Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Material Alert... hipidee do da day!!

I've "finished" my new and improved chapter 2. Finished being, of course, code for: I'm-satisfied-with-it-but-will-likely-change-it-50-more-times-at-least. You can see this new and improved literary masterpiece under the Sample Chapters tab.

As a side note, though, I have not finished editing subsequent chapters to blend with the two new chapters I've added. Hence, if there are redundancies in the material, be kind! I'm getting to them soon!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pick up Lines

Not the sissy one liners that those idiotic, peacock, tail-feather-shaking boys spout when they're trying to work up enough courage to talk to a beautiful girl. No, I'm talking about the pick up line to a book: the first line on the very first page.

The first impression, if you will.

I have to admit, I've never put much stock into these pick up lines. I might be guilty of judging a book by its cover every now and again, but I definitely don't consider myself as one to judge a book by the first line.

But apparently, its important.

So important, that Writing Guru harps on it at least once every week. Agents, he says, need to be hooked by the first line.

Which never really made sense to me, because (once again) judging a book by the first line isn't really my thing. I usually give the book a good page or two before I decide whether or not I want to buy or borrow it, and then 100 times that length before I reject or read to the end. In fact to say I don't judge would be an understatement. The truth of the matter is that I rarely (if ever) even notice the quality of the first line.

Then again, I don't make my living rejecting thousands of manuscripts.

ANYWAY, the point of my ramblings, is that I finally realized what Writing Guru means when he says the first line is so important. I just finished reading the Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson. It was absolutely fantastic. My advice to you: go read it. And while I'm slightly jealous that he managed to pull a 1.5 million dollar advance for this book (his FIRST book, mind you), that's all beside the point. For the first time since Charles Dickens's "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." I finally noticed a first line.

The first line of the Gargoyle was:

"Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love."

You're a heartless goat if you don't want to keep reading after a line like that. (Why a goat? I don't know. It was the first thing that came to mind).

Anyway, this line was so compelling, it got me thinking that maybe Writing Guru DOES know what he's talking about when he says the first line is important. Considering there are competitors like Andrew Davidson running around the literary arena, I think I might need to reevaluate the quality of my own pick up line. Quite frankly: this girl needs to do a little tail feather shaking of her own.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New and Improved!

The best thing about being a part of the Houston Writer's Guild, is having a group of people who give me an undivided 10-15 min. of their time each week.

I love being the center of attention!

That is... when the time is devoted solely to critiquing my work, of course. ( ; Haha. Now I realize this spotlight attention and critique is just an obvious perk that comes with paying my membership fees. But all the same, its much appreciated and valued by yours truly.

Recently, one of the most valuable critiques I received was to add a chapter or two to the beginning of the book. The consensus was that my readers needed to have more bonding time with my main character, Essie, before changing the POV (point of view) character.

For the record, I agreed!

Its amazing how these people can point out such obvious mistakes that I missed--DESPITE the fact I've read through my own material about a million times.

Anyway... I spent a ridiculous amount of time last week trying to write a new chapter 1. Five drafts later, and my sanity completely gone, I finally produced a workable chapter.

Why did it take so long, you ask.

The problem I was facing, was writing a chapter that not only helped the reader to identify with my main character (Essie), but ALSO introduced some of the major plot problems. It was a difficult balance. On one hand, I have Essie, who is insecure, doesn't like being the center of attention and is very naive. On the other, I have these huge problems that Essie is completely oblivious to because she lives in this sheltered little universe. How to bring the two together??

Don't worry, I think I figured it out...

And happily, the material was VERY well received! My writing guild posse gave many compliments on the Essie/Ethan relationship, how much fun it was to read and a couple who said I "hooked" them. This is very good... my ego needed a boost!

Now I'm off to write a transition chapter that will blend the new stuff with the old stuff. Yay for being a writer... the friendly, stress-free profession where the work day NEVER ends! 

Anyway, I'd love to hear what you think! The new stuff is posted under the sample chapters tab. Feel free to read it and leave your comments in this post!

[By the way, someone asked me the other day how to leave a comment on my blog. Its easy! For you un-savvy bloggers out there, just click on the "Footnotes" link at the bottom of each post. The rest should be self explanatory from there!]

Thursday, April 14, 2011

So here's a secret...

It's true. I DO heart adverbs.

Actually, its a new found love. I didn't even know what an adverb was until these week at my writing pow-wow.

The thing is, I never did masquerade as a grammar expert. English? Yeah, okay, I liked it... when it involved reading good books or writing fun papers. But the technicalities of grammar? Not my forte. And no--just cause I know some smart Alec out there is thinking it--you DON'T need to know the technicalities to write a good paper. Most of us know what "proper" grammar is, even if we aren't sure how to identify or label said technicalities.

Any-who... since I didn't know what an adverb was, when Houston's writing guru told us this week to eliminate them from our manuscripts, I didn't know what kind of a brutal thing he was asking me to do. Needless to say, when I found out that suddenly, wonderfully, deliciously, scandalously, incandescently and all my lovely "ly" words constituted as the dreaded adverb, I was devastated.

But apparently, professional writers don't use those naughty words.

Which is funny, because when writing guru told us to cut them, he used the phrase: "BRUTALLY cut them from the page!"

Wait a second...

Brutally ? That's an adverb! Sneaky guy.

In light of the adverb controversy, this is all I have to say:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Intimidation looks like this:
This was me last night. No, not the rottweiler. The scared, helpless chiwawa. Turns out, reading your manuscript in front of a bunch of angry savages (aka: fellow writers) is a lot more tough than you think... who'd have thought?

Sissy as I am, I waited a whole night before breaking out the bundle of pages full of feedback. I don't take criticism well when I'm tired. I figured I could be more rational about the comments if I faced them with a good night's sleep under my belt. Unfortunately, the "good night's sleep" didn't actually happen (I'm getting sick, go figure). Still, with at least SOME sleep under my belt and no more excuses to exhaust, I girded up my loins this morning and broke out the comments.

Thankfully, MOST of the comments were very helpful. Grammatical errors were sighted, cliches pointed out and story line revisions suggested. I felt quite happy about the advice I was getting... until, that is, I reached the last page of comments.

The direct quote, scribbled on my manuscript by a nondescript, black ball point pen, said: "Is this a history lesson or a story? Assume they will know or will learn it!"

Now, to be fair, this comment has some legitimacy. I do tend to get giddy about all things historical and legal, and I'll admit, I could probably tone down that a bit. But I was absolutely flabbergasted by the comment, simply because the paragraph she was referring to described a fictional Constitutional amendment that essentially combined the houses of Congress into one body and allowed Congressmen to extend their terms indefinitely.


Is this girl really trying to tell me that she doesn't know our current BICAMERAL system of government implements a Congress that is ELECTED and serves for FIXED terms??? (HR: 2 yrs; Senate: 6 yrs).

Wow. And I thought we learned that in second grade... Something tells me this girl has never cast a ballot in her life.

The funny (ironic) thing is, I've just been sitting here thinking that I was dumbing down the politics to a painful level. Apparently not. I suppose I'll need to describe how the current system really works, before describing whats going on in my fictional world. But then the book really would be a history lesson. And honestly, its not my job to educate America... all I want to do is tell an entertaining story! But how am I supposed to do that when people can't even tell the real life from the fiction??

After reading those particular comments I didn't feel like a chiwawa anymore. I began channeling my inner rottweiler as I entered a new level of concern for the future of our country. When grown, reasonably intelligent adults don't even know how I our system of government is structured, there is definitely cause for concern.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

**Boil down, Fly speck, Doctor, Massage, Scrub...

Or in other words: edit.

Which is what I'm ALWAYS doing (no joke).

Which is also to say that I've updated the material under my "Sample Chapters" tab. Its the same story, same characters, same scene, etc.... just better written. And, as my work is in a constant state of remodeling, these update notices will likely appear from time to time. Just smile, nod, click on the tab, read, comment or ignore... depending on your level of interest!

**ALL honest to goodness alternative modes of expression for the word "edit" by

And you thought I was making things up...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Where do you keep the dying people?

In answer to my deeply thought provoking question:

"What does it feel like to get stabbed?" responded:

"It hurts."

Well done, Wiki answers! If I could have used such simplicity to write a fight scene in my book, I would have done so! Which is really to say: you're no help at all. You dummy. I guess if you want something done you have to do it yourself. Anyone got a knife?

Just kidding. I'm a total wimp around blood.

But I'm kind of in a pickle. The worst injury I've ever had was a sprained ankle. Or stitches on my finger. I'm not really sure which qualifies as worse. Not that it matters, because the point is a that neither counts as a stab or a shot.

Which turns me to you, readers. Those of you who have suffered from such injuries would do me a great favor by coming forward. It'd be lovely to hear from you!

No really, I insist.

[Obviously, those who didn't survive said wounds are exempt from answering this question.]

This whole dilemma actually reminds of that movie, Stranger than Fiction. The movie centers around an author who is desperately seeking out the most poetic death for her main character. One day her research takes her to a hospital to "see the dying people." However, much to her dismay, no one was dying. Frustrated, she asks a hospital attendant:

"Where do you keep the dying people?"

[Strange look from hospital attendant]

"These people are injured, but they're going to make it... that's wonderful and all, but I need to see the people that don't have a chance, that are dying for sure."

"Um, are you suffering from something?"

"Just writer's block."

Hardy, har, har, har. Love it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Writing: Not like bikini modeling

Yesterday was my first meeting with the Houston Writer's Guild. Before the meeting, I was a little apprehensive about going. All day I kept telling myself that it was no big deal, and that people joined totally rock awesome writing clubs all the time. But despite my half hearted pep talks, I still I couldn't quite suppress feeling like I was the new kid going to my first day of school. Am I wearing the right shoes? Did I brush my teeth? What if nobody likes me??

I know. I'm a sissy. Laugh it up.

My biggest fear was that I would be the only "Under 50" member at the meeting. For some reason, this bothered me. Like I might be intruding on some kind of highly exclusive senior citizens writing club. And I must say, if anyone from said writing club actually read this post, they'd probably get a real kick out of the fact that I thought everyone would be old.

You see writing--unlike other industries, for instance bikini modeling--is no respecter of age. Any age is the right age to write, and the writers guild was no different. There were people ranging all the way from my "24-but-I-look-like-I'm-16" baby face, to an old guy named Jon Hawthorne who, when I walked up to the group said:

"I want the pretty girl to sit next to me!"

Out of the mouth of a totally wasted college drop out, this might sound a tad creepy. But coming from a cute old man?


The only thing better would have been if he had called me "luv" with a British accent.

(By the way... "Hawthorne"... great name for a writer, right?!)

Anyway, at these meetings, group members have the opportunity to bring sections of their book for critique. Being the newbie, and not having yet paid my membership fee, I didn't bring any of my book for critique. Nonetheless, I was quite happy to sit next to Mr. Hawthorne and read sections of everyone else's work. It was great fun, and definitely an evening well spent.

Currently my only remaining apprehension is actually having to read part of my book out loud to everyone. A totally painful experience. Those of you who have tried it know what I'm saying... its like putting your heart and soul out into the middle of Times Square for well-meaning tourists to trample all over.

Better just grin and take it, I suppose.

After all, like the saying goes: what doesn't kill you will only make you stronger.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Houston Writer's Guild

I've decided to join the Houston Writer's Guild. Its a writing organization in Houston designed to put new writers (such as yours truly) in touch with others in the industry, get critiqued and ulimately: get published. I'm hoping this will open up lots of new writing opprotunities for me. I'm also excited to meet other writers in the area and to discuss my book with like minded individuals.

The Houston Writer's Guild has a writing conference coming up in May, which I will be attending. I'm excited to attend lectures and seminars from people in the "bizzzz." With any luck, I'll be able to pitch my book to an agent or two as well. Should be fun!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I've Figured You Out, Blogspot

So for a while now, I've wanted to add sample chapters from my book to my blog. Because although all of you are hanging on my every move, checking this blog hourly for updates (hardy har), lets be honest... what you're REALLY interested in is not my "journey to publishing" saga, but the actual book. Unfortunately, at times I'm just not so blog savvy. Happily, though, tonight I discovered how to accomplish the simple task of adding a separate page to my blog! What does this mean? In a nutshell: sample chapters have been added above. Feel free to click and read at will!

As a side note, I should add that if this whole "page" business didn't make any sense to you, I suggest buying the "Blogging for Dummies" book and check out the chapter on "pages". No, I didn't buy the book to figure it out. I saved 20 bucks and Googled it. But I'm sure there is a book out there somewhere. If you're the ocd book purchasing type...

Anyway. I'm tired. I'm going to bed.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sneaking Suspicion...

Researching, as I have been doing for the past few weeks, for that perfect agent, I've had this sneaking suspicion growing in the back of my mind. Since I know you (whoever "you" are, if you're anyone) are just dying to know, I'm going to tell you:

I'm not going to find an agent through a query letter.

But wait! This is not me getting down on myself. This is "sneaking, conniving, scheming and planning" Julie mode. Not "the world is crashing down on me and I'm a totally worthless writer" Julie mode. You see, I've been reading up on a lot of different agents lately. I read their bios. I read their blogs. Their facebook pages, I Google maps stalk them (okay, not really) but you get the idea. And without fail, I've noticed that precious few of them actually admit to taking writers on through query letters. Oh they will give tips on how to write a good query and what have you will, but when it actually comes down to it, even WITH a good query, they don't take all that many query submissions. If we had to give it a percentage, only about 1-5% of an agent's pool of authors come through query submissions. The rest of the 95? Referrals and writing conferences.

This is quite enlightening for me and I have no idea why I didn't figure this out earlier. But, in lieu of this new information, I have changed my strategy. Since I don't know any published writers who would be willing to give me a referral (still working on bribing my Aunt into giving me her niece--Stephenie Meyer's--mailing address) I'm forced to conclude that my best option is: attending writing conferences.

In addition to fabulous speakers that give you all sorts of yummy writing tips, these conferences usually invite agents, editors and publishers to speak and offer their time up for consultations. These consultations offer hopeful writers (such as myself!) the opportunity to personally pitch their book to an agent or publisher and get personal advice from editors on how to improve their writing. Now OF COURSE that is a better way to get an agent than a lousy email! Its not even a question that a personal pitch is going to have a better impression on an agent than an impersonal email or mail submission. And this is what I've been competing against?? Its no wonder that pitiful query submissions such as mine get pushed into the slush pile.

Thus, although I probably won't give up my query submissions completely, my new summer writing strategy is simple: look up and attend as many writing conferences as possible.