Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG October Edition

First Wednesday of October, ALREADY!  Please join this terrific blog hop started by our creative leader, Alex J. Cavanaugh. You can join us by signing up on the IWSG site and/or join our Facebook group. Come and share your victories, your advise or ask for help. There's answers and support to be found.

I just finished the third draft of my first novel in a new space opera romance series and sent it off to my publisher. By the end of the week, I'll be working on the next one. One of the things I work on in the second and third draft is to make sure all my scenes have a reason to exist. If you've studied the craft of novel writing, you're heard the term, saggy middle.

The middle of the novel should build the tension, develop the plot and if it's a romance novel, develop that too. Many writers know how to make the beginning of their novel exciting and the end is always fun and fast-moving. But you have to keep the reader turning pages through the middle so they get to that finely crafted ending.

Here's a few things I check to make sure things stay interesting in the middle. Don't have too many scenes in the same location. Writing space opera romance, it would be easy to have my characters having scenes on the bridge or making love in the captain's cabin for all the romance scenes. But I have to mix it up. They need to make stops on different worlds or space stations.

Your story probably has a big conflict that you're building up to from the beginning of the story. Add some complications. Make it tougher for your protagonists to solve their problem. Add another complication to the romantic relationship.

If you have trouble with a sagging middle problem, the best solution may be to cure it before it starts. Plot it out. Plot those scenes that will keep your story moving along. And then edit, edit, edit when you get to the second, third and fourth drafts.

This coming Friday is Leif Eriksson Day so how about and Irish proverb.  A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book.

Don't forget your short story ready for the IWSG anthology. Read the details here.

How do you deal with a sagging middle in your novel? Do you have your short story ready for the anthology? Have you ever caught yourself writing too many scenes in the same setting?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Question of the Month

The first Monday of the month is when Michael D. Agostino hosts the blog hop, Question of the Month. You can find him at his blog, A Life Examined, and join into this fun easy hop. The question this month:

"Who would play you in the movie of your life?"

I asked my children this and they suggested Linda Hamilton as she was in the first Terminator movie as Sarah J. Connor. But I see myself more as Patricia Heaton as she played Raymond's wife in everyone loves Raymond. All those silly males and the one sensible female putting up with them, that's me. My dear husband even admits to being more than a little like Raymond when it comes to fixing stuff up around the house. It doesn't usually turn out so good. I think Patricia could portray me with the endless patience I've needed as a mother and a high school teacher.

Don't forget this Wednesday is IWSG and I hope you're participating because it's fun and because it qualifies you to submit your short story to the IWSG's first ever anthology. If you're seriously pursuing a writing career, having one of your stories selected in a contest could be just the one little thing that encourages an editor or agent to take a longer look at your query. If you're self-published, it's the chance to have an entirely new group of readers learn of your existence and fall in love with your voice. Don't miss the opportunity. You have until November first.

Have you heard of this? Text neck? A real and growing health issues is striking smart phone users, some of them quite young. Early arthritis, herniated and bulging discs, muscle strain and pinched nerves. Did you know that your head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds and the angle you bend your neck to read that smart phone raises that pressure on your upper spine to up to 60 pounds. Of course, the best way to prevent is limit use of your cell phone. Lots of people will agree to that, won't they? But you can do some gentle head and shoulder rolls to relieve the tension in your neck. Looking down at our tablets and laptops adds to all that strain.

And some wisdom from The Old Farmer's Almanac in case you didn't win the lottery last week.

If you spend one dollar every second, it would take more than 31 years to spend a billion, 

Wisdom consists of 10 parts--nine parts of silence and one part with few words. Arabian Proverb

Are you having some pain in your neck. Or being one? Who would play you in he movie of your life? Are you ready for IWSG on Wednesday. Can it really be October already?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Bad, Good Old Days

I mentioned in passing the different stories being put about in the publishing industry about ebook sales. Some reports say digital sales have leveled out or stagnated. The other side of the tales explains that this is actually only true when it comes to ebooks sales by the 5 big publishers and selected small presses. When you looks at ebooks sales taking in all the small presses and the indie authors, ebook sales are not stagnant at all. L. Diane Wolfe shared the truth that the Big 5 are trying to hide.

When I first started writing, there were few options to the Big 5. And there were rules to be followed if you wanted those entities to even look at your work. Everything was snail mail. They sneered at the idea of email queries. Not only did you have to send you submission in the mail, but you had to include a SASE so they can return it to you after a form rejection. An editor or agent might even scribble, No thanks, on your query letter. All that postage and trips to the post office and then waiting weeks and months for a reply. Some guidelines said they might take up to a year or more to get back to you.

Lots of agents and editors didn't even post their guidelines online, leaving you to search them out elsewhere. And those guidelines were sometimes very strict, especially for romance. Twenty pages per chapter and twenty chapters was an accepted length for a book. Some romance lines expected the hero and heroine meet in the first chapter, kiss by a certain page and other exacting plot points to made when directed. The number of words per page was also explained in detail.

This was if you could get an editor to read your manuscript. Many of the Big 5 won't accept a submission directly from a writer and will only look at something from an agent. If you happened to meet an agent or editor at a conference, you would hear tales of the six foot tall slush piles filling their offices. And horrors, what if your manuscript ended up in the slush pile!

Should you receive a contract, the standard time between signing and publication was around two years. If you were lucky, you might get more contracts during that time, but if that first book didn't earn back its miniature advance, the publisher probably wouldn't want that second book.

I signed on early with a digital publisher, years before the Big 5 were jumping into the ebook market. There were actually successful writers I knew who advised me I was ruining a chance at a writing career by doing that. It was the smartest career move I made. I've been with them for nearly eight years.

"Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent." Marilyn Von Savant

Now the latest news from the publishing industry is that many writers are finding success outside the New York overlords of publishing. Many are throwing the rules out the window and making their own way.

"The only way to do great work is to love what you do." Steve Jobs

Do you remember some of those old, strict rules? Have you been following the publishing news about ebook sales? How long have you been with your publisher? Any missteps along your career you would do differently?

Monday, September 28, 2015


Years ago my local branch of CPRW had a president who would spend five minutes at each meaning introducing what he would call a wall-banger book. Karl would hold the book up and explain why it fit the derogatory description. What he meant by wall-banger was that he'd purchased the book but it was bad, he would quit reading and throw it off the wall. He always ended his spiel by doing just that.

My husband is a painter and he can tell you what kind of damage throwing something at the wall can do. He has to fix little dents and dings in walls all the time. But the idea behind Karl's demonstration is legit without the tossing, of course.

What kind of things make a reader set aside a book without finishing? A slow plot. Nothing happens for pages and pages. Maybe it's backstory or world building filling those pages that turn a reader away. Or perhaps one of the characters is lost in introspection. That's okay for a little bit, but if it goes on and on .... I'll probably toss it aside especially if it get the feeling that nothing is ever going to happen.

Perhaps the writing is too simple, reading like a fifth grade storybook. Yes, I'm usually smarter than a fifth grader. If I'm reading a YA or MG book, then I expect appropriate prose but I don't want it in an adult novel. Or just as bad, writing that is too flowery as if the writer wants to impress me with their vocabulary or ornate turn of phrase.

Then there is a premise that is too bland to care about. The problems facing the protagonists just aren't compelling enough for the reader to care. The obstacles are big enough, the antagonists aren't threatening enough or are ill-defined.

Sometimes the plot is too confusing. Perhaps too many threads are tangled together. Or too many characters are involved with too many POVs. Maybe the created world is confusing or perhaps the names of places or characters are too similar and difficult to pronounce. Things within the plot such as the magic, science, technology or invented laws are poorly explained and it leaves the reader confused. All these things result in a book toss.

Perhaps the biggest reason for me to put a book down are issues with the characters. Perhaps they're dull and boring. I know people like that in real life, I don't want to read about them. Or they're unlikable. Is there anything worse than a whiny protagonist? As a reader, you just want them to grow up. Occasionally a characters comes across as unbelievable as in no one could be that naive or no one could be that forgiving and kind. Even the antagonist can be too unbelievable.

I recently read a book by a fantasy author whose previous series I had really enjoyed. I stayed with it for more than half the book but then decided I didn't have time to waste on a book I really didn't like at all. Bland characters, slow plot and vague, boring threats. But I didn't damage any walls with it. It will find it's way to a used book store.

It also reminded me that just because a book is published by a big fantasy publisher like Tor, it doesn't mean it's a good book. On the flip side, just because a book is indie-published or published by a small press, doesn't mean it's not better than many of those books filling the shelves in B&N.

Hope you got to see the Lunar Eclipse last night. It was cloudy here. My current favorite show, Once Upon a Time, turned last night and later this week, Sleepy Hollow will return. Good times.

Don't forget to get that short story finished and sent for the IWSG anthology. It's going to be great!

Have you started and not finished a book lately? Did you see the Super Moon get eclipsed? What favorite show returned this past week or so? Please don't say Monday Night Football.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Autumnal Equinox

Fall is officially here. It started around 4:21 AM in my part of the world. Today we're supposed to have equal parts day and night or very close to it. The days have been getting shorter and very soon, they'll be much shorter. I don't like the colder temperatures on their way, but I do get more writing done when the sun isn't calling me to go outside. Want to know how much daylight you're losing? Check out this chart.

September's birthstone, the sapphire, was once thought to protect the wearer from snakes. I know snakes are a common fear for lots of people so think about getting a pretty sapphire ring or bracelet maybe. Or better, an ankle bracelet.

The first episodes of Blindspot and Minority Report intrigued me so I'll be watching them again. And Limitless deserves a chance too. Notice how many of the shows I like have supernatural or science fiction elements? Add to Doctor Who, Grimm, and Once Upon a Time to the list and you'll see I have a favorite theme.

Hopefully, all of my fellow Americans are braced for the next fourteen months of election overload. This quote is something to keep in mind when listening to politicians.

"Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that the sometimes has to eat them." 
Adlai Stevenson

I hope you're working on your short story for inclusion in the IWSG anthology. Deadline is November 1st. Read the guidelines.

My publisher has made another of my space opera romance series into a boxed set available on Amazon.  All three Warriors of Gaviron books are at one reasonable price so I'm hoping it kicks up some sales.

Any new shows catch your eye this week? Dreading the shorter days? Bracing for endless political ads?

Monday, September 21, 2015

I'm Me, and You're You

I've been reading a book over the weekend where the pacing is terrific. I've been staying up way too late. Join me in a discussion about pacing over at the IWSG site.

It's so easy to admire the writing as you're reading a book or short story that really grabs hold of you. Then that little niggling voice inside your brain starts to suggest you should try to write like that. Or perhaps you read an article or post that describes your favorite author's methods or process. And you think you should try that.

We all have to make changes in how we work at times until we find what is right for us. But it should be your method, not a copy of someone else's.

Often I'll read a blog post or an interview where writers describe how they get the job done. Some actually work nearly the same as I do as in get the first draft done and then revise, revise, revise. Or they brainstorm while exercising like I do. Maybe they write late at night like I do. But there's never anyone exactly the same from start to finish.

In other news about the world, today is the International Day of Peace. A minute of silence at noon is asked as we all hope, pray or work for peace. And there is a lot of work to be done.

Have you been seeing a lot of sunshine lately? Then you must not live one of the ten most cloudy states in the USA according to The Old Farmer's Almanac. See if your state is there. After days and days of rain for us at the start of the summer, we're having a pretty dry August and September. Lots of sun for PA. If you live outside the US, how do you measure up against these states for days of clouds?

Here's a real shocker. According to the article in PW a survey from New Guild reveals that most authors make earnings below the poverty level? I guess none of us knew this.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Quality Over Quantity

I made a tough choice earlier this week. You can read all about it over on the A to Z Blogging Challenge site. April, 2015 was my first year sharing administrative duties as part of The Challenge and regretfully, I won't be an admin next year and I'm a little brokenhearted  about it I will participate because the Challenge is terrific, but I'll mostly be worried about myself during that busy month. I'm hoping for a really rocking theme this year. If only my old brain would come up with one.

This will give me more time to concentrate on other great things I'm involved in like the first ever anthology sponsored by IWSG. Don't forget the November 1st deadline for your entry. Check out the guidelines right here.

My job as Pennwriters secretary is also taking up a bit of my time in bits and spurts. Sending out emails and postcards to encourage members who have allowed their membership to expire is one of my duties and is taking up a bit of September. And a board meeting that requires travel and an overnight stay is also on the agenda.

Some of my pages on this blog are really, really outdated so I need to get busy on that. I have two books I'm editing before sending them to my publisher. One is the start of a new series so there's lots or world building to keep track of.

In the TBR department, I have so many books I want to read. On my Kindle, on the hold list at the library and books I own that are stacked two deep on the shelf I keep for my purchases. I don't know where to start sometimes.

Next week lots of TV shows start with new episodes. I'm looking forward to Scorpion, Dr. Who, Once Upon a Time and Scandal. After that, I'll check out a few new shows but I can't say there are any I'm really excited about.

From The Old Farmer's Almanac:
On this day in 1857, James Pierpont's song, 'Jingle Bells,' was copyrighted.  
Thought I'd share that tidbit in case you weren't thinking about Christmas yet.

Did you know Jingle Bells was that old? Did you make up silly verses to that tune as a kid? Can you estimate how many books on your TBR list? Any new or old shows you're excited to see return this fall? Any new ones you recommend? Are you thinking about your theme for A to Z next year?