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Promoting RWA PRO Writers April 29, 2010

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I’ve been a PRO writer with the RWA for over a year now. I could have applied for this status about four years ago, but I didn’t go for it till 2009. I’m glad I did because it opened up a world of opportunities for me as a writer.

Some of you might be wondering what the heck a PRO is so I’ll give you a quick rundown.

*PRO writers with the RWA have finished at least one manuscript and queried the manuscript to accredited agents/editors of publishing house only to be rejected. After they are rejected, they fill out an application with the RWA (found on the website), send in proof of their completed manuscript and a copy of their rejection, and they are approved PRO by the RWA.

*When a writer in the RWA becomes a PRO, she/he is privy to all kinds of business information because they want to do more than write, they want to and are seeking publication. The RWA PRO organization has classes, Yahoo loop, a special retreat at the conference where editors and agents share more about the industry, and access to PRO materials through the RWA including a newsletter.

*A PRO writer’s greatest ambition is to progress from PRO to PAN because a writer who becomes a PAN is a PUBLISHED writer. Woohoo!

*Becoming PRO doesn’t mean a writer will suddenly become more eligible to become published, but if the writer utilizes the information and continues to actively learn and grow as a writer within this umbrella of writers, she/he has a better chance of becoming PAN.

*PRO writers can be PROs for years despite their best efforts or they can become PAN very quickly. The business is capricious so there are no guarantees.

If you are a PRO, what are the perks and pitfalls of being a PRO?

If you are not a PRO, why not?

If you have a finished manuscript, have you tried to query and sell it? If not, why not?

If you have tried to sell a manuscript to an accredited editor/agent, have you taken the next step in your career and applied for PRO? If you haven’t, I highly recommend you go for it!

I’ll be focusing a lot on PRO writing for a few days because I want to take this to another level. I’m considering a Q&A blog to recur where I will interview my fellow PRO writers and give them an opportunity to share their work on my blog. I feel the more traffic we can generate toward our writing, the better.

Stay tuned!

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Have You Thanked a Judge Today? April 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — christineglover @ 6:57 pm
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Not every contest judge is a villain with vampire blood and destructive diatribes flowing through her/his veins. Most judges are very conscientious and encouraging when they score a manuscript. Even if a judge gives scores that hurt one’s ego, if the judge gave constructive criticism or advice or encouragement, that judge deserves a big thank you.

Yes, even a low scoring judge deserves a thank you if that judge took the time to evaluate your work with the intent to encourage a writer along the path to publication. As a judge, I can tell you that I spend a great deal of time reading the entry, considering the market, looking at the tone and intent of the story. I read it more than once, I take the time to make suggestions and show why I am having trouble with the MS, and I add and re-add the scores (math is not my forte).

In the last seven months, I have judged several contests, some where I was also a entrant and some where a call came out from a contest coordinator for help.

Why? Because I have benefited from my own work being judged. As a PRO, I feel it is important to pay it forward. While I may not be published yet, I can assure you that I didn’t even consider judging any contests till I became a PRO, had entered many contests myself, and I had been trained.

I enjoy judging other people’s works. There are a lot of talented writers in this world and a lot of people with tons of super cool ideas. I am a voracious reader of all genres from YA to Paranormal to Erotic. I write sexy contemporary romances so I don’t judge that category. But I do believe as a reader with a wide palette of tastes in fiction, I am qualified to read and judge other categories.

The deal I make with the entries I receive is pretty straightforward: I read the entry as if this might be the person’s first writing attempt and/or contest attempt. I look for the strengths in the writing and point them out. And where I see weaknesses, they are often areas I myself had to fix as a newbie writer. I try to show how to fix them in a nice way. I hope I succeed.

I don’t know how many entries I’ve judged because I’ve lost track of the count. However, I do know how many thank you emails I’ve received. Two. Yup. That’s all. Not that it matters, but I’m the type of person who believes that positive feedback goes both ways. When there is a flagrant miscarriage of the judging duties (I’ve only had one such an experience), then I do point it out. I feel there is a responsibility to vet inappropriateness. On the other hand, I also take the time to send thank you notes to my judges who took the time to judge my works.

It’s not time consuming to send a thank you. Sometimes I’ll send a thank you to the coordinator and ask her to forward the thank you to all the judges. If a judge took special time and consideration with  my work, then I write a separate thank you to that judge where I address the specific help and encouragement she/he gave me.

Why? Because I want that judge, PRO/PAN or RWA general membership, to want to judge again. I want the good judges to desire to help again. So I tell them why I appreciate them. Much has been ballyhooed about on various writing loops about the capriciousness of judges and the East German Judge (I know there’s more than one) and the horrible comments. But all judges are not created equal. Not all the judges were super critical to the point of making a writer want to give up her dream.

If we’re going to complain, we should also give praise where it is due. I know I have.

Have you thanked your contest judge today?

 

Writing Isn’t Always "Writing" April 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — christineglover @ 1:37 pm
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I’ve reached a point in my revision where I must stop and let my characters reveal the story to me before I jump into the next revision.

Confession: Patience is not one of my higher virtues. I must be forced by circumstances to be patient.

The circumstances I face are:

A) Guests coming in for a week. I am very excited about the family visit. I can’t wait to see my brother, my SIL and my niece. We have a lot of fun things planned. This is their first visit to the Southeast. I want to make it a memorable one. This also means not writing a lot.

B) Battling the VA again regarding my FIL’s insurance claims. That’s phone calls and waiting and phone calls and waiting and … lots of time finding the right person to help us help my FIL. He’s dying of cancer, his wife is focused on him, and we are fighting for his rights. That’s called real life. Sometimes real life has to come first.

C) Waiting for responses from my CPs regarding my story sketch. I spent a great deal of time interviewing my characters. My heroine has come out and I KNOW her story. Other characters have revealed themselves. I’ve got oodles written in backstory regarding the history of why my heroine is where she is and why she wants to stay. I KNOW her inside and out. My hero? Oh, he’s being cagey. There’s a hole because I had to eliminate so many elements of his backstory to even out the tone of the story. And that leaves me questioning why he’s back home–it’s not just to stop his mom from making, in his mind, a monumental mistake. But he’s not fessing up. That means going to the Villain and asking him. I need to interview him and see what he knows.

D) Researching and brainstorming ideas in general. Looking up information about the laws in my state regarding the subject matter. This takes time.

So writing is not always about getting the story revised. Writing is about breaking down the elements and thinking/muddling/talking about the story. I’ve sat down in front of the computer three times now. I’ve written a first draft and two revisions. I’ve entered contests and received feedback regarding the storyline and the characters. I’ve been critiqued by a published author and learned more about why my middle is sagging at a workshop. All of these elements, the lessons I’ve learned, the positive and constructive feedback I’ve received are gelling in my mind and forcing me to seriously evaluate where the story is going before I sit down to revise it again.

The only problem with this stage of the revision is that inspiration strikes at odd times. I’m not always focused on the real world tasks because one of my characters pipes up and prods me with their information. I have to write this information down quickly or I might lose it. I’m living in two worlds: my fictional world and my real world. And they collide on occasion.

The good news is I believe this dual life is helping me shake out the story elements. I’m not feeling pressured to know all the answers this week. I just want to let the characters reveal themselves to me while I clean the kitty litter, shop for groceries for my company, do laundry, exercise, set up the guest room and make my phone calls.

This is all good. I am glad I am forced to be patient. I’ll be released to write soon enough.

What do you do between revisions? How do you approach your story problems?

 

Heart of Dixie: Online Workshop & Why I’m Plugging It April 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — christineglover @ 3:02 pm
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I’m shamelessly plugging my Heart of Dixie’s online workshop on this blog because I am the new online coordinator and I would love some of my writing friends to be my guinea pigs as I learn the ropes. I would also love some more classmates to share the journey with me. If you want to beef up your writing, check out this workshop and head to the Heart of Dixie Website to join in the fun!



May 3 – 17, 2010
Snakebite Scenes and Hollywood Plots:

Enhancing Action and Emotion in Romance

Instructor: Carrie Lofty

Class Description:

You have the beginning. You know how it should end. But what to do with those hundreds of pages in the middle? Carrie Lofty, author of sexy, adventurous historical romances for Kensington, will demonstrate how action can make your novel more exciting and more emotional. Use Carrie’s so-called “snakebite scenes” to help characters acknowledge their deeper passions and bond over moments of danger or everyday drama, and analyze films and novels to see how Hollywood tells rip-roaring, action-packed stories. For plotters, pantsers, and everyone in between, this course can unblock your creativity and help you power through that draft, adding action and heart to every page.
Born in California and raised in the Midwest, Carrie Lofty found the love of her life in England . She earned her MA in history from Ohio State University with a thesis on Old West legends in post-Civil War society. Now she writes, raises two precocious elementary-aged daughters, and manages Unusual Historicals (http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com), a blog she founded in 2006 to celebrate romances set in unusual times and places. Carrie’s debut, WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS (Zebra: 12/2008), is the hot, adventurous tale of Will Scarlet and his dangerous lady love. Romantic Times gave it four stars: “Lofty writes adventure romance like a born bard of old.” The sequel, SCOUNDREL’S KISS (Zebra: 01/2010), pits a Spanish warrior monk against the woman he’s sworn to protect.
  • Cost: $20 – Submit the payment via Paypal below or mail to the address listed.
  • All payments for a workshop must be received by the registration deadline – May1st.

Sponsored by : Heart of Dixie, RWA
Cost:  $20


And best of all, the price is right! 



 

Time to Kick it Up a Notch: Judged, Scored and Still Standing April 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — christineglover @ 10:16 pm
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For those of you who are following me, you know I entered a few contests in February to get a feel for where the story is going. My first contest results came back from the FAB 5 and the comments/scores I received were in line with where my current WIP was at the time I sent it in. The judges confirmed for me that the changes I am making are the right changes. And the judges confirmed for me that my writing voice and style is strong.

The author critique I received via my participation in the Georgia Romance Writers of America’s workshop  (March) has steered me in the correct direction. I owe that wonderful writer a big bottle of champagne or wine or whatever she prefers as a huge thank you. My recent journey to GRWA’s BREAK INTO FICTION workshop in Atlanta also helped me clarify why my mid plot point was in trouble. Okay, now my weird backstory is cut. The story’s tone is on the way to getting fixed. And now I am in the process of brainstorming my plot, listening to my characters and confirming the answers with my CPs.

But I was still waiting for my SHEILA results before I pushed on. They arrived last night. Four judges. Four scores. Drum beat. And….

First I’ll tell you about the BAD part of my scores. Yikes, I received less than a 50 out of a 100 (my worst score EVER in any contest I have entered through the years), and the published romance author who judged the MS wasn’t wasting any time trying to find one good thing to say. She did, however, spend a great deal of time finding thousands of ways to crush my writing and pulverize my will to push onward in this business. She had a very strong, harsh and negative reaction to my WIP.

And you know what? I’m glad. Because if she HATED it that much, it means that all those PERFECT SCORES/and NEAR PERFECT SCORES from the other two published authors and non-published author carry more weight. The harsh judge didn’t really hate my plot or the fact that I didn’t put my chapter heading 1/4 of the way down the page (as a judge, I don’t take away 2 points for that one–I know how much we work to squeeze every last word into the entries we send into the contests LOL) or my characters. She reacted very strongly to my STYLE AND VOICE.

After drinking a copious amount of wine, and working it off this morning while talking to my CPs about this Vampirella judge, I realized this judge’s critique was a sign that I’m getting close to making it. A strong negative reaction is just as important as a strong positive reaction. This means my writing voice is solidifying. And that is confirmation of a different sort.

And you know what? Maybe, just maybe, I frightened her. Maybe, just maybe, she wanted to crush my writing soul into a thousand pieces because I’m potential competition in a very competitive business.

You see how my mind operates? It’s amazing how delusional I can be when it comes to encouraging myself in this journey toward publication.

And now for the GOOD part of this contest. There were 6 finalists in the SHEILA Romantic Suspense Category. I was ranked, after the low score was dropped, number 7. I missed finaling in the RS category by ONE POINT. All my other scores were in the 90s! Woot! My first time EVER attempting to write a Romantic Suspense while taking a Category Series length book to Single Title length placed 7TH in a field of very talented writers. 1 of them is my CP in VA. She’s a Golden Heart Finalist this year. Two others have finaled in the Golden Heart as well.

I was competing with very tough, talented people. And my little WIP with all its tone problems placed 7 in that field. Yup. Me. I almost finaled in the SHEILA–I’m happy with my results.

Even better, I got FABULOUS FEEDBACK from the two other PUBLISHED IN ROMANCE authors who saw the potential for my story. They flagged the issues I had and confirmed my decision for the story’s direction and tone. All three judges felt I was close to ready with this story — ready for publication. Now I can go forth with my new ideas and up my ante for the story KNOWING I’m going in the right direction.

Woohoo!

I printed out comments and suggestions given by the constructive and edifying authors. I also deleted the other author’s file. Then I sent out my thank you notes to the three judges who were constructive and kind and helpful. That’s why we enter contests: finaling is nice, but its the feedback about our stories that we crave. Cruelty and harshness should not be tolerated. Therefore, I did contact the contest coordinator and make her aware of this situation.

Why? Because what if that had been my FIRST book, not my FOURTH? I’ve been through the gauntlet and I’ve been validated by wins, finals and good critique. Oh, a quick aside: thanks to all those very kind judges years ago who wrote nice things in the margins of my first MS–because of you I am enjoying feeding my glorious obsession. Whenever I judge a contest entry, I approach it as if it might be that person’s first attempt at writing. If I see problems, I try to show them where they exist, and I try to do it in a nice way. I also suggest books about craft and writing. I try to encourage them to keep working to attain their dream. Why crush them? We don’t need contest judges to add to the pile of our own self-doubts and harsh self-criticism. Rejection letters from editors and agents suffice, thank you very much.

I’m not opposed to constructive criticism, I’m opposed to soul crushing and blood letting criticism. I don’t need a fake “gee I really liked it” kind of criticism. I need honest, real and helpful feedback. If someone wants to BLAST my story, that same person had better be prepared to tell me where my strengths lie and how to improve my story as well. That person needs to able and willing to show me how to pick up the pieces and start again.

So come on, before I sit down to revise my WIP and bring to light all the wonderful new revelations my characters have shared with me, let me know what your worst contest results were and how you overcame them to write another day?

 

My Friend Mary Blogged about the Workshop We Attended April 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — christineglover @ 12:48 pm
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I’m heading to Birmingham to meet my CP.  But I’ve got a treat for you over at Romance Magicians.

Read all about the fabulous workshop Mary and I attended in Georgia. Mary Buckham and Diana Love led the Georgia Romance Writers of America and guests on a great learning journey during this workshop.

Read all about it on the Romance Magicians blog.

See you tomorrow!



 

Writers, WIPs, Wrangling & Work April 20, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — christineglover @ 12:28 pm
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I’m back from my workshop in Atlanta, but I am not jumping back into my writing. Why? Because the answers I sought only led to more questions about my story. I am glad I went to the all day workshop, but now I must examine my story a bit more closely and make sure that my plot is strong enough.

Intuitively I already knew my story has plotting issues. This is what happens when you don’t shore up all the lovely scenes in your head with solid structure points. And every time I go back into the story to fix a major plot point, it affects the entire story. As one writer friend said, it’s like pushing down a domino and then a whole row tumbles.

I know my beginning, my set up, my ending and my pinch points. But the middle is a bit iffy. I believe it’s a decent midpoint, but I brought the middle to the workshop to make sure it was decent. And the leaders said I needed more. A bigger reason for why my heroine wants to do what she does. I need a very compelling reason for her decision to stay in the area she is living in. But I balk now at the idea of adding a HUGE plot element to fix the story. Why? Because another author who critiqued my work said to “keep it simple.” And there will be “more than enough conflict” to compel the reader to read.

I’ve brainstormed fun ideas to shore up the story with one CP. Suddenly I am on the Internet researching Burlesque dancing (don’t ask–long story). Another CP said “if the writing is compelling, the reader will read it anyway and why does anyone read the books they read?” Back to keeping it simple, right?

Repeat after me: writing isn’t for sissies or the faint of heart.

In the meantime, I got contest entries back for my opening. I scored well. My “writing voice” was strong and they scored me high in that regard. Whew. One problem solved. I didn’t final, but I didn’t expect to as the story was still in major revision at the time I entered. I sent in the first 10 pages to see if I was going in the right direction before I was told by the author I had a two tone story. I’ve worked my little writer fingers to the bone to fix the tone, but that was before the entry flew to the coordinator.  So I was pleased that the comments and scores were pretty decent. Lots of perfect scores from two judges, one of the judges (a published author in romance so gotta heed that one) marked me low on my characterization and the other two marked me high. Two loved the original plot, but the author was iffy on the originality (there are only 12 stories in the world, the trick is to tell them in unique ways). Well, the plot is different now, but that’s okay. I believe the issues with characterization are cleared up by fixing the tone.

Right, so now I have even MORE information to digest and deal with before I trudge onward. And I eagerly (not) await my other contest scores (I know I didn’t final because they called the finalists on Sunday and I didn’t get a call). That entry was the same entry I sent to the critique author and has been changed already. I’m sure that one will not do well–I am praying for decent and constructive feedback.

Repeat after me: not all contest judges strive to be constructive and some of them are soul crushing critics who may not realize the pain they inflict isn’t necessary. I try to be constructive when I critique. I usually succeed.

Ironically, I judged another category in that contest. I hope my entrants receive my critique with spirit it was given. I want to build people up, not tear them apart. Why pi**on somebody’s parade? I sincerely hope I have judges who judge like me: with kindness in their intent.

On the way home from the workshop, my writing friend and I chatted about what we had learned. We had a four hour drive so we chatted a lot. We clarified her plot points (Larry Brooks’ book continues to help me understand plot and I wish I had read it BEFORE I wrote this MS).

But mine? Hmm, not so much. I did decide that I am not writing a thriller or RS (why are nearly all the examples for writing taken from thrillers and suspense movies?) and that the main conflict is, as always BOY MEETS GIRL, BOY AND GIRL WANT EACH OTHER, BOY AND GIRL CAN’T HAVE EACH OTHER, BOY AND GIRL FIND WAY TO BE TOGETHER. THE END. All the other plot stuff is just that, plot stuff. Romance readers want to be entertained, and they want a credible plot, but most of all they want to fall in love with our hero and they want our heroine to deserve him. They want the LOVE to be compelling.

Romance is MORE about characters than it is about plot.

So here I sit, at my computer with a lot of questions. And a lot of ideas and a lot of information. I sit here and wait for contest results to come back so I can digest them and think some more.

Repeat after me: writing doesn’t always mean writing words and counting them. Writing takes a lot of thinking, daydreaming, wondering and mulling.

And today I will do a bit more wondering and mulling. I’ve also decided to talk to my hero and heroine. I’m going to sit down with my Main Characters and ask them a lot of questions. Why? Because I have realized that I have played Goddess of their lives too many times and it is not working for me. I’ve tried to direct their lives with plots and schemes and ideas. And they aren’t cooperating. Therefore I will step aside and let them take charge. I need them to tell me why I should write their story.

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know if they reveal their story to me later. I hope they do because I entered this MS in the MAGGIES and the contest deadline is June 1, 2010. There’s nothing like putting all our proverbial derrieres into the fire to get the job done.