headline, 250-character summary, and 500-character excerpt. I rushed through, and went to hit the final submit at 3:59 pm. It cleared my fields. So in a mad rush I typed/pasted it all again, hit submit and...it was 4:01 pm.

One. Freaking. Minute. Late.

So I did not get to enter the writing contest, I was now behind on my day job duties, I will get home late from work, and I am even further behind on getting promised critiques back to people. All in all, a wonderful day.

Oh, well. Pick myself back up and go on. Just another late night doing crits. And the contest is ongoing. I'll see how I feel about it when it's time to work on the next chapter. At least then I'll have enough time.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Beginning at the beginning...again.

Ugh.

The past few days have not been great to me WRT writing. (Heh, "WRT" looks like "write".) I was steaming along, almost sure to hit my midmonth goal (5K new words, for a total of 15K). Then Thursday night I was just sooo brain fried. I took Friday off work to spend the whole day writing--though with DH and DS here I was distracted several times--and only got 900 words. Which isn't bad, but I've been known to do 1-3K in about 3 hours on a good night, so it's not my best, either.

At first glance, it might seem like I actually got close to my goal. Well. Here's the rub: after some discussion on the Forum, I've pretty much decided that my original opening scene is too far ahead of the actual "story" to open the book with. So, that means 3K down the tubes (though I will be saving it, just in case). Parts of the scene will be reworked and recycled into other scenes, and the rest will be mentioned as backstory. I'm keeping my current word count, though, because I have written that many words. And some very wise people on the Forum have counseled me that sometimes you don't know where the story begins until you're done with the whole thing.

Ooh, new opening line (or part of it): Today was supposed to have been my wedding day...

I think that gives the reader a sense of backstory and engenders sympathy for the character while encouraging them to read on. She was supposed to be married? Today? What happened?

My current plan is to pick up on the day she travels back, which is Midsummer's day and, yes, the date she had planned to marry. (Except the wedding got called off 3 months ago when her fiance decided to start dating her best friend.) Still waiting for my muse to appear with a good, tension-filled, interesting way for her to meet Theresa (that's for you, Jon and Shaylin) and get the stone before she goes to the castle. Hmmm.

Well, I didn't get any writing done today. I decided to take the weekend off and "reboot" so I can start refreshed on Monday. Unless my muse--who usually decides to pop in when I have decided to not write (there's your split negated infinitive, S&J)--shows up with a good idea. I also need to get some Narc crits done, because I promised. For tonight, though, to bed with me.

Gaidhlig Word of the Day: sgìths, claoidh. "Weariness."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I have a lot more respect for editors and agents now, especially editors. NOT that I didn't have any before, oh no. I really did. I just have more now. *g*

Last night I spent about 3 hours line-editing and critiquing the first chapter of a friend's MS. I'm glad to do it (though I don't know how she feels about all my comments!) but it took so much time. 'Course, part of that was switching colors and such in Word so my comments could be seen. I think I'm just gonna have to do the rest of it by hand and mail her the copies, honestly. I'd work much faster that way. Now I see what Kristin Nelson was talking about when she was raving about tablet PCs.

The end result was me zoned out and mentally drained at midnight with not a single new word written on my WIP (still in search of a working title, if anyone has any ideas). Again, I'm happy and excited to do it, but wow - is it hard. And that's just the first chapter. About 11 single-spaced pages. There are 21 more chapters to go. And if I were an editor and had to do this all day every day, I'd pull my hair out. And if I were an agent I would totally understand why other agents rejected good books that needed revision first, because they don't have the time.

And when I finish my WIP, and have beta readers that do this for me, I will shower them with love and affection. *g*

Monday, September 11, 2006

The progress continues

I just finished adding about 950 words to a previously written scene. This is the part in the middle of the book where I started writing, and have since added to the beginning and end. I'm kind of a chunk-linear hybrid, really. I write chunks as they come to me, and then I go back and reread those chunks and proceed linearly from there until I hit a stopping point. Then I either write another chunk, or work linearly from another one previously written. Today I was doing the latter.

Anyway, I probably could have kept going with the scene, but I'm suddenly feeling very tired. It will be midnight before I get in bed. Again. But this writing is a dream I've had for a long time, and I have to sacrifice to do it. So be it. Years from now, I'll be able to say "I wrote a book." I doubt that I'd be saying "I wish I'd gotten a few hours more sleep" otherwise.

In other news, I finished reading Jen's MS "Narc" this afternoon at work. Good story, if not my usual genre. It needs some clarification and polish, but as a first draft it's as good or better than a lot of published books I've read. Being a beta reader is fun. Tomorrow I'll try to get some crits back to her.

For now, to bed. Oidhche mhath.

Gaidhlig Phrase of the Day:
Dè tha doi? "What's doing?"

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Slowly but surely

I didn't really get much done this weekend. Saturday was a complete waste, but everyone needs a day of rest now and again. Today I felt much better, and I had every intention of writing a great deal. Alas, DH was watching the last 2 episodes of "Rome" (HBO) and I got sucked in. At least we've seen them all now, so he'll go back to reading at night and I can get more writing done. *g*

There's a great deal of discussion of first lines in the "Openings Workshop" on the Forum. I posted mine: "Elspeth, I'm sorry." I've gotten quite a bit of feedback, and all of it has been helpful. My intention had been to hook the reader by making them want to know who was sorry, and for what. Several people did in fact have this reaction, so that's gratifying. It also reflected the fact that I had no freaking clue how to write the first half of that fateful conversation. Others pointed out the problems with beginning with dialogue (and unattributed dialogue, at that). Of course, All Would Have Become Clear over the following lines, but since I had heard from several places that I should write the whole conversation, I took a deep breath and plunged in.

I roughed it out in a notebook at work on Friday, and got it "on paper" (read: "in word processor") tonight. I also minorly revised the rest of the chapter, and wrapped it up with a quick paragraph. Hopefully, it will get picked apart on the forum and in the "Novels Workshop." I need to make this chapter as strong as possible, so I'm more than willing to write and rewrite.

It will be harder for me with some of my "baby" chapters that I've worked hard on and really like. But anything that makes this book publishable is good. Or so I will keep reminding myself. *g*

Anyway, I thought I hadn't made much progress over the past week, but I added up all the word counts from my various current "chunks" and I'm up to almost 12,000. I made an ambitious goal of 10,000 new words for the month, so to hit my mid-month goal I need to make it to 15,000 by the 15th. That's 3,366 in 5 days. I love a challenge.

Gaidhlig Phrase of the Day: tha mi ‘n dòchas. "I hope."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

*Dances for Joy*

Check out this entry on Agent Kristin Nelson's blog.

Woo!

I am SO querying her when I finish this thing.

Let me tell you about Elspeth:

-She's a physicist, and intelligent. But want to know why I can make that work when other authors write "brilliant phyicist" heroines that just have me rolling my eyes? Check the subtitle of my blog, or the "About Me" section. I'm not saying I'm smarter than anyone else, but at least I have the background to make my character believable. When she time-travels, she's coming up with theories based on real physics ideas.

-She's a black belt. I've written three scenes to date where she fights for herself. One is against 3 ruffians who accost her shortly after her arrival. One is where she proves to Alec that she can take him down. And one is where she takes on Campbell's guys, but her skirts get in the way (I'm a realist). Okay, so I'm not a black belt myself, but I am a green belt in Kiyojute Ryu kempo, and DH is a black belt in Shaolin Do. But she's not so tough that Alec seems superfluous. Being outnumbered, or outweighed, or not dressed well, or snuck up on (all of which happen at some points) will make it hard for even a black belt to win. And some things just can't be dealt with by physical force, and there are larger things at stake that she needs Alec to help with.

-She does stuff. As opposed to hanging out and waiting for Alec to get back so they can "get it on." (Actually, if you must know, at the moment there is only one *ahem* scene between them, and that is on the night before he is to be killed. They'll probably do it again when he finds her and they get to stay together for good, but that's twice in a 90,000+ word book.) What does she do when she finds herself thrown back 300 years? Makes a place for herself. She learns to be productive. Weaving. Making pottery. Learning Gaidhlig. (FYI, most Highlanders in the 1600's didn't speak English, so if she's gonna get along, she's gotta learn their language.)

-But she's also normal and lovable, too. She has her own relationship problems that people can identify with. (Who doesn't feel sorry when someone's fiance leaves them for their best friend?) She's a good person. She tries to prevent a terrible thing from happening, and when that results in another terrible thing (Alec's capture and condemnation) she offers herself to save his life.

And there's more where that came from.

Surrey, here I come!

After a much-protracted discussion between DH and myself, mulling the pros and cons of me flying across the continent by myself for 5 days, spending quite a bit of money, and doing all of this for a book which I may not finish (though I intend to) and may not sell (though I hope it does), we have agreed:

I am going to Surrey!

I've wanted to write for a long time, and now that I'm actually doing it I'm really enjoying myself. Going to the conference will drastically improve my writing, enable me to meet my Forum friends (and some of my favorite authors) in person, and also improve my chances of finishing and selling the book. It will be a learning experience that happens to be a lot of fun. *g*

So, I spent literally all morning making my reservations, and now everything is locked in. Woohoo.

The only question remaining is whether or not I will volunteer while I'm there. From the volunteer info, it seems like it's mostly for locals. Although there is some implication that I could attend workshops without registering for the conference...but I've already signed up, so that's a moot point. It'd be nice to help out and maybe rub shoulders with some big names. But I'm also going so that I can accomplish something with my writing, and I'm worried that doing too much will distract me from learning. I'll think about it; we have until September 20th to make our decisions and let the volunteer coordinator know.

(No Gaidhlig word today; I don't have my dictionary with me.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Slogging through it.

I've been at my desk, working on the first chapter, for over 2 hours now, and I don't have much to show for it. I read over the first 5 pages (previously written) and felt good about them. Then I set about trying to finish out the chapter and practically hit a wall.

The book opens with Elspeth recieving a phone call from her fiance, telling her that he is calling off the wedding because he and her best friend have discovered they have feelings for each other. This is a big moment of transition in Elspeth's life, and it will set in motion a chain of events that leads to her eventually going to Scotland, traveling through time, and meeting Alec. I feel good with where I'm picking up the story, and I got good feedback to that effect from EE's minions when I submitted the (original) opening to his blog.

I follow her through the first evening (she drinks a bottle of wine and drifts around her apartment, starting things but not finishing them) and night (she wakes up from a foreshadowing dream and finally breaks down with the reality of her situation). The problem is the remainder of the weekend. I want to have her come to grips with the situation, if not accept it, and try to move forward with her life (school, especially) while still struggling with her dream being torn away from her.

Right now, it just feels like I'm "telling not showing" and boringly reciting a list of things she does over the course of a day or two. I'd love to jump to the beginning of the week and show her interacting with people at school. But I had hoped for that to be the next chapter, and currently Chapter One is only 6 pages (about 3,000 words) long. Is that long enough? 'Cause I could wrap it up with something like "...she really wasn't looking forward to facing everyone [on Monday/in the morning]." And then pick up Chapter Two on Monday morning.

Hmm...an old thread on the Forum discussed this. I'd hoped for word counts, but the general consensus (which I already knew) was that it's a natural thing. Diana even said she's had chapters as short as 5 pages. I'm just wondering if that's a problem with the first chapter. Oh, well. I guess I'd better not force it. Prolly tomorrow I'll go take out the boring stuff and just wrap up with a quick summary of the weekend. We'll see how it goes.

Gaidhlig Word of the Day: sgriobhadair. "Writer."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bleh.

After my mad word rush of last week, I really looked forward to the three-day weekend. Here was my chance to get housework done during the day, and keep pressing forward with the book in the evenings.

Alas, not so.

As I sit here on Sunday night, I've maybe written 50 words or so. The past few nights I've been positively brain-dead by the time I sit down at the computer. Usually, if I just read over some previous work, or cruise the other writing blogs or the Compuserve forum for a bit, I'm refreshed and manage to make some progress, but last night and this, that didn't happen.

I have a few scenes that I could be working on...Elspeth gets captured by Campbell's guys after showing Alec her mad martial arts skillz (they sneak up behind her and conk her on the head, so there's no discontinuity)...Alec explains the history of the MacGregors and their beef with the Campbells (especially Glenorchy/Breadalbane)...Elspeth goes with the clanfolk up to the summer shielings shortly after her arrival...Doug comes to Elspeth after her return and wants to get back together; she says no and reveals she's pregnant...Elspeth and Alec keep narrowly missing each other when he comes to find her in the present day...finish writing the first chapter...finish writing the "Wedding Night" chapter...

So you see, it's not lack of ideas that have me stagnating, it's lack of mental reserves. Oh, well. Bed early tonight and hope to get back on the horse tomorrow.

An upside to the weekend, though. A book I ordered used from Amazon for $1.20 (plus shipping) has turned out to be one of my best historical sources yet. TONS of great historical and cultural info for my setting. Excellent.

Gaidhlig Phrase of the Day: uisge beatha. "whisky" (lit. "water of life")