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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Starting A New Story

The blank page is a daunting thing for many, especially if you sit staring at it. But I think that's because we writers know the first page has to be perfect and we often think it has to be perfect right from the start. But I learned a long time ago that the first page is going to change a lot over the course of the book's editing so there is no reason to stress over it and take days and days to write a mere 700 or so words that are just going to change later. And that attitude seems to be the key that has freed up my creative mind so that the first page often isn't as rewritten as it once was.

There was also a time in my career when I wasn't sure where to start a new manuscript, another problem that can keep a writer staring at a blank screen. Over the years I realized it was because I was thinking of the story, not the characters. Once I learned to let the characters tell their story rather than let a story propel them along through it, then I always knew where to start. Classes on starting close to the inciting incident, the thing that propels the character onto the course of the book, didn't hurt either.

As you might have guessed from this post, I wrote the first words of a new book yesterday, one I'm very excited to be writing. It's going to be a tough one as it is taking a lot of research, but I'm loving every moment of it. You can see my inspiration for it on my new Pinterest board dedicated to it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Worth Their Weight In Gold

During the editing process for my historical romance, I've realized a great agent is worth their weight in gold~and then some. I've been agented before with other books and I've had good feedback that improved the novels they represented. But this time around, with these outstanding agents, it's different. Their suggestions are transforming this novel into something that brings tears to my eyes in the most wonderful way as it transforms beneath my fingers. Their suggestions come from a deep, content level that makes it clear they are truly invested in the characters and the story. And they don't stop at just one round.

Looking back at the first version of this novel and seeing how far it has already come with their help floors me. Even more exciting, is looking forward knowing how much farther it will still go, and how much more polished and honed to perfection it will become. This is something I could have never done on my own because I'm too close to the story to look at it the way they can. I love my critique partners and my freelance editors and they are invaluable, but my agents are improving my work in ways even those cherished people couldn't. The ways I mean are those that will help my book survive the market. Does that make any of the links in my chain to getting published any less important? No. But it does make me realize how important the link of an exceedingly good agent (or two) is.

I'm truly blessed to have found the right agents who believe in my career and my work enough to help me be all that I can be. And to think, I was ready to throw in the towel in the traditional publishing ring and stop looking. Writers, you should never stop looking for that perfect match because what the right agent can do for you, is beyond your greatest imaginings.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My Big News...Third Time's A Charm

Like many writers, my road to publishing has been more of a climb along a lava flow than a stroll down a country road (if you've ever walked down a lava flow you know what I mean, if not, careful when you try it, you may break an ankle. Seriously). I've written several novels and have had two different agents on two different occasions, for two different novels. My first agent, whom I had my very first book with, ended up retiring from the business after only sending it out to a few people. We parted on good terms but that manuscript has since been put in a drawer.

The second fork in my road was longer. It was the fourth manuscript I'd written and I landed an agent who helped me polish it up a bit and sent it out to editors. The timing was all wrong though as they had filled their paranormal lists and passed on it, though many enjoyed it. Then the literary market crash occurred and my second agent cut back on his clients who hadn't sold. Again I was to part ways with my agent. I cannot express how heartbreaking and discouraging it is to have that happen a second time. For a long time I feared I would have to give up on my dream. But I didn't stop writing or working to improve.

Nine manuscripts after that very first one, I finally felt as though I had a novel that was right for the commercial market again. I took it to the RT Book Lover's Convention in New Orleans this past spring. It did beyond my wildest dreams. Every agent and editor I pitched it to requested at least a partial, and it placed second in the RT Author Idol Contest, earning me a mentorship with the fabulous Louise Fury of the Bent Agency and Nicole Risciniti of the Seymour Agency. Even more amazing, Louise and Nicole offered dual representation! I still feel like I've stepped into some lucky person's life. This stuff does not happen to me. Seriously, I've been at this for YEARS and I've never been that lucky writer that shines at such events.

The key (for those writers out there wondering) is that I never stopped learning, improving, and dreaming. I worked hard at it and I never gave up. But the work isn't over. Now it's time to edit this baby into something amazing and get ready to present it to editors. And as for the learning, well, that is never over.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Researching Leads to Inspiration

I love doing research because it leads to inspiration for me. Sometimes it's a new chapter that I hadn't planned on, or an entire new book idea that springs up. History in particular is a subject that I love, but not just any history. I like to find the stories that haven't been told, things that were covered up by the conquerors.

While researching recently I was struck with an idea for a novel but it was set in a time period that is so overdone that I myself cringe at the thought of reading anything set in that era. But, there remains a story that is untold and that drew me in like a moth to a flame. Still, I wanted the idea itself to be unique, not just the story. Editing another book as I am, I put thoughts of the story aside to work on later.

Photo Credit: Dwayne Johnson
But my muse had other plans. He woke me in the middle of the night (Did I mention this is how I picture my muse? He's very demanding. You don't say no to a man like that.) and inspired me with a beautiful, original idea. So I was up half the night jotting down notes. Then of course my dreams were all centered on the story, bringing the people within it to life and even more ideas to the table. This leaves me with no choice but to start outlining or the idea will drive me crazy. How about you, does inspiration ever keep you up at night? And do you find inspiration from research?