Blog Stuff, Fun Fridays, Writing

Versatile and irresistibly sweet?

My email inbox is an abyss. If I don’t respond immediately, I’m likely to either think that I did, or forget I ever received the email. Two months ago Kate Cardon Parish awarded this blog the Versatile Blogger Award. Her email arrived during the comment blitz after WordPress Freshly Pressed one of my posts and was promptly buried in all those email notices.

Recently, Hannah Fergesen awarded this blog the Irresistibly Sweet award. Both rules for these awards state that I must share 7 random facts about myself and pass the award on to 15 other blogs. I’ll combine the rules, meaning I’ll reveal only 7 facts, not 14, and share them with only 15 bloggers, not 30. So, read the enthralling tidbits about me and then go visit Kate and Hannah’s excellent blogs. Then, visit the blogs listed below. Or be rebellious and do none of the above.

  1. I don’t like the taste of coffee … in any form.
  2. I get anxious when I sweat.
  3. The first book I ever checked out of a public library was A Mouse in the House. (Not the book currently in print.)
  4. I have seen a ghost.
  5. By the age of 26, I was the mother of four boys.
  6. I can’t swim.
  7. I’ve worn the same shade of nail polish on my toes for 38 years. It’s by Revlon, and they change the color name from time to time.

Now aren’t you glad you stopped by my blog today? I mean, really, how could you have lived the rest of your life not knowing those facts about me?

Okay, I’m supposed to pass these awards on to 15 blogs, but I know some of you already have these awards or don’t do “fun” posts. If so, ignore the rules and just consider this a shout out to your blog. And I’ll add one extra for luck. New and old friends, in no particular order:

  1. Kayla Olson
  2. Michelle Davidson Argyle
  3. Christa Polkinhorn
  4. T.A. Olivia
  5. Natasha Drew
  6. Jennifer Neri
  7. Laura Best
  8. Amanda Hoving
  9. Cathryn Grant
  10. Christi Craig
  11. Trisha Sutton
  12. Kasie West
  13. Candice Kennington
  14. J.C. Hart
  15. Heather Simone
  16. Judy Croome

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Craft, Feedback, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Goals, Novel, Query, Rejection, Short story, Writing

A Year’s Worth of Writing

Have you reviewed your writing progress in 2010? In this and another post or two in the next two weeks, Ill take a look back at the highlights of mine. When I looked back at all the posts for this year, I was surprised at how many twists and turns I took.

At the beginning of the year, I thought I had a finished novel in query status, so I turned my attention to short stories. I wrote a post, Writing vs. Crafting, in which I vowed to not only read more short stories, but to write and submit for publication some of my own. Nothing to report on my stories, but I did read more of those written by others, including fabulous debut collections from Robin Black and Tracy Winn.

Next, I jumped out of the box and started my year of living dangerously. (Even though I lost sight of that along the way, it may explain the way my writing year will end. Stay tuned.) But back then, I dared myself again by trying a writing challenge: a micro flash story. And I wrote it from a prompt, which is something I hadn’t done for decades. It was so much fun I invited my readers to take the challenge too. 

And then, I fell apart. Rejection spawned dejection and in barged the Blue Muse. From the bottom there’s no way but up, so I went into warrior mode and wrote a new query letter and opening paragraph for my novel; entered two contests; and dissected a Flannery O’Connor story for a discussion group.

The decision to edit my novel again reminded me of a good beating and then, continuing with new experiences, my novel spoke aloud. I discovered frigid fiction, but soon I became blinded by the words. To my rescue came the fabulous Kayla Olson who volunteered to read and critique for me.

Again I needed to be reminded to wait for the words. Before long I had reason to panic over platform, but as the end of the first quarter of 2010 came to a close, I was riding the train of eternal optimism.

Your turn: Have you charted your writing progress this year? How did you fair?

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Craft, Doubt, Editing, Fiction, My Books, Narrative, Novel, Revision, Tips, Writing

Spaghetti Gone Wild

Yesterday, in a Tweet to Kayla Olson, I described the state of my chapter-in-revision as spaghetti gone wild. Switching the order of the scenes had seemed a simple task. I had four scenes to deal with: one moves down, two move up, one stays in last place. No big deal. Next step: write/revise the narrative to link these scenes.

That’s when the mess began. I wrote words. I deleted them. I wrote different words. I deleted those too. Nothing felt right. Desperate, I thought maybe the fault lay within the scenes. Even though I’d loved them when I wrote them, I began to edit. I highlighted words, phrases, whole sentences I could improve, but I knew there was no sense working on those until I was sure they wouldn’t be cut. But then, the more I read the more I became dissatisfied. (If you’re a LOST fan, this is when I nicked the dural sac. :-))

Suddenly, none of it made sense to me. Everything was wrong. The writing was mediocre, the story silly, and I questioned why I wrote the chapter in the first place. When I realized I would rather play games than even open the file again, I knew I was in trouble. I now hated the chapter I once loved. Where had I gone wrong?

Without a clue, I gave up and played TextTwist, and as I did, I was reminded of way back when I first wrote about Jalal. I would write until I was out of words, and then I played Bejeweled. I don’t know why, but the background music brought Jalal’s voice to me, and I would play until I knew what to write next.

So, yesterday, as I sat there playing TextTwist, the fog lifted. This chapter was about Jalal, from his point of view, but I had ripped the heart out of it by trying to revise without him. I barged right in and started hacking away and shoving in more, without “getting into character” first. That’s how I totally screwed it up.

I must now step away (Or count to five? :-)) and listen until I hear Jalal’s voice. Then I’ll get this mess untangled.

Now, your turn: Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s done this.

If you like this post, don’t forget to click that cute little Like button above the comment section.

Photo credit: Susan at Timeless Gourmet

Characters, Dream, Fiction, Musings, Novel, Writing

What if?

Yesterday was my first day with a totally quiet house again. I wrote a short poem, revised a query letter, and thought about starting another blog—and then things really got crazy. I had intended to return to writing my next novel, but instead I spent the afternoon asking myself what if? Actually, I have starts on two novels, but a couple days ago, the novel I had decided to wait on spoke up. I agonize over choices, so that’s partly why I hadn’t started writing.

If you want to know the truth, I was killing time on Twitter. I asked Kayla how her edits were going, and she asked me what my next novel was going to be, and zap! I remembered a dream I had a couple weeks ago. In the dream, I had torn my last novel apart and made it three novels. I remember telling someone it was the logical thing to do. Then Kayla left for the gym and I got up to start laundry and assorted other housewifey things. But all the time, I pondered, What if …?

I have three main characters and three parts in my last novel, so I probably could divide and expand to make three novels from it. Why would I even consider that?! It’s crazy. Well then, I could write a prequel or sequel—or both. Would I write about Meredith? Jalal? Renee? Where would I start their story? Where would I end it? Ideas started popping like corn.

Now, I’m aware that this could be some sort of post-novel withdrawal symptom. Or laziness; it would be a little easier to write about characters I already know than to create new ones. And I don’t write genre where a series can be the norm, so I’m not sure I’m up to the logistical challenge. But I have to tell you … asking what if has certainly revived my excitement over writing.

Have any of you done something like this? Does anyone have tips or book recommends, for writing prequels, sequels, or a series?

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Photo credit: icanhazcheezburger.com

Agent, Critique, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Novel, Opinion, Query, Reader, Revision, Writing

Agent query honesty and an ego-stroke!

This is probably the most honest post you’ll ever read on this blog. It’s also the most ego-stroking. And it’s my longest. Wow, a real record-breaker!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am in the query stage for my novel The Brevity of Roses. Yes, I know we’re admonished to be careful what we say publicly about agent rejections, but if any agent reads this, maybe they’ll also be curious about the second part of this post. For the record, I would like to make a statement on this agent search process: Querying sucks!

I know, I know, I’ve read all the same pep talk you have … but I’ve concluded that’s mostly bull!

  • “Don’t take rejection personally.” Yes, of course, the agent is not rejecting me as a person … (s)he is only rejecting the writing I’ve slaved over for two years, which was the whole point of the query, thank you very much!
  • “The market is very tight right now.” Granted, but books are still being published—by debut as well as established authors. And some of them aren’t exactly mind-blowing stories … or even that well-written!
  • “Whether or not it sells, be proud that you’ve completed a novel. Congratulations!” Uh … yeah. Look, writing is my full-time job … and I work a lot of overtime. So a conservative estimate of hours put into this novel is 6,240—six thousand two hundred and forty hours. But you think I should be satisfied with proudly telling people: “I’ve written a novel and if you’d like to read it … I can pull it up on my computer.” Really?!

However, one consolation I will accept: “If an agent doesn’t love your book, isn’t excited about pitching it to editors, that’s not the best agent for you.” That makes sense … and so the search continues.

Now, for the ego-stroking part of this post. I’ve mentioned before that I had submitted my novel for critique again. This would be the first time anyone read the entire new-and-improved version … yes, the one I believed was ready to query. That didn’t mean I couldn’t make it better. So, when Kayla Olson volunteered, I took her up on it.

Since the first round of agents I queried weren’t clamoring for the right to represent this novel, discouragement had raised its poisonous head. Then Kayla started reading and sending me multi-page notes on what she read. As it turns out, my novel is mostly polished, which is a relief—but a personal benefit has been in reading statements like these:

“Linda, the true beauty and depth of your writing is made so much from all the intricately woven detail – I think that’s one reason I’m totally eating this thing up. I am a detail girl, a subtlety-lover, a theme-devourer, and connection-maker. You give me much food.”

“The Brevity of Roses is the perfect title for this novel: every chapter, the rose opens up a little more, where not only can I see that there are more layers of petals than I ever imagined, but I can see deep inside to where the petals are attached. Depth and fragile beauty, gradually opening.”

Please understand, I don’t appreciate her critique just because she praises my writing. She’s also pointed out where it would be stronger if I moved a scene from one chapter to another, and where I needed to add a short scene, and here’s what she said about my twelfth chapter:

“After reading eleven chapters before this one, I KNOW you have the ability to choose words and arrange them in a way that haunts me and resonates in my head during parts of the day when I’m doing ordinary things. This one – while far from anything bad, in my opinion – seemed to lack that special spark.

You’re great at communicating tone and emotion through actions, and through the details of sight/smell/touch/noise/silence/subtle allusion.  Here, for example, I don’t get as much of that – it just feels too ordinary.”

How’s that for softening the blow? 🙂 Needless to say, I took her seriously, reread that chapter closely, and it’s now under revision. Kayla has the three last chapters of my novel left to read. Of course, I hope she’ll enjoy it to the end, but even if she doesn’t, I have faith that she will give me plenty of great suggestions to consider in her notes.

I’ve received so much excellent feedback from my critique partners throughout the writing of this novel … and some of them gave me praise very like Kayla’s. Their support kept me going to finish the writing and then through the revision and rounds of editing. I in no way mean to diminish their input. But I am thankful that I accepted Kayla’s offer for one last critique because it’s come just when I needed it most.

Somehow, I had forgotten earlier compliments on my writing, and even though I professed (even on this blog) that my novel was a good one, I secretly doubted and began to think it might indeed be worthy of nothing more than moldering on my hard drive.

Now, I truly believe it’s publication worthy … which, unfortunately, brings me back to the teeth-grinding, hair-ripping, nail-biting process of agent querying. Oh, the agony!

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