Friday, December 24, 2010

What did you accomplish this year?

Is the year almost over already? Time sure flies when you're having fun! Here's a summary of what each of us accomplished in 2010:

Jenny: I had a wonderful year overall. I signed with my agent in February, got a contract with Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster) at the end of June, launched Killer Chicks with two incredible writers in September, and finished the first draft of my current novel in late November. It's been a whirlwind! The best thing this year, though, has been the friends I've made, and continue to make. Even though I need to scale back the time I spend on the internet in 2011, I still plan to pop by everybody's blogs when I can to cheer all of you on! I predict even bigger accomplishments for all of us next year, Killer friends, and you bet I'll be around with plenty of Woo Hoos! Happy New Year!

JB: The year didn't turn out the way I'd planned. (Then again, they never do.) I started the year with an agent. I left her in March. I wrote a kick-ass book, sure that it was "the one" and would land me another agent (not to mention a lucrative publishing contract). It hasn't. (yet!) I sold the book my agent hadn't managed to sell (THE FIRST VICTIM coming from Carina Press in June!). Starting Killer Chicks with Jenny and Joann, and having the opportunity to interact with all of you, our readers, has been an amazing experience. While I'm disappointed that Jenny is leaving, I'm looking forward to seeing what our newest Killer Chick (No, I won't reveal her secret identity!) will be adding to the blog. (Don't miss her debut the week of January third!) I'm looking forward to finding out what 2011 will bring. I know it won't turn out the way I plan.

Joann: It was a good year for me. I queried my first viable novel in January and out of a handful of inquiries, had three requests for full reads. All came back telling me I had more work to do. I did that work and signed with my agent in May. We went on sub shortly after and, though I think we both expected different results, I don't yet have a contract, but every step brings me closer to realizing that goal. I wrote two more books this year and hope both will eventually make it to bookstore shelves. It was an honor launching Killer Chicks with the Jennifers and getting to know all our Killer Friends. Thank you for being so active on the blog. You make this fun!

What did you accomplish in 2010, Killer Friends? Let us know below, and have an amazingly Happy New Year! We'll see you back here on January 3rd!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Suck Filteritus

If you write, you’ll probably know exactly what I mean when I talk about a Suck Filter. You’re tooling along writing, editing, polishing your little heart out. Everything’s coming together beautifully and you’re convinced this manuscript is the best you’ve ever written. It’s your Life’s Work, your Purpose. And it’s Good.

Then, BOOM! The Suck Filter descends.

You go back and read the exact same words you were so convinced were Gold yesterday and all you can see is SHITE (as the Brits say). Instead of beautiful, your manuscript is boring. Instead of the characters whispering sweet nothings in your ear, they’ve become cardboard cutouts, silent and sullen. You can’t set a decent scene to save your life and you’re not even sure if the story idea is still a good one.

How does this happen? I see lots and lots of blog posts by writers who suffer from Suck Filteritus and while I'm not sure there's a cure, I do have a little experience with predicting said affliction. I've written four manuscripts so far and throughout each I've noticed signs that warn of impending Suck:

  • When I turn to hubby and say, “This is the best thing I’ve ever written.” Such a statement is tantamount to throwing down the gauntlet, and the Writing Gods do not treat me kindly afterward.
  • When I must read every polished word again That Moment because I can already feel the confidence slip…slip…slipping away.
  • When I begin searching for bad writing to convince myself I can do better. (A cheeky endeavor that leads absolutely nowhere.)
  • When I find myself searching for good writing to see if I’m “doing it right.”
  • When I try to push through the block and not a single word will come. Not. One.
  • When I haven’t “filled my well” with other creative activities. Suck Filters love empty tanks. (If I let myself get completely drained, I have no objectivity and see everything as Suck, which sucks.)

I think this, in part, is why writers suffer. We’re not only up against incredibly dismal odds, we fight ourselves constantly. And even with all the signs and symptoms of impending Suck days, I can’t do much to prevent them. They’re a part of the process.

So…you guessed it. I’m behind the Suck Filter right now and MIDNIGHT is stalled. I’m hoping with a few good movies and a break from work the confidence will come back. For now, though, it’s best if I don’t look at anything I’ve written. Including this blog post. (Hope it’s mostly free of typos and those worrisome dangling participles.)

Your turn, Killer Writers. How do you wiggle out from behind your own Suck Filter…or get your mojo back…or push through?

Just wanted to say another thank you to Jenny for being such a great contributor to Killer Chicks and for getting us up and going. I’m wishing you lots of luck in 2011 and looking forward to my Kindle download of CREEP next summer!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Highs and lows

If you're reading this blog, there's a pretty good chance you're a writer. So maybe you don't write thrillers like we do. Or maybe you haven't yet finished your novel, or you mainly write short stories. Maybe you've written five novels and are knee-deep in Query Hell.

Regardless of the stage you're at, I think we can all agree that it takes a certain kind of person and a certain thickness of skin (Ultra Super Maximum Thick) to be writers striving for publication. It takes a lot of courage to write something and let someone else read it, let alone a critique group, let alone an agent or editor. As a writer, I feel like I strip naked every day. Even though I write fiction, my personal experiences inevitably permeate my work, and the thought that someone might hate it hurts. Writing can be a deeply personal endeavor. I know it is for me.

And because it's so personal, there isn't a lot of "in between". There are incredible highs (a great crit! A partial request! An offer!) and there are incredible lows (a rejection on a full, a rejection on a partial, a rejection on anything). I've noticed that since I started writing seriously again, there haven't been a lot of boring days. I have awesome days, and I have crappy days, but life is never dull.

My best writing high: Signing with my agent. The day Victoria was called was the very first time I felt legitimized as a writer, and I was thrilled that there was someone in publishing who actually thought I could write. 

My worst writing low: A personalized rejection from a big-name agent on a three-chapter partial. He said that while my writing was flawless (SOAR), my characters were unlikable and he didn't much care what happened to them (THUD). I read the email, crawled back into bed, and stayed there all day.

What about you? What, so far, has been your best writing high and your worst writing low?

By the way, this is my last post for Killer Chicks. Blogging alongside two amazingly talented writers has been one giant high! I look forward to keeping up with the girls in the New Year as a reader and a fan. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If You Could Write a Letter to Santa What Would You Ask For?

The other day I was eavesdropping on a little girl who was dictating her letter to Santa (not that her mother was writing anything down since she was pushing a grocery cart) and it got me to thinking...

Dear Santa,

As I'm sure you know, I've been a very good writer all year. I do not deserve a lump of coal in my stocking (or a year's worth of writer's block).

This year I'd very much appreciate it if you could bring me:

1) A plethora of new ideas
2) The discipline to turn all those ideas into manuscripts
3) A shiny new agent
4) Great cover art for THE NEXT VICTIM (to be released by Carina Press June 13th!)
5) A computer that doesn't hate me
6) Great reviews for THE NEXT VICTIM
7) A new book contract
8) Great Sales for THE NEXT VICTIM

(Please note that I have asked for eight things, which makes them equally appropriate for Chanukah)


Your turn KILLER FRIENDS -- what would you like to ask her?

Monday, December 20, 2010

JB gets a release date, Joann edits her heart out, and Jenny survives her copy edits

JB: I've got a tentative release date from Carina Press for THE FIRST VICTIM -- June 13th, 2011! That's got a nice ring to it, doesn't it? I didn't get my revision letter from my editor yet, so I spent the majority of my time working on a WIP (not the sequel to the book that's out to agents -- this one is a stand-alone). I chose to work on this one because like THE FIRST VICTIM, it's in third-person and fairly dark.

I also sent out a couple of queries for my other book and was shocked to receive a request for the full manuscript from an agent (I'd thought that with the holidays, I'd be lucky to hear anything by the end of January).

Goals for the week: I'm trying to redesign my personal blog for the new year, so I'm spending a lot of time cursing at it. Plus I'll keep plugging away at my WIP until I get my revision instructions from my editor.

Joann: OMG, JB!! You've had exciting news after exciting news this week. CONGRATS!

I am having the best time editing MIDNIGHT. You know that feeling when everything hits its stride and it's all coming together so quickly you can barely keep up? Yup, that's where I am and I'm loving it. Also, I read a fabulous article this week about darkness in children's lit. It both buoyed and validated the hell out of me: As Grim As Grimm. I will definitely be checking out Dust City. Doesn't it sound fabulous??

Goals for the week: I'm averaging about a chapter a day on MIDNIGHT, so I'd like to try to keep up that pace. We'll see if it's doable with the upcoming holiday. One chapter takes 4-6 hours to edit, so between work and classes starting I might need to slow it down a bit.

Jenny: Woo hoo on the release date, JB! And on the edits, Joann!

I survived my copy edits for CREEP and sent them in late Monday night. Then I spent all day Tuesday wondering if there was something I missed. Then I spent the rest of the week trying to not to think about it! I have a terrible time letting things go.

Goals for the week: I have to remember to breathe. I just finished up the last of my Christmas shopping today, and tomorrow I'll begin to pack for my trip home to Toronto. Do I even still have a winter coat?

Friday, December 17, 2010

What holiday movie would you like to see made into a thriller?

In true Killer Chicks style, we're having fun re-imagining holiday movies as thrillers. Join in! What holiday movie would you like to see made into a thriller?

Joann: I LOVE It's A Wonderful Life. I've watched it every year since discovering the brilliance that is Jimmy Stewart and it never fails to make me cry. However, just once I wouldn't mind seeing George Bailey poison crotchety Mr. Potter with a few of Zuzu's petals or talk him into jumping off the bridge or stuff the money Potter steals from Uncle Billy down the old man's throat. Yeah...that'd be okay. Also, George would need to get away with it. He'd be Lecter, Dexter, and John Doe rolled into one sweet-talking psychopath.

JB: I'd pick Ruldoph, but despite expectations, I wouldn't turn him into an ostracized school shooter. Instead I'd let him have the last laugh.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (okay, the North Pole) there lived a disfigured reindeer with a weird, red, glowing nose named Rudolph. None of the other reindeer would play with him and they were known to call him names. Poor picked on Rudolph spent too much time playing violent video games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve this old, fat dude had the nerve to come and say, “Rudolph with your nose so bright. Won’t you guide may sleigh tonight?”

And Rudolph said, “Hell no! Find your own way in the dark.”

So, idiots that they were, Dasher and Dancer, and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid, and Donner and Blitzen flew off into the fog never to return again.

Rudolph is the only reindeer left.

THAT’S why he’s gone down in history.

Jenny: ROTFL! I'd like to see a thrilling twist on How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Imagine the Grinch is being hunted by a mob of vengeance-seeking Whoville Whos. After all, he's ruined their Christmas, and that's just not okay. They'd climb up to his mountain top home, and in organized SWAT-team formation, take him out.  Then they'd cart his body back to town and stick his head (and just his head) on top of the town's Christmas tree.  The moral of the story?  Don't f-ck with Christmas, kids.

Have we blown your warp-o-meter yet, friends? If not, what holiday movie would you like to see made into a thriller?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Joann's Top Elebenty for 2010

JB’s Top Ten post on Tuesday inspired me to think about the amazing things I’ve learned in 2010. We’re always learning aren’t we, friends? Honestly, if you had asked me at 16 what I would be learning at 37, I’d have laughed and said “Nothing! I’ll TOTES have it all together by that RIPE OLD AGE”. Or something like that. Thing is, I’ve learned more in the past five years than in the previous 32 combined, so my adolescent self would’ve been waaaayyyyy off.

And this year? Packed full:

Elebenty. It’s okay to love and admire and want to emulate the YA contemporary writers I hold in high esteem (I’m looking at you, John Green and Laurie Halse-Anderson), but it’s even better to remember that we each have something unique to contribute. My contribution just happens to contain a few more shadows and a little more blood.

10. Everyone who pursues publication has a different path. Everyone. Mine may be meandering, but I suspect it isn’t any less satisfying than someone who travels a straighter, faster road. I learn at each delicious curve and isn’t that the point?

9. There will never be a time in my life when I don’t disappointment someone and someone doesn’t disappoint me. This is how life works. Pain and glory. Learn. Move on. Grow.

8. It’s okay to say no, but if I can’t do that, it's good to at least work out a solution that doesn't include me yanking my hair out strand by strand (for fellow word nerds, the clinical term is trichotillomania).

7. Snow days are so awesome. So. Awesome. But icy patios aren't. And crutches suck. And a sprained knee = ouch. BUT my boss is amazing for letting me work at home while I recuperate, my husband is phenomenal for taking such good care of me, and I have huge (HUGE) new respect for people with disabilities. The everyday things we take for granted as able-bodied folks are astounding.

6. I don’t have a lot of close friends. Hell, I don’t have a lot of close relatives. But I am loved by an amazing man and three affectionate cats. What’s better than that?

5. If today sucks, I can almost always count on tomorrow to be better. So much in life – mood, motivation, mendacity (this one comes from my frustration with the current political climate) – depends on perspective.

4. It doesn’t make sense to wait until life is “perfect” to pursue the things we love. It’s cliché, but life truly isn’t a dress rehearsal. Get busy in the mess and use the imperfections for story fodder.

3. Writers, fellow bloggers, and supporters (I’m looking at you, KC friends) are super cool and super smart people. I’ve learned a TON from each of you since September. Thank you.

2. “It's never too late to be who you might have been.” – George Eliot

1. Some things have to be learned again and again (and again) until they truly sink in. If my next year's list looks like this one, you'll know I'm still busy incorporating, processing, and accepting.

Any of these resonate with you, Killer Friends? Got any “learnings” to add to the list?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Love, Actually

It’s no secret that I write dark, twisty stuff. I write about serial killers and murdery mayhem and psychopaths and sociopaths, and it's pretty obvious that I'm drawn to the sinister side of human nature.

But who says I don't love a good romance?

In terms of genre romance, I might not write it or read very much of it, but I can't deny that I love when romantic elements pop up in a story. Maybe it's because I'm nosy by nature – I always want to know who's doing it with whom, even though I know it's none of my goddamned business.

But the thing is, I prefer when it's not the main story line. I like romance (and sex) best when it's part of the undercurrent supporting the bigger picture. I like my lovey bits to be a spice, not an entrée. Just like I enjoy my steaks with Montreal seasoning, so too do I enjoy my mystery/thriller/suspense/crime novels with a certain dose of romantic tension.

In my current WIP – well, I can't tell you much about it yet, lest I jinx it – there's a new romance budding between a police detective and the quirky medical examiner as they pore over dead body after dead body. It's nowhere near the main storyline, and not something I planned for, but I literally couldn't seem to stop them from falling in love. (Making goo-goo eyes over a decomposing corpse? I did warn you that I gravitate toward the dark and twisted.)

Romantic elements can add an interesting layer to the plot, allowing us to see sides of the characters we wouldn't otherwise get to see, which can then enrich character motivation and other main elements of the story.

What about you? Do you like those lovey bits that sometimes pop up in thrilling stories, or would you prefer to "kill" the romance?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Top 10 Best of 2010

In no particular order:

Best Fiction: “People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks

Best Non-Fiction: Jennifer Louden’s “The Life Organizer”

Best Viewing : JUSTIFIED (it’s on f/x be sure to check it out when it returns)

Best Writing Tool: Uniball Vision Elite with Purple Ink

Best News Received: Offer from Carina Press and finding out Charlotte Herscher would be my editor

Best Day: Walking around Nassau (in the Bahamas, not Long Island) with DH

Best Advice Received -- Lower your expectations of others

Best Decision Made – To write the book of my heart (in which multiple people are killed, lol)

Best Compliment Rec’d – beta readers quoting parts of the book of my heart while giggling uncontrollably (in addition to the deaths, there are many chuckles)

Best Gift Rec’d – Support of Friends and Family

Now it’s your turn. Tell me what some of your Top 10s of 2010 were!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Joann's revisions, Jenny's copy edits and JB's title

Joann: Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression. The chasm is never completely bridged. We all have the conviction, perhaps illusory, that we have much more to say than appears on the paper. (Isaac Bashevis Singer)

This quote says it better than I ever could. The second first draft of MIDNIGHT is finished and the editing is going well, but there's so much I want to say and, for this story at least, it's less about the prose being beautiful and more about getting out of my own way to tell the story. That's tough because I want both. Perhaps by the seventh draft...

Goals for the week: Revisions will sloweth as intercession classes approacheth. :) Looking forward to the holiday break.

Jenny: I agree, it's so tough to achieve that perfect blend of prose and story.

I got back from vacation last Thursday (had a wonderful time!) to find my copy edits for CREEP sitting in my inbox the following morning. There are not enough words of praise for my copy editor. I thought the book was pretty tight, but I've been shown it can be tighter, and better. Am I weird for enjoying this part of the process? I've been working all weekend on the edits and am nearly done (deadline is tomorrow). I also got a copy of my production schedule and my release date is set for July 5. AND the book is now available on Amazon for pre-order. Whew! Things always seem to happen all at once.

Goals for the week: Christmas shopping! I'm spending the holidays in Toronto this year, so everything has to be done early (I'm normally a last-minute panic shopper).

JB: I've got my official title for my upcoming Carina Press title: THE FIRST VICTIM (are you scared yet?).

Goals for the week: I'm in flux as I wait to receive the next round of my revisions....

What have our Killer Friends been up to this week?

Friday, December 10, 2010

What's your favorite thriller movie?

Joann: I LOVED The Usual Suspects. It's an absolutely GENIUS movie and Kevin Spacey is brilliant (as usual - the man has serious range). This film is intelligent and requires that you don't zone out for even a second. When you get to the end and realize that everything you've seen is...well, I won't give it away, but when you do reach the "AHA" moment and your head tingles with realization and your mind plays back every moment of the film, yeah...that's the stuff. "Who IS Keyser Söze?" has become euphemism in our family for "WTF is really happening here?"

Jenny: Hands down, my favorite thriller is The Silence of the Lambs. It has a spectacularly fascinating villain (Hannibal Lecter), an interesting secondary villain (Buffalo Bill), and a likable heroine (FBI trainee Clarice Starling). This movie actually borders on horror for me, especially during the scenes where the Governor's daughter is kept in the well. "It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again!" Tight pacing, complex characters (you know I love characterization!) and a satisfying ending make for a movie that I can watch over and over again.

JB: I've got to go with Se7en. The seven deadly sins. Kevin Spacey at his absolute creepiest. You-know-who's head in a box. What's not to love? A close second for me would be And Then There Were's caused me nightmares for years!

So what's YOUR favorite thriller movie, killer friends?

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Stranger Than Fiction

Photo by Me! Unhappy spirit captured in the
trunk of an ancient tree? Perhaps!
Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't. -Mark Twain

We’ve discussed the idea of life being stranger than fiction once or twice here on Killer Chicks and, I’ll tell you what, it’s the absolute truth. My life has been strange and if you’ve read any of the Freaky Friday posts on my personal blog, you’ll know just HOW strange. 

Of course there are lots of things I leave off my blog, not because I’m a particularly private person, but because I’m guessing my readers wouldn’t believe me. You know what I do with those bizarre things instead? I write them into my fiction. And wouldn’t you know it – feedback on my novels indicate credibility issues with the autobiographical aspects. Course folks don’t know the issues they’re pointing to are autobiographical, but it cracks me up. I want to say, “Hey wait a sec! This is right out of my own life!” 

But I get it! When someone tells me an outlandish story I definitely weigh the reliability of the storyteller. Are they elaborating? Embellishing? Outright lying? And why? 

I think individual filters play a gigantic role in how we view someone else’s story. If you haven’t experienced anything ghostly or don’t believe in an afterlife, you might think me completely off my rocker when I talk about my own experiences with the paranormal. If you had loving parents who encouraged your dreams growing up, you might not believe in a brutal father like Hank (TIN LILY). On the flip side, it can be difficult for me to see the genuine happiness in a close family unit. (I’m always looking for the darkness that I just KNOW is there.) 

So, my friends, while true life is stranger than fiction, it’s my fiction I’m going to have to make more credible.  While the feedback has been wonderfully flattering, I’ve got more work to do before TIN LILY is ready – namely, development of those bits and pieces I plucked right from my own experiences. I’m hoping 2011 will bring a better outcome for LILY, but for now it’s back to revisions. 

So, friends, what gives you pause when reading someone else’s story, whether it’s true or not, and how do you determine credibility?

p.s. I am SO EXCITED to tackle TL revisions. I've learned masses about writing since going out on sub and have lots of great feedback to work from. Stay tuned for good news in the coming months!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writer's Brain

Boy, do I miss the days when I could just read books like any other reader would. When I could watch TV like a regular couch potato. When I could go to the movies and just get lost in the special effects while chewing on a Twizzler.

Those days are long gone.

Ever since I started writing seriously again three years ago, I've been ruining my own entertainment, because I now suffer from a serious case of Writer's Brain. Take TV, for instance. I can't get through an episode of Criminal Minds without questioning the believability of FBI profilers actually making arrests in SWAT-like formation. I can't get through an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit without predicting the backstory of both the victim and the rapist. And I definitely can't watch an episode of CSI without wondering why on earth Marg Helgenberger is wearing stilettos to a crime scene.

I never used to be this way. I used to stare in rapt attention at the screen – be it big or small – and lose myself in the story. I could almost always suspend my disbelief. But now? I analyze everything. I often figure out the ending to the movie thirty minutes in. I'm finding it very hard to be surprised.

It's the same way with books. Even when reading published books, I mentally edit as I go. I pause at a poignant sentence and, instead of marveling at its complexity and richness, I wonder how I'd rewrite it if this were my story. If I'm reading a novel written in the third person, I count the number of POVs and compare it to my own book. I analyze dialogue tags. I question the presence of each and every adverb. I compare every author's villain to my villain.

And it's not just fiction. Writer's Brain affects real life stuff, too. The other week, I was watching some reality show about animal hoarding, and they featured an elderly woman who had 85 cats. She could barely feed them all. Her house was disgusting. They found piles of cat feces under her sofa, along with the bones of a kitten who'd obviously died there. The woman had her cats taken away, and I couldn't help but think it would have been so much cooler if they had lifted up that sofa and found the old woman's bones there.

I know. It's so wrong.

I'm not sure there's a cure for Writer's Brain, other than to stop writing, which of course is not an acceptable solution. Do you guys suffer from Writer's Brain, and if so, how do you manage it?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Edits and Revisions -- Oh my!

So what are edits and a revision letter like?
A lot of red type.
Only kidding.
Sort of.
Once you get over the initial shock of having someone point out each and every flaw in the manuscript you’ve poured your heart and soul into (and let’s face it, millions of brain cells have probably been sacrificed for the project too) edits and revisions are a blueprint for making a good book great (at least that’s what my editor and I are hoping for).
As you’d expect, edits are mostly mechanical stuff. For example, I learned to type on a typewriter (a MANUAL typewriter which means my pinkies are imbued with near-superhuman strength). As a result, I tend to double-space between sentences…which is a no-no I still haven’t “untrained” myself from doing.
Edits are also about word choice. My editor gently (but repeatedly) that basically my heroine was too much of a hard-assed bitch. She showed me how subtle changes in word choice could make my heroine more likeable.
And edits are about punctuation errors (comma splice!) and grammar mistakes (dangling modifiers!).
Edits are pretty easy to address.
Revisions not so much.
I can only speak of what kinds of things I was asked to consider revising.
My list included:
Eliminating a secondary character.
Making the identity of the killer less obvious.
Drastically cutting back the importance and “page time” of two other characters.
Making my hero more heroic.
Toning down a certain relationship.
Fixing Inconsistencies and Gaping Plot Holes. (most of these were due to the fact I wrote soooo many drafts of this book and lost track of what was in and what was left out of the submitted version – something I need to make sure to pay closer attention to with my next submission))

Do I think that all the changes I made helped to make the book stronger? You bet!
Am I terrified my editor won’t agree with some of the changes I made? I’m losing sleep over it! (I made a fairly big change at the end of the book when it came to dispatching (or not) my villain. I think my choice served my hero’s story and I’m hoping my editor thinks it serves the story.)
So now you know about my pre-offer revisions (see last week’s post if you missed it) and my first round of official edits/revisions. I promise to let you know what happens next.
If anybody has any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.
In the meantime, I’ve got a question of my own: Which do you enjoy writing more, the original draft of a story or a revision?

Monday, December 6, 2010

JB's between rounds, Joann's flying through revisions, and Jenny's not here

JB: I finished my first round of revisions and sent them into my editor a day or two early. I never realized how physically painful the revision process could be! (I guess because I was so concerned about doing the best possible job, I was tense throughout it). It literally took a couple of days to unhunch my shoulders, lol. And then the insomnia kicked in as I spent many sleepless hours worrying whether my editor will like what I did. I also sent her my acknowledgments page, which was surprisingly difficult to write. Then I pulled out my NaNo project and started working on it again. Oh, and as I mentioned in my goals last week, I did contact the agents who have my manuscript. I only heard back from one, but it was an encouraging update. (Not a "woo hoo! let's celebrate" kind of thing, just a confirmation that things seem to be moving in the right direction.)

Goals for the week: Keep working on the NaNo least until I receive my next set of revisions from my editor.

Joann: Yay, JB! That's fantastic. I'm sure your editor will love your changes.

I've been flying through the second draft of WAM. Well, it's actually more like a second first draft. I looked back at when I first began working on this book and can you believe it? I started in May! The book has evolved beyond my wildest dreams and I'm just thrilled with its development. The second first draft is just a few tweaks from being finished and then it's time to nail down my research and edit/rewrite/polish. I've got a good while in front of me, but I'm looking forward to it.

Goals for the week: Finish those tweaks on MIDNIGHT and then begin the next phase. Woo hoo!

Jenny: I'm on vacation in Mexico! Hope you're all having a great week.

So tell us Killer Friends, with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, does your writing fall by the wayside? Or do you indulge more as a form of stress relief? And speaking of stress, how did those of you who'd signed up for NaNoWriMo fare?

Friday, December 3, 2010

What's the dumbest thing you've seen a hero/heroine do in a thriller?

Jenny: I can't believe I'm actually going to criticize my new favorite show, The Walking Dead, but here goes. I hated when the hero, Sheriff Rick Grimes – after FINALLY being reunited with his wife and small son – went back into Zombie Central to rescue a racist hillbilly who almost beat one of the other survivors to death. His intentions, while noble, were irritating and slightly unbelievable. His family should always come first. I hate it when heroes try too hard to remind you that they're heroes.

Joann: Great example, Jenny. I bought into his other reason - to get the guns and the walkie-talkies in the bag he dropped (though someone else could have done that) - but your point about heroes is a great one.

Let's see...the dumbest thing I've seen a hero do. Okay, I thought the microwave scene at the end of The Last House On The Left was just lame. I mean, the guy's daughter is bleeding to death in the boat and he takes the time to truss up one of her would-be killers only to zap him to death? Oy. I call LAME!

JB: I've got to go with the ever-present The Hero Turns His Back On The Villain Who Isn't Dead Yet scene. You know the one. You've seen it a million times in books and movies. If you're like me you probably start muttering, "You idiot! Don't you know he's gonna get up and come after you again?" (says JB who just wrote one of those scenes as part of her revision, lol)

So tell us, killer friends, what's the dumbest thing you've seen a hero or heroine do?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Perfect Gift

This time of year can be very difficult for some folks and I'm afraid I'm one of them. The commercials with shiny, happy people shopping gleefully for their loved ones, the Norman Rockwell images of perfect families and perfect holidays, the push push push to buy buy buy - it's all a bit exhausting.

Know what I do love, though?


I used to get all wrapped up (ha!) in the anticipation of reactions from family and friends when they opened The Perfect Gift I'd painstakingly picked out (or made!) for them. You know what lurks down that road? Nothing but dark and grimy and smelly old disappointment.

I learned my lesson some time ago and though I still slip now and then (and almost always face that disappointment), I keep the old adage "it's the thought that counts" firmly in mind when clicking around the tinterwebs to do my shopping.

Kinda reminds me of this whole writing gig. It doesn't matter how many years we put into our craft, how beautifully rendered the prose, how fully realized the characters, there's always going to be someone who doesn't like what we wrote and, as a result, disappointment.

The path from story idea to seeing our work on a bookshelf can be excellent practice for those inevitable (and vocal) negative opinions. Most of us experience rejection along the way and we'll react either by thickening our skin ("it's the thought that counts") or bowing out of the game all together ("screw 'em, everyone's getting fruitcake this year").

Anticipation can be a bugger and I've learned along the way it helps to be hopeful without building expectations. I HOPE an editor will fall in love with my books, but I don't expect her to. I HOPE my sister will like the ******* I bought her for Christmas, but I don't expect her to.

Expecting something to be a particular way, I've learned the hard way, is inviting Disappointment to have a long sit-down. And, I'll tell you what, the Big D is a chilly companion.

Hope, on the other hand, warms my soul right up.

So how do you deal with disappointment, killer friends? And expectations? And anticipation?  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Six-Week Marinate

Every writer has their own process, and the Six-Week Marinate is part of mine.

Before I had ever written a novel, I read Stephen King's On Writing where The Mighty King advised aspiring authors to let a book sit for six weeks in between the first and second drafts. He stressed the importance of getting distance from your story and returning to it with fresh eyes six weeks later, so that you could see all the things wrong with it. It sounded like great advice.

But when I finished the first draft of Creep back in January 2009, I was reluctant to let it marinate for six weeks. I had written what I felt was a really clean first draft. I had great characters, lots of tension, a strong arc, and a compelling ending. I was antsy to get started on the rewrites, because surely there wouldn't be much to fix. But King's advice stuck in my brain, and so, wanting to do things right, I put the novel away and tried not to think about it for exactly six weeks.

By the time those forty-two days passed, I was totally dreading opening up my Word files. I had sweaty palms and heart palpitations. A lot of time had passed, allowing all kinds of doubt to seep in. I no longer felt the draft would be clean. I was pretty sure my characters were one-dimensional. I was certain my ending was flat. And you know what? A quick read through – on hard copy, because I printed the whole damn thing out, all 550 pages of it – confirmed that my fears were TRUE.

My first draft was shit.

Right from the first page, I could see all the places where it was overwritten. I had way too much backstory (which maybe I needed to know, but my readers certainly didn't). I had a ton of repetitive phrases and cheesy clichés, and I had tried so hard to make my protagonist interesting that she came out completely unlikeable. The entire thing needed work, on both macro and micro levels. I pulled out my purple pen and started slashing.

I shudder to think what would have happened had I not let the manuscript sit for six weeks. Would I have revised it once and then queried it? Probably. Yikes!

What about you? Do you let your work marinate in between drafts, or do you jump right into revisions? What works for you?