WooHoo Baby! WooHoo...

So as of Saturday it’s official. I signed my first contract, made my first sale in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genre, and will be receiving my meager allowance shortly! What perfect timing too! Tomorrow I will embark on the NaNoWriMo challenge once again. Winning the Halloween contest has inspired me to take this challenge head on. I’m totally pumped and ready to go.

I’ve mentioned NaNoWriMo a couple of times before. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. For those writer’s out there with fulltime jobs, and some semblance of a life it can be done. For those of you who have never faced the perils of writing a novel, 50,000 words is a lot!!! I would say your average novel is anywhere from 80,000 words to 130,000 words. If you can picture a young adult novel that is about the size we are shooting for.

Of course, I don’t write young adult novels…and I don’t intend on starting now. So I can’t decide whether or not I am going to just aim for 50,000 and have an incomplete novel, or aim higher and shoot to finish a draft. My goal was to have a draft completed by the end of the year. I have one that is about 2/3 finished…but I have been stuck for a really long time. If I start a novel in November and don’t get it finished I’m afraid I won’t come back to it. If I can go insane and get an 80,000 word draft done then at least I will have completed my goal of getting something finished. This will be cause for a big celebration! (Speaking of end of the year celebrations, I should totally have a New Years Eve party…hmm…)

Where was I. Oh, so the funny thing about the Halloween Contest. I actually critiqued the short story that won! How funny is that?

With the NaNoWriMo, there is a forum/message board where you post your daily results…i.e. daily word count, total word count, most interesting line, worst line etc! I can’t decide if I want to post the info directly to the site and let my fellow fans read from there…or just use the blog to update my results. Or I could copy and paste…any suggestions from the peanut gallery? I’ll have to get on the site tonight and see what kind of access non-registered visitors get.

And the countdown is on baby!

The Weakest Link

Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m a failure. Not at writing. When I put a little effort in it you’d be amazed at what I can do. No, I am a failure at submitting my writing to interested markets. My number one, big fat problem is getting a piece of fiction from my desk to the mail and in front of the eyes of an editor, any editor. It’s a challenge. It’s not that I don’t understand the process. I am a smart person; I recognize that nothing will ever get sold and thus published if an editor or agent can’t read it. But there always seems to be some complication. Every single market, print or online, has different submission guidelines. Some want it double spaced, three inch margins with multi-colored text alternating at every other word.

OK, that’s not true. But you get my point. Before I can send anything out, I need to reformat. Change everything to single spaced, hard return, make up something to say in a cover letter, guess how much the postage will be and then get it to the post office. You gotta make labels, and actually have stamps…it’s just a major effort.

Well online should be easier, you say? Wrong. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. What kind of file do you save it as? Do you send it as an attachment or do they want it in the email of the text? Some files have to be single spaced with hard returns…others have to be double spaced with no breaks. Is the email you’re cover letter or do you attach it as a separate file as well. What happens when the file bounces back!

I suppose I shouldn’t complain. I met Gordon Van Gelder (Editor of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine) this past weekend (he’s totally gorgeous by the way) and he said that on an average he gets about 150 to 200 unsolicited manuscripts each week. EACH WEEK!!! And John (his assistant and slush reader) is charged with getting the slush turned around in 48 hours. It sound’s crazy, but I greatly, greatly appreciate his efforts. There’s nothing like getting a rejection slip four days after your manuscript was postmarked! You think I’m kidding. Try waiting four months to find out your story didn’t grab the editor. It would be different if you could send out one manuscript to five or ten different places at a time and see what bites. But that’s a big no, no. Editors/publishers really hate multiple submissions and usually state that in their guidelines.

Anyway, I look forward to the day when I can hire a part-time assistant to work for me. Someone to make copies of my manuscripts, track where they were submitted and when they came back etc. (I have a nifty computer program I use right now) and manage my fan mail (I can dream can’t I?). Then I will have to find something new to procrastinate.

Crazy ramlings...

I'll let you in on a little secret. I love to critique writings. I love it. That might explain why I'm up at five in the morning and resisting the urge to go get my little red pen and start scratching away at the pile of manuscripts by my printer. In fact, I love critiquing manuscripts so much that it is almost impossible for me to read a novel without once questioning some element or literary device that the author has used. I have gotten better about ignoring it with some authors and worse with others. There are some writers I just can't read anymore because the quality of their work has gotten worse instead of better. I think that's the curse of being a bestseller. Once you make it that big, people want consistency. The readers know how you write, and they want to see it over and over again. The editors/publishers know how much you bring in, and they want you to do it over and over again, and the agent, well they just keep lining up deals that makes everyone happy. But the writing suffers, as the books come out faster and faster. I know some famous authors who used to workshop their stuff before it went to the editor and now they don't and honestly, I want to read the book that was workshoped. I sit there and think to myself, if they had let someone impartial look at this, then the plot would be different. Or they would realize that this character has done a complete 180. But whatever who am I to complain?

I love critiquing manuscripts so much that I am now in three different workshop groups. When I sit down with a story, I just get sucked in, only coming up for air every two hours or so. And today I learned that it doesn't even have to be a manuscript. I have in deed spent at least four hours editing a three page book synopsis!

Overkill you say? Nonsense. Not when you take your responsibility as a critiquer seriously. on many an occassion I read a piece twice if not three times. The first just to get an idea of the structure, plot etc. I get a feel for what is on the plate. Did the end feel satisfying. Was the beginning slow? Was I confused during the middle? The second readthrough is to ask why. I know what I liked, and what I didn't like, now what might have caused that. The third read is typically grammar/line edits that might not have gotten picked up the first two times.

And you know what, the really great thing about reviewing someone elses work? You still don't get everything. I go to my writing group and think....I've got this story down, and sometimes I am surprised to see what others picked up on. Sometimes what I think is a flaw works for someone else. And that is ok. The important thing is that the author knows that.

People who don't have much success in a writer's groups are the people who don't know what to do with the information they are given. Some people simply can't handle criticism. I've had people react very badly to my words. In fact one new member to our group finished the meeting with, "and now that you've all stomped the life out of my writing..." He was shocked, and unprepared for our comments, and felt they were harsh. Maybe they were. I think we are all used to getting to the point. There's no reason to pussyfoot around. What good do you get from me telling you that your work is great, if it isn't? If we don't tell you, some agent or editor will (maybe, if they think you deserve even more than a form letter rejection from the slush pile.)

Other's just willy-nilly change things, taking every single suggestion that comes their way. I want to scream out NOOOOO while shaking them madly. You're the writer. It's your work. You have to know what it is you want to do with the story/novel before you can guage the feedback you recieve. If you write a horror story, and someone says, I don't like this, It was scary... you don't go back and take it out. You are writing a horror story, something that person simply may not have known, or may not like. People who don't know what they want out of a story, make so many inconsistent changes that in the end, the story can be worse off. Then they wonder why people still don't like the story. (I'd like to say, with a few stories I am guilty as charged!)

So that is my five AM tangent. Love your reviewers. Thank them dearly, especially if they spend hours pouring over your words. In the end, I don't do it to make myself feel better. I do it because I truly believe in helping each other write better. I learn so much in the process. And as wonderful as I am critiquing other people's work, sometimes I can't even identify the basic flaws in my own. Often I'm just too damn close to it. I rely on people putting in as much effort on my own work as I do theirs. And will I use all their comments? No way. But listening to them is the first step....