Social Media Overload

June 29, 2012

So, if you follow me on Twitter you already know this: I LOVE Twitter. In fact, I love social media. I remember way back when Facebook first came out and only certain colleges could get on it and I was so bummed. I am not the writer complaining about having to have a media presence, cause I love it!

I think a lot of this has to do with being shy/being a writer. In person, I am a terrible conversationalist. I rarely know what to say or ask. I even have awkward silences with good friends on occasions. I’m just not good at it. (I still remember when I first met Hubby and he kept asking me question after question because I kept killing the conversation dead and I said, hey, this is THE man for me).

But, give me time to formulate a sentence or two in writing, and I can seem like less of a social dunce. Currently, I am a mother of two kids 2 1/2 and under. Social media is a way to connect with people without the stress of taking two kids out into the wild.

I LOVE social media, but it definitely gets a little addicting. I check Twitter way too often. Occasionally when Hubby is trying to have a conversation with me. (In my defense it’s usually if he’s talking about something I don’t care about like finance news or hockey).

Anyway, I promised Hubby since he’s off work this week that I would unplug, except for email. No Twitter, Facebook, or blogs for four days.

Is that fluttery feeling in my chest panic? I may be a little lightheaded. Um, no Twitter?? How will I keep up with people?

Truth is, I will go on without social media and Twitter will go on without me. It will be weird and I’m sure I’ll reach for my tablet on more than one occasion to tweet something only to mentally slap myself.

And on Monday, I’ll be back on Twitter with a vengeance!

So, are you like me enjoying the benefits of social media? Or is it a hardship for you? Something you dread or only do because others are doing it?

Nicole

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Yesterday, I ran into the drugstore to buy some soap and passed the book rack. I picked up a paperback book by an auto-buy author, read the cover copy, decided it was something I was anxious to read, and then put the book back on the shelf, thinking I’ll download the digital when I get home.

Well folks, my transformation is complete. Digital has gained control of my reading brain without a struggle. Oh, I still go into Barnes and Noble with my daughter, because she thinks, “it’s not a real book if it’s not a real book.” (Mom rolls her eyes at this.) But when I’m there, I buy tea, look at journals (love me some leather-bound blank books), check the end caps to see which lucky ducks have books in prime promotional spots, and note interesting covers, titles and authors in case I want to buy books—when I get home. It’s so strange, such a complete conversion, with very little regret. (I do worry I’m contributing to the closing of book stores, and I hate when my digital devices crash and I lose books. Two big negatives, friends!)

I’m not saying I’ll never buy a hardcopy book again. I’m simply saying digital has become my first choice. Aside from a stack of paperback, non-fiction books purchased many months ago and still unread, I’m not buying print. I’m reading even less. Currently, I’m consuming my books 100-percent digitally. How about you? Now that e-readers have been around long enough to make a major impact on the publishing industry and our reading habits, what’s your print vs. digital consumption?

Elley

Focus or Diversify?

June 25, 2012

For more than a year I’ve been focused on one project, the novel that I’m writing, the one I thought was romance but has since been classified as women’s fiction, the piece that has consumed most of my waking time and occasionally my sleep. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m never distracted. I’ve even told you about it here. There’s a manuscript I have written that I’d like to rewrite and get out there, and I’m excited about the next story I want to tell. I’ve thought about maybe doing some short stories or even writing some magazine articles, something I haven’t done in years. But I haven’t strayed from my WIP. I’m afraid to. I’m afraid that if I separate from my current work I’ll lose my characters’ voices, that if I allow myself to be distracted, I’ll never come back and finish the work I’m doing now.

This novel is definitely the longest piece of writing I’ve ever done. It’s both challenging and exciting, and I’m learning so much along the way. I’m finally nearing the end of my personal rewrites, and tweaking my synopsis and my query, and looking ahead more seriously to new projects.

So do I want to diversify? Can I do more than writing a novel at one time? Will I lose my focus if I start writing magazine articles again…or lose my characters’ voices if I write a short story here and there?

I hear other writers who are writing short stories or writing magazine articles  while they work on their novels, but I panic at the thought. Maybe if I’m organized about it, set aside a certain time just for those other projects? I’ve always worked on one piece at a time…well, except when I wrote advertising copy and did resumes, but when I freelance wrote articles and columns, I’d make a file for each project, put them on my desk in order of deadline and start with the first piece that was due, working my way to the next. But of course, a newspaper column is a few hundred words, and a magazine article is a few thousand words…and a novel is MANY thousand words. So maybe I don’t have to wait to write other things?

Yes, I know that I’m talking to myself out loud…but if you have some ideas here, I’d like to hear them.

**********

And so, Hunky Hubby just called from work and let me read the first section of my blog to him.

“Honey, uh, I don’t know how to tell you this…” he said quietly. (Have I ever told you how much I love his voice over the phone?) “Honey, you’re already diversified…you’re writing something else right now.”

“Huh? What are you talking about?”

“Uh, baby, literally…right now…you’re writing a blog. You set aside time to work on your blogs and they get you started in the morning…ready to work on your book.”

Hmmm, well he could have told me that before I started writing this post.

So maybe I can work on something else. Maybe I can write some articles…even try a short story. I’ll let you know. How about you? Do you diversify? Or are you obsessed with one project? Can you work on two fiction projects at one time, or does it have to be something totally different…? Tell me how you work. I’d like to know!

Tari

The CP Test

June 22, 2012

I have written about critique partners before, here, on my personal blog, on Twitter. Many others have discussed this as well. I’m not sure I’m breaking any new ground here, but I thought I’d share my personal criteria for a great critique partner (CP) since when I started looking for one I had no idea what I was supposed to be looking for. I also use some specific examples from my AMAZING CP, Elley.

After working with my CP for over a year, and having the first novel I worked on with my CP published, I have found there are a few things that should absolutely happen in the CP relationship.

The most important is honesty. You and your CP have to be honest. If you’re worried about hurting feelings, you miss out on opportunities to truly help each other. If your feelings are getting hurt and you can’t move beyond it, you’re not ready for this.

That being said over the course of working with a CP, you should experience at least ONE of the following:

1. Your CP tells you your heroine or hero is not likable (AND why).

Maybe this is because I tend to write prickly people, but I get this feedback on occasion, and it’s really important feedback because as writers we tend to know our characters, we love them, and we know how they will redeem themselves, so we at times overlook what readers might see at first.

Let me give you an example of something Elley recently sent me regarding my WIP hero: ” I don’t like him, Nicole. I can’t find anything to like at this point. He’s not funny. He’s almost rude.” That’s honesty, folks, and necessary. Sure, I love my hero, but I know him AND the man he becomes, your reader won’t. So, I had to go back and work on showing glimpses of the man who has hero potential.

2. Your CP tells you a scene doesn’t work.

Not every scene you write will work, especially if you’re working on a first draft. Sometimes, we have these ideas we really want to happen, but by the time we write them out they don’t work with the story.

A CP isn’t afraid to ask, what IS this? Why is this here? This doesn’t make sense! Why is your hero/heroine acting that way when they did a,b, or c earlier? And trust me, the minute you read their explanation of why a scene didn’t work, you will cringe, because you will know they’re right, you were forcing things, trying to move the story along in a way that doesn’t add up.

Here’s another example from my CP: “My biggest issue is with Grace’s reaction to their conversation. She seemed almost irrational in her anger with them.” And then Elley went on to explain why it seemed irrational. And, yes, I cringed because it WAS irrational, but once I saw that, I also knew how to fix it.

3. Your CP asks a question that makes everything click.

A lot of times I will send off a chapter thinking it is fine. I might wonder why it’s a little short, or why I’m not feeling that little thrill of excitement at knowing I’ve written something really good, but it’s not something I can articulate. And then Elley will casually come along and ask a question and BAM I have a thousand new words to add because, duh, why didn’t I answer that all along?

The CP partnership isn’t about someone telling you what to do. It’s about someone pointing out when something is confusing, doesn’t work, needs fixing, etc. So, Elley didn’t answer this question for me, she posed a question I needed to answer, and it helped me see the chapter in a whole new light.

Example: “What would be stopping them from getting together then? I think I know, but I shouldn’t be guessing. So answer that question, and then make sure you are interjecting that answer in various ways throughout the beginning chapters of Kyle’s POV so that it’s established early on and eliminates the guess work.”

She doesn’t articulate what she thinks she knows, she leaves that up to me. And the minute I read that, I had some ideas on what to add to that chapter to make it stronger.

4. Your CP tells you when something is good.

It’s not all gloom and doom. Honesty isn’t about being mean or seeking out the bad, it’s about, you know, being honest. Your CP should tell you when something makes them laugh, when they’re breathless for the next chapter, when you 100% hit the mark.

Example: “I really liked this chapter. The banter between the siblings is marvelous. I was sucked in by the sexual tension, and I love, love Grace. (I know I’ve said it before.) Funny thing, I liked Kyle a lot here too…” Specifics too. Not just “good chapter.” A good CP doesn’t just tear you down, they make you feel good about yourself too.

What this all boils down to is something I wrote on Twitter the other day. If you don’t think your CP is a genius every week or so (or multiple times during a WIP), you need a new CP.

Nicole

Writers Who Review

June 20, 2012

I use Goodreads semi-faithfully. (That’s a lie. I use it when I remember to use it, which isn’t often.) When I signed up, I wanted a place that would keep track of books I read or wanted to read. Now, I’m more apt to add books to my “To Read” pile so I don’t forget a recommendation or something that’s caught my eye elsewhere on the Internet than I am to mark a book as “Read” after I’ve read it. And while I rate the books I’ve read by clicking the little stars, I never write a review. Mostly, it’s about time. (It takes all of two seconds to click a star, but a review requires serious thought.) And then there’s the idea of criticizing a fellow writer. I worry about that. I worry that a 2-star rank is already enough of a blow to said author without my notes on weak conflict, unlikeable characters and unbelievable plot.

I know it’s all subjective, but still…

Maybe I’m just not cut out to give honest feedback to perfect strangers who worked every bit as hard as I am working to get published. Don’t get me wrong…I appreciate reviews, but I give credence to those written by people who think like me. (Once again, it’s all subjective.) And some of the best reviews I’ve read have been written by readers who review, not writers like me. 🙂

What do you think? Should writers review? Do they run the risk of alienating other writers, editors and publishers with honest negative reviews? Are writers, reading to perfect their craft, more critical in reviews than readers who read for enjoyment and critique simply to share?

Elley

Give Me Some History

June 18, 2012

Although I wanted to do nothing but write, I did very little writing last week. No, that’s wrong. I did NO writing last week. My little job at the sewing store, where I usually work seven to twelve hours, suddenly became full time, when my boss broke her hand and her number one girl was gone for the week. The hours were all over the place. Some days I opened, some I closed, and I actually worked seven days in a row, Sunday through Saturday. It was a week that made me appreciate how hard my hunky hubby always works, and I think it was a week that made him appreciate how hard I usually work at home.

Susanne came into the store to look at sewing machines, and as I always do, I asked her what kind of sewing she would be doing…it makes a difference in the machines I show the customer. Susanne begins to tell me about the Victorian costumes she makes, primarily for herself, but also for a few customers. Susanne and her husband have been involved in Civil War reenactments for about thirty years, and over the years she’s learned a lot about Victorian fashion and other details of Victorian life. We talked for nearly an hour, then they were off to finish their errands and I had some other work to do in the store. Just before time for me to leave, Susanne returned with a turn of the century ladies jacket she had made, and a thick book that she uses for presentations on the Victorian lifestyle.
 
She talked about the layers of garments ladies had to wear during the Victorian time period, the difference in fashion from hoop skirts to bustles. She talked about the etiquette of fashion, yes, there was an etiquette that we no longer deal with, and even some very tragic fashion stories. And, did you know that women had a whole language they used to talk to men with their fans?
Now if I wasn’t a writer I’d have been fascinated, but as a writer…and someone who sews, Susanne was an exciting person to have walk into the store.
 
My current work in progress has a 1920’s element to it and a strong fashion element as well. The heroine is a fashion designer. But, Susanne’s visit has me considering a Victorian romance for my next manuscript. What a valuable resource she could be.
I’ve always been fascinated with history, and love to read historical romance. How many of you read historical? How many of you write historical? Where do you find your research? I hope you’ll share…
Tari

Hitch-hiking Ideas

June 15, 2012

I had a really great idea for this blog post. As I fell asleep last night, I was composing it in my head. Briefly, I thought ‘perhaps I should get up and write it down’

Nah! I’ll totally remember. I’ve been laying here thinking about it for ten or fifteen minutes. Who would forget that?

Can you see where this is going?

I cannot for the life of me remember this idea in the light of day. Something to do with…

I got nothing.

I wish it was the first time. I imagine all these lost ideas hitch-hiking around in the recesses of my brain. Some will get picked up eventually, but some are destined for long, lonely lives of never being remembered.

So, tell me I’m not alone. You’ve forgotten great story ideas, snippets of dialogue, plot fixes and so on. Forgetfulness loves company.

Nicole

Submission Flu

June 13, 2012

I hit send on a manuscript that means a lot to me. (Don’t they all?) Seriously, this one is close to my heart, based loosely on some places I’ve been and people I’ve met. (If you’re looking for a sleepy beach vacation, check out Carolina Beach, N.C.) Revising the manuscript as the result of a request for the full, I expected some emotional turmoil, but I didn’t expect physical symptoms.

Is there some sort of submission flu?

My muscles ached. My body shook. My appetite disappeared. (I’m not complaining about that one.) There was nausea too. Sure, it’s probably all the BIC (butt in chair) I’ve been subjecting my body to, but it sounds so much more intriguing to call it submission flu.

How about you? Do you experience physical symptoms before or after you submit?

Elley

I learned to write non-fiction in a nine-week junior high speech class. I had signed up for a creative writing class, but it was full, and so was my second choice, music of poetry. Some cruel administrator typed my name on the roll sheet for Public Speaking 101…a class that I never would have willing enrolled in. No one who knows me now will believe this, but I was a very quiet kid. I didn’t talk in class, hated giving oral reports, wouldn’t even raise my hand when I knew an answer. But there I was, an honor roll student who didn’t want to get up and speak, and couldn’t afford to sit there and fail.

I learned a lot of things that improved my writing in those few weeks; how to format my speech, which transferred to formatting reports, papers, and eventually magazine articles and newspaper columns, that reading my writing out loud made it better (I practiced my speeches out loud for hours, but somehow still threw-up before every presentation), and the importance of a good opening and closing hook.

So what does this have to do with writing fiction?

Here I am in full panic over pitching to editors and agents at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) 2012 Conference, and then it was Saturday, not just any Saturday, but my favorite Saturday of the month SECOND Saturday. Yes, that’s right, the OCC RWA meeting.

New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Squires hosted the June “Ask an Author.” Susan shared her writing story, fabulous advice on writing, industry changes and e-publishing, and on how to get the most out of RWA12. This, of course, leads me back to pitching? Preparation is important, and the number one thing to prepare? According to Susan…your hook! Let me say that louder…WHAT’S YOUR HOOK? Yes, you need a complete manuscript with great characters and a solid plot, but to sell your story to readers you need to have a hook…and to sell it to an editor or agent you must know your hook.

Susan gave so much great advice on pitching, on learning craft, on becoming a good writer. If you ever have the chance to meet her and hear her speak, grab it. In the meantime, I’m feeling more confident about pitching. I’m working on a hook that I hope will capture an editor’s imagination…or at least make them ask for more… and I’m packing some barf bags in my suitcase for RWA12, just in case.

So thank you to Susan Squires. I can promise to be better prepared before my pitch, but I won’t promise not to throw-up.

What about you? Do you have a good pitch? What’s your hook? Do you have any good advice on giving a pitch? Please share it with us! We’d love to know.

Tari

Ruthlessness

June 8, 2012

Elley mentioned in her post about revisions that revisions must be ruthless, and I got to thinking that it’s not just revisions that require a kind of ruthlessness, it’s writing in general that does as well. (And then I got to thinking, I sure do like piggybacking on Elley’s posts).

For instance, over the past two days I’ve written 1500 words of a WIP. These 1500 words were fine. They got the general point across, but when I was done with these 1500 words, I looked at them, scratched my head, and realized something wasn’t totally right.

My first thought or instinct is to keep going anyway. You can always go back and fix it later. But, then I got stuck. I couldn’t figure out what could happen next that wasn’t, well, boring info dump.

So, I had to be ruthless. No matter how painful it was, I had to highlight those 1500 words and hit delete. And then, then, I had to replace them.

I think we have a hard time deleting our words not so much because were are so in love with them, but more because they represent something we can’t replace or get back. The time I spent on those words is gone and to delete them makes it feel like that time, that effort was wasted, and many of us have very little time and effort left to waste.

But, you must be ruthless. Sometimes words need to be deleted, even if it renders those minutes you spend on them pointless. It no longer matters once you’ve replaced them because chances are you’ll have replaced them with something better, something stronger.

Nicole