Thursday, September 28, 2006

De-stressing with string

I went to the library today to pick up some books on writing. Over the years I have read most of what my local library carries on the craft of writing, but I have convinced myself that I don’t know anything about telling a story, so I went looking for something new. While browsing the shelves I spotted some books on knitting.

A friend taught me two stitches back in college, but I only ever use one of them. Don’t ask if it is a purl stitch or a knit stitch because I don’t actually know the difference. I also can’t read a pattern (or most maps, though I can navigate cross country with an atlas, go figure.) I knit hats and scarves because that is all I know how to do and the repetitive movements are very zen for me. Knitting also gives my hands something to do while my stories sporadically play out behind my eyes. I knit a lot when I get writer’s block because it takes the pressure of the keyboard away and lets me work through things.

I don’t have writer’s block right now, but my nerves could use the zen-like state knitting puts me in. The problem, no one I know needs a hat or a scarf. I’ve made everyone at least one of each by now. So despite my inability to understand what in the world the knitting books are talking about, I decided to bring some home. My husband wants a sweater, so I’m trying to figure out the pattern for one.

It’s on my goal list now-- write a minimum1k a day, learn to knit a sweater, and stop being OC about checking my email. Some goals, huh?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Addictive personalities and Nervous energy

"The waiting is the hardest part." I've heard it all my life, but I don't think I ever really understood until now.

I'm not a patient person. I can be, and I try real hard, but I always end up adding the spaghetti noodles before the water boils. That's the way I am.

Now I am stuck in a position where all I can do is wait.

What am I waiting for? My agent to call and tell me someone wants my novel (or doesn't want it and she needs more copies,) to find out if my painting will make it into the show, and for the guy who interviewed my husband the other day to call and offer him the job. The painting has a date at least. I will know on the second. The other two are up in the air so they're harder to deal with. It fills me with all this nervous energy, which if I could figure out how to harness and use constructively probably wouldn't be that bad. (Who couldn't use a little extra energy.) But no, nervous energy makes me act a little ADD, always jumping to check on things. Which is where todays other topic comes in....

Along with compulsively checking my email, I now check the myspace forums anytime the idea flits through my brain. I don't respond that often, but I log in several times a day (or just leave the screen up in the background) and check out what people are talking about. I do stumble over tidbits of useful information once in a while, but for the most part it is becoming a major time-sink. The sad part is that I am disappointed anytime I check them and no one has said anything new.

At least when I do the bulk of my writing (between 2 and 8am in the morning) most people who have lives are sleeping, so even if I do sporadically check the forums, there is usually nothing going on to distract me. It's a phase, I swear.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Editing and Outlines

I am having an issue today, I want to edit DH and I'm not sure if I should or not.

Holly has four copies of the manuscript out with editors already, so if I do change anything and one of the editors wants my novel, I will probably have to change it back. (I know there will be edits after the editor picks it up, but I'm not sure what to expect with that or how open the editing will be on my end.) If none of these editors bite, having a tweaked manuscript might be a good thing. I don't know, and I don't even know who I can ask. I suppose I could ask Holly, but I don't want to 1.) bother her, 2.) sound like an idiot, or 3.) make it appear I sent her the manuscript before it was ready.
Three weeks ago I was pretty sure it was ready. Now I can think of places that could be better. (I haven't let myself read over it because I knew that would incite another edit. If I ever do get to see this thing in print, I will probably have to continuously buy new copies because mine will all be filled with red ink.) So do I go ahead and edit it or try to focus on MG?

Maybe I am going through editing withdrawal. I have been editing DH all year; this is the longest break I have taken from it.

On a less uncertain note, I was looking over my outline for MG and realized there is not near enough tension and the climax is dinky. I guess I should be happy I noticed it now and not after the first draft was complete. So right now I'm back tracking a bit and working on the pacing in my outline.

It makes me wonder how many other authors write outlines, and how those that do write them, use them.

I started using outlines relatively recently, but I rarely completed projects before I began outlining. It used to be that characters would show up in the back of my head one day and start talking. Random dialogue and clips of scenes would come to me (not a plot mind you, just quirky things.) From those scraps I would start discovering what kind of world my characters lived in. These characters and scenes would simmer on the backburner for a while then eventually inspiration would take over and I would sit down and start writing. 10 to 40k words would boil out of this pot of inspiration before it calmed and retreated to the background again. I liked the characters and the world, but I had no idea where the story was going. I might tinker with it, adding a few words now and then, but if the characters weren't talking to me, I had no idea what was going on in their story.

This led to a very large graveyard of story beginnings on my computer.

I don't remember why I suddenly decided to outline one day. I'd been reading about it in books for years, but I guess I had always figured it was a technique for someone other than me. I did decide to outline though, and when the pot boiled over instead of indulging in writing out the wonderful details of everything flashing through my head, I started jotting down rough notes and moving on to what happened next, and then after that, and after that, and all the way to the end. By the time the inspiration ran out, I knew the end.
I had a map!
Now all I had to do was throw those summaries of scenes from my outline into the pot, coax it to a boil, and the scene would take off. If I got lost or wandered too far, I had a map to help me to the next scene.
For DH, the outline was written after I already had several thousand words on paper because DH started as a way to get over writer's block. Consequently, most of what I wrote before I started outlining ended up getting cut in edits or completely rewritten because it lacked voice. Almost all the diversions I made while writing (and editing) made the story stronger in my opinion, (Because an outline might be a map, but it is not the one and true way, I take detours.) but the outline controlled the overall pace of the story. Despite that, it wasn't until I tried to write a summery that I realized the lead up to my climax was horrid. It had to be completely rewritten.
I didn't foresee that once when writing the outline or the first draft. The fact that I can see the pacing issues present in my outline for MG gives me hope that I am becoming better at my chosen craft. I never changed DH's outline after it was written.

So I am wondering, how many of you out there outline?
If you do use outlines, do you spend a lot of time making sure they are the best map they can be, or are your outlines more of a rough skeleton?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Writer's Digest, writing secretly, and email

I have become a compulsive email checker in the last few weeks.

I didn't use to be this way. In fact, until two weeks ago I had to remind myself to check it, or I would end up going several days without opening Outlook. What changed?

My agent contacts me by email.

So now I hit send/receive at least four times a day, and with my schedule that is really ridiculous because she is only likely to write me between 9 and 5. But at midnight I still can't resist hitting the button and seeing if something new slips into my box. I foresee this growing into a really bad habit.

I noticed something interesting recently. I subscribe to Writer's Digest because, well, I write, so it seems the thing to do. In the last few months they have been sending me renewal slips saying I can get 2 years for 1 low price...2 years (12 issues) for only $29.96 as opposed to 1 year (6 issues) for $19.96. The thing I'm confused about is that the little postcard ads that fall out of the magazine claim that if I return that card I'll get 2 free issues and a year’s subscription (12 issues in all) for only $19.96. So what’s the deal? Do I get 12 issues in a year or 6? I get the feeling they must have recently changed their policy because it seems like I am not getting magazines as often as I used to. Anyone know what’s really going on?

Jumping topics: several weeks ago I set up a myspace account to check out the networking possibilities. I'm not yet sure if it will ever be useful or just a time-sink, but it did lead me to an interesting blog today. One of the topics Fred talks about is that he is embarrassed to tell people he is a writer.

I know the feeling.

I've been writing stories since I was around eight, (mostly very bad stories,) and have always treated writing like a dirty little secret. My immediate family knew but that was about it. I didn't even let anyone else read most of it, except my mother--poor woman.
In high school my friends thought I took really good notes because I was always scribbling in notebooks during class. I never told them I wanted to be a novelist. I think my college roommate thought I had a long distance boyfriend. I never started such ideas, but I didn't correct them either.

My husband I had to tell, of course, and that's how my secret initially got out. It started when he offered to let quit my full-time job and focus on my writing, (who could say no to that?) I keep the house clean and make sure meals are on the table, I also work part-time doing books for a small company-- the rest of the time is mine. It's a trial thing. I already had DH written when he made this offer, but I needed to edit it and get it out in the world. If DH can't find an editor, I'll probably get another full-time job. (I can't stand the idea of being a louse, so even if he doesn't ask me, I’ll end up going back.)

Well, I wanted to keep the agreement a secret, but he told his mother that I quit my job and that I was working on a book. I think she must have told everyone else. The day after I left, I was at a friends wedding and my brother-in-law's girlfriend asked me about it. Boy was I thrown for a good one.

What should I tell people when they ask what I do? "I'm a writer who hasn't published any books, but I'm working on it." The next question is inevitably "What do you write?" or "What's your book about?" I hate those questions. I've even written down and tried to memorize intelligent sounding answers, but when the time comes I stumble all over my tongue and end up saying something stupid, vague, and convoluted. It's awful.

The other way my secret got out was my own fault, but a necessity. I chose some of my friend's friends to read my novel because I knew they read in genre and hoped they wouldn't be too biased to give me an honest critique. Well, of course then my friends inevitably found out, so the secret was out.
My friends and family know...and it's dreadfully uncomfortable. Faceless people on the internet I will gladly tell I'm writing, but in person the game is up and I become a babbling idiot.

Hopefully if I ever manage to get published I will have enough confidence to promote my own work. God help me if I don't, because self-promotion is important and if I don't believe in my writing, who will?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

R.I.P. fish and Max

Since the fantasy worlds I write are not reality, I have to accept that all living things have to die.

Sometimes it's shocking and sometimes it's merciful, but it is always painful.

I woke up today to find my Beta floating upside down in his bowl. Yesterday I thought he had looked a little sick, and I guess I was right. He was around two years old, and I don't know what the average lifespan for a Beta is, but that sounds like a long time for a fish sold for two dollars in a plastic cup. I think my fish had a good life: he had a pretty bowl, was fed regularly, and liked to swim over and look at people.

Max was my mother-in-law's beagle. He was old and had been sick for a long time, but he was a sweet little dog. I got the call a couple hours ago to let me know that she had taken him to be put down. It wasn't that surprising, she had tried to take him a few times before, but always turned around before she got to the vet. It is still sad though.

Rest in peace fish and Max. You both will be missed.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fall, the fair, and art

I look forward to the fair every year.

I mean, what's not to love about the fair? You get to eat fried foods that you would never even consider ingesting any other time of the year, there are cheesy haunted houses, festival music by small bands no one has ever heard of, and rides that are scary only because you wonder how precariously they were set up. But that's what makes it fun. It also is the harbinger of Fall (no matter what the calendar says, it's not Fall until the fair gets here, and it's still fall even if it's 101 degrees and all the trees are still green.)

In recent years the fair has started meaning something else to me as well, Art Show. I'm not active in the art community, but I do try to enter a painting or two each year. Now that I am out of school and have no deadlines on painting, motivation to work on them wanes greatly most of the time. Knowing that I need new works to enter in the fair is a good push for me.

With less than a week left before I need to drop my art off to be juried, I finished this years entrant, 'discarded.' This piece is actually one I started over a year ago, but then set aside for ever and a life time. I picked it back up about three months ago. Since the show is juried, there is a chance I wont make it in. I am a little worried that the piece is a little too weird for the fair, but it is part of a psychological narrative series I have been working on, and I am not about to paint flowers just because that is what people like. (I had to do enough of that in school.) Maybe next year I'll be inspired to paint something less morbid.

But this is all like counting the eggs as broken before I have even put them in the basket. I'll be turning the piece in on the 25th and will find out if it made it in the show on the 2nd of October. Either way, I'm grateful for the push to finish the work. Now to finish the second one in the series. (Discarded is actually the third)

Doubts and HTML

Doubt is one of the banes of my existence.I have been working on building my webpage tonight, but I have been sitting here staring at my screen completely at loss for at least twenty minutes now. Why? Because I am trying to write up a blurb on my book.

I have written two synopsizes, several summaries, and even have a short blurb posted on Myspace, but I hate all of them. How can it be so hard to describe something that I, myself, wrote? I have worked in bookstores for years, and I quickly pitch books to customers all the time, but I can't even write an enticing blurb about my own book.

The only thing that comes to mind is that the plot must be flaky. See there's that nasty doubt raring its head. My readers liked it, but we all know that doesn't count for much. My agent likes it. That actually matters, and is something I should keep in mind.

But still the dark tinge of doubt clings to me. It could be that I'm too close to the novel. It's not that I have nothing to say, it's that I have too much and it is messy. I've been told that you should be able to describe the main plot of a book in a sentence or two. For instance, if I were describing Kim Harrison's first novel Dead witch Walking, I would say:
---Rachel, the main character, is a witch and a bounty hunter, but when she quits her job, the company puts a hit out on her life.

A lot more happens in the book, but it is easy to pick that out as a main plot. I can't seem to do that with DH to save my life. Maybe I should ask my readers.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hi, I'm Kalayna

First blog entries are always strange.

My name is Kalayna-Nicole Price and I am currently a writer working on becoming an author. In preparation of things to come (or really things I hope will happen) I am setting up a blog. Sounds presumptuous, huh? *sigh*

Earlier this week, well late Friday really, I was contacted by Holly McClure with Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency. But I guess that's not the beginning of the story (hopefully it's the middle or maybe the middle of the beginning.)

Okay, several months ago I signed up for a five page manuscript review at a conference. It was my first conference and I'll be honest, I wasn't too sure what to expect but I took my newly completed manuscript and showed up all bright eyed and hopeful of getting good advice. I don't know why I was expecting something like a critique group, my only comfort was that there were others who thought the same thing. Holly was the agent present, and while she gave everyone good advice as a whole on submitting manuscripts and things to look out for, it was not a critique group. I was delighted to receive good comments on my writing and surprised to be asked to send the first three chapters to her agency.

I knew the novel wasn't ready for an agent, at the time I was just trying to figure out how my writing measured up, but I tried to polish up the first part of the manuscript as well as I could. (it was not yet broken into chapters.) When I received a response back that Holly liked what she had read and would like the entire manuscript I knew I had a problem. It wasn't ready...and I knew it. No one but me had even read it.

I went into an editing frenzy, but eventually if you read the same thing over and over it all starts sounding boring. After probably ten more edits and completely rewriting the climax of the book, I decided it was ready for other people to read it, but I still wasn't sure it was publishable. I sent it to two of my friends who are avid readers and waited. During that time I edited it a few more times and cut an entire chapter out of the beginning because I felt it slowed down the plot. Once I met with my readers, they gave me good constructive criticism, but neither agreed with my recent cut of the second chapter. Another edit to take their ideas into consideration, but I was torn over what to do about that chapter. I took a couple days to brood over it, but by that point it had been several months since Holly asked to see the manuscript and I was afraid that time was running out, if she hadn't lost interest already. Finally I sent it off sans second chapter.
That was Monday the 11th.

Tuesday I paced around my house and wished I would have included the chapter.

Friday I received an email from Holly saying she wanted to represent the novel and that she even had a publisher she thought it would be perfect for.

Today I sent out three copies of the manuscript so that she can pitch it to several editors.

Thus we come to the middle of the beginning of the story. As a writer I know from personal experience that not every story goes somewhere. I have a hardrive full of great ideas that died after 1o or 30k words. But this story, my story of becoming published, I'm hoping it's one of those that the muse favors and will just take off.

I remain cautiously optimistic.