Wednesday, April 28, 2010

WiP Wednesday: It's Not Stealing...'s "inspiration". ;)

I get inspired by the most random things. I don't really remember when I got the idea for Strings, the novel I'm currently whipping into querying shape. But I do remember when I first "saw" my heroine, Mara, which helped me to envision her character better while I was drafting.

It was during the movie Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist—which was cute, and I've heard the book is better—and there she was. I'd seen the actress before, but the character she was playing was sort of a manipulative bitch who relied on her looks.

I remember thinking: "That's her, that's Mara. That's the exact look she has on her face when she's trying to get what she wants."

Except that Mara looks like a sort of younger, shorter, darker version of Alexis Dziena, if you want to know the deets.

In other inspirational news, I watched Moulin Rouge the other day, a movie I haven't seen in a few years. Though I thought some parts were sillier than I remembered, the movie had an atmosphere that reminded me of the way I see parts of Strings.

Which made me wonder if I'm properly relating this atmosphere to the reader, if I've indeed captured the chaos and dirtiness and intrigue of both the time and place in my pages. This led me to second-guess what I'd written (as usual) even though I know that some of my strongest writing is usually related to setting and atmosphere.

Then I got started thinking about Mara again. Oddly enough, not a bit of her personality came from someone I already knew, unlike most of my other leading characters. That scene in Nick and Norah merely reinforced what I already knew about Mara, what I knew she had to be to make the story work.

Does that make her less "human"? Less real? I see her so clearly in my head (partially because of Ms. Dziena—thanks, hon!) that I just hope I'm doing justice to her on the page.

Does "stealing" traits from real people automatically make a character more three-dimensional, or is that a crutch?

Don't ask me, I haven't the foggiest idea. It's all very existential and confusing, but that's what's been occupying my thoughts for the past week. You're welcome. ;)

How much do you "steal" from life, movies, or other books that has an effect on your writing? Or do you purposely avoid certain books or movies while writing so you DON'T have any outside influences on your writing? What works for you?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ready For Failure?

Are you? Seriously. I really mean it.

Are you ready to bare your soul (or at least a small poetic chunk of it) to the world (by world, I of course mean readers) and have it torn apart into little bloody pieces? By which I mean, little bloody pieces.

Ready to
admit where your writing has failed, ready to break your novel down in order to build it back up? Are you?

Good. You're ready to have someone beta your novel. Yes, I know you're the only one who's seen it (aside from your mother/sister/husband/dog, and Lord knows they loved it), and it's not 100% the novel it can be yet.

But guess what? It never will be without proper feedback, and while there are certainly exceptions, that's something your mother/sister/husband/dog can't always give. My turtle loves my urban fantasy just the way it is, but I think she's just being polite. And frankly, she doesn't know a lot about character arcs or what agents are looking for in voice.

There is help. Form a critique group, whether online or in your town/dorm. Search out forums online that allow you to critique others, like Absolute Write Water Cooler or the Query Tracker Forum. Then there's Roni's Beta Club posts every Tuesday and Thursday at her Fiction Groupie blog. Psych yourself up to get your own work critiqued by critiquing others first. Who knows, that might help you apply what you've learned to your own work. Awesome, but still no substitute for having a good beta reader or critique partner.

Do you really want the first person who reads your work with an analytical eye to be a literary agent? Talk about failure.

The interwebs have given us something amazing, something unheard of until recent years: a global network of writers, authors, literary agents, and other publishing professionals. If you're not using the tools that technology has provided, (except Twitter and Facebook. I'm convinced those are tools of the devil. ;D) you're quickly falling behind in the game. And you don't want that, do you? Didn't think so.

So go bare a poetic chunk of of your soul today!

And Happy Earth Day.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WiP Wednesday: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Journaling

Sort of a wordy title for a post, but I'm feeling wordy today. I apologize in advance.

You may know I've been working on my urban fantasy lately—currently titled Parallel, although I'm not sure if that gives the right impression... Just another thing to second guess, like I used to second guess my pov choice for this novel. Well, I'm here to tell you that pov is one of the few things I'm doing right in this urban fantasy. I'm certain of that now.

If you're wondering why I'm getting so worked up about a little thing like pov choice, it's because I've written Parallel in alternating first person with four separate pov characters.

Yeah, I know. Why would I do that to myself? Don't I know people will be confused? Don't I know that writing four distinct voices is a huge challenge?

Yeah, I do. And I'm doing it because I think that it will be the best choice to serve the story. I've already written the story in third person (the first half of which was originally in alternating first before I chickened out and rewrote it in third), so I'm not concentrating on story this time around. I'll get back to that later, but first, I need to rewrite each section in a way that better reflects the attitude and personality of the pov character.

Looking at the manuscript as a whole and rewriting as I go has proven to be a daunting prospect. All those words bearing down on me kept me from thinking straight about the way each character would be thinking about what's going on around them.

So I decided to shut off the computer (NOOO!!!) and grab a new journal. (The paper of this new journal is made of limestone and aside from its obvious eco-friendly pros, it's also got zero drag and you can write like greased lightning on it if you've got a good ergonomic pen. ) I started off by dividing the notebook into sections and creating a word bank, a list of words and phrases the character commonly uses. I also added words they'd never say, just to round things out, and made of list of books, movies, tv, food, etc. that they liked.

From there it wasn't that difficult to think of a scene in the book that I felt needed more "voice" and I started writing. At first, I stayed in one character's pov, just to get the voice right, added some passages to the manuscript, reread it, and when I was finished, then I'd move on to the next character. I also made little timelines in the notebook of what was happening in and out of that character's pov. I needed to know how each character was feeling even if it wasn't their turn to tell me.

Not only has this method helped me to get voice right, it's helped me feel more organized about the story. And I love to write in that stone-paper notebook. ;)

For Strings, voice came pretty naturally, and since that was my most recent first draft, I'm pretty happy about that. But I think Parallel can be saved, and I'm going to try my damnedest to do it.

What tricks do you use for voice? Do you have to think about it, or does it just come naturally?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dear Blog; I Love You Blog, But...'re just so high maintenance. Okay, maybe not high maintenance, exactly, since blogger makes things pretty easy for me in the point and click department. But you and me, the thing we have is magical and fun and I look forward to seeing your face every day. You've helped me meet tons of great people, and help me work out the problems I've had with the kids, and for that I'll always be grateful.

Problem is, these kids need to come first. Poor girls, getting only scraps of my attention while I gallivant around with you all day. I expend all my energies making you look good, when I should be shaping them into the best little novels they can be. And since it's not really a choice between you and them on top of work and family and friends, we're going to have to slow things down a little. Five posts a week was great while it lasted, but now I feel like we've run out of things to say to one another.

We'll always have Work in Progress Wednesdays.

I promise.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Feel Good Post

Ah, Friday. I've waited all week long for you to illuminate my dreary week with your optimistic glow.

I already know you'll be over too soon, but for now I'm going to bask in your glory. Sure I have to work late tonight, but then tomorrow I'll be able to work on my urban fantasy. I've been waiting for what feels like years to get back to work on Parallel, so I'm excited that I've finally got Strings and Evangeline in better shape.

Are you feeling good about your work right now?


If not, why not? Characters giving you the run-around? Got the Red-Ink Blues? Just remember, you'll get past whatever is bothering you soon enough. It's easy to get depressed about the way your writing is going, but if it's lasting too long, maybe you need to talk it out with someone. It doesn't have to be me, of course, but don't forget the healing power of venting to a friend. ;)

Have a great weekend, y'all!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

WiP Wednesday: Polish, Polish, Polish

It's been a while since I've done a WiP Wednesday, but I am still working. And reading, and crafting. Things are really flowing right now.

I just finished one last revision of EVANGELINE, a rewrite, really, since I went back to first person from third. Yes, I am a glutton for punishment. But I find that when I have to make big changes like that, I'm reading more critically than when I'm trying to slog through line edits of the same old writing, day after day after day....*zzzzzzz*

Sorry, I just nodded off there for a second thinking about line edits because they're so BORING! Maybe boring is the wrong word. It seems like an indomitable task to revise one sentence at a time when there are So. Many. Sentences. Left to go.

One trick I find that works really well for me is to isolate the passage you want to work on. Take it out of context to feel less overwhelmed. As in, copy that troubling passage to a clean document and work on it there, where you can escape the frustration and overwhelmation (yes, I just made that word up. I haven't had my tea yet. Gotta problem?) you may experience when you see all those unfinished lines in front of you.

I recently used this technique to revise my opening and I'm much happier with the voice I've got. Working with a chunk of about 250 words made me feel calmer, more in control of the whole situation. I'm trying to enjoy the journey, as advised by Ms. Marly Rusoff in her Tennessee Williams Literary Festival Master Class.

I "discovered" this method while reworking a passage for one of Miss Snark's First Victim's 250 word excerpt critiques. If you don't know about Authoress and her Secret Agent Contests, I strongly urge you to find out! There's one coming up next week. Good luck to all who enter!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Want to be the Fourth Roecker Sibling? ;)

Or at least be able to show all your friends your tshirt that says you are? Well, today just might be your lucky day! Enter Lisa and Laura's 500 follower contest for your chance to win one of three amazing prize packages! Enter here.

  • To enter the contest you must be a follower of our blog (duh) and comment on this post. That earns you one entry.
  • You can earn one extra entry by Blogging/Tweeting/Facebooking about the contest.
  • Fill out this form (also attached at the end of this post) to place a bet on Lisa or Laura (or both if you want to hedge your bets and you've earned an extra entry).
  • We are going to hold a live sister writer arm wrestling competition that we will post next Wednesday April 14th at 8 AM.
  • All of the followers who have placed bets on the winning sister (if you bet on Lisa and Laura wins, you are out of luck my friends, so choose your Roecker sister wisely) will be entered into a lottery for these amazing prize packages:
The Reader Package:
  • Two Starbucks Gift Cards (So you can buy Kate's favorite drink: a full-fat Frappacino with extra whipped cream.
  • A fabulous pearl necklace (Um, just don't ask us if it's real okay? If it makes you feel any better, Kate's pearls are fake too.)
  • A DIY Pineapple Pizza Kit (Kate's favorite dinner! All you'll need to do is add cheese. Trust us, it's better this way.)
  • A bike bell (Kate's sole method of transportation is her trusty 10-speed and the school bus.)
  • A 10 page critique of your manuscript or WIP.
The Grand Prize Roecker Extravaganza Package:
  • Glee Soundtrack Volume 1 and Volume 2
  • A variety pack of every Twizzler known to man, aside from the rainbow kind because those don't count.
  • A bottle of Prosecco (sparkling wine if you're an underage/on-the-wagon winner).
  • A t-shirt that will officially christen you as The Fourth Roecker Sister (or Sibling if one of our three male followers wins).
  • Business Cards or Stationary Designed especially for you by the ultra-talented third Roecker sister, Stacey owner of PoochiePrints.
Not bad, right? Well, at least it's better than giving away a copy of a book that will never exist. So, please enter and tell all of your friends. And get really excited for the big vlog/contest winners announcement next Wednesday. We're taking this VERY seriously.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Keeping Those Creative Juices Flowing

So probably ninety percent of the people reading this blog are writing a novel. That's awesome.

But what ELSE do you do?

What?! the affronted authors cry. Isn't writing entire novels from start to finish enough?

If it's enough for you, that's fine. However, I've been writing long enough that I need some other outlet, something else to inspire me, to keep my hands busy while my mind is free to wander. Since I gave up chorus--too many conflicts with late work events now that the weather is nice again--I realized I needed another creative outlet.

After I got my master's degree and started writing again steadily, the decoupage and other crafts I used to do every now and again never got touched. Writing was enough for me, because I saw results, more satisfying results than my rather uninspired art projects. But now that writing is such an ingrained part of my life, I need... something more.

Here's a little something you may not know about me. I'm a clothes-horse. I love buying new clothes and hate throwing old ones away. I love finding ways to wear old clothes in new ways. One of the simplest ways to make an old outfit look new again(don't worry, guys, I'll can see your eyes glazing over, so I'll keep this short) is with different jewelry.

So I've started making jewelry. It's fun, I'm happy with my results--even if it takes me all weekend to plan, start, and finish one piece, lol--and hey, it gives me a good excuse to keep abreast of fashion trends. It's surprising how I can use bits and pieces of old jewelry and clothes and everyday items like buttons to come up with something new, and different. I started out with a goal to make enough to sell at the farmer's market before summer comes, but even if that doesn't happen, I still have all this great jewelry. ;)

What keeps your creative juices flowing?

Friday, April 2, 2010

STRINGS--First Page Blogfest

Thanks to the Beta Club at Fiction Groupie, I recently received a lot of great feedback on my opening to STRINGS. What better time to show off my new opening than during the first page blogfest? (Rhetorical question. ;D)See the rest of the first pages here

Chapter 1

All this hot water is softening my callouses, and the cold wind chaps my wet skin. Not that Hanah will accept that excuse. Not today.

Our papa died only nine days ago, and while my eyes are still red and puffy from crying all the time, she's stone-faced as she watches me wash the dishes from his pomona, his first funeral supper. Making sure I don't contaminate her wash basins, most likely. She and my other sister Jeanette would be the first to call me unclean.

I know I wasn't supposed to touch him, that it was forbidden, but it was so sudden the way he went, collapsing on top of my mother in bed. He always joked that she'd give him a son yet, even though I'm the youngest of three girls. I don't know how we three all turned out so spiteful when my papa was a gentle man who laughed and joked all the time, and was never mean to a soul.

Ach, I want to cry again, but if I do, Hanah will tell Jeanette and they'll tell Mother that I stroked Papa's hand before the undertaker arrived to get him out of our wagon. I just wanted to touch him one last time before he was gone forever. How can that be so wrong? It's not as if I needed to worry about his spirit. He was just... gone.

"Hurry, girl, you've got to hurry," comes a rough female voice from behind me.

Hanah doesn't turn.

She has no idea that anyone is even there. And if I turn, that will just be one more reason for her to call me cursed, unclean. Marime.

I scrub garlicky stew out of a heavy iron pot, waiting.

Old Kira breezes through us, making both Hanah and me shiver.

Guide to Literary Agents - Fourth "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest

Guess what, y'all? It's time for another contest from the Guide to Literary Agents Blog.

Guest Agent/Judge this time around is Regina Brooks, the founder of Serendipity Literary Agency.

See details below and click the link to enter:

to Literary Agents - ''Dear Lucky Agent'' Contest: Middle Grade and Young Adult
(with agent Regina Brooks)
1. This contest will be
live for approximately fourteen days—from March 31 through the end of Wednesday,
April 14, EST. Winners notified by e-mail within 14 days of end of contest.
Winners announced on the blog thereafter.
2. To enter, submit the first
150-200 words of your book. Shorter or longer entries will not be considered.
Keep it within word count range please.
3. This contest is solely for
completed book-length works of middle grade and young adult fiction (kids
4. You can submit as many times as you wish. You can submit even if
you submitted to other contests in the past, but please note that past winners
cannot win again.
5. The contest is open to everyone of all ages, save those
employees, officers and directors of GLA's publisher, F+W Media.
6. By
e-mailing your entry, you are submitting an entry for consideration in this
contest and thereby agreeing to the terms written here as well as any terms
added by me in the 'Comments' section of this blog post. (If you have questions
or concerns, write me personally at

Top 3 winners all get: 1) A critique of 10 pages of your
work, by your agent judge. 2) A free one-year subscription to"

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Marly Rusoff: Deal or No Deal?

Marly Rusoff: Deal or No Deal?

One of the most interesting anecdotes Marly told during her master class was that her father was a bookbinder. This helped her develop a "deep reverence for the notion of what a book could be." Not only did he rebind books, but he also went to courthouses to bind the documents and records there.

So naturally, she became very concerned as a child when she heard her father talking about "microfiche", and lay awake at night worrying about it. ;)

She owned her own bookstore before she became a literary agent, so she has a great empathy for authors and aspiring authors. There is some good news about the bad market right now, she says: It will pass.

Have patience.


Now is the time to hone your craft, to spend time polishing. It's the time to find value in the writing process, to learn to love the journey, all very practical advice.

If you're bothered about the future of reading in this country, get involved! With your local library, or small book store, or with future readers.

As for writing query letters, she wants to receive letters that surprise and excite her. If you've done your job as a query writer, you've shown her what market this book fits into, as well.

What should you as a writer look for in a literary agent? Someone with business sense, experience, whether in editing or marketing--having connections helps. Most important is that they feel comfortable talking about money and negotiating for you. They need to be willing to fight for you.

Once you have that agent and that book deal, you will probably need to take charge of your own publicity. This is the time for branding, and even "gimmicks"--temporary tattoos, bumper stickers, recipe cards--related to your new book. Look into book groups, speaking engagements at colleges where you may be provided with an honorarium, and book signings. All of these things might be easier/less expensive if you are part of a group of authors, or if you tour with another author whose book somehow relates to yours.

Of course, don't forget, blogging, social networking, sending out review copies, and creating book trailers.

Marly Rusoff accepts queries for literary fiction.

Oh, and don't forget today's Beta Club!