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Swabbing the Decks March 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — christineglover @ 9:19 pm
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I’ve taken two weeks off of working on the current WIP in Revision. It has been lovely to read great books, relax with my family, and romp with my friends. But today I faced the first part of my next pass through the WIP. How? How did I face this enormous, gigantic, overwhelming muddle of a mess?

I avoided the task.

I cannot start a new project, or new anything, till I swab my mental decks. And man, my mental decks were super cluttered. I had the following on-going stuff to deal with:

*organize the online coordinator files on the computer and via hard copy
*print out all my online class files for a plotting class I couldn’t participate in this past month with the serious hope they will help me revise this mess
*email thank you notes to my critiquing author and the coordinator of the event
*clear out and file papers

And those were the easy things to do today. I tend to go crazy whenever I gear up for a new challenge. Once I started digging through old papers, I decided to truly haze the closet. My poor writing closet was in very sorry shape. My DH keeps promising to put in shelves for me, but now that he’s in recovery from his hip replacement, I can’t ask him to drill holes. Yet. Meanwhile, I have empty printer paper boxes filled with the contents of three manuscripts, a portable file cabinet with folders older than my fifteen year old daughter, a box of GH entries I judged and must keep till after the GH Ceremony, a wire shelf brimming with envelopes and more, and finally old bags from other conferences I haven’t tossed or repurposed.

Yikes!

With shovel in hand, I hunkered down next to the closet and brutally, cruelly dug all the papers out of the hole. Once the dirty pages piled up to the size of a small hill, I hauled them out to the dumpster. Gone are the old story ideas from 1990. Gone are the toxic email exchanges between me and my mother (negative energy can hide in dark corners–I want LIGHT). Gone are the ancient files with titles like “child’s orthodontist info.” Gone are the multiple drafts of all three MSS I have slaved over. Now there is one MS per sweat and blood and tears of effort.

I also hit the “rejection letters.” I used to tuck them into the boxes with the manuscripts that matched the rejection. Now I have a “TRYING TO BE PUBLISHED” file filled with all the rotten (sorry–I meant to say encouraging words to keep on slogging away at this crazy dream of mine) letters and postcards. I don’t have a suitcase of them, but gosh, I wish I had started paying myself for rejections a long time ago. I’d be able to afford that gorgeous Golden Heart ceremony gown I’ve been eyeing for the National Conference.

Ah, bliss. I have a sense of peace in my heart. I feel like the room is airy and light and happy again. I feel like I am in control (an illusion, but I prefer to believe it will be permanent).

But clearing out the room wasn’t enough. No, now I had to tackle the email INBOX. It’s not quite done yet. It fills up rather quickly and I can’t keep up with all the info. But that’s an ongoing battle and one I tackle on a regular basis. Red Flags help.

Still to do? Oh, the usual myriad of “put off until I can see more than one domino at a time” stuff is waiting for me to address their summons for replies, reading, critiquing, judging, etc. But I have a plan now. I also spent an inordinate amount of time organizing my calendars: computer and wall. Now I have a clear vision of when I can and when I cannot write. This is a good thing.

My calendar is my road map. I do a massive update every quarter. And lo and behold, right before I rip out the guts of my current WIP, I realized I have to update again because it’s almost April. Woohoo!! Now my personal and my professional worlds and all the demands I’ll be meeting are clearly set down. Yay!

(hey, this creative avoidance thing is great for de-cluttering the mind and the house)

A few more mental clutterbugs to sweep off my to-do list exist. I must read my writing friend’s world building history because I am so very curious about it. I must catch up on all my newsletters that the chapter newsletter editors sent this week because I know they have a lot of great information in them. And I must begin judging the contest entries I received over spring break. I can’t wait! Good karma out equals great karma back at me.

And best of all, as I look toward tomorrow I see a sparkling ship. The outer decks are clear and bright. The sun is reflecting off of the bow. I can see the blue waters of creativity swelling in the distance. And I feel a bit of wind billowing my writing sails.

It’s time to set my course and go back out into the ocean of possibilities!

 

Reading, Relaxing, Reflecting After a Big Day March 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — christineglover @ 1:43 pm
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Yesterday as a momentous day for many of my co-writers, some I knew and some I didn’t, but the excitement about the RWA Golden Hearts and Ritas filled the day.

No. I didn’t final. I never expect to final. I know it’s a lottery to some extent. Sometimes it is not about the writing, it’s about the judges. Sometimes it’s about the writing and the judges aren’t the problem. I’m certain my writing is decent; one of my entries was a MAGGIE finalist. And the second entry, despite the “tone” problems, was critiqued by a published author with tons of experience. The things she asked me to change had much to do with finesse, not craft. So there you have it.

Does this detract from the GH finalists? Absolutely not. My CP is a finalist. She’s entered 4 years (or 5) and this is her first time finaling. She was very low last year after not finaling, and I don’t blame her. She wrote just as well then as she this year. But this year, she had the right combination: a great book and great judges who loved her story.

And that makes me happy for her and hopeful for me. If not the GH, then it will be an editor or an agent. The GH is a great feather in one’s cap, but it doesn’t guarantee publication or lack of rejections. In fact, one of the most dangerous times for a writer to quit is after finaling in the GH. Why? Because of the expectations: her hopes and the hopes of her fellow writers. When the elusive publication call doesn’t come, the GH finalist can plummet very low. So for those of you out there who finaled, enjoy the high and glory of being a finalist: you’ve earned it. And it will be fun to see who wins.

But remember, it’s like a wedding. After the big day, it’s back to reality. And reality isn’t always easy.

Which brings me back to me. Here’s my reality: a story with a tone problem, another revision waiting for me to tackle it, an underlying doubt that this story is even worth the effort given the content, a desire to kick the bloody thing out the door and start again, a stubborn streak forcing me to stay the course regardless of the outcome.

But I have to have an end-game. I call this my exit strategy. At what point to we say “stop?” I did this when I was trying to get pregnant. I had a stopping point. I knew how much pain and anguish I could bear, how much money I could lose and then I made my decision. We stop trying at this point. Fortunately, we were lucky. We had our baby. Our one good egg. I was lucky indeed.

I’ve had this for selling houses, building houses, starting new ventures and more. At what point do we cave on the dollar amount? At what point do we walk from the deal? The same is true for this MS and for my writing as a whole.

I’ve been at this game for 5 years now. I’ve come close, very close, but still not there. Do I ever quit? In this case, no. I can’t NOT write. But I have a daughter going to college in two years and a household I’d like to contribute to. Is it fair to ask my husband to carry the FULL burden and SUPPORT my crazy dream financially? No. For now, in our 1-End list, we have a strategy. The strategy is to keep going till 2013. Then reevaluate. Then it will be not if I write, but when I write. If DD is in college, I can easily work and write. It’s not like DH needs me to hold his hand and stroke his ego on a regular basis. So the end game is write without a full time job for now, reevaluate in 3 years, decide then where to go based on where I am as a writer professionally.

That’s the big picture. The smaller picture is the current MS. At what point do I say it is time to move on? I’ve wrestled it back from the brink twice in a big way, once in a smaller way. Now I am going back in–on Monday–armed with author critique and my brainstorming notes. I am reading all I can get my hands on to reestablish what I want to write and why. I am eliminating a LOT of directions and zoning in on the key direction.

My end game for the current MS is July 1. This gives me 3 months, with interruptions like visits from folks, recitals and year end school stuff, to revise the current jumble. Within that 3 month period, I have a contest I want to enter (maybe 2) and a new synopsis to write. After the 3 month period, I am setting it aside and moving forward.

I have learned a lot about myself as a writer and as a reader. I know where I want to go. It has been great to take relaxing break and read the books I’ve read. It has been great to evaluate my direction. It has been great to come up with a plan.

Come Monday the micro plan is in place. Come Monday, the macro life plan is in place as well.

What are your strategies? Do you reflect upon what your end game is? Do you adjust your thinking about when and where you write?

 

Golden Hearts & My Critique Partner March 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — christineglover @ 9:59 pm
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No, I didn’t final in the Golden Heart. But I did get the next best thing: seeing my critique partner, Sharon Wray, final in the Romantic Suspense category. She’s entered four times (or five–we can’t remember) and this is the first time she has finaled.

Best news of all: a request from a contact’s agent/editor as soon as the word was out.

I am over the moon for my friend. She’s worked hard for it and she’s earned it. She’s experienced the low of NOT finaling for four years in a row.

Now she is experiencing the HIGH.

So for those of you out there celebrating, I celebrate with you all. And for those of you out there who are feeling a bit stung and low, remember my friend’s experience. Keep writing, keep focused and NEVER GIVE UP!

 

Two Tone Writing March 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — christineglover @ 11:33 am
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Last weekend I was fortunate to attend the GEORGIA ROMANCE WRITERS OF AMERICA’s Author Critique Workshop held for members only. I sent in the first 25 pages of my MS and the synopsis. My work was assigned to a published author (turns out she is someone I admire a lot and she is a prolific writer with sage advice). Prior to the workshop in Atlanta, she returned my pages to me and said she enjoyed the story and the writing, but I had two problems:

1) The “through line” or  “log line” was a bit muddy. In my attempt to grow my category romance into a single title romance, I had two stories going on: one is a fun, lighthearted romantic comedy with super sizzle while the other is deep, serious, woman in jeopardy romantic suspense. Yikes! And she’s right. Totally right. I’ve recognized this issue all along but decided to ignore it till I got to THE END for the zillionth time.

2) The tone of my story is directly affected by the muddy through line. Tone A is funny and light humorous writing. Tone B is definitely serious and deep. Yikes again! My story is bipolar. Again, I expanded this book into what I hope will be a single title, but in doing so I wrote two stories.

There are other problems: too many elements, the backstory is too complicated, I have enough conflict without the history, and so on. The thing is, my writing was not heavily edited. She liked it. She just wants me to fine tune my story line.

And that means I have to make a very hard decision: do I keep it light or do I go dark? I can do either. But one thing is for sure: I cannot do both in the same book. Another issue I have is the backstory. I can’t really eliminate the characters’ history without literally destroying my ending. Seriously! And many minor plot points will have to be cut or revised heavily or … or … I am in a dither about what to do. Why? Because I just cut over 20,000 words. I added 28,000 new words. And now I must face the same nightmare again.

And I am avoiding it like one avoids catching a stomach virus. I hate throwing up. I think I hate cutting my words even more. So I am taking another week off. What am I doing while I let my WIP in revision percolate? I’m reading. My reading has two purposes: pleasure and genre research.

I’ve inhaled two Berkeley Sensations, one HQN single title and a Suzanne Brockmann romantic suspense this week. I’ve already been confused by the Sensations line. One book bordered on porn with a plot and I’m not sure the porn was used properly given the plot (and I am not a squeamish reader or writer). The other book read like a category super romance with zero sex other than references to it at the end of the book. I loved the story and read it with great pleasure, but where was the “sensation?”

The HQN Single Title I read was nicely written and a sweet story with some beautifully written sensual scenes. I plan to reread this author’s work as well as more for that alone. However, the motivation and inner turmoil seemed to be repeated to the point of saturation. By the end of the story, I was frustrated by the MC’s and merely wanted them to get together. Seriously. It was like a stretched out category with none of the pep.

If you’ve read my blog, you know how I feel about Suzanne Brockmann’s writing. She is a master and if I could be half the writer she is, I’d be thrilled. I did notice one thing. Back in 1996, she wrote a lovely contemporary romance with a single plot thread. Even then you could see her future would be great: she knows her characters and their emotions. That’s what I’m trying to take away from my reading her books. Of course, I plan to read more! Although I don’t plan to write only romantic suspense, if I can write emotion and character better because I read her work, I’ll be rewarded as a writer with a better book.

Can you see which direction I am headed? Am I making the right decision? Those of you who read my blog know the duality of my tone already. I can be funny or serious. And that’s okay for my blog. But it’s not okay for my future writing and revision. I need to step off the precipice. As my critique author said, “You need to take a risk.”

Why am I afraid? Because what I am naturally buoyed by as a writer, what gives me pleasure and makes it fun for me has been rejected for the very fact that it is fun, light writing. But maybe that’s because I muddied the waters with too many elements. I’ve also been told that they like my writing, but they haven’t connected with it. Maybe I wasn’t serious or emotional enough? In trying to fix the rejections by weaving my response into my writing I may have tried too hard and tossed the proverbial baby out with the bath water.

I don’t know. I do know I am going to work this out. Snippets of plot revision and character solutions are popping into my head. I’m realizing that I have confused plot events with emotional lives. I need to weave in the emotions while being true to the story line. And keeping it simple is a good thing to do as I expand the book.

On my to-do list? I plan to hit the bookstore today and pick up more books, single title, that reflect the future tone of my own story. Then I will read more. I’ve got Larry Brooks structure book downloaded and will read that as well.

And next week? Oh yeah. Let the work begin again.

 

Status Update: Travel, Trucks & Tone March 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — christineglover @ 12:17 am
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Ah, I’ve had a wonderful break from life in the real world. After wrapping up my WIP and printing it, I was off on a road trip with my DD. Here are my travel stats:

*two gals, two GPS systems in conflict, too many choices on the roadways
*more amazing food than I care to admit eating, but my pants are more than aware!
*the USA is an amazing country–each area unique and special and inspiring
*over 776 miles put on the vehicle in 6 days
*Duke University: beautiful campus. Can I go? Oh, forgot. $53, 390 tuition PER YEAR aack!
*I85 South to Atlanta — SCARY
*Demon Van (ask now, I will tell you later)
*Malls, beautiful malls
*IKEA: not just the Poang Chair. Eat the hot dogs. DD treated me.
*Reading-Reading-Reading: we watched zero TV
*Talking-Talking-Talking: are we hoarse yet?
*Late-Lost-Both: so much for having two GPS Systems. Tom Tom argued with the Honda’s guidance
*Amazing critique by amazing author, Stephanie Bond, at GRWA meeting: so much to mull!
*Amazing din din with a writing friend in Atlanta: thanks DD for putting up with “writer talk.”
*side roads: sometimes the road less traveled is the best road to take

Now I’m back, DD is back in school, and DH is able to go to work full time after nearly 6 weeks at home with me. The house is quiet. Too quiet. The dust bunnies have called. The critique is mystifying me. My CPs are supportive. My house is calling me to straighten it up before I forge ahead.

I am listening. Mulling time is officially on!

 

Rejuvenation Time March 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — christineglover @ 7:39 pm
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The writing marathon is over for the current WIP in Revision. My wonderful CPs have their copies on their computers, and I have my copy sitting on a bookshelf in my office. I’ve made a few notes regarding the next pass through the WIP, but other than that, no writing has occurred.


What has happened is a whole lot of reading. Oh, the joy! I read a Suzanne Brockmann book all the way to the end in less than two days. The story was so complex and riveting, I couldn’t put the book down. By the end of the novel, I was immersed in her story, OUT OF CONTROL. Wow, I wasn’t reading to learn anymore, I was reading for the sheer pleasure of enjoying the people in the story.


And Suzanne Brockmann is a Word Wizard. She crafted not just one story, but four! And I wanted to know what happened in all the stories. The pages were flipping so fast, I felt the return of the reader within me. Finally I was lost in a story.


So what am I going to do for the next few days as my darling daughter and I travel? READ my TO BE READ BOOKS. Oh, I can’t wait for lazy evenings with my feet plopped up on the hotel’s bed with a book in my hand. I can’t wait to get lost in the stories other writers have written. I can’t wait to rediscover why I started writing. I love to read just about any style of book I can hold in my paws.


While I’m on my vacation, I will update my blog with my discoveries.


First on the list:


Suzanne Brockmann’s OUT OF CONTROL. This book lives up to its promise. She knows how to push the limits of romantic suspense to new, breathtaking heights. Potent, gripping, and explosive, Out of Control is a roller-coaster ride of a novel–as a single act of loyalty becomes a desperate struggle for survival…


The best part of this book for me was how well-drawn Suzanne Brockmann drew her character. They were alive. They had depths of emotion that touched my heart. They popped off the pages and made me root for them.

There was a line in the book that spoke directly to my heart. Ken “Wildcard” Karmody tells Savannah von Hopf, “I didn’t “join the SEALS so that my father would be proud of me. I joined so that I could be proud of me. I did it for me.”  I fell in love with him all over again.

Thanks Suzanne Brockmann for the incredible read!

 

Separation Anxiety March 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — christineglover @ 6:03 pm
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Now that I have printed out my hard copy of the WIP in Revision, I need to let it sit on the shelf for a week or so. Why? Because right now I can’t see the forest for the trees. My brain needs a break. I need to shift my focus and look in another direction for a while in order to come back to the WIP with a fresh mind. I also need to take a break because I need to be receptive to the critiques I’ll be getting from my CPs. I might want to rebel, but the truth is, I need to look at my “baby” with a critical eye as well.

But separating oneself from a WIP one’s worked on for four months is tough. Here are some ways I handle the separation anxiety:

1) Try to finish the WIPs, writing work before a major holiday or break. In this case, Spring Break starts on Saturday. Now I’m gearing up for the break, a trip and getting excited about seeing my friends in North Carolina.

2) Plan to exchange work with your CPs. This way I can fill my need to read, but it’s my CP’s work and it takes me out of my writing world.

3) Read a craft book or take an online course while taking a break. This is a great way to prep for the next first draft and/or to brainstorm for ideas for the current WIP under Wraps.

4) Putter around the house. Do things you don’t normally have time to do. Plan a gardening project or home project. Direct your creative energy elsewhere.

5) Catch up on your to-be-watched list (television or movies)

6) Plan fun events with your friends. Go for lunches. Shop. Visit cool places.

7) Catch up on your to-be-read pile (you know the stack of books you WANT to read that’s next to your bed?). Fill your mind with other people’s amazing, published works.

8) Celebrate the fact that you’ve finished another wrestling round with the WIP.

9) Straighten up the office, the work space, clear out the old clutter and free yourself for the next round or starting a new project.

10) Do nothing at all–don’t have deadlines or schedules to meet. Just chillax’ and put your feet up. Rest is good for the creative soul.

What are some of the ways you deal with your separation anxiety during the “shelf stage” of writing?