Tuesday, January 31, 2012

IWSG: Jealousy Among Writers

I’m posting a day early for Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group held on the first Wednesday of every month.  I don’t personally have anything to complain about, but I have noticed something in the blogosphere lately and I was wondering what you all thought about it.

Last week, agent Rachelle Gardner wrote a post called Watch Out for the Green Eyed Monster where she discusses jealousy among writers.  She even expressed how she was envious when an agent friend of hers recently completed a great deal.  She was happy for her, of course, but she was also the tiniest bit jealous. 

I’ve met a great many writers here on Blogger, Wordpress, and other sources.  Most of them are like me.  They’ve written or are writing a novel and all that that encompasses, and they’re hoping and dreaming and even struggling to find and land that perfect agent, someone who believes in their writing, their project, and their beloved characters.  But there are quite a few who have recently bagged that elusive agent.  Even some who have secured a publishing contract or might be on their second or third book. 

Often, these writers make their incredible announcements via their blogs or Twitter, sharing their excitement at achieving their dream.  Most of their followers comment, expressing their joy and pride.  But as time wears on, some writers notice a lag in their comments.  Some writers have blogged about how they receive nasty emails from people, often other writers who are consumed with envy. 

NatalieWhipple at Between Fact and Fiction has struggled for many, many years, writing something like 9 or 10 novels.  A few years ago, Natalie managed to snag former agent-superstar Nathan Bransford only to lose him when he retired from agenting and the publishing business.  She landed on her feet though and acquired another agent.  After enduring something like 15 months on submission, Natalie and her agent finally gave up that particular book, but Natalie had another which was eventually scooped up by a publisher, and she was even given an option for a second book.  She is currently awaiting publication sometime in 2013.  Oh happy day, right?  Yeah, not so much.

Natalie has posted several times about how people were not always so happy for her success.  Apparently, there were quite a few who sent vicious emails, something I cannot understand myself because Natalie is just about the sweetest, kindest, most generous blogger out there, and she has shared every up and down along the way, of which there have been many.  I read a comment once that said writers who reach their dream no longer post about their struggles and therefore all the tension is removed from their blog.  I guess I can see his point, but this is not the case with Natalie.  She still posts about her struggles.  So what’s with all the jealousy?

It’s not like the other writers are taking a spot that we could have had for ourselves.  Each of our novels are so different, so unique.  I understand it’s hard not to want what they have, to achieve the same dream, but to be angry or jealous?  That I don’t get.  When I read about another writer landing an agent, sure, I say, “Boy, I wish that could be me,” but I also say, “See, there is hope.”  Because that is exactly what it gives me:  hope, that I might achieve the same thing someday. 

Of course, it all does depend on the attitude of the writer.  There is one particular writer whom many of us know.  We’ve seen her query up on QueryShark, her first page up on Suzie Townsend’s  First Page Shooter.  She had several offers and had her pick of agents, even got a book deal a few weeks later.  That’s every writer’s dream.  But this gal also has an abundance of self-worth, perhaps caused by all the attention.  But she hasn’t missed the opportunity to belittle other writers and their work on a certain popular blog, offering her opinion at their expense.  She still blogs from time to time, but she gets almost no comments any more.  She’s lost her following just when she needs it most.  I guess I can understand that a little, but still, writing is a relatively small community, and we are all greatly connected, so tearing someone down because of their success is like burning a bridge directly into the community in which you dream to be a part of.

So what do you think?  Is it difficult to see your friends and colleagues reach milestones before you do?  Or do you think of it as proof that all the hard work is worth it, that you can get there, too?  Does it give you hope or dash your dreams?                   

Monday, January 23, 2012

And Now a Word From Our Sponsors

Just a brief (for me) post today.  I’ll try to post something more profound later this week.  I know, I know, I’m not keeping to my newly published blog schedule, but my life is a bit frantic right now.  I have one more medical test today then I have to start applying for a multitude of financial aid and scholarships for my son and that takes priority.  But I do have a few things I wanted to mention:

First, and most exciting for me…I booked BoucherCon 2012!  Yes, I finally scraped the cash together and booked my first writer’s conference for October.  Now I have to get the airfare. 

Second, I need to spread the love and thanks around to three lovely fellow bloggers:

Ø      To Jamie Ayres for sponsoring a wonderful contest to celebrate her 100th follower.  She invited twenty-one followers to submit their queries to be judged by literary agent, Nicole Resciniti, who would then, hopefully, request a partial or full from one lucky entrant.  But by some miracle, Ms. Resciniti requested fulls from two talented writers and partials and synopses from the rest of us!

Ø      To both Nick Wilford and C. Lee McKenzie for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Both have wonderfully written blogs, so if you haven’t gone over for a visit and followed them yet, hop to it!  (Since I've done this award twice, I won't repeat myself.)

Lastly, I wanted to let you all know about two blogfests being held in February, because I think these bloghops are the best and easiest way to meet new writer/bloggers and acquire new followers, and heck, bloghops are fun!  So here they are:

Ø      Nicki Elson has teamed up with Mary Pax and Suze at Analog Breakfast for the Tumble 4 Ya Blogfest being held on Friday, February 10th to ask one simple question:  Who was/is your 80’s celebrity crush?  If you're interested, go check out these wonderful bloggers and sign up.  

Ø      DL Hammons has joined forces with Creepy Query Girl, KatieMills and my two online writer crushes, Alex J. Cavanaugh and Matthew MacNish to sponsor the Origins Blogfest.  “On Monday, February 13th, you should post your own origin story.  Tell us all where your writing dreams began.  It could be anything from how you started making up stories as a child, or writing for the school newspaper, or even what prompted you to start a blog.  How about stories about the first time somebody took an interest in your writing, or the teacher/mentor that helped nudge you along and mold your passion, or maybe the singular moment when you first started calling yourself a writer.  It all started somewhere and we want you to tell us your own, unique, beginnings.”  I think this one will be a blast so head on over to any of these blogs and sign up using the Linky Tool. 

Well, that’s it!  I hope you all go visit my wonderful blogger friends and participate in the blogfests.  After spending the last week battling two snowstorms, one ice storm, and yet another wind storm, I’m off to conquer the world…or my corner of it, anyway.  Have a great week!  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

When a Character Does the Unforgivable

Thank you to all those who sent prayers and good wishes my way last week.  They must have worked; my first biopsy came back benign.  I feel very blessed.  One more to go then I’ll be free and clear.  Right now, I’d like to get onto more serious writerly endeavors.  With all the upset and turmoil in my life lately, I fear I’ve let my blogging duties fall by the wayside.  This is my lame attempt at making up for that.

I recently received a critique from a fellow writer, someone I admire and respect for his mad writing skillz.  He gave me a great deal of feedback, and I’ve been busy making revisions based on his recommendations.  I am actually shocked what he was able to pull out of me.

About one third of the way through my manuscript, after my male protagonist does a very, very bad thing, my critique partner commented that it would be very difficult for him to feel sympathy for that character any longer, that although he sees how circumstances pushed him towards his actions, it just might be too much and he might not ever like him again.  But was willing to read on and see.

I’m glad he was willing, and I assured him I did my best to change the reader’s mind.  In the end, he said that I managed to pull it off after all, that he did come to care for the main character, that he wanted to see him atone for his sins, and he did.  Congratulations, he said. 

Whew!  What a relief!  But even after all the praise he gave me throughout, I’m still worried, because what if an agent reads through that part then gives up?  What if he or she is not willing, does not believe I can make the character atone and redeem himself?  I mean, that’s the whole trick of the book, the reason I wrote in the first place. 

Now, my writing is in no way eloquent like my last CP.  I don’t lay claim to that particular skill.  But what I do think I did, and reasonably well, is take the reader on a crazy wild ride through turmoil and bedlam.  I made my champion suffer then turned him into an anti-hero and raked him over the coals for it.  Then I forced him to atone for the most unforgivable of sins.  The theme of my novel is forgiveness, after all.  But the reader will never know that unless he or she has the patience to see it through.

I did all those things you’re supposed to do to your MC:  I made him human, imperfect with a huge chip on his shoulder.  I gave him loads of room to change, balancing his strength and humility, turned his affliction into integrity, made him strive for the impossible, brought his compelling struggle to satisfaction though not completely resolved.  He is dark.  He is troubled. And he is seriously flawed.  But is he too self-destructive to garner sympathy?  Does he step over a line for which there is no absolution? 

I wrote this novel from a particularly personal point of view:  Mine.  I can’t say that others would ever be able to forgive the unforgivable, but I wanted to show it’s possible.  I hope I have that chance. 

Have you ever read a novel where the main character steps way over the line?  Were you patient enough to see it through to the end or were you too disgusted to continue?  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Book and the Sword

I deeply apologize for not making the blogging rounds this week.  After working with a gifted new critique partner (thanks JeffO,) I’m deep in revisions and want to get them done so I can send my manuscript out to my last two beta readers before I start querying again, hopefully in February. 

Aside from that, I’ve been having a few minor medical issues that have been consuming my attention.  It struck me that when you get news that has the potential of affecting your entire life, you focus on those things that are most important to you.  I was shocked at what became my highest priorities.

Of course, not shocking at all is my child as number one.  With college looming on the horizon, and the financial and living arrangements not yet worked out, I am obsessing over how I will get those finalized.  I’ve taken all the necessary steps, but we are still four months out from making a final decision, even as more acceptances arrive.  My son may be mere months away from adulthood and total freedom, but he still needs me and will for a long time.  This is not surprising.  I’m a mother.  It’s my job.

What is surprising is how important publishing my novel has become—all encompassing, in fact.  I’ve never had a dream that was specifically for me, to the exclusion of everyone else.  Again, I’m a mother, and a wife, and as such, I tend to focus on everyone else before myself.  That’s just part of the job.  But with my son so close to flying the nest, I’ve had to find things to keep me busy since the economy, and therefore my business, is so slow.  Like many others, I turned to writing.  Now that my book is ready to go, or nearly so, my drive to find and land an agent is consuming.  I believe strongly in my novel, that it has merit and can succeed commercially.  I simply won’t rest until I’ve exhausted every avenue available.  It’s a dream I cannot give up on.

My last dream is two-fold.  I’ve wanted to attend a writer’s conference for a while now, but with my business so slow, my funds are limited and, as many of you know, these conferences can be very expensive.  I wanted to attend ThrillerFest in July in New York City, but I don’t have a few extra grand in my pocket.  But BoucherCon, a crime writer’s conference, is remarkably more affordable and I’ve just about saved enough pennies for registration and maybe even the airfare.  So I’m pretty much golden on this dream.  But there is one other that is attached to this like a remora to a shark.

I want to meet my very best friend, writer Lisa Regan, in person, and will finally get to at BoucherCon.  Lisa has saved me in so many ways.  She knows me better than anyone else on earth, save my husband, but then again, she knows things even he does not.  I love this woman like a sister and cannot call my life complete without having met her.  I can’t talk much more about her without crying my eyes out, so I’ll stop here. 

I know I’ll be fine, so no worries, please.  But having my first real glimpse of mortality, at least in a way I cannot control, has focused me, pinpointing on those few things I want to do above all others.  There’s nothing like the Sword of Damocles hanging over your head to get you focused on what’s real and what’s not. 

So I ask you, if you had a sword over your head, what would you want to accomplish?         

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

IWSG: Confidence Regained!

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, time for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group.  Anyone is allowed to participate.  Just click on this link and join the group.  And, if you haven’t already, join Alex’s army of followers.  Now, on with the show...
There’s a lot to be insecure about when you’re a writer:  Does the story work?  Is the writing beautiful?  Are the characters sympathetic?  Is it full of tension and emotion?  Will readers enjoy it?  On and on it goes, ad nauseum.  I agonize over these issues and many others on a daily basis, but over the last twenty-one months, I’ve learned a great deal about the craft.  I feel much more confident now than when I first started, that’s for damn sure.

Then came a huge test—in the form of the college essay.  First, let me say, no, I’m not applying to college.  I’ve already done my time and then some.  It’s my seventeen-year-old son who has applied to a buttload of colleges and universities up and down the West Coast, seventeen in all, I believe.  The two major California university systems, UC and Cal State, have their own online common applications.  The other public schools he’s applied to in Arizona and Washington State, where we currently live, each have their own unique applications, and five of the six remaining private schools he’s applied to all use the Common Application which allows an applicant to submit his information on one website, though each school has its own supplemental requirements.

Each application requires a general essay that should demonstrate—beyond standardized test scores, grades, and GPA—exactly what makes the applicant unique on a personal, not academic, level, what sets him apart from every other applicant, why he would be an asset to that particular school.  Well, for the over-achieving brainiac or all-star athlete, this might be an easier task, but for the average kid, yeah, not so much.

Now, my kid does very well in school.  As a Running Start student, he’s been taking a full load of college level courses at a local four-year college since the beginning of his junior year in high school, but while his GPA is well above the three and a half mark and he’s been getting straight As for the last three quarters, he’s not a perfect 4.0.  Nor does he have the athletic prowess to participate in school sponsored sports, varsity or otherwise.  But does this mean there’s nothing special about him, nothing that would make any college accept him into their hallowed halls?  Hell, no!  But how, exactly, do you make an average kid look anything but?

Well, I read a few books on successful college admission essays (the one above is great, by the way), learned the key to honing in on those qualities that make an individual standout, and, most importantly, how to draw a correlation between those unique qualities and how they exemplify good character, profound skills, influential motivation, and valuable accomplishments.  No easy task, let me tell you, but I was able to instruct my overwhelmed son on how to write an essay that showed him in the best light imaginable. 

Aside from the one general essay which was sent with each application, most schools required supplemental essays that asked specific questions like:  How have your disappointments led to personal growth and success?  What are your thoughts and experiences, good or bad, regarding diversity and inclusion?  How will you help this university carry out its core mission to promote learning so that its students acquire the knowledge, skills, values, and sensitivities needed for success as persons, professionals, and architects of a more humane and just world?

Yeah, those are some tough questions, baby, and my son had some remarkably expansive, candid, profound, and poignant responses.  In fact, one private college remarked that his essay was the deciding factor when they accepted him for admittance.  But even still, his essays, however thoughtful, needed a great deal of both inspiration and editing.  And I can honestly say that I would never have been able to help him as well as I have had I not spent the last twenty-one months writing a novel, blog posts, and being critiqued while critiquing the works of others.  The skills I’ve acquired have taught me the vital importance of being able to communicate effectively through the written word.  

I’m incredibly proud of my child.  He’s five for five, so far, in acceptances, including two of his top three choices.  As for the others, we likely won’t be hearing from them until March.  Then April is the big decision month.  At this point, I can honestly say that even if my attempt at writing a novel comes to nothing, I still feel like it’s all been worth it, because I’ve helped my kid get accepted to some pretty distinguished schools.  It’s my last ditch attempt at sending him on his way, on teaching him to be an independent adult, which is the greatest challenge for any parent.  So, even though I know for sure things will change, as of this minute, I’m anything but an insecure writer. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Great Comments Award

Happy New Year once again, my friends!  Since January 4th is the first Wednesday of the month and therefore saved for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group, I thought I’d use the beginning of the week to pass along an award Alex gave me his blog last December 5th

It’s the Great Comments Award, given to those who drop by and comment most frequently.  Now it’s my duty to pass along this award to some of my most dedicated follower-commenters.

This was a very difficult list to whittle down as I have a great many loyal commenters, but these are the folks whose names always pop up in my comments.  Of course, Alex is included on this list, but I didn’t want to bug him since he’s already received it.    So here goes:

1.                    Lisa Regan
2.                    Al Penwasser at PenwasserPlace
3.                    Jeff O’Handley – The Doubting Writer
4.                    Joylene Nowell Butler – The Cluculz Writer
5.                    Julie Kemp Pick – The Empty Nest Insider
6.                    Carrie Butler at So You’re a Writer
7.                    Jennifer Hillier of the Serial Killer Files
8.                    LailaKnight from the Untroubled Kingdom of Laila Knight
9.                    Donna K.Weaver at Weaving a Tale or Two
10.                Peggy Eddleman – Will Write for Cookies
11.                Lynda R Young at W.I.P. It
12.                Eva Gallant at Wrestling with Retirement

I could go on and on and on…

Please check these folks out and join their armies, if you haven’t already, because they make great followers and write awesome posts. 

And come on back by on Wednesday for my Insecure Writer’s Support Group post.  For once, I won’t bitching!  Imagine that!